Guarding grapes and other tales from papyri

Mar 24, 2014 by Tom Robinette
Guarding grapes and other tales from papyri
University of Cincinnati 's Peter van Minnen edited the recently published 50th volume of the Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists. Credit: University of Cincinnati Creative Services

If you weren't careful, you might end up beaten by grape thieves skulking in the darkness.

A University of Cincinnati graduate student writes about the contractual obligations of vineyard guards and researchers from around the world contribute more stories from ancient times in the most recent volumes of the Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists (BASP).

UC's Peter van Minnen, associate professor of classics, has edited the international journal since 2006. BASP is an annual collection of articles and reviews pertaining to important discoveries from around the world in the field of papyrology – the study of ancient texts on papyrus and other materials.

The latest volume of BASP is the 50th in the series and the eighth to have been edited at UC. The recently published journal features 35 contributions from 26 writers from 11 countries. The previous year's volume features 44 contributions from 41 writers from 14 countries. Each of the past two volumes includes content in three languages.

In "Guarding Grapes in Roman Egypt (P.Mich. inv. 438)," UC graduate student Kyle Helms details what he deciphered from a roughly 3-by-5 inch shred of dark brown papyrus dating back to the fourth century.

In large, cursive script, the hired guard outlines his labor contract: "I agree that I have made a contract with you on the condition that I guard your property, a vineyard near the village Panoouei, from the present day until vintage and transport, so that there be no negligence, and on the condition that I receive in return for pay for all of the aforementioned time" an unknown amount of money, as the papyrus is broken off at the bottom.

In his contribution, Helms references another record of a vineyard guard who was beaten by "violent and rapacious" criminals while attempting to chase them from the .

Explore further: Grad student deciphers 1,800-year-old letter from Egyptian soldier

More information: www.papyrology.org/index.php/basp

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Papyrus, parchment and paper trails

Jan 24, 2014

In a pioneering project funded by the Mellon Foundation, scholars at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich are compiling a database of Arabic documents, many dating from the early years of Islam. The online ...

High-tech imaging reveals hidden past in ancient texts

Jul 07, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- It might simply look like a smudge, but even the slightest stain on the ancient writing surface of papyrus could obscure a revelation of a past civilization. Now, with the advent of high-tech imaging, some ...

Sequencing study lifts veil on wine's microbial terroir

Nov 25, 2013

(Phys.org) —It's widely accepted that terroir—the unique blend of a vineyard's soils, water and climate—sculpts the flavor and quality of wine. Now a new study led by UC Davis researchers offers evidence ...

Recommended for you

New hadrosaur noses into spotlight

Sep 19, 2014

Call it the Jimmy Durante of dinosaurs – a newly discovered hadrosaur with a truly distinctive nasal profile. The new dinosaur, named Rhinorex condrupus by paleontologists from North Carolina State Univer ...

Militants threaten ancient sites in Iraq, Syria

Sep 19, 2014

For more than 5,000 years, numerous civilizations have left their mark on upper Mesopotamia—from Assyrians and Akkadians to Babylonians and Romans. Their ancient, buried cities, palaces and temples packed ...

New branch added to European family tree

Sep 17, 2014

The setting: Europe, about 7,500 years ago. Agriculture was sweeping in from the Near East, bringing early farmers into contact with hunter-gatherers who had already been living in Europe for tens of thousands ...

User comments : 0