Department of ClassicsUniversity of Cincinnati
Department of Classics

In October, papyrus from West Virginia visited the Classics department, to be restored and read by Professor Peter van Minnen. At some point, the Sunrise Museum in Charleston, WV, acquired a sizeable papyrus from Egypt in multiple fragments. When the museum moved to a new location (the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences in Charleston), the collections were pruned of unwanted items. These were then distributed among other institutions. The papyrus ended up at Marshall University in Huntington, WV, where it is now part of the Archaeological and Ethnographic Collections. Its curator, Anthropology professor Nick Freidin, prodded one of his students, Michelle Young, an Anthropology senior, to contact Peter van Minnen, who had earlier restored the Duke University papyrus collection.

Michelle transported the papyrus from Huntington to Cincinnati and back. It took Peter almost a week to restore the papyrus, read the text, and get the papyrus photographed. The text consists of three columns of a Greek list of tax payments from Heracleopolis in Middle Egypt. The palaeography suggests a fifth-century date for the papyrus. The text is missing just a few entries at the top and originally recorded almost 100 individuals, all men, who paid relatively small amounts of money, ranging between 1/4th of a solidus (a gold coin) and 1 1/4 solidus. The tax may have been an ad hoc levy on the urban population. Such direct taxes on people were rare in Late Antiquity, when most taxes were on land. This is in notable contrast to the earlier Roman Empire, when landowners were relatively lightly taxed and direct taxes on people were high.

pvm papyri story