Frequently Asked Questions

Why is papyrology so important in the first place?

Papyrology is the discipline devoted to the study of some of the most ancient documents that have been preserved from the Ancient Mediterranean. Papyri available today are written for the most part in Greek but also in numerous other ancient languages, such as Demotic Egyptian, Latin, Coptic, Hebrew and Arabic. Although the bulk of the material comes from Egypt, papyri have been found in smaller quantities also in other countries of the Near East. Papyri provide us with the most complete set of documentation on any ancient civilization of the remote past. Through them, we gain precise knowledge of the daily life, administration, legal and social structures of Greco-Roman Egypt over a whole millennium, from the time of Alexander the Great until the Arab conquest. Through papyri we also encounter numerous literary texts, from a pagan or Christian background, that were not transmitted to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

What does offer?, also known as the Papyrological Navigator, is a data repository that contains the original texts of all papyri published to date together with related metadata drawn from a number of resources in Germany (the Heidelberger Gesamtverzeichnis), Belgium (Trismegistos, the Leuven Database of Ancient Books, and the Bibliographie Papyrologique), and the United States (the Advanced Papyrological Information System). These are for the most part documentary papyri, pertaining to the daily life of the inhabitants of Egypt over a full millennium. Literary and sub-literary texts preserved on papyrus are currently being added via the joint German-American initiative, the Digital Corpus of Literary Papyri.

A wide array of functions enables scholars to search the corpus for specific information. Translations and metadata are also provided, such as dates, provenance, information on available images.

How was established?

Even in the age of the printed book, papyrology benefited from an exceptional range of instruments that contributed to numerous discoveries. In the last quarter of the twentieth century, as the scientific community was still probing the relevance of digital tools, papyrologists were already at work establishing their first instruments. With the help of the Packard Humanities Institute, the texts of most documentary papyri available at the time were assembled into a first database, which could be accessed using some special software.

The development of the internet at the turn of the millennium afforded new opportunities, and here again papyrologists took the lead in establishing innovative tools that could be accessed directly online. The Papyrological Navigator, as it was first called, relied on an encoding of all texts in a form of TEI-XML. These texts were displayed on screen in HTML. was founded at Duke University, where it remains currently under the supervision of Prof. Joshua Sosin.

Are other digital tools not as important as

Papyrologists use other digital tools on a daily basis. The most conspicuous are Trimegistos, a powerful aggregator of papyrological data; the Heidelberger Gesamtverzeichnis, which functions as a registry of documentary papyri; the Bibliographie Papyrologique, where scholars find complete bibliographical information concerning works published in or relevant to the field; and on the side of literary papyri, the Centre de Documentation de Papyrologie Littéraire (CEDOPAL) and Leuven Databank of Ancient Books.

All these resources are of course of great importance, but occupies the fundamental position. It is the hub connecting all the other tools, so it is essential to secure its future first. The metadata of other digital tools could then more easily be linked to this central element

How is currently managed and financed?

A lot of work on is performed by its users, who regularly volunteer to enter and correct data through an interactive platform. Additions and changes are vetted by an unpaid editorial board. This, however, is only the beginning of the story: coordination is required, most of which is presently offered by Dr. James Cowey, a scientific collaborator based in Heidelberg. This person also enters large amounts of data which could not be handled by volunteers.

Very soon, however, the funding for his position will no longer be available. This is why we must find a way of ensuring that he – and his successor – can carry on with their essential work. In spite of all the contributions made by the individuals who participate in the maintenance of, someone must manage its daily operation.

Who is organizing this campaign?

This is a joint call from the American Society of Papyrologists and the Association Internationale de Papyrologues. It is organized by Rodney Ast (Heidelberg), Amin Benaissa (Oxford), Gianluca Del Mastro (Naples), Todd Hickey (Berkeley, ASP President), Sabine Huebner (Basel), Paul Schubert (Geneva, AIP President) and Sofia Torallas Tovar (Chicago, ASP Representative for the Campaign). 

Will my contribution make a difference?

You bet it will! 

Any amount, small or large, will be welcome, and the first $500,000 will be matched by a generous donor. This is a worldwide campaign to raise a total amount of 2.5 million dollars. Every donation will be acknowledged, according to the wishes of the donor. A current list of our institutional partners and individual donors may be found here and you can track our progress online.

How do I make a contribution? Will it be acknowledged?

The Campaign Committee is currently changing the donation platform and will publish the new platform and instructions in the near future. Stay tuned!

Other questions?

You may reach the Campaign Committee via this form, or write directly to the campaign chairs Sofia Torallas Tovar (University of Chicago, ASP Representative) at or Paul Schubert (University of Geneva, President of the AIP) at

Duke University
Department of Classical Studies
233 Allen Building, PO Box 90103
Durham, NC 27708-0103

Association Égyptologique Reine Élisabeth
Parc du Cinquantenaire 10
B-1000 Bruxelles

New York University
20 Cooper Square
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10003