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Guarding grapes and other tales from papyri

Date:
March 24, 2014
Source:
University of Cincinnati
Summary:
A new article throws light on the perils of produce patrol and more stories from ancient times. The researcher 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, as well as details from a vineyard guard who was beaten by "violent and rapacious" criminals while attempting to chase them from the vineyard.
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UC's Peter van Minnen edited the recently published 50th volume of the Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Cincinnati

Guarding grapes in ancient Egyptian vineyards was no easy gig. 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 papyrus record of a vineyard guard who was beaten by "violent and rapacious" criminals while attempting to chase them from the vineyard.

A link to the journal's table of contents can be found at: http://www.papyrology.org/index.php/basptocs/3-toc/59-basp50


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Cincinnati. The original article was written by Tom Robinette. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


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University of Cincinnati. "Guarding grapes and other tales from papyri." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140324111921.htm>.
University of Cincinnati. (2014, March 24). Guarding grapes and other tales from papyri. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140324111921.htm
University of Cincinnati. "Guarding grapes and other tales from papyri." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140324111921.htm (accessed May 30, 2015).

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