Ostraka—texts written on small objects, generally potsherds—have received relatively little attention from both archaeologists and scholars who work on ancient texts. But they were found everywhere in the ancient world, recording in short form a variety of types of texts destined to be thrown away once read, or else replaced by some longer-term record. As conditions in Egypt become ever more humid, papyrus is found at few sites, but ostraka at many. In this lecture, Dr. Bagnall reflects on the experience of being a project ostracologist for two Egyptian excavations, at Berenike on the Red Sea coast and at Amheida in the Dakhla Oasis in the Western Desert. In both cases the ostraka were mostly dumped, but there the similarities end. Dr. Bagnall explores the relationship between archaeological context and contents at the two sites.
Dr. Roger Bagnall is Leon Levy Director, Professor of Ancient History, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University.
Sponsored by the American Research Center in Egypt—PA Chapter. Admission: $10; $7, PennCard holders; $5, students with ID; free for ARCE-PA members.