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These Shreds, Guardians of Human Memory: Papyrus and Culture in Late Antiquity

Inaugural Lecture delivered on Thursday 7 January 2016

 

De Jean-Luc Fournet

 

Collège de France - Collection : Leçons inaugurales - novembre 2018

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    Présentation

    Papyrology, which burgeoned in the nineteenth century after the discovery of thousands of papyri in Egypt, consists in the study of Greek and Latin texts written on a transportable medium (papyrus, clay potsherds, wooden tablets or parchment). While inscriptions and literary sources can render a normative, idealized and sometimes deformed image of individuals, papyri – no matter how fragmented they may be – take us into their daily lives, thus making possible the archaeology of cultural practices. Attempting to decipher “these shreds, guardians of the human memory” – to paraphrase Leonardo de Vinci – is the challenge of the papyrologist, who ceaselessly renews our knowledge of the past.

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