Texts and Artifacts: A Spatial Analysis of Papyri at Karanis

Texts and Artifacts: A Spatial Analysis of Papyri at Karanis

By Robert P Stephan

Past Imperfect, Vol 16 (2010)

Abstract: This paper takes a quantitative and spatial analytical approach to the papyri excavated from the Graco-Roman Egyptian town of Karanis. It attempts to accomplish two things. Firstly, it breaks down the descriptive attributes of the papyrological assemblage as a whole, giving a sense of the types of texts, authors, dates and languages involved. The goal of this part of the paper is to overcome the past tendency of publishing individual texts or small archives without their larger context. Secondly, the paper plots the proveniences of papyri from Karanis using a Geographic Information System or GIS. Papyri are used as proxies for socio-economic status and literacy. Plotting the proveniences shows a distinct lack of a single cluster of papyri, revealing instead either several clusters or an even distribution. This suggests the lack of a single wealth or literate center within the town of Karanis. Future studies hope to include both archaeological artifacts and more stratigraphic layers in the GIS spatial analysis.

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