Monday, April 18, 2005

Lost Civilization Found !

I studied Greek literature in college, taking several classes because I found it so fascinating. In my favorite class, the professor, who was Greek himself, would read to us in classical Greek as we followed along in English (the Richmond Lattimore translation of the Iliad has the Greek and English on opposing pages).

This is why my heart literally began to pound faster as I read this article. This is unbelievable, incredible, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!! I can't think of enough superlatives to describe this:

For more than a century, it has caused excitement and frustration in equal measure - a collection of Greek and Roman writings so vast it could redraw the map of classical civilisation. If only it was legible.

Now, in a breakthrough described as the classical equivalent of finding the holy grail, Oxford University scientists have employed infra-red technology to open up the hoard, known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, and with it the prospect that hundreds of lost Greek comedies, tragedies and epic poems will soon be revealed.

In the past four days alone, Oxford's classicists have used it to make a series of astonishing discoveries, including writing by Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod and other literary giants of the ancient world, lost for millennia. They even believe they are likely to find lost Christian gospels, the originals of which were written around the time of the earliest books of the New Testament.

The original papyrus documents, discovered in an ancient rubbish dump in central Egypt, are often meaningless to the naked eye - decayed, worm-eaten and blackened by the passage of time. But scientists using the new photographic technique, developed from satellite imaging, are bringing the original writing back into view. Academics have hailed it as a development which could lead to a 20 per cent increase in the number of great Greek and Roman works in existence. Some are even predicting a "second Renaissance".

Looking around the blogsphere, I note this response by Pejman Yousefzadah:

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