12 Greatest TextArch News Stories

I posted last week on the fuss over The Gospel of Jesus's Wife, where the new evidence overwhelmingly indicates this tiny papyrus at Harvard University is a forgery.

That prompted me to look for a list of great news stories in the past few years about the archaeology of text, that is to say, recognizing by intelligent reading that a found historical text or diagram attaches to a noted author or a previously unsuspected context. There isn't any list I can find that spans ancient, medieval and modern, so I have compiled one for your reading pleasure.

In this 21st-century tally of great recent #TextArch news stories in date order: the years are of the media attention, not of the discoveries:
  1. Troyes ms. 1452 contains 113 anonymous love letters attributable to Héloïse and Abelard (2000 book reviews)
  2. BAV Vat. sir. 623 contains an unknown comedy by Menander palimpsested with Dyscolus (Harlfinger 2003; Pearse 2011)
  3. Artemidorus Papyrus (below) contains only known ancient Greek topographical map (2006 exhibition)
  4. Archimedes Palimpsest found to contain lost Stomachion and The Method of Mechanical Theorems by Archimedes, Against Timandra and Against Diondas by Hyperides (2007 book)
  5. Vlatadon 14 found to contain Galen's lost On Consolation from Grief (2010 Libé; Pearse)
  6. Munich BSB cod. graec. 314 found to contain lost Homilies on Psalms of Origen (2012; edition)
  7. Papyrus lent to Harvard claimed to contain an unknown Gospel of Jesus's Wife (2012; discredited 2016)
  8. Copiale Cipher (book in private ownership?) decoded and linked to German Oculists (2012)
  9. Cod. Hierosolymitanus Sancti Sepulcri 36 found to contain a lost text of Euripides (2013)
  10. Green Collection cartonnage said to contain portions of two poems by Sappho (2014)
  11. Sulaymaniyah Museum Tablet T.1447 revealed to contain 20 lost lines of Gilgamesh (2015)
  12. Paris BNF NAL 3245 (below) identified as a lost Vita of Francis of Assisi by Thomas de Celano (2015)
And next year? Maybe the publication of my book disclosing that an unsuspected Roman-era chart of genealogies and timelines has been reconstructed from segments in medieval manuscripts and turns out to be the world's oldest information visualization. Let me know now (by comments or by Twitter) if this is a book you would want to read or spread word about!

The criteria for my list above (and these all concern the identification of a text or a diagram, not the finding of the support on which the text is written) are:
  • the text or diagram lacks any author's name or date;
  • scientifically tenable grounds are advanced for the attribution;
  • the work is famed: either lost or altering our knowledge of the past;
  • stories of it had to crop up over several days in major news media.
I suspect these bunch in years because we in the media tend to re-enact memes, then grow weary of them. A recent article in The Guardian, John Dugdale lists celebrated refindings of 20th-century works in a sudden 2015 rush, which I think tends to support my explanation. I nearly included two great media feasts of 2006:
  1. Linking of the anonymous Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things to Percy Bysshe Shelley, but that was essentially about finding the sole surviving printed copy
  2. Launch of Antikythera Mechanism project, culminating in this year's Almagest 7/1 edition, but that is essentially an artefact story.
There's also a list at Oxford including some more obscure Graeco-Roman rediscoveries.

And what would you add to my list?

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