|47||THE HIERATIC PAPYRI.|
complexion, and round forehead [word lost] with eyebrows joined, and a scar on each [cheek?]. Neilon the Libyan, son of Sotairos, of the 2nd settlement, short, olive complexion, with a round forehead and straight hair, with a scar between his eyebrows. Demetrios the Isthmian, son of Demetrios, about 50 years old, tall, olive complexion, rather bald with aquiline nose."
THE HIERATIC PAPYRI.By F. LI. GRIFFITH.
77. It seems that some time must still elapse before even a beginning can be made in publishing facsimiles of the hieratic papyri which Mr. Petrie has collected at Kahun and Gurob. The wonderfully varied and novel character of their contents combine with their fragmentary condition to make the task of decipherment a slow and laborious one. Seldom are the strokes of the scribe so firm and clear that the would-be copyist can imitate them with certainty until he has ascertained the meaning of the whole context and identified the signs: nor can the meaning be learnt until the fragments have been sorted over and over and those that belong together united. Gradually during months of effort the handwriting, the state of the papyrus, the arrangement of the fibres have all been made to tell their tale, and assisted by a growing familiarity with the script the student, whose enthusiasm is more than ever aroused, restores one document after another to a definite, though still, alas I incomplete entity. A vast number of the fragments are not larger than an inch square, many are less than half an inch, but thanks to Mr. Petrie's careful packing in "lots " as they were obtained, and to the means of characterisation that I have just mentioned, there is no cause to despair of discovering how pieces join if they will join (although one lot may contain 50 or 60 documents of which other parts are sometimes to be found in a different lot), and if they will not join, yet a skeleton-papyrus can sometimes be made up by analogy from more complete examples and prove very instructive. It must be mentioned, however, that to all appearance, quite one half of the papyri of which Mr. Petrie obtained the remains are represented by a single small or even minute fragment. The sources of injury have been various, but here I need only point to the extreme antiquity of those from Kahun, which, though sometimes as fragile as tinder, are far more numerous than the stouter and later papyri of Gurob. Before issuing facsimiles one would wish to make every possible "fit," and to ascertain whatever significance each fragment may possess. A systematic catalogue on which I am now engaged has proved to me the importance and hopefulness of this aim; as one number after another is added to the list, the obscurity that still hangs over this wonderful collection becomes less and less dense, and I hope that a second year will not have passed before some of the papyri of 1889 appear in facsimile.
78. This catalogue is only begun, and it is consequently impossible to give more than an incomplete summary of the classes of documents that will find a place in it.
The first line of demarcation should be drawn between (I) the writings that may be supposed to have emanated directly from the scribe's brain - such as letters, accounts, legal documents and memoranda: these may in some instances be copies; but, if so, they are copies made with the writer's attention alive - and, (II) those that were presumably composed by an earlier scribe, such as literary, scientific, and religious works, school exercises, etc. It is difficult to explain the fact that ridiculous errors exist in such writings, even when the calligraphy shows the skill of a practised scribe and the corrupt passages cannot have presented any difficulty. The cause must be sought in the climate of Egypt inducing extreme carelessness and languor when a more or less dilettante occupation was engaged in by the scribe for his own individual pleasure and profit; while as to matters of business the fear in some cases of substantial loss, in others of an overseer's stick, kept the brain at work. Amuletic writings and papyri deposited with the dead were very faulty for a similar reason, namely that, not having to be read, their correctness would never be put to the test by a second person. Thoroughness, accuracy and orderliness were virtues that met with special praise and recognition in ancient Egypt because of their evident rarity except when brought out by compulsion.
The following remarks on Mr. Petrie's collection as well as the translations are given with all reserve. Further study will doubtless put many things in a new light.
79. I. ORIGINAL WRITINGS.
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