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Localizing 4000 Years of Cultural History. Texts and Scripts from Elephantine Island in Egypt

Objective

The aim of this project is to write a cultural history of 4000 years, localized on Elephantine Island in Egypt.
Elephantine was a militarily and strategically very important island in the river Nile on the southern border
of Egypt. No other settlement in Egypt is so well attested over such a long period of time. Its inhabitants
form a multi-ethnic, multicultural and multi-religious community that left us vast amounts of written sources
detailing their everyday lives from the Old Kingdom to beyond the Arab Conquest. Today, several thousand
papyri and other manuscripts from Elephantine are scattered in more than 60 institutions across Europe and
beyond. Their texts are written in different languages and scripts, including Hieroglyphs, Hieratic, Demotic,
Aramaic, Greek, Coptic and Arabic. 80% of these manuscripts are still unpublished and unstudied. The great
challenge of this project is to use this material to answer three key questions covering:
1) Multiculturalism and identity between assimilation and segregation,
2) Organization of family and society,
3) Development of religions (Polytheism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam).
Thus, access needs to be gained to these texts, making them publicly available in an open access online
database. Links are to be identified between papyrus fragments from different collections and an
international ‘papyrus puzzle’ will be undertaken, incorporating cutting-edge methods from digital
humanities, physics and mathematics (e.g. for the virtual unfolding of papyri). Using this database with
medical, religious, legal, administrative, even literary texts, the micro-history of the everyday life of the local
and global (i.e. ‘glocal’) community of Elephantine will be studied within its socio-cultural setting in Egypt
and beyond. It will be linked back to macro-historical questions and benefit from newly-introduced
methodologies of global history: Elephantine can thus be used as a case study and a model for the past,
present and future.

Field of science

  • /humanities/history and archaeology/history

Call for proposal

ERC-2014-STG
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

ERC-STG - Starting Grant

Host institution

STIFTUNG PREUSSISCHER KULTURBESITZ
Address
Von Der Heydt Strasse 16-18
10785 Berlin
Germany
Activity type
Public bodies (excluding Research Organisations and Secondary or Higher Education Establishments)
EU contribution
€ 1 500 000

Beneficiaries (1)

STIFTUNG PREUSSISCHER KULTURBESITZ
Germany
EU contribution
€ 1 500 000
Address
Von Der Heydt Strasse 16-18
10785 Berlin
Activity type
Public bodies (excluding Research Organisations and Secondary or Higher Education Establishments)