Crossing Boundaries - Understanding Complex Scribal Practices in Ancient Egypt

The partners on this 4-year project (March 2019 - June 2023) are the University of Basel (Switzerland), the University of Liège (Belgium), and the Museo Egizio (Italy).

Crossing Boundaries - An Introduction

The ‘Crossing Boundaries’ project proposes a contextualised, interdisciplinary approach to the written material produced by the highly literate ancient Egyptian community of Deir el-Medina. This community consisted of the workmen who built the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings during the New Kingdom period (c. 1350–1000 BCE) as well as their families. The goal of the project is to enhance our understanding of the complex scribal practices that lay behind the texts produced by this community, and we aim to do this by studying a particular category of documents from Deir el-Medina kept at the Museo Egizio in Turin: the so-called ‘heterogeneous’ papyri.

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These papyri bear texts that belong to various genres. They include accounts, poems, letters, and hymns and were written quite often over a long period of time. From a methodological point of view, we aim to cross the boundaries between disciplines as diverse as archaeology, papyrology, palaeography, prosopography, and textual scholarship. Taking advantage of digital technologies, we also aim to bridge the gap between traditional philology, digital humanities, and the field of cultural heritage. The basis of this project is the papyrological material in the Museo Egizio. The museum has joined forces with teams from the universities of Basel and Liège in order

(a) to consolidate and restore thousands of Ramesside papyrus fragments in the Turin collection;

(b) to document all the hieratic Ramesside papyri in the Turin Papyrus Online Platform (TPOP);

(c) to digitally reconstruct the original documents;

(d) to study the variety of textual genres attested on each papyrus, assess the number of hands behind these texts, and ultimately draw various generalisations about the history of these documents.

For more information, see the project website

State of the art

status August 2023

The Museo Egizio has been developing its papyrus platform since 2017. To date, about 350 entries of Ramesside manuscripts containing more than 1000 texts have been created. The 'Crossing Boundaries' project provided financial support to employ a restorer who was taking care of the conservation and consolidation of the numerous undocumented fragments. 

About 13.000 fragments have been restored, and more than 12.000 fragments have already been uploaded in the Turin Papyrus Online Platform and are visible to registered users since 08/2023.

The Team members continue the study of the fragments, the results will be published in articles. 

Crossing Boundaries in Home Office

How do we work at a distance in times of Corona in Europe? The research never succumbed the lockdown! Let’s listen to the "home office stories" told by the scholars!

Museo Egizio