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Turin Aramaic Papyrus

The papyrus in the 1880s

The Turin Aramaic Papyrus, also known as Papyrus Taurinensis, is a fragment of an Aramaic papyrus found by Bernardino Drovetti in 1823–24. It is known as CIS II 144 and TAD A5.3. Although it contains just two lines, it is notable as the first published Aramaic inscription found in Egypt.

It is held in Turin's Museo Egizio, with providence number 645.[1]

Publication and scholarly debate

The first published reference was by Jean-François Champollion in June 1824,[2] after visiting the Museo Egizio in Turin shortly after it first opened, at which point Drovetti's collection comprised its entire collection. Champollion's letter on the collection concluded: "But what should be of particular interest is that among the papyri of the collection, there is a Phoenician manuscript; unfortunately there are only fragments; but perhaps we will find others in the number of papyri still to be unrolled."[3] A similarly hopeful but brief statement was made by Michelangelo Lanci in the following year.[4]

In 1828, Hendrik Arent Hamaker was the first to publish a copy of the fragment and comment on it in detail.[2] The copy was made by Desiré-Raoul Rochette.[2] Hamaker described it as “that most celebrated fragment of Drovetti's, which, four years before, excited the anticipation of the learned, lovers of these letters”.[5] In his review of all known Semitic inscriptions at that time, Hamaker wrote:

…in the forms of letters, this inscription has an affinity with the famous Carpentras Stele… However, not all the letters of both monuments have exactly the same system, and the writing of the fragment of the papyrus comes much closer to the common square. Among other things, Aleph, Gimel, Waw, Heth, Qoph and Shin are similar to Hebrew in such a way that they are immediately recognized by everyone, even those ignorant of palaeography; while of the rest, Dalet, Yodh, Kaph and Resh differ from the vulgar script only by a slight bend… Meanwhile, from the similarity of the letters in these two inscriptions, it is clear that we have not without reason rejected the opinion of Kopp in the previous diatribe, referring this writing to the Arameans rather than to the Phoenicians. For the most ancient Phoenicians, or Hyksos, when they had not yet passed into Palestine, but were still wandering in the deserts of Arabia, held Egypt under their dominion, and afterwards, after many intervening centuries, the same nation was transferred to Egypt in great numbers by Psammetichus and his successors, and adorned with many privileges. But the idea that the Syrians, or the Aramaeans, brought colonies to the same place and set up the seat of their affairs there, is neither probable, nor can I find it handed down by any writer. That being the case, manifestly clear, these specimens of Egyptian writing, closely connected with the Hebrew square, would undermine the latter’s tradition of its Assyrian origin. What remains to confirm this opinion cannot be answered except by the Carpentras stele, clearly dedicated to Osiris, but at any rate our inscription could have come from an Egyptian Jew, using Assyrian letters.[6]

In 1833 another copy was made by Gustav Seyffarth and published in a monograph by Eduard Friedrich Ferdinand Beer, entitled (in English translation): Ancient Semitic inscriptions and papyri as many as were found in Egypt, published and unpublished, listed and related to the Hebrew-Judaic origin with Hebrew palaeography, in which he compared the fragment to the Carpentras Stele.[7][2]

In 1837, in his Scripturae Linguaeque Phoeniciae, which was to become "a historical milestone of Phoenician epigraphy",[8] Wilhelm Gesenius commented on the prior publications and concluded:

The dialect is pure Chaldean, as in all these Egyptian monuments; but the author of the fragment, unless everything deceives me, is a worshiper of Jove, i.e. a Jew, in these verses, which seem to have been taken from a liturgical book, invoking God's help in his calamity or that of his people (as you understand עבדך). Our fragment will do nothing to illuminate Phoenician affairs in Egypt, and nothing to increase true Phoenician literature: but it is nevertheless most useful for the history of Hebrew writing and for illuminating the origins of square writing, to which ours is very close.[2]




  1. ^ "Trismegistos Texts".
  2. ^ a b c d e Wilhelm Gesenius, Scripturae Linguaeque Phoeniciae, p.233-6: "Non sine magno strepitu hoc fragmentum folii papyracei litteris Phoeniciovel certe Semitico-Aegyptiacis impleti inter Aegyptios Musei Turinensis papyros anno 1823 vel 1824 repertum viris doctis in universa Europa per ephemerides annunciatum est (v. Journal Asiatique T. V pag. 20), primum ab Hamakero (Miscell. phoen. tab. 3 no. 3) ex apographo Rochettiano editum; dein ex apographo a Gust. Seyffartho facto a Beerio in libello saepius memorato tab. 1: quod quidem utrumque apographum dedimus tab. 30 litt. a. b… Dialectus pura puta chaldaea est, ut in omnibus his monumentis Aegyptiacis; fragmenti auctor vero, nisi omnia me fallunt, Jovae cultor i.e. Judaeus, his versibus, qui e libro liturgico decerpti esse videntur, Dei auxilium in sua vel populi sui (prout עבדך intelligis) calamitate invocat… Nihil fragmento nostro profici ad res Phoenicum in Aegypto illustrandas, nihil ad litteraturam vere phoeniciam augendam, certum est: sed utilissimum tamen illud ad historiam scripturae Hebraeae et ad origines scripturae quadratae, cui nostra admodum vicina, illustrandas."
  3. ^ Champollion, Jean-François (1824). "Première Notice sur la Collection Drovetti. Extrait des lettres écrites de Turin, par M. CHAMPOLLION le jeune". Journal asiatique (in French). Société asiatique (Paris France). Chez Dondey-Dupré père et fils. Mais ce qui doit intéresser surtout, c'est que parmi les papyrus de la collection, se trouve un manuscrit phénicien; malheureusement ce ne sont que des fragmens; mais peut-être on en trouvera d'autres dans le nombre des papyrus à dérouler.
  4. ^ Lanci, Michelangelo [in Italian] (1825). Osservazioni sul bassorilievo fenico-egizio che si conserva in Carpentrasso (in Italian). Bourlie. E mentre scriviamo ci vien di Turino la novella, che nell' acquisto fatto da quel Regnante della famosa collezione Drovetti de' monumenti egiziani, v' hanno frammenti di un fenicio manoscritto, che vedremmo con assai piacere per alcun valentissimo pubblicarsi, ben persuasi, che pur tra questi si troveranno grandissime varietà di lettere.
  5. ^ Hamaker, Hendrik Arent (1828). Miscellanea Phoenicia, sive Commentarii de rebus Phoenicum, quibus inscriptiones multae lapidum ac nummorum, nominaque propria hominum et locorum explicantur, item Punicae gentis lingua et religiones passim illustrantur. S. et J. Luchtmans. p. 66. ad celebratissimum illud fragmentum Drovettianum, quod tantam ante hoc quadriennium eruditis, harum literarum amantibus, exspectationem commovit.
  6. ^ Hamaker, Hendrik Arent (1828). Miscellanea Phoenicia, sive Commentarii de rebus Phoenicum, quibus inscriptiones multae lapidum ac nummorum, nominaque propria hominum et locorum explicantur, item Punicae gentis lingua et religiones passim illustrantur. S. et J. Luchtmans. pp. 66–67. Quippe summa in literarum formis huic inscriptioni cum celeberrima illa Carpentoractensi affinitas intercedit... Quamquam non in omnibus literis utriusque monumenti plane eadem ratio est, et fragmenti papyracei scriptura multo pressius ad quadratam vulgarem accedit. Inter alias Aleph, Gimel, Waw, Cheth, Koph, Schin Hebraicas ita referunt, ut statim ab omnibus, etiam palaeographiae imperitis, agnoscantur; e reliquis Daleth, Jod, Caph, Resch levi tantum flexu a vulgaribus differunt… Interim ex summa literarum in duabus istis inscriptionibus similitudine hoc luculenter constat, nos non sine caussa in priore Diatribe repudiasse Koppii sententiam, hanc scripturam ad Aramaeos potius, quam Phoenices referentis. Phoenices enim vetustissimi, sive Hycsos, cum nondum in Palaestinam transissent, sed adhuc in Arabiae desertis oberrarent, Aegyptum ditione tenuere, et postea, multis interjectis seculis, a Psammeticho ejusque successoribus eadem gens magno numero in Aegyptum translata est multisque privilegiis ornata. At Syros, sive Aramaeos, colonias eodem deduxisse ibique rerum suarum sedem posuisse, nec verosimile est, nec ab ullo scriptore traditum reperio. Quae cum ita sint, manifesto intelligitur, quantum haec specimina scripturae Aegyptiacae, cum Hebraica quadrata arctissime conjunctae, istam de Assyriaca hujus origine traditionem labefactent. Nam quod solum ad istam sententiam aliquatenus stabiliendam superest, responderi nequit, nisi lapidem Carpentoractensem, aperte Osiridi dicatum, at nostram saltem inscriptionem a Judaeo Aegyptio proficisci potuisse, Assyriacis literis uso.
  7. ^ Beer, E.F.F. (1833). Inscriptiones et papyri veteres semitici quotquot in Aegypto reperti sunt editi et inediti recensiti et ad originem Hebraeo-Iudaicam relati cum palaeographia Hebraea concinnata (in Latin). F.Nies. Retrieved 2023-04-04.
  8. ^ Lehmann, Reinhard G. [in German] (2013). "Wilhelm Gesenius and the Rise of Phoenician Philology" (PDF). Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft. Berlin / Boston: De Gruyter. 427: 238. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04.
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Turin Aramaic Papyrus
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