There were two leading religious parties: one of oppressive formalists, exclusive, strict 3 The papyri from Elephantine (p. 282, n.
The mistaken readings of the old inscriptions by the priests at Abydos (Table of Abydos), when attempting to record the names of the kings of the 1st Dynasty on the walls of the temple of Seti I., are now admitted on all sides; and no palaeographer, whether his field be Greek, Latin, Arabic, Persian or any other class of MSS., will be surprised to hear that the Egyptian papyri and inscriptions abound in corruptions and mistakes.
The discoveries of papyri in Upper Egypt during recent years, containing original letters written by persons of various classes and in some cases contemporary with the Epistles of the New Testament, have immensely increased our knowledge of the Greek of the period, and have cleared up not a few difficulties of language and expression.
The earliest literary papyrus is that known, from the name of its former owner, as the Prisse papyrus, and now preserved at Paris, containing a work composed in the reign of a king of the fifth dynasty, and computed to be itself of the age of upwards of 2500 years B,C. The papyri discovered in Egypt have often been found in tombs, and in the hands, or swathed with the bodies, of mummies.
Cowley, Aramaic Papyri discovered at Assuan (Oxford, 1906); E.
Egypt had long been bilingual when, in papyri of the 2nd century AD,, we begin to find transcripts of the Egyptian language into Greek letters, the latter reinforced by a few signs borrowed from the demotic alphabet: so written we have a magical text and a horoscope, probably made by foreigners or for their use.
For the following reigns Egyptian documents hardly exist, but some papyri written in Aramaic have been found at Elephantine and at Memphis.
Cowley, Aramaic Papyri Discovered at Assuan (1906), and those cited above (p. 282, n.
Non-official agencies (supported by voluntary contributions) for exploration in Egypt comprise the Egypt Exploration Fund, started in London in 1881, with its two branches, viz, the Archaeological Survey (1890) for copying and publishing the monuments above ground, and the Graeco-Roman Branch (1897), well known through the brilliant work in Greek papyri of B.
In the Leiden museum there are a number of papyri which were found in a tomb at Thebes, written probably in the 3rd century A.D., though their matter is older.