Northern California: The Hidden Treasures of Elephantine Island
Presented by: Professor Verena Lepper; Curator of the Egyptian and Oriental Papyrus Collection of the Egyptian Museum, National Museums Berlin and Honorary Professor at the Humboldt University Berlin
- 3:00 PM PT Northern California
- Room 20 Social Sciences Building (Formerly Barrows Hall) University of California, Berkeley
Elephantine was a militarily and strategically very important island on the river Nile at the southern border of Egypt. No other settlement in Egypt is so well attested through texts over such a long period of time, 4000 years. 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 in 24 different countries across Europe and beyond. Their texts are written in ten different languages and scripts, including Hieroglyphs, Hieratic, Demotic, Aramaic, Greek, Coptic and Arabic. 80% of these manuscripts were unpublished or unstudied before.
Thus, access was gained to these texts, making them publicly available in an open access online research database. Links could be identified between papyrus fragments from different collections, and an international ‘papyrus puzzle’ undertaken, incorporating cutting-edge methods from digital humanities, physics and mathematics (e.g. for the virtual unfolding of papyri). For the first time in the history of papyrology, papyrus packages can now be read virtually, without physically opening them. Using this database with medical, religious, legal, administrative, even literary texts, the everyday life of the local and global (i.e. ‘glocal’) community of Elephantine can be studied. Elephantine can thus be used as a case study and a model for the past, present and future.
Prof. Dr. Verena Lepper is the Curator of the Egyptian and Oriental Papyrus Collection of the Egyptian Museum, National Museums Berlin (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) and Honorary Professor at the Humboldt University Berlin. She is in charge of a collection with around 30,000 objects in ten different languages and scripts and has managed several exhibition and research projects in Germany and abroad (Abu Dhabi, Berlin, Bonn, Doha, Harvard) with a team of employees.
She conducts research on topics such as Egyptian and Oriental papyri, literary and cultural history, and the history of science and art. To this end, she has published numerous books and exhibition catalogues with international publishers.
Dr. Lepper studied Egyptology, Semitic Philology, Christian Orient Studies and Hebrew Bible at Bonn, Cologne, Tuebingen, Oxford and Harvard University. She has received several awards for her scientific and curatorial work, including the highly renowned ERC-Grant from the European Research Council for the project: “Elephantine”.
To promote Arab-German academic exchange, she founded the Arab-German Young Academy of Sciences and Humanities (AGYA) in 2013. She is involved in numerous committees in the field of scientific and cultural policy and diplomacy. Visiting professorships and fellowships have also taken her to Harvard and Princeton University.