Derveni Papyrus, Candidate for UNESCO List

derveni-papyrus-unesco-candidate.w_lThe Derveni Papyrus is the only readable papyrus that has survived in Greece and the most ancient manuscript in Europe. Now it is a candidate for the UNESCO list of documented Heritage Monuments.

According to archaeologists, the Derveni papyrus was written around 340-320 B.C. and it is a copy of an older version written at the end of the 5th century B.C.

To enter the UNESCO list, the ancient manuscript should be exhibited in its totality. At the moment, not all sections of the papyrus are exhibited at the Archaelogical Museum of Thessaloniki. The International Council of Museums is discussing the exhibition of the full manuscript.

At the moment, only one panel out of nine is exhibited at the Thessaloniki museum. The nine panels hold a total of 266 fragments of the ancient papyrus. The papyrus was never exhibited in its totality as it was stored in the museum’s storage for preservation purposes. Last year, it was the first time the manuscript was exhibited as a whole for the 4th Biennale of Contemporary Art. It was found that the humidity and lighting conditions are good for its preservation, so its exhibition as a whole is feasible.

The papyrus is an ancient Greek manuscript that was found on January 15, 1962 in Derveni in Macedonia, northern Greece. It was found in the ashes atop of an ancient tomb, presumably that of a nobleman. Experts say that it survived because it was not affected by humidity as it was carbonized by the funeral pyre.

The text is a philosophical treatise that is an allegorical commentary on an Orphic poem about the birth of the gods. It was written by someone in the circle of the philosopher Anaxagoras in the second half of the 5th Century B.C. It “the most important new piece of evidence about Greek philosophy and religion to come to light since the Renaissance” (Janko 2005). It dates to around 340 BC, during the reign of Philip II of Macedon, making it Europe’s oldest surviving manuscript.

The text was published 44 years later after the extensive work of a group of philosophers led by A.L. Pierris and the use of multispectral imaging techniques.