Papyri from church at Petra

I received a copy of this press release from another email group.
I'm tantalized, because it seems seems almost certain that
the find will provide early greek biblical texts from outside Egypt,
assuming they can unroll the dern things.
Anyone know more?

Vincent Broman,  code 572 Bayside                        Phone: +1 619 553 1641
Naval Command Control and Ocean Surveillance Center, RDT&E Div.
San Diego, CA  92152-6147,  USA                          Email: broman@nosc.mil


This is the full text of the ACOR press release, dated December 22,
and transcribed here [another email list] with permission.



A number of texts of potentially major significance have been
uncovered at Petra following two months of excavations in areas
immediately adjacent to the Byzantine church.  The church excavation
of 1992 and 1993 produced spectacular mosaics in the aisles of the
church which have been widely reported.  The current excavation is
being conducted in areas flanking the basilica in advance of a
protective shelter to be built over the site.  the ACOR Petra Project
includes archaeological excavation, the conservation of the recovered
mosaics and the construction of a protective shelter over the site.

Excavations at Petra are currently being conducted by the American
Center of Oriental Research (ACOR) in cooperation with the Department
of Antiquities with the purpose of enhancing and broadening the
touristic attraction of Petra.  ACOR is supported in the endeavor by
the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in Jordan.  ACOR's Petra
Project in financed under a grant by the United States Agency for
International Development (USAID) in Amman.  ACOR Director Dr. Pierre
M. Bikai became the overall director of the Petra Project in May 1992
when the project director, Dr. Kenneth W.  Russell, died tragically
just as the excavation was to begin.  Dr.  Russell had previously
conducted archaeological excavations at Petra and discovered and
recorded the site in 1990.  Fieldwork is being led by Dr. Zbigniew
Fiema, chief archaeologist in charge of excavations, with the
assistance of Mr.  Suleiman Farajat of the Department of Antiquities.
The texts were excavated with the expert guidance and assistance of
archaeological conservator Catherine Valentour, formerly of the
Smithsonian Institution, and with the assistance of staff
archaeologist Deborah Kooring.

The texts are in the form of papyrus scrolls which originally measured
some 30 cm long and perhaps some 5-8 cm in diameter.  The preservation
of the scrolls cannot be compared to that of the famous Qumran
scrolls.  While the latter were well-preserved, the Petra scrolls were
carbonized in a fire which destroyed the superstructure of the
adjacent church and affected the area of the building complex where
the scrolls were kept.  The scrolls were found crushed under and
between the charcoal remains of the shelving on which they had
apparently been stacked, and beneath nearly four meters of stone from
the superstructure of the building.  This building, like the church,
collapsed in a earthquake, perhaps that which affected Petra in AD.
551.  Because of their flattened and carbonized condition, the number
of scrolls has yet to be determined.  It is conservatively estimated
that at least forty scrolls may eventually be separated.

In addition to the scrolls, carbonized, basketry, copper hinges (or
clasps), glass fragments, small bronze chains, and burned wooden disks
were recovered from the charcoal matrix.  This indicates that the
scrolls were originally rolled around a rod fitted with end-caps, and
were stored in textile "sleeves" and/or wooden boxes with inlaid glass

Somewhat miraculously, the writing on the carbonized papyrus in still
quite legible.  Byzantine Greek script has been noted on the majority
of fragments, in addition to a cursive script which has yet to be
identified.  Only when these carbonized papyri are separated,
conserved, and carefully unwrapped can the script be identified and
understood.  Until that time the significance of the texts remains
tantalizingly unknown.  With the assistance of the Department of
Antiquities, ACOR is now in the process of assembling a committee of
international experts to undertake this delicate and demanding task.

ACOR would like to gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the former
Ministers of Tourism and Antiquities, Abdul Karim Kabariti and Yanal
Hikmat, of the present Minister Mohammed Affash Al-Udwan, of the
Secretary General of the Ministry of Tourism, Nasri Atallah, and of
the Director General of the Department of Antiquities, Dr. Safwan

P.O.Box 2470
Amman - Jordan
Tel. (962-6) 846-111 Fax. 84418