Wednesday, November 30, 2022

PAThs: Tracking Papyrus and Parchment Paths. An Archaeological Atlas of Coptic Literature. Literary Texts in Their Original Context. Production, Copying, Usage, Dissemination and Storage

 [First posted in AWOL28 April 2020, updated 30 November 2022]

PAThs: Tracking Papyrus and Parchment Paths. An Archaeological Atlas of Coptic Literature. Literary Texts in Their Original Context. Production, Copying, Usage, Dissemination and Storage

Tracking Papyrus and Parchment Paths. An Archaeological Atlas of Coptic Literature. Literary Texts in their Geographical Context: Production, Copying, Usage, Dissemination and Preservation

PAThs is an ERC granted project (Advanced Grant 2015, project number 687567, P.I. Paola Buzi), aimed at providing an in-depth diachronic understanding and effective representation of the geography of Coptic literary and manuscript production and, in particular, of the corpus of literary writings, almost exclusively of religious content, produced in Egypt between the 3rd and 13th centuries in the Coptic language. PAThs takes an original and pluridisciplinary approach, combining philology, codicology, palaeography, archaeology and digital humanities, in order to explore the process of production, copying, usage, dissemination and storage of Coptic works in relation to the geographical contexts of origin of both the texts themselves and their related writing supports.

In this way, cultural orientations and literary tastes in specific areas of Egypt are singled out, while changes in the manufacture of codices emerge, in a manuscript tradition that stands as the oldest witness of the use of codex.

An exhaustive digital Archaeological Atlas of Coptic Literature provides a new comprehensive perspective on the spread and development of Coptic literature and manuscript culture. This versatile tool allows detailed and focused research and correlation of chronological, regional and thematic data. It also illustrates the relationship between settlements uncovered by the archaeological and topographical investigations and intellectual activity revealed in manuscripts.

The Archaeological Atlas of Coptic Literature is based on a central web database will be continuously updated in the future. The database is composed of seven fundamental parts (entities), dedicated to Places, Manuscripts, Works, Authors, Titles, Colophons, and Collections. Each part addresses specific issues and follows its own methodological guidelines and descriptive protocols which are closely linked to each other in a network pattern that draws it strength from these links. The principal aim is to provide the literary and manuscript tradition with a sound archaeological and geographical context and vice-versa.

The Atlas gives full access to the main database and provides different types of search experience, from the easiest (and easy to perform) to the most refined and granular.

To help and guide users towards interesting research results some default search filters are prepared and made available, ready to be run and visualised. These “Saved queries” are available for single parts and for geographic data visualisation.

The welcome page of the Atlas shows by default all Places that are related to Coptic Literary Manuscripts, and by disabling the filter in the left bar all recorded Places are shown.

Amongst other products, PAThs presently includes:

  • A complete classification of the Coptic manuscript tradition, by means of the attribution of stable identifiers for each manuscript (codicological unit), in order to have univocal coordinates of reference for the entirety of Coptic literary production. Such a classification can be progressively expanded as new manuscripts are discovered.
  • A detailed codicological description of part of the codicological units (to be expanded progressively).
  • A complete classification of Coptic literature, by means of the attribution of a Clavis Coptica (CC) entry for each work and each title, and of a stable identifier for each colophon.
  • A complete census of the relevant places, including sites where individual manuscripts (for instance codices buried with a body, as a funerary kit) or entire ‘collections’ (for example a monastery library) have been found; major Late Antique and Medieval archaeological sites, as known from published reports; other places of political, religious, and cultural significance (like episcopal sees), even when they have left no specific physical trace or evidence.
  • A census, edition, and translation of Coptic titles.
  • A census, edition, and translation of Coptic colophons.
  • A classification of book formats, writing supports and other relevant codicological features of the manuscripts, in relation to the texts that they transmit.

In the near feature a complete archive of names of copyists, commissioners, donors, institutions and places involved in the production of manuscripts will be also provided.

For more information, see the Introduction to the individual sections of the Atlas and the Mission Statement.

Caveat lector

In order to fully benefit from the information collected in our database you should have Coptic fonts installed. We strongly encourage you to utilize Antinoou Coptic freely available at

PAThs Atlas does not support older browsers. Please check below the compatible browser versions:

  • Android Browser >= 67
  • Blackberry: no support
  • Google Chrome >= 42
  • Microsoft Edge >= 14
  • Microsoft Internet Explores: no support
  • Mozilla Firefox >= 39
  • Opera >= 29
  • Opera Mini: no support
  • Opera Mobile >= 45
  • Safari >= 11

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