* Long-ago folks didn’t have Post-it notes or Smartphones. Instead, they wrote on papyrus paper, wood, pottery shards, wax tablets, whitewashed walls.
* Their birthday invitations, doctor bills, love letters, work agreements, prayers, and to-do lists still exist. Often in hiding. And sometimes recycled in astonishing ways.
* Inside this mummified crocodile, for instance.
* Why should we care?
* Because these small jigsaw pieces of the past speak directly to us.
They reveal the hopes, fears, and realities of men and women
very much like you and me.
* Let’s eavesdrop.
What: it’s a papyrus document, written in Greek, listing the questions put to an oracle located in Greco-Roman Egypt
Who: the queries come from 15 unnamed Greek-speaking individuals who visited this oracle
Why: For a millennium or more, people from slaves to senators sought answers at oracles, especially at crossroads moments
Where found: in the rubbish dumps of Oxyrhynchus, an ancient town about 150 miles south of Cairo
When: the questions date to circa AD 300
To learn more: Select Papyri, Vol. 1, item 195, in the Loeb Classical Library; 1970 edition translated by A. Hunt & C. Edgar.
Testaments of Time, by Leo Deuel. (Knopf 1965). Out of the Past of Greece and Rome, by M. Rostovtzeff. (Yale U. Press 1932).