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Michael A. Freeman

Instructor in the Department of Classical Studies
Classical Studies
Office hours Fall 2022 Office Hours: Wednesday 1:00-3:00pm, or by appointment  

Selected Presentations & Appearances


The Fackelmann Papyri - SCS 2022 Annual Meeting · January 5, 2022 - January 8, 2022 International Meeting or Conference Society for Classical Studies,

This paper reveals that the famed manuscript conservator and antiquities dealer, Anton Fackelmann, made demonstrably false claims about the provenance of papyri he sold. My discoveries in the Duke University archive suggest that Dr. Fackelmann, leveraging his status as a well-known conservator (cf. Fackelmann, 2015; Nongbri), disguised commonplace Roman-era papyri as much earlier and more valuable pieces of Ptolemaic mummy cartonnage.

P.Duk.inv. 34 is a fragmentary papyrus palimpsest which was purchased by Duke University from Dr. Anton Fackelmann in January of 1970 (Fackelmann, 19 January 1970; Oates). The under-text of the palimpsest, a documentary account, was erased in antiquity, and the papyrus was reused by a scribe to practice dating formulae. Dr. Fackelmann claims that he acquired this papyrus in Faiyum, Egypt in January of 1969 (Fackelmann, 18 March 1969). He reports that he purchased the chest of a mummy from a mummy looter in Faiyum and extracted from it 17 pieces of early Ptolemaic papyri (including P.Duk.inv. 34), all of which had been used as mummy cartonnage (Fackelmann, 18 March 1969; cf. Fackelmann, 1 July 1969, 14 August 1969, 5 November 1969). Among these papyri are five documents verifiably dateable to the early Ptolemaic period, ca. 256 BCE (P.Duk.inv. 23, 24, 25, 26, 28). If one takes Fackelmann at his word—that is, that his papyri were all extracted from the same Ptolemaic mummy—this would date all 17 pieces of the cartonnage archive to the mid-third century BCE.

My paper shows, however, that Fackelmann’s claims of provenance are demonstrably false. The dating formula practiced in the scribal exercise on P.Duk.inv. 34 is an imperial Roman formula, “ἐπ᾽ αὐτοκράτορος” (“under emperor x”). This discovery means that this papyrus cannot be dated earlier than the reign of Augustus in the late first century BCE, a severe contradiction to Fackelmann's early Ptolemaic dating. Moreover, close analysis reveals that there is no residual gesso visible on the papyrus. This substance, an adhesive used for funerary wrappings, is typically found on papyrus cartonnage used to wrap Ptolemaic mummies. In sum, it is very unlikely that P.Duk.inv. 34 was extracted from mummy cartonnage, certainly not from the same cartonnage as the five verifiably Ptolemaic pieces Fackelmann sold to Duke. This casts doubt not only on the provenance of P.Duk.inv. 34 but also on the provenance of all the undated pieces of “early Ptolemaic” papyri sold to Duke University (and to numerous other institutions) by Dr. Fackelmann. Early Ptolemaic papyri were exceptionally rare and difficult to acquire in the 1960s-70s (Willis). By thus misrepresenting the provenance of papyri such as P.Duk.inv. 34, Fackelmann increased their retail value threefold (Willis).

Scholars in recent decades have grown increasingly suspicious of Anton Fackelmann’s claims about provenance (Pruneti; Nongbri; cf. Fackelmann, 1986). My paper confirms these suspicions and firmly demonstrates that any information about artifact date or provenance which comes from Dr. Anton Fackelmann is compromised.

Scribes and Grammarians in Roman Egypt - SCS 2021 Annual Meeting · January 5, 2021 - January 10, 2021 International Meeting or Conference Society for Classical Studies,

The grammatical papyri offer unique insight into the intellectual and social dynamics of reading and writing circles in Roman Egypt. Following the collection and editing of a considerable corpus of such grammatical texts by Wouters (1979, cf. 1988, 1997) there has been increased scholarly discussion of the papyri and the role they play in reconstructing ancient intellectual history (cf. Holwerda, 1983; Wouters, 1993; Swiggers and Wouters, 1995, 2000; Dickey, 2007; Matthaios, 2015; Valente, 2015; inter alia). Much attention has been given to the concern the authors and communities which produced these texts had with the codification of the underlying principles of ancient Greek and the correct usage of the language. The development of the Lexicon of Greek Grammarians of Antiquity since its launch in 2002 is a testament to the current scholarly interest in ancient grammars and grammarians, their exegeses and the insight they provide into ancient scholarship and philological-grammatical research. However, little has been said about the social contexts in which the grammatical papyri, that is the physical objects themselves, were produced. This paper considers these social contexts and elucidates how the grammatical papyri may further our understanding not only of the developments within Greek grammar but of the social history of ancient reading and writing circles in Roman Egypt.

In this paper, I demonstrate that a small but statistically significant subset of the extant grammatical papyri were produced as advanced scribal exercises. My own analysis of the orthography, paleography, and voluminology/codicology of the grammatical papyri has revealed that approximately 40% of the extant texts were written on re-used papyrus and in informal, sometimes rudimentary, hands. Cribiore has suggested, I believe rightly, that several of these informal grammars were written by students or teachers in a school context (2001, p. 211; cf. 1996). However, this leaves unaccounted for a group of approximately 10 informally-produced grammatical papyri, the orthography, paleography, and voluminology/codicology of which evince the work of a scribe-in-training. We know little of the process of training a scribe in Roman Egypt, but Bucking (2007), Schubert (2018), and Cribiore (2011, passim) have discussed a number of exercises from this period which were evidently used as practice for scribes. I use these identified scribal exercises as comparanda, coupled with an analysis of the artifactual characteristics of the subgroup of grammatical papyri I have defined. I thus demonstrate that the grammatical papyri within this subgroup were produced as training exercises for literary scribes.

This paper offers an important first step for the future study of scribes and scribal training in Roman Egypt. I establish a body of evidence for literary scribal training exercises and I determine its typology. As a result of the evidence I bring forth, it will be possible to begin to reconstruct the process of education which equipped the scribes of Roman Egypt to record and preserve literature

The Rise of Reading Culture Made Poetry Palpable to the Platonists - CAMWS 2019 · April 5, 2019 International Meeting or Conference The Classical Association of the Middle West and South, University of Nebraska, Lincoln