The Arabic Papyrology Database

Background of the APD

More than 150,000 documents in Arabic conserved both on papyrus and paper provide an unparalleled insight into the everyday life in Egypt between the 7th and the 16th century. Only a small part has been published, only some few have been studied closely, and the results of this research have only rarely been integrated into the wider fields of Arabic and Islamic studies. But what is even more striking is the scarcity of reference works. This becomes painfully obvious when we compare the situation of Arabic papyrology to the state of Greek and - to a lesser degree - Demotic papyrology.

The first step towards an attempt to use the new media to develop Arabic papyrology was taken in 2002 and 2003. An interactive, internet-based school was built up by our team. It introduces students and professionals from all over the world to the skill of reading Arabic documents. The Arabic Papyrology School is now freely accessible under A small number of certificates has already been awarded to students who have successfully completed the course.

The second step is now, since June 2004, the creation of an Arabic Papyrology Database of the about 2,500 documents published so far, a fully searchable internet-database using the same technology as the Arabic Papyrology School. The Arabic Papyrology Database takes advantage of the existence of similar databases in Greek papyrology, but includes only some few, but central categories. It contains each document - as far as available - with its metadata, the Arabic text, critical remarks, and the translation. Each word is defined by its radicals, morphological type and form, with special attention paid to thematic categories such as names, titles, professions, and colours. The Arabic Papyrology Database already has reached full functionability and we are now entering the documents. It aims to provide a strong, state-of-the-art net-based research tool. It makes the documents published searchable and thus, helps publishing the papyri and papers which have so far been left almost untouched. Thus, a very rich and almost unknown group of sources becomes accessible to both linguists and historians. The Arabic Papyrology Database is fully accessible since its second year, while still more data will be added.