(André Lardinois, a professor of Greek language and literature at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, read the presentation, which is now available online.) In several interviews with Live Science, Obbink responded to some of the questions that still lingered over the papyrus' provenance.From Egypt to Mississippi to London Egyptian trash is, at times, a treasure trove for lost Greek poems.Parts of the "Brothers Poem" and "Kypris Poem" also overlapped with previously published Sappho fragments. Though the anonymous owner initially believed the cartonnage was from a mummy, Obbink found that it contained no traces of gesso or paint.A carbon-14 dating of a portion of the papyrus returned a date of around A. That fact, combined with the age of the papyrus, suggests the cartonnage was more likely used for an industrial purpose, perhaps a book cover, Obbink said.Obbink made the announcement in a session at the annual meeting of the Society for Classical Studies (SCS) in New Orleans on Jan.9, though he couldn't be at the event in person.We might have heard tell of how great "Macbeth" once was on stage, but we couldn't perform it ourselves.
Imagine that every copy of William Shakespeare's First Folio had been destroyed some 350 years ago.Old papyrus scrolls in ancient Egypt — from literary texts to tax receipts written in Greek — were often recycled and compressed into cartonnage, a material that resembles papier-mâché and was used to make mummy cases.The so-called "Milan papyrus," for example, had been found in the cartonnage of a mummy looted by tomb robbers in Egypt. In November 2011, a group of 59 packets of Greek and Coptic papyrus fragments went up for auction at Christie's in London. Robinson had originally purchased the papyri from a dealer named Maguid Sameda in Cairo in 1954, before international and Egyptian laws prohibited such artifacts from leaving Egypt.Obbink said he went to see the packets for himself later that month.One small chunk of cartonnage appeared to contain multiple layers of papyrus, with fragments peeling off from the outside, Obbink said."And the finding puts her up as a real person, because none of her poetry previously mentioned her family in the way that the ' Brothers Poem' does." Obbink was confident in the papyrus' authenticity.The poems had Sappho's signature meter and language and, for the first time, her brothers' names, Charaxos and Larichos, which were only previously known from later biographical works about Sappho.In the second, less complete poem, "The Kypris Poem," Sappho muses on the pain and paradox of unrequited love.In one particularly moving line, the speaker asks, "How can someone not be hurt and hurt again, Queen Aphrodite, by the person one loves — and wishes above all to ask back?Collection anxiety Yet, not all classicists and archaeologists were thrilled with the way the findings were presented.Some took to the blogosphere and opinion pages to fault Obbink for not addressing a key question: Where did the papyrus fragments come from?