Three Pahlavi Papyri Revisited

Dieter Weber

Three Pahlavi papyri from the period of Sasanian occupation of Egypt (619-628 CE) are revisited by Dieter Weber. They include list of rations, offices and logistics related to the Sasanian army and administration.

Middle Persian Papyri, Ostraca and Parchments: An Introduction

Arash Zeini, Freie Umiversität Berlin

This essay discusses the state of Middle Persian Papyrological, ostraca and parchments studies since its beginning to the present. Dr. Zeini presents a history of the discovery of the Sasanian papyri from Egypt in the nineteenth century, to the new archival finds on the Iranian Plateau which sheds light on the legal and economic history of late antique Iran.

Middle Persian Papyri from the Sasanian Occupation of Egypt in the Seventh Century CE

For the second time in history the Persians reached North Africa and occupied it for over a decade. They not only conquered Egypt, but also Northern Libya (Libye) and to the south all the way to Thebaid, the border of the Nubian kingdom.2 The Sasanian Persian conquest of the Near East and North Africa during the rule of Xūsrō II (590-628CE), known as Aparwēz “Victorious” was the last great conquest of the Late Antique world before the coming of the Arab Muslims. Because of the chronological proximity of the Persian conquest to the Arab Muslim conquest, the impact of the former on the socio-political makeup of the region and its consequence for the latter Arab victories has been neglected.

Sasanian Bullae

Bullae (sig. bulla), are clay or bitumen impression of seals that are usually attached to documents or parcels (or the strings used to bound them) and show the identity of the author or witness of the document or the owner of the merchandise. The Middle Persian word for bulla, gil muhrag is known to us from an Iranian loanword in Aramaic Talmud (N. Frye). A number of clay bullae from the Sasanian era have been discovered at various Sasanian sites such as Takht-e Suleiman (D.Huff) and Qasr-e Abu Nasr (P. Harper). These have been of much importance in identifying these sites as Sasanian remains (D. Huff). Sasanian bullae have also been discovered from Transoxiana, bearing inscriptions in Sogdian (N. Frye). Bullae are important in Sasanian onomastics, assisting us in identifying personal names, government offices, and religious positions (R. Frye).

Parthian, Sasanian and Early Islamic Pottery: Dating, Definition and Distribution

A specialist workshop at The British Museum
Organised by Seth Priestman & St John Simpson
Department of the Ancient Near East
The British Museum

The purpose of this workshop was to discuss current issues concerning the dating, definition and distribution of selected types of Parthian, Sasanian and Early Islamic pottery, particularly in the light of recent fieldwork or new research on old collections. Many of the speakers illustrated or showed actual examples of pottery, which could be compared to selected sherd material from the collections of The British Museum. We are also very grateful to Dr Venetia Porter for kindly facilitating the handling of Samarra pottery from the Department of Asia. This meeting was limited to a small number of specialists, including archaeologists and archaeological scientists, thus the presentations were focused on particular problems rather than describing the overall state of ceramic studies or material culture in general. The presentations themselves varied from formal presentations to “hands-on” discussions over objects, although time unfortunately did not always allow for questions. However a great deal of information was shared and it was felt that it would be useful to publish the presentations, or a summary of what was said, accompanied by selective transcripts of the discussion. In most cases we have not attempted to support statements with the usual referencing and data which would be provided with the formal presentation or publication of the material, although we have included a summary list of key references referred to by some of the speakers. It should also be born in mind that unless the speaker supplied a written text, the texts have been transcribed directly from the spoken word, with the minimum of alteration, and therefore the words and syntax chosen are not necessarily those the authors would have chosen to select for a written presentation. The structure of this web-publication is as follows:

  • Programme
  • List of speakers and discussants
  • Individual presentations with selected illustrations
  • List of references cited

Middle Persian Papyri, Ostraca and Parchments

Middle Persian papyri, ostraca and parchments are important economic documents from the sixth and seventh centuries CE. They have mainly been found from the Sasanian Persian occupation of Egypt (609-619 CE) mainly from Fayoum (Hansen 1938; 9), during the rule of Xusrō II (590-628 CE). They contain list of food supply, personal names, ranks, military organizations, and dates. They are also instructive in understanding the manner in which letters were written and the way in which the dignitaries were addressed. Thanks to Guity Azarpay a collection of Middle Persian documents comprising 260 silk and leather manuscripts have been gathered and placed at the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.