World’s Oldest Socks

These odd, ancient socks are the earliest knitted items in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s collection and quite possibly the oldest socks in the world. Made in 300-499 AD, these Egyptian socks were excavated in the burial grounds of ancient Oxyrhynchus, a Greek colony on the Nile in central Egypt at the end of the 19th century. They have a divided toe and are designed to be worn with sandals.

Particularly intriguing is the technique used to construct these red wool socks. Called nålbindning, or single-needle knitting, this time-consuming process required only a single thread. The technique was frequently used for close-fitting garments for the head, feet and hands because of its elastic qualities. Primarily from prehistoric times, nålbindning came before the two-needle knitting that’s standard today; each needle was crafted from wood or bone that was “flat, blunt and between 6 -10 cm long, relatively large-eyed at one end or the eye is near the middle.”

Early Image of Jesus Found in Egyptian Tomb


Spanish archaeologists have discovered what may be one of the earliest depictions of Jesus in an ancient Egyptian tomb.

Painted on the walls of a mysterious underground stone structure in the ancient Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus, about 100 miles south of Cairo, the image shows a young man with curly hair and dressed in a short tunic.

“He raises his hand as if making a blessing,” said Egyptologist Josep Padró, who has spent over 20 years excavating sites in the area.

In this expedition, he led a team of archaeologists from the University of Barcelona, the Catalan Egyptology Society and the University of Montpellier.

“We could be dealing with a very early image of Jesus Christ,” Padró added. Read more.

One of the oldest surviving fragments of Euclid’s Elements, found at Oxyrhynchus and dated to c. 100 AD
This is “one of the oldest and most complete diagrams from Euclid’s Elements of Geometry”. It “is a fragment of papyrus found among the remarkable rubbish piles of Oxyrhynchus in 1896-97 by the renowned expedition of B. P. Grenfell and A. S. Hunt. Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 29 (P. Oxy. 29) is a fragment of the second book of the Elements of Euclid in Greek. It was discovered by Grenfell and Hunt in 1897 in Oxyrhynchus. The fragment was originally dated to the end of the third century or the beginning of the fourth century, although more recent scholarship suggests a date of 75-125 CE. It is housed in the library of the University of Pennsylvania (in University Museum, E 2748). The text was published by Grenfell and Hunt in 1898.


Ancient Worlds - BBC Two 

Episode 6 “City of Man, City of God”

In the Roman city of Oxyrhynchus (Upper Egypt), archaeologist found Papyri, thousands and thousands of them. So many that it’s going to take generations of scholars to decipher and publish them all.

The manuscripts include thousands of Greek and Latin documents, letters and literary works, dating from the third century BC to the seventh century AD. Among the texts discovered are plays of Menander, fragments from the Gospel of Thomas, and fragments from Euclid’s Elements.

Oxyrhynchus was the capital of the 19th nome; Egyptian society under the Greeks and Romans was governed bureaucratically so vast amounts of paper have been found: accounts, tax returns, census material, invoices, receipts, correspondence on administrative, military, religious, economic, and political matters, certificates and licenses of all kinds. Private citizens added their own piles of paper.

Picture 2: This one addresses the serious problem of donkeys being driven too quickly through the busy streets of the city.

Picture 3 & 4: This little note was written by two friends, Apium and Epimus, to a school mate of theirs, Ephroditos. And it contains the most extraordinary suggestion.
”If you let us bugger you, if it’s okay with you, ”we shall stop thrashing you.” And there’s even a helpful little illustration here (picture n. 4).

Picture 5: This is a letter by Diogenes, to one of his employees.
”A thousand times I’ve written to you to cut down the vines of pohaya.
”But today again I get a letter from you asking what should be done.
”To which I reply - ”Cut them down.
Cut them down.
Cut them down.
Cut them down ”and cut them down.

Oxyrhynchus, Al Minya, Egypt

When Lucian Freud died in 2011, he left a void: who now was Britain’s pre-eminent figure painter? Many suggested Jenny Saville, another creator of figures charged with psychological intensity, where the sitter’s vitality is matched by the verve in her paint.

Did you ever wonder how long it would take an ordinary Roman citizen to travel from Vindobona to Volubilis in January? Or how much it would cost to ship grain from Oxyrhynchus in Egypt to Lutetia? Or, for instance, how fast a legion could get to Castra Regina from Mediolanum?

Just try ORBIS, The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World, a simple, intuitive, but powerful tool for understanding the Roman world. :-)


Help Rewrite History - Radiolab - ”For over a hundred years, boxes of cornflake-sized scraps of ancient paper have been tucked away at Oxford. Waiting to be decoded. And now you can help shed light on what they say. The fragments are thousands of years old, dug out a of 30-foot deep trash mound in what was once the city of Oxyrhynchus, Egypt… Because of Oxyrhynchus, words that no one had read in a thousand years were suddenly reintroduced to the world. As the first pieces were dusted off in 1897, they were so startling they helped inspire a whole new field of study: Papyrology. Since then, they’ve revealed a heap of historic discoveries — discoveries that lead to a footnote to Revelation, a challenge to Homer, and an unexpected glimpse into everyday life… Scholars have continued to painstakingly sort and translate pieces of text for over a century, but mining all these bits of papyri is a slow, slow process. Only a tiny fraction have been studied so far. That’s where you and the Internet come in. To speed the process along, researchers are looking for game volunteers to pitch in on some crowdsourced transcribing — you don’t need to know anything about the classics or read Greek (the language of most of the texts). All you need is an eye for detail, a little spare time, and maybe some swelling music to remind you how insane it is that some of these snippets could reshape history…” Learn more at  

…and the picture accompanying the article is a papyrus fragment here at Penn (POxy VI 846 - LXX Amos)! 

The Heracles Papyrus (Oxford, Sackler Library, Oxyrhynchus Pap. 2331) is a fragment of 3rd century Greek manuscript of a poem about the Labors of Heracles. It contains three unframed colored line drawings of the first of the Labors, the killing of the Nemean Lion, set within the columns of cursive text. It was found at Oxyrhynchus (Pap. 2331) and is one of the few surviving scraps of classical literary illustration on papyrus. The fragment is 235 by 106 mm.

Gospel of Mary
Date c. 120–180 CE
Attribution unknown
Manuscripts Berolinensis Gnosticus 8502,1
P. Oxyrhynchus 3525
P. Rylands 463
Theme The soul’s ascent
The Gospel of Mary is an apocryphal book discovered in 1896 in a 5th-century papyrus codex. The codex Papyrus Berolinensis 8502 was purchased in Cairo by German scholar Karl Reinhardt.