In the 1890s, a papyrus was discovered in the garbage dump of Oxyrhynchus, an ancient city southwest of Cairo. Preserved by encroaching sand dunes, the dump contained a treasure trove of papyrus fragments, mainly written in Latin and Greek. One of the documents is particularly exciting for archaeologists and thespians. It is part of a lost five-act play based on the biblical Book of Exodus. The play was written in the form of a Greek tragedy, by Ezekiel, a Jewish dramatist from Alexandria, Egypt, in the 100s BCE. The fragment found at Oxyrhynchus includes a speech by Moses. He is declaiming upon the moment he was discovered as a baby in the bulrushes.
Historians had previously known of Ezekiel’s plays only from quotations by later Christian writers. For instance, theologian Eusebius quotes it in the 300s CE, but that is 500 years (or so) after the play was thought to have been written. Not very good source material. Now that the text itself has been found, there is a whole new treasure trove of literary analysis for historians who undoubtedly are already arguing over each line’s precise interpretation. Oh, I almost did not mention the coolest part. The text was transcribed by online crowd sourcing, through the Ancient Lives project!