Documents Contain 4,000 Years Of History
Nov. 1 - KGO (KGO) -- They've arrived -- ancient papyri from an Egyptian excavation conducted for U.C. Berkeley more than a century ago. The documents are on campus today after a long journey worthy of a mystery novel. Some of it, 4,000 years old. The papyri was excavated by archaeologist George A. Reisner, who was devoted to distraction.
Some academic presentations are more elaborate than others. With that in mind, one should not discount the importance of this one at U.C. Berkeley's Morrison Library. It was 105 years in the making.
Dr. Donald Mastronarde: "A lot of archaeology, you're looking at trash."
Dr. Donald Mastronarde, followed a modern paper trail in bringing these ancient Egyptian writings to U.C. Berkeley, where they belonged in the first place.
Around 1900, archeologist George Reisner found them in a tomb while working on a U.C. grant from Phoebee Hearst. He should have sent them back to California, but became distracted.
Dr. Donald Mastronarde: "Well he kept digging in Egypt until he died in 1942."
The documents wound up in Boston. The university had looked for them since 1924, and finally proved ownership, despite the efforts of a scholar back east who, shall we say, protected them.
Dr. Donald Mastronarde: "Intentinal ommision would be a good term."
The documents are seemingly unspectacular -- contracts, mostly. But as Dr. Cathleen Keller explains, they can fascinatingly detailed.
Dr. Cathleen Keller, Egyptologist: "Well that's the way we put together what ancient Egyptian society was really like."
But when you get down to the basics, this story is not about detective work or the contents of the document. It's really about a promise made 105 years ago. A promise, finally delivered.
Dr. Donald Mastronarde: "If you sponsor something, we're going to do what you sponsor."
ABC7's Wayne Freedman: "Even after 105 years?"
Dr. Donald Mastronarde: "Well, we'll try."
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