Frange's Ostracon

Anthony the Great, Pachomius the Great, Shenoute
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seanjonesbw
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Frange's Ostracon

Post by seanjonesbw »

I visited the National Museum of Scotland today, which reopened its Egyptian gallery not long before the plague arrived last year. It's a really nice little gallery with objects from every period, including a small display of Coptic bits and bobs. One of these was the ostracon below which attracted my attention because of the amazing intensity of the (soot-based?) ink after a millennium and a half, and the very human scale of it - just small enough to be held in one hand while writing on it with the other. I thought it would be something nice to add to this new part of Textkit, even though I can't read it!

The notes from the display read:

Theban Tomb Complex TTC3, part of the Coptic monastery where the monk Frange served.

'Bless the monastery'
The desert-cliff tomb of Vizier Amenemope I was built around 1400 BC. Two thousand years later, the tomb became part of a monastery - home to Christian monks seeking to be close to their God. This prayer, written on a scrap of stone, addresses Jesus Christ and was written around AD 700 by a monk named Frange. Archaeologists have found over 600 of Frange's letters and prayers in the tomb he used as his workshop.

A Coptic prayer written by the monk Frange.
Limestone, Thebes, Egypt, AD c700

There is also text on the reverse, which can be seen on the museum's website here (along with a much better photo of the front),
Behold the Ostracon
Show
ImageImage

Shenoute
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Re: Frange's Ostracon

Post by Shenoute »

Very nice piece, thanks for posting!

Anne Boud'hors and Chantal Heurtel have edited the largest collection of Frange's ostraca (and related pieces). At some point, the editor had put the two volumes online for free. If you're interested, search online for something like "ostraca coptes de la TT29". It is a fantastic resource.

The text of the ostracon here reads:
ⲓⲥ̅ ⲡⲉ ⲭⲥ̅
ⲡϣⲏⲣⲉ ⲙ̄
ⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ ⲉⲧⲟⲛϩ̅
ⲉⲕⲉϩⲁⲣⲉϩ· ⲉⲛ
ⲣⲱⲙⲉ ⲛ̄ⲧⲉϩⲩⲛⲉⲧⲉ
ⲙⲛ̅ ⲛ̄ⲧⲃ̅ⲛⲛⲟⲟⲩⲉ
ⲛ̄ⲅ̄ⲥⲙⲟⲩ ⲉⲣⲟⲟⲩ ϩⲙ̅
ⲡⲉⲥⲙⲟⲩ ⲛ̄ⲁⲃⲣⲁϩⲁⲙ
ⲙⲛ̅ ⲓ̈ⲥⲁⲁⲕ ⲙⲛ̅
ⲓ̈:ⲕⲱ:ⲃ ϥⲣⲁⲛⲅⲉ
ⲉϥⲥϩⲁⲓ̈ ⲛ̄ⲧⲉϥ
ϭⲓϫ

Jesus Christ,
the son of
the living God,
you shall watch over the
men of this monastery
and the domestic animals,
and you will bless them through
the blessing of Abraham
and Isaac and
Jacob. Frange
writes with his own
hand
Fun fact: the word used here for "monastery/convent", ϩⲩⲛⲉⲧⲉ (also ϩⲉⲛⲉⲉⲧⲉ and other variants) is the last avatar of the word ḥw.t-nṯr, "temple" in earlier stages of Ancien Egyptian.

Edit. The forum doesn't seem to support the supralinear stroke above two letters, so I made do with another type but the result is still not optimal.

seanjonesbw
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Re: Frange's Ostracon

Post by seanjonesbw »

I was hoping you'd step in with a translation - thank you! Interesting to see the patriarchal formula given such prominence in this prayer.
Shenoute wrote: Wed May 05, 2021 3:16 pm Fun fact: the word used here for "monastery/convent", ϩⲩⲛⲉⲧⲉ (also ϩⲉⲛⲉⲉⲧⲉ and other variants) is the last avatar of the word ḥw.t-nṯr, "temple" in earlier stages of Ancient Egyptian.
This is very interesting. I joined a beginners' Middle Egyptian group last year as something to do during our first covid lockdown, so I had nṯr(w) coming out of my ears for a while. Does the ⲛⲉⲧⲉ/ⲛⲉⲉⲧⲉ part independently retain the sense of god/divinity in Coptic or is it just fossilised in some words?

I was also interested to see ϩ=ḥ and thought ϩ might be a simplified version of the twisted flax glyph via Demotic but it looks like it's not after a bit of googling.

Shenoute
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Re: Frange's Ostracon

Post by Shenoute »

Yes, nṯr survived as ⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ. The word actually appears on the third line here ⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ "God". ⲡ- is the definite article (from the older demonstrative ) and is always used when the Jewish-Christian god is meant: litterally "the god" > "God".

I had a look at the verso and there is something interesting too:
+[maybe ⳁ] ⲓⲥ ⲡⲉⲭⲥ
ⲡϣⲏⲣⲉ ⲙ̄
ⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ· ⲉⲧⲟⲛϩ
ⲉⲕⲛⲁⲥⲙⲟⲩ
ⲉⲧⲉϩⲉⲛⲉⲧⲉ
ϩⲛ̄ⲥⲙⲟⲩ ⲛⲓⲙ ⲉϥ
ⲥⲏϩ· ϩⲛ̄ ⲧⲉⲅⲣⲁ
ⲫⲏ· ⲛⲁ ⲛⲁⲛ
ⲛ̄ⲅⲁⲡⲏ·
ⲡϫⲟⲉⲓⲥ ⲓⲥ ⲡⲉⲭⲥ
ⲭⲙⲅ + ϥⲑ

+ Jesus Christ,
the son of
the living God,
you will bless
this monastery
through every blessing which
is written in the Scrip-
ture. Have mercy on us
by charity,
Lord Jesus Christ
ⲭⲙⲅ + Amen
The beginning is identical with the recto but the -ⲛⲁ- future (ⲉⲕⲛⲁ-ⲥⲙⲟⲩ "you will bless") is used here instead of the Third Future (ⲉⲕⲉ-ϩⲁⲣⲉϩ "you shall watch over"). According to grammars, the -ⲛⲁ- future is the basic, "normal", future, while the Third Future expresses "a strong expectation of fulfillment" (Layton, Coptic Grammar, §338a): something shall/must/will necessarily happen.
The fact that both are used here in what is basically the exact same context/sentences may show that the distinction between these two futures was fading. I may be entirely wrong of course :D

ϥⲑ stands for "Amen" and is explained through the numerical value of the letters: ϥ=90 and ⲑ=9, so ϥⲑ=99; just as ⲁ-ⲙ-ⲏ-ⲛ=1+40+50+8=99.

ⲭⲙⲅ has been explained in different ways but I can't remember them.

seanjonesbw
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Re: Frange's Ostracon

Post by seanjonesbw »

11. ⲭⲙⲅ + ϥⲑ The text is surrounded by a waved line. ⲭⲙⲅ is a scribal mark which should be understood either as an isopsephism for 643 = θεὸς βοηθός (“God is help”), or as an abbreviation of Χριστὸν Μαρία Γεννᾷ (“Mary bore Christ”), see Lincoln Blumell, “Lettered Christians. Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus”, Leiden: Brill, 2012, p. 47-48.
https://www.coptic-magic.phil.uni-wuerz ... kyp-t-344/

This was the top result on Google, which I leave here in complete ignorance of its plausibility.

Shenoute
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Re: Frange's Ostracon

Post by Shenoute »

Thanks for the reference! Interesting website.

For those interested in reading more from and about Frange, here is the link to the pdf version of Boud'hors and Heurtel's Ostraca coptes de la TT 29: https://crea.centresphisoc.ulb.be/fr/pu ... e-frange-0

And here is the page devoted to the TT29 digging site ("TT" stands for "Theban Tomb"), where these Frange's ostraca where found: https://crea.centresphisoc.ulb.be/fr/re ... egyptienne

Image

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