Bringing ancient Greek papyri to life through AR

The Rylands papyri collection is one of the most important of the world, and constitutes an immense occasion for a papyrologist and ancient historian. It is an immense resource for both research and teaching. Of the about 2,000 Greek and Latin papyri in the collection, 700 have been restored, framed, catalogued and published, but many more are still waiting to be processed through conservation, study and publication.

With more than 1,000 texts still to be studied and published, it is self-evident how much work is waiting to be done for a papyrologist! However, as I said, papyri are also a fantastic resource for teaching. Despite only a minority of undergraduate students having enough skills to read and decipher ancient Greek papyri, all of them have the ability to observe. You don’t need to be fluent in ancient Greek to study papyri: actually there’s no need for ancient Greek at all. Papyri are artifacts like any other.

SCARLET technologies and resources are designed to improve your observation abilities: let’s have a look how, using the most famous piece of the Rylands collection, the world-renowned oldest fragment of the Gospel of John, as an example. The fragment is an ideal starting point not only because of its importance, but also because it is on permanent public display. In this way we will be able to test the value of the AR application not only with students, but also with the wider audience.

In this video you will have an introduction to the story of the fragment, its content and format, and why it is so important in the history of Christianity on the one hand, and the history of the book on the other hand.


Papyrologists are well aware of the value of technologies, and the John Rylands Papyri collection has recently joined the international project APIS. The Library created a database with images and metadata of about 300 pieces of the collection. While these websites and databases are mostly aimed at scholars and students with a knowledge of Greek and other ancient languages, SCARLET will allow me to engage with a wider audience. I am convinced that manuscripts must be considered as artefacts, and you don’t need to be fluent in ancient languages to learn from these objects. The AR application will enable an enhanced understanding for students and general public of ancient texts.

The direct involvement of the students in the development of the project is a fantastic resource for us as a team, and for them as well. We will have immediate feedback on the SCARLET application, while the students will have the opportunity to participate in the creation and development of an innovative IT application, a great skill to add to their curriculum.

One thought on “Bringing ancient Greek papyri to life through AR

  1. Pingback: ‘Information on the move’: an mobile conference in the city of roundabouts | eLibrary

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