1,800 year-old dinner invitation re-discovered at UBC

Dec 19 2017, 4:09 pm

Did you call your mom today to ask what’s for dinner? Or did you demand it like Will Ferrell’s character, Chass Reinhold, from The Wedding Crashers: “Hey Ma! Can we get some meatloaf?…Hey Ma! Some meat loaf! We want it now!”

Mothers around the world rejoice; children were less demanding once upon a time even in ancient Egypt. This can be confirmed by a re-discovery made by UBC PhD student Chelsea Gardner, who in 2014 came across ancient Egyptian papyri in the UBC library.

While working on a digitization project Gardner was looking for some Babylonian clay tablets when a Rare Books and Special Collections librarian, who was aware of the papyri, suggested she take a look at them.

The one of a kind pieces have been stored at the UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections since the 1930s but they were minimally cataloged and overlooked.

“Together, they reveal intimate details of life in Roman Egypt,” said Toph Marshall, a professor at UBC’s department of classical, near eastern and religious studies (CNERS). “These documents are a window on a lost world, revealing the daily activities of ordinary people.”

The palm sized 1,800 year old pieces are written in Greek and date back to Roman-age Egypt.

They are actually pieces of a touching letter written by a young man to his mother, writing that he thinks of her everyday, reminding her of a dinner invitation, wishing her good health and hoping she’ll come visit him soon.


Below is a slide show of the pieces fond: