The Oldest "Book" of Europe: Afterlife and the Birth of the Cosmos in the Derveni Papyrus

The Embassy of Greece, in collaboration with the Center for Hellenic Studies, Harvard University and the Washington Society of the Archaeological Institute of America, invites you to an event dedicated to the Derveni Papyrus.
Featuring: Dr. Ioanna Papadopoulou, Associate in Multi-Disciplinary Research, Information Technology and Publications at the Center for Hellenic Studies of Harvard University, and Dr. Polyxeni Adam-Veleni, Director of the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki.
The event will take place on Thursday, May 26, 2016, at 6:30 pm on the premises of the Embassy of Greece, 217 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008.


The Derveni Papyrus, commonly called “the oldest European “book”, is the only 4th century BC legible literary papyrus to be found on Greek soil. It was discovered near Derveni in 1962 during public works, about 10 km from Thessaloniki, near a small ancient town called Lete. The excavations brought to light the so called “Derveni tombs”, all of them unlooted except one. The carbonized roll was discovered on the slabs covering Derveni Tomb A together with other remains from the cremation of the deceased.
It is our great luck that this roll did not burn thoroughly, as it contains a treatise of extraordinary importance for our understand
ing of Greek religion and intellectual history, which confirms the early existence of Orphism. The (anonymous) author analyzes beliefs about afterlife and orphic cosmogony through an unusual interweaving of ritual, philosophy, science and poetry.
The editio princeps appeared in 2006, by Th. Kouremenos, G. Parassoglou and K. Tsantsanoglou. It contains 26 columns with 113 unplaced fragments, photographs of the papyrus, a translation and a commentary.
To make this edition – and more recent ones – easily accessible, the Center for Hellenic Studies (Harvard University) Mouseion Derveni Papyrus Project has developed a digital platform allowing simultaneous comparative display of the most recent editions.
In October 2015 the Derveni Papyrus was included in UNESCO’S Memory of the World Program.