What Is Papyrus Harris I?

Sidebar to: The Philistines Enter Canaan

Papyrus Harris I is the largest and most magnificent of the papyri to survive from ancient Egypt. Along with four other scrolls, it was found by natives in 1855, in a hole in the floor of a cliff-tomb near Deir el-Medineh, Thebes. The document was purchased by A.C. Harris of Alexandria, Egypt, hence its name. It is now in the possession of the British Museum.

The scroll is 133 feet long by 16-½ inches high and contains 117 columns of 12 or 13 lines each. It is a remarkable manuscript, written in beautiful large hieratic characters (a cursive form of Egyptian writing) befitting an original state document of the utmost importance. Practically in a perfect state of preservation, there is only one small piece of three lines torn out of the first column. There is little question that the papyrus was written immediately after the death of Ramesses III in about 1153 B.C. It was probably then deposited in the library of his mortuary temple at Medinet Habu.

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