For all this time in every part of the Greek-speaking world books and documents were written on a paper made from the papyrus reed, which was rare outside Egypt, and even there died out in about the tenth century A.D. It is now to be found chiefly in the Sudd, a vast area of swamp in the Sudan covered with thickets of papyrus.
The recovery of papyri began in the middle of the eighteenth century, when the remains of a Greek library on papyrus rolls were found in Italy at Herculaneum, preserved by the debris of an eruption of Vesuvius. By the end of the eighteenth century a few papyri had been discovered in Egypt, the country whose dry climate is most favourable to their survival, and the number slowly grew. By the eighteen-nineties exciting finds of Greek literature, lost works by such authors as Aristotle and Hyperides, encouraged the Egypt Exploration Fund (later Society) to commission excavations specifically in search of papyri. In their second season, in 1896/7, B. P. Grenfell and A. S. Hunt, two young fellows of Queens College, Oxford, found the site that was to produce the largest collection of all Oxyrhynchus.
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