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Document of Early Christian History Rediscovered in Iowa

Monday, February 24, 2014


DECORAH, IOWA—Luther College student Brittany Anderson discovered nine papyri while taking an inventory of the papers of the late Orlando W. Qualley, who had been a professor at the school and a member of a University of Michigan excavation at Karanis in the 1920s. The fragments date to the first to fifth centuries A.D. Several of them are accounting documents, but according to Graham Claytor of the University of Michigan, one is a libellus, or a document given to a Roman citizen to confirm that a sacrifice had been made to the gods as ordered by the emperor in the year 250. Christians who refused to perform the sacrifice were subject to arrest, torture, and execution. “As soon as they are properly preserved, we hope to display all the papyri in our library for everyone to see. They provide a great opportunity for our students to examine a genuine piece of the ancient world,” Philip Freeman, Qualley Chair of Ancient Languages at Luther College, told The Decorah Newspapers.