Berlin scholar Verena Lepper comes out trumps with €1.5 million ERC Starting Grant for research at the Papyrus Collection on Elephantine, the island in the river Nile

Neues Museum

Prof. Dr. Verena Lepper, Egyptologist and orientalist, has secured one of the most important grants available in the world of academic research, the European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant. Lepper now has at her disposal, for the next five years, a total of €1.5 million for her research proposal: 'Localizing 4000 Years of Cultural History - Texts and Scripts from the Island of Elephantine in Egypt'. Lepper has been curator of Egyptian and Oriental papyri at the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung since 2008, where her research project is also based.

Her project aims to investigate the 4000-year cultural history of the Egyptian river island of Elephantine. There is hardly another Egyptian settlement that is so well documented. Numerous written documents have survived, ranging in date from the time of the Old Kingdom to after the Arab conquest. Due in part to the multi-ethnic and multi-religious composition of the local population, these textual sources were written in ten different languages and scripts, including hieroglyphs, hieratic, demotic, Aramaic, Greek, Coptic, and Arabic. The several thousand papyri and manuscripts from Elephantine in existence today are preserved at over 60 institutions in Europe and beyond. About 80 percent of them are currently unresearched and unpublished.

Verena Lepper can understand 15 languages, including all those used in texts found on the island of Elephantine. Lepper was born in 1973 in the Rhineland and studied Egyptology and Semitic and Christian Oriental studies in Tübingen, Bonn, Cologne, and Oxford. She completed her doctoral studies in Egyptology and Semitic studies at Friedrich-Wilhelms-University in Bonn and at Harvard University. Prior to her role as a curator at the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung in Berlin, she worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard. She currently teaches Egyptology at Freie Universität Berlin and has held an honorary professorship at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin since 2013.

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