The materiality of ancient documents can be "porteuse de sens" i.e. it can bring up more information about the typology, the content, the context and the chronology of the documents. In fact, each category of documents was drafted in accordance with specific rules and conventions, related to the document's function and the socio-cultural context in which it was produced and circulated. Such conventions are the result of constant social interactions that were performed throughout the society on a daily basis. The goal of my project is to gain new insights into the structure of the social communities and the development of their mechanism of communication, through the analysis of material aspects ofpapyri (e.g. writing support, dimensions, orientation, layout). Such aspects have been marginalised in the study of the papyri, but they can be profitably used to understand how, through written documents, local social meaning are constructed, in order to support social practices and to facilitate social exchanges. In fact, before being the conveyors of a specific content, each document has formal qualities that carry social meanings and social values, which had to be understood by all the parties involved. The research will focus on the administrative and legal papyri from Roman and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus in order to analyse the mechanisms of production and consumption of written material from both a top-down and bottom-up perspective.
The research aims at tackling the study of materiality through a multidisciplinary approach, taking advantage of the most recent theories of Material Culture Studies and Socio-semiotic.