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UNESCO’s Memory of the World program welcomes the Derveni papyrus, an ancient Greek papyrus roll that’s considered to be Europe’s oldest readable manuscript. The artifact is the first and only Greek item in the program and will be kept in the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki. The Memory of the World Program collects documentary heritage from all over the globe. The aim is to preserve these pieces, highlight their value, and facilitate access to them.

The papyrus was found in pieces in 1962 in the city of Derveni, an area in northern Greece, among the remains of a tomb that dates back to the 4th century BC. Dating between 340 and 320 BC, the text is a philosophical commentary on an early Orphic poem about the birth of the gods. The author remains unconfirmed.

UNESCO explains about the papyrus, “The Derveni papyrus is of immense importance not only for the study of Greek religion and philosophy, which is the basis for western philosophical thought, but also because it serves as a proof of the early dating of the Orphic poems offering a distinctive version of pre-Socratic philosophers.” UNESCO adds, “The text of the Papyrus, which is the first book of western tradition, has global significance, since it reflects universal human values: the need to explain the world, the desire to belong to a human society with known rules and the agony to confront the end of life.”

With the inclusion of the Derveni papyrus, the Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki hopes to further promote and preserve both the tangible and intangible culture of Greece.

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