Go Back

Jaakko Frösén

Jaakko Lars Henrik Frösén
Born January 9, 1944, Helsinki

Master of Arts 1967 (Greek literature), Roman literature, psychology, general linguistics (1968), Licentiate 1969 (Greek language and literature, Latin and Roman literature) and PhD 1974, University of Helsinki

Emeritus professor 2012–, University of Helsinki
Acting professor of Greek philology 1999–2011, University of Helsinki
Senior Research Fellow and Academy Professor 1992–99 and 2006, Academy of Finland
Director of the Finnish Institute at Athens 1988–92
Acting professor of Greek language and literature 1985, University of Helsinki
Junior Academy Research Fellow and Senior Research Fellow 1981–88, Academy of Finland
Research assistant in Greek language and literature 1977–81, University of Helsinki
Commissioner of the Council of Finnish Academies 1977
Acting associate professor of Classical philology 1976, University of Turku
Research assistant in Greek literature 1974–76, University of Helsinki
Lecturer in Classical philology 1971–73, University of Turku
Research assistant in Roman literature 1970, University of Helsinki
Acting lecturer in Latin 1969, University of Oulu
Part-time teaching positions at schools, universities, summer universities and colleges (Latin, Greek, Italian, sociolinguistics, Classical archaeology) 1967–

Publications, research projects and other academic activity

Research themes
Greek sociolinguistic research
The conservation and publication of papyri, particularly carbonised papyri or papyrus scrolls.
The Mount Aaron archaeological excavations, Petra
Mediaeval scrips of the patriarchate of Alexandria (conservation, digitalisation and codification)
Prolegomena to a Study of the Greek Language in the First Centuries A.D. – The problem of Koiné and Atticism 1974 (doctoral dissertation)
Publication of papyrus texts in collaboration with others 1979–
Numerous articles, book reviews and publications, textbooks, audio recordings, video, radio and television programmes and exhibitions. In addition an expert guide on more than 100 trips to the eastern Mediterranean.

Photo: Mika Federley
Written by Jaakko Frösén (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Carbonised Papyri

The Papyrus Project of the University of Helsinki is currently studying two collections of carbonised papyri: the Bubastos archive and the Petra papyri.

Jaakko Frösén concentrating on unfurling the carbonised scroll of Bubastos in Helsinki. The scroll is from the Cologne collection of papyri. Photo: Veikko Somerpuro

The city of Bubastos was located in the Nile delta, and a fire that appears to have been intentionally started by an arsonist raged there in the 3rd century AD. Papyri in the administrative building were carbonised, which allowed them to survive despite the humid climate. The texts mainly deal with taxation and public administration at the beginning the 3rd century. They are extremely interesting and important historical sources, because few comparable archives of local government survive from the Roman Empire. The period itself is significant because the texts deal with the activity, or rather the inactivity, of the government during the final and lingering deep economic depression of the Roman Empire, with particular emphasis on increasing taxation. The discovery was made at an unlawfull dig in the 1960s.

Some of the places where the papyri are stored include the Austrian National Library in Vienna and the collection of the University of Cologne. Some have ended up at the University of Athens, Barcelona, and Duke University in the United States. Two works on the Bubastos papyri have been published (Die verkohlten Papyri aus Bubastos, P. Bub. I–II, 1990–1998). Tiina Puurola and Manna Satama play large roles in their publication.

A carbonised scroll from the Petra papyri. Photo by Henry Cowherd, 1994. From the Amman archive of ACOR.

In 1993, carbonised papyri were discovered in Petra, Jordan. American archaeologists were excavating the ruins of a great Byzantine church. In a small storage room adjacent to the church, they found carbonised papyri dating from the 6th century, when it was thought that Petra had already been destroyed by earthquakes. The Papyrus Project of the University of Helsinki opened the scrolls and restored the texts into legible form in Amman between 1994 and 1995. The Greek texts dealt with the property of Theodoros son of Obodianos and his family in Petra and its environs, all the way to Gaza on the Mediterranean coast. The work on the publication of the texts is being performed by researchers from the Universities of Helsinki and Michigan. One of the papyri mentions the house of the high priest Aaron. This mention led to the archaeological digs at Mount Aaron. Four parts of the Petra Papyri have been published (The Petra Papyri, P. Petra, I–IV, 2002–2013). The manuscript for the fifth and final part (The Petra Papyri V) will be completed in 2015.

Part of the last will of Obodianos from 573 AD. Papyrus Petra V 55. Photo by Jaakko Frösén, 1995.

As the work has progressed, the responsibility for the project has shifted from Jaakko Frösén to docent Antti Arjava. Other members of the Finnish team have been Matias Buchholz, Jorma Kaimio, Maarit Kaimio, Marjo Lehtinen, Mari Mikkola, Mari Mustonen, Tiina Purola, Tiina Rankinen, Erja Salmenkivi, Manna Satama and Marja Vierros. A Michigan team with six members has also worked on the publications. Others Finns and Americans have also participated in the conservation, photography, image processing and editing. The necessary expertise was mainly provided by Jordanian and American researchers. The doctoral dissertation of Matias Buchholz was partly based on the carbonised papyri discovered at Jordan. The dissertation was published under the title Römisches Recht auf Griechisch : Prolegomena zu einer linguistischen Untersuchung der Zusammensetzung und Semantik des byzantinischen prozessrechtlichen Wortschatzes (University of Helsinki, 2015).

Jaakko Frösén and Erja Salmenkivi putting together the puzzle of the Petra Papyri in Amman. Photo by Matti Mustonen, 1994.


Go Back