Institut für den Nahen und Mittleren Osten



The 17th Arabic Papyrology Webclass: "Merchants, Mules, and Misunderstandings: Commercial Letters on Papyrus and Paper"

Permanent link:


  • Though basically dealing with the exchange of goods and sums of money, commercial letters record communication that touches on various aspects: complaints about insufficient quality, strategies for achieving a higher price at the market, as well as advice to deputy traders about business in the addressee’s absence all appear in documents from 8th-16th century Egypt. We will explore different issues merchants faced, as well as get acquainted with the goods most commonly traded according to Arabic documentary texts
  • We will read unpublished documents and apply new ways to display their formal side best. And we will discuss recents scholarship.


  • This is an on-line webclass. Documents to be read and papers to be discussed will be made accessible in advance.
  • Communication will be in English.


  • Dr. Ursula Bsees, LMU Munich, Institute of Near and Middle Eastern Studies, co-director of the LMU Arabic Papyrology Research Group (


  • Monday, 7:00 - 9:00 PM (Central European Time); time might be changed, if all participants agree.
  • 20 April - 20 July 2020; no class on 1 June 2020.


  • A certificate of participation will be given if students have attended at least twelve meetings and if they have met the expectations as defined at the beginning of the semester.
  • The Arabic Papyrology Webclass forms part of the Webinar Initiative in Islamic Material Culture (


  • MA and PhD students in Arabic and in Near Eastern Studies; scholars interested in Arabic documents; persons in charge of Arabic manuscript collections, etc.


  • 250 Euro or an equivalent amount of working time. Fees are expected to be paid before the semester starts.
  • No fees for students of Near and Middle Eastern Studies at LMU Munich, Universität Bonn, Universität Hamburg, and New York University.

Technical issues

  • Students need a computer for downloading, Internet access, and a headset.
  • Technical problems arising during the semester that prevent students from attending the class are the students’ own responsibility; therefore, missed classes will not be substituted. However, if a technical event prevents all students from participating, the class will be substituted.
  • New participants will have a personal preparatory meeting to set up technical requirements.

Further information and registration

  • Please send an informal message to ursula.bsees at Give name, academic affiliation, current position and interest.
  • Register until 6 April 2020. The webclass usually fills up quickly.


  • ...

Earlier webclasses

  • 1: Letters from Quṣayr (Fall Term 2007).
  • 2: Early Letters [from the Yale Collection] (Spring Term 2008).
  • 3: Arabic Contracts of Renting and Buying Real Estate (Fall Term 2008).
  • 4: Bilingual Greek and Arabic Documents, with Dr Raffaele Luiselli, Florence (Spring Term 2009).
  • 5: Petitions to and Letters from Mamluk Officials (Fall Term 2009).
  • 6: Authentification Procedures on Arabic Coins, Seals and Letters from Mamluk Officials, with Dr Lutz Ilisch, Tübingen (Spring Term 2010).
  • 7: Documentary Evidence on Childhood (Fall Term 2010).
  • 8: Lists, Registers, Accounts (Summer Term 2011).
  • 9: Documents from al-Andalus (Winter Term 2011/12).
  • 10: Documents from Edfu (Winter Term 2012/13).
  • 11: Documents from the Berlin Collection (Winter Term 2013/14).
  • 12: Documents on Rural Egypt (Summer Term).
  • 13: Petitions on Paper (Winter Term 2014/15).
  • 14: Documents on Marriage and Divorce (Winter Term/16).
  • 15: Papyrus Letters from Umayyad and Abbasid Egypt (Summer Term 2017).
  • 16: Arabic Documents Referring to Jerusalem (Summer Term 2018)