The Netherlands Institute for the Near East

Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten  -  Institut néerlandais du Proche-Orient

Jacques van der Vliet is Professor of Ancient Egyptian Religions at Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, and guest researcher Coptic and Early Christianity at the School of Middle Eastern Studies (Leiden University).

Research project: “Coptic written sources from Naqlun, Fayoum province, Egypt”

Around the year 1000, the Monastery of Naqlun (present day Dayr al-Malâk, the Monastery of the Angel, i.e. Gabriel) was an important landmark in the then still predominantly Christian landscape of the Fayoum. Polish excavations at the site, directed by W. Godlewski, University of Warsaw, brought to light in addition to – for instance – wall paintings and architectural remains, large amounts of inscribed material in Greek, Coptic and Arabic. From 1998 onwards, until the discontinuation of the excavations, I was a member of the Polish mission in the field.

A final publication of the Coptic textual finds remains outstanding. The finds include several dozens of Coptic texts in various media from about the eighth-twelfth centuries, with a peak around the turn of the millennium. Most are much damaged and incomplete, which makes the study of them an arduous task, also since many are written in badly known regional varieties of late Coptic. Their interest, however, is great as they represent the full scala of writing practices and genres current in an important Coptic monastery just before the wholesale Arabization and Islamization of the region. They include administrative texts, letters, literary and liturgical texts, as well as ‘magical’ and medical prescriptions, illustrating Christian Egyptian life and culture in a crucial period of transition.

The full publication of these mostly fragmentary texts is a matter of re-contextualization on various levels (textually, archaeologically, culturally). It is therefore undertaken conjointly by Prof. W. Godlewski, Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw, as the head of the Polish Naqlun mission, Dr. Ibrahim Saweros (PhD in Coptic studies, Leiden 2016) of the University of Sohag, Egypt, and myself as project leader. The project will result in one or two book-size volumes (P. Naqlun Copt.) and several scholarly articles.

Selected publications

Co-editor (with A. Delattre and J. Dijkstra) of the annual critical bulletin ‘Christian inscriptions from Egypt and Nubia’, in the Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists (from 2014 onwards).