Courtesy Oriental Institute, University of Chicago

An enigma to experts for years, this inscription is written in Egyptian demotic script, but the language is Aramaic. Found in the second half of the 1 9th century in an earthen jar near Thebes, the second-century B.C. papyrus has been only recently translated and only in part. The scholars who made the translation also made a startling discovery: these seven lines from the Egyptian papyrus bear a striking resemblance to Psalm 20 of the Hebrew Bible.

Taken around the turn of the century, this photograph is more legible than the now-faded original inscription. Scholars Charles Nims and Richard Steiner worked primarily from the photograph to decipher the ancient script.