Oxyrhynchus is an extensive archaeological site near the modern-day city of El-Bahnasa (in the Al-Minya governorate, Egypt). It is located approximately 160 kilometres south-southwest of the city of Cairo, on the left bank of the Bahr Yussef, a branch of the Nile that now terminates in the Fayum oasis.
The ruins of Oxyrhynchus were discovered and identified by Vivant Denon, one of the French scholars who accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte on his Egyptian campaign (1799-1802). The first excavations were undertaken in 1897 by Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt, two Englishmen who travelled to the site when they heard news of a large number of papyri found there. Their excavations unearthed many thousands of papyri, mostly written in Greek and dated to the Roman period, and the discoveries they made are studied to this day by the Egypt Exploration Society, with a substantial number of items now housed in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. After the initial excavations, Oxyrhynchus attracted several Italian and English missions up to the 1930s, when official efforts were interrupted for a period of fifty years. Unfortunately, activity did not stop during this time. Numerous looters and treasure-hunters ransacked the site and many antiquities unearthed in those years have since been identified in private collections and public museums. Today, the museum thought to house the most antiquities from Oxyrhynchus is the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, in the Netherlands.
In 1982, the Egyptian Antiquities Organization received news that looters were emptying a significant tomb at El-Bahnasa. Successfully bringing the looting to a stop, they initiated official excavations of a large necropolis with tombs from the Saite, Greco-Roman and Christian periods. In 1992, the scope of the discoveries persuaded the Egyptian Antiquities Organization to seek a European partner with whom to continue the work, and they chose the University of Barcelona.