Some sixty five years ago, the Colt expedition carried out a series of excavations in the ruins of the late Byzantine town of Nessana, now a couple of miles inside Israel on the Negev border with Egypt. 1 The site offers an exciting example of a cas témoin, for it was occupied from roughly the fourth Christian century to the eighth, and the material recovered from it also covers much the same period. 2 It has therefore in many ways the happy potential to offer us a neat and tidy bird's eye view of what went on in this part of the world between the victory of Christianity and the victory of Islam. Among the finds were papyri containing literary texts, a large number (152) of inscriptions, as well as farther papyri containing documents. The three groups of material, literary texts, inscriptions, and documents, offer varied information, and they hint at a complex linguistic situation, one about which the editors of the material offer sharply contrasting views.