Ancient Documentary Studies in 1997

Previous issues of the Newsletter have concentrated on digital projects based at CSAD in Oxford. To set this work in a wider context, this fourth issue carries surveys of innovative research into the application of Information Technology to documentary studies elsewhere in Europe and in America as well as updated reports on the Centre's own activities. Notable among the latter is a preliminary report on a project to develop image processing and enhancement techniques that may make it possible to decipher hitherto intractable incised texts on lead and wooden tablets.

A welcome recent development has been the establishment of national and regional epigraphical associations in Britain and North America. The Centre wishes the British Epigraphy Society and the American Society of Greek and Latin Epigraphy every success.

Scanned image of a squeeze of a collection of Hellenistic epigrams from Chios, probably originally inscribed in a gymnasium (SEG, XVI, 497). The lower text appears to mention the Athenian tyrannicides Harmodius and Aristogeiton. Current plans for the completion of W.G. Forrest's Corpus of inscriptions from Chios are discussed below.

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Towards a Virtual Library of Ancient Documents

Two announcements in recent months on the electronic papyrological discussion list have underlined the potential of on-line resources for research and teaching in documentary studies.

The Duke Data Bank of Documentary Papyri (DDBDP), a project based at Duke University since 1982, but which has also drawn on the work of papyrologists in other centres, has for some time made it possible to search a large proportion of published documentary papyri in the form of a CD-Rom text database. The latest version of the database, issued in February by the Packard Humanities Institute, which has provided funding for the project, contains an almost complete collection of published Greek documentary papyri from Egypt. As a CD-Rom publication, this is an immensely valuable resource - as the almost 1,000 copies of it in circulation testify. Its value and accessibility have now been increased several fold by a collaboration between Prof. John F. Oates, the Director of the project at Duke, and the Perseus Project which has placed the whole of the DDBDP on the Internet ( /Texts/papyri.html). Prof. Oates' e-mail announcement at the beginning of November that the DDBDP was available on-line and integrated with the Perseus lexicographical and morphological tools has opened up a wide range of possibilities for creating a virtual library uniting electronic papyrological resources available from many different locations.

The DDBDP already forms the backbone of the APIS project which envisages a relatively tight integration of electronic resources created by a consortium of papyrological research institutes according to uniform standards and made available from a unified server. Pioneering work on the creation of digital images of papyri has been carried out at the University of Michigan, under the direction of Prof. Traianos Gagos. Another member of the initial Michigan team, Dr. Peter Van Minnen, has led a similar project at Duke which has placed scanned images of Duke University's collection of almost 1400 papyri on the Internet. The teams at Duke and Michigan are part of the APIS group. But the possibility is now available - as, indeed, it is more generally with Perseus resources - of attaching a wide range of other electronic resources to the same spine. In April papyrologists at the University of Heidelberg announced the availability on the Internet of digitised images of papyri in the Heidelberg collection (http://www.rzuser.uni These images are linked to texts of the papyri available as part of the DDBDP. The linking operation is a relatively simple one, the interface uncomplicated and efficient. The possibilities are almost unlimited.

The implications of these developments for research and teaching are potentially very far-reaching. The development of electronic networks has been more rapid than could have been predicted, and future directions are hard to anticipate. The most successful electronic projects are still likely to be those that are designed from the beginning to be integrated with other resources - the APIS project, for example, which is being planned and created in close cooperation with digital librarians. But the Internet also provides a universal medium for publishing and tying together disparate resources created on different computing systems. This flexibility has great importance in a field such as epigraphy - in which the emphasis of CSAD's digital projects currently lieswhere there has been little opportunity for strategic planning for the creation of unified electronic resources comparable to APIS.

The backbone of an integrated Internet epigraphical library - which the DDBDP provides for APIS -is for the moment missing. The Packard Humanities Institute has funded a project to compile a text database of Greek inscriptions similar in scope to the DDBDP. The latest PHI CD-Rom contains a very substantial proportion of published texts, compiled by teams at Ohio and Cornell Universities under the direction of Profs. Stephen Tracy and Kevin Clinton. This is a very valuable resource, but it will be some time before the database is complete, and there are no immediate plans for it to made available on-line in the same way as the DDBDP, although there is no doubt that it will be eventually.

In the meantime, other resources are already becoming available. A good example is the PETRAE epigraphical database system developed at the University of Bordeaux, which Alain Bresson describes more fully below. The PHI epigraphical databases are designed primarily to be searchable. Unlike the DDBDP, they do not aim to offer extensive critical notations - still less the lemmata, apparatus, commentary and translation of printed editions. PETRAE does offer these possibilities in an electronic and soon-to-be online form. PETRAE will not achieve the scope of the PHI database very soon and is not intended to replace it. But it offers an alternative model for presenting epigraphical texts on the Internet, edited to the highest standards with full scholarly apparatus and in a form that can constantly be updated. Once the PETRAE corpora begin to come on-line, it will be a simple task to link them to other electronic resources - for example, CSAD's images of squeezes or the image database under construction at La Maison de l'Orient Méditerranéen in Lyon.

There are other equally valuable electronic epigraphical resources - notably the searchable collections of Latin inscriptions available from Frankfurt (http://www.rz.uni and Eichstätt ( which already encompass much of CIL.

The range and diversity of these different projects, which on individual systems could be distracting, on electronic networks become alluring. The possibility may soon be available for individual scholars and teachers to create their own virtual libraries of ancient documents.

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