Epigraphy and Information Technology

A Workshop organised by the Austrian Institute

(25-26 September)

To coincide with the Epigraphical Congress, Prof. Manfred Hainzman of the Institut für Alte Geschichte und Altertumskunde, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, organised a workshop at the Austrian Cultural Institute to gather reports on work-in-progress on a wide range of epigraphical projects based on or using computer technology.

The influence of the new possibilities of electronic publication opened up by the Internet was evident in many of the reports presented to the Workshop.

On the first morning, Prof. Géza Alföldy and Ms. Heike Niquet presented a detailed report on the current status of the Epigraphische Datenbank Heidelberg. The database has been constructed using ORACLE and a variety of auxiliary editing programmes for dealing with epigraphical texts, and contains editions (revised, so far as possible), with full bibliographies, lemmata and apparatus, of ca. 30,000 Latin inscriptions not included in the CIL corpora or published since 1888 and registered in L'Année épigraphique. The project also draws on the extensive Epigraphische Phototek Heidelberg, which includes photographs of 10,000 inscriptions from Rome and the Spanish provinces and a further ca. 11,000 inscriptions from the rest of the Empire. The digitisation of this material is under way. A further database contains an extensive Bibliography of Roman Epigraphy. The texts of the inscriptions in the database are already accessible in searchable form from a WWW site (www.uni-heidelberg.de/institute/sonst/adw/edh), and it is envisaged that the remaining resources of the Datenbank will progressively be made available. This is a major project which aims eventually to provide historians and epigraphers with the resources to verify the readings of inscriptions and also to secure the restoration of other inscriptions by drawing on the KWIC (Key Word in Context) indexing of the texts in the database.

Dr. Wolfgang Spickermann of the University of Osnabrück described an exhibition illustrating work on the Supplement to CIL XIII (the Roman Inscriptions of Germany) which is now available on the WWW and provides a succinct and well-illustrated practical introduction to Latin epigraphy (http://www.geschichte.uni-osnabrueck.de/ausstell/ausstell.html/).

Alain Bresson presented an illuminating survey of the genesis and development of the PETRAE database system of which he provided a short account for Newsletter 4, emphasising the flexibility and portability of the way in which epigraphical data are stored and structured in PETRAE. Prof. Paolo Maggi of the University of Trieste described how PETRAE has been adapted to provide a system for recording inscriptions on instrumentum domesticum as well as lapidary texts. On the second day of the workshop Drs. Athanassios Rizakis and Sophia Zoumbaki of the National Hellenic Research Foundation-KERA described Nomina Romana, an analogous programme written by A. Bresson in 4th Dimension specifically to deal with the problems of recording onomastic information about Roman names in Greece.

Professor John Traill provided an entertaining account of the ATHENIANS prosopographical database which has transformed a conventional card index catalogue compiled by Prof. B.D. Meritt of the more than 100,000 individuals attested in our evidence for Athens into a modern relational database system equally capable of generating printed volumes or of being interrogated via the Internet (http://www.chass.utoronto.ca:8080/attica).

Some of the most illuminating remarks in the Workshop came on the second morning in Elaine Matthews' report on the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names. The experience of managing a major project over an extended period (LGPN has been a British Academy Major Research Project since 1972) has provided a valuable perspective on the rapid changes in computer technology which have taken place during the project's lifetime. The Lexicon's data and programmes have undergone more than one successful migration. The pervasiveness of the Internet offers a new challenge. Electronic publication is as unavoidable as it is desirable, and the Lexicon is taking steps to move in this direction. Current information about the project is now available from a WWW site, together with a preliminary sample of the statistical information that can easily be derived from the Lexicon's database and which an electronic publication will allow users to generate for themselves (http://users.ox.ac.uk/~fraser/index.html).

The Workshop also heard a welcome announcement from Prof. Mireille Corbier (C.N.R.S.), that the indices for L'Année épigraphique are shortly to be made available on the Internet.

This is only a sample of the projects discussed at the Workshop. Two reports devoted specifically to providing guides to the range of electronic resources available to the ancient historian offer further orientation. Alessandro Cristofori's recent article, "Storia Antica e Computer" (Viaggi di Erodoto 32, May-Sept. 1997) can now be consulted at http://www.economia.unibo.it/dipartim/stoant/rassegna1/appr.html. Markus Sehlmeyer's "Möglichkeiten und Grenzen des WWW für die althistorische Forschung" (http://www.gwdg.de/~msehlme1/rom.html) provides a survey of similar scope in German.

Participants in the Workshop are indebted to Prof. Hainzman and the Austrian Institute for offering such a stimulating opportunity for epigraphists working with computer technology to share ideas and experiences in an hospitable setting.

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