A short walk from the Ashmolean, the Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents (CSAD) is making waves through the Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies on St Giles’. The interview write my paper has been put up for more information about new imaging technology which is being used to show previously illegible ancient inscriptions.
I’m here to generally meet Dr Jane Massйglia, an Oxford alumna, former secondary teacher and now research fellow for AshLI (the Ashmolean Latin Inscription Project). Jane actively works to encourage general public engagement with translating these ancient documents. There are numerous nice types of this: calling out on Twitter for the interested public to have a stab at translating these ancient inscriptions.
The second person I’m meeting today is Ben Altshuler, ‘our amazing RTI whizzkid.’ RTI, or Reflectance Transformation Imaging, could be the software used to decipher previously impenetrable inscriptions. Ben Altshuler, 20, has been working with CSAD on his gap year before starting a Classics degree at Harvard later this year.
What is the remit of CSAD and just how achieved it turned out to be?
‘The centre started about twenty years ago,’ Jane informs me. ‘It came to be out of several projects that are big original texts like the Vindolanda tablets (a Roman site in northern England that has yielded the oldest surviving handwritten documents in Britain). There clearly was suddenly a necessity to house various projects that are different Classics looking at primary source material, and a sense that it was better joined up together. It seems sensible: epigraphers, the folks who study these ancient inscriptions – do things in a similar way with similar resources and technology.
‘In terms of that which we do now, the centre currently holds a number of projects like AshLI, the Corpus of Ptolemaic Inscriptions (CPI) while the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names (LGPN).
‘This is how it began,’ she says and shows me a “squeeze”.
The ‘squeezes’ are stored in large boxes that are stacked floor to ceiling in the centre.
‘Some of the work that is ongoing the centre is in sifting and analysing what is within these archives. The system that is new so much more accessible – within the immediate future we will manage to view the squeezes on a pc and, within the long run, there is certainly talk of searchable indexes of RTI images and integration with open source and widely used commercial platforms, like Photoshop.’
Ben, how do you come to be so a part of CSAD at 20?
‘In the last few many years of twelfth grade I took part in an oral history project organised because of the Classics Conclave and American Philological Association,’ Ben informs me. ‘Although we were interviewing classicists at Oxford, Roger Michel, the top associated with the Conclave, saw a number of places when you look at the University and surrounding museums where new technology could thrive. I became offered a two-year sponsorship at the CSAD as an imaging expert in the fall following my graduation, and I also spent the past year building up technical expertise to present the mandatory support inside my operate in Oxford.
‘from the classical language side so I came into it. I quickly saw that to be very successful in epigraphy takes several years of experience. However with RTI one could master the technology in a relatively short period of time. I really could make a much bigger impact providing the technical skills and processed images for established classicists to operate on utilizing their language expertise.’
Ben shows me a video he is made of the different effects RTI can make in illuminating previously indecipherable texts (or, in this situation, a coin).
Here prominent classist Mary Beard interviews Ben among others at CSAD to learn more on how RTI is being used to help make new discoveries possible within Humanities.