A walk that is short the Ashmolean, the Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents (CSAD) is making waves from the Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies on St Giles’. The interview has been put up to find out more about new imaging technology that’s getting used to show previously illegible ancient inscriptions.
I’m here to fulfill Dr Jane Massйglia, an Oxford alumna, former teacher that is secondary now research fellow for AshLI (the Ashmolean Latin Inscription Project). Jane works to encourage general public engagement with translating these ancient documents. There are several nice samples of this: calling out on Twitter when it comes to 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, may be the software used to decipher previously impenetrable inscriptions. Ben Altshuler, 20, has been dealing with CSAD on his gap before starting a Classics degree at Harvard later this year year.
What is the remit of CSAD and exactly how did it turned out to be?
‘The centre started about twenty years ago,’ Jane informs me. ‘It was born 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 was suddenly a necessity to house various projects that are different Classics looking at primary source material, and an awareness it was better joined up together. It’s a good idea: epigraphers, the individuals who study these ancient inscriptions – do things in a similar way with similar resources and technology.
‘in terms of what we do now, the centre currently holds a true number of projects like AshLI, the Corpus of Ptolemaic Inscriptions (CPI) and also 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 which can be stacked floor to ceiling in the centre.
‘a number of the ongoing work on the centre is in sifting and analysing what is within these archives. The system that is new a lot more accessible – in the immediate future we will have the ability to view the squeezes on some type of computer and, within the longer term, there is talk of searchable indexes of RTI images and integration with open source and widely used commercial platforms, like Photoshop.’
Ben, how did you come to be so associated with CSAD at 20?
‘In the previous couple of many years of senior school I took part in an oral history project organised by the Classics Conclave and American Philological Association,’ Ben informs me. ‘While we were interviewing classicists at Oxford, Roger Michel, the pinnacle 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 sponsorship that is two-year the CSAD as an imaging expert into essay writer the fall following my graduation, and I spent the past year building up technical expertise to provide the necessary support during my work 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 amount that is relatively short of. I really could make a much bigger impact supplying the skills that are technical processed images for established classicists to your workplace on utilizing their language expertise.’
Ben shows me a video he’s made from the different effects RTI can create in illuminating previously indecipherable texts (or, in this instance, a coin).
Here prominent classist Mary Beard interviews Ben and others at CSAD for more information about how RTI will be used to help make new discoveries possible within Humanities.