Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents

Philae Obelisk : RTI of the Greek text

Several weeks after the main campaign of imaging of the Philae obelisk in the grounds of the Kingston Lacy Estate in Dorset, Charles Crowther and Ben Altshuller have returned to Dorset to complete the RTI imaging of the Greek inscription at the foot of the obelisk. It was not possible to complete this part of the obelisk along with the hieroglyphic inscription in November, as the original scaffolding had been constructed in a way that restricted access to the lower portion, where the Greek text is inscribed.
CSAD team carrying out RTI of the Greek text on the Obelisk at Kingston Lacy
Charles and Ben, and two assistants, returned last week to Kingston Lacy on a glorious sunny Spring day; ideal conditions for most visitors to these beautiful grounds, but for the RTI team such direct bright sunlight made the imaging quite problematical, and much time was spent rigging up shading tarpaulins so that a series of images under raking light at various angles could still be achieved. However it is hoped that the results will be as good as those of the upper parts of the obelisk, and that improved readings of the damaged and eroded parts of the Greek text will now become legible.


Epigraphy Workshops : Trinity Term

All meetings at 1.00 in the First Floor Seminar room, Ioannou Centre, 66 St Giles, except that on May 4 which will be in the lecture theatre (and will potentially last until 2.30).

Monday, April 27: Ed Harris, ‘The Dedication of Phialai by Metics and Citizens, Or Applying Ockham’s Razor to the Interpretation of Some Attic Inscriptions’.

Monday, May 4: Christian Marek [title not yet confirmed: on the new 124 line verse inscription from Mylasa of the 4th c. BC concerning ‘Pytheas’].

Monday, May 11: Peter Thonemann, ‘The Martyrdom of St Ariadne of Prymnessos’.

Monday, May 18: Dragana Mladenovich and Georgy Kantor, ‘Unpublished inscriptions from the Tiber waterfront’.

Monday, May 25: Anna Heller, ‘Greek honorific inscriptions from the Imperial period: a quantitative approach’.

Monday June 8, Jean-Sebastien Balzat, ‘Romans on Delos: an onomastic approach’.

Monday, June 15 : Akiko Moroo, ‘ “Barbaroi” in Attic inscriptions’.

All welcome!

Charles Crowther, Robert Parker, Jonathan Prag


"Manuscript to Megabyte"

The University of Oxford's Public Affairs Directorate is currently conducting a series of discussions entitled "Manuscript to Megabyte", asking how our relationship with information has changed from ancient documents to modern microchips. One of these themed discussions was recently with Janie Masseglia of the CSAD's AshLI (Ashmolean Latin Inscriptions) project, focussing specifically on the CSAD and its development and use of RTI (Reflectance Transformation Imaging). The interview can be accessed here.


Richard Grasby - Master Letter Carver

Following the sad news of Richard Grasby's death, CSAD would like to share a short video taken in 2011 of Richard demonstrating the art of letter cutting. A commentator on the original video referred to Richard as a 'Master Letter Carver', and spoke of the wonderful art he demonstrated, calling it 'the science of remembering'. This is how we remember Richard, sharing his knowledge and love of letter cutting with charm and wit.

To play the video click here.

Richard Grasby.jpg


Richard Grasby

It is with great sorrow that we announce the death on April 4th 2015 of Richard Grasby, author of Processes in the Making of Roman Inscriptions, and long term associate of the CSAD. He will be sadly missed by us all.


Epigraphy Workshop special session; Monday February 16th 1.00

Since the Epigraphy Workshop slot on February 16th has not been allocated, John Ma has suggested holding a special informal session on the attached short papyrus, a new fragment of diadoch history, and anyone interested is invited to attend: 1.00 in the first floor seminar room, Ioannou School, as usual.
Download file "P.Monts.Roca IV.pdf"


National Trust Bulletin feature article

We are proud to see that our RTI / CPI imaging campaign of the Philae obelisk at Kingston Lacy has taken the front page of the National Trust's Winter 2014-15 issue of their Arts, Buildings, Collections Bulletin. The article, and the complete ABC Bulletin can be downloaded here:
Download file "ABCWinter2014.pdf"

ABC Bulletin


RTI imaging of the Philae obelisk at Kingston Lacy, Dorset

Our RTI intern Ben Altshuler, and Kyriakos Savvopoulos, researcher on our CPI project, have published a short film on YouTube, explaining the RTI imaging recently carried out on an obelisk from Philae, now housed in the grounds of the Kingston Lacy Estate in Dorset. The imaging work was timed to coincide with the European Space Agency's mission, named Rosetta, which successfully landed the obelisk's robotic namesake, Philae, on the surface of comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12th 2014.
To play the film click here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kteEmpgslb0&feature=youtu.be


Unlocking the Secrets of the Ancient World

Mary Beard uncovers Alan Bowman’s ground-breaking work at Oxford University’s Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents – where the use of an innovative technique known as Reflectance Transformation Imaging is helping to shed new light on ancient artefacts, and revealing secrets hidden for thousands of years. The film can be viewed by clicking here:



Epigraphy Workshop Hilary Term 2015

Oxford Epigraphy Workshop, Hilary Term 2015

Please note the extraordinary meeting on January 22, and the vacancy on February 16.
All meetings at 1.00 in the First Floor Seminar Room, Ioannou School except the extraordinary meeting on Thursday January 22:
Thursday, January 22 at 5 pm (Ioannou, Lecture theatre): B. Helly and R. Bouchon (Lyon, CNRS, Hisoma): ‘Territorial changes in Northern Pelasgiotis (Thessaly) after the Third Macedonian War: two new inscriptions from Dolichè and Larisa’.
Monday, Jan. 26: William Slater, ‘Puzzle mosaics and their epigraphy’.
Monday, Feb. 2: Nicholas Purcell, 'Grain, Africa, bakers, bankers, profit and the Forum Boarium in a new decree of the order of Regales in Hadrianic Formiae'.
Monday, Feb. 9 : Robert Parker, ‘4216 lead question tablets from Dodona’.
Monday, Feb. 16: tbc- open to offers.
Monday, March 2: Jonathan Prag, ‘From the I. Sicily project’.
Monday, March 9: Alison Cooley, 'New discoveries among the Ashmolean's Collection of Latin inscriptions'.
Charles Crowther, Robert Parker, Jonathan Prag


Epigraphy Workshop 10th November

Jonathan Prag, Sebastian Rahtz, Robert Parker - 'Lexicon of Greek Personal Names: the perils and potential of digital data'.

On Monday 10th November Jonathan Prag (Merton College), Robert Parker (New College) and Sebastian Rahtz (Chief Data Architect, IT services) spoke on the importance of how research projects should engage with digital data storage, with particular reference to the history the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names

The main concerns that were stressed as regards the importance of digital data were:
  • The re-use of data for unforeseen purposes
  • using open standards for semantic interoperability
  • Exposing data consistently and persistently
  • moving to being independent of technology

For further information on the management and storage of research data:http://researchdata.ox.ac.uk/


Epigraphy Workshop 3rd November

Charles Crowther - Cilicia and the Commagenian Dynasty

In a remarkable demonstration of reverse engineering, Charles Crowther (CSAD) presented a Greek inscription found in 2000 at Göçük Asarı, a hill site in western Turkey (ancient Cilicia). The original text is currently being prepared for published by M. Sayar, but a preliminary translation in English has been published, and Crowther offered a potential translation back into ancient Greek from the English, in order to discuss the inscription. The inscription appears to date from the reign of Antiochus IV, referred to as philokaisar and philoromaios. Crowther also offered an alternative reading of the text than that provided by the translation, suggesting that there are three different dating formulae used: 24th year of the rule of Antiochus IV; 10th year of rule for the Lukaonians and Lekonantians; 2nd year for Armenian citizens.

Along side the inscription from Göçük, Crowther also presented another text illustrating the reign of Antiochus IV. A monumental architrave inscription, originally 11m in length with bronze inlaid letters, from Elaiussa Sebaste (SEG 35, 1730) preserves part of Antiochus title, which appear to give him the titles of philokaisar kai philoromaios, whilst his father's titles appear to include philoellenos kai philopatridos. The building to which the inscription belongs has not been identified.


Epigraphy Workshop 27th October

Juliane Zacchuber - A revised reading of a decree from Bargylia: three kings, sympolities and Carian concerns
Monday 27th October.

Juliane Zacchuber (Lincoln College, Oxford) presented a new reading of a Rhodian decree, originally published by Blümel (2001, Epigraphica Anatolica 32: 94-6). The document presents an arbitration decree between Antiochus III of Syria, Philip V of Macedon, and Ptolemy V Epiphanes, in the wake of war between Antiochus and Ptolemy, and also outlines the handing over of territory to Antiochus by Philip.

Zacchuber has been able to make significant restorations to early sections of the document, which serves to emphasises the possible explusion of different groups from the land; her restorations to lines 13-14 of the text help to shed light on the identity of three cities, who formed a sympolity. Zacchuber emphasised the decree's significance for gaining insight into the concerns and fortunes of those communities of Caria, beyond the international interests of monarchs.


EpiDoc Training for CSAD Projects

Dr. Charlotte Tupman (King's College London) held a two day workshop (25-26th October) on EpiDoc for researchers of two CSAD projects: Dr. Kyriakos Savvopoulos (The Corpus of Ptolemaic Inscriptions Project), and Dr. Hannah Cornwell (The Ashmolean Latin Inscriptions Project). The workshop was held in the CSAD project room, at the Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies.

The training with enable both projects to work in collaboration with EAGLE.



On Thursday 16th October, Dr. Pietro Luizzo of the The Europeana EAGLE Project met with representatives of CSAD (Prof. Alan K. Bowman and Dr. Charles Crowther) and some of its projects (AshLI, represented by Prof. Alison Cooley of Warwick University, and Dr. Jane Masséglia) along with Prof. Bryan Ward-Perkins for the Late Statues of Anquitities Project.

CSAD & EAGLE meetingCSAD & EAGLE meeting: (l-r): Dr. Jane Masséglia (AshLI), Dr. Pietro Luizzo (EAGLE), Dr. Charles Crowther (CSAD), Prof. Bryan Ward-Perkins (Late Statues of Antiquity), Prof. Alison Cooley (AshLI), and Prof. Alan Bowman (CSAD).

The aim of the meeting was to discuss co-operation between CSAD and EAGLE's portal. Projects that will be providing metadata for EAGLE are the Ashmolean Latin Inscriptions (AshLI) project (an AHRC-funded collaboration between the University of Warwick, the Ashmolean Museum and CSAD); The Corpus of Ptolemaic Inscriptions (CPI) project, and the Roman Inscriptions of Britain (RIB) project.


Epigraphy Workshop, October 20th

Peter Thonemann - Croesus and the Oracles
Monday 20th October 2014

At the first Epigraphy Workshop of the new academic year, Peter Thonemann (Wadham College, University of Oxford) presented a reassessment of Herodotus' account of Croesus and the oracle of Amphiaraus, through an analysis of two new inscriptions from Thebes, recently published by N. Papazarkadas (The Epigraphy and History of Boeotia: New Finds, New Prospects, 2014: 223-51). The new inscription offers insight into how Herodotus may have constructed the history of Croesus' interaction with the oracle of Amphiaraus (Hdt. 1.49, 1.52, 1.53.2).

The inscriptions are two copies of the same text, inscribed on different faces of a base. One text is in a Boeotian script, dating to c. 525-475 BC, the other is in the Ionic script, dating to c. 400-350 BC. The text commemorates the rededication by a priest at the sanctuary of Apollo Ismenios, of a gold shield dedicated by Croesus to Amphiaraus. Based on Herodotus' own account of his visit to the sanctuary at Thebes (Hdt. 5.59-61), and the inscriptions he recorded he saw there, alongside the new inscription, Thonemann convincingly argued that rather than the King Croesus, the inscription may in fact instead refer to a posthumous dedication to Amphiaraus by another Croesus (possibly Croesus the Athenian). Thonemann went on to posit an interesting scenerio of Herodotus using the inscription to construct a relationship between King Croesus and the oracle of Amphiaraus, which enabled Herodotus present Croesus as considering the oracle, along with that of Delphi, as 'the only truce oracles'.


Michaelmas Term Epigraphy Workshops

Oxford Epigraphy Workshop, Michaelmas Term 2014

All meetings at 1.00 in the First Floor Seminar Room, Ioannou Centre, 66 St Giles, except that of October 20 which will be in the Lecture Theatre, Ioannou Centre.

Monday, October 20: Peter Thonemann, ‘Croesus and the oracles: a new inscription from Thebes’

Monday, October 27: Juliane Zachhuber, 'A revised reading of a decree from Bargylia: three kings, sympolities and Carian concerns'

Monday, November 3: Charles Crowther, ‘Cilicia and the Commageneian dynasty’

Monday, November 10: Jonathan Prag, tba

Monday, November 24: Alan Bowman, Simon Hornblower, Charles Crowther, Rachel Mairs, Kyriakos Savvopoulos, ‘Corpus of Ptolemaic Inscriptions from Egypt (CPI): some case studies’.

Monday, December 1: Susan Walker, ‘Dignitas amicorum: text on late Roman gold-glass.’

There will be a handling session in the Ashmolean after this talk: details later.


New grant for Hyperspectral Imaging

We are pleased to announce the success of a recent application, led by our Assistant Director Charles Crowther, to the John Fell Fund for grant support of a new collaborative project to provide the University with state-of-the-art hyperspectral imaging (HsI) within a bespoke laboratory in the new Weston Library. The requested equipment, essentially an advanced type of ‘camera’ capable of analytical imaging through extremely accurate and high resolution colour measurement, will be the most advanced equipment of its type available in the UK for heritage and conservation. The project is to be an internal collaboration between the Humanities Division and individual academic colleagues from within its faculties, the Digital Humanities (DH) network, the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford e-Research Centre, the School of Geography and the Environment, and the Ashmolean Museum.

Hyperspectral imaging collects and processes information from across the electromagnetic spectrum, aiming to obtain the spectrum for each pixel in the image of a scene, with the purpose of finding objects, identifying materials, or detecting processes. In the context of this new Humanities project, the advanced HsI camera equipment to be purchased will enable researchers to analyse the University’s unique research collections, to acquire data from diverse artefacts ranging from built heritage to historical manuscripts, to develop a robust approach to analysing results, and to collaborate with heritage organisations across the UK.

For the CSAD, with over 15 years of experience of multispectral imaging techniques and equipment, HsI represents the most exciting development in this field. The application of HsI to documentary material in Oxford collections has the potential to resolve details that have until now been beyond reach, whilst also bringing to light significant new documents.

The project will begin in November 2014, and will run for three years.


CSAD summer picnic

They say times flies. This is certainly true of the CSAD picnic to the Uffington White Horse, on 9th July - it seems like only yesterday we were there for our first visit organised by Maggy Sasanow and Richard Catling- but that was 3 years ago!

First spot was the White Horse (where we may or may not have made wishes on the eye of the Horse!), followed by a brisk walk to the Hill Fort, and then Wayland's Smithy (where is it said that if you left a horse, who had lost a shoe, along with a silver coin on the capstone, you would return the next day to find the horse shod and the coin gone - alas, we had neither the means nor the horse to test the legend). After some searching Maggy managed to location her own 'inscription', which proved more elusive than 3 years ago.

CSADers at Wayland's Smithy

After the walk, substantial quantities of delicious food from people's home countries were produced, including some lovely bottles of champagne, thanks to the kind support of Roger Michel, who generously sponsors the RTI work at the CSAD.



So, until next year...hopefully!


Kingston Lacy obelisk - the CSAD and the European Space Agency

The Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents has recently become involved in an unexpectedly exciting cross-discipline enterprise. Combining two of the Centre’s current projects, the Corpus of Ptolemaic Inscriptions (CPI), and Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), the CSAD has recently begun preparation for the capture of RTI and 3D interactive images of the 6.7 meter tall obelisk from Philae in Egypt, now situated in the grounds of the Kingston Lacy estate in Dorset.

Kingston Lacy obelisk.jpg

The CSAD’s three-year CPI project is currently creating a corpus of up-to-date editions of almost 500 Greek, bilingual and trilingual inscriptions on stone from Egypt during its rule by the Hellenistic dynasty founded by Ptolemy I in 323, and ending with the death of Cleopatra in 30 BC. The obelisk at Kingston Lacy is one of those important multi-lingual inscriptions, in which Greek and Egyptian hieroglyphic scripts exist alongside one other, and which in the 19th century provided clues to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics.

The CSAD's RTI project is focussed on the development and implementation of a photographic method that captures a subject’s surface shape and colour and enables the interactive re-lighting of the subject from any direction. A particular strength of RTI is that it can reveal surface information that cannot be seen with the naked eye. While the scripts on the Kingston Lacy obelisk are in a reasonably good state of preservation, and reading is still possible, the opportunity to improve the accuracy of the text, and to find and identify elements of pigment in the inscription, provide sufficient reason for re-examining the monument. There are also considerable conservation benefits to be gained for the National Trust, which now owns the Kingston Lacy estate, through the creation of a permanent, accurate, interactive virtual image of the obelisk as it is today, since gradual deterioration of the original over time is an inevitability.

The CSAD team on site.jpg

But the biggest surprise did not come to light until after identification of the obelisk as being of particular epigraphical interest. Soon after discussions with the National Trust were begun, it was revealed that the obelisk is set to achieve considerably wider significance later this year: its name has been given to the robotic craft that in November 2014 will attempt a landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, as part of a mission launched in 2004 by the European Space Agency. The main robotic spacecraft has been named Rosetta, after the famous Egyptian basalt slab, featuring a decree in three scripts, and the lander is named after the Nile island of Philae, where the Kingston Lacy obelisk was discovered. The European Space Agency hopes that, just as a comparison of the scripts on the Rosetta Stone and the obelisk led to a greater understanding of the Egyptian writing system, the Philae and Rosetta space mission will lead to a better understanding of comets and the early Solar System.

The Philae robotic lander.jpgSo it was decided that the CSAD work on the obelisk should become part of the multi-disciplinary focus on the obelisk, planned to culminate at the time of the comet landing. RTI and 3D imaging of the obelisk, together with another obelisk fragment and a sarcophagus nearby in the Kingston Lacy grounds, will be carried out over the summer and early autumn; time-lapse photography will record the process, from erection of the purpose-designed scaffolding, through the cleaning of the obelisk by the National Trust conservation department, to the RTI photography and 3D scanning; an exhibition, and the possibility of a short documentary film on the obelisk and its flamboyant history, and the CSAD’s part in recording it, are also being discussed, all to be ready to mark in style the landing of its namesake, Philae, on the comet in November.