The Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents

September 1st, 2019

The Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents

A short walk from the Ashmolean, the Centre for the research of Ancient Documents (CSAD) is making waves through the Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies on St Giles’. The interview has been set up to learn more about new imaging technology that is being used to show previously illegible ancient inscriptions.

I’m here to satisfy 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 engagement that is public translating these ancient documents. There are many nice examples of this: calling out on Twitter when it comes to interested public to have a stab at translating these inscriptions that are ancient.

The person that is second meeting today is Ben Altshuler, ‘our amazing RTI whizzkid.’ RTI, or Reflectance Transformation Imaging, may be the software used to decipher inscriptions that are previously impenetrable. Ben Altshuler, 20, has been dealing with CSAD on his gap year prior to starting a Classics degree at Harvard later this year.

What’s the remit of CSAD and just how achieved it come to be?

‘The centre started about two decades ago,’ Jane informs me. ‘It was write my paper born away from several projects that are big original texts such as the Vindolanda tablets (a Roman site in northern England that has yielded the oldest surviving handwritten documents in Britain). There was clearly suddenly a need to house various different projects in Classics looking at primary source material, and an expression that it was better joined up together. It’s a good idea: epigraphers, the folks who study these ancient inscriptions – do things in a way that is similar 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) additionally 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 middle.

‘Some of the work that is ongoing the centre is in sifting and analysing what exactly is in these archives. The new system is much more accessible – into the immediate future we will be able to view the squeezes on a pc and, within the long run, there was 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 few several years of twelfth grade I took part in an oral history project organised because of the Classics Conclave and American Philological Association,’ Ben tells me. ‘While we were interviewing classicists at Oxford, Roger Michel, the pinnacle for the Conclave, saw a number of places in the University and surrounding museums where technology that is new thrive. I happened to be offered a two-year sponsorship at the CSAD as an imaging expert into the fall following my graduation, and I spent the last year building up technical expertise to supply the necessary support within my work with Oxford.

‘So I came into it through the classical language side. I quickly saw that to be very successful in epigraphy takes many years of experience. But with RTI you can master the technology in a amount that is relatively short of. I possibly could make a much bigger impact supplying the technical skills and processed images for established classicists to get results on using their language expertise.’

Ben shows me a video clip he is made from the effects that are different can make in illuminating previously indecipherable texts (or, in this situation, a coin).

Here classist that is prominent Beard interviews Ben among others at CSAD to learn more about how exactly RTI will be used to make new discoveries possible within Humanities.