Category Archives: Epigraphy

Finding the Answers in the Squeezes: When We Discovered that Graduate Students Haven’t Changed in 80 years

B1TwJrNCEAAUlhh.jpg-largeWe have a very extensive squeeze collection here at From Stone to Screen.  1051 squeezes, to be exact – although about 200-300 of them are duplicates.  The point of this entire project has been to digitize the squeezes, which we have diligently been doing, and to put them up on an online database.  This hits a snag sometimes when we can’t identify where exactly the squeeze is from.  Such as last Friday when Lisa came across this gorgeous squeeze while she was working at the Digital Initiatives lab.

Normally, we identify our squeezes by an index that was written up by Professor Nigel Kennell in the ’70s or by the handwritten notes by Professor McGregor that has the IG (Inscriptiones Graecae) number or the EM (Epigraphic Museum) number somewhere on the squeeze.  With the delicate state of some of our squeezes, we are very grateful for these references.  When Lisa couldn’t identify this stunning squeeze, though, she decided to try and take it to social media.  She sent out a tweet on Friday afternoon calling all Greek epigraphists to help identify the squeeze which was quickly retweeted around the small but active epigraphic community.

Monday morning we tweeted out the image again hoping to catch some more scholars who hadn’t seen it before the weekend (because, in all honesty, it was late Friday afternoon).  Within a couple of hours we had a very helpful reply that identified the squeeze as a stelae from Aixone.

Comparing our squeeze (right) to an image of the inscription on the stelae (left)

Comparing our squeeze (right) to an image of the inscription on the stelae (left).

Lisa compared the two images and agreed- they’re a match!  We’re thrilled to have an answer to our mystery so quickly, through the wonders of the internet.  This is one of the first times that we have gone to the public like this for help and it was fun to see how many people were thinking about the squeeze, proof that what we’re working towards will be used by other scholars in our field.

We are also deeply amused by how much simpler this process was than the debates that took place in the 1930s.  One of our favourite parts of our squeeze collection is actually a letter between ‘Mac’ (Malcolm McGregor) and ‘Gene’ (Eugene Schweigert) from 1935 arguing over certain transliterations from a fragment of the Athenian Tribute Lists.  Considering Mac was at the University of Cincinnati and Gene was at Johns Hopkins, the debates must have taken quite a while to come to a resolution.  With how difficult squeezes are to read, it’s understandable that there was a lot to discuss.  Plus, if you’ve read our previous posts about the process of digitizing squeezes, you know that one advantage to our new images of them is that epigraphists no longer needs to be able to read Greek backwards.  Don’t forget, too, that epigraphic Greek was written in all capitals with no spaces or punctuation, it’s no surprise that sometimes the arguments came down to a single letter.  Which was backwards.  Today’s accessibility to images enables us to quickly compare images instead of relying on other peoples’ squeezes and readings of the inscriptions.

Beyond that, this letter also gives us an amazing insight into a man who is a legend in our department and a key player in the research on the Tribute Lists.  When this letter was written he would have been finishing up his doctorate at the University of Cincinnati and only 25, around the same age as most of us who are working on this project.  The two men are obviously friends and Gene begins the letter with “Short but violent spell of nostalgia now over.  Its reoccurrence after some… puzzled famous Johns Hopkins physicians.  Nature finally performed her cure.”  Then he goes on to refute some of Mac’s theories and cheekily writes in the middle “Don’t worry about ἐξ ἀπογραφῆς or ἐδήμευΓαν etc. Your guess is just as likely.”   Whether or not Mac was reassured that his guess was just as likely we’ll never know, but this conversation is reminiscent of ones heard around our department all the time.

This letter was written four years before the first volume on the Athenian Tribute List was published by McGregor, Merritt and Wade-Gery.  Both men are mentioned in the letter and at the end Gene says that he wishes he could spend more time with Mac and West.  Allen Brown West, though, died in a car accident in 1936 and the first volume was dedicated to his memory.  The forward in the volume makes it quite clear that his work was invaluable to their research and that his friends missed him very much.  Reading the letter, it’s not hard to see the similarities between these men who were at the beginning of their academic career 80 years ago and those of use who are working on this project today.  It’s comforting, and entertaining, to see that they had to adapt to having long distance friends (which anyone in academia can tell you is a occupational hazard).  In our department, working on a project at this magnitude is only possible because we rely on each as friends as well as colleagues, and it was nowhere near the scale as the ATLs.  Who knows?  It could always keep growing.

The question is, are our letters to each other just as entertaining at the one below?  I think you’ll have to wait 80 years and accidentally find a copy of our e-mails in a drawer to find out.  Until then, here is the sign-off from Gene’s letter.

I often think if I possessed Aladdin’s lamp I would wear it out wishing that I could transport you and West here.  Merritt would like that, too.  He said he would like a month’s session of pow-wow with West… Merritt is a jolly fellow.  You should have been here this afternoon when he brought me – well, I haven’t enough room. Another time.

Letter from Gene to Mac, pg. 1

Letter from Gene to Mac, pg. 1

Letter from Gene to Mac, pg. 2

Letter from Gene to Mac, pg. 2


If you would like to read more about the adventures of Mac, Gene, West, Merritt and Wade-Gery, the forward of the first volume of the Athenian Tribute List has some more details on their journey to publish the ATLS.

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Filed under Digital Classics, Digital Cultural Heritage, Epigraphy, Greek Inscriptions, Squeeze, Squeeze Collection

Spells, Potions, and Curses of the Ancient World

Happy Halloween! Today’s post is a slight departure from our regular talk of digital humanities, but still has an epigraphic focus – we’re looking at ancient papyri texts with spells, curses and potions.


Invisibility Spell

P. oxy. LVIII.3931

P. oxy. LVIII.3931

Translation by Richard L Phillips:[1]

ASSESOUO, dim the eyes of every man or woman, when I go forth, until I achieve as many things as I wish, and I say, Choreith, listen to me, (you) who are in charge of the universe, ALKME, master of the sea; (you) who are in charge of the night. 

 

POxy.v0058.n3931.b.01.hires

P.Oxy.LVIII 3931; Papyrology Rooms, Sackler Library, Oxford

The back side of the papyrus seems to have a potion recipe on it, cautiously restored as:

Soak fine….in oil with crocodile dung and a few mature mallows and rub on the face.

Crocodile dung sounds really gross, but weighed against the benefits of invisibility…I might be tempted.


 

Prophetic Dreams

To see a true dream:

Upon going to sleep say after you have eaten ritually pure food, “Verily by Neith, verily by Neith, if I shall succeed in a certain activity, show me water, if not, fire.” 

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Neith, Goddess of War and Hunting, Nurse of Crocodiles, Cow of Heaven, Opener of the Ways.

These two examples basically mean the ancients sat around doing the papyri equivalent of a Buzzfeed quiz;  Which psychic power should you have?[2] Or at least, that they had the same silly desires we do – invisibility and the ability to tell the future. What other frivolous concerns did they decide were worth dabbling in the supernatural?


Curses

Spell for the Chariot Race

Spell for the Chariot Race

Translation:

“…Sarakenos Belehmu Parthaon Didyme Nymphike Pele- Strabos…by the holy names that are attached to you…smite the horses of the Blues, hold them back so that…Parthaon Nymphike Strabos Pele-. I adjure you, spirit of the dead, by (voces magicae). I adjure you […by] Gabriel, Raphael, Michael, Bouel, go off to the (hippodrome?) so that you may cast down, cause to fall, and bind the…Parthaon Didyme Strabos Nymphike Pele-…I adjure you by the God of the Gods…Ousirapis Ousor Mnevis Ous-…of the Lord Ouser-…drag, cause to fall…smite…”[3]

The text of this curse, from 4th Century Beirut,  is missing the end of each line but it is clearly a curse against the horses rather than the charioteer. Chariot races were extremely popular in the Roman world and people got as heated about their faction as any modern sports fan does for their team – check out the Wikipedia entry on the Nika riots,”the most violent riots in the history of Constantinople”; it began in the hippodrome, escalated to the nearby palace and half the city was destroyed.

Curse tablets directed against sporting rivals or specific horse teams like the one above are often found buried in and around the sites of chariot races, but curses were also a popular way to deal with legal troubles, business rivals and thieves.[4]

The commonalities between spells, curses and potions of the ancient world are that they invoke the gods – the more, the better, it seems – there is a ritual formula that anyone can use, no special training necessary, and they tend to borrow foreign words in much the same way that modern tv shows throw out Latin or Sumerian when they want to really impress the viewers. Co-opting foreign words because they sound more magical is just one more thing that hasn’t really changed with time.

Have a happy Halloween, everyone, and if you find any crocodile dung…let me know how that invisibility spell works out for you.

Jack-o'-Lantern 2003-10-31

Jack-o’-Lantern 2003-10-31


 

[1] R. Phillips, “Blinding as a Means of Becoming Invisible” ICS 35-36 (2010-11) 111-20.

[2] I got Clairvoyance, for the record.

[3] H. Amirav, G. Bevan, D. Colomo

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curse_tablet


Further Reading:

Adams, Geoff W (2006), The social and cultural implications of curse tablets [defixiones] in Britain and on the Continent, Studia Humaniora Tartuensia, 7.A.5: 1–15.

Baker, K. (2003), ‘Greco-Roman Curses: Curse Tablets’, History of Magick

Kotansky, Roy, Greek Magical Amulets: the inscribed gold, silver, copper and bronze lamellae (Part I: Published Texts of Known Provenance), Papyrologica Coloniensia 22/1, Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1994

Ogden, Daniel (1999), “Binding Spells: Curse Tablets and Voodoo Dolls in the Greek and Roman Worlds”, in Ankarloo, Bengt; Clark, Stuart, In Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: Ancient Greece and Rome, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 3–90.

Tomlin, Roger (2005), Curse Tablets of Roman Britain, et al, Oxford, ENG, UK: Oxford University.

 

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Getting the Ball Rolling: Who Started This All, Anyway?

The first in our series of graduate student profiles concentrates on PhD student Chelsea Gardner, one of the founders of the project.


One of the best things about From Stone to Screen, in our humble opinion, is that it’s a project started by, propelled forward and maintained by graduate students.  Anyone who has ever met a grad student knows that we tend to be overworked, overtired and overstressed students who are overenthusiastic about one thing in particular, which is what we happen to be researching.  So the fact that we are voluntarily taking on extra work for a project is something that, while not exactly understandable, proves how much we all believe in it and how much we are willing to put into it.  To that end, we at From Stone to Screen have decided to showcase one student a month to demonstrate how much we are all pulling for the project to succeed and what we have done to bring it there.

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Chelsea Gardner showing off her squeeze making skills

This month’s student profile is on Chelsea Gardner, a fourth year PhD student in Classical Archaeology at UBC.  As our story goes (which you can find elsewhere in our various blogs), in the fall of 2012 there were a group of students in one of Dr. Lisa Cooper’s Near Eastern archaeology seminars – Chelsea was one of them.  Unlike most of the students involved in the project, though, Chelsea had an awareness not only of the Fuller artifact collection but also of the squeeze collection.  The day that Dr. Cooper brought the artifacts to class, Chelsea approached her immediately after the class was done to discuss the possibility of work with the artifacts in some capacity.  This coupled with Dr. McElduff’s seminar, Digital Antiquity, inspired several of the CNRS grad students to become involved in the project and pushed it in the direction of digital humanities.  As a group, Chelsea and the other students wrote proposals to the department in spring of 2013 and with that propulsion the project began to gain traction.

One of Chelsea’s goals from the beginning was to make it an open-access resource for anyone in the field, whether they studied at UBC or not.  “The beauty of any digitization project is that it makes it… as available as you make it.  The vision right from the start was to make this an open-access, universally accessible source for anybody who was interested in it.”  With that in mind, funding was a priority for the fledgling project.  They needed to get enough to be able to have a platform that was accessible to all.  What Chelsea and the others planned, though, and what actually happened were quite different.   She is both proud and impressed with the support both within and outside of not only the CNERS department, but UBC as well.  “I never would have imagined how successful it has become with the digitizing techniques and the grant funding we have gotten.”  Especially since it was worked on primarily by graduate students, the progress is even more impressive.

It was always a conscious decision to make it for grad students only.  There was the possibility of faculty advisement, but Chelsea wanted a graduate student project in order to make it solely student-run.  She wanted it to be valuable for each individual student who is involved as a means of professional development, something that can sometimes be difficult for multiple students to have the chance for.  “That was the impetus behind this entire project, was creating an opportunity for graduate students that didn’t exist before.”  From Stone to Screen has definitely delivered on that front; along with presenting for the local Vancouver branch of the AIA, our students have been able to present at the EAGLE conference in Paris, learn digitization methods that our field usually does not teach and create connections with other professions interested in Digital Humanities.

A hiccup in her plans for From Stone to Screen arrived, though, in the form of an amazing opportunity.  Chelsea learned that she was the Philip Lockhart Fellow at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens for the 2013-2014 academic year.  This was, needless to say, an opportunity she was unwilling to pass up but it also meant that she had to leave everything in Vancouver behind for a year.  It was hard for her to leave the project when it was only just getting on its feet, and she knew that bIMG_4411y going to Athens she would have to leave the project in the hands of others and watch it from afar. “It was very personally rewarding to watch this project develop that I’ve seen since its inception and just kind of explode.”  She still worked with Lisa Tweten over e-mail, giving advice and links when she came across them, but it was still a risk to leave it behind for a year. Watching it flourish from afar was something that she thoroughly enjoyed.

Now she is back in Vancouver, though, and enthusiastically finding new opportunities for the project to expand.  When I asked her if she thought the project would be able to grow past its current collections, her excitement was contagious.  She hopes that as From Stone to Screen grows and gains a larger public presence, private collectors would step forward and allow us access to their collections to incorporate into our database.  There is, obviously, the problem of trying to obtain private artifacts for our own collection that were collected before 1970.  The other problem is that many museums in Greece rarely allow scholars to make squeezes because it can cause some damage, plus many of the inscriptions have already had multiple squeezes made so it is unlikely that we will be able to enlarge our collection.  Chelsea hopes, though, that we can somehow borrow other collections, digitize it safely and then add it into our online collection to hopefully have the entire Athenian Tribute List on our database.

IMG_4421

Chelsea making a squeeze

Squeezes are still being made on site, though, and she hopes that we can gain some of those for our collection.  She recently made a squeeze at the site that she excavates at and once she has finished her research and work with it, she fully intends to donate it to the From Stone to Screen collection.  “I hope that is something that’s on everyone’s radar who is an archaeologist in this department who are going on projects and have the ability to do so,” she admitted.

As an archaeologist, though, it may seem confusing as to why she is so involved with a project to digitize epigraphic squeezes.  She works in the ancient historic period in Greece which means that there are epigraphic sources from the time period in the region where she digs – the value of the project for Chelsea is that is have given her the opportunity to handle squeezes first hand which is indispensable since she needs to make squeezes for her own research.  The squeeze that she made was also digitized using the same methods that we use at the project which gives her high quality images to work with.

Chelsea has two years left for her PChelsea GardnerhD, meaning that she can continue to closely work on the project and help see it through to the end of our current goals, but as we have seen in the last year it is already growing so much bigger than we had ever planned.  As with anyone in our field, though, she will go to wherever the jobs are when she’s finished and that most likely means leaving UBC.  This also means, though, that she will have to leave From Stone to Screen behind and give it off to the next generation, something that Chelsea regrets and wishes she could see it through to its completion. “The goal of Stone to Screen,” she admitted,” is for it not to ever be completed.”  She plans to follow it from wherever she is in the future and send whatever squeezes or support she can.  She vehemently believes that it is a resource that can grow indefinitely and she will be there to support it from afar.  Considering how much the project has grown, which just two years ago was just a random idea after a seminar, what will happen in the next two years before she graduates is impossible to tell.  You can see the pride whenever she speaks about the project, though, and I think it’s safe to say that wherever she ends up she will always support and help the current generation of students who are working on it.


Check out Chelsea’s blog posts!

Squeeze Making in the Athenian Agora

The Athens Epigraphical Museum: Where it all began…

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Keep Thinking Forward: EAGLE Conference 2014

If you follow us on Twitter or Facebook, you may have heard that we were presenting a poster at the International Conference on Information Technologies for Epigraphy and Digital Cultural Heritage in the Ancient World in Paris at the end of September. I can’t think of a conference more tailored to our specific project aims, and we were thrilled both with the chance to present our work to the epigraphic community and to be able to travel to Paris for a week.

egl_web_logo

The conference was organized by the Europeana Eagle Project and hosted by the École Normale Supérieure and the Collège de France Chaire Religion, institutions et société de la Rome antique.

EAGLE, The Europeana network of Ancient Greek and Latin Epigraphy is a best-practice network co-funded by the European Commission, under its Information and Communication Technologies Policy Support Programme. EAGLE will provide a single user-friendly portal to the inscriptions of the Ancient World, a massive resource for both the curious and for the scholarly.

It was, in the words of keynote speaker Tom Elliott, an opportunity to “bring together people with unknown projects for collaboration and exchange” but also a chance to “recognize the valuable traits we all share; respect for the past and inquisitiveness” as we work on the “resurrection and reintegration of ancient texts into active memory”. There were some incredibly exciting projects shared over the three day conference, many of which I will share in subsequent posts, but for now I’d like to try to impart a little of the excitement Dr. Elliott started us off with.

If the name is not familiar, Dr. Elliott is the Associate Director for Digital Programs and Senior Research Scholar at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. He began his adventures in digital epigraphy in 1995 at UNC Chapel Hill in North Carolina as a graduate student digitizing 35mm slides, a project which quickly evolved into EpiDoc.

epidoc

EpiDoc is an international, collaborative effort that provides guidelines and tools for encoding scholarly and educational editions of ancient documents. It uses a subset of the Text Encoding Initiative‘s standard for the representation of texts in digital form and was developed initially for the publication of digital editions of ancient inscriptions (e.g. Inscriptions of Aphrodisias, Vindolanda Tablets). Its domain has expanded to include the publication of papyri and manuscripts (e.g. Papyri.info). It addresses not only the transcription and editorial treatment of texts themselves, but also the history and materiality of the objects on which the texts appear (i.e., manuscripts, monuments, tablets, papyri, and other text-bearing objects).

We have to remember that it is impossible to become an expert in all fields; few historians, archaeologists or epigraphists graduate from their program of study having also obtained a computer programming degree. At times, it seems the humanities field is destined to always lag behind in terms of technological advancement. The EAGLE Conference, however, quickly put this false idea to rest. As digital media becomes more and more integrated in our daily lives, more and more are we able to pick up the basics and begin the process of digital cultural heritage management, which is going to be vital to the long term preservation of our shared history. Part of this success is due to the technological community’s commitment to open access software and generosity in creating tutorials, sharing information and trying to create a level playing field. One of the most inspiring things that came out of the EAGLE conference was the almost unanimous commitment from all scholars to openly share their methods and results. The greatest thing the internet can provide is the democratization of education and it is thrilling to know that our project can play a small role in bringing information out of the locked storerooms of academia.

Our poster detailing our digitization process

Our poster detailing our digitization process

Dr. Elliott’s speech encouraged us all to “keep thinking forward; plenty remains to be done,” and reminded us that we are “the antidote to the destruction of cultural heritage”. Put that way poking around old storerooms, writing funding grants and toiling away teaching ourselves coding seems much more exciting.


Lisa Tweten

 

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Digitizing Squeezes for All to See – Presenting for the AIA in Vancouver, BC

Haley (left) and Heather (right) compare a squeeze to the epigraphic chart.

Haley (left) and Heather (right) compare a squeeze to the epigraphic chart.

If you are passionate about Classics and the ancient world in Vancouver, British Columbia, you might find yourself at the University of British Columbia once a month attending a lecture hosted by the local branch of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA).  This week, From Stone to Screen had the amazing opportunity to present at one of these public lectures.  This was unprecedented – no graduate student had spoken at a Vancouver AIA talk in over six years.  Two of our own, Haley Bertram and Heather Odell, were asked to present on the project and its goals.  And so, after weeks of preparing, they found themselves at the front of a classroom in Buchanan building presenting the project to the Vancouver community for the first time.

The room was full; whether or not that relieved any of the pressure is difficult to say.  We were excited to see that that so many people not directly involved with the department were interested in the project— something we hadn’t been able to gauge before—but this also meant that Haley and Heather also had a bigger audience than they expected to speak in front of.  For someone who fears public speaking, having a packed room can be almost terrifying.

These two budding academics, though, kept it cool and pulled strength from each other.  “It’s like having a built-in person who has to listen to your ideas,” Haley joked.

Haley (left) and Heather (right) joke while working on the lecture.

Haley (left) and Heather (right) joke while working on the lecture.

While the two agreed that it may have been less efficient to work with another person, having the support and sharing the workload made the entire process easier.  They split the workload evenly between themselves and also decided to hand off different sections to one another during the talk.

Ultimately, they appreciated that the audience was composed of members of the public.  Until now, while From Stone to Screen has had several opportunities to write about the project, the presentation opportunities have been limited to department seminars, undergraduate classes and the UBC CNERS Graduate Conference this past May.  Haley and Heather were approached by several people in the audience after the talk who were interested in the new digitization methods and who wanted to speak about the uses for the new databases.  Having the feedback made all of the stress worth it in the end.

Heather Odell (left) and Haley Bertram (right) triumphant after their AIA talk last Tuesday.

Heather Odell (left) and Haley Bertram (right) triumphant after their AIA talk last Tuesday.

Despite the fact that they have both presented on From Stone to Screen before, Haley and Heather wanted to expand on the previous talks.  The work with Digital Initiatives this summer has catapulted the project forward significantly and they had a score of new images and techniques that they were able to share.  Working on a lecture that had already been presented several times, though, was more difficult than they had anticipated, especially since the first full-length version of it had been written by several of the graduate students involved in the project last year.  Writing this lecture, though, gave them the opportunity to gain new appreciation for the project and what it can do not only for the CNRS department but also others in the field.  Haley equated it to forgetting the thrill of finding artifacts on your first ever dig.  “You forget how super exciting that is… It’s cool to everyone else who hasn’t encountered it,” she mused, “you’ve just acclimated to it.”  Heather, who has worked on the project since its inception, agreed.  Talking to the audience members gave it new light again.  “You get a chance to step back and remember that what you’re doing is cool,” she added.

When I asked them if they felt the pressure of speaking to members of the public instead of members of the CNRS department, Heather said that it wasn’t so much the pressure to speak in front of strangers but the new information they needed to discuss.  So much has happened since the last talk in May that a large amount of it was still unfamiliar to them.  For the first time, the theme changed from ‘this is what we’re planning to do’ to ‘this is what we have done.’  Haley, on the other hand, was more concerned with the pressure of speaking at the AIA.  “Generally the people presenting are very respected in the field, they’re visiting scholars,” she explained.  The project is a collective work which helped, but there was still the pressure of presenting graduate-level work.

Members of the audience talk with the speakers about the squeezes following the talk.

Members of the audience talk with the speakers about the squeezes following the talk.

In the end, the talk ran a little over forty-five minutes (a relief to them both since they tend to speak rather quickly) and was hiccup-free.  Haley spoke about the background of the Athenian Tribute Lists and their importance to scholarship.  The high resolution images of our squeezes are allowing us to see details to the inscriptions that have never been seen before, and the timing of this with the reassembling of the original stone lists is perfect.  Ultimately our project wants to allow anyone to see copies of the inscriptions without needing to be in their physical presence, and having the information readily available to the public in an online database will help anyone wishing to work on the lists.  This is especially helpful since, by the very nature of how a squeeze is made, you have to read them backwards which adds more work to working on them.

Some of the artifacts from the Fuller collection were brought out for the audience to see, such as this Phoenician lamp.

Some of the artifacts from the Fuller collection were brought out for the audience to see, such as this Phoenician lamp.

In the end they were incredibly proud that the first talk of the season was on UBC work.  That and the interest at the end made them very proud of their talk – all of the feedback at the end reiterated that one of the project’s main goals, that is helping the public gain access to the artifact collection and the information on the squeezes, is something that is wanted.  The audience was enthusiastic about the information that can be gleaned from the squeezes and were even more thrilled at the chance to study the samples that Heather and Haley had brought with them to the talk.

Since our presentation to the Vancouver branch of the AIA, we have learned that our poster submission to the 2015 Annual Meeting has been accepted.  We are very excited to continue our AIA experience in New Orleans!

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EAGLE 2014 International Conference

We’ve had a poster submission accepted for the 2014 Eagle Conference in Paris this fall. This is an exciting opportunity not only because we get to send one or two lucky team members to Paris for a couple of days, but since the conference is for epigraphists, we get a chance to talk about the technical details of digitizing the collection and our work with Digital Initiatives. It will be a completely new experience to talk about the collection with specialists, as most of our presentations to date have been to audiences unfamiliar with epigraphy.

We are hoping that our process of photographing the squeezes will help other universities realize the potential of digitizing their own collections, and look forward to learning more about digital epigraphy from the conference, as well has having a couple days to explore Paris.

Eiffel_Tower_Wikicommons_Valerii-Tkachenko_900x600px

 

From their website, the Eagle Project is dedicated to creating a digital library of epigraphy:

Co-funded by the European Commission under its Information and Communication Technologies Policy Support Programme, EAGLE aims to create an e-library for Digital Epigraphy of unprecedented scale and quality for ingestion to Europeana.

EAGLE is also aiming at creating a network of experts and people interested in Epigraphy and Cultural Heritage. This event is intended to be a forum for anyone willing to share and discuss experiences and current general best practices for digital editions. It is open to researchers, archivists, industry professionals, museum curators and others seeking to create a forum in which individuals and institutions can find a place to collaborate.

And for those who have an interest in epigraphy, you can check out the following Eagle Project collections on their site, including Arachne (from the German Archaeological Institute), the Epigraphic Database Bari (Epigraphic Documents of Christian Patronage), and discover the rich epigraphic collections out of Spain and Portugal at Hispania Epigraphica Online.

 

 

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Guest Post by Bram ten Berge: New Research on the Athenian Tribute Lists

From Stone to Screen’s latest blog post features a guest author, Bram ten Berge, writing on the ATL’s from Athens, Greece. Enjoy!

 

Hello all,

My name is Bram ten Berge. I’m a PhD candidate in the Department of Classical Studies at the University of Michigan, and am currently living in Athens as a regular member of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA). In this short blog I would like to share with you some of the new developments in the scholarship on the Athenian Tribute Lists about which I learned in a recent tour in the Epigraphical Museum; this new research shows that the digitization project at UBC coincides with an exciting time for Greek epigraphy.

Reading inscription

Bram investigating an inscription at the Epigraphy Museum, Athens

 

First some background information. The ‘Athenian Tribute Lists’ (ATLs) are inscriptions that record tribute payments made annually by Athens’ allies – the members of the Delian League – after 454 BC, when the League Treasury was moved to Athens from the island of Delos. What these inscriptions record are not the actual tribute lists (of which not a single fragment survives today), but rather a 1/60th part of each ally’s total assessed tribute, which was dedicated to the goddess Athena as ‘first-fruits’ (aparchai). These amounts are commonly referred to as the ‘tribute quota’ and the inscriptions that record them as the ‘tribute quota lists’. These amounts were annually inscribed on stone slabs (stelai), some of which have survived from antiquity. For the first fifteen years, from 454/3 to 440/39 BC, the tribute quota lists were inscribed on the four sides of a massive stele of Pentelic marble, the so-called Lapis Primus (‘First Stone’). For the following eight years, from 439/38 – 432/31 BC, the lists were inscribed on a smaller stele of Pentelic marble, the so-called Lapis Secundus (‘Second Stone’). In all subsequent years, down to 415/14 BC, each list was inscribed on its own marble stele and on one side only. The tribute quota lists were recorded annually after representatives of the allied cities delivered their tribute during the City Dionysia, a large festival in honor of the god Dionysus. The stones on which they were inscribed stood on the Acropolis, where visitors and allied representatives could witness them, a physical representation, if you will, of Athenian power. Some of these stones eventually made their way down to the Athenian Agora. Most of the fragments of these stones are now in the Epigraphical Museum in Athens, where they have been stored since their discovery. Many of the squeezes in the McGregor collection come from the above stones and allowed him to continue studying the evidence while away from Athens.

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The Lapis Primus (Photo courtesy of M. Miles)

The tribute quota lists form crucial evidence for our conception of fifth century Athenian financial, political, and military history. They are commonly used by modern scholars, together with other major inscriptions and the principal historical events, to reconstruct the nature and development of Athenian power in the Aegean throughout the fifth century. There are many other concerns, especially economic in nature, that are connected with the lists as well, such as the financial details of the building program on the Acropolis, for which we know part of the tribute surplus was used, the financial upkeep of the Athenian democratic institutions and judiciary system, supplied in part by the incoming tribute, the economic vitality of allied cities, and the location and identification of lesser-known cities based on the lists.

The major edition of the lists consists of four monumental volumes edited by Malcolm McGregor and his colleagues Benjamin Meritt and Henry Wade-Gery, titled The Athenian Tribute Lists and published over 14 years from 1939-1953. The volumes were a truly massive accomplishment on the part of the authors and still constitute the authoritative edition. Their reconstructions of the lists as well as their historical conclusions soon became orthodoxy and they remain the starting-point for any examination of the finances, history, and geography of the Athenian empire. All this is not to say, however, that the last word on these topics has been spoken, much less that our evidence is final or fixed. On the contrary, recent developments have left the field wide open to new interpretation.

 

As part of the ASCSA regular program, I have had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Epigraphical Museum several times this year, and the last time under the guidance of well-known epigrapher Angelos P. Matthaiou. Judging from what our group discussed with him that morning I can tell you this is a great time for Greek epigraphy. First off, new discoveries of fragments constantly encourage us to reconsider the current configuration of the tribute lists as reconstructed by McGregor, Wade-Gery, and Meritt. Professor Matthaiou showed us a number of recently discovered (and still unpublished) fragments of the lists as well as a new fragment of the so-called “Thoudippos Decree” on tribute reassessment (425/4 BC) that proved that some of the seemingly secure restorations of the editors are in fact incorrect. Such new evidence reminds us of the risks inherent in restoring words (especially large chunks of text) that are not in fact present on the stone. Since the tribute lists and texts like the Thoudippos decree are crucial sources for any reconstruction of 5th century Athenian history, any changes in the lists’ configuration can have far-reaching implications for the historical conclusions that depend on them.

In addition to the discovery of new fragments, the resolution of the so-called “three-barred sigma controversy” is leading to the re-dating of many important 5th century inscriptions that are highly relevant to the tribute lists. Some of these will have their date shifted from the 440s to the 420s BC and vice versa, with significant implications for our reconstruction of the nature and development of Athenian power throughout the fifth century. Until about 15-20 years ago, there existed among epigraphers an orthodoxy (challenged early on by Harold Mattingly: see esp. The Athenian Empire Restored, 1996) whereby inscriptions containing a so-called “three-barred sigma” had to pre-date 448/7 BC, the year in which, according to this ‘rule’, sigmas with three bars went out of use and were replaced by sigmas with four bars. It has now, with the help of laser-beam technology, been sufficiently proven that three-barred sigmas did in fact continue to be used after 448/7, vindicating Mattingly, questioning letterforms as a secure dating-criterion, and opening up many 5th century inscriptions to re-dating and re-interpretation. A great place to see some of the new directions taken in the scholarship as a result of these developments is the recent volume edited by John Ma, Nikolaos Papazarkadas, and Robert Parker (Interpreting the Athenian Empire, 2009).

But perhaps the most exciting development, and certainly the one that will have the biggest impact on future scholarship on the ATLs, is the proposed dismantling and reassembling of the Lapis Primus, with its 180 fragments of ancient white marble. The interior rods of this massive stone (at c. 3.5 meters high it easily rises above all other inscriptions in the museum) have slowly deteriorated over time and, as Professor Matthaiou and the current director of the Museum told us, will soon (pending financial support) be replaced by titanium rods. When this happens (and we all hope it will be soon), it will give scholars the opportunity, for the first time since 1927, to reexamine the inscribed fragments from every side, to re-measure them, and, ultimately, to reassemble them again. Matthaiou and the director further told us there are plans for similar projects for the Lapis Secundus and the stele of the Thoudippos Decree, although I believe these plans are much less formalized for the time being. In addition to the above developments, careful searches through the storerooms of the Agora and Acropolis museums may yield further fragments of the lists that as of yet have remained undiscovered (Matthaiou recently found one such fragment in the storeroom of the Acropolis Museum). All of the above developments make for an amazing time in Greek epigraphy and the study of ancient Greece more generally. Given the projected dismantling and reassembling of the Lapis Primus it is all the more significant that the McGregor squeeze collection as well as McGregor’s personal charts be preserved online. It will preserve for posterity copies of the stone’s fragments as McGregor and his colleagues studied and configured them.

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The Lapis Primus (Photo courtesy of M. Miles)

 

I would like to congratulate the graduate students at UBC for initiating this wonderful project of digitizing the McGregor squeeze collection, including squeezes of the Athenian Tribute Lists and McGregor’s personal charts. These are truly remarkable resources that I’m confident many around the world cannot wait to be able to consult online. Congratulations also on the recent acquisition of additional funds from the Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund at UBC. The project could not be happening in a more exciting context for Greek epigraphy!

 

All the best,

 

Bram ten Berge (bltenber@umich.edu)

 

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