Tag Archives: classics

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.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

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

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!

Leave a comment

Filed under Digital Classics, Epigraphy, Greek Inscriptions, Project Planning, Squeeze Collection

Mondays are hard.

Ease yourself into the week by checking out some of the more amusing classics and archaeology related sites around the internet. Try to get some work done after lunch.

Reddit has some excellent archaeology threads; my favourite is the conversation about archaeology and “alternative theories”, i.e. any of the nonsense you come across on The “History” Channel. Be careful out there – once you go down the reddit rabbithole, it is very hard to climb out.

reddit

Stuck at home for the summer while all your friends are working on an amazing dig? Archaeology TV’s youtube channel will let you tour archaeological sites around the world.

Tumblr:

what should we call me classics 

When people don’t like to label different kinds of ablatives and datives

& there’s more:

what should we call me grad school

what should we call me egyptology

& for anyone thinking of joining us at the beautiful UBC campus, check out

what should we call me ubc 

The first thing you buy when you arrive at UBC Vancouver.

Check back tomorrow when we’ll have an interview with UBC’s Andrei Mihailiuk and he’ll tell us all about the challenges of digitally mapping the Roman Triumph.

Leave a comment

Filed under Digital Classics