The Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents

A walk that is short the Ashmolean, the Centre for the research of Ancient Documents (CSAD) is making waves from the Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies on St Giles’. The interview happens to be set up to find out more about new imaging technology that’s getting used buy essays to reveal previously illegible ancient inscriptions.

I’m here to generally meet Dr Jane Massйglia, an Oxford alumna, former teacher that is secondary now research fellow for AshLI (the Ashmolean Latin Inscription Project). Jane actively works to encourage general public engagement with translating these ancient documents. There are numerous nice types of this: calling out on Twitter for the interested public to have a stab at translating these ancient inscriptions.

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

What is the remit of CSAD and how did it come to be?

‘The centre started about two decades ago,’ Jane informs me. ‘It was born away from several projects that are big original texts just like the Vindolanda tablets (a Roman site in northern England which has yielded the oldest surviving handwritten documents in Britain). There was clearly suddenly a necessity to house various different projects in Classics taking a look at primary source material, and a feeling that it was better joined up together. It’s a good idea: epigraphers, the folks 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) together with 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 are stacked floor to ceiling at the heart.

‘a number of the ongoing work at the centre is in sifting and analysing what is in these archives. The system that is new a great deal more accessible – into the immediate future we’ll have the ability to view the squeezes on some type of computer and, in the long 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 turned out to be so a part of CSAD at 20?

‘In the previous couple of several years of High School I took part in an history that is oral organised because of the Classics Conclave and American Philological Association,’ Ben informs me. ‘Although we were interviewing classicists at Oxford, Roger Michel, your head associated with Conclave, saw a number of places within the University and surrounding museums where technology that is new thrive. I became offered a sponsorship that is two-year the CSAD as an imaging expert within the fall following my graduation, and I also spent the past year building up technical expertise to give you the necessary support inside my work in Oxford.

‘So I arrived to it from the classical language side. I quickly saw that to be very successful in epigraphy takes several years of experience. But with RTI you can master the technology in a relatively short amount of time. I possibly could make a much bigger impact providing the skills that are technical processed images for established classicists to focus on using their language expertise.’

Ben shows me a video clip he is made from the different effects RTI can create in illuminating previously indecipherable texts (or, in this case, a coin).

Here prominent classist Mary Beard interviews Ben and others at CSAD to learn more regarding how RTI is being used in order to make new discoveries possible within Humanities.