Sunday, May 1, 2016

Digital Paleography Postdoc

I am happy to announce that I just accepted a postdoctoral research position at the University of Groningen with Mladen Popović as part of the ERC project, "The Hands that Wrote the Bible: Digital Palaeography and Scribal Culture of the Dead Sea Scrolls." See the job description from the call for applications below:

This Postdoc subproject is embedded within a larger research programme titled The Hands that Wrote the Bible: Digital Palaeography and Scribal Culture of the Dead Sea Scrolls, funded by the European Research Council. The main objective of this interdisciplinary project is to shed new light on ancient Jewish scribal culture and the making of the Bible by investigating two aspects of the scrolls’ palaeography: the typological development of writing styles and writer identification. The combination of new C14 samples and the use of computational intelligence as quantitative methods in order to assess the development of handwriting styles and to identify individual scribes will be used to cluster manuscripts as products of scribal activity in order to profile scribal production and to determine a more precise location in time for their activity, focusing, from literary and cultural-historical perspectives, on the content and genres of the texts that scribes wrote and copied and on the scripts and languages that they used.

The goal of the Postdoc subproject is to describe the processes of and developments in three to four centuries of copying the biblical manuscripts found in the Judaean Desert in relation to palaeographic dating and writer identification. The major research question is how variant forms and editions of biblical manuscripts can be correlated to palaeographic dates, to identification of writers, as well as other variables such as scribal practices and different find-sites. Previous scholarship has explained textual variety in terms of chronological developments or sociological differences, or both, based on traditional palaeographical dates, or on models of a Qumran scribal practice, and generally on a smaller sample of manuscripts. On the basis of a database of all substantial biblical manuscripts from the Judaean Desert, the Postdoc researcher will select one more confined group of manuscripts (most probably either Deuteronomy or the Psalms), and qualitatively analyse the differences between the manuscripts as well as in relation to the authoritative text forms of the later traditions, in order to plot such variants against the developing time and the different find places and correlating these not only to traditional text-typologies of text, but also to occurrences of rewriting and so-called Fortschreibung, and to the various scribal practices.

The postdoc will work together with a PhD at the Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Engineering Institute (ALICE), headed by Prof Lambert Schomaker, with experts from the Center for Isotope Research at the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, headed by Prof Hans van der Plicht, and with a PhD and student assistants at the Qumran Institute of the faculty.


  1. Congratulations, great news! If you would be starting to work on the Psalms, let me know, and I could send you a copy of my dissertation!

    1. And congratulations to you as well! Mika Pajunen showed me his copy last week, and I have to admit to feeling a little bit of jealousy. :) I would love a copy, if you have any to spare. Actually, in my proposal for this postdoc, I did propose a study of the scribal hands and contexts behind the various psalm manuscripts as the ideal test case, so I have no doubt I will be interacting with your work very closely in the near future. I will send you a copy of the proposal, though it is relatively brief and preliminary.