Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Dhali et al. 2020 - Feature-extraction methods for historical manuscript dating based on writing style development

Maruf Dhali et al. from the Groningen ERC team just published a paper on the use of digital feature-extraction methods for dating Dead Sea Scrolls.

Maruf A. Dhali et al., Feature-Extraction Methods for Historical Manuscript Dating Based on Writing Style Development, Pattern Recognition Letters 131 (2020): 41320. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.patrec.2020.01.027.


Proposes feature-extraction techniques for dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS).
A grapheme-based method with a self-organized time map outperforms textural methods.
A codebook size of 225 performs the best with a Mean Absolute Error (MAE) of 23.4 years.
Cumulative Score (α = 25) improves with an increase in the sub-codebook size.
The result is positioned as a basic benchmark for further work on dating for the DSS.


Paleographers and philologists perform significant research in finding the dates of ancient manuscripts to understand the historical contexts. To estimate these dates, the traditional process of using classical paleography is subjective, tedious, and often time-consuming. An automatic system based on pattern recognition techniques that infers these dates would be a valuable tool for scholars. In this study, the development of handwriting styles over time in the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of ancient manuscripts, is used to create a model that predicts the date of a query manuscript. In order to extract the handwriting styles, several dedicated feature-extraction techniques have been explored. Additionally, a self-organizing time map is used as a codebook. Support vector regression is used to estimate a date based on the feature vector of a manuscript. The date estimation from grapheme-based technique outperforms other feature-extraction techniques in identifying the chronological style development of handwriting in this study of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

From Scribal Error to Rewriting: How Ancient Texts Could and Could Not Be Changed

I just received my editor's copies for our new volume!

Anneli Aejmelaeus, Drew Longacre, and Natia Mirotadze, eds. From Scribal Error to Rewriting: How Ancient Texts Could and Could Not Be Changed. De Septuaginta Investigationes 12. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2020.

For the contents and introduction see the free preview here.

How ancient texts could and could not be changed has been in the focus of vibrant scholarly discussions in recent years. The present volume offers contributions from a representative group of prominent scholars from different backgrounds and specialties in the areas of Classical and Biblical studies who were gathered at an interdisciplinary symposium held in May 2015 at the Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University in Tbilisi, Georgia. In the first part of the volume Ancient Scribal and Editorial Practices, the authors approach ancient scribal and editorial techniques in Greek, Latin, and Syriac sources concerning classical and biblical texts, their textual criticism, and editorial history. The second part Textual History of the Hebrew Bible focuses on scribal and editorial aspects of the textual history of the Hebrew Bible. The third part Writing and Rewriting in Translation deals with a variety of writings from the Old Testament, New Testament, Apocrypha, and Patristic texts in various languages (Greek, Coptic, Arabic, Armenian, and Georgian), focusing on issues of textual criticism and translation technique. The volume contains an especially rich assortment of contributions by Georgian textual scholars concerning ancient editorial practices and ancient Georgian translations of biblical and patristic texts. This collection of papers provides insights into a variety of different areas of study that seldom come into contact with each other but are clearly in many ways related.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Stylistic Classification of the Hebrew Scripts

For those interested in Hebrew paleography, I just got word that my article on stylistic classification is now published. My goal in this article was to clarify what paleographers mean by "formality" and lay a theoretical framework for stylistic classification of the Hebrew scripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Drew Longacre, “Disambiguating the Concept of Formality in Palaeographic Descriptions: Stylistic Classification and the Ancient Jewish Hebrew/Aramaic Scripts.” Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies Bulletin 5, no. 2 (2019): 101–128. http://doi.org/10.25592/uhhfdm.739.


The concept of formality in palaeographic analysis is often ill-defined and understood in conflicting ways by the scholars who utilize it. In this article, I attempt to clarify the meaning and significance of formality by suggesting that it is best understood as a multifaceted concept dependent upon the interaction between morphology, execution, and function. From this perspective, formality is an overall impression of the level of handwriting based on the type of model script chosen to reproduce, the skill and care with which it was written, and the purpose(s) for which the embodying manuscript was created. Each aspect can be conceptualized and to some extent analyzed independently in concrete terms other than formality. The resulting, more explicitly-defined nature of formality proposed here then provides a better foundation for hypothesizing about the functions of manuscripts. I apply this schema to the Jewish Hebrew/Aramaic scripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls to show its potential for increased clarity and resolution in stylistic analysis.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Origen as Philologist Colloquium

John Meade announces that Phoenix Seminary's Text and Canon Institute will be hosting a colloquium on Origen as philologist on 18-19 November 2020. They have a great line-up of speakers presenting, so I'm sure it will be a very interesting conference. From their website:

About the Colloquium
Twenty five years after Oxford’s Rich Seminar sparked a renaissance of research on Origen’s Hexapla, the Phoenix Seminary Text & Canon Institute will host its first colloquium to explore Origen’s textual scholarship and its reception in late antiquity.
Origen of Alexandria moved to Caesarea around AD 230 and soon after began his work on the Hexapla or six-parallel-columned edition of the Old Testament. This edition inspired the preparation of subsequent scholarly editions of the Greek scriptures at the Caesarean Library that impacted the text and exegesis of the Scriptures in their Greek and Hebrew forms there and in other locales.
For its inaugural colloquium, the Text & Canon Institute is bringing together a group of international scholars to write this chapter of the Bible’s history.

Presenters & Topics
Alison Salvesen University of Oxford
“Symmachus at Caesarea: the Use and Reception of his Ekdosis by Caesarean Scholars”
Edmon L. Gallagher  Heritage Christian University
“The Hexapla in the Church according to Jerome”
Michael Graves ※ Wheaton College
“Jerome’s Epistle 106 and Origen’s Hexapla”
Bradley J. Marsh, Jr.  University of Oxford
“The ‘Afterlife’ of Hexaplaric Samaritan Readings”
Peter J. Gentry  The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“History of Hexapla and Tetrapla from the Evidence of the Colophons”
Anna Kharanauli  Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University
“Grammarians at Work”
John D. Meade ※ Phoenix Seminary
“Late Fourth- and Early Fifth-Century Reception of the Caesarean Ekdoseis”
Matthew Miller ※ Classical School of Wichita
“The Caesarean Hebrew Text: Insights from the Asterisked Material in Codex Colbertinus-Sarravianus”
Francesca Schironi  University of Michigan
“Textual Scholarship in Hellenistic Alexandria (and beyond)”
Benjamin Kantor  University of Cambridge
“The Pre-Hexaplaric Secunda: Greek Transcriptions of the Hebrew Bible in Roman Caesarea”

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Sofer STaM

See here an interesting video on the work of a modern Jewish scribe. See also Mordechai Pinchas' informative website.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Postdocs in Helsinki

Tuukka Kauhanen is calling for applications for postdocs to work on the ancient translations of the LXX of 2 Samuel here.

Friday, May 31, 2019