The Digital Epigraphy and Archaeology Project

Eleni Bozia (Florida)

Digital Classicist London & Institute of Classical Studies seminar 2013

Friday July 12th at 16:30, in Room STB2 Stewart House, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Video recording of seminar (MP4)

Audio recording of seminar (MP3)

Presentation (PDF)

In our presentation we will introduce the Digital Epigraphy and Archaeology Project, a digital toolbox meant to assist individual epigraphists, archaeologists, institutions, and museums. The Digital Epigraphy and Archaeology Project is an open-source, cross-platform web-application designed to facilitate the digital preservation, study, and electronic dissemination of ancient inscriptions and other archaeological artifacts.

Our toolbox allows epigraphists to digitize in 3D their epigraphic squeezes using our novel cost-effective technique, which overcomes the limitations of the current methods for digitizing epigraphic data in 2 dimensions only. It contains several options for 3D visualization of inscriptions as well as a set of scientific tools for analyzing the lettering techniques and performing quantitative analysis of the letterform variations. Furthermore, the users have the option to share their data and also search other uploaded collections of 3D inscriptions in a semi-supervised dynamic library. This dynamic library is organized thematically according to language, area of origin, date, type of inscription, material etc. and contains a comprehensive record of the inscription in the form of plain text, 3D model, 2D photographs, and other epigraphic information.

In our prototype technique the tridimensional digitization of squeezes is achieved through the bidirectional scanning of the squeeze using a typical 2D office scanner. The scanned images are then being processed by the algorithm that we developed which analyzes the depicted shading in the images and reconstructs in 3D the original inscription. The advantages of this process are numerous. It does not require any additional expensive equipment. The squeezes can be safely preserved in a digitized form, thus eliminating the possibility of deterioration of the squeezed paper. They can also be electronically distributed, enhancing epigraphic studies. Consequently, the digital squeezes can be visualized more effectively compared to 2D images, as they can be viewed from different angles, under different artificial lighting conditions, and in different zooming scales.

Furthermore, we extended our algorithms so that we can digitize in 3D ancient coins, seals, and medals with the use of a regular scanner. Also, our toolbox gives users the option to perform automatic morphological analysis and comparison between other archaeological artifacts, such as statues, busts, lamps, and vases, digitized in 3D using other existing techniques, such as laser or infrared scanners. Thus far, there is no other online library of 3D scans of artifacts that would allow students, scholars, and researchers to browse through collections, study objects by era, area, or artist, and examine their tridimensional structure and construction techniques.

Our project aims to be a paragon for the promotion of epigraphic, archaeological, and museum studies. We provide a unique tool for an enhanced computer-assisted examination of inscriptions and artifacts and give research and academic communities the opportunity to collaborate. Finally, the electronic existence of artifacts will facilitate their dissemination and accessibility to scholars, researchers, and students that do not have access to artifacts due to distance or lack of financial support.


The seminar will be followed by wine and refreshments.