Monday, May 22, 2017

More on London's Dead Sea Scrolls

EPIGRAPY: HOW TO DECODE AN ANCIENT ROMAN’S HANDWRITING. Roger Tomlin has made a career studying bar bills, curse tablets, and other British relics that were never meant for posterity (Charlotte Higgins, The New Yorker). HT AJR.

This is an interview with the man who deciphered and has now published those wooden tablets inscribed in Latin which were found in London some years ago. The tablets have no direct bearing on ancient Judaism, but I have discussed some indirect points of comparison etc. here. This article confirms that all the London tablets are documentary and administrative rather literary texts. The process of their decipherment is fascinating and pertinent for understanding all sorts of epigraphic discoveries.

The article includes the story of the "decipherment" by Edward Nicholson of an ancient Scottish inscription engraved on lead in Latin.
There the matter rested for ninety years, until Tomlin decided to take another look at Nicholson’s photographs. As he studied them (the original artifact had, alas, disappeared), he found that Nicholson had made one disastrous error: he had read the entire inscription upside down.
Every epigrapher's nightmare.