Sunday, January 07, 2018

Recovering the text of a charred biblical codex

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: A Fragile Biblical Text Gets a Virtual Read (Nicholas Wade, New York Times).
But having lain in obscurity for half a century, M.910’s day in the limelight has finally arrived. Last month, a television news crew documented every movement of the little codex and of its two new enthusiasts: Paul C. Dilley, an expert on early Christianity at the University of Iowa, and W. Brent Seales, a computer scientist at the University of Kentucky.

Dr. Seales has spent 14 years developing a technique for reading ancient scrolls that are too fragile to unwrap. Fine-detail CT scanners can visualize the ink of letters inside such scrolls, but the alphabet soup is unreadable unless each letter can be assigned to its correct position on a surface.

Dr. Seales has developed software that can model the surface of a contorted piece of papyrus or parchment from X-ray data and then derive a legible text by assigning letters to their proper surface.
M.910 contains a Coptic translation of the Book of Acts and possibly something else. The results of the scans should be available later this month.

Petter Gurry has some comments at the ETC Blog.

For more on the work of Brent Seales, including the recovery of the text on the carbonized Leviticus scroll, start here and follow the links.

Bit by bit, a letter at a time, whatever it takes. Until we're done.

UPDATE (8 January): More here.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.