Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Profile of Michael Langlois

NORTHWEST SEMITIC EPIGRAPHY: How an Unorthodox Scholar Uses Technology to Expose Biblical Forgeries. Deciphering ancient texts with modern tools, Michael Langlois challenges what we know about the Dead Sea Scrolls (Chanan Tigay, Smithsonian Magazine).
But ancient inscriptions, whether sacred or mundane, don’t always survive unblemished. To decipher them, Langlois draws on an impressive range of academic training. He holds three master’s degrees—theology, ancient Middle Eastern languages and civilization, and archaeology and linguistics—and a doctorate in history and philology from the Sorbonne. But his facility with sophisticated technologies, some of his own design (he briefly worked constructing simulations to chart the route of a high-speed train through a mountain tunnel), has armed him with techniques that allow him to make sense of texts so badly damaged by age, climate or human folly that they are now nearly illegible. His approach, which combines the close linguistic and paleographical analysis of ancient writings with advanced scientific tools—from multispectral imaging to artificial intelligence-assisted “texture mapping”—can sometimes make long-gone inscriptions come back to life.

Or it can bury them for good—as in his most widely publicized feat of scholarly detective work, an exposĂ© involving arguably the greatest archaeological discovery of the 20th century.

This is an excellent biographical piece on Strasbourg epigrapher, Professor Michael Langlois. PaleoJudaica has cited his work many times, notably on the Maresha archive and on debunking fake Dead Sea Scroll fragments. You can also find much valuable material on his website.

Chanan Tigay, who is the son of biblical scholar Jeffrey Tigay, is a journalist who is well known in PaleoJudaica circles for his book on the Shapira Scroll fragments. (See here, cf. here, and follow the many links.)

For more on the recent claim to have established the reading "the house of David" on the Mesha Stele, see here and here. The BAR article is behind the subscription wall. I have not seen the photographs and have no particular view on the question.

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