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Author Topic: The lost languages of Egypt: Hi-tech cameras help archaeologists find ancient wo  (Read 338 times)

Offline zorgon

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The lost languages of Egypt: Hi-tech cameras help archaeologists find ancient works hidden in monastery parchment in discovery hailed as a 'new golden age'

    Scientists have found a series of ancient works using new imaging techniques
    The method allows experts to see text that has been scrubbed off of parchment
    Scripts found include documents written in extremely rare languages
    The earliest copies of texts from Greek physician Hippocrates were also found

Quote
Ancient works hidden underneath monastery scriptures have been uncovered using imaging technology that pieced together words originally scrubbed off.

The team found a series of lost texts using a method that allows scientists to restore ancient documents that were written over long ago to save on expensive parchment.

The discoveries at Saint Catherine's monastery on the Sinai peninsula, Egypt, signal a 'new golden age of discovery', the scientists behind the research said.


Scientists have discovered lost texts not read since the Dark Ages at Saint Catherine's monastery in Egypt (pictured). Texts found include ancient Greek medical texts and documents written in extremely rare languages

Quote
Other lost ancient texts could be revealed using the new technique, which involves taking pictures of parchment from several angles and using different parts of the light spectrum.

Among several new texts discovered by researchers from the Early Manuscripts Electronic Library in California were documents written in rare languages, the Times reports.

These include Caucasian Albanian, which had only been known from scattered stone inscriptions until now.

Three ancient Greek medical texts that were previously unknown to scholars were also revealed, as well as the earliest copies of some texts from famed Greek physician Hippocrates.

The findings were announced at the headquarters of the Ministry of Antiquities in Cairo last week.

More details on the content of these finds are expected as scientists study the texts more closely.

Saint Catherine's monastery is the oldest continually operating library in the world, having been in use for 1,500 years.


Saint Catherine's monastery (pictured) is the oldest continually operating library in the world, having been in use for 1,500 years. The team found a series of ancient works using a method that allows scientists to restore documents scrubbed off parchment centuries ago

Quote
Parchment was once extremely valuable, meaning it was often reused.

'At some point the material the manuscript was on became more valuable than what was written on it,' Michael Phelps, from the Early Manuscripts Electronic Library in California, told the Times.

'So it was deemed worthy of being recycled.'

Monks commonly wrote copies of the Bible on top of old texts, meaning many ancient texts have been lost.

But the researchers say that long lost documents, such as those written by ancient philosopher Aristotle, could now be rediscovered on texts in libraries across the world using their technique.

They used photographs taken from a number of angles and using different parts of the light spectrum to reveal traces of ink left by early scribes before the text was washed off.

Images of the parchment are then combined using computer algorithms to highlight the text beneath.


The discoveries at Saint Catherine's monastery on the Sinai peninsula, Egypt, signal a 'new golden age of discovery', the scientists behind the research said


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4829310/Scientists-lost-languages-Egyptian-monastery.html

Offline The Seeker

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Now That is interesting  8) It will be worth watching to see if this does indeed bring any additional lost information to light; Caucasian Albanian,eh?  8)
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Offline space otter

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it would really be nice if it didn't take a decade for the info to trickle down to us

http://www.papyrology.ox.ac.uk/POxy/news/independent.html

POxy: Oxyrhynchus Online

published in the Independent on Sunday, no. 791 (17 April 2005), p. 1 and p. 3
Eureka! Extraordinary discovery unlocks secrets of the ancients

by David Keys and Nicholas Pyke

Thousands of previously illegible manuscripts containing work by some of the greats of classical literature are being read for the first time using technology which experts believe will unlock the secrets of the ancient world.

Among treasures already discovered by a team from Oxford University are previously unseen writings by classical giants including Sophocles, Euripides and Hesiod. Invisible under ordinary light, the faded ink comes clearly into view when placed under infra-red light, using techniques developed from satellite imaging.

The Oxford documents form part of the great papyrus hoard salvaged from an ancient rubbish dump in the Graeco-Egyptian town of Oxyrhynchus more than a century ago. The thousands of remaining documents, which will be analysed over the next decade, are expected to include works by Ovid and Aeschylus, plus a series of Christian gospels which have been lost for up to 2,000 years.

Decoded at last: the 'classical holy grail' that may rewrite the history of the world

Scientists begin to unlock the secrets of papyrus scraps bearing long-lost words by the literary giants of Greece and Rome

by David Keys and Nicholas Pyke

For more than a century, it has caused excitement and frustration in equal measure - a collection of Greek and Roman writings so vast it could redraw the map of classical civilisation. If only it was legible.

Now, in a breakthrough described as the classical equivalent of finding the holy grail, Oxford University scientists have employed infra-red technology to open up the hoard, known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, and with it the prospect that hundreds of ancient Greek comedies, tragedies and epic poems will soon be revealed.

In the past four days alone, Oxford's classicists have used it to make a series of astonishing discoveries, including writing by Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod and other literary giants of the ancient world, lost for millennia. They even believe they are likely to find lost Christian gospels, the originals of which were written around the time of the earliest books of the New Testament.

The original papyrus documents, discovered in an ancient rubbish dump in central Egypt, are often meaningless to the naked eye - decayed, worm- eaten and blackened by the passage of time. But scientists using the new photographic technique, developed from satellite imaging, are bringing the original writing back into view. Academics have hailed it as a development which could lead to a 20 per cent increase in the number of great Greek and Roman works in existence. Some are even predicting a 'second Renaissance'.

Christopher Pelling, Regius Professor of Greek at the University of Oxford, described the new works as 'central texts which scholars have been speculating about for centuries'.

Professor Richard Janko, a leading British scholar, formerly of University College London, now head of classics at the University of Michigan, said: 'Normally we are lucky to get one such find per decade.' One discovery in particular, a 30-line passage from the poet Archilocos, of whom only 500 lines survive in total, is described as 'invaluable' by Dr Peter Jones, author and co-founder of the Friends of Classics campaign.

The papyrus fragments were discovered in historic dumps outside the Graeco-Egyptian town of Oxyrhynchus ('city of the sharp-nosed fish') in central Egypt at the end of the 19th century. Running to 400,000 fragments, stored in 800 boxes at Oxford's Sackler Library, it is the biggest hoard of classical manuscripts in the world.

The previously unknown texts, read for the first time last week, include parts of a long-lost tragedy - the Epigonoi ('Progeny') by the 5th-century BC Greek playwright Sophocles; part of a lost novel by the 2nd-century Greek writer Lucian; unknown material by Euripides; mythological poetry by the 1st-century BC Greek poet Parthenios; work by the 7th-century BC poet Hesiod; and an epic poem by Archilochos, a 7th-century successor of Homer, describing events leading up to the Trojan War. Additional material from Hesiod, Euripides and Sophocles almost certainly await discovery.

Oxford academics have been working alongside infra-red specialists from Brigham Young University, Utah. Their operation is likely to increase the number of great literary works fully or partially surviving from the ancient Greek world by up to a fifth. It could easily double the surviving body of lesser work - the pulp fiction and sitcoms of the day.

'The Oxyrhynchus collection is of unparalleled importance - especially now that it can be read fully and relatively quickly,' said the Oxford academic directing the research, Dr Dirk Obbink. 'The material will shed light on virtually every aspect of life in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, and, by extension, in the classical world as a whole.'

The breakthrough has also caught the imagination of cultural commentators. Melvyn Bragg, author and presenter, said: 'It's the most fantastic news. There are two things here. The first is how enormously influential the Greeks were in science and the arts. The second is how little of their writing we have. The prospect of having more to look at is wonderful.'

Bettany Hughes, historian and broadcaster, who has presented TV series including Mysteries of the Ancients and The Spartans, said: 'Egyptian rubbish dumps were gold mines. The classical corpus is like a jigsaw puzzle picked up at a jumble sale - many more pieces missing than are there. Scholars have always mourned the loss of works of genius - plays by Sophocles, Sappho's other poems, epics. These discoveries promise to change the textual map of the golden ages of Greece and Rome.'

When it has all been read - mainly in Greek, but sometimes in Latin, Hebrew, Coptic, Syriac, Aramaic, Arabic, Nubian and early Persian - the new material will probably add up to around five million words. Texts deciphered over the past few days will be published next month by the London-based Egypt Exploration Society, which financed the discovery and owns the collection.

A 21st-century technique reveals antiquity's secrets

Since it was unearthed more than a century ago, the hoard of documents known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri has fascinated classical scholars. There are 400,000 fragments, many containing text from the great writers of antiquity. But only a small proportion have been read so far. Many were illegible.

Scientists are using multi-spectral imaging techniques developed from satellite technology to read the papyri at Oxford University's Sackler Library. The fragments, preserved between sheets of glass, respond to the infra-red spectrum - ink invisible to the naked eye can be seen and photographed.

The fragments form part of a giant 'jigsaw puzzle' to be reassembled. Missing 'pieces' can be supplied from quotations by later authors, and grammatical analysis.

Wisdom awakes: Sophocles' words are legible again

Speaker A: . . . gobbling the whole, sharpening the flashing iron.

Speaker B: And the helmets are shaking their purple-dyed crests, and for the wearers of breast-plates the weavers are striking up the wise shuttle's songs, that wakes up those who are asleep.

Speaker B: And he is glueing together the chariot's rail.

These words were written by the Greek dramatist Sophocles, and are the only known fragment we have of his lost play Epigonoi (literally 'The Progeny'), the story of the siege of Thebes. Until last week's hi-tech analysis of ancient scripts at Oxford University, no one knew of their existence, and this is the first time they have been published.

Sophocles (495-405 BC), was a giant of the golden age of Greek civilisation, a dramatist who working alongside and competed with Aeschylus, Euripides and Aristophanes.

His best-known work is Oedipus Rex, the play that later gave its name to the Freudian theory, in which the hero kills his father and marries his mother - in a doomed attempt to escape the curse he brings upon himself. His other masterpieces include Antigone and Electra.

Sophocles was the cultured son of a wealthy Greek merchant, living at the height of the Greek empire. An accomplished actor, he performed in many of his own plays. He also served as a priest and sat on the committee that administered Athens. A great dramatic innovator, he wrote more than 120 plays, but only seven survive in full.

Last week's remarkable finds also include work by Euripides, Hesiod and Lucian, plus a large and particularly significant paragraph of text from the Elegies, by Archilochos, a Greek poet of the 7th century BC.

Offline space otter

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https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/sep/21/jubilation-as-scientists-use-virtual-unwrapping-to-read-burnt-ancient-scroll


 The computer reconstruction reveals the ancient writing with such clarity that scholars have read entire verses of the work. Photograph: Seals et al Science Advances 2016

Ian Sample Science editor
Thursday 22 September 2016 08.27 EDT First published on Wednesday 21 September 2016 14.00 EDT
An ancient scroll that was crushed and burned in a blaze that engulfed an entire town more than 1,400 years ago has been digitally unfurled and identified as a copy of the book of Leviticus.

Researchers made the discovery after computer scientists used a ground-breaking procedure called “virtual unwrapping” to flatten out digital sheets of the carbonised document and read the Hebrew words originally inscribed on the parchment in AD300.

Based on 3D x-ray scans of the charred remains, the computer reconstruction reveals the ancient writing with such clarity that scholars have read entire verses of the work and found its place in the history of important biblical texts.

No more than a lump of disintegrating charcoal, the scroll is so fragile that it has barely been touched since it was discovered in 1970. It was found in the holy ark of a synagogue in En-Gedi, a town on the western shore of the Dead Sea that was destroyed by fire around AD600.

“We know now that the scroll from En-Gedi is biblical. We’ve identified it as the same text from the book of Leviticus,” said Brent Seales, a computer scientist who led the research at the University of Kentucky. “Anything that is still inside the scroll is now possible to view.”



The effort to read the ancient text began when researchers at the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in Jerusalem took high resolution x-ray scans of the En-Gedi scroll and the older Dead Sea Scrolls that were found in the Qumran caves in the 1940s and 50s in what is now the West Bank.

Pnina Shor, head of the Dead Sea Scrolls Project at the IAA, sent the x-ray images to Seales to study, but she was not optimistic that he would extract any useful information from them. “It was a shot in the dark,” she said.

Seales ran the En-Gedi images through a four step procedure. The first creates a digital map of the crinkled contours of different regions of charred parchment. The second marks where ink was used, as revealed by bright spots in the x-ray images. The computer then flattens the regions out and merges them into one complete image. In the case of the En-Gedi scroll, writing showed up in the scans because the author used an ink that contained metal, probably iron or lead.

Using the system, the US team unwrapped five pages of the ancient scroll. Though Seales does not read Hebrew, it was clear that markings on the pages were written words. To find out what they said, he sent the images back to the team in Jerusalem. When Shor replied, she said they had not only read the text, but identified it as the book of Leviticus, the third book of the Hebrew bible. “At that point we were jubilant,” Seales said. “The En-Gedi scroll is proof positive we can potentially recover whole texts from damaged material, not just a few letters or a speculative word.”

One sheet of the scripture contains 35 lines of text, each with a similar number of words. The Hebrew text is made up only of consonants, as vowels did not come into use until later on. Describing the team’s work in the journal Science Advances, Seales writes: “Without our computational pipeline and the textual analysis it enables, the En-Gedi text would be totally lost for scholarship, and its value would be left unknown.”

The scientists now hope to read other ancient artefacts that have been damaged in the course of history. High up on their wish list is a library of Roman scrolls that were burned and buried when the town of Herculaneum was destroyed in the eruption of Vesuvius nearly 2000 years ago. Vito Mocella at the National Research Council in Naples has already read single letters from the scrolls.

“Although this approach is bespoke at present, this type of technology will become more and more available in the future, potentially unlocking ancient libraries thought lost forever,” said Melissa Terras, Director of the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities. Her team has used digital techniques to read The Great Parchment Book, a 17th century survey of Irish estates that was also damaged by fire.

Last year, Rubina Raja at Aarhus University in Denmark used computer software to read inscriptions on an 8th century rolled silver scroll from Jerash in Jordan. “Digital imaging and unfolding of ancient objects has the potential to read all these things lying around in museums and in storage, whether they are metal, papyri and even textiles,” she said.

Offline Irene

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Honestly, you know how anything outside narrow academic dogma never sees the light of day.

Nice to know about it though. One can hope we'll eventually have access to these documents.
Shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.....

Offline space otter

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https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/ezpxxk/lazarus-project-the-scientists-who-are-deciphering-unreadable-ancient-texts


The Archimedes Palimpsest. Image: Walters Art Museum

The Lazarus Project has a secret to reading invisible ink: capturing it with multispectral imaging.

Sometime around the year 1491, the German cartographer Henricus Martellus produced an influential map of the world, which was likely used by Christopher Columbus on his 1492 expedition to the Americas.

Naturally, Martellus made sure to note all the wildest rumors about the locations he had charted out. Text over south Asia claimed that the Panotii people of the region had ears so big they could curl up and sleep in them, Dumbo-style. A cartouche over the Indian Ocean warned of "a sea monster that is like the sun when it shines, whose form can hardly be described, except that its skin is soft and its body huge," which experts think is a description of orca whales. Japan was labelled with the tantalizing note "precious stones are found on these islands."


The Martellus Map. Image: Henricus Martellus/Yale Library Archives

But time was not kind to these fantastic messages, and the vast majority of them were muted over the centuries by material degeneration. The words either faded out with time, or had been obscured by damage. We would never know about them at all if it weren't for the emergence of new techniques in imaging science over the last two decades, which can decipher damaged, vandalized, or otherwise unreadable texts with startling precision and accuracy.

"There's text all over the map," Roger Easton Jr., one of the key players in this fledgling field, told me over the phone. "But it had all faded; you couldn't really read much of anything."



Easton is one of the only people in the world who knows how to resurrect these lost writings from obscurity, which means he frequently ventures to fascinating destinations in order to study rare manuscripts. As a professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology and one of the leaders of the Lazarus Project—an organization of specialists involved in deciphering historical documents with multispectral imaging—he has collaborated with scholars, scientists, and other specialists all over the world.

"That's the best part," Easton told me. "Meeting the people is the best part. They are so appreciative when you pull something out."

These interdisciplinary teams are able to unlock these difficult texts by capturing them over a wide range of wavelengths. In much the same way that an X-ray image of the sky yields a different perspective on the universe than an infrared image, pseudocolor pictures of text can extract words that have been invisible to the naked eye for centuries. It's like The Da Vinci Code, only with fancy cameras and better dialogue.

"[The Martellus Map] was among the more fun ones we have ever done," Easton told me. "In some methods, you can see the scribe lines but you can't see any text at all. In other methods, the text pops right out. I know we didn't get all of it, but I think we got quite a lot of it."

"This is sort of the ultimate treasure hunt."


A comparison of the "keystone" cartouche on the map, before and after processing. Image: Lazarus Project/EMEL/Megavision/RIT/Yale Library Archives

Indeed, these efforts go way beyond the Martellus Map. From deciphering the field diary of Victorian explorer David Livingstone, written in berry juice, to investigating Thomas Jefferson's early drafts of the Declaration of Independence—revealing that Jefferson erased the word "subjects" and wrote in "citizens"—imaging science is racking up incredible historical finds.

Perhaps the most famous example of the field's potential was when it was applied to the Archimedes Palimpsest, a gorgeous parchment codex with an extraordinary history.

http://www.archimedespalimpsest.org/

The book was originally a copy of one of Archimedes works written in Byzantine Greek by an unidentified scribe who lived in the tenth century. It was either made in Jerusalem, or was transported there at some point over the subsequent centuries. In either event, it was in Jerusalem, in the year 1229, that a Christian priest scraped off the codex's ink and bathed the parchment, then repurposed the erased pages as a liturgical prayer book.

The palimpsest changed hands many times over the centuries and became its own little moldy ecosystem, which further damaged the writing. But eventually, in 1906, portions of the undertext were recognized as the work of Archimedes by classics scholar Johan Ludvig Heiberg. Having translated many other works of Archimedes, Heiberg knew the mathematician's handiwork when he saw it, but until recently, only snippets of the beleaguered original copy could be recovered.

That all changed with a landmark project that ran from 1999 to 2008, in which Easton and his fellow digital decoders were able to use multispectral imaging to extract an enormous amount of the text that had been erased. That nameless scribbler who carefully transcribed Archimedes's work over 1,000 years ago did not labor in vain after all.


Archimedes Palimpsest bifolio 120v-121r, under normal light compared to UV illumination processed using principal component analysis to reveal the undertext. Image: Kevin Bloechl and Roger L. Easton, Jr.

"This is sort of the sappy way that I put it," Easton said. "The scribe that wrote this stuff was sort of the imaging scientist of his day, so I'm trying to collaborate with this person over a 1,000 year timespan."

To that point, the palimpsest turned out to contain ideas by Archimedes that had not survived in any other documents, including an entirely new treatise called "The Method of Mechanical Theorems." This work showed that Archimedes was beginning to work on very modern concepts such as actual infinity as well as the groundwork for calculus. If it weren't for Easton's collaboration with that nameless Byzantine scribe, we never would have probed Archimedes's genius to this extent.

Since then, the field has accelerated even further. "When we built the system for the Archimedes, we had a six-megapixel camera that cost $7,000," Easton told me. "You can now walk into a campus bookstore and buy a better camera than that for $350."

But though the technology is rapidly maturing, there is still a bottleneck in the field when it comes to qualified professionals. The skillset is in high demand, but it also happens to be very difficult to automate and disseminate to a global audience. (Overcoming this hurdle is central to the mission of the Lazarus Project.) According to Easton, the process of figuring out which wavelengths will coax text of any given page is still largely trail and error. "You are never certain what method is going to work," he said.

As a result, experts in this field are swamped with projects. "We do have this unfortunate tendency to bite off more than we can chew," Easton admitted.

When I spoke with him in December, he was a few weeks shy of a trip to Chartres to image manuscripts damaged by bombing during World War II. He's also working on the "New Finds" volumes at Saint Catherine's Monastery in Egypt, which contain multitudes of works that were recently discovered in a hidden chamber of the monastery, cut off from the main building after a structural collapse. It doesn't get much more "Indiana Jones" than that. Maybe if there were snakes or holy grails in the chamber too, but that just seems greedy.


Saint Catherine's Monastery. Image: Berthold Werner

All the while, new requests for imaging projects continue to be added to the backlog, from priceless historical artifacts to sentimental family heirlooms. As more people enter the field and the techniques are increasingly democratized, we have every reason to expect mountains of inscrutable writings to be rendered legible at last. Imagine the possibilities.

"It is very gratifying to be able to read text that had been feared lost forever," Easton said.

Offline space otter

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yeah had to go see what the heck this meant..not what you think at first


Caucasian Albanian,


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caucasian_Albania

Caucasian Albania
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Not to be confused with modern-day Albania in the Balkans.

Albania (Latin: Albānia, Greek: Ἀλβανία, Albanía,[4] in Classical Armenian: Աղուանք Ałuankʿ (Aguank),[5] Parthian: 𐭀𐭋𐭀𐭍 Ardhān, Middle Persian: 𐭠𐭫𐭠𐭭 Arrān; Georgian: რანი, Rani), usually referred to as Caucasian Albania for disambiguation with the modern state of Albania (the endonym is unknown[6][7]), is a name for the historical region of the eastern Caucasus, that existed on the territory of present-day republic of Azerbaijan (where both of its capitals were located) and partially southern Dagestan. Around the first centuries BC and AD the land south of the Greater Caucasus and north of the Lesser Caucasus was divided between Kolchis in the west, Caucasian Iberia in the center and Caucasian Albania in the east. To the southwest was Armenia and to the southeast Atropatene.
After the rise of the Parthian Empire the kings of Caucasian Albania were replaced with an Arsacid family and would later be succeeded by another Iranian royal family in the 5th century AD, the Mihranids.



Azerbaijan- Ancient State of Caucasian Albania, Hacbulaq 1 - YouTube
Video for Caucasian Albanian,▶ 10:02

May 28, 2007 - Uploaded by hakanjp
Caucasus - is a cradle of ancient civilisations, created by people inhabited this territory, which preserved rich ...

Offline ArMaP

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it would really be nice if it didn't take a decade for the info to trickle down to us
That's why it sounded familiar to me. :)

The problem is not the time it takes to be published, the problem is that mainstream media doesn't publish those things unless it's a slow news day or they have some more interesting "angle" to add to the article.

 


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