Magica Levantina and Then Some

So – finally getting around to my DH2014 post this afternoon…err…evening!

I have recently joined  the team at the Cologne Center for eHumanities at the University of Cologne. I am working on a couple of projects, one called Magica Levantina, and the other dealing with imaging carbonised papyri from the site of Herculaneum in Italy.

Magica Levantina is a collaboration with Dr. Robert Daniel of the Institute für Altertumskunde, with the aim of creating an edition of a corpus of Greek magical texts inscribed on lead (e.g. example) and selenite from Cyprus and the Near East. The project focusses mainly on unpublished curse tablets and some protective magical texts on gold and silver.

My particular role involves travelling around to various collections to image these difficult-to-read objects using Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI). I am also examining the data from the perspective of the writing process, in comparison with ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian scribal practice.

Unrolled lead curse tablet
Unrolled lead curse tablet: Such tablets are difficult to read with the naked eye and hard to photograph due to self shadowing, challenges which RTI is great at overcoming.

Today I am working on a few practical issues. Top of the list is  assembly of a new RTI kit to do visible RTI on the lead and selenite curse tablets. I have been checking with photographic suppliers about equipment availability, costs, etc.

Detail of lead tablet
Detail of lead tablet: Normal photography is contrasted with the RTI visualisation using the specular enhancement rendering mode – which makes the script much easier to read.

I am also researching hardware and procedures for adding infrared capability to our RTI system.  Trail-blazing RTIstas such as Taylor Bennett, Eleni Kotoula (University of Southampton),  and others have paved the way for this relatively new aspect of RTI. Thanks to their support and advice, and that of the Cultural Heritage Imaging team, I will soon be heading to Naples to trial IR RTI on carbonised papyri.

Right – it is now time to put on my Egyptological hat and turn my attention to a talk on RTI and early rock art that I will co-deliver at a conference in Cairo next week: Egypt at its Origins: Fifth International Conference on Predynastic and Early Dynastic Studies.


Just another Day of DH 2014 site

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