Jonathan Prag (Oxford) and Marietta Horster’s (Mainz) project, ‘FAIR Epigraphy’, is one of the winners of the latest UK-German funding initiative in the humanities, supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG) partnership.This ambitious collaborative project aims to transform epigraphic research in the digital age by making epigraphic data FAIR for both the research community and the wider public.
FAIR Epigraphy - project details
The integration of digital humanities in the field of ancient history has generated major editorial and analytical epigraphic projects based on the diverse uses of writing in everyday life whether featured on amphora stamps for administrative usage and quality control, religiously motivated engravings in sanctuaries, Greco-Roman inscribed epitaphs, or even Pompeiian pornographic graffiti.
At the same time, large digital datasets have opened the door to the application of new methods such as Machine Learning. Working with digital methods and making use of digital tools has opened our eyes to new approaches, allowing for innovative, unusual perspectives and interpretations of Greek and Roman history, economy, and culture. There exist several large (100,000+ texts) and many more small-scale epigraphic databases and corpora. The development of the EpiDoc TEI XML standard in the early 2000s has accelerated this work and inspired the first international efforts to network the many, excellent databases and to develop common minimum standards.
During the last decade, the EAGLE project achieved excellent results in bringing together epigraphers and encouraging the adoption of the Trismegistos ID-standard, nevertheless this project also demonstrated that achieving the goal of interoperability implied by linked data would require a different approach than the one at hand in the 2010s. The overall desirability for FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) data is fundamental to advanced research into the epigraphic, linguistic, and material culture of the ancient world.
With the increase in Linked Open Data and novel interface technologies and standards, this project will be able to create the tools and the community needed to transform epigraphic research in the digital age. Our internationally collaborative approach will enable and support innovative research across epigraphic data, and the wider linked web of data (especially archaeological data), such that all epigraphic data is increasingly FAIR for both the research community and the wider public. To that end, we aim to (1) consolidate community-wide standards (vocabularies and ontology); (2) develop the tools for community implementation of those standards (vocabulary and ontology hosting and publication); (3) host and make fully accessible the resulting linked open data published by individual projects (RDF/XML data publication).
The project team, supported and backed by a dedicated community of epigraphers, will provide the advice and training to enable alignment with agreed standards by past, current, and future projects (technical and practical support, development of best-practice networks and training materials). The PIs and the team members will illustrate the cutting-edge research potential of epigraphic linked data and its integration into the wider web of data by publications and research on Greek and Roman history, culture, and economy.
The Fair Epigraphy Project will run for 36 months 2022-2025, it is co-directed by Marietta Horster (Mainz, Germany) and Jonathan Prag (Oxford, UK).