Work Package 4 : Palaeography

Researching the writing systems of ancient Sicily. What writing systems were used to write these epigraphic texts in ancient Sicily, and what was their relationship to one another? What can we learn from a close study of the alphabets and individual letter-forms employed to inscribe these multiple languages for diverse texts in diverse materials and material contexts on the island over time?

Systematic palaeographic studies of epigraphic texts are surprisingly rare, confined to individual cities, and the scholars who have made such studies stress the limitations and the inherent subjectivity (e.g. Gordon and Gordon 1958: I, 157 for Rome; Tracy 2009 for Athens). In the case of Sicily itself, there is a single, unpublished study (Dimartino 2009). Agreed standards for epigraphic palaeography remain largely undefined (but note the PhD in progress of Simona Stoyanova). By contrast, mediaeval palaeography studies have developed sophisticated digital frameworks (e.g. Hasssner et al. 2013, Stokes 2015).

The challenge and the opportunity which Sicily and the digital corpus as proposed in Crossreads offers is a systematic regional study across languages and time, answering questions such as: what are the relationships between letter-forms (‘graphs’) and language, between letter-forms and material, between letter-forms and categories of text or object, and between letter-forms and textual meaning? This is not simply an exploration of palaeographic change over time, but an attempt to explore interactions between languages and diverse cultural aspects bound up in the material act of writing.



Examples of variations in ‘A’ in Greek and Latin texts from ancient Sicily

This subproject will be led by a post-doctoral researcher over a three-year period. In the absence of agreed standards for the annotation of epigraphic letter-forms within a digital framework (especially one supporting Linked Open Data), a major task will be to establish the necessary vocabularies. Central to this subproject is a set of tools and a digital framework developed by mediaeval palaeographers at King’s Digital Lab.


Supported by the PI of the ERC-funded DigiPal project Prof. Peter Stokes (Paris, a member of the Advisory Board) we will develop an epigraphic application of the Archetype software, designed for ‘the online presentation of images with structured annotations and data’ (Stokes, Marques de Matos and Jakeman 2019). This work will be undertaken in partnership with the original developers at King’s Digital Lab, Neil Jakeman and Geoffroy Noël. We hope that through the use of an IIIF  image service, annotated images will be integrated with the TEI texts of the primary corpus. The result will be systematic palaeographic mark-up and corresponding image annotation of the Sicilian texts, providing the necessary foundation for the proposed study and a major contribution to epigraphic palaeography.