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  • SN-0034 Finding and using inscriptions- Building a corpus

This wiki space contains archival documentation of Project Bamboo, April 2008 - March 2013.

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Finding and using inscriptions. Building a corpus

Please fill in the following metadata about this story (and delete this line when finished!):

Collection Date: Dec. 18, 2008
Scholar #1 Info: (if more than one scholar's process is described, copy this set for each scholar)

  • Name: Michael Satlow
  • Email:
  • Title: Associate Professor of Judaic Studies
  • Institution/Organization: Brown University
  • Field of Study/Creative Endeavor: Judaic Studies

Collector Info (can be the same as "Scholar" above):

  • Name: Elli Mylonas
  • Email:
  • Title: Associate Director, CIS (Scholarly Technology Group)
  • Institution/Organization: Brown University

Notes on Methodology:

Please briefly describe the collection methods used (eg. "self report", "questionnaire", "ethnographic interview")

The Brown University Local Bamboo Group met and discussed various actual scenarios for research and scenarios. The participants in this discussion were two faculty members and 4 CIS staff members from the Academic Services Group.


The scope section is provided by the collector, with input from the scholar(s), and attempts to estimate the scope of the group that performs the processes described: How broadly do the practices described in this story apply to others in same field, in related fields, etc?

  1. In the opinion of the scholar, who participates in the process the story describes?
    (e.g. "just this scholar", "many people in the scholar's field of inquiry", "all academics", etc.) Epigraphers, historians, literary scholars
  2. What is this process intended to accomplish for the scholar? Identify research material
  3. Who is the intended audience of the processes described? Epigraphers, historians, literary scholars
  4. Is this the only process the scholar uses to accomplish his/her goals? No
  5. What "shared services" would help transform the story into something of more benefit for the scholar or his/her audience?  What process or processes in the story could be automated?


Please provide some keywords that will allow us to group or cluster related stories--or aspects of stories.

1. Was this story collected for a particular Bamboo working group?  If so, please include, as keywords, the appropriate group(s).

  • Shared Services
  • Stories

2. Suggested keywords: Does this story contain elements that could be mapped to these keywords?  If so, please indicate which ones and briefly describe the mapping.  Add any additional keywords in #3. (These are global keywords from this page keywords)

3. Please list additional keywords here:

4. Related Stories: Are there parts of the story that relate to other collected stories? Please provide title(s) and link to the story page. 


Please include the text, documents, media, or other material which comprise this story

Scenario: Doing research with inscriptions is much easier with a digital corpus. Using print editions a scholar has to read through many volumes, as the material has been published over many years - some corpora have been in continuous publication for over 100 years.

The Inscriptions of Israel/Palestine [ a project that is gathering  inscriptions from the geographic area of historic Israel/Palestine, from 500BCE to 500CE into one digital corpus. It is designed to avoid the shortcomings of print corpora, as well as to highlight areas of interest of the researcher who is leading the project.

Finding an inscription in a corpus:

A particular inscription may be in one of several large print corpora, or it may be published in a journal article. In the first case, the inscription will be organized according to geographical location (museum or findspot) or will be listed in a print index. In the latter case, the inscription may be hard to locate without skimming epigraphical journals.

Digital corpora allow searching on both content and metadata for relevant information. The print indices aren't as rich.

Making a corpus:

The Inscriptions of Israel/Palestine tries to remedy this problem. It's relatively easy, and very worthwhile to add as much metadata as possible as part of the encoding of an inscription. For example, an inscription may be marked as written in Greek, containing a Hebrew name, in red letters. This is already more information than the print index can contain. Since the researcher who is building a digital corpus doesn't know what uses it will serve for other scholars, it is important to capture metadata of general interest as well as information that refects the researcher's own interests.

The other significant improvement that a digital corpus can offer are  high quality images of the inscriptions.

Ability to annotate text and images.
Ability to play with things, chart density of Greek inscriptions on a map, for example.
These are useful both as playful, exploratory activities and as more teleological, hypothesis testing activities.

Student Scenario:

Simpler, more controlled versions of the scholarly activities described above can also be turned into assignments for students. They have to be more carefully planned, so that the students may find some results in a reasonable amount of time, and with the context that they have available to them. The goal of these activities is to introduct the students to scholarly research methods for this type of text.

A sample assignment may be to look at languages and names, so that they have to think about the meaning of a Hebrew inscription that refers to Abraham, the son of Theodorus. (It might reflect a religious revival, for example.)

Other Comments:

Related Activities

Notes ||