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Digital Papyrology: literary and paraliterary texts and linguistic annotation of documentary papyri

marjavierros edited this page May 19, 2017 · 13 revisions

Date: Thursday, May 18, 2017, 17h00-18h15 (CEST time)

Session coordinators: Nicola Reggiani (University of Parma/University of Trier), Lucia Vannini (Institute of Classical Studies, London) and Marja Vierros (University of Helsinki)

YouTube link:

Slides, part 2
Slides, part 3


This class aims to give participants an introduction into the digital tools available for literary papyrological studies and researches. It will provide concrete examples of well established catalogues and in-progress databases, starting from the general and conventional distinction between documentary and literary (and paraliterary) papyri. We will also discuss the new possibilities opened up for papyrologists by the development of highly complex digital techniques for the display and enhancement of images. Lastly, linguistic annotation for papyrological material is introduced and the Sematia platform is presented. Sematia is used for preprocessing the papyri for treebanking in Arethusa and for building and querying the treebanked corpus.


  1. A brief introduction to literary papyri, Digital tools for literary papyrology, e.g. Leuven Database of Ancient Books (LDAB), Mertens-Pack 3 catalogue, Catalogue of Paraliterary Papyri, Digital Corpus of Literary Papyrology (DCLP). (Nicola Reggiani)
  2. Benefits of digital imaging for papyrological research; Projects using advanced imaging technologies. (Lucia Vannini)
  3. Linguistic annotation of Greek and Latin Papyri, Ostraca and Tablets via Sematia platform and Treebanking. (Marja Vierros)

Required readings

Nicola Reggiani, The Corpus of Greek Medical Papyri and Digital Papyrology: new perspectives from an ongoing project. Altertumswissenschaften in a Digital Age – Egyptology, Papyrology and Beyond. Proceedings of a Conference and Workshop in Leipzig, November 4-6, 2015. Edited by Monica Berti and Franziska Naether. Use Link 1 or Link 2

Marja Vierros and E. Henriksson, Preprocessing Greek Papyri for Linguistic Annotation. Computer-Aided Processing of Intertextuality in Ancient Languages. Journal of Data Mining and Digital Humanities. Edited by M. Büchler and L. Mellerin. Preprint in open archive HAL:

Further readings

S. Tarte, Of Features and Models: A Reflexive Account of Interdisciplinarity across Image Processing, Papyrology, and Trauma Surgery, Digital Classics Outside the Echo-Chamber: Teaching, Knowledge Exchange & Public Engagement. Edited by G. Bodard and M. Romanello (Eds.). London 2016. Pp. 103-120.

Lucia Vannini, Virtual reunification of papyrus fragments. Altertumswissenschaften in a Digital Age – Egyptology, Papyrology and Beyond. Proceedings of a Conference and Workshop in Leipzig, November 4-6, 2015. Edited by Monica Berti and Franziska Naether.

A. K. Bowman, C. V. Crowther, R. Kirkham and J. Pybus, A Virtual Research Environment for the Study of Documents and Manuscripts. Digital Research in the Study of Classical Antiquity. Edited by G. Bodard and Simon Mahony. Farnham 2010. Pp. 87-103. In part available from Google Books.

M. Terras, Image to interpretation. An Intelligent System to Aid Historians in Reading the Vindolanda Texts. Oxford 2006.

Images and artefacts of the ancient world. Edited by M. Brady and A. K. Bowman. Oxford 2005.

Imaging Documents. Edited by A. K. Bowman and M. Deegan. ( = Literary and Linguistic Computing 12.3, 1997).

Essay options

  1. What are the main advances in digital imaging of texts and manuscripts, and what uses have been made of them in papyrology?

  2. Discuss on a general level what possible benefits (or dangers) there are in preprocessing the papyri into acts of writing and into two layers for linguistic annotation. How does this help linguistic study based on the papyrological data? What more should be done?

Practical exercises

  1. LITERARY PAPYRI: SEARCH FOR METADATA Perform a search for the following subjects using the different available online tools (Bibliographie Papyrologique as described in the previous class about Documentary Papyri; CEDOPAL experimental database “Metens-Pack 3”; Leuven Database of Ancient Books; Digital Corpus of Literary Papyrology; Trismegistos) and consider and discuss the different methods and types of information that you can get:

    • Homeric papyri (papyrological fragments bearing Homeric verses)
    • Quotations of / references to Homer in the papyri
    • Specific Homeric verses (select a verse or a passage of your choice from either Iliad or Odyssey)
  2. SEMATIA ENTRY AND ANNOTATION Choose a Greek or Latin papyrus (any of your liking or from the list provided below) which is available in the Papyrological Navigator and for which you have the possibility to check also the original edition (translations also help). Then add the papyrus to Sematia portal as instructed in class, add writer metadata if possible, and then annotate both layers in the Arethusa annotation environment according to the Guidelines. Then submit the annotations to the Sematia board. If you are new to Treebanking, you might want to start with a relatively short and not-so-fragmentary papyrus.

Suggestions of Greek papyri to be annotated (NB. several people cannot work with the same text in Sematia)

  • bgu.1.100 = Trismegistos 8875
  • bgu.3.701 = Trismegistos 28077
  • p.cair.zen.2.59224 = Trismegistos 869
  • p.col.3.10 = Trismegistos 1731
  • p.col.3.16 = Trismegistos 1736
  • p.mich.1.6 = Trismegistos 1912
  • p.mich.1.97 = Trismegistos 1996
  • p.mich.mchl.23 = Trismegistos 40933
  • p.oslo.2.50 = Trismegistos 25904
  • p.zen.pestm.67 = Trismegistos 1898
Annotation Guidelines
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