Schriftenmetric – Digital Palaeography and Scroll Reconstruction (Part IV.2)

It has been sometime since I posted in this series. Before we dive back into the topic at hand, please indulge me for a moment by allowing a quick update.

To bring you up-to-date, my family and I have since left Germany and relocated back to North America. I was offered an opportunity to extend my contract at the University of Goettingen by two months, but I turned down the offer. Whereas we really enjoyed our experiences of living abroad in Germany, we are excited to be back. There were many things I enjoyed about Germany—the scenery, the villages, the trains, some of the people—but I am elated to back in an environment where academic ethics and standards are of the highest quality. I’ll elaborate on my experiences in Germany in more detail in another series of posts. For now, let’s get back to our topic.

Getting Back on Track

Since it has been sometime since the last post,1 allow me to restate the problem(s) and how I propose to solve it in this series of posts.

The Problem of Reconstruction(s)

If you were given the following transcription, what could you surmise about the material status of the artefact?

1QSa II 11-12

We might suspect that the brackets indicate a portion where the manuscript was somehow missing, but we are not able to understand much else. The dot above the letters informs us that the editor encountered some sort of complication, but we do not and cannot get a sense of the material status of the artefact. How do we know the text reconstructed between the brackets is correct? Should we concern ourselves with reconstructions? What methods of analysis can we use to answer these issues of philological concern? Answers to these questions rest in the name, Schriftenmetric. Schriftenmetric is a method I have developed that utilises computational methods to reconstruct fragmentary documents. As a method of computational analysis, it requires reconsidering issues of editorial and hence interpretive concern for understanding Second Temple Judaism.

Schriftenmetric: A New Editorial Method to Reconstruct Fragmentary Manuscripts

I have given several presentations on Schriftenmetric throughout the past several years. I described my methodology in greater detail in my doctoral thesis, From Ink Traces to Ideology: Material, Text, and Composition of the Qumran Community Rules. For those interested in the finer details of the methodology, I plan to publish my doctoral thesis in the coming months (or contact me here and we can talk further). Put simply, Schriftenmetric is a new method of material reconstruction that embraces computational methodology. As such, it is an interdisciplinary methodology that breaks new ground by utilising Computer Vision algorithms, Neural Networks, Statistics, and Information Technology to solve problems in humanitarian study of material culture. Thus, Schriftenmetric requires that we transition from the analogue methods of DJD—as presented above—to a more advanced presentation of manuscripts.

In the next post, we resume our study of 1QSa col. 1 and 2, which is, as I argue in my dissertation, better considered 1QS 12 and 13! Meanwhile, please skim through the previous posts of this series to refresh your memory. The next post will start to unpack some issues related to Fonts, Encoding, and Databases.

  1. As a reminder, the previous posts are easily accessible here.

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