For nearly two millennia, Syriac has been used continuously as one of the most important epigraphic writings of the Christian Near East. The E-twoto project that we are submitting to IRIS-Scripta has the scientific purpose of studying the paleography of Syriac inscriptions over this vast chronological field, from the 1st to the 20th century, starting from a corpus limited to the cradle of Syriac, Edessa (Şanlıurfa, south-eastern Turkey). Syriac inscriptions from this region represent a rare case study to analyze an entire corpus over the full duration of its attestation.
Our aim is to better understand the differences of the shape of the letters from one site to another and their evolution over time; this will contribute to refining the criteria for dating the documents. Until now, Syriac paleography had rather been developed on the basis of the work carried out on manuscripts. Our project aims to broaden the field by including epigraphy, which has been developed since the 19th century. Now that archaeological excavations are increasing in the region of Edessa and leading to remarkable discoveries of inscriptions, the time has come to publish the documents and analyze them by drawing the best out of the resources offered by digital humanities.
Therefore, the funding we are requesting will be used to create a digital tool for the paleographic analysis of Syriac inscriptions, responding to both axis F on “digital scholarly editing” and axis C on “exposed writing”.
This is an innovative and experimental approach that can be carried out in the short term and that should result in a reference tool in the field, taking into account the progress of similar programs, particularly within IRIS-Scripta. The prototype thus designed will be extended in the future to new functionalities, beyond paleography, which will be of use for studying inscriptions in their historical and archaeological contexts. In addition, part of the funds will be devoted to a field expedition in order to gather precise epigraphic documentation for script analysis, OCRisation tests and online digital editing.
Our team, who is in charge of the RIS project in Turkey (Recueil des Inscriptions Syriaques), wishes to exploit a selection of its material in order to contribute to the development of new tools within Scripta. We have already established international collaborations with Turkish and British epigraphists and archaeologists among others, which will make a major contribution both to the development of our project and to its wider reception.