Learning how people lived during ancient times requires piecing together clues likes a jigsaw puzzle. One good source of these clues is the bits and pieces of papyri that have been preserved across centuries. These bits of papyrus may contain a shopping list, a land contract or other information that tells us how these ancient people lived their day-to-day lives.
However, studying these various papyri has been a great challenge given their fragility and difficulty of access. Recently Vis Center researchers collaborated with a team from Duke University to create a new online system for papyrological research. Dr. Joshua Sosin from Duke University and Ryan Baumann from the University of Kentucky were part of the team that worked together on the project called Integrating Digital Papyrology (IDP). The final product is an online editing system for collaborative editing.
The greatest challenge of this project was to make the system user-friendly. In order to create the editing tools, the team had to create a new programming language called Leiden+ which combines XML and papyrological markup language. The system also allows for translation edits for each papyri and for other notes to be made. The user submits the changes to a board that then authorizes the changes to be made.
Allowing easy access for researchers to communicate about revisions for the text accelerates the pace of research. The team hopes that the online system will replace the slow pace of print mechanisms for publishing these papyi. Dr. Sosin points out that given the rarity of these papyri that “every bit of data is deadly precious” which means the online system presents a real opportunity for deepened research for the e-papyrological community.