IOSPE – Participating in a Research Fellowship

This Summer, through June and early July, I felt privileged to be part of a research project named IOSPE, studying and compiling an online database of inscriptions found around the Northern Pontic Region (roughly modern day Crimea). This project meant a lot to me, particularly given its rather unique position as a joint Russian-English enterprise, focused around the academic fields of Epigraphy and Digital Humanities. Russian, Epigraphy, and really any sort of taxing digital work had hitherto been far beyond the scope of my studies, so I was entering into very novel and uncharted territory. Nevertheless, I finished my month’s work on the project feeling proud of what I’d contributed, learnt and ameliorated with regards to my scholarly and personal developments.

IOSPE: What it’s All About

Inscriptiones antiquae Orae Septentrionalis Ponti Euxini graecae et latinae (IOSPE for short) was the name given by V. Latyshev to her endeavour to collate inscriptions around the North Coast of the Black Sea from 1885-1901. Today, IOSPE the project spearheaded by Russian archaeologists and epigraphers with the aid of King’s College, London (so affiliated to add an English element to an existing Russian project, with intent to make the findings more accessible to a wider readership) and with a multiplicity of international sponsors, has renewed efforts to study the inscriptions scattered across this region. 

With an anthropological timeline of Greek colonies dating from as early as the 7th Century BCE to the fall of Constantinople in 1453 CE, the evolution of a diverse culture in the Pontic region is well worth exploring. Findings include lapidary, ceramic, metal and even bone inscriptions, with lengths ranging from small graffiti and diptini to longer state decrees and funerary passages.

My Introduction to Digital Classics

So, I certainly think that the project to compile these findings is worthwhile, and the specific means by which I assisted in this objective really was very interesting. In succinct terms, I had to become familiar with XML (Extensible Markup Language) and the language of Epigraphy – in this case the Krummrey-Panciera sigla, and those of the Leiden Convention. 

IOSPE Leiden Cheatsheet
G Bodard’s KP-EpiDoc conversion chart

With the relevant terminology of these under my belt as it were, I could interpret the epigraphic findings sent from the sites of the inscriptions and convert them into XML files. Every word was tagged according to their category (person, place, numeral et al.) and the epigraphic sigla (lacuna, omissions, restorations etc.) had to become XML code. With this done, inscription by inscription, the website could be developed as they were now able to be uploaded to the project online.

I have also completed a more thorough reflective essay pertaining to my experience and work within the IOSPE project:

KURF 2016 Assessment Project

The project itself is still in progress, but here is the link to the website in its current stage of development:

I look forward to monitoring its progress, and feel proud to have contributed even a little. Digital Studies seems a very natural progression in academia and I urge prospective academics to at least look into this sort of thing for the future.

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