Older news is available in the News Archive (LINK).
Although the Jubilees Palimpsest provided the original impetus for the Jubilees Palimpsest Project, it subsequently became clear that the tools of digital archaeology could have a far greater impact if applied systematically to the tens of thousands of unreadable manuscripts already in libraries and museums. The following palimpsests at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, particularly those acquired from the Bobbio, have been identified as the top priority for advanced imaging.
Early Judaism and Christianity
Greek and Roman Literature and Reception
We also believe that some items in the collection that are not technically palimpsests could benefit from advanced imaging. Furthermore, we suspect there may be more palimpsests in the collection than are currently known. Catalogers may not have noted erased text if it could not be recognized or identified. In some cases, digital archaeology can recover text from manuscripts in which the human eye cannot even tell that the erased layer exists.
The images captured and processed by the project are publically available (see section on Permissions below) and comply with open standards for viewing and annotation. There are two basic types of images (with plans for greater convergence on the horizon). The first type consists of static images in a repository following the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) standards (Image and Presentation APIs, LINK). The second type consists of interactive relightable texture images (RTI). Additionally, transcription and translation information is provided in XML as it becomes available (TEI compliance pending). For advanced image processing scientists, the raw data archive is available at palimpsest.stmarytx.edu slash AmbrosianaArchive, but that is not recommended for the vast majority of users.
Mirador Viewer now includes a side panel that allows users to switch and and fade between “layers,” namely the enhanced color from spectral processing and raking light angles.
For pages from Jubilees, the index tab shows the verse numbers preserved on a page, along with the reconstructed page number of the original fifth-century codex, and the page numbers written on the palimpsest codex in modern times.
The annotations tab shows the resources available, including WebRTI images, transcriptions, translations, and line-by-line transcriptions over the images (in progress).
The annotations toggle shows the annotations entered so far, and allows the user to add additional annotations.
Feature lists are constantly changing. Please send updates and corrections to the project director, Todd Hanneken (LINK). For more information see the page dedicated to standards, viewers, and prototypes (LINK).
It is possible to reconstruct the fifth-century codex containing Latin Jubilees and the Testament of Moses even though more than half of it is now lost (LINK). This is possible by extrapolating from quire numbers, the average number of words per page, and comparison with the Ethiopic recension of Jubilees. For each page we know the corresponding lines in Ethiopic Jubilees. For each preserved page we now have advanced spectral images, WebRTI (relightable texture) images, scanned microfilm images (useless for reading, but useful for conservation comparison), the transcription offered by Ceriani (1861), and the translation offered by VanderKam (1989). We also produced an English translation of Ceriani’s introduction in Latin describing the condition of the manuscript and Gryson’s description in French of the codicology of the Arian Commentary on Luke (see About the Jubilees Palimpsest LINK).
This information was used to compose the entry on Latin Jubilees for the Brill Textual History of the Bible. The pre-publisher copy is available here (LINK); the official publication should be consulted for citation.
IIIF Presentation manifests have been created to reconstruct the two older manuscripts erased and resorted to create the eighth century palimpsest, the preserved portion of which is known as Ambrosiana C73 inf. The two older manuscripts are Latin Moses (including Jubilees and the Testament/Assumption of Moses) and the Latin (Arian) Commentary on Luke. These manifests can be browsed in the Mirador Viewer. A IIIF Presentation manifest for eighth century palimpsest, containing portions of Eugippius’ anthology of Augustine, will be created after we identify the best way to represent the need for 180° rotation for some of the pages captured with orientation appropriate to the erased text.
Spectral RTI combines the advantages of spectral imaging (spatial resolution, color spectrum range and resolution, processed enhancements) with the advantages of Reflectance Transformation Imaging (pixel-level texture mapping, interactivity, enhancements). Spectral is helpful for manuscripts because it recovers traces of erased ink indistinguishable to the human eye. Texture mapping is helpful for manuscripts because it can show the outline of an erased letter in the corrosion on the surface of the parchment, as well as other features of accretion (wax, dirt, glue, other deposits) and depression (scores, punctures, dry-point notations).
In 2013–2014 the National Endowment for the Humanities (Digital Humanities Startup Grant) funded a collaboration of the Jubilees Palimpsest Project with the Early Manuscripts Electronic Library and the University of Southern California to test and develop methods to integrate spectral and RTI. The most efficient method uses the standard equipment for spectral and RTI capture and relies on processing to combine the chrominance features of spectral imaging with the luminance features of RTI.
That phase produced:
More information about the Integrating Spectral RTI phase of the Jubilees Palimpsest Project is available on the phase webpage (LINK). See also, “New Technology for Imaging Unreadable Manuscripts and Other Artifacts: Integrated Spectral Reflectance Transformation Imaging (Spectral RTI)” (LINK). For a shorter overview see the entry on “Spectral RTI” planned for the Brill Textual History of the Bible (LINK).
Extended Spectrum is a new processing technique for spectral imaging captures. It utilizes all the captures of spectral imaging (including ultraviolet and infrared) and principal component analysis within the three categories of color natural to the human eye. The result is more natural than pseudocolor but simulates what we would see if human color perception had a wider range and higher resolution. The technique divides the spectral captures into three categories: the shortest wavelengths (blueish), the middle wavelenghts (greenish), and the longest wavelengths (reddish). Principal Component Analysis finds the greatest contrasts in each of the three categories, which are then mapped to the three channels of an RGB image.
Roman-Period Egyptian Mummy Mask from the USC Archaeological Museum in Accurate Color (left) and Extended Spectrum (right).
The 2013–2014 Integrating Spectral RTI phase demonstrated the feasibility of Spectral RTI using open-source software. The ongoing effort is to put the technology in the hands of scholars, museums, and libraries. A three-year project (2016–2019) supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities is making significant progress in this direction.
The Spectral RTI Toolkit oversees all the processing with a graphical user interface (without requiring use of command-line arguments or editing text files). Specifically, the Spectral RTI Toolkit for ImageJ processes captured images into RTI images (PTM, HSH, or WebRTI) with color enhancements for Accurate Color, Extended Spectrum, and PCA Pseudocolor. The Spectral RTI Toolkit is available on GitHub, initially as an ImageJ macro and eventually as a plugin.
Documentation for the complete process of Spectral RTI, including hardware options, capture procedures, processing, and publication, is available online (LINK). The documentation is under active development, and will be updated to when the plugin (not macro) version of the Toolkit becomes available.
The NEH grant will also provide opportunities for on-site training during 2018–2019. Contact the project director, Todd Hanneken (email@example.com) or follow the project on Twitter (@thanneken) to follow the latest development as easy access to Spectral RTI unfolds.
We believe that a permanent center for digital archaeology will create significant added value compared to a series of isolated projects.
We are developing a multi-institution collaboration to achieve these goals. This phase has not yet been funded.
In addition to the Spectral RTI Toolkit described above (LINK), the project is working steadily to improve the techniques of Spectral RTI capture, processing, and dissemination.
For more on the state of the art and future horizons see Todd R. Hanneken, “New Technology for Imaging Unreadable Manuscripts and Other Artifacts: Integrated Spectral Reflectance Transformation Imaging (Spectral RTI).” In Ancient Worlds in a Digital Culture. Edited by Claire Clivaz and David Hamidovic. Digital Biblical Studies 1. Leiden: Brill. The pre-publisher copy is available here (LINK); the published version should be consulted for citation.
All phases of the Jubilees Palimpsest Project include paid student researchers. The vision for the next level of educating the next generation of digital humanists encompasses three categories.
The image repository is only the beginning of the process of discovery and interpretation in the humanities. We envision four channels in which the global community of scholars will be able to contribute to interpreting the images.
We anticipate that the crowd-sourced annotations contributed to the repository will assist but not replace a principal scholarly edition overseen by a single editor. We envision a new generation of scholarly edition utilizing new standards (see MLA Guidelines at mla.org). In particular, we envision major improvements compared to past scholarly editions projects, such as the Discoveries in the Judaean Desert series.
Digital archaeology is the study of ancient things using primarily digital tools. Even as conventional digging-based archaeology increasingly utilizes digital tools such as GPS, satellite imagery, and laser scanners, we use the term for approaches that replace digging in dirt entirely. In that way the “digits” involved are binary code, not ten fingers with dirt under the fingernails. Other than the relative lack of dirt, digital archaeology is one with archaeology in uncovering and interpreting evidence of the past. Formerly, evidence was inaccessible because it was buried; for palimpsests and other illegible artifacts the inaccessibility is due to the limitations of the human eye. Digital technology overcomes these limitations.
Another intrinsic feature of digital information is that it can be duplicated and transmitted losslessly. Whereas the examination of artifacts in conventional archaeology is necessarily entrusted to a small number of archaeologists with first-hand access, digital archaeology is fertile ground for collaboration and crowd-sourcing. The project is committed to maximum open access (Creative Commons licensing) and interoperability (IIIF, W3C Open Annotation, etc.).
The Jubilees Palimpsest is named after the oldest of three texts contained in the erased layer of what now stands as a 144-page codex, unbound for conservation. In the fifth century a Latin translation of Jubilees (originally composed in Hebrew in the 150s BCE) was copied with another work associated with Moses, the Testament (or Assumption) of Moses. In the eighth century, presumably at the Bobbio abbey, that codex was unbound, erased, and recombined with another erased manuscript of the Arian Commentary on Luke. The erased parchment was then used to copy Eugippius’s anthology of the works of Augustine. In the seventeenth century that palimpsest was brought to the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, where it is preserved today. In 1861 A. M. Ceriani published the editio princeps. Additional scholarship on the manuscript was offered by H. Rönsch (1874). After the nineteenth century there were no successful attempts to recover additional text of Jubilees or the Testament of Moses.
See the full page About the Jubilees Palimpsest (LINK) for bibliography and links. Many of the definitive works on the palimpsest are out of copyright and can be downloaded in their entireties from this site or from Google Books. The full page includes the following sections:
The Jubilees Palimpsest Project is committed not only to open access but compliance with standards for interoperability and discovery. This frees the data from the silo of a single website and allows it to be aggregated, viewed, studied, annotated in ways far beyond what can be presently imagined. A separate page on Standards and Tools (LINK) provides links and examples. That page can be outlined as follows:
The following are involved in the 2016–2019 phase, “Spectral RTI Technology for the Recovery of Erased Manuscripts from Antiquity.” See the complete page of people involved in the Jubilees Palimpsest Project for the 2013–2014 phase “Integrating Spectral RTI” and plans for ongoing digital archaeology at the Ambrosiana (LINK).
Todd Hanneken, St. Mary’s University (San Antonio), Project Director, specialist in ancient Jewish literature (stmarytx.edu)
Anthony Selvanathan, St. Mary’s University, Graduate Student Researcher
James C. VanderKam, University of Notre Dame, specialist in ancient Jewish literature (nd.edu)
Annette Yoshiko Reed, University of Pennsylvania, specialist in ancient Jewish and Christian literature (upenn.edu)
Michael Phelps, Early Manuscripts Electronic Library, specialist in spectral imaging and artifact handling (emel-library.org)
Ken Boydston, MegaVision Corporation, President, specialist in digital imaging (megavision.com)
Roger Easton, Jr., Rochester Institute of Technology, specialist in spectral imaging and processing (rit.edu)
Keith Knox, Retired from U.S. Air Force Research Labs, specialist in imaging science (af.mil)
Giulia Rossetto, University of Vienna, specialist in ancient literature and digital humanities (academia.edu)
Matthias Henze, Rice University, specialist in ancient Jewish literature (rice.edu)
The National Endowment for the Humanities: Celebrating 50 Years of Excellence
St. Mary’s University, especially the Edward and Linda Speed Fund
Image of artifacts from the Biblioteca Ambrosiana can be used and reused under the CC BY-NC-SA license. That means the images can be used as long the sources are attributed, derivaties are shared with the same degree of openness, and no commercial profit is derived from the images. Commerical use of images of artifacts owned by the Biblioteca Ambrosiana must be licensed from the Ambrosiana (not the Jubilees Palimpsest Project). The contact for licensing permission from the Biblioteca Ambrosiana is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Everything created solely by the Jubilees Palimpsest Project is licensed under the Creative Commons CC BY-SA license. This includes metadata, documentation, and software created by the project. Images of artifacts from U.S.C. and U.C.L.A. are also available under this license.
Attribution should include at minimum the Jubilees Palimpsest Project and the owner of the artifact (e.g., Biblioteca Ambrosiana, U.S.C., U.C.L.A.). If a named author is required use Todd Hanneken or contact the project director for specifics on persons who contrbuted to creating a particular image.
Some items linked from this site are governed by separate licenses. Examples include the digital versions of public domain books created by Google Books.