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Crossing Boundaries: Understanding Complex Scribal Practices in Ancient Egypt

English title Crossing Boundaries: Understanding Complex Scribal Practices in Ancient Egypt
Applicant Loprieno Antonio
Number 182291
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Departement Altertumswissenschaften Universität Basel
Institution of higher education University of Basel - BS
Main discipline Ancient history and Classical studies
Start/End 01.03.2019 - 28.02.2023
Approved amount 1'076'044.00
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All Disciplines (5)

Discipline
Ancient history and Classical studies
Archaeology
Prehistory
Applied linguistics
Other languages and literature

Keywords (9)

online publication platform; learning algorithms; Ancient Egypt; virtual reconstruction; handwriting analysis; Deir el-Medina; papyrus; scribal practices; linked open data

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
“Crossing boundaries” widmet sich der Untersuchung einer Gruppe hieratischer Papyri aus dem ägyptischen Dorf Deir el-Medina (1300-1000 v.Chr.), die im Museo Egizio (Turin, Italien) aufbewahrt werden. In dieser Gruppe “heterogener” Papyri tritt auf demselben Schriftträger mehr als eine Textgattung (Hymne, Brief, Rechung, usw.) auf.
Lay summary

Das transnationale und transdisziplinäre Projekt “Crossing boundaries” widmet sich der Untersuchung einer Gruppe hieratischer Papyri aus dem spätbronzezeitlichen ägyptischen Dorf Deir el-Medina (1300-1000 v.Chr.), die im Turiner Ägyptischen Museum aufbewahrt werden und die wir als «heterogen» bezeichnen, weil auf demselben Schriftträger mehr als eine Textgattung auftritt: literarische Texte, religiöse Hymnen, Briefe, administrative Urkunden, usw.

Die Forschungsarbeit am Projekt wird an drei wissenschaftlichen Zentren durchgeführt: an der Universität Basel und an der Université de Liège findet die inhaltliche Bearbeitung der Texte statt, am Museo Egizio di Torino erfolgt die Bereitstellung des Materials sowie dessen open access Publikation. Transdisziplinär ist das Projekt “Crossing boundaries” deshalb, weil unterschiedliche methodische Perspektiven zur Beantwortung der zentralen ägyptologischen Fragestellung – jener nach Kompetenz und Performanz ägyptischer Schreiber – herangezogen werden. Zum einen die material studies und die digital humanities: Die Fragmente heterogener Papyri werden dokumentiert und digital rekonstruiert, ihre textuelle Vielfalt wird untersucht und die Zahl der Schreiberhände identifiziert. Zum zweiten die Informatik: Wir versprechen uns einen besonderen Beitrag zur Beantwortung unserer Fragestellung von der quantitativen Einbettung der heterogenen Papyri in die textuelle Dokumentation aus anderen altägyptischen Archiven, aus Deir el-Medina und anderswo. Zum dritten versteht sich “Crossing boundaries” auch als Vorhaben im Bereich des Kulturmanagements: die Schriftträger werden vom Museo Egizio im Rahmen des Projektes open access publiziert und unmittelbar nach ihrer Bearbeitung der wissenschaftlichen Community zur Verfügung gestellt.  

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 16.12.2018

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Project partner

Publications

Publication
Crossing Boundaries: Understanding Complex Scribal Practices in Ancient Egypt (with a 2019 Progress Report)
Polis Stéphane, Gabler Kathrin, Müller Matthias, Sojic Nathalie, Töpfer Susanne, Unter Stephan, Greco Christian, Loprieno Antonio, Hertel Elena, Pietri Renaud (2020), Crossing Boundaries: Understanding Complex Scribal Practices in Ancient Egypt (with a 2019 Progress Report), in Rivista del Museo Egizio, 4, 10.
«A Vizier’s (Maybe not so) New Pieces of Furniture in the Renaissance Era: The Drawings and the Texts of P. Turin Cat. 2034 in Context»
GablerKathrin, MüllerMatthias (2020), «A Vizier’s (Maybe not so) New Pieces of Furniture in the Renaissance Era: The Drawings and the Texts of P. Turin Cat. 2034 in Context», in Gabler Kathrin (ed.), Widmaier Verlag, Hamburg, 117-150.
Les listes de maisonnées de Deir el-Médina (“Stato civile“): Nouveaux fragments de l’Ifao et localisation de l’archive d’une lignée de scribes
DemaréeRobert J., DornAndreas, PolisStephane (2020), Les listes de maisonnées de Deir el-Médina (“Stato civile“): Nouveaux fragments de l’Ifao et localisation de l’archive d’une lignée de scribes, in BIFAO, 120, 171-220.

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
3. Swiss Day for Papyrologists Individual talk Progress Report Crossing Boundaries 02.10.2020 Neuchâtel, Switzerland Gabler Kathrin;
Virtual Research Environments and Ancient Manuscripts, Lausanne Talk given at a conference Crossing Boundaries between Humanities and Informatics – Egyptian Papyri as a Case Study – based on the Ramesside Hieratic Papyri from the Museo Egizio 11.09.2020 Lausanne, Switzerland Loprieno Antonio; Hertel Elena Luise; Gabler Kathrin; Unter Stephan;
Binsenweisheiten IV: Hieratisch des Neuen Reiches: Akteure, Formen und Funktionen Talk given at a conference Crossing Boundaries. Understanding Complex Scribal Practices Based on the Ramesside Hieratic Papyri from the Museo Egizio 10.12.2019 Mainz, Germany Polis Stéphane; Gabler Kathrin; Müller Matthias; Töpfer Susanne; Unter Stephan;
10. Basler & Berliner Arbeitskreis Junge Ägyptologie Individual talk Transforming Fragments Into Documents: Was können Maschinen aus und mit hieratischen Papyri lernen? 30.11.2019 Basel, Switzerland Unter Stephan;
2. Swiss Day of Papyrology Individual talk Crossing Boundaries: Understanding Complex Scribal Practices in Ancient Egypt 15.11.2019 Zurich, Switzerland Gabler Kathrin; Unter Stephan;
XIIth International Congress of Egyptologists (ICE) Poster Crossing Boundaries. Understanding Complex Scribal Practices in Ancient Egypt 07.11.2019 Cairo, Egypt Polis Stéphane; Gabler Kathrin;
Ancient Egyptian Written Culture in Perspective Individual talk News from an Old Collection. Divinations in the Unpublished Fragments of the Museo Egizio (Turin) 11.10.2019 Budapest, Hungary Polis Stéphane;
Registres graphiques. Questions sur la scripturalité égyptienne Individual talk Registres graphiques et genres littéraires. Mythes et réalités d’une corrélation entre forme et contenu en hiératique ramesside 06.09.2019 Paris, France Polis Stéphane;
52. Ständige Ägyptologenkonferenz (SÄK) Poster Crossing Boundaries 05.07.2019 Basel, Switzerland Müller Matthias; Gabler Kathrin; Loprieno Antonio; Unter Stephan;
Computerizing Handwritings: Current Approaches on Historical Documents Individual talk Usage of Machine Learning on Ramesside Papyri at the Museo Egizio, Turin 27.06.2019 Basel, Switzerland Unter Stephan;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Video/Film Crossing Boundaries in Home Office International 2020
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Homepage Crossing Boundaries International 2019

Awards

Title Year
First Prize for “Best Poster” at the SÄK 2021 52. Ständige Ägyptolog*innen-Konferenz (SÄK) in Mainz 2021
European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards 2020 2020

Abstract

Many aspects of ancient Egyptian scribal culture are still poorly understood: previous research in the field mostly focused on the content of the texts when striving to reconstruct literary compositions, to explain historical events, or to describe the administrative and judicial customs. The time has come for a contextualised interdisciplinary approach of the written material, so as to get a grasp on the scribal practices of the individual agents producing those texts. Crossing the epistemological and methodological boundaries between traditional disciplines such as archaeology, papyrology, palaeography, prosopography and textual scholarship, the present project sets out to understand the life of a particular category of complex documents: the so-called ‘heterogeneous’ papyri which bear several texts belonging to various genres (such as, for instance, accounts, poems, hymns and letters). This category of papyri has never been studied as a coherent whole - rather, individual papyri were merely used as convenient quarries for collecting additional witnesses of literary texts, or specific pieces of information for thematic studies. They are, however, of primary importance for the study of the wide competence and the performance of ancient scribes at work, both synchronically and diachronically.In this project, we target specifically the very rich papyrological material that stems from the village of Deir el-Medina - the Pompeii of ancient Egypt -, which housed the families of the workmen who built the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings and the surrounding necropolis during the New Kingdom (c. 1350-1000 BCE). This highly literate community produced an unparalleled quantity of texts and inscriptions and is undoubtedly the best laboratory to observe scribes at work in ancient Egypt. Building on existing collaborations between the partners and capitalising upon a memorandum of understanding between our respective institutions and the Museo Egizio (Turin, Italy), which holds the most important collection of papyri coming from this site, the five main goals of our research project are (1) to identify and to document the fragments of heterogeneous papyri in the Turin collection; (2) to piece the fragments together and to reconstruct the original documents digitally; (3) to study the variety of texts attested on each papyrus, to assess the numbers of scribes (hands), and ultimately to suggest individual scenarios and generalizations concerning the history of these documents; (4) to enrich the results with data coming from other ancient Egyptian archives of heterogeneous papyri from Deir el-Medina; and (5) to broaden the perspective by comparing, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the data from Deir el-Medina with complex scribal practices of other periods and places in ancient Egypt.All the steps of this project will be supported by state-of-the-art digital resources, such as the Turin Papyrus Platform, the Thesauri and Ontology for documenting Egyptological resources, Deir el-Medina Database, and the hieroglyphic corpus Ramses Online, that will be connected and further integrated in order to meet our specific goals. These Digital Humanities resources are strongly committed to open access. As such, our results will be published on a dedicated website resorting maximally to linked open data; the new software solutions developed within this project will be made available open-source; and the ensuing publications will be accessible on institutional open access repositories.The project ‘Crossing Boundaries’ is expected to have a major impact on three main levels: (1) from a cultural heritage point of view, it will lead to the reconstruction of a sizable quantity of ancient Egyptian papyri, currently fragmented in the Turin collection; (2) from a digital humanities point of view, new learning algorithms and a dedicated interface will be developed to piece together hundreds of fragments of papyri, a solution that could be applied to many other similar collections; (3) from a cultural history point of view, significant new insights about Egyptian scribal culture will be gained through the project, which will demonstrate that, from very early on, writing was a deeply social and contextualised practice where mixed categories of knowledge (administrative, legal, historical, religious, or literary) could be instantiated on a single document and mastered by individual scribes.
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