creation of digital model of an ancient manuscript – UROP Spring Symposium 2021

creation of digital model of an ancient manuscript

Araceli Rizzo


Pronouns: she/her

Research Mentor(s): Richard Janko, Gerald F. Else Collegiate Professor of Classical Studies
Research Mentor School/College/Department: Classical Studies, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
Presentation Date: Thursday, April 22, 2021
Session: Session 5 (3pm-3:50pm)
Breakout Room: Room 1
Presenter: 7

Event Link


The Derveni papyrus, discovered in 1962, is invaluable in its information regarding religion and philosophy in the 5th century BCE. It specifically provides insight into the religious shift happening in Athens around the time, with growing questioning of the polytheistic Greek religion. The papyrus is, however, largely illegible in its natural state, having been charred before its burial, and broken into pieces during and after. Our team is currently using Adobe Photoshop to assemble a digital model, using photographs of the existing fragments of the scroll. The digital model is still being edited, but we have also begun working to improve the previously-written transcription and translation. This primarily includes comparing the number of letters in the transcription to the number of letters in the images of the scroll in order to find discrepancies where too many or too few letters have been supplied. This, in turn, affects the translation. Our work has yielded the results of an improved model with some significant resizing, as well as alterations in the transcription. Many of these transcription changes have been alterations in contractions, combinations, and elisions of Greek words, though some have affected the translation as well. The translation will advance our understanding of 5th century BCE religious philosophy, while the physical composition of the writing itself is also valuable. It shows the potential to deepen our understanding of papyrus writing techniques and rules of the time. Through many forms of study, the Derveni papyrus offers otherwise unavailable information on belief systems of the time, as well as writing conventions.

Authors: Araceli Rizzo
Research Method: Language Skills

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