EPAPP Project

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Project description


The aim of the Epidoc project is to develop the principles established by the Text Encoding Initiative, an international enterprise that develops standards for the encoding of textual material in electronic form for research purposes. TEI has provided an early and consistent model of constructive cooperation to establish good practice, and its text-encoding recommendations have become accepted world-wide. These standards have been employed profitably by such important initiatives as the Perseus Project, the Oxford Text Archive, and Documenting the American South. A full list of projects employing TEI can be found here.

Because TEI has developed to cover a wide range of kinds of texts, it is often hard for individuals or projects to select the subset of TEI conventions most appropriate for a given specialized project, particularly when the class of textual material to be encoded has not been systematically addressed by a prior TEI-using effort. Epigraphic texts in Greek, Latin and similar ancient languages constitute just such a specialized class of texts. The need for a standardized schema for platform-independent, reusable digital versions of these texts is already great, and will continue to grow as efforts to build distributed electronic publications systems for ancient studies bear fruit. One might point to the Advanced Papyrological Information System or the Epigraphy and Information Technology plan as examples.

The Epidoc project aims to develop and refine TEI guidelines for the publication of inscriptions in order to streamline the planning process for other digital epigraphic projects and to ensure the highest possible degree of portability and compatibility of data sets produced by such projects. This is in some ways a particularly straightforward procedure, since, over the last 150 years, epigraphers have already developed many standard procedures for the representation of inscribed texts in print. Electronic publication can build on those guidelines, so long as the relationships between this traditional technical approach and the requirements and structures established by TEI are clearly defined, publicly agreed upon and widely promulgated.

The aim of the project is to present TEI-conformant Epidoc guidelines for marking up epigraphic texts in XML, a non-proprietary, platform-independent mark-up language which has been developed by the international scientific and business computing communities. It is increasingly becoming the standard for the presentation, sharing and reuse of information on the Internet, allowing businesses and academic projects alike to work together more efficiently and productively. Because XML is not proprietary, it can be used as a "linking technology" to relate disparate systems already in use without requiring those projects to merge their underlying technological infrastructures or working methods; one important aspect of the Epidoc initiative is to offer the possibility for existing projects to connect with, and use, each others’ data, even when that data is produced and stored in different formats. The essence of the project, therefore, is to establish a code of practice, which scholars can use, if they choose, in the preparation of new projects, and which can expand the capacities of those already in existence.


The site of Aphrodisias in Caria (south-western Turkey) lies near quarries of excellent marble; as a consequence, the site has produced remarkable sculpture, and a very large number of inscriptions. Some texts were copied by earlier travellers but since lost; others are known only as individual objects; but the majority have been found or excavated, during the current excavations by New York University, in the place of their primary or secondary use, and many are associated with buildings or statuary. Charlotte Roueché (King’s College, London), and Joyce Reynolds, F.B.A. (Newnham College, Cambridge) are at present engaged in preparing for publication all the inscriptions recorded at the site until 1994.

In 2000-2 Charlotte Roueché held a British Academy Readership in order to undertake the digital publication of this material; she therefore approached the Epidoc team for advice, and discovered that what the Epidoc team needs to tackle next is precisely what the Aphrodisias project requires. The Epidoc group have concentrated, so far, on the requirements of the epigraphic texts themselves. A further aspect of the project, which still needs to be developed, is the crafting of guidelines for presenting an inscription in its other dimension, as a physical object, located in space, and related to other objects.

The group therefore intends to advance the development of these general guidelines by refining and expanding them for this particular project, which can serve as a testing ground. While there are the remains of some 1,000 texts at Aphrodisias, one group consists of some 230 Late Antique texts, which were published by Roueché in her monograph Aphrodisias in Late Antiquity (Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, 1989). This volume is now out of print, and requires some updating; Roueché therefore undertook an electronic second edition, as offering a very appropriate pilot project for developing the Epidoc guidelines in the way described above. This project was made possible by the provision of a generous Research Interchange grant by the Leverhulme Trust.

The wider outlook

The aim of the Aphrodisias Epidoc project is of course to develop the most modern and effective tools for the immediate task, but also tools that can be of use to other scholars. The organisers are under no illusion that they possess a monopoly of wisdom in these matters. We therefore very much need the advice of other scholars in the field. We also want to disseminate knowledge of what we are doing as widely as possible, so that the tools which we develop can be used by others.

It is therefore of great importance to keep the international community fully involved, and informed, throughout the process, and also to consult a wider group of 'users' than the epigraphic community. It was for this reason that we sought funding under the Leverhulme Research Interchange Scheme, which is intended to encourage just such exchange and dissemination of ideas and good practice.

During 2001-2 we held two workshops, to present our work - one in the USA and one in the UK. We also presented what we have done at the International Congress of Greek and Latin Epigraphy, in Barcelona, in September 2002. The details of these activities are decribed under Calendar.

For another description of the project see G. Bodard and C. Roueché, 'The Epidoc Aphrodisias Pilot Project (EPAPP): Zur Digitalisierung von Inschriften', in Forum Archaeologiae, 23 / VI / 2002 (www.farch.net).




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