Micole Khemarrica (khromat) wrote,
Micole Khemarrica

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An interesting distraction

Among my many interests is Egyptology, writings, fonts, and to some extent language.  Recently, a quick blurb on the BBC website got my attention: There is a massive collection of ancient papyrii dated from the Greek Period in Egypt that Oxford has opened to the public after a century of sitting in a storeroom.  Using a sophisticated website and photographing all the various pieces, Oxford University is allowing everyone to get involved in bringing these texts back to life.

The Ancient Lives Project asks for your help to translate the thousands of scraps found from a country town called Oxyrhynchon polis.  The website presents you with a random scrap of papyrus and the tools needed to transcribe and measure each piece.  Using humanity's ability of pattern recognition, you just select a shape and then assign it to one of the greek letters (they even have papyrus examples to show the variations of each letter).  Eventually, if you're lucky, enough letters get transcribed that the system will present you with a translation.  It could be anything: a grocery list, gossip, letters to the editor, literary texts, etc. 

What's fascinating is that you get a glimpse of the average Egyptian life and even something about themselves through their writing.  I've already seen examples of formal and informal writing, greek letters written in a flourish, and even cursive.  And if you can't read a scrap, or want to try a different piece, you can click "next" and a new scrap will appear.  If you have an account (it's free) and start transcribing a scrap, it'll be saved so you can recall it later. No pressure, no complex process, just a simple game of recognizing characters that you can do in your spare time -- or, like me, while something is chugging away at work.
Tags: egypt, greek

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