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"Somewhere in there there are the lost texts from all sorts of authors."
July 26, 2011 9:31 PM   Subscribe

Ancient Lives is a project by the University of Oxford which asks your help in transcribing fragments from the Oxyrhynchus Papyri Collection using the Zooniverse model. Leader of the project, Chris Lintott, explains the project here in a short interview. Can you help him find his one-eyed astrologer? [Oxyrhynchus previously]
posted by Kattullus (39 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, and GalaxyZoo/Zooniverse previously.
posted by Kattullus at 9:33 PM on July 26, 2011


This is really cool. I've tried it out, but I wonder how they're going to deal with errors from amateur transcribers. I've studied Greek, and even I'm not sure what to do in many cases. Presumably each fragment is examined by multiple people, but then they have the problem of combining multiple transcriptions.
posted by Wemmick at 10:05 PM on July 26, 2011


Here's the page to try your hand at it. I had to refresh the page a few time before I got a fragment with recognizable letters.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:18 PM on July 26, 2011


Well, I sure just screwed up somebody's research.
posted by HeroZero at 10:33 PM on July 26, 2011


I think I might be a liability on this one too - my first two fragments seemed to be blank, and then I was almost certain the third was signed by Ed Norton.
posted by Ahab at 10:44 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


is "one-eyed astrologer" a euphemism?
posted by taz at 12:05 AM on July 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


"I think I might be a liability on this one too - my first two fragments seemed to be blank"

This will happen. For those who don't know, the POxy fragments were literally found in a ancient pile of garbage--these were pieces of paper thrown away.* Plus, parchment margins were incredibly large by modern standards sometimes, so you'll sometimes get all-margin fragments.

If you find a blank fragment, just hit "next."

*Despite this, the first fragment discovered was part of the lost Gospel of Thomas (logia 26-33, if I remember correctly), which is why POxy is so famous and so germane to my research.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 1:07 AM on July 27, 2011


Genius. Funding being what it is I didn't think they'd get through these in my lifetime.

Well, I sure just screwed up somebody's research.

Unlikely. This is an exercise in skimming the collection to see what's there. A papyrologist can squint at X fragments per day, or skim 50X snippets of poorly transcribed Greek text to find a few that deserve close study.

Illegible
Laundry list
Illegible
Illegible
User typed SPAM (sigh, doesn't know what rho is for)
Illegible
Spphokplees Aias Lokros
Illegible
Illegible
...
back up two
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:39 AM on July 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


User typed SPAM (sigh, doesn't know what rho is for)

Ancient Greek spam involved selling rills to make your renis bigger?
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:27 AM on July 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


Any idea what a letter that looks exactly like a modern lowercase "e" is? This is a very clear document and the same letter form is repeated many times. I'd think that it's a theta, but this letter has been drawn as a continuous line starting as a horizontal bar and continuing up and around, terminating before the circle is closed. In contrast, I can see where the scribe has drawn a theta as a circle, lifted his pen, then crossed it with a bar. Unless he writes it both ways?
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:40 AM on July 27, 2011


Could be a theta, could be an epsilon... what are the surrounding letters? It may be identifiable by context...
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:43 AM on July 27, 2011


Here's one especially clear end of a line:
... ΗΝΤΟΙΣΔeΟμe

I've substituted the English lowercase "e" for the unusual letter.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:57 AM on July 27, 2011


OK, that omicron-iota-sigma in the middle looks like a dative plural ending.... so it's an epsilon, I'd say - at a guess, that's the start of deomenois - "to those who are requiring".
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:02 AM on July 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


In case anyone's interested, this may work as a link to the page I'm working on, or perhaps this will.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:36 AM on July 27, 2011


The first one links to you and the fragment, Joe.
posted by taz at 3:54 AM on July 27, 2011


Yeah, that must be an epsilon, surely? right hand column, six lines down, you've got pi-epsilon-rho-iota tau-omega-nu - that is "around the" (plural genitive definite article). And five lines from the bottom on the left hand side is apollumenous, which needs an epsilon where that character is.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:20 AM on July 27, 2011


I have no idea what I'm doing so I am sticking to really obvious letters like T and X and N.

Hopefully THNT is a real word in Greek.
posted by cmyk at 5:09 AM on July 27, 2011


Laundry list

τήβεννος
τήβεννος
τήβεννος
τήβεννος
τήβεννος
posted by griphus at 6:22 AM on July 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I managed to lose that fragment and I can't get back to editing it. Now I'm working on a short one about a farmer(?) called Αρεπω.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:39 AM on July 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've got yer one-eyed astrologer right here.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:50 AM on July 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ancient Greek spam involved selling rills to make your renis bigger?

Only if you are Biggus Dickus.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 7:17 AM on July 27, 2011


This, which had to have got in there by mistake, is my favorite so far.
posted by cmyk at 7:31 AM on July 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


φαλλος μακρος if you please.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:37 AM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


(We're not barbarians)
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:38 AM on July 27, 2011


Hey, it was the barbarians who had the big ugly penises. Greek heroes had proper dainty penises. Look at the pottery!
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:14 AM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would just like to say that we can be useful as amateur transcribers. I transcribed a fragment that had several words, two of which were thessal- and thessalo-. Maybe in a couple of years a researcher will search for that root, and because of the five minutes I spent squinting at the image, they can go straight to it.

I also found a meta-, and though I couldn't read much on that line, several lines below had a nonsense string of characters dtmfa.
posted by Jehan at 8:58 AM on July 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is very cool and makes me wish i'd studied greek instead of latin in university.

My piece seems to have lots and lot of m shapes or badly formed r shapes. I wonder of my writer just had really bad handwriting. Or maybe my pattern recognition just isn't up to the task.

Come to think of it I can't even read my own hand writing sometimes. What with all the typing and texting now days hand writing is a bit of a dying art.
posted by Gwynarra at 9:56 AM on July 27, 2011


          ]dēgarischasni
omechanopoiosmōstachista
katheas[
Hmm, it's all Greek to me.
posted by Jehan at 10:43 AM on July 27, 2011


Jehan, there's a good chance your thessal- and thessalo refer to Thessaloniki (where I used to live).
posted by taz at 11:20 AM on July 27, 2011


Or to Thessalia, the region of Aeolia after which Thessalonika was named - it means "Thessalian victory"...
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:56 AM on July 27, 2011


Shifty looking fella.
posted by Jehan at 12:21 PM on July 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, that brings up another possibility: Thessaloniki, Philip of Macedon's daughter (half-sister to Alexander the Great and wife of Cassander), though it's probably the city that's being referred to. Philip's daughter was actually named for Victory in Thessalia, and then the city was named for her.
posted by taz at 12:50 PM on July 27, 2011


I did the Beta for this. The hardest part is the style of hand writing used and tying that to a character, which is why you'll get examples if you hover over the keys on the lefthand keyboard. It's still a work in process (no examples of the symbols and accents, for instance) and there were times when it clearly wasn't Greek in use. I think they're hoping to just get enough info out of us that they don't have to start from scratch. It'll make the translator's jobs a lot easier.
posted by jwells at 1:04 PM on July 27, 2011


Shifty looking fella.

Grandpa?
posted by homunculus at 4:37 PM on July 27, 2011


Some basics here.

Much of the past work of transcription and translation are on line and make for fun reading. Some of that first link is housed outside of Oxford and not for us little people, which seems a little odd, though I'm sure they have their reasons.

I'm thinking the real breakthrough would be getting the tiny fragments jigsawed into a larger whole, which I suppose computers might help with.

What I'm not clear on is whether all 100,000 fragments have been looked at or if these they want help on really are uncut and unread. I'd be surprised to learn that the larger fragments hadn't at some point merited a brief glance at least. But then again, maybe not.

Also, is it known whether Oxyrhynchus played out, or is there the possibility of more there? How about elsewhere? (And what led the two fellows there in the first place? One doesn't just dig eight feet in the hopes of finding old papyrus. Well, maybe you do if you're a mad Englishman going out in the noonday sun.)
posted by IndigoJones at 4:45 PM on July 27, 2011


I got an actual word!
τυγχανει

Bravo, kattullus!
posted by mahorn at 10:07 PM on July 27, 2011


Rather, a sentence about a dog. A cliffhanger:

κυνη τυγχανει
"The dog happens to"
posted by mahorn at 10:12 PM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Papyri.
posted by taz at 10:36 PM on July 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


And what led the two fellows there in the first place?

Unless I'm conflating my archaeological finds, it was a case of "one of these sand dunes is not like the others".
posted by Casuistry at 8:10 AM on July 28, 2011


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