Welcome to d-scribes and EGRAPSA website 

This website was created for the SNSF Ambizione project "Reuniting fragments, identifying scribes and characterizing scripts: the digital paleography of Greek and Coptic papyri" (September 2018 – May 2023).

The exploratory work investigated in d-scribes project will be pursued in a larger and more complex perspective with the SNSF Starting Grant project EGRAPSA: Retracing the evolutions of handwritings in Graeco-Roman Egypt thanks to digital palaeography" (June 2023-May 2028)

Visit d-scribes showcase to see the annotation work done on papyri from Dioscorus archive and PalEx for papyri bearing Homer's Iliad. The project has also released a software enhancer called HIERAX and created a mailing-list to gather interest in Digital Paleography. Outcomes of d-scribes project are also accessible on the SNSF Data Portal.

EGRAPSA summary:

Papyri preserved by the dry climate of Egypt are an unparalleled source of information on the Ancient World. Around 80,000 papyri written in ancient Greek have already been published, covering a millennium between the time of Alexander the Great and the Arab conquest of Egypt (end of 4th c. BCE to early 8th c. CE). However, their large number, their diversity and their current dispersion have impeded a comprehensive grasp of their nature and content. In particular, palaeography, as the study of handwritings that has the potential to unveil who, where and when a text has been written, still relies on experts’ assertions which rarely reach consensus. New technological advances in Computer Science allow now building the big picture of the writing culture of Greco-Roman Egypt and developing scientific analyses of scripts. The goal of EGRAPSA project (literally "I have written" in Ancient Greek) is to provide a new theoretical framework to the palaeography of Greek papyri. Starting from sound evidence, it aims at retracing the evolutions of handwritings, generating a model that, in turn, can contribute at organizing the papyrological documentation in a coherent panorama, improving the solidity of dates and writer identifications made on palaeographical grounds. The ground-breaking dimension of the project is not only in its scope that encompasses the entire papyrological documentation in its complexity, and in its conceptual approach to make sense of the plurality of scripts by discerning evolution phenomena but also in its methodological choice to measure similarities and explain evolutions by focusing on the reconstruction of the dynamics of writing, thus to literally re-trace handwritings.

D-scribes summary:

Greek and Coptic papyri preserved in the sands of Egypt are one of our main sources for Classical and early Christian literature. They are also crucial for the field of Ancient History of the Eastern Mediterranean world, as the texts found written in them span from the Hellenistic period to the Middle Ages. The papyri are often incomplete, however, broken accidentally during the course of time or, in more recent periods, intentionally cut to be sold in pieces in the antiquities market. It is precisely because of the fragmentary nature of these irreplaceable texts that paleography, the study of ancient handwritings, is of great importance to papyrologists. First, paleography helps to identify the specific handwriting of one individual over several fragments. Secondly, it provides dating arguments in the absence of other criteria, since Greek and Coptic scripts have developed consistently over time.

The present research project aims to lay the foundation for an online interface through which papyrologists would be able to look for similar – or identical – handwritings to a given papyrus and for typical samples of writing for a given period. To reach this ambitious goal, this project first focuses on three distinct and complementary case studies:

See also I. Marthot-Santaniello, “D-scribes Project and Beyond: Building a Virtual Research Environment for the Digital Palaeography of Ancient Greek and Coptic Papyri”, ed. Claire Clivaz and Garrick V. Allen, special issue, Classics@ 18,