The Study of Hands on Greek Inscriptions: The Need for a Digital Approach
This note presents a short history of the study of hands in Greek epigraphy and suggests a new methodology for that work. The study of hands can offer a powerful means of dating fragments and enabling joins and associations of pieces that go together. The considerable time required to study a hand, however, and the problem of access to the inscriptions pose formidable obstacles to progress. In addition, as in any field of stylistic attribution, subjectivity remains an inevitable complicating factor. Computerization may offer a way forward. Scholars in epigraphy, mathematics, and computer studies have collaborated to develop two methods for mapping the lettering on inscriptions and then comparing the mapped samples to identify hands. They have successfully distinguished with 100% accuracy six hands on 23 separate fragments. This is a real breakthrough and the first time that the identification of a Greek writer has been realized via digital means. Computers offer the potential to automate the process and set the study of hands on a more objective footing.