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Abstract: Deciphering ancient and damaged documents is a complex investigative task that papyrologists routinely undertake to extract meaning from the script. Perception and interpretation play an essential role. In this paper, we present methods for transferring to the digital world some of the processes that experts draw upon when interpreting a text, with the ultimate aim of constructing an Interpretation Support System (ISS) for papyrologists.Image-capture and image-processing approaches that reflect real-world perceptual processes have been implemented. In addition, we propose an expansion of a previously built model of papyrological reading and transcription.  We make explicit some of the implicit processes involved in an interpretation effort, using an example where papyrologists developed hypotheses for the identification of a puzzling letter form. Two distinct yet not mutually exclusive approaches to the interpretation task have been identified: the kinaesthetic/palaeographical strategy and the cruciverbalistic/philological strategy. The ISS will have to facilitate both approaches. Mechanisms triggering the emergence of working hypotheses of interpretation, which we call percepts, have also been pinpointed; they include skilled vision, scholarly expectations, aspect shifting and local-global oscillations. Working hypotheses being triggered by such mechanisms can then be exposed as an explicit network of sourced percepts; these mechanisms also confer a qualitative well-foundedness to the percepts and hence help us to retrace and assess the rationale leading to a specific interpretation. [forthcoming in Literary and Linguistics Computing, Special issue on Arts and Humanities e-Science]
Abstract: This paper presents methodologies that have been adopted to enhance the legibility of incised texts, in particular Roman wooden stylus tablets, for which the texts consist of the incisions left in the wood through a now-perished coat of wax originally covering the wood. Digitization of such artefacts is the first step in the development of an interpretation of the document. At this stage, mimesis of the real-world strategy of the classicists is a guiding principle. Taking into account the 3D nature of the document, shadow-stereo and reflectance transformation imaging allow us to capture and to encode multiple images of the text under varying illumination conditions for further processing and visualization. Image processing algorithms were developed to isolate the text features. Background correction is first performed; then ways to achieve text feature extraction have been explored: phase congruency, which exploits the fact that visual features are detected for some properties of local phase of the image in the Fourier domain; and Markov Random Fields, which take a statistical approach to region labelling for image segmentation. Most techniques used here were inspired by approaches adopted by medical image processing. These methods had however to be largely adapted to our specific application; in general, the images of artefacts and their features of interest are not only different from medical images, also the type of visual expertise required to detect the text features differs greatly from that of radiologists. We conclude by observing that by better understanding the nature of the classicists visual expertise, we will further be able to integrate prior knowledge into a model of visual perception adapted to the classicists needs, hence supporting them in building meaning out of a pure signal, in building an interpretation of an artefact. [To appear in Commentationes Humanarum Litterarum,  published by Societas Scientiarum Fennica, 2010]  
This is the final report for the eSAD+VRE-SDM project. This project was a 4 months project that was part of the Engage initiative (http://www.engage.ac.uk/) supported by OMII-UK (http://www.omii.ac.uk/) and the NGS (http://www.grid-support.ac.uk/).