Egyptian Writing "Scanned" Using High-Tech Methods

September 8, 2006

Jean Revez studies old things, but that doesn't make him wedded to old ways.

The professor of Egyptian history at the University of Montreal in Canada is developing one of several emerging techniques for electronically recording and interpreting ancient stone inscriptions.

Today most archaeologists record writing and other architectural details using pencils, pens, and paper, "tools that are really quite ancient," Revez said.

In his vision of the future, epigraphists—archaeologists who study inscriptions—will rely instead on digital cameras, specialized computer software, and their dexterity with a mouse.

The new techniques will enable scientists to study ancient writing in unprecedented detail—and possibly preserve monuments that are being steadily eroded by the sands of time.

Lighten the Labor

The first site that might feel the impact of Revez's efforts is the Temple of Karnak, which stands on the banks of the Nile River near the modern city of Luxor (map of Egypt).

Karnak's great hypostyle hall, Revez said, "is perhaps the most spectacular courtyard in all of Egypt." (Related wallpapers: the Temples of Luxor.)

Peter Brand of the University of Memphis in Tennessee leads an archaeology team at the hall.

"We use the traditional method of pen and ink" to record inscriptions, Brand said. "It's a laborious process."

On polyester tracing paper placed over photographic enlargements, Brand and his team draw shapes first in pencil and then, after corrections have been made, in pen.

Drawing software that's already on the market can substitute for pen and paper, Brand says, but the task is no less arduous.

Continued on Next Page >>


SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES

ADVERTISEMENT

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC'S PHOTO OF THE DAY

NEWS FEEDS     After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.   After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.

Get our news delivered directly to your desktop—free.
How to Use XML or RSS

National Geographic Daily News To-Go

Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. No wires or syncing. Download Stitcher free today.
Click here to get 12 months of National Geographic Magazine for $15.