Computers Reassembling Ancient Texts

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TEL AVIV, Israel, Oct. 18 (UPI) — A collection of historical texts scattered in more than 70 museums around the world are being “stitched” into a whole using computers, Israeli researchers say.

The 350,000 fragments of the so-called Cairo Genizah include both religious texts and social and commercial documents dating from the ninth to 19th centuries and are considered among the most valuable sources of primary documents for medieval historians and religious scholars.

However, the collection is scattered among 70 institutions worldwide — including libraries in England, Israel and the United States — and scholars are hampered by both the wide dispersal of the collection and their fragmentary condition.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University are working to bring the scattered pages of the texts back together for the first time in centuries.

Lior Wolf and Nachum Dershowitz have developed software based on facial recognition technology that can identify digitized Genizah fragments thought to be a part of the same work and make editorial “joins,” a TAU release said Tuesday.

They are working in conjunction with the Friedberg Genizah Project, which is attempting to digitize most of the fragments of the Genizah collection worldwide.

The researchers say they have already made some 1,000 confirmed “joins,” almost as many as were made in 100 years of traditional Cairo Genizah scholarship.

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