27 August 2009

Technology: Hebrew writing found under Arabic

In Israel, the computer science and humanities departments at the Ben-Furion University to read historical Hebrew documents, overwritten by Arabic.

The documents being worked on at BGU are degraded texts from sources such as the Cairo Geniza, the Al-Aksa manuscript library in Jerusalem, and the Al-Azar manuscript library in Cairo. Many of the original Hebrew texts found in the Cairo Geniza have been scratched off, and the parchment re-used to write an Arabic text.

University computer scientists developed a way to search electronically, letter by letter for similarities in handwriting to help determine the texts' date and author.

One example detailed in the story concerned a book from the Geniza, now in Italy, but originally a siddur (Jewish prayer book). It had been rewritten as an Arabic text, and the goal was how to read the first book (in Hebrew), which meant they had to find a way to "disappear" the Arabic text and leave only the original Hebrew characters.

To solve the problem, the text is covered in a dark grey color, which then highlights lighter colored pixels as background space and identifies the darker pixels as outlining the original Hebrew lettering.

Read the complete article here in the Jerusalem Post.

1 comment:

  1. Eric F6:30 AM

    very cool - determined individuals recovering the past - reminds me of genealogists!