A computerized solution for the epigraphic survey in Egyptian Temples

Abstract : Defined as ‘‘an auxiliary science to History that studies the inscriptions on enduring substances'', epigraphy calls for very varied methods and disciplines. These all imply a preliminary operation: the survey and copying of the decoration engraved or painted on walls, columns, etc. This stage is essential in understanding and reconstituting ancient monuments, because cartouche friezes and ritual scenes give information on the date of a given temple or on the nature of the activities that took place in it. Nowadays, epigraphic surveys are still for the most part done in a traditional handmade fashion, while computer-aided epigraphic surveying is only used for simple tasks, such as drawing the contour of hiero- glyphic signs on scanned photographs. The epigraphy of monuments includes scenes and texts. In both cases, the hieroglyphic signs engraved are made up of complex segments and curves, which must be accurately surveyed and recorded. Each hieroglyphic sign has not only a unique geo- metrical shape, but also a morphology proper to a given alphabet and a precise sense. What has been mostly done up to now deals essentially with the graphic form of signs and relegates their interpretation to an ulterior analysis. On the contrary, the method proposed here gathers data on the meaning and the geometrical shape of each sign. This will finally lead to statistical studies on the hieroglyphs' form, to automatic translations of the texts, and to the search for missing elements, based on geometrical as well as textual criteria. Our approach is not only adapted to the treatment of plane surfaces, but for the development of conical surfaces as well, so as to be able to survey the inscriptions of columns. The purpose of this paper is to present the computer tools that we have developed to draw and to record the shape and the meaning of the hiero- glyphic inscriptions of walls and columns of temples, using the Egyptian temple of Amun-Ra in Karnak as our case study.
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Elise Meyer, Pierre Grussenmeyer, Claude Parisel, Jean Revez, Temy Tidafi. A computerized solution for the epigraphic survey in Egyptian Temples. Journal of Archaeological Science, Elsevier, 2006, 33 issue 11, pp.1605-1616. ⟨10.1016/j.jas.2006.02.016⟩. ⟨hal-00112418⟩

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