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The ICS has hosted yearly, week-long EpiDoc training workshops since 2011, and many other similar events have been offered around the world in the past fourteen years. EpiDoc is community of practice and encoding guidelines for editions of ancient texts, in particular inscriptions and papyri, which is widely used by projects that want to benefit from shared tooling, expertise, and the possibility to connect their publications to a growing network of richly encoded ancient documents. There is now a very established practice of teaching the methods and tools of EpiDoc, and around a dozen experienced trainers who take part in workshops (as well as the list of events linked above, see this open access chapter on EpiDoc teaching).

Traditionally, EpiDoc training has been closely tied to the needs of epigraphic or papyrological projects: funded projects have covered the costs of holding workshops, have paid for trainers to support their team, have recruited EpiDoc experts to their advisory boards, or contributed person-hours of paid project staff to participate in running training events. This has been very salutary for the community, made it possible for unfunded scholars and projects to benefit from EpiDoc training, and paid forward the value projects gain from working with an established and well-supported community of practice. (Shout-out to InsAph,, Telamon and IOSPE³, among many others.)

This spring, we are involved in running four EpiDoc training events that experiment with different models.

  • In February, Valeria Vitale and I are offering a four-day workshop at Ilia State University in Tbilisi, Georgia, which will combine an introduction to EpiDoc and exercises in geographic annotation and visualisation for ancient historians and philologists (CFP). These are complementary themes that are both of interest to epigraphists and text encoders, classically trained and otherwise, and can be combined to create a bespoke workflow or publication vector for a large project publishing numbers of texts for which locations of findspots are of interest.

    Georgian Inscription from Bolnisi Sioni Church, South Georgia

  • In March, Valeria, Katie Shields from UCL, and I are running a slightly different kind of workshop at Bilkent University and the British School of Archaeology at Ankara, Turkey. This session will provide epigraphists—studying both Greco-Roman and Hittite texts—with training in both 3D imaging of inscribed objects and text encoding of epigraphic editions. Both this juxtaposition of techniques and the inclusion of Cuneiform scripts in the workshop will be new to me, and I am excited to see how this workshop goes.
  • In April, Simona Stoyanova and I will be joining (former ICS Research Associate) Polina Yordanova and others in Helsinki to teach a workshop combining EpiDoc and morphosyntactic annotation (“treebanking”) of epigraphic and papyrological texts (CFP). This event ties in with the Sematia project, led by long-time collaborator Marja Vierros, and her major Digital Grammar of Greek Documentary Papyri ERC project, and combines two different, not immediately compatible, but extremely complementary approaches to the encoding of ancient primary texts.
  • The main EpiDoc workshop in London (CFP) will this year be co-hosted by Katherine McDonald’s (Exeter) AHRC Leadership grant, and will offer a combination of epigraphic practical and digital skills, including squeeze-making, 3D imaging (photogrammetry and RTI), text encoding and linked data. I hope that this event will come closest to my long-standing ambition of teaching EpiDoc and epigraphic skills in tandem, rather than if the digital were a separate discipline from the philology, and the involvement of Katherine’s grant has enabled us to invite Caroline Barron (Birkbeck), Charles Crowther (Oxford), Benet Salway (UCL), Simona Stoyanova (KCL), Charlotte Tupman (Exeter) and Valeria Vitale (ICS) to collaborate on teaching this wide-ranging course.

Squeeze of a fragment of the Athenian Tribute List (University of British Columbia)

There are a few other EpiDoc training workshops planned in 2019, but these are the four with which I am currently directly involved. That all four of these events are both innovative and methodologically interdisciplinary is I think testament to the essentially interstitial status of epigraphy and related disciplines. The epigraphist is both a philologist, who reads the text as linguistic, literary and historical source, and an archaeologist for whom the text-bearing object and its monumental context are as important for their material culture as for the written words upon them. This combination of approaches and expertise is by no means smoothly applied, and is not always comfortable, but it is essential to the proper reading and understanding of inscriptions. Ideally this leads to collaborative work, with historians, linguists, archaeologists, and digital scholars, working as equals, each contributing expertise to the capture, reading, interpretation, encoding and communicating of the epigraphic corpus.

by Gabriel Bodard