The Jubilees Palimpsest Project: Digital Archaeology Tools for Discovery and Access to Previously Illegible Manuscripts

November 9, 2017 @ 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm
CLA 1.302B
Department of Middle Eastern Studies

The Jubilees Palimpsest Project is working to advance technologies for the recovery of text from illegible manuscripts through the phases of capture, processing, access, and scholarly collaboration. The project takes its name from the only copy of Latin Jubilees, which is joined by the only copies anywhere of the Testament of Moses and an Arian commentary on the Gospel of Luke.  After the successful imaging of these erased texts in January of 2017, the scope of objects of interest broadened to other significant palimpsests at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, such as Origen’s Hexapla and a fourth-century translation of biblical books into Gothic. A long-term plan to systematically digitize illegible manuscripts is underway.

A major advance in capture and processing technology created by the project is Spectral RTI, which combines the advantages of spectral imaging in color processing with the advantages of RTI in texture and interactivity. The addition of texture imaging can aid the recovery of text—for example if now-missing ink left an outline of corrosion on the surface of the parchment—and much more information about scribal practices from the creation and use of the manuscript.

Todd R. Hanneken, Ph.D., studies the Hebrew Bible in the context of Jewish literature in antiquity, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, the non-canonical books, Josephus, Philo and Rabbinic literature. His publications and presentations focus on apocalyptic literature and the Book of Jubilees, a book that was authoritative among the Dead Sea Scrolls but omitted from European bibles. Hanneken teaches biblical and related Jewish literature in the context of the variety of interpretations in the Jewish and Christian traditions, historical-critical and contemporary-critical approaches. Hanneken is the director of the Jubilees Palimpsest Project, an initiative that uses the latest imaging technology to make ancient books and manuscripts available to the public that have not be readable to the human eye for hundreds of years. His work has been supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Sponsored by: The Department of Religious Studies and the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies

More information: Department of Middle Eastern Studies