Inscriptions of Israel Palestine Inscriptions of Israel Palestine


The Inscriptions of Israel/Palestine project seeks to build an internet-accessible database of published inscriptions from Israel/Palestine that date between ca. 500 BCE and 614 CE, roughly corresponding to the Persian, Greek, and Roman periods. The purpose of this database is to provide a tool that will make accessible the approximately 15,000 relevant inscriptions published to date, and will include substantial contextual information for these inscriptions, including images and geographical information. The data is tagged according to Epidoc conventions and we are exploring ways to link the database with other projects, such as Pelagios.

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These inscriptions are an invaluable resource for historical investigation, for they provide information that is frequently not available in the extant literary texts. Recently, for example, scholars have used these inscriptions to:

Yet despite their importance, these inscriptions have never been collected; they have been published individually or in small collections, in different languages, frequently in obscure journals. To compound the problem, many of the actual stones and mosaics upon which the older publications were made are no longer extant, and some inscriptions that can be checked have been shown to have been misread. There is a project underway now to collect and reedit these inscriptions (the Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae. This project complements that one, providing an accessible tool for searching and machine-analyzing these inscriptions.

The goals of this project are (1) to collect these inscriptions in one place; (2) allow for this data to be integrated with other contextual information that would open new avenues of scholarly investigation; and (3) to allow for easy access to it.


The project began in 1996 at the Institute for Advanced Digital Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia as a prototype under the name "Inscriptions of the Land of Israel". Although that project has been decommissioned, the Document Type Definition developed for it (in SGML), with modifications, continues to anchor the project. The project moved briefly to Indiana University in 1999, where the DTD was converted to XML and a second prototype (also now decommissioned) was produced.

The project moved to Brown University in 2002, and soon went into production under the auspices of the Scholarly Technology Group, now reorganized as the Center for Digital Scholarship.


Data and Mark-up

The texts are extensively marked-up as part of their addition to the database. We are using the Epidoc schema and Guidelines to mark up our inscriptions. Epidoc is a customization of the Text Encoding Initiative schema that was developed specifically for marking up inscribed objects. Rather than treating the text as the primary object (with the goal of moving it relatively easily to publication), our mark-up treats the inscribed object as primary. The metadata, which is specified with great detail to allow for database-like searching, is all put into the Header. The Header contains information such as type of object; date range; locations (present, find, and original); type of inscription; language, etc.). Individual "div" sections contain the diplomatic and edited version of the texts, in their original languages, and an English translation. The source of each is always acknowledged.

The Epidoc schema allows for detailed mark-up the transcriptions themselves. Presently we only mark textual and editorial features; content such as names, places, occupations, etc., will be added (perhaps in part through automated processes) at a later stage.

Technical Specifications

Each inscription is entered as a separate XML file using standard XML editing software (mainly oXygen XML Editor). The bibliographic references currently reside in a separate database in Zotero (each with its own unique ID) referenced by the inscription XML files.

The files live on a pre-production server until they are preprocessed (involving mostly the removal of Greek accents to enable more accurate string searches) and uploaded onto the production server. We are developing a plan for archival preservation in collaboration with the library.

Inscriptions may be accessed via an API. [Read More]


Project Organization and Workflow

The project is under the direction of Professor Michael Satlow. Day to day operations are handled by a full-time project manager, Gaia Lembi, who directs a team of student encoders. Encoders follow an extensive set of guidelines when they prepare their data. The project manager checks the records before uploading them to the production server where they remain invisible until approved by the project director.

Institutional Support

Current support for this project comes from generous funding from the Goldhirsh-Yellin Foundation and Brown University. The Center for Digital Scholarship at Brown provides technical support. Elli Mylonas is our technical director. If you wish to support the work of the project, please contact us!

Present Condition, Challenges, and Short-Tem Goals

We currently have about 2,500 inscriptions entered, mostly taken from corpora written in English. There are a few much smaller collections to enter before moving on to collections in other languages (especially Hebrew) and publications from journals.

While we are currently focused on basic data entry, we are also experimenting with incorporating images (which is potentially logistically and politically complex) and geographic data.

Our Approach to Copyright

The Inscriptions of Israel/Palestine (IIP) project follows a long tradition of reprinting scholarly editions of epigraphical material with appropriate attributions. Our policy of using copyrighted material thus does not appreciably differ from that of the Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum and other collections of inscriptions. We use other copyrighted material (e.g., images and maps) only with permissions. We further enhance the value of this data by correcting obvious mistakes; tagging the content, and reframing the inscriptions to allow them to be seen in new and shifting ways.


This collection is compiled under the guidelines of fair use, as laid out in Section 107 of the U.S. copyright law. This section defines fair use as meeting the following criteria:

All sources are attributed, and users are urged consult these original sources. For a further relevant legal argument regarding the copyright of reconstructed ancient texts, see David Nimmer, "Copyright in the Dead Sea Scrolls: Authorship and Originality," Houston Law Review 38 (2001).

The copyright for all scholarly contributions remain with the contributors, although by publishing their contribution here they assign to IIP a non-exclusive and permanent right to display these materials, as well as rights to any work IIP staff contributed unless otherwise specified.

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Inscriptions of Israel/Palestine by Inscriptions of Israel/Palestine is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.