Putting together Digital Humanities and Archaeology to reconstruct Late Antique and Early Medieval Egyptian landscape

(Sapienza Università di Roma, Roma, Italy)

Keywords: Coptic Literature, Egypt, GIS, landscape archaeology, data-mining

“PAThs” Tracking Papyrus and Parchment Paths. An Archaeological Atlas of Coptic Literature is an ERC funded project (Advanced programme) committed to create an open access online Archaeological Atlas of Coptic Literature, i.e. an online GIS platform buttressed by a relational database system apt to accommodate data derived from quite different sources.
Archaeology has a long tradition in integrating heterogeneous information, particularly data obtained by methodologies and techniques borrowed from the hard sciences. Yet, information produced by akin disciplines such as philology, literature, social and religious history—fields of studies that are familiar since long time to digital technologies—has rarely been taken into account.
It is tempting, thus, to consider the digital environment as the new methodological common ground able to put again together disciplines that share goals and objectives, but that has walked along different paths. It is not a matter to over-simplify what has been done so far, but to try to provide digital information systems and networks tools able to establish new connections and hopefully new knowledge.
Late Antique and Early Medieval Egypt provides a formidable and extremely rich context, both from the archaeological and literary production and dissemination point of view, particularly suitable for such an experimentation. Indeed, the Atlas is meant to supply a thorough description of the physical and cultural landscape of Egypt between the 3rd and 11th centuries, by illustrating in details the archeological landscape where the Coptic literature was born, circulated and propagated, and—in a second step—by integrating the archaeological data with precious information that manuscripts and text provide. In order to do this it is necessary to further bend and adapt well-known tools like GIS and databases to meet new needs, pointing out and trying to resolve new methodological challenges.

Relevance conference / Relevance session:
Digital techniques are the backbone of a project that interlaces archaeology and philological/literary studies to obtain an original contribution for the reconstruction of the late Egyptian landscape.

The Atlas will be a precious tool for the knowledge of Coptic Egypt, not only for the dynamic archaeological maps, but also for describing the cultural landscape that gave birth to Coptic literature.


  1. Buzi, P, J. Bogdani, N. Carlig, M.C. Giorda, and A. Soldati. 2017. “‘Tracking Papyrus and Parchment Paths: An Archaeological Atlas of Coptic Literature. Literary Texts in Their Geographical Context. Production, Copying, Usage, Dissem…” in Bolletino Del Museo Egizio 1, forthcoming
  2. Buzi, P. 2016 “Early Christianity in the Fayyum: the new contribution of Archaeology”, in VO XIX, pp. 85-96