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Digitizing Literary Treasures Leads To New Finds

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the bits-and-scraps dept.

Books 132

storagedude writes "The WSJ has a cool article on how the race to digitize literary treasures has led to a trove of new discoveries. Quoting: 'Improved technology is allowing researchers to scan ancient texts that were once unreadable — blackened in fires or by chemical erosion, painted over or simply too fragile to unroll. Now, scholars are studying these works with X-ray fluorescence, multispectral imaging used by NASA to photograph Mars and CAT scans used by medical technicians ... By taking high-resolution digital images in 14 different light wavelengths, ranging from infrared to ultraviolet, Oxford scholars are reading bits of papyrus that were discovered in 1898 in an ancient garbage dump in central Egypt. So far, researchers have digitized about 80% of the collection of 500,000 fragments, dating from the 2nd century B.C. to the 8th century A.D. The texts include fragments of unknown works by famous authors of antiquity, lost gospels and early Islamic manuscripts.'"

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FP (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27886859)

Good, now put them online.

Re:FP (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27886933)

Oxford scholars are reading bits of papyrus that were discovered in 1898 in an ancient garbage dump in central Egypt.

Meh, how good can they be if this is the stuff that was thrown out?

Lets look for the ones that people thought were worth saving;-)

Re:FP (5, Interesting)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887061)

Well doesn't that bring to mind the original principle of censorship, not to protect the people but to protect the leaders from wrath of the people. One might wonder whether more truth might be found in an ancient garbage dump than in a ancient royal library.

Re:FP (5, Informative)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887299)

Well doesn't that bring to mind the original principle of censorship, not to protect the people but to protect the leaders from wrath of the people. One might wonder whether more truth might be found in an ancient garbage dump than in a ancient royal library.

Actually if you want to know what you might find in an ancient garbage dump just look at Pompeii most of the stuff to be found at the walls or ruins are pornography, ancient advertisements (especially for hookers) and political graffity.
So nothing really changes!

Re:FP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27887363)

Most not all.

Maybe there were also comments for the "popular" leaders of the day?

Dumpers (5, Interesting)

Steve Franklin (142698) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887307)

Indeed.

And keep in mind what was going on at the time: The religion of Mithra was growing in the West; the Gnostics were a force to be reckoned with in Egypt; and the followers of the 1st Century BC Yeshu(a) the Nazar were slowly morphing into the so-called Christians. We may finally get a glimpse of the true historical origins of Christianity unvarnished by the official Church authorities, before and just after Constantine took the major religions of the Roman Empire and merged them into a single syncretistic faith.

Re:Dumpers (2, Interesting)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887339)

Actually the glimpse always has been there, all we get is probably some texts known but lost in history.
Everybody interested into history might have gotten access to the most important texts of that era way before 1800 they never were lost and all the christian roots were known in the old historians books from the roman era!
But what is lost definitely are important works by ancient authors!
But I guess most you can get is profanity in documents freshly scanned! The ancient world was way more open to sex than we are today!

Re:Dumpers (2, Insightful)

Steve Franklin (142698) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887421)

A good point. And the digitization work of Google has refreshed awareness of the meaning of surviving texts studied by the antiquarians of the 19th Century, especially the more heretical characters like Rev. Robert Taylor.

Re:Dumpers (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27889753)

"The ancient world was way more open to sex than we are today!"

**********

I have trouble believing that the ancient world had any different stance toward sex than we do today. After all, there is an ocean of pornography available today which does not define the public's attitude toward sex. Imagine what historians of several centuries in the future will think when they find that "archeological treasure trove" of bukkake, goatse, and tubgirl?

Isn't there a reason why we have cliche's about prostitution as the oldest profession, and infidelity as the most popular reason for murder? I think it far more likely that human attitudes toward human sexuality have been *relatively* constant throughout history.

Re:Dumpers (2, Insightful)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#27890865)

Imagine what historians of several centuries in the future will think when they find that "archeological treasure trove" of bukkake, goatse, and tubgirl.

Do we have any digital media that lasts that long? I don't think any of those are very prevalent in longer-lasting media such as paper, wood, stone, or plastic. So unless we find new ways to read the corrupted data much like what WSJ is doing with the manuscripts, most of our illicit material will decay.

Isn't there a reason why we have cliché's about prostitution as the oldest profession

How does this mean the ancient world wasn't more open about it?

Re:Dumpers (4, Funny)

Smivs (1197859) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887757)

Keep in mind what was going on at the time: The religion of Mithra was growing in the West; the Gnostics were a force to be reckoned with in Egypt; and the followers of the 1st Century BC Yeshu(a) the Nazar were slowly morphing into the so-called Christians.

Ah, I remember it well. It seems like only yesterday.

Re:Dumpers (2, Funny)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887859)

Methuselah! Is that you? Fancy meeting you here on slashdot! Only this morning I was thinking I wonder what old Methu is up to these days? Remember that time we threw that Roman in the tepidarium? Good times, so what's new?

Re:Dumpers (2, Funny)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888303)

Leto II, you old bastard! How's that whole "pearls of awareness" thing working out for you?

Re:Dumpers (1)

The Archon V2.0 (782634) | more than 5 years ago | (#27890231)

Leto II, you old bastard! How's that whole "pearls of awareness" thing working out for you?

... aaand...

Methuselah! Is that you? Fancy meeting you here on slashdot! Only this morning I was thinking I wonder what old Methu is up to these days? Remember that time we threw that Roman in the tepidarium? Good times, so what's new?

Is it wrong of me to think that, while both of these posts are amusing, they're downright hilarious when stuck next to each other?

Re:Dumpers (2, Funny)

bob.appleyard (1030756) | more than 5 years ago | (#27889375)

Your UID is way too high for you to be making such grand claims.

Re:Dumpers (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#27890919)

...1st Century BC...

Ah, I remember it well. It seems like only yesterday.

Yesterday? It was only an hour or two ago for me. Your must play at Epic speed.
Oh, that reminds me: I need to start upgrading my Warriors and other melee units. Except the Spearmen, of course.

Re:FP (3, Funny)

jamesh (87723) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887129)

Meh, how good can they be if this is the stuff that was thrown out?

You're kidding right? (of course you are :) Just imagine the sort of stuff that's going to be in the rubbish!

. Report cards that kids didn't want their parents to find
. Shopping lists
. Angry letters that were written and then thrown out as a form of symbolism
. Overdue bills
. Drafts of existing legendary documents (It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times, etc)

Re:FP (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887301)

I love that Simpsons reference. Thanks for making me laugh.

Re:FP (2, Insightful)

Steve Franklin (142698) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887359)

Papyrus was valuable at the time. Shopping lists would have been written on pieces of broken ceramics, not on papyrus. And even overdue bills can be instructive. Remember, most of the Minoan Linear B documents are just warehouse records.

Re:FP (1)

initialE (758110) | more than 5 years ago | (#27889457)

Shopping lists and bills are definitely items of interest in archaeology, imo. There is no better way to understand a way of life than in what people spent their money on.

Re:FP (1)

meyekul (1204876) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887393)

Well obviously the egyptians didn't have the X-ray fluorescence and multispectral imaging to read them, so of course they got thrown away.

Re:FP (4, Insightful)

Petrushka (815171) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887599)

Good, now put them online.

Do ten seconds' googling and you'll find it was done long ago [163.1.169.40] (notice the turn-of-the-century character of the website; believe me, it used to be worse).

Well, it's been partly done. That link only gives digitised images of the papyri that have been published in hardcopy so far -- i.e. the first hundred-odd years of publications. It'll take another few hundred years to finish publishing the Oxyrhynchos papyri.

On the other hand, actually reading the material -- here's [163.1.169.40] a sample of someone practising their handwriting, see how you get on with reading it -- will still be considerably more trouble than it would be if you simply went to a library and looked at a printed text.

Either way, of course, you'll have to learn ancient Greek first. Alas, if you want a translation, you're out of luck. I'm sure Oxford University would be glad if you want to donate the millions of pounds it would require to translate the entire corpus, ... translation isn't cheap. It's simply more economical to impose an entry requirement for studying the material, viz. a knowledge of ancient Greek (and of Hellenistic palaeography), than it would be to find non-existent funding for a translation.

MOD PARENT UP (2, Insightful)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887797)

As to a translation, IANAC(lassicist), but I expect that OCR coupled with machine translation algorithms would be just the ticket to give the interested masses a glimpse(*) at the contents. This could be a nice PhD topic for a number of CS and classics graduates.

(*) unlikely to be good enough for scholars, but at the very least a worthy PR exercise.

OCR isn't there yet. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27888013)

IANAC, but IAA Palaeographer, Codicologist and Medievalist, and I work on many projects involving the transcription, edition and sometimes translation of ancient texts. The technology you speak of isn't there, and I wonder if it'll ever be there.

OCR's great, and handwriting recognition can be made to work with sufficient training. But handwriting styles before printing often involved abbreviation (in highly inflected languages too, which means that their expansion is dependent not only on grammar, but on the sense). Moreover, in pre-printing handwriting, often the shape of the word matters less than the motion of the pen that it describes, so OCR as such wouldn't work -- you'd need Optical Word recognition. The only problem there is that before the 17th Century, the notion of orthography (aka proper spelling) was very fluid. Finally, all these parameters: abbreviation style, character and word formation, spelling, all have a range and style that is heavily dependent on the scribe and time involved. Since we have (for computing purposes) very little data, the piece being scanned helps define those parameters.

Even top experts in the field read texts wrong from time to time. Even for a machine to produce a quick-n-dirty transcription (to say nothing of translation) would be an expensive proposition that would have to be extensively checked and corrected by an expert. At that point, I could just transcribe it myself much faster and more accurately.

So I'm saying that my job is safe for the time-being, since it's still several orders of magnitude cheaper to have trained experts transcribe and translate than to figure out how to teach a computer to do it (and the applications are wider).

glyph recognition (1)

pbhj (607776) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888011)

It all seems pretty clear. A lot of the glyphs are recognisable to me, I've holidayed in Greece, studied physics and so can read the modern greek alphabet enough to use look up greek translations. As I'm a noob I'd have thought a greek scholar could just read that off.

I'd have thought that the letters could be used in a Greek version of recaptcha? Then it's just down to machine translation, or am I wrong?

Oxyrhynchus (5, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 5 years ago | (#27886873)

As someone who majored in Classics as an undergraduate, I've long been captivated by the massive papyrus finds finds at the Oxyrhynchus site in Egypt. The site has been well-explored for over a century, and many of the papyri have already been deciphered and published. The Biblical texts there have gotten the most attention, but one shouldn't neglect the important literary finds as well. See Bowman's Oxyrhynchus: A City and its Texts [amazon.com] for a nice introduction. Over the last few years, there's been more work with using new technologies to examine manuscripts that otherwise can't be deciphered. Classics may seem an unsexy and superseded field, but in fact with digital technology the field is living in exciting times.

Re:Oxyrhynchus (2, Insightful)

wisty (1335733) | more than 5 years ago | (#27886891)

Classics sounds a lot like biology then. Information theory, statistics and fast cheap computers have opened up a lot of fields for math geeks. It seems that physics is not longer the only academic application of mathematics.

Re:Oxyrhynchus (1, Troll)

siloko (1133863) | more than 5 years ago | (#27886901)

the field is living in exciting times.

The field may be living in exciting times, unfortunately that doesn't make the field exciting!

Re:Oxyrhynchus (1)

dnix (831940) | more than 5 years ago | (#27886957)

technology improve your life, cultural heritage improve your quality of life...

Re:Oxyrhynchus (1)

siloko (1133863) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887027)

cultural heritage improve your quality of life...

. . . as does a sense of humour . . .

Re:Oxyrhynchus (2, Funny)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887593)

Troll? The guy was just joking. I mean, look at this recent exciting find (in Ancient Greek):

Things I Need
-------------
bread
fish (fresh not the day-old stuff)
snail
brain of goat
flour (weevils removed)
sheepskin condom
cow dung

Re:Oxyrhynchus (4, Insightful)

TFer_Atvar (857303) | more than 5 years ago | (#27886943)

In addition to Oxyrhynchus, significant finds have been made at Herculaneum and Pompeii. There's a decent story here [byu.edu] about those. The problem (and I suspect it's a common one) is that texts carbonized enough to require advanced recovery techniques aren't recognized as texts by non-professionals. I recall reading a story about 19th-century archaeologists finding a bunch of carbonized lumps in their excavations of Pompeei and Herculaneum. Believing them to be ancient foodstuffs, they examined and discarded them. In the late 20th century, similar but smaller finds were made and identified to be scrolls. Just imagine how much was lost to history due to the disposal of those innocent-looking lumps! And I have to wonder what we're missing out on now because of some future archaeological advancement.

Re:Oxyrhynchus (3, Insightful)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887361)

Chances are 99.99% that ancient porn was lost

Re:Oxyrhynchus (1)

Vu1turEMaN (1270774) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887915)

I bet that someone from /b/ could find it for you...rule 34 my friend. And if they fail, they'll just rule 35 it.

Re:Oxyrhynchus (3, Insightful)

DingerX (847589) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888023)

...you obviously haven't read the Graffiti at Pompeii [orbilat.com]

Re:Oxyrhynchus (2, Informative)

Petrushka (815171) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887723)

In addition to Oxyrhynchus, significant finds have been made at Herculaneum and Pompeii.

If those ones take your fancy more than the ones from Oxyrhynchos -- and there are some good reasons why they might -- you might find it useful to have these links at your disposal:

  • Oxyrhynchos papyri [ox.ac.uk] site (Oxford) -- here's [ox.ac.uk] some info on the imaging process, but I think it's rather out-of-date and only covers basic photography in the visible spectrum
  • more up-to-date info [cs.hut.fi] on more advanced imaging techniques, with regard to papyri from Bubastos
  • the Philodemus Project [ucla.edu] , dedicated to the most important ancient author to be discovered from carbonised books found at Herculaneum

For texts, the Big Two sites are Oxyrhynchos and Herculaneum (though, IIRC, the idea of using multispectral imaging for damaged manuscripts was first got from trying to decipher the Dead Sea scrolls).

What's distinctive about Herculaneum is the finding of the works of the philosopher Philodemos, as noted above. Editions have started to appear in the last two decades; I think there's at least one translation available. Oxyrhynchos is overall much more important, though. Oxyrhynchos doesn't have a Philodemos, but that's more than compensated for by the sheer quantity of papyri -- in the first century of publication only about 1-5% have been edited and published so far, and that isn't because they've been slacking off. No complete literary works have emerged from Oxyrhynchos -- but we do have gajillions of letters to a relative who lives in the next town over, contracts, land deeds, shipping lists, shopping lists; but also a few bits of literary stuff -- tiny bits of lost plays, about a thousand lines of an otherwise lost epic called the Catalogue of Women, heaps of pieces of texts of which we already had complete copies, and other odds and ends. And yes, in response to the sibling post, ancient porn too. (Well, I know of one sex manual by Philainis, at least.)

Catalogue of Women (2, Funny)

KwKSilver (857599) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888001)

Bits & pieces of the Catalog of Womenor Eoiai have been around a long time for example [wikipedia.org] . One edition of Hesiod includes the Catalog as well as Theogony and Works and Days. It would be interesting if the whole thing, which I gather to have been about 5000 lines of which we have perhaps 1000, could be reconstructed. Opening invocation (from Wikipedia):

Sing now of the tribe of women, sweet-voiced Olympian Muses,
daughters of aigis-bearing Zeus: those women who were the noblest,
and had sex with gods.

I can see the headlines: "Ancient Scandals Involving Gods and Mortal Women Exposed at Last!!!"

Re:Oxyrhynchus (1)

He who knows (1376995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887879)

We always miss stuff that future archaeologists can find. The Victorians are a good example of this, They simply mapped buildings and found small finds but destroyed much evidence we can collect nowadays. This is always going to happen till we stop digging and use techniques like geophysics.

Re:Oxyrhynchus (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27887109)

A crude goatse [goatse.fr] depiction was also found there.

Re:Oxyrhynchus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27887227)

I would have modded this Funny, but already posted in the thread.

Apply sarcasm here.... (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887679)

You Pirates!!!
The Author's Guild will be in touch as soon as they are done with Google!

All joking aside, I'll bet it is exciting times, and I wish you all well.
*said with envy*

Re:Oxyrhynchus (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888527)

> The Biblical texts there have gotten the most attention, but one shouldn't neglect the
> important literary finds as well.

IMHO the literary material is far more important and interesting.

Better not show those "Lost gospels" to the church (0, Flamebait)

jonwil (467024) | more than 5 years ago | (#27886939)

Don't want the church to try and bury anything that discredits the bible the way they did to the discoveries of Jean-Francois Champollion in Egypt in the 1820s

Re:Better not show those "Lost gospels" to the chu (5, Informative)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887001)

Don't want the church to try and bury

Which church? There are thousands of denominations which reject non-canonical gospels.

The popular media perpetuates this myth that non-canonical gospels reveal truths suppressed by mainstream Christianity. That's just not the case. Even non-Christian historians find most non-canonical gospels less reliable as history than the canonical gospels, being written still decades later and are often by their own admission non-historical.

English translations of many non-canonical gospels have been pretty easily available for a 100 years already. Churches aren't conspiring to keep them in the dark. If they have been little read, it's because they really aren't worth much.

Re:Better not show those "Lost gospels" to the chu (3, Informative)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887281)

Well to the media a conspiracy theory sells better than the plain truth...
Please also tell that to Dan Brown before he spills out his next badly researched book full of historical errors!

Those gospels have been known for ages and have been omitted in the 5th century for many reasons one of them in many cases was that they were unreliable and often written by third parties trying to promote an agenda. Have in mind early christianity was split way more than we are today and everyone could run his/her religious and monetary agenda on top of the religion.
Often those gospels also were folk tales written down which can be attributed to the area of folk legends nothing more!

Re:Better not show those "Lost gospels" to the chu (1, Interesting)

bogjobber (880402) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887469)

in many cases was that they were unreliable and often written by third parties trying to promote an agenda...Often those gospels also were folk tales written down which can be attributed to the area of folk legends nothing more!

And how, exactly does this differ from the Catholic-approved books? I'm not trying to be insulting here, just making a point. The Pauline epistles are letters written to various peoples arguing specific aspects of early Christian theology. The gospels include many aspects that were part of common Middle Eastern "folklore" (the messiah, virgin birth, resurrection, consumption of flesh, the Logos/Arche, etc.).

Re:Better not show those "Lost gospels" to the chu (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887531)

Well for one some of the gospels at least back then could be dated exactly to persons surrounding jesus followers, and others omitted clearly showed up way later then the one canoninized or clearly showed gnostic influences which crawled up way later in christianity. I dont know too much about the early history, but the entire council of Nicea is well documented and written philosophical texts way before that so a person with good historical and religious background can give you more insight why exactly the gospels we have today were canoninized but my assumption goes towards, those were the most historical correct ones, you partially can prove that today by trying to date them back, some of the gospels we have today were canonized within the first century after the death of crist while others not making it into the canon came after 200 bc!
But anyone with a good historical background can give you more insight on this. But rest assured that the gospels which made it in can be taken more seriously than the rest which is floating around, which sometimes has heavy gnostic influence or influences from other religions and which most of the times came way later!

Anyway the canonisation is always a problem, even the Moslems who always say their book is 100% correct are at fault here. First of all Muhammad has rewritten parts of the canon during his lifetime, secondly the canonisation happened as book a few generations after Muhammad before everything was written down in leather scrolls. So who can gurantee that nothing was added or altered, after all a few generations after Muhammad the islam already was an established political force with Muhammads heirs being the ones profiting most from it!

So in the end there always is a certain factor of believe, and in the end it is only the message that counts!

Re:Better not show those "Lost gospels" to the chu (0)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887633)

>>>some of the gospels at least back then could be dated exactly to persons surrounding jesus followers

False. The oldest gospel only dates to circa year 80, fifty years after Jesus' death. So whoever wrote that book/gospel is equivalent to someone writing a biography about Kennedy, a man I've never met, know nothing about his personal life except whispers from neighbors, and don't know what he looked like (there were no photographs in ancient Israel).

Basically I'd be writing fiction, not history.

Re:Better not show those "Lost gospels" to the chu (1)

inasity_rules (1110095) | more than 5 years ago | (#27889229)

Depends on the scale of impact your subject had on the world at the time. Its no quite logical to compare Christ to Kennedy. Kennedy was not a religious figure, let alone considered to be God (a higly contoversial claim and therefore hotly debated). Your analogy doesn't quite hold up. In that light I'd tend to disagree with you.

Re:Better not show those "Lost gospels" to the chu (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#27891175)

The oldest gospel only dates to circa year 80, fifty years after Jesus' death.

Paul was killed in 60-65 A.D, or 27-35 years after Jesus' death. He is the main character in Acts, and since Acts cuts off rather abruptly at the end without covering things such as his execution, it is reasonable to assume Acts was written before that. Acts is the second half of a two-parter, Luke being the first half. And Luke uses some parts from Mark...

Re:Better not show those "Lost gospels" to the chu (1)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888331)

The gospels include many aspects that were part of common Middle Eastern "folklore" (the messiah, virgin birth, resurrection, consumption of flesh, the Logos/Arche, etc.).

Other than the whole "messiah" thing those are Greco-Roman religious aspects, not Semitic.

Re:Better not show those "Lost gospels" to the chu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27887483)

Please also tell that to Dan Brown before he spills out his next badly researched book full of historical errors!

Ahh. Another one who doesn't understand the differences between "fiction" and "non fiction".

Those gospels have been known for ages and have been omitted in the 5th century for many reasons one of them in many cases was that they were unreliable and often written by third parties trying to promote an agenda. Have in mind early christianity was split way more than we are today and everyone could run his/her religious and monetary agenda on top of the religion. Often those gospels also were folk tales written down which can be attributed to the area of folk legends nothing more!

And how exactly is that different from the other "accepted" gospels?

Re:Better not show those "Lost gospels" to the chu (3, Insightful)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887605)

Please also tell that to Dan Brown before he spills out his next badly researched book full of historical errors!

Ahh. Another one who doesn't understand the differences between "fiction" and "non fiction".

I do but DB obviously doesnÂt if you follow his interviews. I once made the mistake to open his latest books alone in the description of the time of Constantine and the Council of Nicea he made several historical mistakes intermixing events which often occurred within 150 years!
Just to prove his point.
I dont have a problem with him doing that, my problem with him is that he then talks in front of the camera how long he has researched and he is right on things, while the history books say clearly he is wrong.

Those gospels have been known for ages and have been omitted in the 5th century for many reasons one of them in many cases was that they were unreliable and often written by third parties trying to promote an agenda. Have in mind early christianity was split way more than we are today and everyone could run his/her religious and monetary agenda on top of the religion.
Often those gospels also were folk tales written down which can be attributed to the area of folk legends nothing more!

And how exactly is that different from the other "accepted" gospels?

You can see that by the historical dates, in which area the gospels can be attributed to and which philosophical context they are. A gnostic gospel for instance easily immediately can be ommitted because gnosticism never made it into christianity before 100 AC also you pretty much have the date of the first occurrence of each gospel and other non canonized texts by historical letters preserved until today.

Re:Better not show those "Lost gospels" to the chu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27887775)

You can see that by the historical dates, in which area the gospels can be attributed to and which philosophical context they are. A gnostic gospel for instance easily immediately can be ommitted because gnosticism never made it into christianity before 100 AC also you pretty much have the date of the first occurrence of each gospel and other non canonized texts by historical letters preserved until today.

Yet "accepted" gospels that were written 50-200 years after Christ are A-OK in your book. Gotcha. No double-standard there. No sirree bob. And politics and agendas had nothing to do with which ones were accepted either....

Re:Better not show those "Lost gospels" to the chu (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 5 years ago | (#27889083)

In case of Gnosticism yes, almost all church leaders omitted gnosticism, as I said it is a meta religion which also found its way into christianity long after the religion was founded, the early christian texts definitely were non gnostic and Gnosticism basically emerged after 100 BC and constantly was seen as heretic by all other christian philosophers and church leaders, because some of its aspects broke extremely with the already established christian doctrine (like seeing god as evil being or trying to push the devil at the same level with god etc...)

Re:Better not show those "Lost gospels" to the chu (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888279)

I agree, DB writes great fiction, there is no need to market it as factual like he tried to do with da vinci code.

Re:Better not show those "Lost gospels" to the chu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27889839)

Dan Brown is nothing more than the next generation of Whitley Strieber--did anyone actually believe that good ol' Whit was telling the truth about his alien abduction experiences IN A NOVEL when he made a (poor) career out of being a HORROR NOVELIST.

It's PR at it's finest, moreso because Brown didn't have a dozen books already behind him when he started the Da Vinci Code nonsense. Whatever people think of his character or his books, I have to give him credit for working over the media and the public the way he has.

I mean, really, BRAVO...even Slashdotters are talking about this!

Re:Better not show those "Lost gospels" to the chu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27891139)

You're absolutely spot on! Except Dan Brown realized that religious nuts are among the easiest to con of them all.

Re:Better not show those "Lost gospels" to the chu (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887695)

Dan Brown doesn't bill his books as historical fiction. The publisher sort-of does, but in radio interviews Mr. Brown presents his books as an expose of the Vatican.

Re:Better not show those "Lost gospels" to the chu (1)

Steve Franklin (142698) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887401)

"Non-canonical gospels"? As opposed to pre-Christian Gnostic and related texts that shed light on the true origins of Christianity? Talk about using a razor blade to make subtle distinctions. And while we're on the subject, the digitization of 19th Century antiquarian works has brought back into the public debate ideas that are supported by surviving ancient texts but ignored by modern archaeologists who would rather dig up a pot than read a text in Greek or Coptic.

Re:Better not show those "Lost gospels" to the chu (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887565)

"Non-canonical gospels"? As opposed to pre-Christian Gnostic and related texts that shed light on the true origins of Christianity?

Wrong, Gnosticism was sort of a meta religion which existed outside of Christianity when it arrived at the scene, remember first christianity started as a judaic side religion.

Gnosticims made it into Christianity to my knowledge after 100 AC as one of the influences which influenced christianity heavily, the other was greek pholosophy like stoism. There are well documented disputes of early christian philosophers and the entire gnostic angle of early christianity is well documented!

Have in mind such things are normal when you dont have a clear canon nor a central religious authority. Heaves, simply look at all the splits protestantic churces had the last 300 years to having no central religious authority. So assume this tenfold in early christianity, with Arianism, Trinitarism running wild, later even Gnisticism came to the mix. And everyone was working on his/her own canon or stories.

What you can do in such a situation is try to make a canon which tries to be as accurate as possible in its historical roots and omit newer ones. The biggest issue back than AFAIK was the split between Trinitarism and Arianism, which was finally resolved in the council of Nicea, Gnostic sects always were seen as non christians by the bigger streams of early christianity and were rather late to the table!

Re:Better not show those "Lost gospels" to the chu (2, Insightful)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887417)

They don't have to conspire to hide it as most hardcore Christians are good at blocking valid information from their mind without outside help.

You are kidding, right? (0, Flamebait)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887055)

Have you ever tried to argue with a fundamentalist?

Anything that disagrees with their point of view is wrong. That is all. Seriously.

And if you think that evidence that Jesus was really a pedophile would really make a difference, you are wrong. They don't care, but the fact that you bring it up is reason for them to hate you.

Fundamentalists are proof to the world that Satan does, in fact, exists.

Re:You are kidding, right? (5, Interesting)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887357)

Fundamentalists are proof to the world that Satan does, in fact, exists.

You bring up a good point, the best way to poison the good roots of any religion is to grow fundamentalists. Those usually are the people who kill others for some stupid parts of something they do not understand while the core message is, do not kill people, do not harm others.
The funny thing is fundamentalists are exactly those Jesus fought against in the bible in the sections where he constantly broke jewish law for the sake of helping others. It was constantly that he tried to give a message of freedom to the people while the fundamentalists tried to frame him for not following their law of trying to lock the people into myriads of rites they have to follow!

Wonder (5, Interesting)

spanky the monk (1499161) | more than 5 years ago | (#27886941)

I sometimes wonder of our knowledge of great people events and stories from the past; we only know about the ones that were documented or were very famous. Imagine what fantastic times may have existed that history has just forgotten.

Digitization seems to be uncovering some of these.

Re:Wonder (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887285)

Well the biggest problem is that hand written artefacts date back to early babylon but not older, I doubt we will rediscover something significant history wise giving us new knowledge, but we will rediscover some known lost books.

Re:Wonder (2)

rts008 (812749) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887737)

Yeah well, history has always been written by the victors.

Having said that, this news is 'news' indeed.
And, you have a valid point that your imagination could be achieved:

Imagine what fantastic times may have existed that history has just forgotten.

Don't ever let anyone take that from you, kiddo!

That's how many of these questions get answered...by people like you.
"Imagine what/if..." is a very powerful 'spell' to cast, and has brought us a long way!

not only papyrus (2, Interesting)

dnix (831940) | more than 5 years ago | (#27886949)

Computation power, advanced in physics and chemistry and IT improvements not only are helping in digitize literary treasures but also helps curators, historians and normal people to better understand, study, interpret works of art in general. Multispectral applied to paintings reveal hided drawings, xray on pottery or statues give us the exact position of internal pieces and 3D is occupying a role more and more important in documentation and as communication tool.

Jesus (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887011)

That is very interesting. Maybe they find evidence of the existence of Jesus, or maybe text about his life that were written when he was still actually on Earth.

Re:Jesus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27887149)

here let me sum up the rest of the comments:

IDIOTS
NO, XYZ
NO, ZYX
but faith!
but reason!
or belief!
or science!

ect... how dull.

Re:Jesus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27887225)

I wish they find some proof for the FSM.

Re:Jesus (1)

The Archon V2.0 (782634) | more than 5 years ago | (#27890317)

I wish they find some proof for the FSM.

All we need to do is send a drawing of the FSM back in time. Tell you what, we'll split the labor.

(Doodle doodle.)

Okay, I drew the FSM. You get the time machine and we'll be all ready to go!

Re:Jesus (3, Insightful)

psychodelicacy (1170611) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887257)

There is already evidence for the existence of Jesus - the fact that he was an historical figure is pretty much accepted. Proof that he was actually God - now, that would be the big thing! It's not going to be found, though, for one of two reasons:

a) If it were proven, there would be no more need for faith, and that would undermine the whole raison d'etre of religion.

or

b) It isn't true.

I subscribe to b); YMMV.

Re:Jesus (1)

FernandoTorres (1499759) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887279)

I don't agree that there is evidence for Jesus existence - not credible evidence anyway.

Re:Jesus (4, Insightful)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887325)

Actually even in early christianity there were two strong philiosophical roots one Arianism just said Christ was not god but a messenger from god, the other one was the Trinitarism was the one chosen by the council of Nicea.
Now take it with a grain of salt, Muslims basically reject Christianity because of trinitarism and follow more the course of early Arianism in their view of god, while many catholic mystics had visions which basically fortified trinitarity.

But in the end, is it really important, I always saw such things as things which distract people from the core of the message which over all this mumbo jumbo seems to be forgotten, and the message is one of peace, forgiveness, trying to help others and no violence!

(This is one of the reasons why I feel so uneasy among many christian groups they simply do not represent the message, I am christian myself, often those who shout loudest we are so holy are the worst by ignoring the core of the message!)

Fire Extinguisher warning.... (2, Funny)

rts008 (812749) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887889)

Wow!
I mean, wow!
I was ready to jump in this thread to deposit my 'two cents' worth as a Buddhist, but this caught my attention first.

But in the end, is it really important, I always saw such things as things which distract people from the core of the message which over all this mumbo jumbo seems to be forgotten, and the message is one of peace, forgiveness, trying to help others and no violence!

Very well done! If I wore a hat, it would be 'tipped' in your direction.
Thank you for an 'intelligent' and rational comment in the favor of religion. Not easily done on /., but appreciated when pulled off.

That was an effective 'stroke to the heart' of many religious fundamentalist's main arguments defending their agenda while abandoning the core 'cause'.
Again, wow!
And thanks for the lesson!(really-no sarcasm filter needed) That was timely for me.

Forgetting that fact**, or letting it get 'lost in the shuffle' is the one thing we seem to excel at as a species, unfortunately.
Hopefully we will overcome that trait someday.

*doffs 'virtual hat' in MemoryDragon's direction*

**the 'quote' from your post

Re:Fire Extinguisher warning.... (1)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888381)

That was an effective 'stroke to the heart' of many religious fundamentalist's main arguments defending their agenda while abandoning the core 'cause'.

No, it was a stroke against Christian fundamentalists. Other religions have different messages.

Re:Fire Extinguisher warning.... (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 5 years ago | (#27889119)

That was an effective 'stroke to the heart' of many religious fundamentalist's main arguments defending their agenda while abandoning the core 'cause'.

No, it was a stroke against Christian fundamentalists. Other religions have different messages.

Fundamentalists are pretty much the same in every religion, just look for instance at the Taliban, they probably would even have killed Muhammad if they had encountered him, as disbeliever!
While one of the core message of the Qran is at least tolerance to others who believe into the book (jews and christians) they Taliban even kill other Muslims because they do not believe into the same fraction of Muslims as they do!

Re:Jesus (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888721)

But in the end, is it really important, I always saw such things as things which distract people from the core of the message which over all this mumbo jumbo seems to be forgotten, and the message is one of peace, forgiveness, trying to help others and no violence!

The whole mumbo-jumbo is the reason why I quit believing in any god. If there was a god he would not have so many people suffer in his name. You could say that in a way the violence in the name of God or Allah is proof that they don't exist.

Re:Jesus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27890565)

You make a very important point that many need to understand. However, it is important for one's salvation to understand that Jesus died for one's sins and accept him as one's savior.

Of course, if one really accepts Jesus as one's savior, then he will follow his commands to love one another, etc. At least, that's what the Bible says. e.g. "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Re:Jesus (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888165)

There is already evidence for the existence of Jesus

Where? What credible physical evidence, or first hand accounts of Jesus are there?

the fact that he was an historical figure is pretty much accepted.

Mostly because Christianity is powerful, and it's polite not to piss them off. There's no evidence he didn't exist either, so it's hard for an academic to challenge the prevailing wisdom, even if that prevailing wisdom is entirely unsupported by evidence.

Re:Jesus (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888289)

There is already evidence for the existence of Jesus - the fact that he was an historical figure is pretty much accepted.

There is no good hard evidence for the existence of Jesus. Every supposed account of his existence by historians of the day was second- or third-hand. There was an ossary collected which read "James Brother of Jesus" but the brother of Jesus part was added by a different hand which could mean anything.

That doesn't mean that he didn't exist, or contradict your statement; but every textual reference to his life which is not in the bible is worthless; and the bible is so heavily edited and redacted that it's virtually impossible to figure out how much of that was edited and when. (Some edits stand out as obvious; how many others were intelligently perpetrated and will never be caught?)

Relying on the Bible as a historical work is an exercise in frustration. Certainly it seems to mesh with some historical events, but any great work of fiction is built on a foundation of truth.

Re:Jesus (2)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888477)

Yeah, evidence, which falls into 3 categories :

-Christian texts from the late 1st century onwards
-Non-christian texts from the 2nd century onwards
-Jewish records of a guy named vaguely like him executed by hanging for robbery about a decade after Jesus was supposed to have died.

Add to that the fact that Jews back then kept a record of pretty much everything they did but no records for anything that happened in the New Testament, be it the mass execution of toddlers or the execution of Jesus, that contemporary historians who went to Palestine back then only started hearing about Christians in the early 2nd century and never heard of Jesus when he was alive, and you've got solid evidence for his existence!

Man do I love it when people apply rigorous historical methodology to hot topics and base their opinions according to their methodological findings.

Re:Jesus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27888627)

Highly illogical choice not to beleive. Even Einstien belived.
If you choose to beleive in God, and there is no God, you have lost nothing.

If you choose not to beleive, and there is a God, you stand a chance to loose everything.
Pls make your choices with reasoning and understanding, and logical choices

Re:Jesus (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27889537)

This absolutely untrue. As an academic in the field of religious studies I can state categorically that persuasive literary, archeological, etc. evidence for Jesus as a real historical character simply doesn't exist. I don't know where you are getting your information from, but it is very much wrong.

Physical evidence vs. traditional narratives (1)

gobbo (567674) | more than 5 years ago | (#27890385)

There are no conclusive pieces of evidence from the region or Roman records about this Yeshu of Nazar. There are, however, scattered clues outside of the narrative of the faithful (and no, not just the Apocrypha!).

There are sources of information about the historical existence of Jesus in Persia, Kashmir and the Himalaya that are not "persuasive" because they haven't been properly investigated (except by hobbyists or unsystematic scholars following their fancy).

(look up Roza-Bal or 'Yuz Asaf' or "Jami-ut-tuwarik")

The notion of survival (as a human) after crucifixion, then a lifetime of travel and preaching abroad, is dismissed as absurd and ignored very easily, but one of the stronger objections I've heard is distance, which itself is absurd: my ancestors regularly travelled from Venice to Beijing and back -- by foot, and freakin' nasty camels. Better objections come in the form of "the evidence isn't properly documented".

Until someone actually goes in to the sacred shrine in Srinigar and does some sampling, the proof is all circumstantial and textual. There is great danger in studying anything so heretical, however, so the cost-benefit ratio must be poor; don't hold your breath.

Re:Jesus (1)

FernandoTorres (1499759) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887267)

Well I wouldn't hold your breath.

Re:Jesus (2, Informative)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887311)

That is very interesting. Maybe they find evidence of the existence of Jesus, or maybe text about his life that were written when he was still actually on Earth.

Well there is historical evidence, you just have to read the Bellum Judaicum by Flavius Josephus, the most important historian of this time and he has a special 10 liner about Jesus (speaking very favorable about him although he was not christian/jewish).

Re:Jesus (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27887649)

...which is widely regarded in academic circles to be inserted by a much later author

Re:Jesus (1)

Insanity Defense (1232008) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887883)

Well there is historical evidence, you just have to read the Bellum Judaicum by Flavius Josephus, the most important historian of this time and he has a special 10 liner about Jesus (speaking very favorable about him although he was not christian/jewish).

Jospehus the Jewish historian? There is substantial doubt as to the authenticity of the section "proving" the existence of Jesus. Josephus wrote in the 1st century AD. The earliest references to his "proving" Jesus come from the 4th century. Earlier references from the 3rd century clearly state that Josephus did NOT believe that Jesus was the Christ as the later references assert.

If Josephus had actually believed what is attributed to him he would have been a Christian not a Jew.

Re:Jesus (2, Informative)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888503)

Is that your evidence? That piece of "evidence" is about as controversial [wikipedia.org] as the holy shroud.

Re:Jesus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27890351)

1: The entry you mention is almost universally considered an embellishment or insertion.

2: Flavius Josephus was born around the time Jesus supposedly died, so we don't have a first hand account.

Jesus: physical evidence (1)

gobbo (567674) | more than 5 years ago | (#27890153)

There is a tomb in Srinigar, Kashmir, supposedly belonging to the prophet Issa, a Jew who healed people and preached compassion, and was buried there an old man in about 80 C.E.; the tomb is oriented east-west jewish style and the typical buddhist footprints on the lid have these odd crucifixion scars. I've been to the tomb, and wondered at its anonymity.

It's physical evidence, there's some contemporary corroborating textual evidence from the graffiti of stoneworkers at the time. It doesn't fit the standard narrative very well, though, does it? Unless Yeshua/Issa and his followers pulled a clean getaway, then carried on with the mission elsewhere... and the clean getaway involved a good cover story.

I can see why scholars ignore this, however. Simple Game Theory... leave it to the kooks, for now.

Does this technology work on Slashdot posts? (4, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887037)

I seem to find many to be unreadable.

Mostly, the ones that I write.

Red Dwarf (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27887199)

Good evening. Here is the news on Friday, the 27th of Geldof. Archaeologists near mount Sinai have discovered what is believed to be a missing page from the Bible. The page is currently being carbon dated in Bonn. If genuine it belongs at the beginning of the Bible and is believed to read "To my darling Candy. All characters portrayed within this book are fictitious and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental." The page has been universally condemned by church leaders.

Scroll from an early gospel found to read (0, Redundant)

jimicus (737525) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887295)

To my darling Candy.

All characters contained within this gospel are fictional and any resemblance to any real person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Re:Scroll from an early gospel found to read (1)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888387)

All characters contained within this gospel are fictional and any resemblance to any real person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

All divine voices are impersonated... badly.

"Villa of the Papyri" (1)

david.emery (127135) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888169)

One of the great repositories of stuff that I hope can be read with this technique is the library of the "Villa of the Papyri" outside of ancient Herculaneum (Naples, buried by Vesuvius in AD79 along with Pompeii, et. al.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villa_of_the_Papyri [wikipedia.org]

Somewhere I remember reading that the few scrolls that have been read were full of rather obscure philosophical texts (and this is discussed in the Wikipedia article.) (But wouldn't it be a hoot if it turns out that a substantial part of the holdings were schlocky romances or even porn... O Tempore! O Mores!)

Hey, if they can read blackened stuff... (1)

VTMarik (880085) | more than 5 years ago | (#27889545)

Could this mean that any well-preserved (but still indefatigably destroyed) texts from the fabled library at Alexandria could be recovered?

crap (1)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 5 years ago | (#27889923)

If any of you are expecting sensible translations out of this, forget it.

I am reading a pirate* copy of Thomas Covenant right now, and unless I already knew the story and the English language pretty well, I would be lost. The crap transcription causes so many misconceptions it is hard to make sense of the story. So whatever results from this, don't take it as gospel (ha fuckin ha).

Sadly, I did some proof reading for the distributed proof reading crowd a while back, and the assholes are so anal about NOT changing errors, that the resultant text is so bad as to be laughable. I no longer do it because I would rather write my own than promote falsehoods as they do. They prefer you to promulgate transcription errors rather than use your brain about what the sentence actually says. Sorry, no.
Being true to the author is one thing, being true to the fucking OCR is another matter.

Here's a tip
read it on paper, in the original if possible, or don't bother. Computers are turning it into a game of chinese whispers.

*
Yeah, so what ? Where do you think most people are getting their text from ? Should only the paying public deserve the truth ? I also own the entire series in print.
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