Algorithmic handwriting analysis of Judah's military correspondence sheds light on composition of biblical texts.

Abstract

The relationship between the expansion of literacy in Judah and composition of biblical texts has attracted scholarly attention for over a century. Information on this issue can be deduced from Hebrew inscriptions from the final phase of the first Temple period. We report our investigation of 16 inscriptions from the Judahite desert fortress of Arad, dated ca 600 BCE-the eve of Nebuchadnezzar's destruction of Jerusalem. The inquiry is based on new methods for image processing and document analysis, as well as machine learning algorithms. These techniques enable identification of the minimal number of authors in a given group of inscriptions. Our algorithmic analysis, complemented by the textual information, reveals a minimum of six authors within the examined inscriptions. The results indicate that in this remote fort literacy had spread throughout the military hierarchy, down to the quartermaster and probably even below that rank. This implies that an educational infrastructure that could support the composition of literary texts in Judah already existed before the destruction of the first Temple. A similar level of literacy in this area is attested again only 400 y later, ca 200 BCE.

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10.1073/pnas.1522200113

Publication Info

Faigenbaum-Golovin, Shira, Arie Shaus, Barak Sober, David Levin, Nadav Na'aman, Benjamin Sass, Eli Turkel, Eli Piasetzky, et al. (2016). Algorithmic handwriting analysis of Judah's military correspondence sheds light on composition of biblical texts. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 113(17). pp. 4664–4669. 10.1073/pnas.1522200113 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/26247.

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Scholars@Duke

Faigenbaum-Golovin

Shira Faigenbaum-Golovin

Assistant Research Professor of Mathematics

I am a Phillip Griffiths Assistant Research Professor at Duke University's math department as well as at the Rhodes Interdisciplinary Initiative, working with Prof. Ingrid Daubechies. In 2021 I completed my Ph.D. at the Department of Applied Mathematics, School of Mathematical Sciences, Tel Aviv University, under the supervision of Prof. David Levin and Prof. Yoel Shkolnisky.

My research interests span several areas, including numerical analysis, mathematical modeling, robust and statistically significant analysis of high-dimensional data. I strive to explore new challenges that arise from high-dimensional data as well as study the story that the data geometry tells by modeling the data and posing new mathematical tools. In particular, my research is in approximation theory in low and high-dimensions, geometric methods for manifold reconstruction, studying the geometry of the base manifold and its fibers, computer vision, image processing.
Notable applications of my current and past research include archaeology, evolutionary anthropology, Bible studies, art investigation, and general history. By applying my research to these diverse areas, I aim to contribute valuable insights and shed light on long debated questions.

My publication list (and most online available papers) can be viewed on Google Scholar.

I am co-organizing the AMS Special Session on Computational techniques to study the geometry of the shape space at Joint Mathematics Meetings (JMM) in San Francisco, CA on Jan 3-6 2024. Registration is open!


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