Algorithmic handwriting analysis of the Samaria inscriptions illuminates bureaucratic apparatus in biblical Israel.

Abstract

Past excavations in Samaria, capital of biblical Israel, yielded a corpus of Hebrew ink on clay inscriptions (ostraca) that documents wine and oil shipments to the palace from surrounding localities. Many questions regarding these early 8th century BCE texts, in particular the location of their composition, have been debated. Authorship in countryside villages or estates would attest to widespread literacy in a relatively early phase of ancient Israel's history. Here we report an algorithmic investigation of 31 of the inscriptions. Our study establishes that they were most likely written by two scribes who recorded the shipments in Samaria. We achieved our results through a method comprised of image processing and newly developed statistical learning techniques. These outcomes contrast with our previous results, which indicated widespread literacy in the kingdom of Judah a century and half to two centuries later, ca. 600 BCE.

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Published Version (Please cite this version)

10.1371/journal.pone.0227452

Publication Info

Faigenbaum-Golovin, Shira, Arie Shaus, Barak Sober, Eli Turkel, Eli Piasetzky and Israel Finkelstein (2020). Algorithmic handwriting analysis of the Samaria inscriptions illuminates bureaucratic apparatus in biblical Israel. PloS one, 15(1). p. e0227452. 10.1371/journal.pone.0227452 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/26246.

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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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