The future of finding out more about the past

Apr 2019
109
Ireland
#11
There's still a lot to be found, I expect. As Tulius noted, medieval manuscripts were sometimes recycled into early modern bookbindings or simply erased, and now we know to look in the bindings and we have the technology to read those that were erased. We also need to consider the linguistic gap. Latin materials are usually catalogued fairly well in western libraries, but other materials have not always received the requisite attention. A librarian friend at Major Research University in the USA who is specialized in just this said that American libraries typically have very poor and outdated catalogues of their holdings in Greek, to say nothing on non-western or non-Indo-European languages. There is also a lot of discovery to be made simply by integrating a wider range of texts and languages. This may not have much to add to, say, the religious history of 14th c. England, but in my own field of Byzantine Studies, where many languages and cultures crossed but where the history has largely been written from Greek sources, there's so much more to be learned.

There certainly seemed to be many manuscripts that were re-used. When the church deemed many ancient works inappropriate and had them banned a lot were written over, and as you say now people know where to look. Hopefully more of these can be uncovered.
 
Apr 2019
109
Ireland
#12
The Vatican is a gold mine in this chapter. But in the case of my country, so it is the “Torre do Tombo”, among other places.

A special ops team should be put together to infiltrate the Vatican and uncover all that hidden information:).
I'm sure there are decades of study in the Vatican.
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,852
Blachernai
#14
There certainly seemed to be many manuscripts that were re-used. When the church deemed many ancient works inappropriate and had them banned a lot were written over, and as you say now people know where to look. Hopefully more of these can be uncovered.
No, works were written over when parchment needed to be re-used. Most texts were lost when the medium of transmission changed - if a work was not of interest around the time the methods of production changed, then its chances of survival decreased. What I'm talking about here is the development of minuscule scripts in both Latin and Greek.

A special ops team should be put together to infiltrate the Vatican and uncover all that hidden information:).
I'm sure there are decades of study in the Vatican.
Less "hidden" and more a case of there being a lot of stuff that simply takes a long time to process. I hope that special ops team is very good in late medieval and early modern Italian bookhand. :).
 
Likes: Tulius

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,664
Portugal
#15
A special ops team should be put together to infiltrate the Vatican and uncover all that hidden information:).

I'm sure there are decades of study in the Vatican.
When I was in my master course in Medieval history, our “special ops team”, ie my class, had a several classes with a director of the library of the Vatican, and she almost begged us to go there and to write our thesis there or using materials from their archives. Zero of us went there, we al made our thesis mostly using “domestic” resources (such as the mentioned archives at “Torre do Tombo”), or the ones available quite near (in Spain).

From what I understood the Vatican is pretty opened to receive academic researchers to dig their archives. The secrecy there is mostly a myth, even if as any state they have secret documents in the archives, but they are literally flooded with documents.

No, works were written over when parchment needed to be re-used. Most texts were lost when the medium of transmission changed - if a work was not of interest around the time the methods of production changed, then its chances of survival decreased. What I'm talking about here is the development of minuscule scripts in both Latin and Greek.

Less "hidden" and more a case of there being a lot of stuff that simply takes a long time to process. I hope that special ops team is very good in late medieval and early modern Italian bookhand. :).
Exactly!
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,852
Blachernai
#16
From what I understood the Vatican is pretty opened to receive academic researchers to dig their archives. The secrecy there is mostly a myth, even if as any state they have secret documents in the archives, but they are literally flooded with documents.
A number of my colleagues and my girlfriend work there regularly. Access seems pretty easy. I've never been able to find an excuse to go, though, all the Greek stuff I want is either edited or online!

I expect that part of the confusion derives from having Secretum in the title, despite its Latin meaning not being the same as English. Something like "Repository for the Private Papers of the Holy See" or "Archive of the Vatican Secretariat" is more accurate. And the Archivum Secretum Vaticanum is also separate from the Vatican library.
 

specul8

Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
3,351
Australia
#17
There are many ancient works that list sources which are now no longer extant or we now only have fragments of. For instance Q. Fabius Pictor (3rd Centry BCE) was used as a source for earlier history of Rome by ancient writers. This is only one example and have picked it randomly.

What are the chances of major finds as regards to lost works in the future or even presently being uncovered?
In general what new technologies are being developed or could be developed in the future to aid or interpret archaeological discoveries?
At the moment I am reading about recent collaborations between Russia and former Soviet states scientists and scientists from US and other western countries (including Australia ) in areas where we knew little due to most research being done by Russians in restricted areas (now 'open') .

Resulting in a few things, including one of my fav subjects and directly resulting in the book I just started .

Origins of the Bronze Age Oasis Civilization in Central Asia — Fredrik Talmage Hiebert | Harvard University Press
 
Likes: Gisco
Jun 2013
499
Connecticut
#18
From what I understand, decades of the 3rd Century of Rome don't exist. Sources centuries later helped piece together some sort of list of happenings. I don't think any works will show up soon since they haven't showed up since Gibbon's time, centuries ago.
 
Likes: Gisco
Dec 2011
2,350
#19
From what I understand, decades of the 3rd Century of Rome don't exist
It's true that decades of the 3rd century, in fact the whole of the 3rd century, in fact the whole period of the Roman Empire, like yesterday, no longer exist.

But in the past, they did exist.

I would be surprised if there are no written records for whole decades of the 3rd century. They may be scarce, but I think there are some from that time.
 
Feb 2019
772
Pennsylvania, US
#20
A large number of Egyptian coffins, from the 1st century, have been discovered, which have portraits on them, some using papyrus that previously had text on it. Recovering the text might be possible, but would involve destroying the portraits. Perhaps new technology will be able to read the text without taking the portrait apart.
If these are encaustic portraits (pigmented wax paint) as opposed to tempera, which was another common medium for painted portrait funerary masks, the unfortunate truth is that by removing them/destroying them, we may actually be better able to study how ancient encaustics were made and applied. Much of the understanding on how they were executed is theory (with huge debate as two whether it was worked in a "hot" molten state; or "cold" with some additional emulsifying agent) or from experimentally trying to reproduce the effects of the originals. Pliny the Elder described the method a bit - and all the various uses for encaustic painting - but it seems like Pliny wasn't very familiar with artistic mediums, so his account gives some detail yet also muddies the water enough to cause confusion.

So perhaps the bright side to all of this is that through "invasive study" both the text and more information about the method of encaustic painting may be revealed (if these are encaustic). It's just sad to have to destroy something in the process. :crying: