The Research Program
A Geospatial Approach to Epigraphy
Under the heading of 'Spatial Humanities', the examination of space has become an increasingly important research perspective in the humanities and in the social sciences. But in epigraphy, the category of space has been insufficiently communicated up to now, even though it is an important key to the interpretation of inscriptions. The interior of a medieval church is a case in point. Inscription-bearing objects like tombstones can be modelled as parts of a network of symbolic relations between themselves as well as in regard to the surrounding architecture, the furnishings such as paintings, tombstones and altars and, of course, human beings taking part in liturgical and social practices.
This is IBR's methodological starting point. We will examine the complete interior of a historical church, including its inscriptions and furnishings as well as model and analyse spatial and historical references. The project's objective is a model of a spatial geometry linked to a network of relevant textual data (i.e. scientific texts). The research tool delevoped here facilitates new kinds of questions with respect to inscriptions, objects and space:
- The objects' spatial location in the measured Euclidean space. This concerns all sizes and distances up to the size of single inscriptions and letters as well as the proximity and distance to other objects such as entrances, altars etc.
- The visibility of inscriptions and works of art from a specific spatial vantage point.
- The question of prior historical states of the examined space and changing positions of particular objects.
- The relations between tombstones, paintings, altars and representations of benefactors with regard to space and content.
- The spatial arrangement of distinct social or family groups in the context of tombs or benefactor altars.
- The mechanisms between liturgical and other areas in the church's interior, for example questions of organization, of directions of actions or of the interaction of activities between presbytery and laity space; the question of compliance with or breaking up of particular tabooed areas; and the question of permeability of spatial barriers, for example in the case of a rood screen.
- The significance of space with regard to ritual acts and performance.
- The use of particular areas and entrances of the church and their significance for the visibility of objects.
- Interdependencies of social change and utilisation of space.
Methodology: Geoinformatics in Epigraphic Studies
The technological starting point for the research is a complete high-resolution recording of a church building by means of modern laser scanning technologies in combination with more conventional methods of measurement technology.
From the two perspectives of geoinformatics and historical research, we will construct a semantic model which covers spatial relations between inscriptions, furnishings, liturgy and society in order to enrich the geometric data with a semantic network. The model will be applied within the web application GenericViewer. This tool enables the creation, modification and visualisation of relations between geometric data and textual content. The prospective result will be a professional visualisation of various analytical perspectives that are displayed as different semantic layers on top of the geometric model.
The software tool currently in development can locate the exact position of an object in space. Data describing content, connections with other associated objects, but also motion in space will be made available. By way of consequently sticking to standardised formats and interfaces, the project will provide a research tool that can be used in many disciplines in the humanities and social sciences.