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Ben-Gurion U. developing new computer techniques to analyze historic Hebrew and Arabic documents
Date:8/14/2009

BEER-SHEVA, ISRAELAugust 14, 2009 Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) will combine the scientific and scholarly expertise of their humanities and computer science experts in a new project to analyze degraded Hebrew documents.

The effort to develop new computer algorithms combines BGU's scientific expertise in computer vision, computer graphics, image processing and computational geometry with the scholarly expertise of historians and liturgy scholars to provide valuable answers regarding Jewish liturgical texts and Arabic historical texts that advance scholarship in these fields.

The technical goal of the research is to develop new state of the art algorithms for analyzing text and combine them into an easy to operate, open source system of tools to aid historical document research throughout the world.

Experiments are being conducted on degraded documents from sources such as the Cairo Geniza, copies of which are located at the national liturgy project at BGU, the El-Aqsa manuscript library in Jerusalem and the Al-Azar manuscript library in Cairo. Most fragments that have been discovered at the Geniza are now in libraries at Cambridge and Oxford universities, the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, The British Library and in Israel and Paris.

Until now the documents have not been researched systematically. Prof. Uri Ehrlich of the Goldstein-Goren Department of Jewish Thought is the head of the Prayer Research Project at BGU. He explains that, "There was one book that was originally used as a Hebrew prayer book from the 12th century, but had been scratched off, and the parchment used to write an Arabic text (called a palimpsest). Our aim was to read the first book and not the second book. So we needed to find out how the Arab book could disappear and would leave only the Hebrew letters of the original book. This is why the computer sciences and humanities departments at BGU decided to collaborate."

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Contact: Andrew Lavin
andrewlavin@alavin.com
212-290-9540
American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Source:Eurekalert

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