Quantifying scribal behavior : a novel approach to digital paleography

Author/s: Vinodh Rajan Sampath, PhD
Availability: Open Access
Type: Thesis
Year: 2021

Abstract: We propose a novel approach for analyzing scribal behavior quantitatively using information about the handwriting of characters. To implement this approach, we develop a computational framework that recovers this information and decomposes the characters into primitives (called strokes) to create a hierarchically structured representation. We then propose a number of intuitive metrics quantifying various facets of scribal behavior, which are derived from the recovered information and character structure. We further propose the use of techniques modeling the generation of handwriting to directly study the changes in writing behavior. We then present a case study in which we use our framework and metrics to analyze the development of four major Indic scripts. We show that our framework and metrics coupled with appropriate statistical methods can provide great insight into scribal behavior by discovering specific trends and phenomena with quantitative methods. We also illustrate the use of handwriting modeling techniques in this context to study the divergence of the Brahmi script into two daughter scripts. We conduct a user study with domain experts to evaluate our framework and salient results from the case study, and we elaborate on the results of this evaluation. Finally, we present our conclusions and discuss the limitations of our research along with future work that needs to be done.

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