August 17, 2009

Project to analyze old Hebrew papers

Israeli scientists say they'll combine computer and humanities expertise in a project designed to analyze old Hebrew and Arabic historical papers.

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev said their effort to develop new computer algorithms combines scientific expertise in computer vision, computer graphics, image processing and computational geometry with the scholarly expertise of historians and liturgy scholars.

Until now many documents have not been researched systematically.

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, said Professor Uri Ehrlich, head of the project. 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.

Other algorithms will be more language specific, such as paleographic analysis of Hebrew and Arabic historical documents that will include automatic indexing of document collections, determining authorship, location and date of the documents.

The research is being funded by the Israel Science Foundation.