Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

VIS4DH'18 Workshop


Syriac (a dialect of Aramaic) was the primary language spoken in the late ancient Middle East between the second and eighth centuries AD, and continues to be a language of Christian scholarship and liturgy up to the present day. There are approximately 20,000 known surviving Syriac manuscripts. Among early manuscripts, only around 10% include a scribal note that provides information regarding when, where, and by whom a given manuscript was written. For the remaining 90%, close examination of subtle differences in the handwritten script remains the primary tool for determining provenance. Prior to this study, scholars classified early Syriac manuscripts into two divergent script styles: Estrangela and Serto. In this paper, we present a case study of historians’ analysis of this collection of manuscripts supported by visual analytic tools. This approach uncovered major inaccuracies in this dichotomous model, resulting in profound disruption to the dominant understanding of the development of these texts.


H.5.2 [User Interfaces]: User Interfaces—Graphical user interfaces (GUI), H.5.m [Information Interfaces and Presentation]: Miscellaneous

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Archived as published.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.