EPIGRAFE DEL MENDOLITO
This project introduces a methodology for the enhanced analysis of Sicilian non-Hellenic inscriptions of the Archaic period exploiting the 3D digital representation of each inscription and applying an ensemble of open source digital techniques for finalizing the transcription and emphasizing the technical features. Non-Hellenic inscriptions are texts engraved on durable materials in Greek alphabet used to express a non-Greek language spoken by the native people of Sicily, produced between the second half of the 6th century and the first half of the 5th century BC. Due to the scarce availability of cases and to the issues in deciphering a long forgotten language, even after decades of study, the research on these archaeological artifacts is still in its infancy. The published corpus of transcribed inscriptions representing the starting point for every further new archaeological and philological exam, was based on the autoptic analysis of texts, that aimed to identify the letters without taking note of other signs or traces that might indicate the skill and method of the engraver and his degree of familiarity with Greek alphabet. An experimental exercise has been carried out on the most relevant of non-Hellenic texts, the inscription from Mendolito of Adrano (Catania, Italy), an imposing limestone slab with engraved letters found in 1962 set into the main gate of the Mendolito site. The artifact, currently on display at the Archaeological Museum of Siracusa, has been acquired with a triangulation laser scanner and the 3D data has been processed with the open source software Meshlab and Blender. Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) has been applied on the 3d model in order to capture the subjectís surface shape and color and to enable the interactive re-lighting of the subject from any direction. The results turned out to be extremely significant and above and beyond the 2D techniques of digital enhancement offered by common graphic editors as Gimp and Photoshop. In the environment of PTM and RTI viewer, in some portions of the inscription a multitude of traces never noticed before and hardly visible with the naked eye have been revealed for the first time. New data about surface preparation and engraving methodology and technology (such as the sequence of the letters, miswritten and corrected letters, type of tools used, standard methods for copying Greek letters) has been obtained. In addition, some previously unreadable letters, that jeopardized the interpretation of the text, in new enhanced light conditions have become clear and readable. These achievements have brought a substantial advance in the knowledge of the native culture of Archaic Sicily, and confirm the importance of applying the same approach to other examples in order to build up a visual set of comparable data.