Kristina Bush

Kristina Bush is one of seven Digital Humanities undergraduate fellows from the 2016-2017 academic year. At the time of the year-long fellowship, Kristina was a Senior at Mount Holyoke College.

A Challenge to Syriac Paleography:

Using Digital Tools to Contest Modern Scholarship

Kristina’s project, “A Challenge to Syriac Paleography: Using Digital Tools to Contest Modern Scholarship”, is a digital paleography project that seeks to identify and describe the transition from estrangela to serto script in Aramaic manuscripts from the 5th to 11th century. The project will also explore the importance of paleographic research, especially in the digital age.

Excerpt from an interview conversation between Sheila Chukwulozie and Kristina Bush:

Sheila: I’m going to try and regurgitate what you just said.

Kristina: (laughs) Okay go ahead

S: So there are two forms, the Estrangela and the Serto. And the idea is that the scholars thought there was a linear progression in the history of Syriac letter forms; that Estrangela came first and then Serto was created after.

K: Yes..

S: But what you are saying is that you discovered that there is no clear linear progression….that they both developed around the same times

K: Yes

S: Hmm, so why would people believe—so certainly—that there was a linear progression?

K: That is the real question. The biggest problem (I find) is that the most famous Syriac manuscript, which is the earliest of its type (securely dated to 411 CE), actually uses Serto letter forms. Which means Serto couldn’t have clearly or certainly come only after the 8th Century. Yet, it seems like scholars just ignored that fact over time.

S: Do you think it’s because they didn’t concentrate on the individual letters in the way that you did? Or, is it that they did not use enough of the original manuscripts?

K: Honestly, the facts are that I have the biggest database/set of resources that any scholar has ever had. And that has probably given me an edge over a lot of past scholarship.