Current work

This page presents brief updates and news on the current state of work on the I.Sicily project, website and collaborations.

16 May 2023

An update is long overdue. At this point, a summary might be useful of the work of autopsy, photography and cataloguing which we have been undertaking across the island, in part since 2014, but with much greater intensity since the start of the Crossreads project in late 2020.

Work already completed (c.1450)

Museo archeologico regionale Paolo Orsi, Siracusa (since 2014)1020
Museo civico di Catania (since 2016)250
Museo archeologico regionale P. Griffo, Agrigento (2018)30
Museo archeologico di Adrano (2015)9
Sito archeologico e antiquarium di Halaesa (2017)61
Teato antico di Catania (2018)35
Museo archeologico dell’Universita di Catania (2016)14
Museo di S. Marco d’Alunzio (2018)15
Museo civico di Noto (2023)10
Parco archeologico di Tindari (2022)24

Work in progress (700+)

Museo civico di Termini Imerese (2022, 2023)160+
PCAS antiquarium, Vigna Cassia, Siracusa (2021, 2022, 2023), work undertaken by Ilenia Gradante250+
Museo archeologico regionale Antonio Salinas, Palermo (2021, 2022, 2023)c.250
Museo archeologico di Centuripe (2022, 2023), work undertaken by Francesca Pradoc.40
Museo archeologico di Palazzolo Acreide (2023)c.15

Preliminary surveys (c.220)

Museo regionale interdisciplinare di Messinac.50
despositi del Parco archeologico di Cataniac.120
Taormina, antiquarium del teatro anticoc.50

In addition, Dr Valentina Mignosa has added the complete set of 444 Elymian inscriptions and c.100 Sikel texts, as well as additional archaic Greek material, locating and photographing the vast majority of these; and work is in progress to incorporate the c.65 published defixiones from the island, building upon the ISicDef database constructed by Dr Thea Sommerschield (about which see this paper by Thea). The 100+ bronze signacula from the island, which have been catalogued by Dr Ilenia Gradante will also soon be incoporated.

This work means that we have now photographed and catalogued well over 2,500 Sicilian inscriptions (mostly on stone), which constitutes a major part of the preserved material on the island. Some patience will be required while we process all this material and incorporate it into the online dataset.

24 August 2022

Long silence online does not equate to lack of activity – rather the reverse, we’ve just been really busy! I.Sicily now contains over 4,500 files, particularly enriched after the impressive work by Valentina Mignosa to incorporate the archaic material, including all of the Sikel and Elymian texts, as well as ongoing work by the team and many of our collaborators to bring all the existing texts up to a minimum draft standard.

In January 2022 we were delighted to sign a 3-year convention of collaboration with the Assessorato regionale dei Beni Culturali e dell’Identità siciliana. The convention is intended to support the study, publication and communication of the archaeological heritage of the island, and specifically the island’s rich epigraphic culture, through the work of the Crossreads and I.Sicily projects, and has already lead to a rapid increase in the number of collaborations on the ground. Support from the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology of the Vatican has also enabled Ilenia Gradante to make huge progress in recording the epigraphy of the catacombs in Siracusa, while also completing work on her corpus of the signacula from ancient Sicily. Our long-term collaboration with the Museo Archeologico Regionale “Paolo Orsi”, Siracusa continues, confirmed with a new convention signed in early 2022.

Within the orbit of the Crossreads project, Robert Crellin has begun to pursue the possibilities of linguistic annotation of the I.Sicily texts, while Alessia Coccato has already made impressive inroads into the enormous but hugely exciting task of identifying the materials used in the production of inscriptions. Simona Stoyanova has put huge effort into improving our EpiDoc and data models, and is now about to take the lead on our new work package to study systematically the palaeography of the Sicilian epigraphy.

More on all of this, and progress on individual sets of inscriptions to follow very soon. Next stop, the XVI international congress for Greek and Latin epigraphy at Bordeaux, 29 August – 3 September 2023!

22 December 2020

As for many, the pandemic has greatly slowed the pace of work since March – the primary impact being a complete cessation of activity in Sicily, and so no further autopsy or cataloguing work. However, also in March, we received the fantastic news of the new Crossreads ERC Advanced Grant for Jonathan Prag, which is intended to build upon the existing I.Sicily corpus, both expanding its content and developing a wide range of further analysis on top of it.

As part of the first phase of Crossreads we have been joined by three new researchers, Ilenia Gradante (who specialises in the Christian epigraphy of Sicily), Valentina Mignosa (who works on the Archaic history and epigraphy of Sicily, including the indigenous languages), and Simona Stoyanova (who works on the bilingual epigraphy of Thrace and is a leading member of the EpiDoc community). Together we are now actively working to consolidate the existing corpus (50% of the corpus, over 1,500 inscriptions, now contains edited texts in EpiDoc as well as extensive metadata) and to process and incorporate the materials for c.1,000 inscriptions which have been catalogued and photographed over the past few years (in particular c.600 texts catalogued in the Museo Archeologico Regionale P. Orsi, at Siracusa). We are additionally taking the opportunity to tighten up our data (partly in the context of renewed community work on the EAGLE vocabularies and a new epigraphic ontology for LOD) and to expand the project’s EpiDoc template in anticipation of the incorporation of a wide range of new categories of document (ceramic texts, metal texts, instrumentum domesticum, etc.). In this context, Valentina Mignosa has already created a draft corpus of the Elymian inscriptions from western Sicily, and we expect to incorporate material such as the Sicilian defixiones early in the new year.

We look forward to resuming the work of autopsy as conditions permit in 2021.

15 July 2019

We are currently ‘in the field’, excavating at the site of ancient Halaesa, and using that opportunity to complete the updating and editing of all the Halaesa records. At the same time, various Oxford graduate students (Tuuli Ahlholm, Alex Antoniou, Estella Kessler, Laura Loeser, Michael Economou and Davide Massimo) are busy editing files from Termini Imerese, Catania, and Messina (almost all of the latter now have fully edited texts). Our colleagues in Catania are preparing to launch the EpiCUM site, with a full digital presentation of all the material from the Castello Ursino in Catania (more on that soon!), approximately half of which is shared with I.Sicily, and we are collaborating actively to bring all the Catania records up to equal standards (not least incorporating all the marvellous photos taken by students of the Liceo M.M. Lazzaro in Catania. At the start of May I.Sicily participated in the Nomisma meeting at Messina, and we are also actively exploring the possibilities of incorporating coin legends (and brick stamps) into I.Sicily.

19 May 2019

Work continues! The corpus of inscriptions from ancient Halaesa was recently published in paper form (by J. Prag and G. Tigano), and the full content of that corpus is now being incorporated into the online editions in I.Sicily. Pilot work has begun on exploring how coin legends might be incorporated into I.Sicily alongside other categories of non-lapidary text. The work of the graduate group is now progressing quickly, and the current focus of text editing are the bodies of material from Catania and Lipari. We are also initiating a new project in the ‘alternanza scuola-lavoro’ programme, with the Liceo Lazzaro of Catania, working on material from the Roman theatre of the city, together with the Soprintendenza BBCCAA di Catania. The primary focus of current development work is the creation of a robust pipeline to ensure that each individual text edition within the I.Sicily corpus is archived in a citable, digital and human-readable form under a DOI at each revision. More details soon!

2 February 2019

Don’t take silence for lack of work! (just lack of time…). A significant number of texts have been autopsied over the last 12 months, including, as noted in the blog, at Termini Imerese, Cefalu, San Marco d’Alunzio and elsewhere. Colleagues in Catania have been working very hard to develop a web-based catalogue of all the inscriptions (both Sicilian, based on I.Sicily, and Roman) in the Catania Museo Civico, and this is very nearly ready for launch. And Tuuli Ahlholm has been working hard to help bring together a substantial group of interested graduate students in Oxford who are learning how to encode texts in EpiDoc and so collectively rapidly working through the many texts that lack a good EpiDoc encoding at present. You can keep track of updates through the ‘commit’ history in the GitHub repository. Several new publications relating directly to I.Sicily have also come out in recent months, including a survey of Hellenistic epigraphy, built on data from I.Sicily and, imminently, a discussion of I.Sicily itself within the volume Crossing Experiences in Digital Epigraphy. We have been busy at various conferences over the last year, and are looking forward shortly to joining colleagues at the AELAW congress in Rome, 13-15 March 2019, and at the meeting in Rome on international projects in Sicily, 8-9 April 2019.

5 February 2018

Tuuli Ahlholm has joined the I.Sicily team as research assistant, and the editing of files has speeded up considerably as a result 😉

Over the Christmas period, we completed the work necessary (data cleaning, and creation of new data exports) to enable the generation of metadata to support full Linked Open Data for the basic geodata of the inscriptions, in collaboration with the Pelagios Commons project, and you can see the results. We look forward to working with others to exploit this capability.

21 November 2017

There now 3246 records online (including several newly published or reported Sicilian inscriptions – ISic004368, 004369 and 004370), as well as one of the Egadi rostra (ISic004367). The full set of ISicily xml files are now maintained in a GitHub repository ( and those interested in tracking specific updates and edits can monitor these directly through the repository’s commit history. Potential contributors familiar with GitHub are very welcome to propose editing files via Github. Current editing includes a gradual complete referencing of the inscriptions cited in the significant epigraphic discussion of Roman Imperial Sicily by Giacomo Manganaro in ANRW II.11.1 (1988).

Work is currently underway in collaboration with the CWRC project under Professor Susan Brown (Guelph University) and with the Oxford Lexicon of Greek Personal Names to develop an editing interface to enable the direct annotation of names and individuals inthe I.Sicily texts; the intention is that this tool will be made available to other projects and facilitate the direct incorporation of URIs from LGPN and LGPN-Ling by other projects.

We have now received follow-on funding from the Oxford University Humanities Division to enable an extension of the collaboration with colleagues at Catania which resulted in the ‘Voci di Pietra’ exhibition at the Castello Ursino. The intention is to produce a second, smaller, follow-up exhibition at the Museo Archeologico Regionale Paolo Orsi, in Siracusa.

At the end of August, we presented a poster on the I.Sicily project at the International Epigraphic Congress in Vienna.

18 August 2017

There are currently 3242 records online, with almost 100 now checked or edited.  In recent months there have been several new developments on the project:

  • In July we successfully curated and launched an exhibition (‘Voci di Pietra’) of the inscriptions in the Museo Civico Castel Ursino of Catania (more information on this project will be posted shortly on the blog). You can read a report on the exhibition in Italian in Corriere della Sera
  • Early in the summer we obtained a grant from the International Catacomb Society to work with Davide Tanasi (University of South Florida) and Ilenia Gradante (Research Associate, Faculty of Classics, University of Oxford) on the inscriptions of the catacombs of ancient Syracuse as part of the Virtual Ancient Siracusa Project.
  • We are now one of the overseas project partners on Canadia CANARIE-funded grant, led by the CWRC project under Professor Susan Brown (Guelph University), which will help us to develop a better user interface for collaborative editing of inscriptions online.

22 February 2017

All records have now been aligned with Trismegistos, and the links are active in both directions (this applies to 2554 records; the remainder have yet to be allocated a number in Trismegistos).

We have begun a pilot project with current Oxford graduate students: students learn basic XML EpiDoc editing skills and put these to work editing the text division. In the first instance this work is focused on adding texts to records for which this information is currently missing, and we expect this work to gain speed in the next couple of months.

As of today 28 records have progressed to ‘draft’ or ‘edited’ status and 52 images have been uploaded.

18 January 2017

The error in displaying corpus reference numbers has now been fixed, and in addition multiple references within these fields now display together within the main data table.

15 January 2017

The website is now live, in beta mode: there are currently 3,242 inscriptions listed on the site. At this moment all but three of the EpiDoc files are ‘unchecked’, and all data should be used with caution. The current priorities are (a) checking for significant errors and bugs, (b) checking and revising the EpiDoc files, including text transcriptions, and (c) beginning to incorporate images.

We are also currently writing the first version of the guide to searching on the site.

We are aware of – and actively correcting – a data conversion error, which means that references to CIL, IG, AE, BE and SEG ending in a zero may currently be incorrectly displayed (any trailing zeros in the reference are omitted).

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