Wooden Stilus Tablets from Roman Britain

Alan K. Bowman and Roger S. O. Tomlin

in Images and Artefacts of the Ancient World

Published by British Academy

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780197262962
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734533 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Occasional Papers

Wooden Stilus Tablets from Roman Britain

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  • Archaeological Methodology and Techniques


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The imaging of ancient document papers presents several challenges, the nature of which is determined by the character of the text, the material on which it is written and the state of preservation. This chapter talks about the struggle to read and interpret Latin manuscripts from Roman Britain. These manuscripts come mainly in three forms: texts written in ink on thin wooden leaves, texts inscribed with metal stylus on wax-coated wooden stilus tablets, and texts incised on sheets of lead. This chapter focuses on the problems of imaging and signalling process of the texts found on the Vindolanda stilus tablets. These problems in interpreting ancient texts arise from the two identifiable sources of difficulty. The first one is the problem of seeing and identifying, in abraded and damaged documents what is aimed to be read. The second is the problem arising from the character of the text itself which determines the ability of the reader to decipher and interpret it.

Keywords: ancient document papers; Latin manuscripts; Roman Britain; wooden stilus tablets; imaging; signalling process; Vindolanda stilus tablets; ancient texts; seeing; character of the text

Chapter.  6626 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Archaeological Methodology and Techniques

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