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From Stone to Screen to Classroom

Gwynaeth McIntyre, Melissa Funke, and Chelsea Gardner

Inscriptions are one of our most useful and abundant sources of information about the ancient world. Considering that inscriptions are most commonly located on immovable stones, however, it is difficult to engage with the physical reality of epigraphic evidence in the classroom. Epigraphic squeezes, made using a pre-digital technology that remains instrumental to classicists, offer an affordable and practical solution to this problem by allowing scholars to virtually transport the stone to institutions worldwide. Yet there are still challenges to overcome when attempting to incorporate the physical squeezes into the classroom, the least of which is the fragility of the filter paper of the squeeze itself. One option is to transform the physical artifacts by means of digitization. In the case of the graduate student-launched initiative presented here, digitization is accomplished through an innovative photographic technique, which results in crisp, detailed images that retain the three-dimensional nature of the original inscribed words.

This paper describes how these digitized squeezes have been incorporated into the undergraduate classroom, in both language and non-language courses, and showcases the type of experiential learning that typically has been limited to archaeological sites and museums. It argues that the use of these digital artifacts helps overcome the challenges of bringing ancient subjects to life in the classroom through two case studies. First, we address the use of digital images of a fourthcentury Athenian inscription (IG I3 969) in an intermediate Greek course and how this exercise provided a means of contextualizing the language in a way that was not possible through literary texts alone. Second, we discuss the implementation of the images of an inscription from the Temple of Athena Nike in Athens (IG I3 35) in an introductory archaeology course and an intermediate Greek religion course. Both classes studied the letter forms on this inscription from detailed images projected in the classroom and from this, learned how individual letters affected our understanding of historical timelines and the contexts of particular sites.

These two case studies show how the transformation of a pre-digital technology into a digital technology allows for easy incorporation of artifacts into a variety of courses at the undergraduate level. We conclude our paper by discussing our creation of open-access teaching modules, such as those discussed above based on our collection of digitized squeezes, and their potential use throughout the Classics teaching community.

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Digital Resources for Teaching and Outreach

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