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Drakon’s Law on Homicide is our most authoritative source for Athenian homicide legislation and an essential source for the study of Greek law. It demonstrates not only the origins of the Athenian criminal law code, but the continuity of laws from the Archaic period through the end of the Peloponnesian War. After the fall of the Four Hundred in 409/8 BCE, the Athenians re-inscribed the laws of Drakon on a marble stele in front of the Stoa Basileios. In 1843, workmen discovered the stele while digging foundations for the Metropolitan Church in Athens. It languished in the nearby Tower of the Winds until 1867, when U. Köhler re-examined and cleaned the stone, discovering new letters and making important restorations. R. Stroud examined the stele in 1968, the first time in a century that anyone had looked at the stone itself rather than relying on Köhler’s text. By examining and cleaning the stone, Stroud discovered 218 letters not included in the print edition, including the vitally important “Second Axon” toward the end of the text, and the fact that the stone is actually broken at the bottom.

Stroud’s work shows that autopsy is indispensable in the study of epigraphy. Yet recent advances in imaging technology give us the ability to improve upon what can be seen with the naked eye. In November and December of 2011 a joint team from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the Center for Advanced Spatial Technology at the University of Arkansas obtained permission from the Epigraphical Museum in Athens to to use a Breuckmann SmartSCAN 3-D White Light Scanner to re-examine the stele. Similar projects involving much larger objects like architecture have been carried out with laser scanners, for purposes of reconstruction, conservation, and recording. Scanners of this type can be very accurate, with sub-millimeter resolution even for very large objects. While these scanners produce extremely accurate images, much higher resolution is needed to examine smaller objects in great detail.

Rather than a laser, the Breuckmann uses white light. A projector emits light in different patterns across the object being scanned. Two cameras, positioned at different distances on either side of the projector capture the light from different angles and measure the degree of distortion. This creates images which allow us to see tiny changes in elevation on the existing surfaces much more clearly, to an accuracy of up to 40 microns. Though the surface of the Drakon stele is worn away and a deep brown patina discolors much of the stone, the original surface survives with no major voids. This makes it an excellent candidate for this type of 3D imaging.

The team is using two software programs, Rapidform and OptoCAT as the primary method of examination of the more than 200 scans taken of the stone. This software allows color-stripping, manipulation of light and shadows, and curvature mapping. We have the ability to zoom in very closely to the desired area of the scan and rotate it in 3D space. The project is ongoing, and initial results are very promising. Not only have we obtained more definitive readings of partial letters, we have found letters not in the text that confirm existing restorations. In the months to come, we expect that our continued examinations will yield even more discoveries. In my talk, I will summarize the findings of the project to date and discuss the implications of this technique of examining epigraphic texts. This method has great promise not only for Drakon’s Law on Homicide, but as a method for examining damaged inscriptions in general.

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