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2018-06-12 | Utrecht

workshop All that remains

Digital Approaches to Cemeteries

Preservation and Education


Thomas Kollatz | @kol_t | Twitter KollatzThomas | CC-BY 4.0

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV)

Jewish sites nominated for UNESCO World Heritage List

  1. Old Synagogue and Mikveh in Erfurt – Testimonies of everyday life, religion and town history between change and continuity (15/02/2015)
    […] and singular authentic objects: […]  as well as around 60 preserved tombstones from the 13th to 15th century from the former Jewish cemetery.
  2. ShUM cities of Speyer, Worms and Mainz (15/01/2015)
    To this day the cemetery in Worms, largely preserved in its original state, is a site that is also visited by many Jews from all over the world for individual and collective remembrance at the graves and epitaphs of scholars, martyrs and other distinguished figures and is therefore a place of living Jewish tradition of universal significance. It is also sought out by many Christians who are aware of the extensive similarities between Judaism and Christianity. The same goes, but to a more limited extent, for the memorial cemetery in Mainz.
  3. The Jewish Cemetery of Altona Königstraße. Sephardic Sepulchral Culture of the 17th and 18th century between Europe and the Caribbean (15/01/2015)
    The Ashkenazi part of the cemetery features some 6,500 tombstones of exceptional value: Particularly the tombs of rabbis excel in the sheer text volume of their inscriptions, their literary quality and external ornaments (…). There is no other Jewish cemetery in the whole of Germany that has a similar number of rabbis’ tombstones of equal importance.

UNESCO tentative Lists


Research Platform for Jewish Epigraphy

  • developed since 2002
  • online since 2006
  • driven by projects
  • various disciplinary perspectives
Hamburg, Königstraße foto: Bert Sommer


  • 186 digital editions of historical Jewish cemeteries
  • 34,000 headstones
  • 66,000 digital images

epidat – amount of data


space – topograpie

  • Germany [170]
  • Lithunia [4]
  • The Netherlands [7]
  • Czechia [5]

time – chronology

From 11th until 20th century. Currently 1.100 dated medieval inscriptions from seven communities:

  • שו״ם | Schum:
    • Speyer
    • Worms
    • Mainz
  • Frankfurt*&function=searchall&lang=de&check=2&sm=AND&wo=ed&beg=1050&end=1519


  • Hebrew
  • German in Hebrew letters (1790ff)
  • German (19th century)


epidat – access options


  • chronological
    • by year
    • by period
  • topographical
    • by place
    • by region
    • by map
  • visual – by images
  • via full-text search
  • via indices
    • artists and stonemasons
    • memorials
    • symbols
      • ornaments
      • house-symbols
    • persons
    • languages
    • words and abbrevations
    • list of words
      • words only used on headstones for men | women etc.
    • quotations
    • monument preservation activities



Wide range of perspectives

on …

text constitution | edition
symbols | ornaments | decoration
textbearing objects
form | shape | material
spatial relations between objects
headstone is part of a row | a field | a section | the cemetery

Form follows Function

What characterises this class of objects is that they form a whole with their physical support. Indeed, the meaning of an epigraph cannot be fully understood without the analysis of the object or monument or other archaeological object on which it appears, just as one cannot fully understand the nature of that particular archaeological object without thoroughly investigating the sense of the inscription or iconographic representation it hosts

Felicetti et al., 2016



Mainz, Gedenkfriedhof (mz1-2203)

‎‏זה קבר של הרב ר׳ מאיר בר אברהם הכהן הזקן הנהרג על יחוד השם במ״א לפרט כ״ז בסיון ביום שנשרף בית הכנסת ונקרעו סיפרי תורה מנוחתו כבוד‏‎

mz1-2203 – foto by LDA Mainz

Meir b. Awraham HaCohen
1281-06-15 | 27. Sivan 5041
destruction of the synagogue and the torascrolls: ביום שנשרף בית הכנסת ונקרעו סיפרי תורה
הנהרג על יחוד השם
headstone was found by workers on 5. Juni 1899 in the cellar of the inn "Zur Stadt Mainz" in the street Große Bleiche

Hamburg-Altona, Königstraße (hha-2338)

magen david | hammer
name and origin
David Hammerschlag from Hildesheim
Allusions on biblical David
2 Sam. 15:30 דוד עלה במעלה
1 Kings 2.1 ויקרבו ימי דוד למות

Shoes of Frankfurt

A Frankfurt house emblem becoming a familyname

1607 1612 1774 1782 1795 1805
ffb-444 ffb-2057 ffb-55 ffb-1584 ffb-52 ffb-1678
Schlomo Schuh Grotwol Breinlen bat Schlomo Joswel ben Schlomo Schuh Schönle bat David Rapp Breinche bat Süskind Leidersdorf Gitle bat Izek ben Jaakow Hanau SeGaL
… and displaying 200 years of shoe-design engraved in headstones

cultural impact

HyperImage Lighting Table with cans (Hamburg chronologically)

Daily Live

Agricultural equipment: The plough

1637 1654 1710 1726 1784 1794

Urban Architecture


1722 1726 1716


Symbols, ornaments, decoration found on Jewish headstones as well as biblical quotations in the epitaphs or the materials of the headstones or the type of script used are not strictly limited to Jewish cultural life.
  • Refering to authority files and use of controlled vocabularies help to disseminate the results of our research




epidat research data


are released online under an open Creative Commons Licence


are encoded in html a format for readers, which provides our epigraphical research data by the means of webdesign, typography in a structured form and in EpiDoc: TEI XML for Epigraphic Documents for users, thus providing research data in a machine readable, system-independent, program-independent and structured data format, which is widely used by (digital) epigraphers
controlled vocabularies are mapped to authority files and thesauri
interfaces are provided via a machine readable and documented interface


Recommendation: CreativeCommons Choose a licence

Epigraphic Documents in TEI XML

EpiDoc is an international, collaborative effort that provides guidelines and tools for encoding scholarly and educational editions of ancient documents. It uses a subset of the Text Encoding Initiative's standard for the representation of texts in digital form and was developed initially for the publication of digital editions of ancient inscriptions


It addresses not only the transcription and editorial treatment of texts themselves, but also the history and materiality of the objects on which the texts appear.


 <particDesc> <!-- participation description -->
        <person xml:id="ffb-80-1" sex="1">
            <persName ref="">
             Meir Rothschild ben Anschel Rothschild
            </persName> <death when="1812-09-19"/> 
 <langUsage> <language ident="he" usage="100">Hebrew</language> </langUsage>

ffb-80-1 html | EpiDoc TEI XML

authority files and thesauri

Iconclass a multilingual classification system for cultural content symbol: Lily 25G41(LILY)
Arts and Architecture Thesaurus [AAT] to improve access to information about art, architecture, and material culture object|concept: shoe 300046065
Thesaurus of Geographic Names TGN is intended to aid cataloging, research, and discovery of art historical, archaeological, and other scholarly information. place: Frankfurt 7005293
GND Die Gemeinsame Normdatei (GND) ist eine Normdatei für Personen, Körperschaften, Konferenzen, Geografika, Sachschlagwörter und Werktitel person: Rothschild, Meyer Amschel 11879132X

authority files & controlled vocabularies

By using controlled vocabularies project-specific findings are addressed by unique identifiers [digital shelf mark]


Why store data about an object, when you have the object itself?
Because without data about the objects contained in a space, any sufficiently complex space is indistinguishable from chaos.

Pomerantz 2017

Linked Open Data – in practice

By providing the GND-Identification-number more information about the person in question is on the fly dynamically provided by harvesting other online databases, which also refer to the person with the unique identifier 11879132X

  • easy
  • effective
  • inspiring new | further research

epidat included in German Digital Library

vice versa: our data a available outside our limited domain

Semantic Web

subject      predicate       object .

epidat-ID    sameAS         GND-ID .
ffb-80-1     sameAS         11879132X .

XML Silo | container

<person xml:id="ffb-80-1" sex="1">
  Meir Rothschild ben Anschel Rothschild
<death when="1812-09-19"/> 
Semantic Web is breaking down the data silos

Tim Berners-Lee: The next Web of open, linked data

Open Data provide useful information for third parties

spatial relations

A single object – the headstone – is always part of an ensemble – the cemetery
  • DARIAH-DE Geobrowser for spatio-temporal visualization across corpora
  • topographic navigation within a corpus
  • 3D model of an cemetery with linked data – virtual tour
  • 2D dynamic maps – searching for patterns | data analysis

Working /w Tacheometer on Hamburg cemetery
(team-leader: Tobias Arera-Rütenik)

Spatial relations

Workshop: IBR/RiR

Spatial relations

looking for patterns

zoom in zoom out
single object ensemble
object context
discovering units rows | fields

RiR-project 2012-2015 | template: Howto make a dynamic map

shape and form

Change in funeral tradition happens slowly. Change manifests itself not only in textual tradition. Cultural change is also reflected in the use of (new) forms. Text and form do not develop synchronously

Agile workflow

damage report שו״ם

  1. inventarisation: photographic record and – if possible – map
  2. documentation: and digital editing
  3. damage description
  4. restoration plan
  5. monitoring restoration works
  6. documentation (description and photo)

restoration activities Hamburg

Translation tool

Identifies quotations, names, places, dates, idioms – dynamic dictionaries

developed by T. Kollatz

Digital Epigraphy and Traditional Epigraphy

The structure of an XML document reflects the structure of an epigraphic edition. Following the strict hierarchy of XML forces one to better organise one’s thoughts, approach towards, and work on an epigraphic document. We have found that it is highly beneficial to be able to process and produce information in a well structured and clearer way, even if the students do not show interest in further DH training.

Bodard and Stoyanova 2016

structure vs fuzziness

Thus, for the traditionally trained epigrapher (classicist, humanist) an EpiDoc or a more general DH training leaves the sense of a distinct change of methodology. This change, however, is usually perceived as an improvement, the ‘scientific’ methodology adding more detail and nuances to the publication, though sometimes it can leave an uncomfortable feeling of not being allowed any fuzziness.

Bodard and Stoyanova 2016

Sharing Data


IIP – Inscriptions of Israel | Palestine epidat – Database of Jewish Epigraphy DIO – Deutsche Inschriften Online
quantity 3,589 34,278 ca. 18,000
time 500 BCE - 640 CE midth 11th - 20th century 500-1650 CE
space Israel | Palestine Germany | The Netherlands | Czechia | Lithunia Germany | Austria | South Tyrol
Genre Different Funeral Inscriptions Different
Format EpiDoc: TEI XML for Epigraphic Documents
Example QUAMR0001 ffb-80 34-561


סוף דבר הכל נשמע

Literature & Software

Digital Epigraphy and EpiDoc