Brent Nongbri (Norwegian School of Theology, Religion, and Society)
Prof. Brent Nongbri will discuss the the early history of the codex and introduce us to his ongoing project EthiCodex.
The Early History of the Codex: A New Methodology and Ethics for Manuscript Studies (EthiCodex)
There is no shortage of theories about how and why the codex replaced the scroll as the main vehicle for the transmission of literature in the Roman Empire. Yet, the study of the early development of the codex has been hindered by a lack of securely dated samples among the surviving codices and codex fragments. Most samples have been assigned dates only on the basis of palaeography, the analysis of handwriting, without reference to other codicological features or other kinds of analysis. Radiocarbon analysis offers a promising way to increase the number of dated samples. Although it is a destructive technology, recent studies demonstrate that successful analysis can be carried out on very small samples. Another complicating factor is the fact that many early codices and codex fragments are of unknown provenance, and most reputable radiocarbon labs now have strict policies about analyzing unprovenanced cultural heritage artifacts. EthiCodex is a project designed to address these issues by 1) investigating the provenance of the earliest codices, 2) identifying those that were legally acquired, 3) funding radiocarbon analysis to more securely date legally acquired samples, and 4) using that information to provide a more reliable set of data for discussing the development of the technology of the early codex.