(HAARETZ) — Over the last few years. Hannah Cotton-Paltiel and Jonathan Price have spent much of their time far from the comfortable confines of the Ivory Tower, crawling through caves with flashlights in their hands, squeezing into crowded old basements and storage spaces, and rummaging through piles of old stones in private collections, churches and museums around the world.
Cotton-Paltiel, who holds the Shalom Horowitz Chair in classics at the Hebrew University, and Price, who chairs the parallel department at Tel Aviv University, are part of the Israeli arm of a unique international project that bears the scientific title Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae.
Work on the project began in 1999 and is expected to be completed in 2017. When it is complete, all of the ancient inscriptions discovered within the borders of the State of Israel will be gathered together in a single comprehensive scientific series. The seven-volume work aims to organise a sea of information that until now consisted of partial, truncated and widely-scattered items; to track down inscriptions that have never been published; and to offer the widest range of contemporary interpretations for those inscriptions that are already known to scholars.