## The application of geometric co-ordinate analysis (GCA) to parsing scribal hands: Part A: Cuneiform

```The application of geometric co-ordinate analysis (GCA) to parsing scribal hands: Part A: Cuneiform

Introduction:

I propose to demonstrate how geometric co-ordinate analysis of cuneiform, the Edwin-Smith hieroglyphic papyrus (ca. 1600 BCE), Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B and Arcado-Cypriot Linear C can confirm, isolate and identify with great precision the X Y co-ordinates of single characters or syllabograms in their respective standard fonts, and in the multiform cursive “deviations” from their fixed font forms, or to put it in different terms, to parse the running co-ordinates of each character, syllabogram or ideogram of any scribal hand in each of these scripts. This procedure effectively encapsulates the “style” of any scribe’s hand, just as we would nowadays characterize any individual’s handwriting style. This hypothesis constitutes a breakthrough in the application of graphology a.k.a epigraphy based entirely on the scientific procedure of geometric co-ordinate analysis (GCA) of scribal hands, irrespective of the script under analysis.

Cuneiform:

Any attempt to isolate, identify and characterize by manual visual means alone the scribal hand peculiar to any single scribe incising a tablet or series of tablets common to his own hand, in other words, in his own peculiar style, has historically been fraught with difficulties. I intend to bring the analysis of scribal hands in cuneiform into much sharper focus by defining them as constructs determined solely by their relative positioning on the X Y axis plane in two-dimensional Cartesian geometry. This purely scientific approach reduces the analysis of individual scribal hands in cuneiform to a single constant, which is the point of origin (0,0) in the X Y axis plane, from which the actual positions of each and every co-ordinate on the positive planes (X horizontally right, Y vertically up) and negative planes (X horizontally left, Y vertically down) are extrapolated for any character in this script, as illustrated by the following general chart of geometric co-ordinates (Click to ENLARGE):

Although I haven’t the faintest grasp of ancient cuneiform, it just so happens that this lapsus scientiae has no effect or consequence whatsoever on the purely scientific procedure I propose for the precise identification of unique individual scribal hands in cuneiform, let alone in any other script, syllabary or alphabet  ancient or modern (including but not limited to, the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Semitic & Cyrillic alphabets), irrespective of language, and even whether or not anyone utilizing said procedure understands the language or can even read the script, syllabary or alphabet under the microscope.

This purely scientific procedure can be strictly applied, not only to the scatter-plot positioning of the various strokes comprising any letter in the cuneiform font, but also to the “deviations” of any individual scribe’s hand or indeed to a cross-comparative GCA analysis of various scribal hands. These purely mathematical deviations are strictly defined as variables of the actual position of each of the various strokes of any individual’s scribal hand, which constitutes and defines his own peculiar “style”, where style is simply a construct of GCA  analysis, and nothing more. This procedure reveals with great accuracy any subtle or significant differences among scribal hands. These differences or defining characteristics of any number of scribal hands may be applied either to:

(a)  the unique styles of any number of different scribes incising a trove of tablets all originating from the same archaeological site, hence, co-spatial and co-temporal, or
(b)  of different scribes incising tablets at different historical periods, revealing the subtle or significant phases in the evolution of the cuneiform script itself in its own historical timeline, as illustrated by these six cuneiform tablets, each one of which is characteristic of its own historical frame, from 3,100 BCE – 2,250 BCE (Click to ENLARGE),

(c)  Geometric co-ordinate analysis is also ideally suited to identifying the precise style of a single scribe, with no cross-correlation with or reference to any other (non-)contemporaneous scribe. In other words, in this last case, we find ourselves zeroing in on the unique style of a single scribe. This technique cannot fail to scientifically identify with great precision the actual scribal hand of any scribe in particular, even in the complete absence of any other contemporaneous cuneiform tablet or stele with which to compare it, and regardless of the size of the cuneiform characters (i.e. their “font” size, so to speak), since the full set of cuneiform characters can run from relatively small characters incised on tablets to enormous ones on steles. It is of particular importance at this point to stress that the “font” or cursive scribal hand size have no effect whatsoever on the defining set of GCA co-ordinates of any character, syllabogram or ideogram in any script whatsoever. It simply is not a factor.

To summarize, my hypothesis runs as follows: the technique of geometric co-ordinate analysis (GCA) of scribal hands, in and of itself, all other considerations aside, whether cross-comparative and contemporaneous, or cross-comparative in the historical timeline within which it is set ( 3,100 BCE – 2,250 BCE) or lastly in the application of said procedure to the unambiguous identification of a single scribal hand is a strictly scientific procedure capable of great mathematical accuracy, as illustrated by the following table of geometric co-ordinate analysis applied to cuneiform alone (Click to ENLARGE):

The most striking feature of cuneiform is that it is, with few minor exceptions (these being circular), almost entirely linear even in its subsets, the parallel and the triangular, hence, susceptible to geometric co-ordinate analysis at its most fundamental and most efficient level.

It is only when a script, syllabary or alphabet in the two-dimensional plane introduces considerably more complex geometric variables such as the point (as the constant 0,0 = the point of origin on an X Y axis or alternatively a variable point elsewhere on the X Y axis), the circle and the oblong that the process becomes significantly more complex. The most common two-dimensional non-linear constructs which apply to scripts beyond the simple linear (such as found in cuneiform) are illustrated in this chart of alternate geometric forms (Click to ENLARGE):

These shapes exclude all subsets of the linear (such as the triangle, parallel, pentagon, hexagon, octagon, ancient swastika etc.) and circular (circular sector, semi-circle, arbelos, superellipse, taijitu = symbol of the Tao, etc.), which are demonstrably variations of the linear and the circular.

These we must leave to the geometric co-ordinate analysis of Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B and Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, all of which share these additional more complex geometric constructs in common. When we are forced to apply this technique to more complex geometric forms, the procedure appears to be significantly more difficult to apply. Or does it? The answer to that question lies embedded in the question itself. The question is neither closed nor open, but simply rhetorical. It contains its own answer.

It is in fact the hi-tech approach which decisively and instantaneously resolves any and all difficulties in every last case of geometric co-ordinate analysis of any script, syllabary or indeed any alphabet, ancient or modern. It is neatly summed up by the phrase, “computer-based analysis”, which effectively and entirely dispenses with the necessity of having to manually parse scribal hands or handwriting by visual means or analysis at all. Prior to the advent of the Internet and modern supercomputers, geometric co-ordinate analysis of any phenomenon, let alone scribal hands, or so-to-speak  handwriting post AD (anno domini), would have been a tedious mathematical process hugely consuming of time and human resources, which is why it was never applied at that time. But nowadays, this procedure can be finessed by any supercomputer plotting CGA co-ordinates down to the very last pixel at lightning speed. The end result is that any of an innumerable number of unique scribal hand(s) or of handwriting styles can be isolated and identified beyond a reasonable doubt, and in the blink of an eye. Much more on this in Part B, The application of geometric co-ordinate analysis to Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B and Arcado-Cypriot Linear C. However strange as it may seem prima facie, I leave to the very last the application of this unimpeachable procedure to the analysis and the precise isolation of the unique style of the single scribal hand responsible for the Edwin-Smith papyrus, as that case in particular yields the most astonishing outcome of all.

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## Alan Turing & Michael Ventris: a Comparison of their Handwriting

```Alan Turing & Michael Ventris: a Comparison of their Handwriting

I have always been deeply fascinated by Alan Turing and Michael Ventris alike, and for obvious reasons. Primarily, these are two geniuses cut from pretty much the same cloth. The one, Alan Turing, was a cryptologist who lead the team at Bletchley Park, England, during World War II in deciphering the German military’s Enigma Code, while the other, Michael Ventris, an architect by profession, and a decipherment expert by choice, deciphered Mycenaean Linear B in 1952.

Here are their portraits. Click on each one to ENLARGE:

Having just recently watched the splendid movie, The Imitation Game, with great pleasure and with an eye to learning as much more as I possibly could about one of my two heroes (Alan Turing), I decided to embark on an odyssey to discover more about each of these geniuses of the twentieth century. I begin my investigation of their lives, their personalities and their astounding achievements with a comparison of their handwriting. I was really curious to see whether there was anything in common with their handwriting, however you wish to approach it. It takes a graphologist, a specialist in handwriting analysis, to make any real sense of such a comparison. But for my own reasons, which pertain to a better understanding of the personalities and accomplishments of both of my heroes, I would like to make a few observations of my own on their handwriting, however amateurish.

Here we have samples of their handwriting, first that of Alan Turing: Click to ENLARGE

and secondly, that of Michael Ventris: Click to ENLARGE

A few personal observations:

Scanning through the samples of their handwriting, I of course was looking for patterns, if any could be found. I think I found a few which may prove of some interest to many of you who visit our blog, whether you be an aficionado or expert in graphology, cryptography, the decipherment of ancient language scripts or perhaps someone just interested in writing, codes, computer languages or anything of a similar ilk.

Horizontal and Vertical Strokes:

1. The first thing I noticed were the similarities and differences between the way each of our geniuses wrote the word, “the”. While the manner in which each of them writes “the” is obviously different, what strikes me is that in both cases, the letter “t” is firmly stroked in both the vertical and horizontal planes. The second thing that struck me was that both Turing and Ventris wrote the horizontal t bar with an emphatic stroke that appears, at least to me, to betray the workings of a mathematically oriented mind. In effect, their “t”s are strikingly similar. But this observation in and of itself is not enough to point to anything remotely conclusive.
2. However, if we can observe the same decisive vertical (—) and horizontal (|) strokes in other letter formations, there might be something to this. Observation of Alan Turing’s lower-case “l” reveals that it is remarkably similar to that of Michael Ventris, although the Ventris “l” is always a single decisive stroke, with no loop in it, whereas Turing waffles between the single stroke and the open loop “l”. While their “f”s look very unalike at first glance, once again, that decisive horizontal stroke makes its appearance. Yet again, in the letter “b”, though Turing has it closed and Ventris has it open, the decisive stroke, in this case vertical, re-appears. So I am fairly convinced we have something here indicative of their mathematical genius. Only a graphologist would be in a position to forward this observation as a hypothesis.

Circular and Semi-Circular Strokes:

3. Observing now the manner in which each individual writes curves (i.e. circular and semi-circular strokes), upon examining their letter “s”, we discover that both of them write “s” almost exactly alike! The most striking thing about the way in which they both write “s” is that they flatten out the curves in such a manner that they appear almost linear. The one difference I noticed turns out to be Alan Turing’s more decisive slant in his “s”, but that suggests to me that, if anything, his penchant for mathematical thought processes is even more marked than that of Michael Ventris. It is merely a difference in emphasis rather than in kind. In other words, the difference is just a secondary trait, over-ridden by the primary characteristic of the semi-circle flattened almost to the linear. But once again, we have to ask ourselves, does this handwriting trait re-appear in other letters consisting in whole or in part of various avatars of the circle and semi-circle?
4. Let’s see. Turning to the letter “b”, we notice right away that the almost complete circle in this letter appears strikingly similar in both writers. This observation serves to reinforce our previous one, where we drew attention to the remarkable similarities in the linear characteristics of the same letter. Their “c”s are almost identical. However, in the case of the vowel “a”, while the left side looks very similar, Turing always ends his “a”s with a curve, whereas the same letter as Ventris writes it terminates with another of those decisive strokes, this time vertically. So in this instance, it is Ventris who resorts to the more mathematical stoke, not Turing. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Overall Observations:

While the handwriting styles of Alan Turing and Michael Ventris do not look very much alike when we take a look, prime facie, at a complete sample overall, in toto, closer examination reveals a number of striking similarities, all of them geometrical, arising from the disposition of linear strokes (horizontal & vertical) and from circular and semi-circular strokes. In both cases, the handwriting of each of these individual geniuses gives a real sense of the mathematical and logical bent of their intellects. Or at least as it appears to me. Here the old saying of not being able to see the forest for the trees is reversed. If we merely look at the forest alone, i.e. the complete sample of the handwriting of either Alan Turing or Michael Ventris, without zeroing in on particular characteristics (the trees), we miss the salient traits which circumscribe their less obvious, but notable similarities. General observation of any phenomenon, let alone handwriting, without taking redundant, recurring specific prime characteristics squarely into account, inexorably leads to false conclusions.

Yet, for all of this, and in spite of the apparently convincing explicit observations I have made on the handwriting styles of Alan Turing and Michael Ventris, I am no graphologist, so it is probably best we take what I say with a grain of salt. Still, the exercise was worth my trouble. I am never one to pass up such a challenge.

Be it as it may, I sincerely believe that a full-fledged professional graphological analysis of the handwriting of our two genius decipherers is bound to reveal something revelatory of the very process of decipherment itself, as a mental and cognitive construct. I leave it to you, professional graphologists. Of course, this very premise can be extrapolated and generalized to any field of research, linguistic, technological or scientific, let alone the decipherment of military codes or of ancient language scripts.

Many more fascinating posts on the lives and achievements of Alan Turing and Michael Ventris to come!

Richard

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