Building the Abnormal Hieratic Global Portal

Ben Companjen - Centre for Digital Scholarship (Leiden University Libraries), Peter Verhaar - Centre for Digital Scholarship (Leiden University Libraries), Laurents Sesink - Centre for Digital Scholarship (Leiden University Libraries), Ferdinand Harmsen - Faculty of Humanities (Leiden University), Koen Donker van Heel - Papyrological Institute (Leiden University)

Presentation type: Presentation


The Abnormal Hieratic script was used in Egypt around the 7th century BCE, as a shorthand for hieroglyphs. Only a few people in the world currently understand this script well, but interest is growing. In current courses too little time is available to practice the alphabet in the classroom. More educational resources are needed to allow students to study the details of Abnormal Hieratic without depending on the experts directly.

In a joint pilot project between the Papyrological Institute, the Faculty of Humanities and the Centre for Digital Scholarship, an online portal is created to allow a community to grow around materials with Abnormal Hieratic text. It allows users to view Abnormal Hieratic sources in detail, online, with transcription and transliteration as previously published, and using metadata from Trismegistos, a platform with lots of information about texts from the ancient world. Words in the text will be linked to dictionaries, name books (for personal names) and gazetteers (for location names). The online portal and community helps pilot the strategic goal of the Faculty of Humanities to build and foster communities of interest around various types of sources.

The online portal is built around IIIF and the WordPress content management system. IIIF and annotations appear to be a perfect match for the requirements of viewing digitised papyri in detail and providing links between images, words and terms. WordPress and various plugins allowed us to version content and create custom APIs for working with annotations. The annotations are indexed in Elasticsearch to drive an interface in which the original text is shown next to an SVG rendering of the hieroglyphs, the Latin transliteration and the translation.

In this presentation we will present our architecture and data modeling choices. We will reflect on some issues we have or had to resolve, future goals and the use of this setup for building communities of interest around sources.


  • Annotation, including full-text or academic use cases,
  • IIIF Implementation Spectrum: large-scale or small-scale projects


  • educational resources,
  • academic communities of interest