Gāndhārī Relic Inscriptions


Relic inscriptions are highly formulaic and, located at the nexus of state and monastic hegemony, might be characterized as truly foundational artefacts. The focus of this project, which initiated requirements for READ and was the basis for the development of READ Workbench, was the characterization of the ritual practice of relic establishment through the detailed analysis of formulaic patterns in the content of reliquary inscriptions.

The international effort underway to edit Gāndhārī manuscripts has added significantly to our understanding of the development and transmission of Buddhist literature rather than the ritual and religious practices of Gandhāran Buddhism. Relic inscriptions are central to our understanding of the ritual practice of relic establishment; perhaps the most significant element of Buddhist religious culture in the period 150 BCE to 200 CE covered by the inscription record.

Research Proposition

The research proposition was that a methodology which supports iterative visualization, pattern analysis and ontology design might be implemented to support the generation of a finely detailed characterization of genre based on formulaic text structures.  The parallel implementation of multiple syntactic and semantic models might provide the basis for an algorithmic generation of formulae type and a rich characterization of genre.  The visualization of formulae sequences, both within the context of an inscription, and compared across the corpus, might support the identification of inflection points and pattern anomalies against normative types; an iterative pattern analysis practice.

Research Results

The research outputs of the project have been phased, with the initial deliverable being the generation of aligned substrates for each of the inscription TextBases as the basis for registration of semantic and syntactic analysis strata.  An initial mapped aggregate (required as the analysis ontology had, inevitably, evolved over its implementation across the collection) provided the basis for preliminary formulae analysis.  The second phase research output, a merged corpus, includes additional syntax strata and a merged glossary as the basis for detailed analysis of individual inscriptions.

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