The ‘Senior’ collection of birch bark manuscripts originate from eastern Afghanistan or northern Pakistan date to the second century CE and contain discourses of the Buddha and biographical accounts of his life. The manuscripts are fragmentary and required extensive conservation and reconstruction. A number of the manuscripts have already been the subject of monographs and doctoral dissertations. In this truly multi-national undertaking, Senior manuscripts are being edited at three institutions (University of Washington, University of Sydney and the Australian National University) as well as by independent scholars across widely divergent time zones. Each of the research participants are peer stakeholders in the project.
Located on the Silk Route at the ‘crossroads of Asia’, Gandhāra played an important role in the transmission of Buddhism from India to Central Asia and China. Recent manuscript finds dating from as early as the first century BCE, have revolutionized the field of Gandhāran studies. These documents are the oldest surviving Buddhist manuscripts. They provide unprecedented insights into the early history of Buddhism in South Asia, the development of Buddhist literary genres, transmission to China and beyond, the rise of the Mahāyāna as well as greatly improving our understanding of the Gāndhārī language and Kharoṣṭhī script.
The research proposition was to establish a collaboration infrastructure that might support researchers to work independently on their own TextBases and aggregate these TextBases into a merged corpus. Processes and procedures based on READ Workbench workflows needed to be developed and augmented with project specific standards, both methodological and ontological, to support the decentralised development of TextBase substrates with consistent analysis strata that might be merged upon aggregation.
The research outputs of the project have been phased, with the initial deliverable being the development of ‘threshold editions’ of individual manuscripts; a TextBase with critical annotations, glossary, translation, chāyā and structural analysis strata. In parallel, the integrated documentation suite to support the TextBase methodology has been developed and implemented. As each individual TextBase is developed they are aggregated into the integrated ‘Senior’ corpus with merged analysis strata.