Writer characterization and identification of short modern and historical documents: Reconsidering paleographic tables

Shira Faigenbaum-Golovin, David Levin, Eli Piasetzky, Israel Finkelstein

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Handwriting is considered a unique “fingerprint” that characterizes a scribe (it is even used as evidence in modern forensics). In paleography (the study of ancient writing), it is presumed that each writer has a one prototype for each letter in the alphabet. Commonly, for ancient inscriptions, letters are organized into paleographic tables (where the rows are the alphabet letters, and the columns represent the examined inscriptions). These tables play a significant role in dating inscriptions based on their resemblance to columns in the table. In this paper, we argue that each scribe "fingerprint" is not represented by a single character prototype, but in fact by a distribution of characters. We introduce a framework for automatically identifying the writer style and constructing paleographic tables based on character histograms. Subsequently, we propose a method for comparing short documents utilizing letter distribution. We demonstrate the validity of the methods on two handwritten datasets: Modern and Ancient Hebrew pertaining to the First Temple period. Our methodology on the ancient dataset enables us to provide additional evidence concerning the level of literacy in the kingdom of Judah ca. 600 BCE.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the ACM Symposium on Document Engineering, DocEng 2019
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery, Inc
ISBN (Electronic)9781450368872
StatePublished - 23 Sep 2019
Event19th ACM Symposium on Document Engineering, DocEng 2019 - Berlin, Germany
Duration: 23 Sep 201926 Sep 2019

Publication series

NameProceedings of the ACM Symposium on Document Engineering, DocEng 2019


Conference19th ACM Symposium on Document Engineering, DocEng 2019


FundersFunder number
Dan David Foundation
Israel Antiquities Authority
Israel Exploration Society
Israel Science Foundation2062/18
Tel Aviv University


    • Epigraphy
    • Handwriting comparison
    • Hebrew ostraca
    • Historical documents
    • Iron Age
    • Judah
    • Paleographic tables

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