Students to publish ancient text through Green Scholars Initiative

Kelly Tunney

Four Kent State Honors College students will work to analyze and translate an ancient Greek document through the Green Scholars Initiative during fall 2011.

Other universities involved in the initiative received prominent works such as an original copy of “The Iliad” by Homer. But Kayla Zatezalo, freshman crafts major and one of the participating students, said they will have to wait until fall to discover the text they will examine.

The Green family, who owns the Hobby Lobby store chain, has a large collection of ancient documents including Greek papyri, medieval manuscripts and cuneiform tablets. They started the Green Scholars Initiative to get college undergraduates involved in publishing these documents, said Jennifer Larson, chair of modern and classical languages and coordinator for the project at Kent State.

“It’s kind of different from the way it usually happens,” she said. “Usually texts like this are only accessible to professors and graduate students, so it’s great to have that different approach where we have undergraduates getting involved.”

Scott Carroll, the director of the Green Collection and principle investigator for the project, met with Larson and the four students March 18 to give them a look at the papyrus they will be working with, Larson said.

During the meeting, Carroll told the participating students, named junior Green scholars, they will perform a chemical analysis of the papyrus in the fall and translate it from Greek in the spring after taking Elementary Greek I and II.

“To get to that point, there is a lot of preliminary work that has to go in,” Larson said. “People in ancient times didn’t use punctuation or word divisions, so you can imagine trying to read a document with no spaces between the words (and) no punctuation.”

Zatezalo said considering the prominence of “The Iliad,” she is excited to uncover which document Kent State will be publishing.

“I’m a big fan of mythology, so something by Homer would be great, but something by anybody prominent would be absolutely amazing,” she said.

Heather Benya, freshman mathematics major and a junior Green scholar, also said she is interested to see what the papyrus says.

“We got to see the piece of papyri, and it was just a piece of paper with a bunch of scribbles on it; you don’t know what it says,” she said.

Although they are not starting the actual analysis until fall, Benya said they are reading “The City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish” by Peter Parsons over the summer. The book is meant to introduce them to the Greek language and customs, Benya said.

Zatezalo said she is grateful to be a part of a project that allows a wide range of majors to be included.

“I’m a crafts major. My concentration is jewelry, so normally I wouldn’t get the chance to work with this high up in the classics department,” Zatezalo said. “This opportunity is really rare for somebody in my major, so I’m really glad to do this.”

Contact Kelly Tunney at [email protected].