Touring the Reconstruction


The fifth-century Great Stemma was probably drawn on a roll of papyrus of standard height (30 centimetres say) and at least as long as the bed you sleep in. My reconstruction proposal, the Piggin Stemma, obviously can't be viewed on a smartphone or any other digital device unless you move it around. So scroll left and right; zoom in to read words (and zoom out to see the full expanse); use the built-in controls.

Use the horizontal scroll bar (pictured below) at the bottom of your screen to scroll. On a touchscreen: pinch and spread. With a mouse: use its wheel. If you never zoom a keyboard computer, check out my separate instructions. If the Romans had had computers, this is how they would have read their scroll-format books on them.


As an example of the digital humanities, the Piggin Stemma invites you to explore beyond first sight and enjoy the pleasures of discovery. This innovative chart was rebuilt with a coding language named SVG. It enables me to hide a guidebook in 12 overlays that remain invisible until you need them. You won't see any of its hundreds of plaques unless you've granted permission for scripts to run in your browser. If you haven't done this yet, please give your OK, or enable scripts. There's nothing nasty in here, I promise.

Also, it's not a film. Once you are ready, you will have to tap some controls (pictured below) to make the interactive layers appear. Each right button makes a new effect visible: the corresponding left button makes the overlay go away. Try it. The overlay entitled "Damage" even includes an animation (with a start button) showing how roundels were moved. The animation doesn't work in Microsoft Internet Explorer, but works fine in other browsers including those on smartphones. If you lose your way among all the overlays, you just reload the page (press F5 on Windows computers) to start afresh.

radio buttons

A reassurance: you came here because you are attuned to graphic desígn and the psychology of visualization. You will see here hundreds of Hebrew names you may not know. I have translated them from Latin into English to make them less alien, but don't be overwhelmed by names or glosses. You are on a guided tour of an exotic place: late-antique graphics technology. Don't be sidetracked by the late-antique theology (unless that is your passion).

First up, just concentrate on how a fifth-century designer uses circles to visualize kinship and depict eras of time. The leftmost flag (sample pictured below) of each overlay offers you enough context to get started on your walk through this text-archaeology excavation.


If you like this new method of presentation, and I am sure you will, recommend the site to your friends. Send them this page's URL: Don't send them a direct link to the SVG file, or they may get baffled.

Now, continue to the graphic reconstruction (at the top of this page is another link). The Piggin Stemma is a big file (nearly 300 MB): give it time to load. Enjoy the tour. You can also examine a comparison graphic showing how the digital reconstruction compares to the pen-drawn best manuscript, Plut. 20.54 at Florence, Italy.

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