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Indian alchemy article
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Alan Pritchard

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 Posted: Fri Jan 9th, 2009 09:39 am
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A chronometric approach to Indian alchemical literature

Oliver Hellwig

Literary and Linguistic Computing Advance Access published online on January 8, 2009

Indian alchemy, a branch of traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda), has produced a corpus of texts that are difficult to date using regular philological techniques. This article describes a contents-based computational method that is capable of calculating the relative chronology of these texts. Central parts of alchemical literature are encoded in a language model that can be understood by a computer and then compared with an alignment algorithm. Phylogenetic trees derived from these alignments show regularities in the ordering of alchemical texts, and these may be interpreted as temporal patterns. Processing these patterns with a minimization algorithm, we are able to compute a relative chronology of the corpus, which is largely consistent with results obtained using traditional philological techniques

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