Recent Developments in Digital Assyriology - Zoom Workshop, Helsinki, August 26-27 2020

Presenting on behalf of Geomapping Landscapes of Writing (GLoW) and the Department of Linguistics and Philology, Uppsala University, by Jakob Andersson, Seraina Nett, and Rune Rattenborg on August 26, 18.35-18.55 in Session 1: Creating and enriching text data.

ABSTRACT “The Big Picture: Large-Scale Trends in the Distribution and Composition of the Cuneiform Corpus”

Histories of the ancient world are founded on the assumption that historical documents are products of unique circumstances of production, deposition, and preservation, unlikely to be repeated and therefore particular in nature. The idiographic position of the written word as a source of knowledge about the past rests upon this notion of uniqueness and exclusivity, as opposed to the omnipresence and perceived vulgarity of material culture. Counting a conservative half million individual texts, the cuneiform corpus ranks among the largest discrete bodies of writing from the ancient world. This plethora of records, its noticeable diversity of genres, and its impressive temporal and spatial extent suggest regularity, rather than coincidence, in its formation and distribution as a historical artefact. Yet, because of its immense size and extreme temporal and spatial spread, no attempt has ever been made to map this corpus in full.

This paper introduces the structure, programme, and preliminary observations of a three-year research project at Uppsala University which aims to produce an updated, global survey of cuneiform inscriptions in collaboration with existing text catalogues and data repositories. Harnessing GIS-aided remote sensing and spatial analysis coupled with digital humanities research tools, the project aims to explore our newfound technological ability to accurately capture, assess, and quantify the material imprint of this immense corpus. In so doing, the project will aim to make available an updated suite of attribute, spatial, and temporal metadata resources for free dissemination and reuse, as well as dedicated studies of corpus composition, linguistic landscapes, and the materiality of texts.

The project is generously funded by the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond Mixed Methods-programme (grant no. MXM19-1160:1) for 2020-2022. For further information, visit our webpage. To see updates on project activities, follow us on @GLoW_RJ