S08 – Geography


  1. Anne Goddeeris (Universiteit Gent)
  2. Rune Rattenborg (University of Durham)
  3. Shigeo Yamada (University of Tsukuba)
  4. Nele Ziegler (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)
  5. Karel Nováček (Palacký University Olomouc)

Paper Titles and Abstracts

To view the abstracts, please click on the titles:

Let’s Wander Slowly through the Fields: Facts and Fiction in the Old Babylonian Nippur List of Field Names (OB Nippur Ura 5: 1-160)
Anne Goddeeris (Universiteit Gent)

As a rule, Babylonian and Assyrian knowledge is formalized in extensive lists, lexical lists forming the most extensive type. The compilation of these lists – sometimes leaving out obvious items, as well as including impossibilities – raises much questions.
A comparison between the field names mentioned in the Old Babylonian documentary texts from Nippur on the one hand, and those listed in the corresponding section of Old Babylonian Nippur Ura (Old Babylonian Ura 5: 1-160) on the other, reveals interesting parellels and deviations. Besides actual geographical names in the Nippur region, the list also includes fictituous variants of these names and some entries record technical and administrative terminology. Thus, we can identify some of the mechanisms at work in the redaction of OB Nippur Ura 16.

A Clay Tablet, a Spreadsheet, and a Spy Satellite Walk Into a Bar: Building Data Sets for Large-Scale Statistical Analysis from Administrative Cuneiform Texts
Rune Rattenborg (University of Durham)

The increasing digitisation of the cuneiform corpus has unleashed an array of exciting computational methods for philological and historical research, ranging from standard text markup and tagging to large-scale data mining, formal network analysis and 3D-imaging and automated translation. Interrelating and ordering more diverse nodes of information for substantive, computer-aided historical research remains cumbersome, however, as it often requires more interpretive efforts at the interface between analogue text and digital rendering. Yet the coupling of the primary text and relevant information not present in the text itself, not to mention the insights that cuneiform specialists themselves can bring to the formative stages of data generation, certainly holds huge potential for taking digital humanities applications to cuneiform sources even further.
Starting from a preoccupation with quantitative data as found in administrative cuneiform texts, this paper will first provide a review of previous attempts at converting and using data from this particular type of document in computer-aided analyses (e.g. Kerestes 1982, Stepien 1996, Jaworski 2008, Tenney 2011) and highlight obstacles in the initial interpretation and conversion of information from the text into a suitable digital format. Secondly, I present and discuss in more detail a versatile data structure for the ordering and querying of quantitative and qualitative data from administrative cuneiform texts, capable of maintaining the level of factual resolution found in the original text while at the same time allowing for large-scale dynamic analyses of a wide range of variables, and compatible both with statistical analyses and integration with GIS (Rattenborg 2016). Finally, I draw up some key areas of interest for future large-scale comparative and diachronic analyses of this type of documentation, and demonstrate the potential of large-scale exploratory data analyses as applied to the presented data set.

Landscape of Tabatum as seen in the Old Babylonian Letters from Tell Taban
Shigeo Yamada (University of Tsukuba)

Japanese excavations of Tell Taban undertaken in 2005–2006 uncovered 26 Old Babylonian cuneiform tablets and inscribed envelopes. The study of these documents has revealed that after the death of Hammurabi of Babylon, the city of Tabatum (Tell Taban) was placed under the control of the king Iṣi-Sumuabi who ruled the middle Euphrates and Habur areas from Terqa (Tell Ashara). It has also become known that a person called Yasim-Mahar was nominated by the king to be a “mayor” (sugāgum) representing the local society of Tabatum. Furthermore, the documents demonstrate the cultural affinities of Tabatum with Terqa, the princepal city of its suzerain state, implying some of them were the common cultural heritage of the Amorite kingdom of Mari.
This paper deals with three letters sent from the king Iṣi-Sumuabi to Yasim-Mahar to consider the landscape of Tabatum from topographical and political-social viewpoints. It discusses the topography of Tabatum, focusing on the word salahum that appears in the letters as an important element of urban organization of Tabatum, and argues that the salahum meanes the flock, rather than a topographical concept. Then, I will consider the political-social landscape in and around Tabatum, while paying attention to the reference to the Sim’alite tribe in one of the letters and discussing the tribal connection between the residents of Tabatum and the royal family of Terqa, as well as the former Amorite kingdom of Mari.

Die Osttigrisregion in altbabylonischer Zeit
Nele Ziegler (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

Die Regionen östlich des Tigris bis weit in die Täler des Zagros sind in der schriftlichen Dokumentation des 2. Jahrtausends gut bezeugt. Der Vortrag soll erste Resultate des deutsch-französischen ANR-DFG Forschungsprojekts (HIGEOMES/TEXTELSEM) zur historischen Geographie vorstellen.

A Christian Landscape of Adiabene
Karel Nováček (Palacký University Olomouc)

Since the synode at Ctesiphon (410 AD), Christians in Sasanian Empire started to develop their territorial organization and to build numerous new structures purposed for practicing of religion, now formally recognized. This making of Christian landscape in North Mesopotamia got another impetus by expansion of monastic movement iniciated by Abraham of Kashkar in the 550s. The cenobitic reform of the ‚Nestorian‘ monasteries paved the way for their important socio-economic role which characterized monasteries until the middle Islamic period. With use of the most recent data collected by ongoing large survey projects in Iraqi Kurdistan, the paper will present mostly archaeological view on settlement structure and built environment of the region of Adiabene (Hdayab) during the late Sasanian and early Islamic periods. Particular attention will be paid to monastic settlements and their hypothetical transformation from dayrā (semi-eremitic settlements) to ʿumrā (walled monastic houses).

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