S11 – Digital Humanities


First part: Laurie Pearce
Second part: Steve Tinney


  1. Alexa Bartelmus and Birgit Christiansen (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
  2. Nathan Morello (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
  3. Frauke Weiershäuser (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
  4. Laurie Pearce (University of California, Berkeley)
  5. Steve Tinney (Penn Museum), Eleanor Robson (University College London) and Jamie Novotny (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)

General Abstract

This two-part morning session is dedicated to some of the main projects of the LMU Munich-based Munich Open-Access Cuneiform Corpus Initiative (MOCCI), including one jointly carried out with collaborative research partners at UC Berkeley.
The first part of the workshop will comprise a joint paper on text corpora of lesser-known Near Eastern Languages (specifically Urartian and Elamite) and the many challenges of their editing and lemmatizing (linguistically tagging). The second part of the workshop will focus on digital tools and interfaces currently under development at LMU Munich for more dynamic searching and analyzing varied and annotated textual corpora of official inscriptions (e.g., royal inscriptions of Assyria and Babylonia) and archival documents (e.g., Neo-Assyrian royal correspondence and astrological reports). The Ancient Records of Middle Eastern Polities (ARMEP) map interface and an in-development text alignment tool will be discussed and demonstrated.

General Contacts: Nathan.Morello@lmu.de; Jamie.novotny@lrz.uni-muenchen.de; F.Weiershaeuser@lmu.de

Paper Titles with Abstracts

To view the abstracts, please click on the titles:

Creating Open-access Urartian and Elamite Text Corpora
Alexa Bartelmus and Birgit Christiansen (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)

This paper will present recent research that has been carried out on the digitization of first-millennium-BC Urartian and Elamite texts, work conducted as part of the Munich Open-Access Cuneiform Corpus Initiative (MOCCI), with the aim of broadening the accessibility of the written sources of those ancient Middle Eastern polities to a larger audience. The presentation will comprise three parts: (1) project reports; (2) responses from invited respondents; and (3) a steered, open discussion. Christiansen will talk about her work on Urartian inscriptions written on a rock surface and a variety of stone objects, a corpus of 255 texts published by Mirjo Salvini in his Corpus dei testi urartei. Bartelmus will report on her work on Neo-Elamite inscriptions. This joint paper will also address the problems and challenges of lemmatizing (linguistically tagging) the texts of these lesser known Near Eastern languages, translating them into readable and intelligible English, and creating open-access informational web pages that are aimed at making the history, culture, and languages of the Elamites and Urartians more accessible to scholars, students, and members of the general public.

The Ancient Records of Middle Eastern Polities (ARMEP) Map Interface: its current Uses and future Prospects
Nathan Morello (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)

ARMEP 1.0’s interactive map interface, which was made public in December 2017, displays the find spots of about 6,700 ancient texts, all of which were written in the Akkadian and Sumerian languages and in cuneiform script. Most of these inscribed artifacts were discovered in modern-day Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, while others originate from Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. This paper will demonstrate ARMEP’s current functionality and outline features to be implemented in version 2.0, which is to be released later this year. The current, in-development and planned functionality of the map interface will be highlighted through examples from the recently completed corpus of Royal Inscriptions of Assyria online (RIAo).

Oracc, Royal Inscriptions and the Text Alignment Tool
Frauke Weiershäuser (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)

Currently the two LMU Munich-based and MOCCI-hosted Oracc projects Royal Inscriptions of Assyria online (RIAo) and Royal Inscriptions of Babylonia online (RIBo) present annotated (lemmatized) editions in only transliteration and translation, together with complete glossaries of Akkadian and Sumerian words and proper names. However, in the not-so-distant future, the most important compositions in these two text corpora, as well as in other MOCCI-based projects (e.g., State Archives of Assyria online [SAAo]) will also be accessible to scholars, students, and members of the general public via a LMU Munich-designed text alignment tool. This as of yet unnamed open-access web interface will make photographs (and hand-drawn facsimiles) of original cuneiform texts (both the words and individual cuneiform signs) of these important ancient sources fully searchable and will link words in the Akkadian or Sumerian text directly to their counterparts in transliterations and translations. This paper will give an overview of the planned functionality of this innovative analytical tool and will highlight its potential for future Assyriological research.

Assyriology, Digital Humanities and Reproducible Research
Laurie Pearce (University of California, Berkeley)

Assyriology, grounded in traditional philological research methods, sits squarely in the humanities. Through frequent and close interactions with cuneiform tablets, autograph copies, and photographs, scholars draw conclusions from evidence offered by grammatical analysis, lexicography, linguistics, and epigraphy — as well as the more elusive but finely honed sense of the internal workings of a corpus, archive, or manuscript tradition. On the vanguard of the digital humanities movement, some Assyriologists have adopted, employed, and created digital tools and methods not only to streamline repetitive tasks, but to explore new vistas and advance new research agendas. Methods drawn from computational text analysis and social network analysis methods offer not only the appeal of graphic representations, but also the possibility of quantifiable and reproducible results. As humanities disciplines embrace the tools and methods of social science, they are challenged to document ever more precisely the heuristics and workflows of their research. Teams of Assyriologists and specialists in information and technology services at the University of California, Berkeley and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München are collaborating in the development and application of digital tools to reconstruct and document heuristics Assyriologists apply in their research and to demonstrate the reproducibility of their conclusions. With tools such as those at home in Natural Language Processing and computational representations of historical astronomical phenomena, the teams, with an eye toward explicit documentation and replication of the scholarly model, are jointly exploring the complete corpus of Neo-Assyrian administrative and scholarly letters and astrological reports published in the State Archives of Assyria series, which Parpola in the 1980s assigned to distinct scholarly dossiers and specific imperial reigns on the basis of orthographic variants, datable astronomical events, and references to datable historical events (such as the building of Dūr-Šarrukīn) chronological markers. This paper will present the initial results of the UCB-LMU collaboration.

Oracc Workshop
Steve Tinney (Penn Museum), Eleanor Robson (University College London) and Jamie Novotny (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)

The Oracc workshop will be in two parts. In the first, plenary session Steve Tinney and Eleanor Robson will introduce the new mobile-friendly Oracc website and ask for feedback on it. Steve will also talk about developments with the Electronic Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary (ePSD2) on Oracc.
In the second part we will hold three parallel break-out groups. Jamie Novotny will run a session on “Getting started with your own Oracc project”. Steve will lead a group on “Sharing your data with Oracc”. Eleanor will host a hands-on workshop on editing and lemmatising cuneiform texts with Nammu. There may also be a session on re-using Oracc data.

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