A communiqué from Robert K. Englund of UCLA reports that the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI) is in the process of gathering together electronic transliterations of as many third millennium [BCE] texts as possible in preparation of transforming all data sets into archival XML. The CDLI project is featured in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article, which notes that there are "more than 200,000 cuneiform tablets scattered throughout museums in several countries, not counting the steady flow of black-market items trickling out of Iraq and onto eBay, and the world's 400 professional Assyriologists have been struggling to keep from being buried alive by primary documents..." CDLI, a joint project of the University of California at Los Angeles and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Berlin), has been funded by NSF and NEH to create the database. Several standard data formats, including XML text descriptions linked to vector-based image specifications of computer-assisted tablet copies, are being used "to insure high conformance with ongoing digital library projects. Metadata-based lexemic and grammatical analysis of Akkadian and Sumerian texts in the CDLI markup environment will be put at the disposal of specialists worldwide; general linguists, semioticists, and historians of communication and cognition, of administration and early state formation, will for the first time have access to the form and content of these records."
From the Chronicle article:
The project has been under way since 1998. Last year, it received a grant of $650,000 from the National Science Foundation, as part of the Digital Libraries Initiative that the foundation is conducting in partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities. Four thousand tablets from the Near East Museum, in Berlin, can now be viewed at the CDLI Web site. Large collections in St. Petersburg and Vienna have already been digitalized and are now being prepared for uploading.
In mid-October, Assyriologists from France, Germany, Israel, Russia, and Spain joined colleagues in the United States at a CDLI workshop conducted on the island of Santa Catalina, just off the coast of Los Angeles. Besides discussing technical questions involved in creating and cataloging digital images, participants agreed to create an online journal for scholarship on cuneiform.
"We'll have 60,000 texts online within the next couple of years, mostly from the third millennium," says Mr. Englund. At present, CDLI is concentrating on tablets from the period between 3200 and 2000 BC, when cuneiform first took shape. "There are another 60,000 documents from the third millennium we hope to include, and eventually we'll have material from all periods," he says. The writing system was in use for more than 3,000 years.
As of 2001-10, the CDLI's inventory of documents having transliteration consist [mainly] of "those of the proto-cuneiform texts (by Englund/Nissen/Green), the proto-Elamite texts (Dahl), limited numbers of ED IIIa texts (Hruska, Krebernik), ED IIIb texts (Selz), and Ur III texts (above all de Maaijer/Jagersma, Sigrist, Molina, Owen, Koslova, Ozaki, Lafont, Everling), altogether some. 800,000 lines of text." [Bob Englund, UCLA]
So: what's a Sumerian tablet anyway? Have a look.
- Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI)
- CDLI description
- Methods of Digitalization
- Cuneiform text markup. CDLI and PSD XML DTD. [alt URL, cache]
- "Silicon Babylon: Project Aims to Make Cuneiform Collections Available to Researchers Worldwide. [Babylon Online.]" By Scott McLemee. In Chronicle of Higher Education [Research and Publishing] November 09, 2001. [cache]
- CDLI Project Funding
- Contact: Robert K. Englund (UCLA) or Peter Damerow (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin)
- "Encoding and Markup for Texts of the Ancient Near East" - Main reference page.