FWD:Babylonian beer-brewing on the Internet

From: Amara Graps (Amara.Graps@mpi-hd.mpg.de)
Date: Tue Jul 10 2001 - 22:55:31 MDT

Forwarded from:
Scientific Computing Newsline #43
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Babylonian beer-brewing on the Internet

Berlin's Vorderasiatisches Museum has published on the Internet
more than 3,200 early cuneiform tablets from its storerooms.

The digitisation of the Berlin cuneiform collection, one of the
finest in the world, is part of an international project aimed at
bringing together in a virtual Internet library the
administrative archives of the city-states and empires of early
Mesopotamia. The remains of these excavated archives, 4,000 years
old, have ended up in museums all over the world.

Some of the texts are charmingly domestic - one, for instance,
concerns deliveries of three sorts of beer to the palace and to a
temple for offerings, giving the exact quantities of barley and
other ingredients used in the brewing.

Seven of the most important museums are participating in the
work, including the Parisian Louvre; the Hermitage in St.
Petersburg; and the Yale Babylonian Collection in New Haven
(USA). The pioneering work in Berlin was the result of a joint
effort by the Museum, the Max Planck Institute for the History of
Science, Berlin, and the University of California at Los Angeles.

According to Robert Englund, from the University of California,
Los Angeles: 'The Berlin collection documents the origin of
writing better than any other in the world. The tablets
illuminate the daily life of a world lost to us for thousands of
years, beginning with the urban cultures of the 4th millennium BC
and culminating in the great empire of the Ur III Dynasty at the
end of the 3rd millennium, which united all of Mesopotamia in one
administrative whole. We thus gain insights into cultural history
reaching well beyond narrow inquiries.'

Special search and representational techniques have had to be
developed to facilitate work on the content of the more than
120,000 texts. Moreover, powerful translation programs will be
required. Although cuneiform was deciphered more than 150 years
ago, even specialists lack adequate aids in the evaluation of
cuneiform literature. Lexical and grammatical glossaries are
urgently needed, but also an historical reconstruction of the
graphic development of cuneiform through time.

In its final form, the Cuneiform Digital Library is meant to
contain not just all cuneiform tablets in text and image; diverse
tools will also make it possible for scientists from other fields
to work with the material. In this way, Assyriologists and
Sumerologists will be joined by linguists, semioticists,
historians of cognitive psychology, and also by social scientists
engaged in the origins and administration of the first city-


********************************************************************* Amara Graps | Max-Planck-Institut fuer Kernphysik Interplanetary Dust Group | Saupfercheckweg 1 +49-6221-516-543 | 69117 Heidelberg, GERMANY Amara.Graps@mpi-hd.mpg.de * http://galileo.mpi-hd.mpg.de/~graps ********************************************************************* "Never fight an inanimate object." - P. J. O'Rourke

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