CDLI Year-end notes, 2015

As we near the end of the year, I'd like to report on a few additions to CDLI content and functionality that might be of interest to some in cuneiform studies and related fields. These additions resulted in large measure from the project Creating a Sustainable Cuneiform Digital Library (CSCDL)–phase 3, under the general management of CDLI at UCLA, and generously funded by the Mellon Foundation, by UCLA's Humanities Division (supported by its Center for Digital Humanities), and by Oxford University.

The first is a technical improvement achieved by Émilie Pagé-Perron of the University of Toronto. Her implementation of a CDLI search-renderer feed of an online viewer now accommodates the RTI images of cuneiform artifacts that Oxford co-PI Jacob Dahl and research associate Klaus Wagensonner (now at the Free University of Berlin) created, working in the collections of the Ashmolean Museum and the Louvre, and in smaller numbers in those of Oslo (Schøyen), Manchester (JRL) and Philadelphia (UPenn); Bruce Zuckerman's West Semitic Research Project at USC also imaged for us the Khorsabad reliefs of the Oriental Institute Museum (Chicago). These files currently document 2,279 surfaces of 1,085 individual artifacts—in 8,570,000 discrete jpg's. Our use of this online viewer, written by Gianpaolo Palma as a sub-initiative of the cultural heritage capture technologies being developed at the Visual Computing Lab of CNR-ISTI (Pisa), is described at here. The viewer does not pretend to replace the higher-level capabilities of such powerful RTI viewers as InscriptiFact (WSRP) running on local workstations, but it does offer some of the strengths of RTI image files in a true online environment. In these, treated artifact surfaces are presented for immediate browser view; for instance, three artifacts here, a Sargon II lamassu in the OIM, an Ashmolean prism with Sumerian literary texts, and an Old Akkadian account from the Louvre, each hyperlink to several RTI images. Users may click on one of these links after “View RTI” above the entry thumbnail, and then on the light bulb found in the tool box at the upper left. Clicking, holding and moving your cursor round about the image determines the light source and raking angle, while the magnifying glass (or scroll ball/tracking pad in your mouse) allows you to enlarge the image up to and down from pixelation. It does not require as much practice as some of your Christmas toys to become expert at the use of this simple viewer. We are now discussing making the much more cumbersome full RTI files available for download to and viewing on local computers, using whatever full viewer users might have available to them.

Other additions to CDLI are in the realm of content: 

To begin, the now full Louvre catalogue is available in CDLI, completed as a component of the Agreement of Scientific Cooperation signed by the Louvre and UCLA in March 2013 (see further our general Louvre pages). In a collaborative effort among Louvre staff and Klaus Wagensonner, then at Oxford, this initial full inventory of Louvre cuneiform artifacts resulted in a total of 12,550 entries, of which some 4,300 remain, so far as we see, unpublished. Wagensonner has, further, added nearly 1,000 new fatcross image files for online view, including large numbers of unpublished Ur III accounts and receipts, significant witnesses of Sumerian literary texts, and the DP tablets heretofore only available in the 1913 hand copies of Allotte de la Fuÿe. Through this initiative, and following the drive of Jacob Dahl, the proto-Elamite texts from Susa have achieved the photographic documentation that they so evidently deserve. Quite frankly, it is difficult to overstate the importance to the research of archaic Iran that is represented by the quality of images presented, for instance for MDP 6, 344—not so much the dumb images really, as the text annotation that they facilitate.

final set of new British Museum images has been processed and uploaded, also nearly 1,000 in number. These are largely the result of digital camera photography done by staff working under Jonathan Taylor, Assistant Keeper of the Museum's Middle East Department, during CSCDL phase 2 and deposited as raw files at CDLI/UCLA for final fatcrossing. More than half of these entries are currently listed as unpublished; we are, as ever, grateful for any feedback from specialists that would assist us in the many text identifications we have certainly missed.

All cuneiform text artifacts located in the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology, Toronto, are now available for view. ANE Curator Clemens Reichel has kindly allowed us to make public, here, images of all located artifacts, including ROM's 460+ unpublished 2nd and 1st millennium texts. Permission to publish these texts should be arranged through Dr. Reichel. For an overview of the collection, see here.

In the past year, we have added substantial numbers of fatcrosses of tablets in the collection of the Princeton Theological Seminary. UCLA graduate student Michael Heinle has recently undertaken CSCDL's final capture mission to the PTS, and is processing our archival images to complete work on their 2,900 texts. We were, unfortunately, not given permission to access the largely unpublished Princeton University Library collection of some 1,250 cuneiform texts.

Now finally, those whose interest in proto-cuneiform has never flagged will have noted that the ongoing conflict in and around Baghdad shelved the final volumes in the ATU series planned for Iraq National Museum texts, while at the same time heavy numbers of Late Uruk texts have become available to research in the aftermath of the two US-led wars against Iraq. Faced with the unlikelihood of achieving a completed paper publication of proto-cuneiform artifacts from Uruk, Hans Nissen determined that all such data created in preparation for those volumes (ATU 8-9), as well as all records of proto-cuneiform artifacts generally, should be made available online so as to facilitate ongoing and future research. CDLI, as successor host to the online components of ATU, has therefore endeavored to gather and process for web dissemination all available proto-cuneiform documentation, regardless of the origin of such data. As a modest homage to Nissen's Archaische Texte aus Uruk project, to his personal commitment to all facets of Uruk excavations, and as a living extension of the ATU series, we completed in the past months a score generator of all pertinent archaic lexical lists published in ATU 3. Clicking on Q000002 under the first entry found here, for instance, brings up the composite version and all currently known Late Uruk witnesses to the list known as Archaic Lu2 A (the notorious Professions List; click on “Download transliterations” to see the exact form of such transliterations with score-generating tags), while clicking on “score” brings up the same texts in the full-score version taught to all Sumerology students in Germany (and entering the Oracc pages of Niek Veldhuis’ DCCLT site, for instance here for Q000002). These scores include the numerous new witnesses in the Norwegian Schøyen collection, and are a part of a growing number of such compendia entering CDLI pages at.

Bob Englund
Director, CDLI