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The present document provides a comprehensive overview of the provenience entity type as employed within the framework of the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative. First is given a definition of the entity type and its relation to related entities within the framework. Then follows an overview of the various record fields stored for this entity, along with subsections for each field giving exhaustive descriptions of their format, content, and application. Then follows an overview of mandatory and optional links to external entities relating to the present entity type. The concluding section briefly summmarises the history of the present entity type within the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative and related projects.


Within the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative, a provenience is defined as any discrete geographic location of a physical, archaeological feature. These entities typically relate either to artefact provenance, e.g. the origin of an inscribed object, or geographically identifiable elements of historical geographies. A provenience may refer to an extant physical feature, as well as any extinct physical feature whose location can be reconstructed with a high level of spatial accuracy. A physical feature may include anything from an inscription carved on a modestly sized rock to a mounded site extending over several square kilometres.

A provenience is then distinguished from an historical place by virtue of its existence as a geographical entity. A provenience is distinguished from an historical region in that the geographical demarcation of the latter is conceptually, rather than physically defined and in that a region is a parent entity to - and typically much larger in extent than - a place.

A provenience can be linked to a place record to associate the physical location and the archaeological feature with a historical entity. A provenience can be linked to one or more name records to associate various toponyms with the physical location.

Note that a provenience is conceptually closely related to a location as defined in the conceptual framework of the Pleiades: A Gazetteer of Past Places historical geographical database.


name field_name type description
provenience The name of the provenience
ancient name
modern name


Ancient name

Modern name


Provenience records should include mandatory links to two external repositories, along with optional links to several others. These are listed below:

format repository URL
place_id Pleiades
item_id WikiData
id GeoNames
id OpenStreetMap
id World History Gazetteer


Provenience records held by the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative have been added continuosly since the formation of the catalogue in 2003. The legacy format of provenience records, still in widespread use in other databases, consisted of a single character string with the following format: 'ancient name (mod. [modern name])', with association certainty indicated by the absence (certain) or presence (uncertain) of a question mark '?' apended to the string. Similar formal conventions underlie the ANE Site Placemarks index of Olof Pedersén of Uppsala University, but here the notion of certainty indicated by the question mark relates to geographical certainty, rather than certainty of association between an object and a provenience.

The original records table has been reviewed, checked, and augmented from 2020-2022 by the research project Geomapping Landscapes of Writing (GLoW) of Uppsala University, with a presentation and overview of the initial index resulting from these efforts presented in Rattenborg et al. 2021. Curated versions of the GLoW provenience index Cuneiform Inscriptions Geographical Site Index (CIGS) can be found at the open data repository Zenodo. As part of these efforts, the majority of provenience records have also received polygon vector geometry and a derived centroid point vector geometry.

See the Vocabulary consortium at for more information about standard Assyriological metadata structure and controlled vocabularies.

Last updated: 31 March 2022

Cite this Doc
Rattenborg, Rune. 2024. “Contribution and Data Guides: Proveniences.” Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative. April 15, 2024.
Rattenborg, R. (2024, April 15). Contribution and data guides: Proveniences. Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative.
Rattenborg, R. (2024) Contribution and data guides: Proveniences, Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative. Available at: (Accessed: April 15, 2024).
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