Monday, May 14, 2012

CDLI News: Charles University (Prague) cuneiform collection

Digital library of the Charles University (Prague) cuneiform collection
We are delighted to announce a successful digitization collaboration between Charles University in Prague (CU) and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-supported research project “Creating a Sustainable Digital
Cuneiform Library (CSDCL)” that is now available at <> and, through the search engine of the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI - Los Angeles/Berlin), at  <>. Under the general direction of the CDLI, CSDCL is dedicated to the digital capture, persistent archiving and web dissemination of major cuneiform collections in the US, Europe and the Middle East, and we are particularly grateful to the CU-Prague partners who contributed their  catalogue and high-resolution image files to this effort.

History of the cooperation 
In October of 2009, Christina Tsouparopoulou of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG), Berlin, inquired into the status of the collection and its availability for digital capture, an initiative taken up by her postdoctoral successor Luděk Vacín, who has coordinated communications between the project and the digitization team in place at Charles University. Cécile Michel, Directrice de Recherche at CNRS-Paris, has kindly agreed to act as scientific director of a continuing collaboration focusing on the (< texts in the collection. Indeed, of the 438 text artifacts in the Charles University collection, 408 (found during B. Hrozný’s excavations at Kültepe, ancient Kaneš) derive from this early second millennium BC phase of Mesopotamian history, characterized by a highly organized—and documented—expansion of Assyrian trade into the heart of a thriving Anatolian civilization. The remaining texts are from the Ur III period and date to the last century of the 3rd millennium (eight appear to be modern fakes). The collection is best known through the 1998 publication Karl Hecker, Guido Kryszat and Lubor Matouš, entitled “Kappadokische Keilschrifttafeln aus den Sammlungen der Karlsuniversität Prag”; the Ur III texts were edited by Hans Neumann and Blahoslav Hruška in 1994 (ArOr 62, 230-247).

The images and text presented in the collection website represent a successful merging of electronic transliterations compiled primarily by members of the Old Assyrian Text Project (<>) on the one hand, and on the other of high-resolution digital images of the texts prepared by professional photographer Ondřej Němec under the guidance of Petr Zemánek, Director of Charles’ Institute of Comparative Linguistics. The files produced by CU-Prague represent without question the best image documentation currently available for paleographical research on the Old Assyrian corpus; we anticipate the completion of transliterations of all texts in due course, together with interlinear translations of a representative sampling of the documents.

Cuneiform online 
Charles University’s Institute of Comparative Linguistics enthusiastically joined this effort to make available its complete cuneiform collection to the world-wide community of web researchers and informal learners. We believe that general access to images of all text artifacts establishes the broadest possible foundation for integrative research by the scholarly community on Charles University and related cuneiform inscriptions. We are confident that our adherence in this collaboration to the principles of open access expressed, for instance, in the “Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities,” promulgated by the German Max Planck Society (<>), best serves all in the Humanities, but particularly those in the fields of dead language research so dependent on access to source materials for their work. In opening to world-wide inspection cuneiform collections such as that located in Prague, CU joins other cultural heritage and research institutions in CDLI's ‘extended family’ who believe that humanists must make every effort to fulfill their curatorial and scholarly responsibilities to permanently archive, and to make available to the public all artifacts of shared world history that are in their immediate, or indirect care.

For the Institute of Comparative Linguistics, Faculty of Arts, Charles
University in Prague:
Petr Zemánek, Director
Pavel Čech, Teaching and Research Fellow

For the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative:
Robert K. Englund, Director, CDLI, and Professor of Assyriology, UCLA
Luděk Vacín, Postdoctoral Researcher, MPIWG
Cécile Michel, Directrice de Recherche, CNRS, Paris 

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