Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Ras Shamra Tablet Inventory at OCHRE

Ras Shamra Tablet Inventory
RS 2.004, Aqhatu 1
The Ras Shamra Tablet Inventory (RSTI) aspires to be the foremost online resource for Ugarit Studies. From the celebrated myths to the more quotidian administrative lists, the texts from Ras Shamra-Ugarit are of great interest to students and scholars of Biblical studies and Ancient Near Eastern studies. These ancient texts, discovered by archaeologists beginning in 1929, provide insight into the religious, administrative, and daily life of the kingdom of Ugarit, some 3,200 years after its fall. After over 80 years of Ugarit studies, researchers like those at the Oriental Institute are still establishing reliable text editions of the thousands of texts. Printed volumes are an inadequate solution. The field needs an innovative, collaborate, and ambitious solution. The primary goal of RSTI is to integrate archaeological, textual, lexical, and philological research in a single database and present this data to researchers and the public through a simple, widely accessible, online digital interface.

This project builds on many years of research, including research from a pre-digital age. In 1978, Pierre Bordreuil and Dennis Pardee set out to document critical information about every inscribed object from Ras Shamra-Ugarit. In 1989, “La Trouvaille Epigraphique de l’Ougarit” (TEO) appeared in the series Ras Shamra-Ougarit, volume 5 (Éditions Recherche sur les civilisations, volume 86). This volume presents the archaeological context of every inscribed object, a description of the object size and type of writing, museum numbers, publications, text editions, and general remarks. Of course, the printed volume lacks information about the objects discovered after 1988. During his doctoral research, Prosser endeavored to create a relational database that included digitized TEO data, text transcriptions, translations, glossaries, bibliographic references, and notes. This database functioned well but was very limited. Through his work at the Persepolis Fortification Archive project at the Oriental Institute, Prosser became familiar with the OCHRE database system and immediately perceived its superiority for archaeological and philological analysis. See below for more on the OCHRE database system. Work began on RSTI in 2011, importing data from Prosser’s relational database and adding new data.

Deployed through both Java and familiar HTML user interfaces, RSTI presents dynamic and interactive text editions, prosopography research, bibliography, and related resources. RSTI uses the Online Cultural and Historical Research Environment (OCHRE) at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. The OCHRE database system was developed specifically for research in archaeology and philology. The underlying data model is well-suited to the heterogeneous and semi-structured nature of philological data. For more about the OCHRE database, see


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