Tuesday, August 22, 2023

The “electronic Babylonian Library” (eBL) Project

The “electronic Babylonian Library” (eBL) Project


The electronic Babylonian Library (eBL) Project brings together ancient Near Eastern specialists and data scientists to revolutionize the way in which the literature of Iraq in the first millennium BCE is reconstructed and analyzed. Generations of scholars have striven to explore the written culture of this period, in which literature in cuneiform script flourished to an unprecedented degree, but their efforts have been hampered by two factors: the literature’s fragmentary state of reconstruction and the lack of an electronic corpus of texts on which to perform computer-aided analyses.

The eBL project aims to overcome both challenges. First, a comprehensive electronic corpus has been compiled, and legacy raw material now largely inaccessible has been transcribed into a database of fragments (“Fragmentarium”). Secondly, a pioneering sequence alignment algorithm (“cuneiBLAST”) has been developed to query these corpora. This algorithm will propel the reconstruction of Babylonian literature forward by identifying hundreds of new pieces of text, not only in the course of the project but also in the decades to come.

In order to answer several fundamental and much-debated questions about the nature of the Babylonian poetic expression and the composition and transmission of the texts, three tools are being developed to data-mine the eBL corpus. The first will search for patterns in the spelling variants in the manuscripts, the second will find rhythmical patterns, and the third will sift the corpus for intertextual parallels. The bottom-up study of the corpus by means of these tools will decisively change our conceptions of how Babylonian literature was composed and experienced by ancient audiences.

The eBL project is based at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. The project is funded by a Sofja Kovalevskaja Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (2018–2024).

I. Narrative Poetry

  1. 5. Erra and Išum — 670 vv.
  2. 7. Adapa — 130 vv.
  3. 9. Etana — 294 vv.
  4. 10. Anzû — 544 vv.

II. Monologue and dialogue literature

  1. 1. Theodicy — 297 vv.
  2. 7. Aluzinnu Text — 400 vv.

III. Literary Hymns and Prayers



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