Cybernetica Mesopotamica

History

Giorgio Buccellati
March 2012

home

aims

history
archaeology

Grammar Urkesh
Terqa
graphemics

Ebla
Terqa
OB letters
MA laws
morphemics

Ebla pers. names
OB royal letters
First phase: mainframe
Paper distribution and publication
Second phase: fixed media
Third phase: online access
Conceptual development
Current implementation

First phase: mainframe

     My first introduction to computers was in the distant 1966, when I entered the Code of Hammurapi on punched tape, and derived some simple outputs from it.
     Soon convinced of the immense (if still somewhat hidden) potential, I applied and received one of the first major NEH grants for the application of computers to the humanities. The project was entitled OBLAP: Old Babylonian Linguistic Analysis Project, and it ran from 1968 until 1973. We had graduated (!) to punched cards, and we entered the entire corpus of letters as they were becomign available through the publication of F. R. Kraus series Altbabylonische Briefe. In the process, I developed a rigorous encoding manual for both the graphemic and the morphemic aspects.
     We soon expanded the project to include other corpora (of uneven size), with the assistance of other colleagues and of some of my students, in particular:
  • The Ebla corpus
  • The Middle Assyrian corpus
  • The Terqa corpus
  • The Western Syrian corpus (Amarna, Alalakh, Ugarit)
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Paper distribution and publication

     Electronic distribution was not yet an option. We provided colleagues with enormous fanfold paper outputs, running into thousand of pages, which consisted of triadic sign concordances in "kwic" format.
     I also began a series of printed volumes, of which only four appeared in print:
  • Data Sets/Cuneiform Texts 1: C. Saporetti, Assur 14446: la famiglia "A", 1979
  • Data Sets/Cuneiform Texts 2: C. Saporetti, Le leggi medioassire, 1979
  • Data Sets/Cuneiform Texts 3: C. Saporetti, Assur 14446: le altre famiglie, 1982
  • Graphemic Categorization, 2: C. Saporetti, The Middle Assyrian Laws, 1984
Clearly, the printed dissemination of the results was only a stop-gap measure, while waiting for the only proper channel, which consisted of electronic fixed media first (floppy disks, CDs, and DVDs), and eventually of online distribution through the World Wide Web.
     I also started a printed journal entitled Computer Aided Research in Near Eastern Studies, which I do-edited with Olivier Rouault.
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Second phase: fixed media

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Third phase: online access


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Conceptual development

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Current implementation