Cuneiform & space: Carlos Museum

The Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University, and the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI), an international research project based at the University of California, Los Angeles, are delighted to announce the completion of an initial phase of digital capture, processing and web posting of the Carlos collection of  326 cuneiform artifacts. Following a series of e-mail communications among CDLI and Museum staff, including Emory faculty member Jacob Wright, that led to the creation of an updated catalogue of inscribed artifacts, the texts were imaged in November 2012 by Nicholas Reid from CDLI’s Oxford group, employing primarily conventional CDLI flatbed scanning procedures; the heavy bricks and brick fragments were photographed separately by Reid, and professional images of the collection’s two inscribed stone pieces were made available to CDLI courtesy of the Museum. The staff of the Museum, in particular Jasper Gaunt, Todd Lamkin, and Stacey Gannon-Wright, created an exceptional work environment to make this mission successful. Post-capture fatcrosses were created by UCLA staff.

The collection consists of texts, from a variety of periods of Babylonian history, that are broadly representative of the nature of documents found in Mesopotamian schools and administrative offices. Some ninety of the texts were published by Daniel Snell in 1987 (ASJ 9, 233-275), including, as no. 12, an otherwise unassuming Ur III messenger text made famous by its ride in space on NASA's STS-33 mission that lifted off in the dead of Thanksgiving night in November 1989; a handful were edited by Edmond Sollberger in 1958 (JCS 10, 27-29). The rest, well over 200 artifacts, remain, to the best of our knowledge, unpublished. All texts may be browsed here. We welcome queries and proposals about the publication of these texts, or the correction of our catalogue, transliterations, or images, that may be posted to Carlos staff or to CDLI.

The Emory effort was made possible by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and is part of the on-going mission of CDLI to ensure the long-term digital preservation of ancient inscriptions on cuneiform tablets, and, in furtherance of humanities research, to provide free global access to all available text artifact data.

For the Museum:
Jasper Gaunt & Peter Lacovara, Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University
For the CDLI:
Robert K. Englund, UCLA