From Bertrand Lafont:
The Abbey of Montserrat nearBarcelona, Spain, and the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLILos Angeles/Berlin) are delighted to announcethe successful digitization of the Montserrat cuneiform collection.
This significant new digital content to CDLI’s web offerings is nowavailable, in Catalan, Spanish, French, and English,
The origins of the Museum of the Montserrat Abbey and its collection of cuneiformartefacts are related to the journeys of Father Bonaventura Ubach whovisited Iraq and several excavations and archaeological sites in1922-23. He was one of the early visitors to Woolley’s excavations inUr. Important pieces acquired during his travel are on display in themuseum, where Ubach and his successors created additional space toexhibit extraordinary text artefacts (visitors should request anappointment to view the holdings).
Ubach managed to collect a substantial number of cuneiform objects,mostly tablets, currently numbering approximately 1150 artifacts, thatreceived constant attention through cataloguing and text publications.The majority of these (778) date to the Ur III period (ca. 2100-2000BC) and are economic in character. Among these we may mention, forinstance, an administrative text still in its envelope and a round bulla whose weathered seal impression andcontent can be related to a similar object in the John Rylands Libraryin Manchester, UK, with the same seal impression. A large, relatively well-preservedaccount dates to the ninth year of the Ur III king Shu-Sîn.
The remaining text artefacts in the collection represent a ratherdiverse assemblage. Most prominent are 87 copies of a royalinscription of the Early Old Babylonian (ca. 2000-1900 BC) kingSîn-kashid found on both tablets and on small cones. Although always similar in content,these manuscripts make for a valuable addition to the texts edited byFrayne for the “Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia” project (RIME4.4.1.).
The Old Babylonian period is further represented by important objects;the collection contains some manuscripts of Sumerian literature, mostnotably a relatively well-preserved manuscript of the “Instructions ofShuruppak”, a fragment of “Gilgameshand Huwawa B”, and anAkkadian-glossed version of the “Ur-Ninurta Instructions”. Akkadian literature is representedby fragments containing lines of the Erra epic. For the late periods the collectioncontains several Neo-Babylonian bricks and tablets, but alsoimportant text artefacts until Achaemenid and Seleucid periods. Amongthese, a Late Babylonian manuscript of the epic Atra-hasis must behighlighted, for it adds additional lines and intriguing variants toother known texts. As well, there area few fragments of astronomical and medical texts. The collection also includes
fragmentary tablets containing Hittite ritual texts and Elamite royal inscriptions.
The condition of the tablets is rather good. There are also threeboxes of fragments that could join to existing texts in thecollection. During the process of imaging Wagensonner made five joinsthat seem to represent new texts, all of them Ur III economic records. The existing fragments (some tens) canto a great extent be dated to this period, but there are also plentyof later bits and pieces. Future work will likely result in morejoins.
Extant cuneiform text artefacts in the collection were digitized inthe fall of 2012, using the conventional flatbed scanning methods ofthe CDLI, thanks to the generous hospitality of the Abbey ofMontserrat, the support of the French CNRS and a grant of the AndrewW. Mellon Foundation (project “Creating a Sustainable CuneiformDigital Library”). The imaging was a cooperative effort among threepartners: the CNRS in Nanterre (Bertrand Lafont), the CSIC in Madrid(Ignacio Márquez Rowe and María Dolores Casero Chamorro), and theUniversity of Oxford (Klaus Wagensonner). The raw images wereprocessed to CDLI-conformant fatcross representations by Wagensonner.
Following this successful digitization, it may be stressed again thatour adherence to the principles of open access serves all theHumanities, in particular those in the fields of dead languageresearch dependent on free access to primary sources and accompanyingcatalogue data. In granting open access to source material such as thetext artefacts kept in the Montserrat Museum, this importantcollection joins other cultural heritage and research institutions inCDLI’s “extended family” who support efforts to permanently archive,and to make available to the research and the general public digitalfacsimiles of all artefacts of shared world history that are in theirimmediate, or indirect care.
Bertrand Lafont, CNRS Paris
Ignacio Márquez Rowe, CSIC Madrid
F. Pius-Ramon Tragan, Abbey of Montserrat