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Database of Neo-Sumerian Texts (BDTNS)

 [First posted in AWOL 19 January 2012, updated, 19 December 2018]

Database of Neo-Sumerian Texts (BDTNS)

The Database of Neo-Sumerian Texts (or BDTNS, its acronym in Spanish) is a searchable electronic corpus of Neo-Sumerian administrative cuneiform tablets dated to the 21st century B.C. During this period, the kings of the Third Dynasty of Ur built an empire in Mesopotamia managed by a complex bureaucracy that produced an unprecedented volume of written documentation. It is estimated that museums and private collections all over the world hold at least 120,000 cuneiform tablets from this period, to which should be added an indeterminate number of documents kept in the Iraq Museum.
       Consequently, BDTNS was conceived by Manuel Molina (CSIC) in order to manage this enormous amount of documentation. The project initially rested on two fundamental pillars. First, the boost given by Marcel Sigrist, who in 1996 put at M. Molina’s disposal his Ur III catalogue of more than 30,000 texts. Second, the bulk of Ur III transliterations prepared in 1993 by Remco de Maaijer and Bram Jagersma (Rijksuniversiteit, Leiden), made freely available on their website; over the years this material grew considerably and was made accessible to M. Molina in 2001 via the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative. All the transliterations in BDTNS based on that work are properly credited on their respective catalogue records.
       The work on BDTNS began, therefore, in 1996 at the Instituto de Filología (now Instituto de Lenguas y Culturas del Mediterráneo y Oriente Próximo) of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC). Six years later, in 2002, it appeared online. In the same year, it began to be officially supported, thanks to two three-year research projects funded by the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología:
  • BFF2001-2319. “Digitization of the Neo-Sumerian corpus of administrative cuneiform tablets (c. 2100-2000 BC)”. PI: M. Molina. Host institution: CSIC. Funding: €84,909. Duration: From 2002/01/01 to 2004/12/31.
  • HUM2004-1516. “Digitization of the Neo-Sumerian corpus of administrative cuneiform tablets (c. 2100-2000 BC). Second part”. PI: M. Molina. Host institution: CSIC. Funding: €71,600. Duration: From 2005/01/01 to 2008/03/31.
During all those years, and up to the present, BDTNS has collaborated closely with the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI), led by Robert K. Englund (UCLA). It has also benefited from the material generously provided by several other scholars, particularly Marcel Sigrist (École Biblique et Archéologique Française, Jerusalem) and David I. Owen (Cornell University, Ithaca NY). Likewise, authors of new publications of Neo-Sumerian texts have regularly supplied digitized versions of their works that have greatly facilitated the update of BDTNS.

BDTNS in Figures

BDTNS currently provides searchable cataloguing data, transliterations, images, bibliography, collections, seal inscriptions and geotagged locations for more than 97,000 Neo-Sumerian administrative cuneiform documents. Part of this material remains unpublished, and access to it is strictly at its editor’s discretion.
       More specifically, the texts in BDTNS can be classified as follows (November, 2018):
Published in handcopy and/or transliteration 63,815
Published only in catalogue or in photographic form 22,642
Auctioned 825
Unpublished 7,960
Total of texts in BDTNS 95,242

Transliterations for most of the published texts, images, a catalogue of seal inscriptions, collections, a complete bibliography, and geotagged data about their provenience are also provided by BDTNS:
Texts in transliteration 64,012 (99% of published and auctioned texts) + 769 (unpubl. texts)
Lines in transliteration 1,156,400
Texts with handcopy 31,431 (62.2% via CDLI)
Texts with photograph 32,699 (85.4% by CDLI)
Seal inscriptions 23,470
Bibliographical references 159,088
Bibliography 1,897 titles
Collections 738 collections in
39 different countries
Provenience of the texts
Umma 29,456 35.1%
Girsu 27,212 32.5%
Puzriš-Dagan 15,527 18.6%
Ur 4,269 5.1%
Nippur 3,417 4.1%
GARšana 1,551 1.8%
Irisagrig 1,150 1.4%
Other 1,098 1.3%

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