Laurie Pearce, Lecturer

Closed (1) Ancient Texts, Modern Tools and Technologies

Applications for fall 2021 are now closed for this project.

Are you interested in ancient and modern technologies? Would you like to bring ancient texts to a wider audience and give them new life on the web? You can contribute to the preservation of knowledge and cultural heritage over time!

In this URAP project, students will assist in the preparation of cuneiform text corpora for online presentation and research. The cuneiform script developed in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) was one of the world’s earliest writing system---in use from c. 3200 BCE – 75 CE. It was used to record texts in Sumerian and Akkadian, as well as Hittite (an Indo-European language spoken in Anatolia). Cuneiform scholars were early adopters of digital text editions, and of the best practices that make the data available to all. These projects are subsumed under the corsortial umbrella of Oracc (On-line Richly Annotated Cuneiform Corpus).
Dr. Laurie Pearce, lecturer in the department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures (MELC), is the director of two of these projects: (1) HBTIN (Hellenistic Babylonia: Texts, Images and Names), and (2) ForBab (Foreigners in Babylonia in the First Millennium BCE). HBTIN includes a corpus of 500+ Babylonian texts that document and contextualize the legal, economic, and scholarly activities of elite families of the ancient Mesopotamian city of Uruk during the Hellenistic period, the reign of Alexander the Great and his successors. They provide a rich picture of the lives of the last native Babylonians. ForBab is a new, international collaboration (with scholars in Belgium and Israel), that brings together evidence for foreign population groups, many of whom were deported in the wake of military campaigns, living in Babylonia. The texts provide insights into the rich multi-cultural fabric of life in the Babylonian and Persian empire, as well as into the administrative and economic forces in play.

Research apprentices associated with Ancient Texts, Modern Tools and Technologies may contribute to one or both projects in areas that best suit their skills and interests: e.g., database management and curation, website and portal development and maintenance, image preparation for the website. This URAP project offers apprentices the opportunity to participate in active, on-going research projects that are part of collaborative, and international scholarly agendas. It provides a close, supportive working environment, especially (but not exclusively) for the apprentice with a wide range of interests and skills — including classics, ancient history, Near Eastern history, cultures in contact, urban studies, architecture, digital humanities, social networks, data visualization. The apprentices learn about an ancient society and actively contribute to scholarly efforts to preserve cultural and textual heritage in one of the world’s early, great, literate societies.

A research apprentice may have the opportunity to participate in one or more of the following project activities:

1. Database curation to prepare the corpora for social network analysis. The apprentice will learn principles of data structuring for SNA and how to consider and transform legacy data for new research questions and tools.
2. Develop a web portal for each project using Oracc templates and guidelines.
3. Image preparation for development of visual catalogues of the corpora texts. Students may expect to work with scanning and image management/cataloging software.
4. Bibliography maintenance. Active scholarly projects are useful to the extent that they provide researchers with the most current resources. Using reference managers, students will work with citations collected by scholars and contribute updates to the projects’ bibliographies.
5. Digital text editions and project development. Students with strong language skills and extreme attention to details will have the opportunity to work closely with the project director in editing and proofreading project files. The apprentice will develop an understanding of a digital project workflow, of the history and development of digital project history. The apprentice will develop skills in working with FTP clients, text editors, and project specific programs.

Qualifications: Student qualifications: Students eager to engage in digital humanities projects, who are meticulous in handling data and text files, have strong organizational skills, and familiarity with html, Word, database/spreadsheets or digital graphics programs are encouraged to apply. Background in ancient history, classics, archaeology are a plus, not a requirement. The research assistant will meet with the project director weekly, and will generally be expected to work on project computers; some work may be completed outside of meeting times.

Weekly Hours: 3-5 hrs

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