In March 2017, the Institute for Near Eastern Archaeology of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich launched a project to develop a “Concept for the Digitization of Ancient Near Eastern Seals and Sealings (DigANES)”, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
The widespread use of cylinder and stamp seals in Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) administrative practice creates a huge pool of valuable data for social, cultural, or art-historical research. The ancient record connects images and texts through inscriptions on seals and the impression of sealings on written documents. This record extends from the Eastern Mediterranean coast to the Iranian plateau, and dates between the late fourth to first millennium BCE.
The goal of DigANES is to create an open-access platform that encourages and facilitates studies on ANE seals and seal impressions in a contextualized and systematic manner. We want to achieve this by digitizing a comprehensive corpus of visual sources, labeling their individual pictoral elements with a standardized vocabulary (tagging), and integrating these augmented visual data into an ever-growing semantic web of ANE texts and images.
Developing an apt multi-lingual vocabulary to verbally capture visual information is one of our key-concerns in this early phase of the project. Such a vocabulary should follow established Digital Humanities procedures, while respecting particularities of the ANE record and existing strength of art-historical inquiry.
In regard to visual sources, we will use both: scans/photographs and line-drawings. While the latter remain central for iconographic analysis, high-quality products of digital imaging technologies allow for greater objectivity and cross-checking, but also for capturing material characteristics that elude black-and-white drawings.
This is a large-scale and long-term endeavour that will benefit the study of ANE culture as a whole, integrating material, visual, and textual data. We are looking for people interested in contributing to it with their ideas, images, and suggestions! If you are one of these people, please let us know: DigANES@web.de