The aim of the DigANES-project was to develop a “Concept for the Digitization and Labeling of Ancient Near Eastern Seals and Sealings”. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and carried out at the Institute of Near Eastern Archaeology at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, it was successfully completed in November 2017. Data entry continued during 2018 and 2019 with a focus on Mesopotamian second millennium BCE seals and sealings.
We hope to implement the concept in the near future, moving towards an “Annotated Corpus of Near Eastern Imagery: Cylinder Seals” (ACANEI-CS) that will enable integrated research into one of the world’s oldest and long-lived systems of multimodal communication.
Proliferating from the Eastern Mediterranean coast to the Iranian plateau, and from the late fourth to the first millennium BCE, the use of cylinder seals in administrative practice created an enormous pool of valuable data for social, cultural, or art-historical research. The glyptic record connects images with texts through inscriptions on seals and the impression of seals onto written documents (cuneiform tablets).
Our goal is to create an open-access platform that encourages and facilitates studies on the pictorial content of these objects in a contextualized and systematic manner. We want to achieve this by digitizing a comprehensive corpus of visual sources, labeling their individual picture elements with a standardized vocabulary (tagging), and integrating these augmented visual data into an ever-growing semantic web of ancient Near Eastern 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 ancient Near Eastern record and existing strengths 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 ancient Near Eastern Studies in multiple aspects, 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.