Securing Data in Mesopotamia: New Technologies for Secured Cuneiform Texts

15 - 19 March 2021

Venue: Lorentz Center@Snellius

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From the earliest stages of writing in Mesopotamia in the late fourth millennium BCE, the need to share information went hand in hand with concerns about data security. Clay tablets bearing cuneiform text were incised, imprinted, encased, wrapped, copied and otherwise manipulated in order to validate them and to protect them from forgery and unwanted access. The processes of data control that accompanied the written text since the dawn of history require a research strategy that goes far beyond traditional text analysis. In order to study Mesopotamia’s ancient communication system in all its aspects, we propose to create a new multidisciplinary research community consisting of historians, archaeologists, linguists, epigraphists, geo-scientists, computer scientists and experts from the social, cognitive and applied sciences. 

This workshop will take place at both the Snellius and Oort venue. 


    Monday 15 March 2021

    Preliminary time table (latest update November 16 2020)

    10:0010:30 Registration and coffee
    10:3010:45 Welcome by the Lorentz Center
    10:4511:15 Introduction by the organizers: aims of the workshop
    11:1511:45 Keynote 1: Imaging the inside of clay tablets: the state so far
    11:4512:15 Keynote 2: Ancient techniques of clay tablet manufacture: the unknowns
    12:1514:00 Lunch and time for participants networking
    14:0015:00 Group activity. 1: X-ray and neutron CT. 2: Breakage of clay tablets: a testimony from conservation. 3: Clay envelopes: function, format, history.
    15:0016:00 Break-out session
    16:0016:30 Reports of break-out session, group discussion
    16:3018:15 Site visit to the Böhl collection of cuneiform tablets at NINO
    18:1520:00 Wine and Cheese party at the Lorentz Centre

    Tuesday 16 March 2021

    09:0009:30 Keynote 1: Sign and handwriting recognition in digital cuneiform projects
    09:3010:00 Keynote 2: Identifying scribal agency: philology and paleography
    10:0010:30 Keynote 3: Finger print analysis in archaeology & forensic investigation
    10:3011:00 Coffee break
    11:0012:00 Group activity: 1. Tablet in mini-dome. 2. Soft wrappings of clay tablets: types and uses. 3. Rope, textile and reed mat traces on Neolithic pottery. 4. Duplicating texts for security
    12:0013:30 Lunch
    13:3014:30 Break-out session. Q1: What new questions can we ask about data security in ancient Mesopotamia thanks to surface scanning techniques? Q2: What else would we like to capture but cannot yet with these digitalization techniques?
    14:3015:00 Reports of break-out session, group discussion 
    15:0016:15 On the train to Delft
    16:1517:45 Laboratory visit at the TU Delft
    17:4520:00 Tram to the city center of Delft and dinner

    Wednesday 17 March 2021

    09:0009:30 Keynote 1: The Archaeology of archives in Mesopotamia
    09:3010:00 Keynote 2: Provenance analysis of clay texts: state of the art and prospects
    10:0010:30 Keynote 3: Plant remains and other organic inclusions in clay tablets
    10:3011:00 Coffee break 
    11:0012:00 Group activity: 1: Ink traces on clay tablets: an epigrapher’s testimony. 2: Elemental chemistry measurement techniques. 3: XRD, clay mineralogy. 4: Rubbish or archive?
    12:0012:30 Plenary discussion: the clay tablet as data container beyond text.
    12:3014:00 Lunch
    14:0014:30 Keynote 1: Ancient data security as a matter of human cognition
    14:3015:00 Keynote 2: The organization of knowledge in the earliest cuneiform texts
    15:0016:15 Group activity: 1: Social network analysis as a tool in studying data security. 2: Curating clay tablets. 3: Multidisciplinary information systems of cuneiform texts. 4: Virtualization of cuneiform tablets in Mainz. 5: Text fabric
    16:1517:15 Break-out session. Q1: what does a cognitive approach to data security in the historical periods entail? Q2: What are the ethical dimensions of ancient data security?
    17:1518:30 Reports of break-out session, group discussion 
    18:3021:00 Boat trip

    Thursday 18 March 2021

    09:0010:30 Plenary session: 1: Towards a multi-physics analysis of cuneiform tablets— testimonies from the field. 2: Corpus selection and sample-taking: best practices. 3: Data sharing
    10:3011:00 Coffee break
    11:0011:45 Plenary session (continuation). 4: Infrastructure and knowledge exchange. 5: Societal impact, valorization.
    11:4512:15 Wrapping up the morning plenary session
    12:1513:45 Lunch
    13:4515:30 Plenary session
    15:3016:00 Coffee break
    16:0019:00 Wrapping up the afternoon plenary session
    19:0021:00 Dinner in Leiden

    Friday 19 March 2021

    09:0009:45 Informal meeting with grant advisers from LURIS and TU Delft
    09:4510:00 Briefing from the LDE Center for Global Heritage
    10:0010:15 Personal reflection on commitment
    10:1510:45 Coffee break
    10:4512:00 Plenary session (sticky-note brainstorm session)
    12:0013:30 Lunch
    13:3015:00 Plenary session
    15:0016:00 Closing
    Please log in to view the participants information...

    Caroline Waerzeggers, Leiden University  

    Rients de Boer, Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University  

    Dominique Ngan-Tillard, TU Delft  

    Hubert Mara, Mainz University  

    Dirk Roorda, KNAW/DANS  

Claire Bleize

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