Digitizing the Library of Ashurbanipal at the British Museum
Please bring your lunch and join us for a Museum Studies Brown Bag!
The library of Ashurbanipal, king of the Neo-Assyrian empire of the first millennium BCE, is the oldest surviving royal library in the world. It contained an enormous collection of clay tablets, a broad range of texts from royal inscriptions to literary epics and incantations. Over 30,000 of these tablets were first excavated by the British Museum in the 1850s, and have remained in London to the present day. Although much of it is unedited or unpublished, it is an enormous collection of information about Mesopotamia. Over the summer of 2012, I worked at the British Museum on a project to make these tablets accessible online, for Assyriologists and a broader academic audience. In taking high-quality photographs and processing them digitally, we created a high-resolution digital image of the tablet. As these are written documents, the ultimate goal was to produce images good enough that cuneiform writing on the tablets themselves could be read. This digitization stood as the first step of a larger project, where these images could then be analyzed, finding trends and patterns in the writing of the cuneiform signs themselves that would allow us to identify individual scribes who were writing nearly 3000 years ago.