Chapter

Digitising Cuneiform Tablets

Carlo Vandecasteele, Luc Van Gool, Karel Van Lerberghe, Johan Van Rompay and Patrick Wambacq

in Images and Artefacts of the Ancient World

Published by British Academy

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780197262962
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734533 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5871/bacad/9780197262962.003.0004

Series: British Academy Occasional Papers

Digitising Cuneiform Tablets

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In 1850, ‘Assyriology’, or the science of reading and interpreting cuneiform, was created. During this period, historians travelled to the Middle East and spent years copying cuneiform tablets. Now, at the beginning of the third millennium AD, not much has changed. Historians still rely on epigraphy which employs the copying of inscriptions and texts by hand. This method is highly subjective, tedious and time-consuming. As Middle Eastern antiquities departments do not allow the export of these tablets, historians and scholars are faced with the challenge of producing more efficient field methods. This chapter discusses a new method of recording the information taken from cuneiform tablets using digitizing. Digital imaging uses a camera wherein the picture captured is linked to a laptop which runs an image processing algorithm program to obtain the desired results. An enhancement method is then applied to improve the quality of the image. Digitizing cuneiform tablets provides historians a working document with legibility of 90 to 95 per cent. Aside from its relatively efficiency, digital imaging can also allow for the registering of various tablets in one excavation season and can be employed in the digital registration of all sealings such as pottery sherds, and fingerprints on clay vessels.

Keywords: Assyriology; science of reading cuneiform; cuneiform tablets; epigraphy; digitizing; digital imaging; image processing algorithm; enhancement method; digitizing cuneiform tablets

Chapter.  2074 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Archaeological Methodology and Techniques

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