Digital Edition of the Cuneiform Texts from Haft Tappeh

Cuneiform texts are transliterated and made available digitally Vanessa Liebler for the i3mainz, CC BY SA 4.0

The project Digital Edition of the Cuneiform Texts from Haft Tappeh is dedicated to the transliteration and digital provision of more than 600 cuneiform texts from cuneiform texts from Haft Tappeh (Iran). The aim of the project is the and further development of a digital workflow taking into account existing tools existing tools, international standards and computer linguistic computer linguistic evaluation methods.


Haft Tappeh (ancient Kabnak) is located in southwestern Iran in the province of Khuzestan, about 15 km southeast of the ancient city of Susa. The geographical position has made Haft Tappeh an important site of Bronze Age history and culture. culture. To date, large-scale excavations have revealed, in addition to architectural remains of a palace, more than 1400 text fragments of cuneiform tablets cuneiform tablets in Babylonian language have been uncovered. Most of them administrative documents, the final linguistic edition of which is still pending. is still pending.

In the first phase of the DFG-funded project, the 600 to 650 texts excavated by Behzad Mofidi-Nasrabadi (JGU) will be digitally edited and prepared for machine reading. The processing with contemporary methods and the open provision of the results should enable the investigation of paleography, lexis, syntax, tablet formats, text categories, bureaucratic protocol and modus operandi of the important text corpus beyond the narrower circle of Ancient Near Eastern Studies.

 For this purpose, i3mainz is developing a digital workflow for cuneiform tablets that starts with the existing 3D data and photographs of the tablets and digitally prepares the contents via transliteration and computer-linguistic as well as semantic annotation. The focus here is not on the creation of a new portal for the provision of cuneiform data, but on the production of FAIR data that can be integrated into other repositories already existing or under construction. The acronym FAIR stands for findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable and refers to internationally accepted principles for making research data available. The tools developed are made available in a Git repository. This makes it easier to replicate the workflows in other projects. This makes not only the data findable, accessible, interoperable and usable but also the software.


After a kickoff meeting in 2019 to define the initial workflow of the cuneiform tablets with Gitlab and Seafile cloud storage, the main focus in the year 2020 was focused on the testing of the workflow and the preparation of the first preparing the first data of the digital edition.

In spring 2020, Ali Zalaghi completed the consolidation and digital cataloging of the 3D scans and photographs already created in advance for the project. Tim Brandes and Eva Huber produced initial transliterations of a large number of the cuneiform tablet texts. They form the data basis for the development of the overarching data model of the Haft Tappeh project. Timo Homburg formulated this as an ontology, which includes the provision of the transliterations, images and 3D scans via a Linked Data graph with SPARQL endpoint and the linking of further thematically related resources via the internet. In addition, work has begun on the project’s Git-based web platform, the “Cuneiform Workbench”. In the future, it will provide digital support for the edition of the cuneiform texts, enable the data to be made available in interoperable formats, and simplify their transfer to corresponding archival databases (repositories).

Eva Huber, Tim Brandes and Timo Homburg successfully submitted an application for funding for a workshop for young researchers in the field of computational linguistics, digital humanities and cuneiform research within the framework of the ideas competition “Small Subjects: Visibly Innovative!” announced by the BMBF and the HRK. The aim of the Workshop “From analog to digital: Conceptions of cuneiform research in the 21st century using the example of administrative documents” is to network these research communities in order to develop digital standards beyond the boundaries of the disciplines. The Haft Tappeh project aims to initiate this process not only through the young scholars workshop, but also through a scholarly symposium envisioned by the project. For the support of the young scholars workshop, but also for better networking among cuneiform scholars, a new portal, the Initiative for Digital Cuneiform Studies (IDCS), has been launched to accompany and collect the results of the workshop.

With Hubert Mara, since June 2020 managing director of mainzed at Mainz University of Applied Sciences, additional perspectives have emerged with regard to the analysis of 3D data. The software framework GigaMesh developed by him was introduced to the work of the project with a workshop in October 2020. For the Haft Tappeh project, potentials arise in the area of automatic recognition of cuneiform characters, their annotation and linkage with the transliterated texts. In a cross-project approach, preliminary work on a scheme for capturing the technical metadata of 3D scans has been integrated within the Haft Tappeh project and incorporated into the data model.

In 2021, the Haft Tappeh project will seek dialog with further experts, infrastructure-providing institutions, and scholars from the field of digital text edition, advance the further development of the web platform, and prepare the publication of the project results.