Diplomatics and Palaeography of Neo- and Late Babylonian Archival Documents

Principal investigator: Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Michael Jursa
Project team member: Mag. Dr. Reinhard Pirngruber
Duration: 01.03.2014–28.02.2017
Granted sum: EUR 290.214,75

This research project will study for the first time in a comprehensive manner the relationship between the content of cuneiform tablets from first millennium BC Babylonia and their external features, namely tablet format and script. It thereby addresses an urgent desideratum as these aspects have hitherto been neglected although their importance for the purpose of dating a tablet or its attribution to a given archive has been established beyond doubt. It should be mentioned that the first millennium BC is a particularly suitable period for such studies, owing to the wealth of documentation available.

Having gathered a representative sample of tablets, relevant extrinsic and intrinsic tablet features will be entered into a database that will serve as the foundation of the analysis. The principal interest is to establish the correlation of the physical shape of the tablets with the main text types on the basis of the current knowledge of formularies and document categories. In this context, particular attention will also be paid to scribal practices such as sealing practices and the adding of Aramaic dockets which so far have not been investigated in the context of diplomatics. The second focal point of the project is palaeography, a much underdeveloped research tool in Ancient Near Eastern studies. After identifying normative sign forms and documenting possible regional and diachronic variations, the main aim is to establish criteria for an objectification of the different ductūs (calligraphic and cursive) attested. For this purpose, also a corpus of well-dated chronographic texts shall be analysed and its script compared to the evidence of archival documents.

For both fields under investigation, the project will provide for the first time an attempt at establishing a standardized terminology. The research results will be published primarily in form of a co-authored monograph. Moreover, a searchable sign list documenting the development of the Babylonian cuneiform script during the first millennium BC will be made accessible on the project website.