Beginnings of world literature: LMU uses AI to digitize largest collection of cuneiform writing
1 Feb 2023
1 Feb 2023
Enrique Jiménez, Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Literatures at LMU Munich, is employing a digital database and artificial intelligence as tools to make lost texts of ancient world literature readable again. 300,000 lines of text and complete digital editions of important texts of world literature are now set to be published. It is the largest publication of texts to date in the history of cuneiform studies. In ancient Mesopotamia, people wrote in cuneiform characters on clay tablets, which have survived in the form of countless fragments. Enrique Jiménez has been working with his team in the Electronic Babylonian Literature project to digitize all surviving cuneiform tablets. The team has developed an algorithm to piece together fragments that have yet to be situated in their proper context.
“It’s a tool that didn’t exist before, a huge database of fragments. We believe it can play a vital role in reconstructing Babylonian literature, allowing us to make much faster progress,” says Enrique Jiménez. Already, the algorithm has newly identified hundreds of manuscripts and many textual connections.
Hundreds of thousands of previously unpublished lines of text
During a special conference in February 2023, the LMU researcher will publish the AI database and a digital edition containing all known transcriptions of cuneiform fragments to date. With more than 300,000 lines of text, most of them previously unpublished, this launch is the largest publication of texts in the history of cuneiform studies. At the same time, Jiménez will publish complete electronic editions of important texts such as the Babylonian creation myth and the Gilgamesh epic. Moreover, a complete list of characters and an Akkadian dictionary will be made available.
The Electronic Babylonian Library database will be published as part of a workshop at which the new digital edition will also be unveiled. 30 expert speakers will give presentations at the hybrid event.
More on the Electronic Babylonian Literature project:
Playing with the source of world literature
Enrique Jiménez uses AI to make texts that are thousands of years old readable. Now the Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Literatures is making his platform accessible to the public.