Geomapping Landscapes of Writing (GLoW): Large-Scale Spatial Analysis of the Cuneiform Corpus (c. 3400 BCE to 100 CE)
Cuneiform is one of the oldest scripts in human history. It also ranks among the largest bodies of historical documentation from the ancient world. Rough estimates suggest the total word count of all cuneiform records to outmatch those of Egypt and Rome by a considerable margin. Written primarily on clay, cuneiform writing was widely used across the Middle East for over three millennia, from c. 3400 BCE to 100 CE. Conveyed on an omnipresent and extremely durable type of material, cuneiform texts are preserved in larger numbers than virtually any other type of written media. Informed guesses put the total number of cuneiform records anywhere between 500,000 and one million individual texts. No attempt has ever been made to geomap this corpus in full. Set at the intersection of philology, archaeology, and comparative linguistics, this project assembles and analyses a full digital record of this corpus drawing on recent advances in digital humanities and geospatial data mapping. As a first quantifiable and corpus-wide study of one of the greatest corpora of historical records from the ancient world, it will provide a benchmark example of the application of digital and spatial computing tools to the study of writing in early human history. Engaging with a historical corpus marred by the many conflicts that have haunted the Middle East in recent years, it will also serve as a key reference document for protecting a unique part of the common, linguistic heritage of mankind.