It’s all in a day’s work

Good morning! I hope this Monday finds you healthy and happy. Unfortunately, we have some kind of cold-bug going around our house. The baby and I have so far avoided it, which is fantastic because this is also the week that I’m trying to convince him that he doesn’t need to nurse 3-4 times a night. He’s a year old, and huge. He’s not exactly starving…
All of this is the backdrop for work today! And is, co-incidentally, why I’m ordering pizza for lunch instead of taking a break and making something nutritious.

Today, work is coming in various shapes and sizes. This morning while the baby napped, I spent a bit of time doing admin for our YouTube channel, Digital Hammurabi. We’re running a crowdfunded grant for Ph.D. students over the summer, and applications closed last week. On Saturday I sent out emails to the applicants to arrange interview times, so today I responded to some of those. I also ordered prints that we offered as part of our fundraising drive. It’s an illustration I did of king Ashurbanipal hunting a lion, from a Neo-Assyrian palace relief that’s currently housed in the British Museum, along with part of his royal titulary in Akkadian.

Now, I am settling back into Ph.D. work for the rest of the day. As I think I’ve mentioned before, my Ph.D. thesis is based on a database that I put together. It contains information on royal inscriptions from Mesopotamia, dating to between roughly 2600-1600 BCE. In a nutshell, this database takes information on inscribed objects, the inscriptions themselves, and the findspots for each object and combines them so that if I’m looking at a particular inscription, I can also access information about what that inscription is on, where it was found, and what it was found with. This is done by entering data into different tablets (in my case, tables for the object, inscription, and findspot) and then creating relationships across those tables. What I’m doing is pretty basic, but here’s a screenshot of what it all looks like:

This particular version of the database also includes information from a topic modeling algorithm that I ran on the inscriptions.
As you can see, there are little lines connecting the different tables. The Object Data table is connected to the Inscription Data table by the ‘inscription’ field, and to the Findspot Data by the ‘findspot’ field (imaginative titles – these are just unique strings assigned to each findspot and inscription for easy identification), while the Topic Data is connected to the Inscription Data with the ‘inscription’ field. What this does, practically speaking, is make it possible for me to open a record for a specific object and easily access information about the inscription, the object, and the findspot.

So, today I am fixing holes. I’ve downloaded all relevant information on these objects from the CDLI database (filtered by date and genre, as CDLI strives to include ALL Mesopotamian writing) and I’m currently going through and checking the new entries against museum databases. As I’m going I’m also making corrections to the information provided from CDLI. For example, many of the objects that were added into my database had no date listed on CDLI. In some instances, dates are provided in the online museum archives, so I can amend my entries. Any emendations I find are then passed onto the CDLI team so they can update their records.

Many of these objects also don’t have specific inscription information listed, often because they haven’t been translated and published yet. Again, museum databases are proving to be immensely helpful with this. Not always, but sometimes! For example, the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History has it’s own method of recording examples of the same inscription. So, a cone with no inscriptional information in CDLI may be described as having ‘building inscription of Gudea No4’ in the museum database. Another cone may have that same notation, but also a publication reference, allowing me to link ‘building inscription of Gudea No4’ to a particular published inscription – hopefully a published inscription that’s already in my database, allowing me to link all objects with ‘building inscription of Gudea No4’ to my own inscriptional data!

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