Cybernetica Mesopotamica

A Balzan Foundation Research Project

II. The website


Giorgio Buccellati – June 2023

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The concept

As I have stressed in the Introduction, authorship is important for what it tells the audience about the background of the website as a whole. This extends not just to the individual pages, but to each website as a whole, in much the same way that an author retains a given personality throughout a book or monograph.

This approach adds a dimension of interplanarity. The reason is that the author may be seen in effect as a plane: whatever is known about him or her helps to qualify whatever is attributed to that author’s name. As an example, one may look at a page dedicated to a given author with the UGR, Laura Ramos: besides a brief CV, full detail is given for her tasks at Mozan, including a list of 82 files and 12,662 records she wrote. This helps in calibrating the quality of her observations as recorded in the UGR, in comparison, for instance, to another staff member not so well prepared.

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I am responsible for the basic design of the various websites in the system. The aim throughout is not that of achieving special aesthetic effects, but to use the graphic potential of a website to best frame the argument being developed. Some elements of this approach are mentioned above in the section on the websites structure.

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Considering the long duration of the excavations with regard to the Sites domain, but also the quantity of diverse offshoots in the other domains and the long time span through which the project has lived (as indicated in detail in the project’s history), the number of individuals involved runs in the several hundreds. One may get a sense of this looking at the pertinent sections of the A16 or the Critique-of-AR digital books.

For each digital book there is a clear indication of who the main editor(s) or author(s) are.

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Data organization

Fundamental in all websites has been the dynamic collaboration among a great number of collaborators, and they are all individually and very specifically credited. But upstream of these contributions, there is the need for an overall control of the data and for the ability to manage them in their multiplicity and diversity. In particular, the correlation between the underlying grammatical structure and the data as they are being established and codified requires a great deal of attention, especially since the process takes place over a long period of time: the coherence of the system and of its application is of paramount importance in this regard.

While the specific content of each section was entrusted to the many contributors who are named individually, it was especially demanding to maintain coherence while allowing for change. This task was entrusted to a few who have helped maintain the whole system running smoothly over such a long period of time (here again it is instructive to look at the project’s history). Here I wish to mention especially:

  • Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati: as the first Director of the Mozan/Urkesh Archaeological Project, Marilyn has been the focal point of the archaeological project and thus of the Sites domain. In addition, she has developed from the start the whole Seals domain.
  • Federico Buccellati: as Field Director and then as second Director of the Mozan/Urkesh Archaeological project, Federico has been a key factor in the conception of the whole UGR system. Currently as Deputy Director of the Cybernetica Mesopotamica project, he is contributing his expertise in digital archaeology in achieving the overall aims of the project.
  • James L. Walker: besides authoring a number of digital books within te UGR system, Jim has become the key point of reference for all issues relating to the UGR, and the lightning rod for the implementation of programs and the revision of the old material. He is a fundamental element of the project's institutional memory, and serves as an invaluable mentor to all the new recruits.
  • Laerke Recht: having joined our team after excavations were no longer possible, Laerke has developed a keen insight into the workings of the UGR, and has contributed in a major way especially to the work on ceramics. Within the Bibliography domain, she has served as the Associate Editor of the CAR website.
  • John L. Hayes: at the start of the project, John was the key person in the implementation of the Texts domain; he is now back to work with us, both in that domain and in the Akkadian linguistics bibliographical website.
  • Jonah Lynch: serving as Associate Editor of the Mesopotamian Religion website, Jonah has introduced to major innovations: the activity of a reserarch group associated with the website, and the creation of the multinodal index (MNI).
  • Lorenzo Crescioli: besides authoring three digital books in the UGR system, Lorenzo has developed a special skill in coaching new recruits, for whom he has been preparing an introductory manual.
  • Marco De Pietri: Marco is assisting with the overall conceptual management of the project, with a wide ranging involvement in various aspects of the project. He will also serve as Associate Editor of the Mesopotamian Political History website and as Assistant Editor for the Mesopotamian Religion website.

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Programming went through three major phases, as highlighted once again in the project’s history). The key person in the earliest phase, essentially with mainframe computers, was John L. Settles: it was exclusively in the Texts domain. With the advent of personal computers, I wrote all the operating programs for the Sites domain (the UGR project).

In the current phase, Bernardo Forni has taken the lead in two main directions: (1) the rewrite of the UGR programs, and (2) the writing of a new program (MID) for the writing of discursive texts in all domains.

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This website

The first part (“Part One”) of this website is entirely my responsiblity, while Marco De Pietri is responsible for the maintenance and updating of the second part (“Part Two”.)

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