Cybernetica Mesopotamica

A Balzan Foundation Research Project

IV. Work in Progress
Beola 5


Marco De Pietri – November 2023

In the picture, from left to right: Jessica Scaciga, Arwa Kharobi, Laerke Recht, Lorenzo Crescioli, Marco De Pietri, Jonah Lynch, Yasmine Mahmoud, Mary Stancavage, Peter Kuon, Mrs. Kuon, Giorgio Buccellati, Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati, James Walker, Federico Buccellati, Samer Abdel-Ghafour

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After the workshop “Beola 3“, and the later workshops “Beola 4a-d“, a substantial group of “Mozanian” scholars gathered again in Beola during September 11-15, 2023 for a workshop (“Beola 5“) which is considered both the continuation and an update on the efforts developed specifically in the last-year workshop “Beola 2” (September 5–12, 2022).

Collaborators, and friends, part of the extended family of Urkesh, reached Beola to work together (under the guidance of Prof. Giorgio Buccellati, Prof. Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati, and Prof. Federico Buccellati) either to reinforce their commitment to the project and to strengthen their “team networking” attitute, which represents indeed a peculiarity of this rich project (under both a scientific and human milieu).

Some of them were phisically present in Beola (coming from Syria, USA, and other Italian regions), while other collaborators where connected online on ZOOM from Germany and other cities in Italy.

It was indeed an effective example of the overarching spirit of the Cybernetica Mesopotamica project which aims at contributing to both the scholarly research and the public outreach of the results gained through the project itself.

Also this year, the team was honored with the visit of the Balzan Fundation’s representatives, Prof. Peter Kuon and his wife, who joined two of the working sessions of the team.

Thanks to the online medium, even people from Mozan were “virtually” a significat presence in Beola, since the team was pleased to talk to their Syrian colleagues still intensively working on the site granting, through their inexhaustible monitoring, its full preservation and constant conservation.

The daily work of the team was divided into a morning session (9:00 AM to 1:00 PM) and an afternoon session (3:00 PM to 7:00/7:30 PM), as delineated in the schedule.

The sessions were also divided into two distinct categories:

  • “general sessions”, with discussions on theroretical aspects and individual presentations about works in progress;
  • “workshop sessions”, involving different smaller groups, devoted to practical applications or technical clarifications about the programs.

The following members were able to attend the workshop in person: Prof. Giorgio Buccellati; Prof. Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati; Prof. Federico Buccellati; Lorenzo Crescioli; Marco De Pietri; Bernardo Forni; Samer Abdel-Ghafour; Arwa Kharobi; Jonah Lynch; Yasmine Mahmoud; Laerke Recht; Jessica Scaciga; Mary Stancavage; James Walker.

An attending to the workshop from remote has been also granted to other members, uncapable to attend the workshop in person: Amer Ahmad; Sarah Comelli; Stefania Ermidoro; John Hayes; Hiba Qassar.

The singular sessions are briefly described in the following paragraphs.

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Monday, September 11

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Afternoon Session

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Report by James Walker: A9, A14, J3 and J5

On the first day James Walker reported as follows:

  • A9: Data processed by early version of Python JD. Most errors resolved. No progress on developing Analytical sections.
  • A14: Data has been re-processed by Python JD. Many new warnings and errors need correcting. Data from first season of excavation is spotty. M: progress in developing Analytical sections.
  • J3: Data and Analytical sections complete with the exception of the addition of material from the last week of excavations in Late Chalcolithic deposits. Added analysis by subject matter experts (SMEs) would be useful.
  • J5: Data sections complete. Analytical sections converted to MID format. Additional analysis by SMEs would be useful”.

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Tuesday, September 12

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Morning Session

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Report by James Walker: A15 and other Unit Books

On the second day, James Walker further reported:

“I made a number of presentations in the course of this second day of meeting. They were as follows:

  1. Review of procedures and problems in the preparation of the Urkesh Global Record for excavations accomplished 15 years or more ago:

    • The system.
    • Unique to Urkesh in that there is a formal Grammar defining and cataloging the observations that we make on each and every stationary (feature) and movable (item) element. It is digital in concept and execution.
  2. Further steps to the process:

    • Emplacement is what we find in the ground and catalog.
    • Deposition is how it got there and is synthesized or derived from the multi-linear observations.
    • The UGR is and orgnaized display of these aspects.
    • Constituents and tabulations on the right hand side.
    • Synthetic view (analysis) on the left hand side, consisting of structured, multi-layered, functional analysis of the relationships among elements. These include but are not limited to identification, stratigraphy, typology, and reference (photos and drawings).
  3. Item typology in particular is documented by subject matter experts. Specific problems with selected excavation units in preparation:

    • A15: Action paused while Python program is under development. Most errors and warnings are now related to ceramics. Must review photo templates since many are not in record and a number are essential for developing the Left-Hand Side of the record. Reports on typology by subject matter experts (SMEs) are in prepartation.
    • Other units: Data currently not available for significant units, A13 for example. Efforts should be renewed to search hard drives and portable media for these data.
  4. Python Program implementation:

    • JD: Completed beginning of July 2023. Some minor modifications suggested and implemented.
    • MID: Completed and in use. Synthetic sides of all books in development have been converted.
    • J4: Programs loaded, tested, and activated on Yasmine Mahmoud’s computer for local operation. Essential due problems with internet connectivity in Syria.
    • Assisted Yasmine Mahmoud and Mary Stancavage as required during meetings and afterwards.
  5. Stratigraphy:

    • J5: Made new Harris Matrices for all loci.
    • General: Meeting with Giorgio Buccellati and Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati after workshop ended to clarify definitions and procedures for allocating features to Strata and Phases”.

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Report by Lorenzo Crescioli and Amer Ahmad

Lorenzo Crescioli started giving an overview on the units he his currently working on: A16, A20, and J1, highlighting two main points:

  1. the importance for these units of relying on the GRAMMAR;
  2. some problems with the input of data coming from very old log-files.

His presentation can be downloaded at this link.

Then Amer Ahmad reported as follows (brief summary):

“My presentation was about the work I did with regard to the A6 sections (left-hand side). I talked about the work on the introduction including the location of the A6 and the “Physiognomy” and I mentioned the sections I worked on with regard to the stratigraphy part. I also asked about the part of “Typology” and wondered who would work on it, if me or someone else. The problems I mentioned were the lack of photos and even the database of A6 on the server which made my work very difficult.”

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Wednesday, September 13

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Afternoon Session

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Arwa Kharobi

On Wednesday, September 13, in the afternoon, Arwa Kharobi, connected on ZOOM, presented from remote his current study on the Tell Mozan burial remains.

Her presentation is available at this link.

Basing on a template from coming from a slide of the aforementioned presentation, Marco De Pietri created the topical book Urkesh Burian Analysis (abbreviated as “TBH”).

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Thursday, September 14

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Morning Session

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Report by Sarah Comelli

“Work done in the summer: I have been checking all the items from A15 in order to have the effective list of the metal items from the area (in order to report any possible error or problem to Jim, so that the “Typological index” can correctly display all the metal items from A15). As doing so, I wrote some files for Jim with notes concerning some discrepancies, “errors” or missing info in relation with A15 items. I started then to check every q-item from the area (in order to report any possible error or problem to Jim, so that the “Typological index” of A15 can correctly display all the q-items falling into the category of metal artifact).

Current work:

  • Study of the metal objects recovered in A15;
  • Finish the check of all the q-item from A15 (still aprox. 300 to do) in order to report any possible error to Jim (so that the “Typological index” of A15 can correctly display all the q-items falling into the category of metal artifact from the area).

Future work:

  • Writing the j-files of the metal items for the A15 book and, then, the overview section of the metals for the left-hand side of the digital book of A15“.

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Report by Jessica Scaciga

“This year I started my work converting files from .html to .md. In particular, I converted the pages of the sections about the Ceramic book and two Unit books: J3 and J5. The Ceramic book was the starting point through which Marco taught me the basics of Markdown, giving me concrete examples of “conversion” and working together, once I better understood the functioning of the new markup language, I could proceed independently, constantly supported by him and Bernardo too. Marilyn was also fundamental in this conversion process and in addition to helping and guiding me, she has always worked on the Ceramic book incessantly, completing and enriching the website with new content, creating new pages to be inserted that were gradually converted into .md both by me and Marco and finally uploaded to the server.

To better understand the work done, it is important to know the “structure” of the website, that is the sections:


  • A1, A2 (left-hand side)
  • B
  • C1, C2 e C3 (right-hand side)


  • A1, A2 e A3 (left-hand side)
  • AB, B
  • C3 (right-hand side)


  • A, A2, A3 (left-hand side)
  • B
  • C3 (right-hand side)

Each section contains the pages of each book, my main work was to edit these pages through a text editor, taking the files from the server from the old version in .html from the TEXT folder, “rewrite” them in .md, and then insert them in the INPUT folder dedicated to PAGES where the folders with the various sections are contained. To avoid making mistakes, Marco created a folder on the server called “transitional” in which I was uploading all the files that I converted, he was checking them, done this could be placed in the main folder and displayed correctly.

Below, are two examples in comparison related to the “attributes intro” page about the Ceramic book:

At first glance it is possible to notice how a .md page has a very simple syntax and is more intuitive than the one in .html. Let’s see the metadata SEC, T, AU, D, TO which contains the main information regarding the title section, authorship, date and topics of the page, TOC (table of contents) and finally the heading now consisting of the three hashtags, related to the paragraph of the introduction.

In addition to conversions, with my mother Daria we are dealing with the scans of all paper documents not yet digitized, fundamental in this process of digitization of content, it is Mary Stancavage who takes care of organizing all the scanned material and uploading it to the server.

Describing in a few lines the work of so many months is very reductive because there are many aspects which we could t ell, the most important of all: “teamwork”, during all this period I have never been alone, the help and collaboration of everyone has been important for the achievement of the final result”.

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Friday, September 15

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Morning Session

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Report by Jonah Lynch

“The Multinodal Index (MNI) developed for the Mesopotamian Religion website offers a version of algorithmically generated multilinear connectivity between a variety of text information available on the website. It is an alternative to traditional ‘linear’ alphabetical indexes which surfaces lateral connections between information and visualizes clusters of related texts.

The first part of this presentation describes the structure and working of the index.

In the second part, a tool for visualizing multilinear discourse is described as a partial response to the need for a “Dedalus”, an architect of the labyrinth of complex interconnected discourse, in the case where the “labyrinth” is still being constructed.”

Here the PDF presentation of J. Lynch is available even if to the members of the staff, only (ID and PW requested).

For a wider presentation of the MNI program, look at this link.

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