Cybernetica Mesopotamica

A Balzan Foundation Research Project

IV. Work in Progress

Staff and infrastructure

Giorgio Buccellati – May 2022

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task within

name and affiliation (age)

research experience for work on project


Giorgio Buccellati and Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati

Deputy PI

Federico Buccellati, Freie Universität, Berlin

Director Mozan/Urkesh Archaeological Project

Executive assistant, USA

Mary Stancavage, IIMAS – The International Institute for Mesopotamian Area Studies

Unit director on excavations, extensive archive work

Executive assistant, Europe

Marco De Pietri, IIMAS, PhD, Univ. of Pavia

Extensive archive work and oversight of programming

Topical books

Laerke Recht, Prof. Graz University

Arwa Kharobi, Prof. Masaryk University

Hiba Qassar, IIMAS

Extensive work on specific topics relating to Urkesh website


James Walker, IIMAS

Lorenzo Crescioli, IIMAS

Extensive work on unit digital books

Yasmine Mahmoud, IIMAS

Amer Ahmad, grad. student, Univ. of Pavia

Mary Stancavage, IIMAS

Stefania Ermidoro, University Ca' Foscari

Beginning experience in work on unit digital books

Four Banks

Jonah Lynch, PhD student, Univ. of Pavia

Marco De Pietri, IIMAS, PhD, Univ. of Pavia

John Hayes, University of California, Berkeley

Extensive work on bibliographical websites


Bernardo Forni, PhD student, Univ. of Pavia

Extensive work on programs relating to both the Urkesh and the 4banks projects

All individuals listed will be supported by the Balzan grant, except for the PIs, James Walker and John Hayes. Marco De Pietri will work full time on the project, everyone else will work part time on the project. The PIs take on the full responsibility for the timeliness and quality of the whole research project. They are very familiar with every single member of the staff, and will closely monitor their progress – in addition of course to bring to completion the aspects of the project for which they are personally responsible.

The Deputy PI will follow every step of the process, and will ensure that both the intellectual and the operational aspects of the project be carried out according to plans.

The two executive assistants will monitor the details, keeping track of the internal deadlines and of the bureaucratic details. The executive assistant for the US, in particular, will oversee the work on the physical archives in the PIs office at UCLA. Three undergraduate students are employed in the archive with separate UCLA funding. Also, slide scanning is made available through the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology.

The Urkesh team, for both topical and unit books, is well seasoned and prepared to undertake their respective tasks.

Similarly, the Four Banks team, though more recent, is also fully experienced in the work to be done on the websites.

For both the Urkesh and the Four Banks projects we will also draw on new recruits from among the students in the various Universities where our staff members are active.

The programming team will upgrade the extensive program array that has been written over the years to serve the needs of the project. The one at UCLA, in particular, will ensure the smooth functioning of the hardware in the PIs UCLA office, where the server resides. – The cost of server programming is borne by UCLA.

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IIMAS – The International Institute for Mesopotamian Area Studies (, was established in 1973, and is the entity that retains the permit for the excavations at Tell Mozan, ancient Urkesh. It has spearheaded, over these five decades, the development of digital research in archaeology, having brought in 1978 to its excavations at Tell Ashara, ancient Terqa, the first portable computers to be used on any excavation in Syria.

The Mozan/Urkesh Archaeological Project is one of the longest lasting archaeological projects in Syria. We have a robust archival setup, and full access to the collections that remain in the Expedition House.

The PIs are co-directors of the Mesopotamian Lab at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), an Institute that Giorgio Buccellati founded in 1973 (

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Permanence is one of the key issues that condition the use of websites for long term duration, hence for their effectiveness as valid tools of scholarly communication. It is generally assumed that impermanence is actually built into the systems used and the platforms on which they rely – hence the systemic distrust for websites as reliable epistemic systems. To counter this, we have plans to ensure portability, and the Balzan grant will allow us to finalize them.

We intend to establish a Steering Committee within IIMAS that will ensure regular upgrades in the software that allows the websites to remain active.

We plan on having in Europe a mirror site of the US server.

We plan to locate our systems on GitHub and on the CDL systems; further, we will take advantage of online repositories such as Zenodo to ensure data permanence.

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For each major website we plan to have an editorial board whose main task is to provide general oversight on three major aspects: (1) the substance of the argument and the data, (2) the effectiveness in reaching stated goals, and (3) the technical aspects of the website. The current model is the website As other websites approach completeness, we will seek out colleagues who may be interested in serving on individual editorial boards. Members of the board are asked to give us an internal evaluation of the website, and their own willingness to be part of the board is indicative of their substantial approval.

We will also aim for a broader exposure of our approach, as regards both theory and implementation, through the channels that are described below in section V. Results.

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