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Detroit Institute of Arts adds ancient Middle Eastern inscribed objects to international digital cuneiform library
Cuneiform Tablet, Mesopotamian, 2700/2500 BC, unbaked clay. Detroit Institute of Arts.

DETROIT, MICH.- Ancient Middle Eastern inscribed objects from the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection have been added to the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI), an international research project based at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The museum and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-supported research project “Creating a Sustainable Digital Cuneiform Library (CSDCL), announced the addition of the DIA written texts to the library database.

DIA Collection Research Associate Lina Meerchyad, who holds two master’s degrees, one in archaeology and the other Assyriology, has translated texts of DIA cuneiform objects, managed communications, catalogued objects and compiled and shared photographs with Robert K. Englund, CDLI principal investigator and professor of Assyriology at UCLA. She also worked closely with CDLI member and UCLA graduate student Michael Heinle, who scanned the DIA pieces.

“Cuneiform, one of the oldest systems of writing, was invented by the Sumerians in Mesopotamia, an ancient civilization located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in present-day southern Iraq more than 5000 years ago,” said Meerchyad. “Cuneiform, which comes from the Latin ‘cuneus’ (wedge) and ‘forma’ (shape), was created to record basic information on crops and goods. Over time, cuneiform became a standard written language of many ancient cities in Mesopotamia to record trade, astronomy, literature and daily and military events.”

The DIA’s newly opened Ancient Middle Eastern art gallery has significant examples of cuneiform objects on view, which also can be viewed at “Among these artworks are a group of written clay tablets and cones from the Sumerian and Babylonian cultures. A Sumerian inscribed statue, Assyrian stone reliefs and a ceramic brick are other highlights of the collection,” Meerchyad added.

The goals of the CDLI are to ensure the long-term digital preservation of ancient inscriptions on artifacts to further humanities research and to provide free international access to the objects in the database. The DIA and CDLI hope that their collaboration will be welcomed by researchers of ancient Mesopotamia and the surrounding regions, as well as by others generally interested in the history of the ancient Near East.

The CDLI supports online research and digital preservation of shared world cultural heritage and is a joint project of the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of Oxford, and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin.

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