About the project

The GKAB project was funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council [http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/] from 1 September 2007 to 31 August 2012. It is based at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science [http://www.hps.cam.ac.uk] (HPS), University of Cambridge, and the Babylonian Section, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology [http://www.museum.upenn.edu/].

The project team comprises:

The project's email address is gkab@camtools.cam.ac.uk [mailto:gkab@camtools.cam.ac.uk].

The geography of knowledge in Assyria and Babylonia

Where is knowledge generated? How does that knowledge replicate and spread? Where is it consumed? Who owns knowledge, and who may access it? Under what circumstances, and in what places, does it flourish or die out? How are its transmission and reception influenced by social and political factors? These are central questions in the history and sociology of science today. However, they have never been asked of Assyria or Babylonia in the first millennium BCE.

Early in that millennium, Assyria was by far the most powerful empire of the Mediterranean and Middle East. The ideology of empire centred on the symbiotic relationship between the king and the great god Aššur: military conquest was both an act of devotion and confirmation of Aššur's support. But Assyrian kingship depended not solely on piety and military might. A retinue of scholarly advisors guided royal decision-making through the observation and analysis of omens, and the performance of appropriate rituals. The scholars in turn depended on large libraries holding a wide range of scholarly works written on cuneiform tablets, from astronomy to mythology, kept both in private households and in institutions such as temples and palaces.

After Assyria fell in 612 BCE, Babylonian scholarly activity continued to flourish and develop under the patronage of wealthy urban temples in the south. Here scholarship was adapted to new purposes of maintaining the intellectual integrity and social status of native religion in the face of new ways of thinking and believing. The courts of Iranian (c.540-330 BCE; c.130 BCE onwards) and Greek (c.330-130 BCE) rulers no longer supported cuneiform scholarly traditions. New genres came into being; others were adapted or survived relatively unchanged; still others disappeared completely. Temples were the last bastions of cuneiform scholarship until at least the final centuries BCE.

A diachronic analysis of four scholarly libraries

While many hundreds of individual scholarly works have been edited and published from cuneiform libraries, there have been almost no in-depth studies of the libraries in their entirety. Previous analyses have often decontextualised and fragmented Assyro-Babylonian scholarship into modern disciplinary categories such as 'science', 'magic', and 'religion'. This project aims to restore context and coherence to that scholarship by studying it holistically.

To that end we undertook a comparative study of four scholarly libraries for which adequate archaeological data exist:

Later in the project, we made quantitative analyses of the manuscripts' linguistic and orthographic features to look for small-scale and large-scale geographical and diachronic change. We used methodology from the history of science to explain those continuities, changes, and idiosyncracies in relation to the social, intellectual, and political contexts in which the scholars were working.

Although the project has now officially ended, we will endeavour to keep the website and corpus updated as necessary.

The Corpus of Ancient Mesopotamian Scholarship

The project uses open, standards-based encoding to create the Corpus of Ancient Mesopotamian Scholarship (CAMS [http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/cams/gkab/]), following Oracc [http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/doc/] and Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative [http://cdli.ucla.edu/] specifications. This freely available, online corpus of material from the four libraries is critically edited according to Assyriological best practice, based on collation of the original tablets wherever possible. It contains searchable transliterations of both manuscripts (tablets) and compositions (composite texts) as well as English translations and full bibliographies.

One of the advantages of web-based edition is that revisions and improvements are easy to implement. The project thus has a policy of publishing its editorial work promptly, returning later to revise transliterations and translations as necessary. Please remember, then, that the contents of CAMS are to some extent provisional, often updated, and always subject to change, even after the end of the project in 2012.

There is more information on how to use CAMS elsewhere on this website.

Project advisory panels

The following experts kindly agreed to act as advisors to the GKAB project.

Editorial panel

Historical panel

Further acknowledgements

We would also like to thank the following people who made substantial contributions to the success of the project:

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