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Niek Veldhuis
Professor of Assyriology
Department of Near Eastern Studies
University of California, Berkeley

Visible Language Project (with Rick Kern, French).

A book-length study on the history of Mesopotamian lexicography is currently in preparation and will appear in the series Guides to Mesopotamian Textual Record, published by Ugarit-Verlag (Münster, Germany).


Research Projects:

My main research project is the online Digital Corpus of Cuneiform Lexical Texts (DCCLT). The aim of this project is to publish on the web all lexical lists from Ancient Mesopotamia. Lexical lists are comparable to modern dictionaries and played an important role in the education of scribes and in the intellectual life of the period (see: What is a Lexical List?).

Lexical lists were introduced with the invention of writing (ca. 3200 BCE) and continued to be used until the demise of cuneiform in the beginning of our era. The image to the left is a drawing of a fragment of one of the earliest such lists, the list of Vessels.

DCCLT partners with similar projects in the Cuneiform Digital Library Group (CDL), adhering to strict standards of data formatting. The Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI) at UCLA, hosts the catalogue and the images. The lexical data produced by DCCLT are directly incorporated into the electronic Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary (PSD).

Funding for the DCCLT project has been provided by the Hellman Family Fund, the NEH, the Committee on Research (UC Berkeley), the American Philosophical Society, the Archaeological Research Facility (UCB), a Mellon Project Grant and private donors.

Digital Scholarship is taken one step further in the Berkeley Prosopography Services (BPS), a cooperative project by Dr. Laurie Pearce (Near Eastern Studies), Niek Veldhuis, and Patrick Schmitz (IST Data Services). Aim of the project is the development of a tool for analyzing and visualizing social networks by mining electronic corpora of legal or administrative texts. The first corpus to be analyzed is a group of cuneiform texts from Uruk from the Hellenistic period, edited online by Laurie Pearce in Hellenistic Babylonia: Texts, Images and Names (HBTIN).

For information about the development of the BPS prototype see the project Wiki page. A brief article about the project appeared in Berkeley's iNews: Using Natural Language Processing and Social Network Analysis to study ancient Babylonian society.

BPS has been supported by the France Berkeley Fund, and by a Mellon grant through the Humanities & Arts Research Technologies (HART) Program. In the near future BPS is expected to figure as a demonstrator project within the larger context of Project Bamboo.