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Database of Neo-Sumerian Texts (BDTNS)


Database of Neo-Sumerian Texts (BDTNS)

The BDTNS Project

The Database of Neo-Sumerian Texts (or BDTNS, its acronym in Spanish) is a searchable electronic corpus of Neo-Sumerian administrative cuneiform tablets dated to the 21st century B.C. During this period, the kings of the Third Dynasty of Ur built an empire in Mesopotamia managed by a complex bureaucracy that produced an unprecedented volume of written documentation. It is estimated that museums and private collections all over the world hold at least 120,000 cuneiform tablets from this period, to which should be added an indeterminate number of documents kept in the Iraq Museum.

       Consequently, BDTNS was conceived by Manuel Molina (CSIC) in order to manage this enormous amount of documentation. The project initially rested on two fundamental pillars. First, the boost given by Marcel Sigrist, who in 1996 put at M. Molina’s disposal his Ur III catalogue of more than 30,000 texts. Second, the bulk of Ur III transliterations prepared in 1993 by Remco de Maaijer and Bram Jagersma (Rijksuniversiteit, Leiden), made freely available on their website; over the years this material grew considerably and was made accessible to M. Molina in 2001 via the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative. All the transliterations in BDTNS based on that work are properly credited on their respective catalogue records.

       The work on BDTNS began, therefore, in 1996 at the Instituto de Filología (now Instituto de Lenguas y Culturas del Mediterráneo y Oriente Próximo) of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC). Six years later, in 2002, it appeared online. In the same year, it began to be officially supported, thanks to two three-year research projects funded by the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología:

  • BFF2001-2319. “Digitization of the Neo-Sumerian corpus of administrative cuneiform tablets (c. 2100-2000 BC)”. PI: M. Molina. Host institution: CSIC. Funding: €84,909. Duration: From 2002/01/01 to 2004/12/31.

  • HUM2004-1516. “Digitization of the Neo-Sumerian corpus of administrative cuneiform tablets (c. 2100-2000 BC). Second part”. PI: M. Molina. Host institution: CSIC. Funding: €71,600. Duration: From 2005/01/01 to 2008/03/31.

During all those years, and up to the present, BDTNS has collaborated closely with the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI), led by Robert K. Englund (UCLA). It has also benefited from the material generously provided by several other scholars, particularly Marcel Sigrist (École Biblique et Archéologique Française, Jerusalem) and David I. Owen (Cornell University, Ithaca NY). Likewise, authors of new publications of Neo-Sumerian texts have regularly supplied digitized versions of their works that have greatly facilitated the update of BDTNS.

BDTNS in Figures

BDTNS currently provides searchable cataloguing data, transliterations, images, bibliography, collections, seal inscriptions and geotagged locations for more than 97,000 Neo-Sumerian administrative cuneiform documents. Part of this material remains unpublished, and access to it is strictly at its editor’s discretion.

       More specifically, the texts in BDTNS can be classified as follows (January, 2017):

Published in handcopy and/or transliteration 63,569
Published only in catalogue or in photographic form 22,517
Auctioned 812
Unpublished 10,269
Total of texts in BDTNS 97,167

Transliterations for most of the published texts, images, a catalogue of seal inscriptions, collections, a complete bibliography, and geotagged data about their provenance are also provided by BDTNS:

Texts in transliteration 62,436 (97% of published and auctioned texts) + 4,799 (unpubl. texts)
Lines in transliteration 1,182,238
Texts with handcopy 31,149 (62,8% via CDLI)
Texts with photograph 32,400 (87,8% by CDLI)
Seal inscriptions 24,226
Bibliographical references 159,042
Bibliography 1,836 titles
Collections 763 collections in
41 different countries

Provenance of the texts
Umma 30,133 35.6%
Girsu 27,287 32.2%
Puzriš-Dagan 15,748 18.6%
Ur 4,300 5.1%
Nippur 3,703 4.4%
GARšana 1,535 1.8%
Irisagrig 1,163 1.4%
Other 859


Manuel Molina, CSIC

Palmiro Notizia, Madrid
Jesús M. Arrojería, Zarautz

Juan Carlos Martínez Torres (2002/01/01 to 2008/03/31)
Jonatan Ortiz Salas (2010/30/09 to 2012/09/29)
Ángel Díaz del Castillo (2015/04)


© 2002 Manuel Molina. Copyright and credits.

Funded by Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad

Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales - Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas

C/Albasanz, 26-28. Madrid 28037 (ESPAÑA). TEL: +34 91 602 23 00 FAX: 91 602 29 71

Contact BDTNS