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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.

Throughout these years, BDTNS has worked closely with the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI), founded and directed by Robert K. Englund (UCLA) and Peter Damerow (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science), and now led by Jacob L. Dahl (University of Oxford), Bertrand Lafont (CNRS), Émilie Pagé-Perron (University of Oxford) and Jürgen Renn (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science). BDTNS also collaborates with the Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary Project (ePSD), directed by Steve Tinney (Penn Museum), and with several other projects. BDTNS 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 104,863 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 (July, 2024):

Published in handcopy and/or transliteration 69,737
Published only in catalogue or in photographic form 30,965
Auctioned 960
Unpublished 3,201
Total of texts in BDTNS 104,863

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

Texts in transliteration 69,737 (100% of published texts) + 4,426 (only in catalogue, auctioned and unpublished texts)
Lines in transliteration 1,321,969
Texts with handcopy 33,276 (58.6% via CDLI)
Texts with photograph 42,429 (68.1% by CDLI)
Seal inscriptions 27,208
Bibliographical references 140,131
Links to external resources 271,295
Bibliography 2,226 titles
Collections 863 collections in
45 different countries

Provenience of the texts
Umma / Umma Region 33,861 35.6%
Girsu 29,857 31.4%
Puzriš-Dagan 17,089 17.9%
Ur 4,532 4.8%
Nippur / Nippur Region 3,662 3.8%
Irisagrig 3,026 3.2%
GARšana 1,701 1.8%
Other 1,495


Manuel Molina, CSIC

Palmiro Notizia, Madrid (2011-2015)
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)
Carlos Fernández Freire, SIGyHD, CCHS-CSIC (2020)
Cristina Corral Sánchez, SIGyHD, CCHS-CSIC (2020)


© 2002 Manuel Molina. Copyright and credits.

Funded by Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades

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