Research methodology Our aim is to develop an online prosopography of Babylonia from cuneiform records (c. 620-330 BCE). In order to achieve this goal, we collect two types of person data: evidentiary data and conclusional data. This distinction is fundamental to our approach. In contrast to other initiatives, we do not only collect names attested in texts, but we also identify unique historical persons across tablets by merging multiple attestations referring to the same individual. The organization of our work reflects this distinction. In a first phase, we collect attestations from cuneiform tablets. Extracting this information requires only a limited amount of interpretation from the researcher, therefore we label this data evidentiary. In a second phase of our work we decide which attestations belong to the same historical person. In this phase of our work we move from attestations to individuals. As this process requires substantial interpretation from the researcher, we speak of conclusional data. The distinction between attestations and individuals informs not only the organization of our work but also the structure of the database. It consists of three entities: texts, attestations, and individuals. In this way, we hope to create transparency about the decision-making process that lies behind the data that we present in our online prosopography.
Data collected The database consists of three types of entity: tablet, attestation, and individual. Each of these entities is provided with a unique identifier code. Moreover, the pages have fixed Urls which can be cited accordingly. Here, we give an overview of the various types of data collected for these entities. For some of this data we provide more detailed information in the next section.
Tablet For each tablet we first list metadata about its present-day whereabouts and publication history. This includes its museum number, publication, and the relevant URL of online repositories (e.g. CDLI). Second, we offer metadata about the tablet’s relationship to other tablets. This includes information about joins and duplicates, and about the archive to which the tablet is attributed. Most Babylonian archives lack archaeological context and archival attribution is therefore subject to interpretation. We follow the catalogue of Jursa 2005a and add some newly identified archives. Third, we offer content-based information, including the date when the tablet was written, the place where it was written, and the various objects that are mentioned in the text. The principal object of the transaction is listed as “main object”, all the other objects are added as “other object”. Information about a tablet’s physical appearance includes the presence of markings, drawings, sealings, and epigraphs. We also indicate to which document type and subtype the tablet can be assigned based on its contents (e.g. legal document: lease contract). The attribution of a tablet to a particular genre of contract is of course a matter of interpretation and such decisions may be contested in the scholarship.
Attestation An attestation is an occurrence of a named person in a text. We include the following information for each attestation. First, we list name data. This consists of the person’s name, including variants if these occur on the tablet (for instance, a nickname), and the name of his or her father and family. We offer a normalized version of the name as well as a transliteration of the cuneiform spelling as featured on the tablet. Persons who are recorded with an active role in the text but who appear anonymously (i.e. without a personal name) are entered as “Anonymous”. Second, we indicate in which lines of the text the named person is recorded. This allows users to sort attestations quickly in order of appearance. Third, we collect all contextual information that can be gleaned about the person from this particular text. This includes the person’s gender, profession or title, role in the transaction, property he or she is attested with, and relationships explicitly mentioned in the text (e.g. “mother of”). It is important to stress that at this point information is restricted to what is on the tablet. For instance, if a person is attested as a sartennu (judge) in one tablet but does not appear with this title in another, he will not be assigned this title in the entry relating to this second instance.
Individual From the attestations we reconstruct unique historical individuals. This is done by creating a passport that links up all the attestations for that person. This procedure involves several acts of interpretation. First, we need to decide which attestations refer to the same person. Homonymy, nicknames, and double names present some of the obstacles, breaks and damages on the tablet present some others. The Babylonian practice of adding a father’s name and a family name to a person’s first name keeps the problem of homonymy in check but it does play up, especially when scribes neglect to add a patronymic or when the tablet is broken. The practice of double naming is relatively widespread. Nicknames usually mimic a person’s first name but some are fanciful and unexpected. All these considerations make the merging of attestations into a single individual a difficult procedure. We do not use an automated program for this purpose. We rely on a range of contextual information to reach decisions about identity, such as the archive providing the attestation, the date range, place of activity, associated persons, activity type, etc. For the sake of transparency, we indicate three levels of certainty when attributing an attestation to a certain individual.
The passport consists of two sections. The lower section lists all the attestations attributed to the individual. The upper section gives, alongside the PID number, a person’s standard name and the stable facts of his or her life: time range and places of activity, professions and titles, and properties owned. For individuals who are well attested we also plan to add a concise description of their life, a “biography”. Note that sometimes the decision which name constitutes the main name and which one constitutes a secondary name can be arbitrary.
Bibliographical references We adhere to the author/year system. Only frequently used series of text editions are referred to according to their common abbreviation (e.g. VS). For a list of publications and abbreviations used in our database, please consult the Bibliography.
Museum and publication numbers Texts published in monographs are listed as (e.g.) Baker 2004, no. 102. Texts published in series of text editions are listed as (e.g.) VS 4, 123. The references are included in the bibliography (see above). As to the museum numbers, relevant abbreviations can be found in the list of Museum number abbreviations.
Archives For the archival attribution of tablets we follow Jursa 2005a with some additions and updates on the basis of Pedersén 1998, Frame 2013, Pearce and Wunsch 2014, Waerzeggers 2018, and some others.
Place names Toponyms mentioned in the texts are based on Zadok 1985. We also render place names in the same way as Zadok, except when they contain personal names, in which case we adhere to our own spelling rules (see below).
Dates The Babylonian date is given in the format “day.month.year King”. The month is rendered in Roman numerals. The intercalary month is marked with a “b” (VIb and XIIb). The king’s name is cited in abbreviated form in the date. The full name and title of the king appears in the attestations list. For the abbreviations of royal names, please consult our Kinglist where all kings are listed in chronological order. We are in the course of adding Julian dates.
Document types and subtypes We categorize tablets in types based on the kind of transaction they record. On a general level, we distinguish between three types: legal documents, administrative documents, and correspondence. The majority of the documents from private archives constitutes legal documents. Each of the three main types is further divided in subtypes. The design of this typology is pragmatic and somewhat intuitive; it certainly has its shortcomings. Neo-Babylonian contract law is not well studied and individual scholars use their own systems and vocabulary. We used the typology by Jursa 2005a and the NaBuCCo project as our basis. An overview, along with brief explanations for every document type, can be found in Document types and subtypes.
Objects Objects convey important information about a person’s status or about the transaction that brings two or more parties together. Because of their relevance to social-historical research, we collect all objects that are mentioned in the tablets.
We distinguish between “main object” and “other object”. The “main object” is the object which is directly connected to the transaction as reflected in the document type. For instance, a tablet recording the purchase of a house will be assigned to the subtype “purchase” with “bītu (house)” as main object. As “other object” all objects are entered that are not main objects. This includes, for instance, the silver (kaspu (silver)) paid for the house or the street (sūqu (street)) on which the house is located.
As is already clear from the example, the objects are usually given in Akkadian along with an English translation in parenthesis. In order to keep an overview of the objects, they are divided into the following categories: animal, building, building part, cloth and clothing, commodity, container, craft, deity, district, document, equipment, furniture, gate, land, material, metal, offering, payment type, people, prebend, status, street, tax, varia, and water construction. Objects are usually nouns (sometimes specified by an adjective) and also include proper names of non-human entities such as deities, city districts, gates, temples, and streets.
Spelling of names For the transliteration and transcription of personal and family names we tried to achieve as much consistency as possible. Our conventions are styled on those used by the NaBuCCo project. Users should be aware that we implement our conventions even if the original text edition uses a different rendering. This means that a man referred to as “Nabû-apla-iddina” in a certain publication will appear in our database as “Nabû-aplu-iddin”. We are aware that for non-specialists the variety of renderings can be confusing, but for the database to work properly we need to adhere to a consistent system. We advise first-time users to take a moment to familiarize themselves with our transcription and spelling conventions (Principal rules for name spelling, The transcription of West Semitic names, Logogram list, and Special signs). It may also be useful to consult the Phonebook which lists all names, male and female, and all family names currently included as standard names in the database. For convenience sake, we highlight the most important spelling rules here: an -u renders the accusative (e.g. Nabû-ahu-iddin), the short end vowel on participles of tertiae infirmae is dropped (e.g. Nabû-bān-ahi), nouns get a nominal ending -u (e.g. Šellebu), there is no ventive on -iddin (e.g. Nabû-iddin), -ia is rendered ia (e.g. Ṭābia), -Ca-a is rendered -āya (e.g. Kaššāya).
Roles We work with a limited set of standardized roles to describe the function of a person in a cuneiform record. At times, one person can fulfill multiple roles in a transaction, but mostly he or she has only one. Apart from the witnesses and scribes, the role is connected to the subtype of the document. For instance, the role “seller” is usually limited to the subtype “purchase”, although exceptions do occur. In the file Subtypes and roles we list principal roles used in the database along with their associated document subtypes.
Titles If a person bears a professional or any other title on the tablet, we indicate this title in Akkadian alongside an English translation. The translation usually follows CAD unless advances in Neo-Babylonian studies demand otherwise.
Comments Certain fields are accompanied by comments. These are free-text fields that are used by the team to add notes or to clarify certain problems relating to the data entry. No attempt has been made to standardize the style of these comments, although we tried to keep them short and to the point.
How to use the search pages Users can customize searches according to their own preferences and export search results without limits. Here we explain how to take advantage of these opportunities.
There are three different search pages, including a simple search, an advanced search and a search for individuals. The tab “Search” in the menu-bar leads to a search function which provides a limited selection of the search fields you find in the “Advanced search”. For particularities of how to use it see below.
Organization of the “Advanced search” The tab “Advanced search” leads to a search which is organized in three columns. Each column corresponds to one of the three entities of the database: the attestation on the left side, the tablet on the right side and the individual in the middle. Each of these columns is thematically divided into folding boxes such as “Name attestation”, “Tablet information”, and “Individual person”. The “Search” button is located at the top and at the bottom of the search page next to a “Clear” button to return to the default setting of the search page. A box with diacritics is displayed in the upper left corner of the search page. When typing into fields, users are advised to select diacritics from this box. The two check boxes at the bottom of the search page allow users to determine whether diacritics and capitals should (= default) or should not be ignored for the search. Also at the bottom of the search page users find a reference to the number of attestations and the number of tablets that the search will yield according to the entered search values. Depending on the users' query, the search might result in 0 results (in attestations and/or tablets), as would be indicated at the bottom of the search page. In this case the “Search” button will be deactivated.
Customized search The checkboxes beside each category allow users to determine whether the corresponding information should be shown in the search result or not. For instance, if they want to look for tablets only, they disable all the checkboxes in the folded boxes of the left column and the middle column of the search page. Any desired combination of fields is possible. For instance, a user can look up all recorded women, or, he or she can limit the search to all recorded women who owned houses in Sippar.
Search for individuals
In case users search for indiviuals with the help of the middle column of the main search, we have to stress that this always queries attestations who have already been merged to indivdiuals. This causes two obstacles for the user. First, the dropdown lists for the names of an indvidual are drawn from entries of single attestations and, hence, do only lead to a search result if a person with such a name has been already identified. If this is not the case, the user will end up with zero results. Second, if an individual is attested more than once, the search results will list all the attestations of this individual.
The tab “Search for individuals” in the menu-bar provides a shortcut to a dedicated search page for individuals. While this page resembles the middle part of the search page, users also find here a checkbox which allows to determine whether they only want to end up with individuals (rather than single attestations) in the search result.
General and targeted searches Users can call up the complete information entered in a specific field simply by activating the relevant checkbox and clicking “search” at the bottom of the page. For instance, if the field “place of writing” is activated, the search will yield a list of all places of writing that are recorded. The current server preferences, however, do allow searches only up to a certain capacity. If the query requires much capacity the search might noticeably slow down or result in an error.
The requested data can be limited to certain values.When clicking in the relevant free field, the entire data entered for that particular field will be listed in a dropdown from which the user can choose by scrolling and clicking. The user can also type in information in order to narrow down the dropdown list and choose from. A red lining around the search field will warn users that typed-in information was not recognised by the system. Certain free fields, such as the comment fields, do not include a dropdown list, as indicated by their thick frame.
In case the custom search will not yield any result, the “Search” button does not get activated. The user is advised to pay attention to the information given at the bottom of the search page. If it says that, for instance, “The current selection will show 0 tablets” the current combination of search values will not yield any results.
Search by date and date range If users want to search for, for instance, documents written in the reign of Darius I, they choose “Dar I” from the dropdown list for kings in the first line labelled “Babylonian date range from” in the second box on the right column of the search page. If users want to search for, for instance, documents dating to the first three years of Darius I, they fill in ALL the fields for the date in the first two rows of that second box in the right column, which are labelled “Babylonian date range from” and “Babylonian date range until”. For our example, the fields can be defined as follows: Day: 1, Month: I (Nisānu), Year: 1, and King: Dar I in the first line for “Babylonian date range from” and Day: 30, Month: XII (Addaru), Year: 3, and King: Dar I in the second line for “Babylonian date range until”.
Wildcards Wildcards can be used in the fields for names, name spellings, the tablet’s whereabouts (e.g. museum number), its relation to other tablets (e.g. duplicate), and publication, as well as comment fields and the online information by adding an asterisk. For instance, the search value “*Adad*” will yield all the attestations of a personal name with the divine element “Adad”.
AND/OR buttons The search page is thematically divided into folding boxes. For example, one box contains all the fields for the normalized parts of the name of an attestation, another contains the fields relevant to determine main and other objects. At the bottom of some of these boxes users find the word “OR” which – by clicking on it – is changed into “AND”. In this case they can choose whether they want to search for categories within this box in combination with each other or whether they want to perform a parallel search. For example, if users want to look for attestations of individuals with the personal name Arad-Nabû who belong to the Nappāhu family, they should change the “OR” in the box with the names to “AND”. If they leave “OR”, the search will result in attestations with the name Arad-Nabû on the one hand, and in attestations with the family name Nappāhu on the other, independent from each other.
Multiple searches in the same category Users can search for two specific items in the same category at the same time. This feature is indicated by the “+”-sign in front of each search field. By clicking on the “+”-sign another field for the same category shows up and can be used for the search. Along with the search for two specific items in the same category, there is again the possibility to switch between an “AND” and “OR” option, as explained above.
Managing and exporting search results The search results are based on the settings that were defined by the user in the search page. The order of the search results can be re-arranged by clicking the arrows on top of each column. It is possible to perform searches within searches with the help of the free fields on top of each column. If users, for instance, only want tablets with a BM number to be shown, they type “BM” in the free field on top of the column for “Museum no.” in order to narrow down the search results accordingly. Users can also disable certain categories showing in the search results, for instance, the very same “Museum no.”, with the button at the top right of the results page, left of the “Export data” button. Users who wish to download their search results are welcome to do so by clicking the “Export data” button and choosing the preferred digital format.
Social Network Analysis
Prosobab does not offer an inbuilt visualizer and SNA toolkit. In order to assist the user with such an undertaking, however, one of our team members, Maarja Seire, wrote a tutorial on how to use freeware to study networks from Prosobab data. You can find her explanations on our Archives in Context website (in the rubric “Methods and tools”).
Navigation from the search results With a click on one of the lines in the search results, a Pop-up window shows the basic details of tablet and attestations involved. From there users can choose to either call up the detailed information of a tablet (via the Tablet ID or the Link to tablet), of an attestation (via the listed names) or of an individual (via the PID listed along with each attestation). Via the same links users can easily switch between these pages for the tablet, the attestation, and the individual which will open in new tabs.
The browsing pages The aim of the browse functions is to simplify access for non-specialists. There is a catalogue to browse through alphabetically listed individuals. Furthermore, there are two catalogues to browse through alphabetically listed names: one of standardized names and one of standardized family names.
The catalogue for individuals can be re-arranged by looking for either male or female individuals and by ordering the individuals according to their title. Users can directly access the passports of these individuals and from there they can either look up details of individual attestations or of the tablets in which they are recorded.
The catalogues for names and family names list standardized names and family names along with their linguistic background and translation. This information is also searchable and shown in the individual passports. A click on one of these names creates a pop-up window listing all individuals bearing this particular name as either first name or patronym, or, in the case of the list of family names, as family name. If a particular name is attested as both first name and patronym, you will first get the possibility to choose between individuals bearing this as their first name or their patronym. These two catalogues of names are still work in progress. It can happen that, if you click on a particular name, a pop-up window with “Nothing found with this name.” appears; then the respective individual(s) bearing this name have been entered but not yet published.
Tutorials Please choose full screen mode and 1080p HD for best quality viewing.
Tutorial 1: How to find attestations?
Tutorial 2: How to find tablets?
Tutorial 3: How to find individuals?
Tutorial 4: How to perform a more complex search? Coming soon!
Tutorial 5: How to use the Onomastics search function?