Take 2: Hear about our work at the 66e Recontre Assyriologique Internationale (Mainz/online, 28.7.22, 9.00 and 9.30 am CEST)

ACAWAI-CS will present its work in two papers at the 66e Recontre Assyriologique Internationale KulturKontaktKultur (“Cultural Contact – Cultures of Contact“). The annual conference of the International Association for Assyriology (IAA) is organized this year by Goethe University Frankfurt and the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. The hybrid meeting will take place from July 25 to July 29, 2022 in Mainz, Germany.

Elisa Roßberger will report in the session “Digital methods in Ancient Near Eastern Studies” about the current status and the ongoing work in the ACAWAI-CS project on Thursday, 28th July, 2022, at 9 am (CEST): “Picture Elements in Contact. Semantic Technologies for the Analysis of Seals and Seal Impressions (ACAWAI-CS Project)”

Albert Dietz and Anna Kurmangaliev will continue the session at 9.30 (CEST) with their presentation: “Making Sense of Compositions. A Computational Approach to Old Babylonian Presentation Scenes”.

Both papers will be delivered in person at Mainz university (Room P4) and simultanously streamed online. We look forward to meeting and discussing with you our ideas & results in real or virtual space!

Here are the abstracts (also available on the conference website).

Roßberger, Elisa: Picture Elements in Contact. Semantic Technologies for the Analysis of Seals and Seal Impressions (ACAWAI-CS Project)

July 28, 9.00–9.30 am, Room P4

Launched in November 2020, the interdisciplinary project “Annotated Corpus of Ancient West Asian Imagery: Cylinder Seals” (ACAWAI-CS) aims to create an interoperable, open access platform for the study of cylinder seals and their impressions on clay. It will provide a well-structured and coherently annotated, granular dataset for a wide range of analytical procedures, combining quantitative and qualitative assessments of the seals’ material, pictorial, and textual components. The paper will introduce the objectives and digital infrastructure of the project which is based on semantic web technologies. Furthermore, it will demonstrate how quantitative approaches to seal iconography can help to resolve questions of interpretation, e.g. by turning random “filling elements” in Old Babylonian and Kassite glyptic into crucial elements of a meaningful whole.

Kurmangaliev, Anna & Albert Dietz: Making Sense of Compositions. A Computational Approach to Old Babylonian Presentation Scenes

July 28, 9.30–10 am, Room P4

The fundamental task when preparing the layout of a cylinder seal image is the selection of pictorial elements arranged in varying compositions. The so-called presentation scene dominates the depictions on Old Babylonian glyptic. Scholars studying Ancient Western Asiatic seals have analysed the presentation scenes and the associated picture elements mostly in terms of artistic style and meaning. The ACAWAI-CS database, which includes thousands of Old Babylonian seals, enables us to look at the presentation scenes and the compositions of particular picture elements in a more structured way. Using computational approaches, we will show, that the motifs depicted in various presentation scenes can have three functions: patron, client, or mediator. “Patron” is the royal or more commonly divine figure receiving adoration. “Client” would be the worshipper approaching the patron. “Mediator” includes all types of pictorial elements that ensure the interaction between patron and client, e.g. introducing and suppliant deities, victorious king, ‘filling motifs’, and others. Using statistical and graphical tools, we will examine the placement of the figures in an image, their orientations in relation to each other, and the interaction between them.
The paper aims to demonstrate that the different arrangements of picture elements in the Old Babylonian presentation can be explained by the lack of graphical perspective, which is needed for the depiction of a three-dimensional scene on a flat surface. If an addition or omission of particular elements and a focus on certain figures in the scene could indicate a shift in meaning or might even be used for dating, it will be addressed in the paper as well.

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