This project proposes to expand on Eduardo Escobar’s (PhD Candidate, NES) “Cuneiform De-Coded” software, which analyzes base values and hidden meanings within ancient texts that utilize the cuneiform script—the world’s first writing system. Like Chinese, and other script-based languages, the cuneiform script concealed multiple meanings within a single sign; for example, the sign “A,” in addition to its phonetic value /a/ can mean “water” and “son”; “A” was also an element in dozens of compound sign combinations.

The “Cuneiform De-Coded” project will provide a tool that is missing in both pedagogy and advanced research. Here at Berkeley, students learning cuneiform for the first time are often intimidated by the vast range of choices they face when transliterating a text from the original script. Advanced scholars of cuneiform, in contrast, have often relied on analog tools for analyzing text data, thus, lacking the time to analyze large sets of texts. Students of cuneiform include not only Assyriologists (specialists in cuneiform cultures), but archaeologists, linguists, and historians interested in the ancient world. We contend that in all cases, a "plug-and-play" tool that decodes cuneiform signs to their base values will prove itself invaluable to both novices and experts, on campus and off.

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