Website Review: CDLI

Full Name: Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative

URL: and

Content: cuneiform texts with line drawings, accurate photos, transliterations and/or translations

cdli1entry page

Authorship: “CDLI staff” (differs for different collections); primary-publication authors if applicable

Host/Maintenance: UCLA, Los Angeles, and Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin (Germany); UCLA; continuously updated (assumed but not explicit on website, e.g., the news section stops in 2004)

Permanence/Archiving: nothing mentioned

cdli2example of a collection main page: Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Brussels (Belgium)

Licensing: “The images … are for the personal, non-profit use of students, scholars, and the public. All digitized images of photographs and original tablets are subject to copyright laws and, except where noted otherwise, are the property of the institutions that own the tablets. Digital images of hand or CAD drawings of texts are the property of named primary publication or publication history authors. Commercial use or publication of these images is strictly prohibited without prior written permission from the project and/or the institutions/authors named in conjunction with particular texts.” (copyright note); no citation guidelines

Usefulness: expansive library of transliterated and/or annotated and/or translated and/or drawn and/or photographed—in varying combinations unfortunately—cuneiform texts the likes of which doesn’t exist in print at all: in bringing together texts from many different museums and institutions from all over the world it opens up the field to scholars without access to the few specialized research libraries that exist

cdli3example of a cuneiform text in the database: TSA 23

Ease of Use: the system is relatively easy to use; there are 4 different search styles which is maybe a little bit confusing; still, the simplest way, i.e., using the search box, yields pretty good results for surfers with even the most basic interest in the field while the other ones are more for the fellow Assyriologist; one can browse through individual collections

Appeal: the system is well designed with a pleasant, consistent, calm layout

Accessibility: the library itself is easy to find in web search engines; the individual cuneiform texts are indexed by Google

cdli4line drawing of an example cuneiform text: TSA 23

Credibility: the site is professional with excellent research content

Reuse: there is no easy way to export data in convenient formats

I’d like to stress that the very large number of texts from eminent collections is astounding. This collaborative project constitutes nothing short of a revolution in the often-staid field of Assyriology. The accompanying online-only publications are appropriately open access. An Arabic-language version is planned.

cdli5example of a corollary online-only publication: CDLJ 2009:4

See also this addendum post.

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