Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New Research Resources Online - for Free!

Great news for researchers and people interested in ancient history and archaeology! Story 1: The University of Chicago News Office (reported at Source: University of Chicago Released: Tue 02-Jun-2009, 16:00 ET Scholarship on Ancient Middle East Becomes Free Digitally Newswise — A wealth of material that documents the ancient Middle East has become available through a new, free online service at the Oriental Institute.
 The material comes from the extensive collection at the institute, which is a major publisher of important academic books on the languages, history and cultures of the ancient Middle East. The effort began in 1906, when the University started issuing publications that have been essential for studying the past.
 Since that time, more than 272 books have been published, ranging from dictionaries of the Assyrian and Hittite languages, to historical and archaeological studies and oversized folio volumes that document Egyptian temples and tombs.
 Gil Stein, Director of the Oriental Institute, said, “Our publications are the lasting record of our excavations and research. They are fundamental tools for scholars of the ancient Middle East throughout the world. Making these books available to our colleagues, to educators and the public reflects our mission to share knowledge.”
 Publication of its research is a central tenet of the mission of the Oriental Institute. Equally important is making that research accessible to scholars and individuals throughout the world.
 Toward that end, in October 2004, the Oriental Institute announced the Electronic Publications Initiative, which stated that all publications of the Oriental Institute would be simultaneously published in print and electronically. New titles are made available for free download at the same time they are issued in print. Individuals, libraries and institutions may download one complimentary copy for personal use from the Oriental Institute’s Web site: More than a thousand copies of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary have been downloaded since May 2008.
To date, 147 Adobe PDFs (portable document files), each containing an entire book, can be accessed at the site. Many of those titles are older publications that have long been out of print. An additional 125 older titles, which comprise the institute’s Egyptological collection published since the 1920s, such as the Epigraphic Survey, are being scanned in preparation for free Internet distribution.
 Another 138 older titles, which document the institute’s research on Anatolian, Arabic, Iranian, Mesopotamian, Syro/Palestinian cultures, among others, will continue to be scanned and distributed as time and funds permit.
 Response to the EPI has been overwhelming, with positive comments received from all over the world. Complimentary Web distribution ensures that publications of the Oriental Institute, whether new or old, are made available to everyone with access to the Internet, especially in countries where the institute conducts research.
 Thomas Urban, manager of the Publications Department at the Oriental Institute, said, “Technology now makes it possible for us to make these works widely available. So much effort goes into each volume—the author’s original research, editorial work, artwork and photography. It is rewarding that these books, many of which are long out of print, can be consulted.” Statistics on downloads of electronic files and sales of printed books have been carefully tracked, and the Publication Sales office has noted that the availability of free downloads has not adversely impacted the sale of the printed volumes. In fact, the availability of free PDFs of titles has increased print sales. After the complimentary distribution of 21 titles—books that had not been accessible via the Internet before 2008—print sales of those same titles increased by 7 percent compared to the previous two years. “It seemed counterintuitive that making the electronic files available without charge would actually stimulate the sale of hard copies, but that is what we are seeing,” Urban said. “We suspect that people are sampling the book through the download, then they decide they want a hard copy. This is an important message to others who are contemplating making their books available on the Internet,” he added.
 Print copies of the publications are available through the Oriental Institute’s distributor, David Brown Books: © 2009 Newswise. All Rights Reserved. Story 2: From (New Zealand) Archaeologists Unveil New Zealand Digital Resource Tuesday, 9 June, 2009 - 14:27 An online digital resource that records archaeological sites in New Zealand called ArchSite ( will be officially launched on Wednesday 10 June at the New Zealand Archaeological Association's (NZAA) annual conference in Wellington. In 2007 the Department of Internal Affairs contributed funding to the NZAA to develop the Site Recording Scheme (SRS) into an online resource, with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) and Department of Conservation providing support as project partners. The SRS - the largest non-government archaeological site recording scheme in the world - has been active for 51 years and currently holds 61,000 paper records on this country's archaeological sites. NZAA president and NZHPT archaeologist Dr Matthew Schmidt said having the online service will make it much easier for members of the public, archaeologists and organisations to access information. "The public will be able to access archaeological data and use it for a range of things - for example, site management, education on our early history and appreciating Maori, Pakeha and Chinese heritage. "The launch night will mark the time when subscribers to the full online SRS service can access information. Basic information on New Zealand archaeological sites will also be able to be accessed by the public for free." The SRS has become crucial in supporting the archaeological provisions of the Historic Places Act 1993 and the protection of artefacts under the Protected Objects Act 1975. The online service will provide 'feature streaming' so archaeological site data can be directly fed into Geographic Information Systems (GIS). In addition, an interactive web service will enable recorded archaeological sites to be viewed against a geographic map of New Zealand and allow information layers, such as topographic maps, survey information and legal descriptions for properties, to be displayed. "We're pretty much at the halfway mark of this project. It has taken 18 months of hard work to develop and build the system and over the next 18 months the NZAA will continue to add, refine and check digitised data," Dr Schmidt said. "The Site Recording Scheme was originally a special interest database but is now used, particularly by local authorities, in planning and legal issues for site identification, protection and management." The NZAA is an independent, non-profit voluntary association made up of professional and amateur member archaeologists. It was founded in 1956 and in 1958 it established the NZAA Site Recording Scheme - a paper-based system containing field notes, plans, photographs and drawings of archaeological sites throughout New Zealand and from the off-shore islands. The NZAA's annual conference runs in Wellington from 10-14 June, with its theme this year being Archaeology in the Digital Age. Story 3: From Italy puts Baghdad Museum online June 9, 2009 (ANSA) - Rome, June 9 - The treasures of Baghdad's National Museum went online for the first time Tuesday as Italy inaugurated the Virtual Museum of Iraq as part of an ongoing cultural collaboration between the two countries. Looted during the United States-led invasion in 2003, the Baghdad Museum partially reopened in February after six years but the website is designed to make its most important artefacts accessible to everyone. The site (, in Arabic, English and Italian, offers visitors the chance to walk through eight virtual halls and admire works from the prehistoric to the Islamic period, while videoclips reconstruct the history of the country's main cities. ''It's not a simple container of the objects in the museum but a real virtual journey, created for the general public and the scientific community, across 6,000 years of Mesopotamian history,'' said Italy's National Research Council Director Roberto De Mattei. Among the artefacts on display in the Sumerian hall of the virtual museum is the famous Warka Mask, a marble head of a woman from Uruk dated to 3,400-3,100 BC, which, as with many of the works, visitors can rotate to get an almost 360 degree view. In the Assyrian hall visitors can also admire colossal limestone statues of human-headed, winged bulls called lamassu, dated to the eight and ninth centuries BC, that guarded the ancient cities of Nimrud on the River Tigris and Dur Sharrukin, modern-day Khorsabad. Presenting the website Tuesday, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the virtual museum ''has allowed Italy's excellence in this field to shine and above all to make culture a tool to allow a population that has suffered greatly from the war to get back on their feet, to find through their own cultural and historic heritage a sense of unity''. The speaker of Italy's lower house, Gianfranco Fini, who promoted the virtual museum as foreign minister in 2005, was also present at the inauguration. Italy contributed one million euros and provided expert staff to help restore the museum, creating a restoration laboratory in Baghdad and overhauling the museum's Assyrian and Islamic galleries. In February Frattini said Italy would help Iraq create a new police unit to fight the trafficking of stolen works based on Italy's crack team of art cops, who have gained a worldwide reputation for their work in recovering stolen works and stopping illegal trading. He said Italy also planned to help reopen the museums of Najaf and Nassiriya near the ancient Sumerian city of Ur, recorded in the Bible as the birthplace of Abraham. Present-day Iraq lies on the site of ancient Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and the Baghdad museum boasts one of the best collections of ancient artefacts in the world. Around 15,000 of the museum's relics were carried off during a 48-hour looting spree in 2003 in the wake of the US invasion.Denounced as the most catastrophic theft of antiquities since World War II, the plundering sparked international outrage and condemnation of America for failing to prevent the thefts. [Yeah, right. And no outrage against the locals who carried out the massive looting? What a crock of you know what!] Italian art cops were enlisted in the race to track down the looted treasures. While around 6,000 works have been returned, including the Warka Mask, many other pieces are still missing. The police believe many of the treasures found their way to a collection centre [where? Iran, for instance? It's well known the Revolutionary Guard who prop up the regime for the Ayatollahs are up to their necks in trafficking illegal antiquities] for smuggled Iraqi artefacts which has contacts with interested buyers, particularly in Britain, Switzerland and the United States.

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