Pictures to words to data. Annotating, indexing and linking in the project «Annotated Corpus of Ancient West Asian Imagery: Cylinder Seals»

Elisa Roßberger (Free University of Berlin)

Friday, 6 October 2023 | 2:30–3:00 pm


‘Analog’ as well as ‘Digital Archaeology’ have long focused on placing objects on maps and timelines, sorted by categories and their typological and/or stylistic features. However, images – no matter if monumental or miniature in scale – often resist categorization or assignment to one distinct point in space and time only. Images live and communicate through their interconnections with others in wider realms of visual culture, often formed across vast distances. How then, can we turn images into machine-readable formats that allow us to perform digital procedures based on discrete numbers? How can we operationalise, analyse and visualise their interconnectedness?

The project «Annotated Corpus of Ancient West Asian Imagery: Cylinder Seals» (ACAWAI-CS), based at Freie Universität Berlin, has long struggled with these issues. We suggest a multi-layered approach that combines the segmentation into artefactual, graphic and textual components, their detailed annotation according to controlled vocabularies, linkage to authority files, and a recording system for scholarly attributions of typological and/or stylistic features. The paper will focus on a discussion of advantages and shortcomings of the project-specific vocabulary and its relation to large-scale, art-historical authority files such as the Getty Art and Architecture Thesaurus.

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