Past Awardee


Wayne Pitard

College: Liberal Arts and Sciences
Award year: 2007-2008

The InscriptiFact Project is an image database application that is designed to allow users access via the Internet to high-resolution images of ancient inscriptions from the Near Eastern and Mediterranean worlds, with particular focus on Northwest Semitic inscriptions from the second and first millennia BCE. In its initial phase the site has made about 20,000 images of various inscriptions available to scholars around the world. Although I have been involved individually as a member of the InscriptiFact team since its inception, until this year, all the funding for the project has been raised through Bruce Zuckerman of the University of Southern California. But now Phase II of the project is about to begin, in which the database will be expanded to about 100,000 images. Zuckerman and I have looked into the possibility of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign joining with USC in a consortial relationship to support the project. The provost has generously provided us with $80,000 over the next two years as seed money to begin this process.

The logical home for a project of this scope is NCSA/I-CHASS. During the tenure of an NCSA Faculty Fellowship, I wish to do the following:

  1. Collaborate with NCSA on the development of a compression/decompression application that can be used within the second phase of InscriptiFact.
  2. Continue the development of the Spurlock Cylinder Seal Project, a substantial new component of InscriptiFact that will be centered at the University of Illinois. This project has already benefited from major contributions from NCSA and I-CHASS, which have provided us with the sophisticated website template that will be the basis for the scholarly website upon which our research will be published. This project combines state-of-the-art imaging technology with advanced undergraduate research work by collaborating students at the University of Illinois and USC in a powerful way. In addition to the cylinder seal component, I also am working on a second element of InscriptiFact that will be specifically centered at the University of Illinois--the publication of a digital edition of the Ugaritic Tablets, the only surviving library of ancient Canaanite religious and literary texts (13th c. BCE). I have been working with these texts for years, and plan to make the edition a centerpiece of InscriptiFact.
  3. Develop plans for establishing a mirror site for InscriptiFact at NCSA, and, as the number of images on InscriptiFact expands toward 100,000, examining improved and more complex ways of manipulating the data.

Our goals, then, are three-fold: 1) to take advantage of NCSA┬╣s experience with large masses of data to develop InscriptiFact as a larger and more sophisticated website; 2) to develop two major components of the InscriptiFact database here at UIUC--the Cylinder Seal Site and the Ugaritic Tablets Digital Edition; 3) to make use of the cylinder seal site as a locus for serious undergraduate research in the humanities at the University of Illinois and USC (and eventually other universities as well).

Pitard will work with I-CHASS Director Vernon Burton and other NCSA/I-CHASS staff.