From ancient to digital archives

Belatedly, I note that Numerical Notation features prominently in the annual report of the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project published online last month (the section on my book is near the end). Matt Stolper, the head of the project, graciously gave me permission to reprint the Old Persian cuneiform tablet Fort. 1208-101 in my book, as it features the first evidence of the Old Persian numerals for the higher hundreds (in the numeral phrase ‘604’), and is the only known Old Persian document that serves an administrative function. Ultimately, the tablet was chosen by my editors to grace the extremely attractive cover.

Stolper alludes indirectly in the report to the serendipitous inclusion of this tablet in my research. I’ll be more direct: online publication and open access to the research findings of the Archive are the only reason I was able to integrate this important artifact into my research, at what was a fairly advanced stage of publication. If Stolper and his co-author Jan Tavernier had not published their findings directly online (Stolper and Tavernier 2007), enabling me to rapidly track it down once the media began to report on the tablet’s analysis, I could never have discussed it. (I should also give full credit to my wife, who first alerted me to the news articles on Fort. 1208-101). There are other arguments, such as cost, in favour of this model of publication, but access and speed – especially in fields like this, where data can lie unpublished for decades – are absolutely critical.

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