entangled history; Palestine; Visible Religion; history of science; glyptics; Southern Levant; Digital Humanities; stamp seals; open access; participative database; Material Religion; gender history; history of religion\s; iconography; cultural contact; history of science; Israel
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This project addresses stamp seals, a common but highly valued and symbolically significant type of object, as a privileged media to study crucial aspects of ancient Levantine social, economic, cultural and religious history especially in pre-Hellenistic times. It aims at developing an online open-access, collaborative database entitled Corpus of Stamp Seals from the Southern Levant (CSSL) as a sustainable reference tool for future research in numerous disciplines: archaeology, ancient history, biblical studies, history of religion\s, Mediterranean studies, and others including exact sciences. Taking its starting-point from groundbreaking research initiated since the 1970s by Othmar Keel, particularly through his Corpus of Stamp-Seal Amulets from Palestine/Israel (CSSPI) and the Corpus of Seal Amulets from Jordan (CSAJ), the project will bring that unfinished task to completion; more importantly, it will fully engage a Digital Humanities transition, translate all relevant data from a pre-digital format into a digitized research infrastructure and thoroughly reconceptualize their significance for historical research. The new database will fulfill latest Open Access requirements, allow for active contributions by all interested scholars worldwide, can easily be updated and expanded and will remain operative for many years to come. Moreover, CSSPI’s focus will be extended to wider regional concerns by removing modern borders from historical considerations: While “Southern Levant” designates the territories covered by the modern states of Israel, Jordan, and Palestine, CSSL will be so designed that it can easily be enlarged to integrate additional data from sites lying beyond that region, e.g., in the Central and Northern Levant, the Egyptian delta, or the Arabian peninsula.A particular aim of the project is to increase the value of the data by interdisciplinary cooperation involving the specialized expertise of an international network of scholars and institutions. The full and best currently available documentation will allow senior scholars, postdocs and PhD students of several disciplines (archaeology, biblical studies, history of religion\s) and three universities (Bern, Tel Aviv, Zurich) to conduct a series of highly innovative studies. Organized in thematically and methodologically defined modules, these studies will, for example, explore seal designs and their iconography as a resource for religio-historical investigation; questions of social archaeology will be studied alongside matters of political and economic history; gender history, social archaeology and biblical studies will intersect in a study of seal use by women. We want to draw on the full potential of the glyptic material to develop new approaches both to the history of ancient Levantine society, culture, and religion, and to the study of biblical texts. Another, crucial aim is to bring the study of ancient glyptics in conversation with scientists. An original and to our knowledge unprecedented move will be attempted with a theory-driven module reviewing the evolution of CSSPI from its inception in the 1970s to its completion within the framework of CSSL. The various stages of CSSPI’s development and implementation, by Keel and others, over almost 50 years reflect tremendous changes in scholarship, not only in terms of technology but also of methods, theoretical models, and scholarly paradigms. Adding a self-reflective dimension to the project will allow us to historicize not only our research object, but to critically review how historical knowledge itself is necessarily framed by the conditions of its production. These conditions have undergone tremendous changes over the last decades. The module will demonstrate how much interdisciplinary (in this case, culture-historical) research is embedded in and impacted by changing concerns of society at large.