The Land of the Four River Banks
Giorgio Buccellati – October 2019
The phrase "Four River Banks" was introduced around 2200 B.C.
by Naram-Sin, king of Akkad, to refer to what we call Mesopotamia.
The latter is a Greek term and concept ("land between the rivers")
which was alien to the ancients who lived there.
"Four river banks" refers to the two banks of the Tigris and of the Euphrates respectively,
the "bank" being the starting point of the irrigation system
which characterized the territory from the middle course of the rivers down to the Gulf.
The term was introduced by Naram-Sin to refer to the new political reality
which his gandfather, Sargon, had started to implement and he had consolidated.
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4banks.net is the hub of a cluster of six websites dedicated to five complementary aspects of Mesopotamian civilization: language, history, literature, art and religion; one more website deals with methodological issues. As such it serves as a portal that brings together the websites, an entry way that shows their commonality and interrelationship.
More importantly I give, in this hub, presentation of the fundamental philosophy that underlies the notion of a scholarly website as applied in these websites. I argue for the validity of a website that develops a full fledged "long argument", with the same intent and method that characterize an argument presented in a book or article.
The core principle of this approach is that a website ought to be based on a clear sense of structure that defines it as a recognizable whole. The specific way in which this can be implemented is twofold: (1) authors must reclaim their responsibility to construct a proper digital discourse within the framework of a website, and (2) readers must also reclaim their responsiblity to study a website as they would a book or an article.
This understanding of digital publishing is in contrast with current views about the impact of digitality on cognitive development. I argue that a fully committed structural approach to website writing and reading allows us to develop a powerful dimension of digital thought and thus to reach for an invigorating new brand of digital humanism.
Such humanistic view of digitality will in turn have an impact on the social and even the exact sciences, showing how awareness of the whole is indispensable for a proper assessment of the fragments into which the whole can be broken down.
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Each of the six websites is linked to a core narrative relating to the corresponding topic. The websites are identical in structure: they contain an extensive bibliographical coverage and develop themes relating to content and method. They are linked to the printed volumes which serve as the guiding narrative in the organization of the material, but they serve at the same time as an independent bibliographical and topical repository.
The five websites devoted to cultural aspects of Mesopotamia are tightly interlaced. This means that topics that overarch the scope of the individual subject matter of each website are developed concurrently and are cross-referenced among the websites. Thus a bibliographical item which touches on a political phenomenon may be relevant to literature, religion and art, and appropriate hyperlinks will show how the four develop in parallel ways. As such, the five websites serve as a comprehensive resource for the study of Mesopotamian civilization. An overall index will bring together all the five websites.
Once they have achieved an internal coherence and have reached a certain threshold of completeness, the websites are open for full public access. An editorial board oversees each individual website in order to help maintain the quality of this online publication, which will be archived at selected intervals to ensure the full bibliographical status of the various editions.
As is in the nature of websites, these, too, remain active for continuous input and updates. While in the initial stages, they are available through a password to members of the various research groups working on the project. Interested parties can request access by writing to to the editor. Once an individual website acquires sufficient consistency and coherence, it is made accessible on a open access basis.
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