4BANKS.NET/MES-REL/AUTHORSHIP.HTM – Version 1, December 2020

Giorgio Buccellati

"When on High the Heavens..."

13. Website authorship

Editors
IT specialists
Collaborators
The Research Group

Editors

     The website was conceived and designed by Giorgio Buccellati, who also serves currently as main editor and coordinates the research done by the various contributors.
     Jonah Lynch serves as Associate Editor. Besides contributing extensively to the substantive part of the website, he has maintained overall control of the operational aspects of the project and has helped in defining the format of the individual sections.
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IT specialists

     Bernardo Forni wrote the program that produces the various outputs in browser format from input files in plain ASCII entries. Since 2016, he also manages the IT aspects of the website.
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Collaborators

     Several collaborators have worked and are currently working on individual entries for the website. Identification of authorship is of particular importance, and in the website this is done in two parallel ways.
     (1) Each page or section of a page records the name of the author and the date. This applies also for short individual records as is the case of the notes. Where an entry is not so labeled, the main editor is responsible for it.
     (2) In this section, the links in the left side bar refer to a page devoted to each individual contributor who has worked on this digital resource. In these author pages, a complete list is given of all entries they have authored, inluding single footnotes. These indices are produced by the DABI program.
     Collaboration to the website is possible in the form of a a monitored forum. Details are given in the section on data handling.
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The Research Group

     Our work together began in March 2020, as most countries began to lock down due to the Covid pandemic. Physical distance made no specific difference to our work, as we were distributed across two continents and nine time zones. Each week, the team met via videoconference. Each member proposed integrations, questions, comments, and relevant books and articles for the bibliography. The central team included four scholars: Marco DePietri, Stefania Ermidoro, Jonah Lynch, and Iman Nagy. Our various areas of expertise include the History of the Ancient Near East, Egyptology, Archaeology, Comparative religion, Theology, Biblical studies.

     The lack of notes and bibliography in the Italian edition of the book, noted in a review by A. Gadotti, was by design: with notes, it would have been a much more cumbersome volume, and above all it would have been a static resource instead of the dynamic, constantly updated version that a simultaneous print and web publication allows. As we proceed to write entries in our proprietary database format (for more information, see DABI program), the website grows apace. Data files are processed dynamically, which means the site is capable of incorporating new information as soon as a data file is uploaded to the server. To date, the site includes nearly 500 secondary sources and thousands of footnotes to Buccellati's text.

     Since the argument of the book When on High the Heavens... is densely articulate, we felt it was important to proceed with a consistent, steady pace through the text. Working through one or two short chapters per week made cross-referencing possible, and allowed us to constantly refer to the overall discourse, even though our work was more "atomistic" in nature. Our videoconferences focused on three fundamental actions. First, we sought to reach a sufficient comprehension of the text by Buccellati. Second, we discussed strengths of and potential criticisms to his argument, bringing to bear our varied scholarly formation. Finally, we proposed articles and books that could buttress or criticize Buccellati's argument in some relevant way. During the following week, team members read and summarized the sources they had selected, as well as producing notes that link the sources to the text by Buccellati.

     Our aim was and is to produce a web publication that presents a clear argument (the one contained in When on High the Heavens...), and that is transparent about the existence and nature of debated points, in order to allow alternative readings of the same underlying data to be developed by other scholars. We are convinced that our reading is robust and honest, and we seek a wide-ranging conversation with other scholars, conscious that this conversation and the addition of new data is the pathway toward a more complete and rich understanding of Mesopotamian society.

     It is somewhat difficult to describe the psychological stance that is necessary in this work, but it is an important aspect that deserves mention. Because we are aware that our conclusions are open to modification, we seek to publish the "atomistic" data that leads us to our (provisional) conclusions along with the thought process that synthesizes an inductive argument from the data to the conclusions. Along this path, a long time can pass in which there is no coherent story yet developed, only the collection of data. But this should not lead us to worry (see Critique of Archeological Reason 11.1). Rather, we can patiently collect data until a pattern emerges from the fragments, showing either the strength of our overall descriptions, or pointing toward a necessary modification of them.
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