Using Natural Language Processing and Social Network Analysis to study ancient Babylonian society

UC Berkeley iNews, March 10, 2009

Patrick Schmitz

In Near Eastern Studies, as in other areas of Humanities, researchers often study corpora of administrative and legal texts to understand economic, administrative, and societal structure, considering the activities of individuals and their interactions with each other. This is often painstaking work, as, for example, in studying ancient Babylonian texts where scholars must first be able to read Akkadian, and then must assemble all the references to people and activities by hand. This process is formally known as prosopography, and is used by many scholars across a range of Humanities research. Now, Professor Niek Veldhuis and Dr. Laurie Pearce are working with IST–Data Services' Patrick Schmitz to apply some more modern approaches to the problem. They are applying techniques from the fields of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Social Network Analysis (SNA) to extract the names and basic familial relationships of people mentioned in texts, and then to assemble the social network of the people based upon the activities described. read more on