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DASI – Digital Archive for the Study of pre-Islamic Arabian Inscriptions is a five-year project funded by the European Community within the Seventh Framework Programme “Ideas”, Specific Programme “ERC – Advanced Grant”.

The Arabian Peninsula in the pre-Islamic period was home to a numerous and diverse cultures, the inscriptions and artwork of which provide our only primary source for the history of this part of the ancient Near East. Unfortunately, much of this material has been published in hard to access volumes and journals and the resources available to most scholars are outdated and/or overly narrow in scope. In addition to this, the actual artefacts are housed in various museums around the world, private collections, and many remain in situ. These difficulties have made it nearly impossible for scholars to consult the entire corpus of material.
The DASI project seeks to gather all known pre-Islamic Arabian epigraphic material into a comprehensive online database which can be accessed by scholars from anywhere in the world. This project will improve upon the existing CSAI project (Corpus of South Arabian Inscriptions: both in terms of methodology and content. For the first time, the rich cultural heritage of the pre-Islamic Arabian Peninsula can be studied in a holistic manner to fill an important gap in the history of the ancient Near East.

Participants and collaborations

DASI project continues the tradition of applying computer technology to the study of the ancient world of the long and well-established partnership between the PI (Alessandra Avanzini, Chair Professor of Semitic Philology at University of Pisa - Department of Historical Sciences of the Ancient World) and the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa on highly innovative projects, the most important of which is CSAI - Corpus of South Arabian Inscriptions, for the digital edition of the epigraphic corpus of pre-Islamic southern Arabia (
In addition to the primary goals of the current project, our hope is also to acquaint scholars and researchers in the field of pre-Islamic Arabian studies and ancient languages and cultures with the skill set required to manipulate computer technology to aid their research and advance the field.
DASI encourages the involvement of both Italian and international research centres on pre-Islamic Arabian epigraphy. Some of our partner institutions are the Faculty of Oriental Studies of the University of Oxford, Laboratoire Orient et Méditerranée – Mondes Sémitiques (Paris), the Faculty of Archaeology of the Yarmouk University.

Scope and objectives

The Pisa research group has many years of experience in the field of South Arabian epigraphy, under the direction of the PI Alessandra Avanzini. This experience, however, is not limited to the production of scholarly works. We have been pioneers in the application of computer technology to the study of epigraphy to more efficiently study and disseminate the South Arabian inscriptions. It is this unique position that has compelled us to extend the scope of the original CSAI research tool to encompass the entire corpus of pre-Islamic Arabian epigraphy.
The General Objectives of DASI are:
  • to improve, enrich and enhance the CSAI content, digitizing and organizing the entire corpus of pre-Islamic Arabian inscriptions;
  • to exchange knowledge and experience within the scientific community;
  • to apply innovative technologies to the study of pre-Islamic Arabia.
The specific goals of DASI within these general objectives:
  • digitization of all the pre-Islamic Arabian inscriptions known through scientific publications (catalogues, series, single articles in periodicals etc.);
  • digitization of the pre-Islamic Arabian collections of the major European museums such as: the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna, the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, Ashmolean Museum of Oxford;
  • digitization of all the Yemeni museums by completing the work started within the CASIS project;
  • digitization of some of the most important private and public collections of pre-Islamic Arabian antiquities in USA, such as The Foster Collection (The Walters Art Museum of Baltimore) and the TC collection (Pittsburgh Carnegie Museum of Art);
  • implementation of the DASI archive, and fruition and interchange of all the material on the Web;
  • study of inscriptions, publication of catalogues and scientific articles.

Agenda and Timetable

The 5 year project focuses on a range of activities, designed to start, implement and carry out research. The activities, each one with specific scopes and duration, are organised within four main phases. The completion of the specific objectives in each phase will allow us to achieve the expected intermediate goals, in turn, helping us closely and accurately monitor DASI’s progress.
The PI will coordinate the entire project and will have full responsibility for its development. Both participating institutions, University of Pisa and Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, will support her with resources, equipment, and personnel.
Phase 1 – Meetings and workshops (Month 1-10)
The first phase focused on the organization of the preliminary meetings and workshops, essential for defining the proper management structure and the scientific and technical methodologies required to carry out the project.
Phase 2 – Tools definition (Month 1-18) and training courses (Month 14-18)
The second phase establishes the methodologies and tools that will be used for the transcription, encoding, cataloguing, and storing of epigraphic data. This phase includes training courses for the personnel involved in the cataloguing activity.
Phase 3 – Cataloguing of inscriptions and their digital publication (Month 19-40)
This phase is entirely devoted to the inventory, cataloguing, and digital publication of the selected epigraphic material.
Phase 4 - Study of inscriptions and scientific publications (Month 41-60)
The last phase will involve the close study of the inscriptions in order to produce scientific publications. For each inscription, we will highlight the most significant linguistic, cultural, and religious traits.

Workshops and courses

In order to achieve the goals of our second object, DASI will organize workshops and training courses geared to Italian and foreign experts, researchers, students, and museum personnel, in order to:
- train and help learn new strategies and innovative tools for the study of ancient epigraphic corpora
- establish a common understanding of best practices and procedures of digitalization and dissemination of ancient documents.

Past events

Pisa, June 14th
1st DASI International workshop: “Best approaches to the analysis and digitization of pre-Islamic Arabian inscriptions”
Oxford, September 7th – 9th 2011
Pisa, January 16th – 21st 2012
Pisa, February 13th – 17th 2012
Workshop DASI- Laboratoire Mondes Sémitiques, Paris

News and Events

Università di Pisa, Dipartimento di Civiltà e Forme del Sapere, March, 16th 2016
Granada (Spain), 28th September - 2nd October
Bari - Italy, September 24th to 25th, 2015