The Emperor was very interested in archeology. His Majesty personally supervised excavations in Corfu, where he held since 1907 the Achilleion, the palace Elisabeth of Austria had built.
Some years earlier the excavations of Assur (Ger., Eng.) had begun, under DELITZSCH (Ger., Eng.), KOLDEWEY (Ger., Eng.) and ANDREAE (Ger., Eng.), supervised by the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft (Eng., Ger.) (DOG), and Wilhelm’s interest surely was not purely scientific: his never ending dreams about Germany’s Platz an der Sonne (Ger., Eng.), his ambitions for glory and Weltmacht let him eye the Middle East as next area of interest (‘Interessengebiet’, ‘Einflussgebiet’), opposing the ever envied and admired English cousins.
The finds can be seen in Berlin in the Vorderasiatisches Museum (Ger., Eng.), which is part of the Pergamon Museum. They found thousands and thousands of cuneiform tablets. In small clay tablets signs and sign combinations were ‘written’, pressed into the wet clay with a reed stylus. This writing, this kind of alphabeth, took a long development and variations of more complicated and simpler varieties exist – the most notable scholar who had surely and undoubtely read the most of them and whose understanding was fundamental, was A. Leo OPPENHEIM (cdli, Eng.), editor of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary (Eng.).
I will not follow the development of the signs here, but want to look at the content of these tablets a bit.
They excavated no libraries, but mostly archives. So they did not find books, but files, Akten. These two sorts of texts are fundamentally different. A book has an author, devine or human, and mostly contains a kind of story, regardless of the literary form. A file has no author, it simply is: It tells a story, but only in second or thirt sight. A file is generated by a process and documents this process. And in this respect exists no difference between a file about the average cost of an Assurian worker from 3000 BC and a file about the construction of a Franconian castle from the 18th century. Files, Akten, are recording machines allowing the administration of an organization, regardless of the subject of the organization: It does not matter what is administered.
Files are ruled by lists. And the archeologists of the 19th century unearthed tons of lists. Lists programme files, they give series of steps that have to be followed in a certain order: Control characters operate the file from the very first set up until the last filing, ad acta, in the archive. A set of operators gouvern the file, each one shows that a previous step is done and in doing so orders the next step: Without cor for correctum on the draft a clean copy can not produced; without the sign, that allows the expedition, the clean copy can not be sent out – and so on: One step gives the next, a chain reaction, sending pieces of paper or tons of clay on their way …
And in the core of all this is a list, a list of signs, of operators, characters of control.