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Near Eastern and Islamic Studies


This page is a quick resource page to find information on research skills and on basic tools and support. Here you will find:

  • Resources for learning palaeography
  • Transliteration and romanization guides 
  • Information on pre-modern calendars and conversion
  • A bibliography of some useful dictionaries and reference works 
  • Digital Humanities resources for learning and on-going projects

Getting started with palaeography

Palaeography is a valuable skill but approaching it may seem difficult and foreboding. Worry not! This page will introduce you to a number of free online and on-campus resources that can help an interested student get started.

  • HMML School - The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library is a great place for both digitized manuscripts and palaeography. Their online school offers free resources for Arabic and Syriac palaeography.
  • Prof. Jan Just Witkam's Course in Islamic Paleography - University of Leiden Professor Jan Just Witkam offers an education webpage with self-study resources and courses on Arabic, Malay, and Persian manuscript palaeography. 
  • University of Leiden's mouse&manuscript - The University of Leiden offers over 50 short online courses on palaeography and codicology (manuscript studies) for Arabic, Persia, and Coptic, from cultures ranging from the Maghrib to Mughal India. 
  • ِArabic Papyrology School - For documentary Arabic palaeography, the Arabic Papyrology Database offers a free course with options for both beginners and more advanced students. 
  • Scribes of the Cairo Geniza - This project combines learning and collaborative contribution. You are invited to practice your documentary Hebrew and/or Arabic using real document fragments from the Cairo Geniza. There is the option to start with either "Easy" or "Challenging" documents. 
  • - is a continuously updated site of a comprehensive annotated bibliography of open-access resources related to the study of Syriac, including resources for Syrian palaeography. 
  • Students and faculty at Princeton occasionally hold courses or drop-in events dedicated to language learning and palaeography

Selected Dictionaries and Reference Texts

Dictionaries to know 

  • Ejtaal – which includes Arabic - English dictionaries: Hans Wehr, Lane, Steingass, Qur’an resources. As well as Arabic-Arabic dictionaries such as Lisān al-ʿArab, Muḥīṭ al-Muḥīṭ, Arabic-French dictionary, as well as resources in Urdu and South East Asian languages. Search using root of word.

  • Almaany – Another online compendium of Arabic dictionaries.

  • Oxford dictionary via princeton (requires sign-in) – A good first stop to quickly look up words, and search is not limited to roots only. Can be useful for finding roots and then doing further searching on a more comprehensive dictionary.

  • Lisān al-ʿ Arab, 1984 Iran edition.

  • Lughatuna - A phone app for Apple iOS and available on Google Play Store, Lughatuna is an easy to use multi-dialect Arabic dictionary.

Useful References 


Digital Humanities

Digital Humanities is an increasingly popular subfield, and there are a host of programs and opportunities for interested students, both within and outside of Princeton. 

Resources for learning

  • The Center for Digital Humanities at Princeton - The CDH supports students, faculty, and staff who are interested in the digital humanities with practical resources and training. 
  • Constellate -- Constellate is the text analytics service from ITHAKA (JSTOR and Portico). It is a platform for teaching, learning, and performing text analysis using archival repositories of scholarly and primary source content. They offer a number of digital training courses which can be taken live or asynchronously.

Some examples of Digital Humanities projects and databases in Near Eastern Studies:

  • The Princeton Geniza Project -- The Cairo Geniza is a cache of texts preserved in a medieval Egyptian synagogue, offering a snapshot of everyday life over the past thousand years, a portrait of the Jewish communities of the Mediterranean and Red Sea regions. The documents are scattered over several libraries and collections around the world, and the Princeton Geniza Project is a database that brings together searchable that cover much of collection, making it indispensable for navigating the Geniza sources. 
  • Princeton Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Egyptian Miracles of Mary Project (PEMM) -- A comprehensive resources for the 1,000+ miracle stories about the Virgin Mary in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Egypt, and preserved in Gəˁəz between 1300 and the present.  The project is aimed at creating a resource for all scholars and to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church community, providing Ethiopians with digital access to their patrimony, and raising general awareness about the beauty, breadth, and variety of these vital works of early African literature.
  • Invisible East -- The Invisible East programme at the University of Oxford’s Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies brings the mediaeval Islamicate East to the forefront of historical research by studying texts written in the multilingual world of mediaeval Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia. Invisible East specialists transcribe, translate and analyze tests, most of which reflect everyday, local use – such as, receipts, personal letters and legal opinions – while others are literary in nature. The initiative incorporates a range of languages, including Early New Persian, Judaeo-Persian, Arabic, Bactrian, Sogdian, Khotanese and Pahlavi, and sheds new light on the political, financial, and legal infrastructures at the granular level, historical writing, linguistics, and cultural and religious diversity in the mediaeval Islamicate East.

  • The Book and the Silk Roads  -- The Book and the Silk Roads project maps connections between parts of the premodern world by describing the technology of the book. Its aim is to challenge a too-familiar history, in which Gutenberg’s moveable type and our own era’s digital communication technologies are the natural outcomes of a triumphant Western tradition that began with Christian Rome’s invention of the codex.  A more global approach to premodern book history transforms the story of human communications by revealing networks of human relationships—as well as technological and material entanglements—that knit together our premodern world.

  • Framing the Late Antique and early Medieval Economy (FLAME) -- The FLAME Project reconstructs the economy of Western Afro-Eurasia, 325–725 CE, supplying hard data from over a million published coins from Ireland to India to understand the fall of the Roman Empire, the rise of Islam and the origins of the European economy. FLAME has concluded its first phase, a review of the coins from Roman and Sassanian mints, with note of issues of denominations and types. The project is now gathering and organising circulation data from literary sources, focusing on the relationship between coin issues and moneys of account, and from hoards and site finds for evidence of the geography and chronology of circulation.

  • Practices of Commentary -- The project seeks to develop a global perspective on practices of commentary, de-siloing regionally focused work while simultaneously offering fine-grained and nuanced accounts of the function of commentary in cultures and communities of the premodern world. This project thus has a global scope, bringing together both senior and junior scholars with expertise in various European, Near Eastern, and South and East Asian traditions to debate the theory and practice of commenting and commentary in humanistic studies today.

  • The Zaydi Manuscript Tradition -- This is a joint project with HMML and the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton, providing searchable digitized collections as well as bibliographic resources to facilitate further study of Zaydi literary production. The Zaydi community is a branch of Shii Islam that has flourished mainly in two regions, namely the mountainous Northern Highlands of Yemen and the Caspian regions of Northern Iran.

  • eScriptorium -- A Digital Text Production Pipeline for Print and Handwritten Texts using machine learning techniques

  • KITAB -- KITAB provides a digital toolbox and a forum for discussions about Arabic texts. We wish to empower users to explore Arabic texts in completely new ways and to expand the frontiers of knowledge about one of the world’s largest and most complex textual traditions.

  • SHARIAsource -- SHARIAsource is a project of the Program in Islamic Law at Harvard Law School, that aims to provide comprehensive content and context on Islamic law in a way that is accessible and useful. It is a Portal into the digital world of Islamic legal studies and related tools from data science and AI. Working with a global team to advisors, senior scholars, and editors, our mission is to organise the world’s information on Islamic Law.

  • Kalīla Reader -- The goal of the Kalila Readr app is to collect a range of published versions of the text of Kalila and Dimna – and translations and adaptations thereof – within a simple framework that facilitates cross-referencing and comparative reading. 

  • OpenITI -- The Open Islamicate Texts Initiative (OpenITI) is a multi-institiutional effort led by researchers at the Aga Khan University’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations in London, the Roshan Institiute for Persian Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, and the Universitat of Hamburd that aims to develop the digital infrastructure for the study of Islamicate cultures.