Month: October 2014

Gadal-iama, Part 2: The Cuneiform Text

Lutz UCP 9.3 p278

Digitalizing old cuneiform texts poses some special issues which digitalizing old Teubners and Loebs does not. Working with the Gadal-iama contract has been an excellent excuse to explore them. I hope that they will have some interest for my readers who don’t read Akkadian.

Copyright is the first issue. At present I do not have time to make my own transcription of the published drawings (this has changed since October 2014- ed.). The following edition is based on that published by Henry Frederick Lutz in 1928. On the basis of Cornell University’s handy guide, I believe it to be in the public domain.

Our understanding of cuneiform writing has changed since 1928. An example which leaps out is that Lutz read the signs AN.BAR as the god Ninurta rather than the adjective parzillu “iron.” I have corrected this and noted where Ebeling’s more recent reading of other signs differs.

Conventions for transliterating cuneiform have also changed. I have tried to move Lutz’ text towards the conventions of the Open Richly Annotated Cuneiform Corpus as defined in their Akkadian Stylesheet. I have replaced the most obvious logograms with the corresponding Sumerian, but not tampered with Lutz’ sign numbers and vowel lengths where they are slightly different from the conventions today (this has changed since October 2014- ed.). All capitalized Sumerograms and all material in brackets except for the line numbers are my own.

This is neither a completely modernized edition (which would take more time than I have available) nor an exact transcription of Lutz’s edition (which would be hard for many Assyriologists to use). Serious scholars with access to a good library will want the second edition by Ebeling, but I hope that this will be worthwhile regardless. I would very much appreciate it if anyone who spots an error would email me. In the future I may make my own transcription to practice the script and understand which signs lie behind the logograms in the existing transcriptions.

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The University as Social Service

Alex Usher of the Higher Education Strategy Associates recently posted a summary of some surveys of students at Canadian universities.  He and his colleagues found that students at most Canadian universities answered questions about their university the same way.  Usher often suggests that he wants universities to become more diverse, but in this post he mentions with a hint of disdain another view, that universities exist to provide a uniform social service.  That strikes me as a very good description of the role which I would like Canadian universities to play.  Moreover, while I think his heart is in the right place, I can see a few disadvantages of greater “differentiation” which Alex Usher has not spelled out.

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Trying Hard to Show it Wrong

See caption
Roman relief of a man wearing what scholars call an “Attic helmet” (style of first or second century CE, Palazzo Ducale, Mantova, inv. gen. 6733). Showing someone wearing one of these helmets associated them with Greek culture, but examples from this period are hard to find in the ground.

People, especially people who are most interested in material culture, often find it hard to accept that ancient art does not directly and literally depict the world. People who recreate Roman material culture, for example, often fret that when we can check it against other evidence, Trajan’s column is usually wrong. “But the rest of the sculpture is so lifelike,” they complain. “Shouldn’t we use what evidence we have?” “Why would they go to so much trouble to depict something wrong?”

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Gadal-iama, Part 1: Introduction

Assorted bricks, jars, seals, clay sickles, tablets, pot fragments, etc. in a depression covered in glass and shaped like a step pyramid
Random clay artifacts from ancient Iraq, on display in Palazzo Te, Mantua and connected with one Ugo Sissa.

One of the most interesting texts from Achaemenid Babylonia which has been published is a contract between Gadal-iama, son of Rahîm-ilê, and Rîmût-Ninurta, son of Murašû. Amongst other things, it contains the first description of special garments meant to be worn with armour which I have ever heard of. Because there do not seem to be any good discussions online, and because the translations in books for non-specialists are often very loose, I decided to post an Akkadian text and a translation or summary online. Before I do so, I should probably explain what this contract is.

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A Battle of Greeks and Barbarians

Since I am too busy this week to spare many words, I thought I would post some pictures instead. This relief from a sarcophagus belongs to the Palazzo Ducale, Mantua. The caption dates it to the second quarter of the second century CE and labels it as a battle of Greeks and Amazons, but the barbarians look awfully masculine to me.

SAM_3792
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