When listening to the NPR interview show, Fresh Air, which interviewed Quentin Tarantino, I was struck with how similar in some respects Tarantino’s writing method is to that of ANE scribes. Tarantino described the way he writes as a process of remembering past movies and inter-splicing his own creations within their storylines. This is very similar to how literature was copied within certain periods in the ancient world. For instance, while the basic storyline is more or less preserved the Gilgamesh Epic changes as scribes keep recopying it–even an entire scene is inserted; the famous tablet 11 with the flood account (see Tigay’s book for details). Have a listen to the Tarantino interview and let me know what you think.
CDLJ has two more recent articles worth checking out, particularly since they are available as free downloads. Magnus Widell published two Ur III texts and provides voluminous commentary on them and topics related to the contents of the tablets. One of Widell’s most fascinating discussions is his interaction with Steinkeller’s hypothesis that many accounting tablets were written after, sometimes long after, the events that they record transpired. Steinkeller posits para-writing devices such as counting sticks that helped jump-start the scribe’s memory when he wrote the information down. Widell critiques this theory as lacking support and suggests that scribes merely wrote notes on small lumps of clay and then transferred these notes to tablets at a later time.
Here is the abstract of Robert McC. Adam’s essay, “Old Babylonian Networks of Urban Notables:”
§1.1. An argument is made for detaching a greater part of the field of concern in Mesopotamian historical studies from the presently uniform and narrow constraints of successively rising and falling dynasties. It is better considered instead within a more cumulative framework giving greater stress to shifts in the breadth and makeup of actively participatory social groups. The original 4th millennium “Urban Revolution” probably should also be viewed in this light, as might the mid-3rd millennium shift in the direction of more secularized forms of dynastic rather than theocratic government. However, this article concentrates on the following transition, whose character can be more readily and unambiguously defined. In traditional terms, it can be described as falling between the later Ur III and the Old Babylonian periods, at around the end of the 3rd millennium.
§1.2. This is seen as a time of increasing privatization in most fields of social, economic and to some extent even political activity. A new, in large measure urban-based “proto-middle class”—its leading elements herein described as “notables”—was becoming recognizable in a time of dynastic weakness and rivalry. Not abruptly, but gradually, it assumed control or ownership of many productive forces and forms of property formerly thought of as largely within the royal orbit. It added its own forms of management and exploitation of the still mainly inert, larger part of the population to the continuing demands and exactions of dynastic overlords. A crucial technological means by which this was achieved was the modification and adoption to its own ends of growing new uses of cuneiform writing, which earlier had been very largely held under royal control.
In the past two decades, we have witnessed one of the greatest breakdowns of the barrier between our work and personal lives since the notion of leisure time emerged in Victorian Britain as a result of the Industrial Age. It has put us under great physical and mental strain, altering our brain chemistry and daily needs. It has isolated us from the people with whom we live, siphoning us away from real-world places where we gather. It has encouraged flotillas of unnecessary jabbering, making it difficult to tell signal from noise. It has made it more difficult to read slowly and enjoy it, hastening the already declining rates of literacy. It has made it harder to listen and mean it, to be idle and not fidget. –John Freeman, “Not So Fast,” WSJ
True…but I still can’t live without it…wait, an email just arrived…
CDLJ has two new articles out, both are worth a read. Bertrand Lafont’s contribution discusses the army during the Ur III period. It is an almost encyclopedic article explaining everything from the structure, estimates of size, and locations of camps. For instance, the average size of major professional army units can be estimated at between 600 and 2000 men from ration lists and animal donations to the commissary or “kitchen.” It seems that the empire had an imperial bodyguard, a group of professional soldiers, and all the able bodied me were available for corvee service and conscription. Here is a helpful diagram illustrating this:
For more see Lafont’s article.
I have used many of Limet’s works in the course of my research–particularly his very fine treatment of metal products in Le travail du métal au pays de Sumer (Paris 1960). He was a great scholar and will surely be missed. Here is a short bibliography of his major works on the CDLI site.
More information via Önhan Tunca circulated on the Agade listerv:
Nous avons le profond regret de vous faire part du décès de
Monsieur Henri LIMET
de la Faculté de Philosophie et Lettres (Assyriologie)
La crémation se déroulera au cimetière de Robermont à Liège le
vendredi 21 août à 13h15.
Un hommage lui sera rendu.
La dispersion des cendres aura lieu à 15h00.
Le Professeur H. Limet était agé de 84 ans et il était admis à la
retraite en 1989. Il était un des disciples du Professeur G. Dossin et
il était le premier assyriologue belge qui avait choisi la
sumérologie comme spécialité.
I am a very blessed guy in many ways. One of them is that I have the privilege of teaching some amazing classes. I really enjoy research and writing but I absolutely love teaching and interacting with students. This semester I have three classes: Elementary Hebrew, OT Intro Part I, and Hebrew Exegesis of Isaiah 1-39.
This is my first time teaching an exegesis class and the first day was a blast. It is an elective so all the students are very motivated and really want to dive in. The class will focus on syntax and poetic analysis of Hebrew poetry through a study of readings in Isaiah 1-39. To introduce the students to various poetic features we read Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “The Story of Uriah.” It is a great poem; here it is for your enjoyment:
“Now there were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.”
Jack Barrett went to Quetta
Because they told him to.
He left his wife at Simla
On three-fourths his monthly screw.
Jack Barrett died at Quetta
Ere the next month’s pay he drew.
Jack Barrett went to Quetta,
He didn’t understand
The reason of his transfer
From the pleasant mountain-land:
The season was September,
And it killed him out of hand.
Jack Barrett went to Quetta
And there gave up the ghost:
Attempting two men’s duty
In that very healthy post;
And Mrs. Barrett mourned for him
Five lively months at most.
Jack Barrett’s bones at Quetta
Enjoy profound repose;
But I shoulndn’t be astonished
If now his spirit knows
The reason of his transfer?
From the Himalayan snows.
And, when the Last Great Bugle Call
Adown the Hurnai thrubs,
When the last grim joke is entered
In the big black Book of Jobs,
And Quetta graveyards give again
Their victims to the air,
I shouldn’t like to be the man,
Who sent Jack Barrett there.
For all the students heading back to school soon here is a short article that will help you keep track of assignments and make sure that you make your deadlines.
Photo by Nick Veasey via Telegraph
Among biblical theologians I sense a growing interest in integrating ancient Near Eastern contextual material into theological interpretations. However, this methodology does sometimes yield curious results. For instance, I have seen several treatments of the Eden narrative which portray Adam as a royal figure because he is linked with a garden. The logic goes as follows: gardens are royal features, Adam is a gardener, therefore Adam is a royal figure. However, there are two facts that we might need to take into account:
- Gardens are all over the place–they are not merely the prerogative of the royal court. Temples had gardens, entrepreneurs owned and worked them, and people had private gardens.
- Gardeners were considered as some of the least valuable members of society. For example, in the substitute king ritual which took place during certain eclipses when Jupiter was not present, the king ritually stepped down from the throne and installed a substitute. After the allotted time the substitute was killed. The substitutes were drawn from the expendable peoples in society: prisoners of war, criminals condemned to death, political enemies of the king, the mentally deficient, and gardeners. Quite striking that gardeners are included in this lot.
Do you think these two facts are relevant to biblical theology and in particular the constructions portraying Adam as a royal figure?
(For the substitute king ritual see: Parpola, Letters from Assyrian Scholars to the Kings Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal, Part II (Neukirchener, 1983; reprinted by Eisenbrauns, 2007), xxii-xxxii.)