by Dominique Charpin
Translated by Jane Marie Todd
University of Chicago Press, 2010
182 pages, English
Cloth with Dustjacket
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Chapter one of Dominique Charpin’s new book deals with literacy within Mesopotamia, in particular, during the Old Babylonian Period. Charpin concludes that literacy was more wide spread than some have previously thought. He thinks that students underwent both divinatory and scribal training–not just one track or the other. Furthermore, he demonstrates (persuasively, in my opinion) that generals, kings, advisors, diviners, etc. were often at least functionally literate. That is, many high officials were able to read and even to write in a rudimentary manner. If you are interested in the topic of ancient literacy you really should read this chapter–it is an updated and translated version of his article: «Lire et écrire en Mésopotamie: une affaire de spécialistes?», Comptes rendus de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, 2004, p. 481-508 (paru en 2006) which you can download for free here.
One of the most significant factors in Charpin’s conclusion is a text that Simo Parpola re-collated in which a general writes a letter asking for a scribe to be sent to him: ’The man without a scribe and the question of literacy in the Assyrian empire’, in B. Pongratz-Leisten et al. (eds.),Ana šadî Labnani lu allik: Festschrift für Wolfgang Röllig (Alter Orient und Altes Testament 247), Kevelaer: Butzon & Bercker; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1997, pp. 315-324.
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Another article that contributes a great deal to this discussion (and which Charpin does not cite) is Alisdair Livingstone’s “Ashurbanipal: Literate or Not?,” Zeitschrift für Assyrologie und vorderasiatische Archäologie. Volume 97, Issue 1, Pages 98–118. In this article Livingstone argues that Ashurbanipal and other officials within the royal court were literate.
As we consider the question of literacy, we must back up and reflect upon what we mean and Rick Hess does just this in his essay, “Some Views on Literacy.”
Writing and Literacy in the World of Ancient Israel
Epigraphic Evidence from the Iron Age
Archaeology and Biblical Studies – ABS
by Christopher Rollston
Society of Biblical Literature -SBL, 2010
171 pages, English
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