History of the Cuneiform Lexical Tradition (GMTR 6)

History of the Cuneiform Lexical Tradition (GMTR 6)


Eckart Frahm, Michael Jursa


Niek Veldhuis


The history of Mesopotamian lexical lists in cuneiform extends from the very beginning of writing (around 3,200 BCE) to the demise of cuneiform in the first centuries of our own era. One may think of lexical lists as something between a dictionary and an encyclopedia — they organize, transmit and preserve knowledge, knowledge of a very peculiar kind. Lexical lists have drawn the attention of cuneiform scholars from the earliest days of Assyriology, because they explain how to read and understand the ancient writing system. As such they were invaluable in the early days of decipherment and they still fulfill that essential function in modern philological research. The present book is less about philology and more about cultural history. Rather than mine these texts for their data on ancient words and signs, this study will ask: what did these lists mean to those who copied, owned and collected them? This is certainly not the first study to ask such questions — it is however, the first book length treatment that incorporates all periods of Mesopotamian lexicography.
Lexical lists are the earliest scholarly genre in ancient Mesopotamia and thus they may claim to be the earliest scholarly genre in the history of humanity. If we try, however, to trace the lineage of our own scholarly business all the way back to these ancient dictionaries, we run into considerable trouble. 
Mesopotamian lexical texts did not deal with anything that we would recognize as a discipline in a modern school or university and thus they problematize our very conception of what knowledge is. The study of ancient Mesopotamian lexical lists requires a contextualized concept of knowledge, one that perceives the ancient data in relation to the cultures of the time. This, of course, is hardly an issue of lexical lists alone, but also affects the study of ancient divination, astronomy, medicine, law, and mathematics and thus we will start with a more general discussion of studying ancient Mesopotamian intellectual history (§1.1).
The second section of this introduction will be a crash course in cuneiform lexical texts. Although all Assyriologists at some point utilize lexical material, few ever venture to read a lexical tablet. This section will introduce some of the basic aspects of lexical lists and lexical tablets that are of importance throughout this book (§1.2).

The third section is a discussion of the history of research in Mesopotamian lexical lists (§1.3), distinguishing between a dictionary approach and a cultural history approach. Rather than offering a complete bibliography, this section will discuss some of the publications that marked important crossroads or had a significant impact on further research.
A final section of this chapter (§1.4) is devoted to the plan and organization of the present book, and its relationship to the Digital Corpus of Cuneiform Lexical Texts (DCCLT), an online project that provides access to editions, translations, and images of most of the texts discussed in this book and to which the reader will be referred routinely.






Bibliographische Angaben

Reihe + Nummer: GMTR 6


ISBN: 978-3-86835-116-3


Erscheinungsjahr: 2014


Seitenanzahl: x + 524 pp.

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