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Altakkadisches Elementarbuch.

Altakkadisches Elementarbuch. By FRANCIS BREYER. SILO, vol. 3. Wiesbaden: HARRASSOWITZ VERLAG, 2014. Pp. xiv + 263, illus. [euro]28 (paper).

This is intended as a self-teaching manual for students interested in Old Akkadian, a problematic linguistic concept the author grapples with on pp. 9-20. Breyer aims at far more than the sketch of language, writing, and selected reading exercises that one might expect from the title, offering extensive comments on cultural and historical context as well. One finds a short history of the Akkadian period, comments as to whether or not the Sargonic achievement constituted a territorial tate, remarks on ancient historical memory, society, and religion, plus a whole chapter on art and archaeology, all to the purpose of making this fascinating and complex phase of Mesopotamian history accessible to the student. The reading passages include inscriptions of Sargon, Rimush, Manishtusu, and Naram-Sin, letters, administrative documents, and inscriptions of rulers of Gutium, Elam, Mari, Ebla, and other places, a glossary and sign list, a brief bibliography, and other indices and aids. The readings include new copies by the author and copies taken from a variety of publications (with no indication that permissions were given to use copyrighted materials, a surprising omission for a distinguished academic publisher).

The challenge of any commentary is what to include and where to stop. To this reader, Breyers purpose was laudable and the undertaking courageous, but I might have wished for more attention to the interpretive problems of the readings presented, to show how difficult some of these really are, and correspondingly less to more general matters. For example, pp. 112-13, the author glosses words that can be easily looked up in an Akkadian dictionary, but offers no comment on the major problem with the meaning of iste (line 36), a decision that changes understanding of the text in a fundamental way: does it mean "with" (so Gelb, Kienast, and Sommerfeld) or "from" (so Farber and Frayne, to this reviewer less likely), and what basis do we have for deciding? This is surely a case where the student will need a teachers help.

Or, p. 82, could not the author do a little more with pasisum than a student could easily find (Archi, Vicino Oriente 10 [1996]: 37-71) and perhaps note, to reject it if he wishes, Hallo-van Dijk, Yale Near Eastern Researches 3 (1968): 7-8? So too the royal title dannum (pp. 108, 177, etc.) might have been glossed with reference to the interesting proposal of Hallo, Anatolian Studies 30 (1980): 189-95, which gives it a specific historical context, a goal the author strives for. Could not the ubiquitous -ma in such constructions as adi-ma (e.g., p. 82) in some cases at least be emphatic ("all the way to the sea"?). Or, p. 85, the reviewer, among others, has argued for a different interpretation of "mar Akkade" (in Studi sul Vicino Oriente Antico dedicati alla memoria di Luigi Cagni, ed. S. Graziani [Naples: Istituto Universitario Orientale, Dipartimento di Studi Asiatici, 20001, 309-18); here too, the student could use guidance, even if the author does not accept the interpretation.

Likewise, p. 86, in the remarks on Kish, the student deserves more than "nicht du.!" for this well-known crux, since Edzard devoted a careful essay to it and concluded the opposite (in Ah, Assyria ... Studies in Assyrian History and Ancient Near Eastern Historiography Presented to Hayim Tadmor, ed. M. Cogan and I. Ephal [Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1991], 258-63); the author should state why he thinks this is not a dual but Edzard did; so too the verbal root in line 35 is taken for granted, ignoring Edzard's discussion, but, curiously, bibliography on Mesopotamian cartography is provided.

In short, this reviewer sometimes felt that the core problems of the readings were passed over too quickly, though space was found for such matters as ancient Egyptian cognates, and that a student might come away thinking that they are easier than they really are. The inquiring student will want to know if there are important differences of opinion and if so, what basis she has for preferring one to another, and here, it seems to me, the author sometimes disappoints.

Taken as a whole, this is a singularly rich learners text without any obvious parallel in the history of Assyriology. If the author may have tried to do too much in too small a compass, in preference to a more intense focus on specific linguistic and interpretive issues that most specialists in the source material could hardly resist discoursing on, he comes across nonetheless as a committed and imaginative teacher, well read in his chosen subject, and blessed with a broad vision of his mission.

The book is nicely designed and produced, distils much disparate material, and will certainly be welcome to students who dread Old Akkadian as a forbidding, even intimidating agenda. The teacher of Old Akkadian will also be grateful for this learner-friendly resource.


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Author:Foster, Benjamin R.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2017
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