Printer Friendly

Die Lebermodelle aus Bogazkoy.

Die Lebermodelle aus Bogazkoy. By An De Vos. Studien zu den Bogazkoy-Texten, Beiheft 5. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2013. Pp. 274, 56 pits. [euro]76.

As has long been known, one of the primary methods by which the ancient Mesopotamians, as well as the participants in peripheral cultures partaking of cuneiform civilization, elicited information from their deities was the examination of the internal organs of sacrificial sheep--haruspicy or extispicy. Within this method of divination, inspection of the liver (hepatoscopy) played a major role. Instruction in the reading of the future from livers was undoubtedly predominantly oral, from master to apprentice, but written documentation--a "reference library"--also developed. It is from the surviving scraps of this professional literature that modern scholars have derived their still rudimentary understanding of this ancient "science."

Two basic types of text comprise this arcane genre: extensive lists of individual observations in casuistic format--"If X is to be seen, then Y will occur"--and clay models of the liver, displaying the particular physical features of the organ in question, each often accompanied by (sometimes abbreviated) inscriptions of the oracles (a better designation than the usual "omens") thereby indicated.

Hittite culture adopted the cuneiform writing system and along with it various features of Mesopotamian religion, literature, etc. Indeed, excavations at the Hittite capital Bogazkoy/Hattusa have yielded the greatest number of model livers (CTH 547) from a single site--fifty-eight, easily eclipsing runner-up Mari with thirty-two. The book under review, the revised version of a 2010 Wurzburg dissertation written under the direction of G. Wilhelm, is a full edition of these objects, each presented in excellent photographs and those published here for the first time also in hand-copies (by G. Wilhelm and H. Otten).

De Vos transliterates and translates each model, assigning new sigla (Bo 1 to Bo 58) and providing extensive references to previous studies where relevant. Her philological commentaries are exhaustive and contribute to progress in our knowledge of the technical details of the underlying system of inquiry, the current state of which she conveniently illustrates in a sketch (p. 235, appendix 2). She also establishes that, as in Mesopotamia, the features were interpreted at Hattusa in a fixed, counterclockwise, order (p. 46).

Of the fifty-seven model livers included here--an additional piece has since been published by D. Schwemer apud A. Schachner, "Die Ausgrabungen in Bogazkoy/Hattusa 2013," AA 2014: 120-29--the great majority are inscribed entirely in Akkadian, while four (Bo 8, 17, 36, 37) feature apodoses in the Hittite language.

In her introduction, the author thoroughly evaluates the Hittite examples of this textual genre, situating them within the greater context of the cuneiform scribal world. On the basis of paleography--see the useful, photographically illustrated, sign list (pp. 213-34, appendix 1)--she concludes that those models with unilingual Akkadian texts are to be dated to between 1560 and 1450 b.c.e. (p. 103), while the few that include Hittite were inscribed sometime in the fifteenth century (p. 83).

A thorough comparison with the sign forms attested in documents from Syrian and other Anatolian cities in the first half of the second millennium leads De Vos to propose that those scholars who introduced the making of liver models to Hattusa--and perhaps some of the models themselves (p. 36)--came from northern Syria or southeastern Anatolia (p. 85). Later she is more precise, pointing to the "Raum nordlich von Hana/Terqa, westlich des Euphrats" (p. 91), more particularly Halab/Aleppo.

While such an origin would hardly be surprising, the methodology by which De Vos draws her conclusion--focusing in on the unknown geographic location of the source of a manuscript tradition by identifying the preponderance of shared paleographic features appearing in various archives of known provenience--is necessarily fraught with uncertainty. After all, there is no reason that a scribe along with his practices could not have leapfrogged over a region--literate or illiterate--in order to disseminate his knowledge in a non-contiguous location.

Since an extensive review of this work by Yoram Cohen has already appeared (ZA 105 [2015]: 121-26), in the remainder of this review I will touch on the importance of the model livers for the reception of Mesopotamian "intellectual property" by the Hittites.

It is generally recognized (e.g., by K. K. Riemschneider, Die akkadischen und hethitischen Omentexte aus Bogazkoy [Dresden, 2004], xlviii) that the collections of haruspicy oracles found at Hattusa (CTH 548-56) arrived there via Hurrian intermediaries, as demonstrated by the extensive use in them of technical terms in the Hurrian language. Yet none of the model livers employ a single Hurrian or Hurroid word, and must therefore have been brought to Anatolia either before the consolidation of Hurrian civilization in northern Syria and southeastern Anatolia following the brief domination there of the Hittite Old Kingdom, or else have been imported later directly from Babylonia, most likely by visiting or migrating experts. The dating of the manuscripts mentioned earlier makes the latter alternative more likely, and De Vos sees a direct connection to Mesopotamian divinatory traditions (pp. 70, 108-9).

Puzzling, however, are the particular form and comparatively large size of the clay livers from Bogazkby. While the examples from Mari are quite similar to those from Ugarit (see Riemschneider, Omentexte, xxxix, 248), of all the pieces pictured by J.-W. Meyer, Untersuchungen zu den Tonlebermodellen aus dem Alten Orient (Kevelaer, 1987), Tafeln 1-27, those from the Hittite capital are closely similar only to an apparently unprovenanced model identified by him simply as "Philadelphia 1" (Tf. 27, cf. p. 306). Since the photo reveals what is apparently a museum number inked on the piece ("1580"), it is presumably held in the University of Pennsylvania Museum. If so, given the southern Mesopotamian origin of most of the tablets in the collections of that institution, this example is likely also from that region. (The photos included by Meyer are not clear enough to allow linguistic or paleographic analysis.) This gives us a small clue as to the general area in which the tradition represented by the Bogazkby liver models arose. Unfortunately, outside of Mari, only a handful of liver models of the Old Babylonian period (including YOS 10, 1, 3-5, without provenance) are yet known.

In sum, the discipline of divination seems to have followed diverse paths on its progress from Babylonia to Hatti.

The book is equipped with a bibliography, a glossary of words occurring in the edited sources, and indices of these texts and of other textual citations. My only complaint about De Vos' treatment of the models is that their physical dimensions have not been provided. Although we are indeed informed (p. Ill) that the photos have been reproduced at 75% of actual size, and many of the images do include a rule or measuring rod, the author could easily have supplied accurate measurements of the majority of pieces that are currently available for study. As for editing, I noticed only one substantial error: surely the final sentence on p. 105 should read "Die hethitischen Apodosen...."

Die Lebermodelle aus Bogazkoy will definitely be the standard resource for this material for many years to come and deserves a place in every Assyriological library.


COPYRIGHT 2017 American Oriental Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2017 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Beckman, Gary
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jul 1, 2017
Previous Article:Seven Generations since the Fall of Akkad.
Next Article:The Unbeatable Light: Melammu and Its Biblical Parallels.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |