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Sargonic Cuneiform Tablets in the Real Academia de la Historia: The Carl L. Lippmann Collection.

Sargonic Cuneiform Tablets in the Real Academia de la Historia: The Carl L. Lippmann Collection. By MANUEL MOLINA. Catalogo del Gabinete de Antiguedades. Madrid: REAL ACADEMIA DE LA HISTORIA and MINISTERIO DE CULTURA DE LA REPUBLICA DE IRAQ, 2014. Pp. 317, 337 plts.

This book by Molina is an authoritative publication of 337 cuneiform texts housed in the Royal Academy of History in Madrid, Spain. The majority of the documents are Sumerian archival records originating in the ancient city of Adab, modern Tell Bismaya, and dating back to the early reign of the (in)famous king Naram-Suen (2261-2206 B.C.), who--among other pioneering achievements--succeeded in creating the first empire and introducing self-deification on the state level.

The author of the book is a Professor of Research at the Institute for Languages and Cultures of the Mediterranean and Near East at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC, Madrid). The author of numerous books, Molina is also the chief editor of an ambitious online project, The Neo-Sumerian Texts Database (, one of the most helpful tools in the study of the Neo-Sumerian period in Mesopotamia (2110-2003 B.C.).

With the present book, the author has succeeded in providing the scholarly community with an exemplary publication of a considerable number of new Sargonic archival documents. His reconstruction of damaged passages and his insightful philological and historical commentaries, alongside his command of the relevant literature and compilation of thorough indexes, make this book an excellent tool for the study of the Sargonic period. The texts are rich in content and afford numerous revelations about history, economy, society, administration, religion, languages, and everyday life during this pivotal era of the ancient Near East.

As the foreword relates, the tablets studied here once belonged to a private collector, Carl L. Lippmann. As with most Adab texts published nowadays, the tablets edited by Molina were excavated illicitly. The Royal Academy decided to purchase the Lippmann collection to prevent its dispersion on the market. The Ministry of Culture of Iraq has collaborated in the project and enthusiastically welcomes the appearance of the book.

A short introduction about the excavations in Adab, suggesting 1995 as the outbreak of the extensive looting of the site (pp. 21-24), is followed by a detailed inventory of publications of third-millennium Adab texts (pp. 24-26). Naturally, the edited texts themselves are the highlight of the volume (pp. 59-236). Most are in a good state of preservation and one can see that they have been thoroughly cleaned. They are mostly small single-columned specimens of about 8-10 text lines each. Molinas transliterations are scrupulously accurate. Each text is translated, although in some cases interpretations remain tentative owing either to broken passages or to an unattested lexeme or grammatical form. The commentaries to the texts are delightfully precise and relevant. Throughout the volume, Molina shows his penchant for distinguishing the essential from the subordinate. Discussions of terms, grammatical forms, mentioned individuals, etc., are reinforced by the citation of both up-to-date literature and published and unpublished cuneiform texts. Some documents (including all letter orders) are provided with copies.

The next section is a sign list with all values appearing in the texts (pp. 237-61), a characteristic only of top-tier cuneiform text editions. Those who study third-millennium paleography will find the copies of rare and unidentified signs, as well as new graphic variants of widespread signs, helpful (pp. 262-63). Thorough indexes (pp. 265-98) include all lexemes appearing in the texts alongside compilations of personal, geographical, and divine names. Professional titles and social and kin terminology and names of buildings, which usually appear in separate indexes, are subsumed in the vocabulary. The indexes are accurate and helpful, especially for those who work closely with early cuneiform texts. Plates with high-resolution grayscale photographs of tablets follow a thoroughly up-to-date bibliography (pp. 299-317). The plates include not only images of obverses and reverses but also of all edges. This, together with the fact that there is only one tablet per plate, enormously facilitates the verification of the transliterations. Color pictures of all tablets are on a CD conveniently accompanying the volume. A summary in Arabic completes the book.

It takes some nitpicking to find flaws in this work. One might mention a needless discussion of the uncertain grammatical function and semantics of the prefixes e- versus a(n)- / ba- (pp. 26-27). Another minor flaw is the hasty conclusion that "The New Palace" ([e.sub.2]-gal-gibil) dates back to Naram-Suen (p. 28). An unpublished text in the Schoyen Collection MS 2181/12 obv. i 4 (forthcoming, CUSAS 35,47) of Early Sargonic date already mentions this edifice. There are a few typos, for example on p. 83 where "MS 2828" shows up instead of MS 3838.

The books greatest merit lies not only in making a large number of new Sargonic texts accessible but in placing them in exact temporal and administrative context. Although a number of the texts are of slightly earlier date ("Early Sargonic"), most of them refer to production, resources and labor management, and trade as they were performed during the terms in office of Adab governors Sarru-ali and Lugal-ajagu. Molina demonstrates that the texts belong to a single administrative file and offers a detailed reconstruction of production branches, offices, and workshops, which were part of the palace household in Adab. In this respect, chapter three (pp. 26-40) is rich in information that helps contextualize individual documents.

An important contribution of the book is stressing the connection between the cities of Adab and Karkar(a), the latter first identified with Tell Jidr by M. A. Powell ("Karkar, Dabrum, and Tall Gidr: An Unresolved Geographical Problem," Journal of Near Eastern Studies 39 [1980]: 47-52). The political, economic, and religious connections between these two cities merit a separate study. Molina remarks that "at this time, the close relationship between Karkar and Adab was strengthened by the fact that Lugalajagu was simultaneously the governor of Adab and the temple administrator of god Iskur in Adab" (p. 120).

The commentaries to the texts offer a number of insightful philological discussions. They include, for instance, a discussion of the verbal form [ab-sum.sub.2] in connection to giving, delivering, and measuring fish, dates, etc., in baskets (p. 83). Another example is the tracing of the distinction between the homographs [.sup.kus][dam.sub.2]-ga "leather strap" and kus [dag.sub.2]-ga "cleaned hides" (p. 137). There is also an exemplary discussion of no. 216, where Molina compares the term [tug.sub.2] [sa.sub.3] sila-ka with a similar expression in Ur III texts, which signified "goods that were not on hand at the moment but whose delivery was expected in the near future" (p. 173).

The texts also convey a great deal of new data on the orthography and grammar of Sumerian during the Sargonic period. For instance, we learn about the use of the directive case with the verb [dab.sub.6] when referring to the wrapping of objects with textiles (p. 195). An interesting writing of the prefix /ba=/ as ba-a (no. 277 obv. 5) is thought-provoking. The texts record numerous unorthographic writings. One example is no. 238 rev. 7, where the author interprets [ku.sub.3] [nig.sub.2] za-ha dag-ga-kam as "it is silver for items that are [lost.sup.?] or [wasted.sup.?]." Finally, the texts edited in the volume offer rich material with which to study different aspects of industry. For instance, texts dealing with hides record a sophisticated terminology for leatherwork: bladders, hides of different colors, a variety of finished products, and terms for hide treatment.

Studying and using the book as a reference tool is a rewarding and inspiring experience. The volume will be particularly appreciated by philologists and historians working with early cuneiform material, but this ambitious work will be valuable for anyone interested in the ancient Near East. Whoever reads this book from start to finish will understand the modus operandi of the Akkadian state bureaucracy first-hand and may form an image of what life was like in a palace household 4250 years ago. Besides everything said above, the book is also a pleasure to hold. The volume is well bound, printed on high-quality paper, has clear formatting and elegant easy-to-read fonts.

The following is a selection of remarks to individual texts.

No. 5 obv. 1: 120 (2 [ges.sub.2]); see [??]-DI-ga in no. 268.

No. 12 obv. ii 1: "3" according to the photo, written on one line in contrast with "30" below.

No. 50: A tentative interpretation of [ku.sub.6]-sag as "(dried) fish heads" in the context of tasty things like apples and dates seems illogical. I tentatively suggest an alternative interpretation as "first-quality / best-grade fish," similar to sag used with textiles (cf. no. 212) and other goods. I also fail to see why [ku.sub.6]-sag in connection with other forms of storage ([kes.sub.2]-ra and [kur.sub.2]) should be a different commodity.

No. 65 obv. 2: The personal name [E.sub.2]-[pu.sub.3]-li is translated "Apuli." No interpretation or etymology of the name is provided.

No. 91 obv. 5: Cf. the professional title KU-lugal in CUSAS 35, 278 rev. i 3.

No. 138 obv. 2: Sila-ta. Cf. CUSAS 13 nos. 74, 95 and CUSAS 19, 100 for the same individual.

No. 180 obv. 2: [??] "stolen goods"? Obv. 3: for the prefix chain, see [mas.sub.2] [am.sub.3]-ta-[e.sub.3] in CUSAS 13,31 rev. 5.

No. 252 rev. 2: The meaning of ba-[la.sub.2] in the present context is not connected with the process of weighing. Otherwise, units of weight would have been mentioned.

No. 265 obv. 2: It is "1 talent (and) 1/3 (mina)." Fractions of the talent remain unattested in the Sargonic and earlier periods. Moreover, in contrast to the Ur III period, the writing [.sup.su2][] was reserved exclusively for the fraction of the mina (see Bartash, "The Mesopotamian System of Weights according to Textual Evidence (ca. 3300-2200 B.C.)," PhD Diss. University of Frankfurt/Main, 2013).

No. 277 obv. 5: There are traces of another sign at the end: ba-a-lah.sub.5-[??].

No. 305 rev. 6: There is room for another short sign under the incrustation: al-[[a.sup.?]]-[??].


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Author:Bartash, Vitali
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2017
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