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Sumerian Mythology

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Crissy Herrell
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« on: December 16, 2008, 10:32:04 pm »

Sumerian Mythology
By Samuel Noah Kramer
[1944, 1961]

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The Sumerians were a non-Semitic, non-Indo-European people who lived in southern Babylonia from 4000-3000 B.C.E. They invented cunieform writing, and their spiritual beliefs influenced all successive Near Eastern religions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam. They produced an extensive body of literature, among the oldest in the world. Samuel Noah Kramer spent most of his life studying this literature, by piecing together clay tablets in far-flung museums. This short work gives translations or summaries of the most important Sumerian myths.


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Frontispiece
Title Page
Preface
Contents
List of Illustrations
Introduction
Chapter I. The Scope and Significance of Sumerian Mythology
Chapter II. Myths of Origins
Chapter III. Myths of Kur
Chapter IV. Miscellaneous Myths
Chapter V. References and Notes
Supplementary Notes
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« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2008, 10:33:10 pm »

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« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2008, 10:33:59 pm »

MAN'S GOLDEN AGE

This tablet (29.16.422 in the Nippur collection of the University Museum) is one of the unpublished pieces belonging to the Sumerian epic poem 1 whose hero Enmerkar ruled in the city of Erech sometime during the fourth millennium B. C. The passage enclosed by the black line describes the blissful and unrivalled state of man in an era of universal peace before he had learned to know fear and before the "confusion of tongues"; its contents, 2 which are very reminiscent of Genesis XI:1, read as follows:


In those days there was no snake, there was no scorpion, there was no hyena,
There was no lion, there was no wild dog, no wolf,
There was no fear, no terror,
Man had no rival.

In those days the land Shubur (East), the place of plenty, of righteous decrees,
Harmony-tongued Sumer (South), the great land of the "decrees of princeship,"
Uri (North), the land having all that is needful,
The land Martu (West), resting in security,
The whole universe, the people in unison,
To Enlil in one tongue gave praise.


 



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« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2008, 10:35:03 pm »

SUMERIAN MYTHOLOGY
A Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millennium B.C.
SAMUEL NOAH KRAMER

REVISED EDITION
University of Pennsylvania Press
Philadelphia
[1944, revised 1961]
Scanned at sacred-texts.com, October 2004. John Bruno Hare, redactor. This text is in the public domain in the US because it was not renewed in a timely fashion at the US Copyright Office as required by law at the time. These files can be used for any non-commercial purpose, provided this notice of attribution is left intact.
To My Wife



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« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2008, 10:36:24 pm »

PREFACE

The Sumerians were a non-Semitic, non-Indo-European people who flourished in southern Babylonia from the beginning of the fourth to the end of the third millennium B. C. During this long stretch of time the Sumerians, whose racial and linguistic affiliations are still unclassifiable, represented the dominant cultural group of the entire Near East. This cultural dominance manifested itself in three directions:

1. It was the Sumerians who developed and probably invented the cuneiform system of writing which was adopted by nearly all the peoples of the Near East and without which the cultural progress of western Asia would have been largely impossible.

2. The Sumerians developed religious and spiritual concepts together with a remarkably well integrated pantheon which influenced profoundly all the peoples of the Near East, including the Hebrews and the Greeks. Moreover, by way of Judaism, Christianity, and Mohammedanism, not a few of these spiritual and religious concepts have permeated the modern civilized world.

3. The Sumerians produced a vast and highly developed literature, largely poetic in character, consisting of epics and myths, hymns and lamentations, proverbs and "words of wisdom." These compositions are inscribed in cuneiform script on clay tablets which date largely from approximately 1750 B. C. a In the course of the past hundred years, approximately five b thousand such literary pieces have been excavated in the mounds of ancient Sumer. Of this number, over two thousand, more than two-thirds of our source material, were excavated by the University of Pennsylvania in the mound covering ancient Nippur in the course of four grueling campaigns lasting from 1889 to 1900; these Nippur tablets and fragments represent, therefore, the major

p. viii

source for the reconstruction of the Sumerian compositions. As literary products, these Sumerian compositions rank high among the creations of civilized man. They compare not unfavorably with the ancient Greek and Hebrew masterpieces, and like them mirror the spiritual and intellectual life of an otherwise little known civilization. Their significance for a proper appraisal of the cultural and spiritual development of the Near East can hardly be overestimated. The Assyrians and Babylonians took them over almost in toto. The Hittites translated them into their own language and no doubt imitated them widely. The form and contents of the Hebrew literary creations and to a certain extent even those of the ancient Greeks were profoundly influenced by them. As practically the oldest written literature of any significant amount ever uncovered, it furnishes new, rich, and unexpected source material to the archaeologist and anthropologist, to the ethnologist and student of folklore, to the students of the history of religion and of the history of literature.

In spite of their unique and extraordinary significance, and although the large majority of the tablets on which they were inscribed were excavated almost half a century ago, the translation and interpretation of the Sumerian literary compositions have made relatively little progress to date. The translation of Sumerian is a highly complicated process. It is only in comparatively recent years that the grammar has been scientifically established, while the lexical problems are still numerous and far from resolved. By far the major obstacle to a trustworthy reconstruction and translation of the compositions, however, is the fact that the greater part of the tablets and fragments on which they are inscribed, and which are now largely located in the Museum of the Ancient Orient at Istanbul and in the University Museum at Philadelphia, have been lying about uncopied and unpublished, and thus unavailable for study. To remedy this situation, I travelled to Istanbul in 1937, and, with the aid of a Guggenheim fellowship, devoted some twenty months to the copying of 170 tablets and fragments in the

p. ix

[paragraph continues] Nippur collection of the Museum of the Ancient Orient. And largely with the help of a grant from the American Philosophical Society, the better part of the past three years has been devoted to the studying of the unpublished literary pieces in the Nippur collection of the University Museum; their copying has already begun. c

It is the utilization of this vast quantity of unpublished Sumerian literary tablets and fragments in the University Museum, approximately 675 pieces according to my investigations, which will make possible the restoration and translation of the Sumerian literary compositions and lay the groundwork for a study of Sumerian culture, especially in its more spiritual aspects; a study which, considering the age of the culture involved, that of the third millennium B. C., will long remain unparalleled for breadth of scope and fullness of detail. As the writer visualizes it, the preparation and publication of this survey would be most effective in the form of a seven-volume series bearing the general title, Studies in Sumerian Culture. The first volume, the present Memoir, is therefore largely introductory in character; it contains a detailed description of our sources together with a brief outline of the more significant mythological concepts of the Sumerians as evident from their epics and myths.

The five subsequent volumes, as planned by the author, will consist primarily of source material, that is, they will contain the transliterated texts of the restored Sumerian compositions, together with a translation and commentary as well as the autograph copies of all the pertinent uncopied material in the University Museum utilized for the reconstruction of the texts. Each of these five volumes will be devoted to a particular class of Sumerian composition: (1) epics; (2) myths; (3) hymns; (4) lamentations; (5) "wisdom." It cannot be too strongly stressed that on the day this task is completed and Sumerian literature is restored and made available to scholar and layman, the humanities will be enriched by one of the most magnificent groups of documents ever brought to light. As the earliest

p. x

creative writings, these documents hold a unique position in the history of civilization. Moreover, because of their profound and enduring influence on the spiritual and religious development of the entire Near East, they are veritable untapped mines and treasure-houses of significant source material and invaluable data ready for exploitation by all the relevant humanities.

The seventh volume, Sumerian Religion: A Comparative Study, intended as the last of the series, will sketch the religious and spiritual concepts of the Sumerians as revealed in their own literature. Moreover, it will endeavor to trace the influence of these Sumerian concepts on the spiritual and cultural development of the entire Near East. This work is left to the last for cogent if obvious reasons; it is only after the Sumerian literary compositions have been scientifically reconstructed and trustworthily translated that we shall be in a position to treat adequately and with reasonable certainty that all-important but very difficult and complicated subject. While, then, the first six volumes are to contain primarily the data and the sources, it is the seventh which will attempt to formulate the results and the conclusions for the historian and the layman. And the hope is not unjustified that, as a result of this method of preparation and publication, the final formulation will prove both significant and reliable.

I wish to express my sincerest and most heartfelt thanks to the Jayne Memorial Foundation and its board of trustees, which selected me as the annual lecturer for 1942 to speak on the subject of Sumerian mythology. I also acknowledge my gratitude to the board of managers of the University Museum; to Dr. George C. Vaillant, its director; to Mr. Horace H. F. Jayne, his predecessor; and to Professor Leon Legrain, the curator of its Babylonian section, for their scientific co-operation in making the Sumerian literary tablets available to me for study. Profound thanks are due to the Ministry of Education of the Turkish Republic and its Department of Antiquities, for permitting me to study and copy part of the Sumerian

p. xi

literary tablets in the Nippur collection of the Museum of the Ancient Orient at Istanbul. The Oriental Seminar of the University of Pennsylvania acted in a sense as a sounding board for the reading of the first draft of the contents of this study; the spontaneous interest and enthusiasm with which it was received by the participating students and colleagues were of considerable spiritual support in the intricate and at times almost despairing process of penetrating the meaning of the texts. In the matter of financial support I am deeply indebted to the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation for selecting me as one of its fellows for the years 1937-38 and 1938-39; it thus enabled me to travel to Istanbul and devote some twenty months to research activity in its Museum of the Ancient Orient. To the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago I am indebted for several minor financial contributions. But primarily it is the American Philosophical Society which has made the preparation of this study possible; it is the extraordinary vision and generosity of this society which is enabling me to reconstruct and translate in a scientific and trustworthy manner the extant Sumerian literary compositions; to piece together and recover for the world at large the oldest literature ever uncovered, and one of the most significant.

To the Macmillan Company and the University of Chicago Press I am indebted for permission to reproduce several illustrations; specific acknowledgment of this courtesy is made in the captions of plates V, VII, X, XII, XIV, and XIX.

p. xii

NOTE TO THE REVISED EDITION
References and Notes to the original edition will be found on page 104. Supplementary Notes and Corrections will be found on page 120.



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« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2008, 10:37:17 pm »

CONTENTS

 
PAGE
 
INTRODUCTION.
 The Sources: the Sumerian Literary Tablets Dating from Approximately 2000 B. C
 1
 
CHAPTER
 
 
 
I.
 The Scope and Significance of Sumerian Mythology
 26
 
II.
 Myths of Origins
 30
 
 
 The Creation of the Universe
 30
 
 
     The Organization of the Universe
 41
 
 
     Enlil and Ninlil: the Begetting of Nanna
 43
 
 
     The Journey of Nanna to Nippur
 47
 
 
     Emesh and Enten: Enlil Chooses the Farmer god
 49
 
 
     The Creation of the Pickax
 51
 
 
     Cattle and Grain
 53
 
 
     Enki and Ninhursag: the Affairs of the Water god
 54
 
 
     Enki and Sumer: the Organization of the Earth and Its Cultural Processes
 59
 
 
     Enki and Eridu: the Journey of the Water-god to Nippur
 62
 
 
     Inanna and Enki: the Transfer of the Arts of Civilization from Eridu to Erech
 64
 
 
     The Creation of Man
 68
 
III.
 Myths of Kur
 76
 
 
     The Destruction of Kur: the Slaying of the Dragon
 76
 
 
     Inanna's Descent to the Nether World
 83
 
IV.
 Miscellaneous Myths
 97
 
 
     The Deluge
 97
 
 
     The Marriage of Martu
 98
 
 
     Inanna Prefers the Farmer
 101
 
V.
 References and Notes
 104
 
 
 Supplementary Notes
 120
 
 
 Index
 125
 

 



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« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2008, 10:38:59 pm »

p. xxi

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
 
 PLATES
 
 
 
 Man's Golden Age
 Frontispiece
 
 
 
 FACING PAGE
 
I.
 A Scene from the Nippur Excavations: Rooms of the Temple "Tablet House"
 8
 
II.
 Oldest Literary Catalogue
 14
 
III.
 Nippur Archaic Cylinder
 18
 
IV.
 Gudea Cylinder
 19
 
V.
 "Chicago" Syllabary
 22
 
VI.
 Nippur Grammatical Text
 23
 
VII.
 Gods and the Nether World
 32
 
VIII.
 The Separation of Heaven and Earth
 36
 
IX.
 Enlil Separates Heaven and Earth
 37
 
X.
 Miscellaneous Mythological Scenes
 40
 
XI.
 Enlil and Ninlil: the Begetting of Nanna
 44
 
XII.
 Gods of Vegetation
 50
 
XIII.
 Enki and Ninhursag: the Affairs of the Water-god
 56
 
XIV.
 Enki, the Water-god
 60
 
XV and XVI.
 Inanna and Enki: the Transfer of the Arts of Civilization from Eridu to Erech
 64 and 65
 
XVII and XVIII.
 The Creation of Man
 70 and 71
 
XIX.
 Gods and Dragons
 78
 
20.
 Inanna's Descent to the Nether World
 85
 
 
 TEXT FIGURES
 
 
 
 
 PAGE
 
1.
 The Origin and Development of the Sumerian System of Writing
 17
 
2.
 The Deluge
 99
 
 
 MAP
 
 
1.
 Sumer in the First Half of the Third Millennium B.C.
 7
 

 



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« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2008, 10:45:45 pm »

Sumerian Mythology
INTRODUCTION
THE SOURCES: THE SUMERIAN LITERARY TABLETS DATING FROM APPROXIMATELY 2000 B. C.

The study of Sumerian culture introduced by the present volume, Sumerian Mythology, is to be based largely on Sumerian literary sources; it will consist of the formulation of the spiritual and religious concepts of the Sumerians, together with the reconstructed text and translation of the Sumerian literary compositions in which these concepts are revealed. It is therefore very essential that the reader have a clear picture of the nature of our source material, which consists primarily of some three thousand tablets and fragments inscribed in the Sumerian language and dated approximately 1750 B. C. a It is the first aim of the Introduction of the present volume to achieve such clarification. It therefore begins with a brief sketch of the rather rocky road leading to the decipherment of the Sumerian language and continues with a brief résumé of the excavations conducted on various Sumerian sites in the course of the past three-quarters of a century. After a very brief general evaluation of the contents of the huge mass of Sumerian tablet material uncovered in the course of these excavations, it turns to the Sumerian literary tablets which represent the basic material for our study, and analyzes in some detail the scope and date of their contents. The Introduction then concludes with a description of the factors which prevented in large part the trustworthy reconstruction and translation of the Sumerian literary compositions in the past; the details, not uninteresting in themselves, furnish a revealing and illuminating commentary on the course and progress of one of the more significant humanistic efforts of our generation.

The decipherment of Sumerian differed from that of Accadian 3 and Egyptian in one significant detail, a detail

p. 2

which proved to be one of the factors in hampering the progress of Sumerology to no inconsiderable extent. For in the case of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylonia, the investigating scholars of western Europe had at their disposal much relevant material from Biblical, classical, and postclassical sources. Not only were such names as Egypt, Ashur, and Babylon well known, but at least to a certain extent and with much limitation and qualification, even the culture of the peoples was not altogether unfamiliar. In the case of the Sumerians, however, the situation was quite different; there was no clearly recognizable trace of Sumer or its people and language in the entire Biblical, classical, and post-classical literature. The very name Sumer was erased from the mind and memory of man for over two thousand years. The discovery of the Sumerians and their language came quite unexpectedly and was quite unlooked for; and this more or less irrelevant detail was at least partially responsible for the troubled progress of Sumerology from the earliest days to the present moment.

Historically, the decipherment of Sumerian resulted from that of Accadian, which in turn followed the decipherment of cuneiform Persian. Briefly sketched, the process was as follows. In 1765, the Danish traveler and scholar, Carsten Niebuhr, succeeded in making careful copies of several inscriptions on the monuments of Persepolis. These were published between the years 1774 and 1778, and were soon recognized as trilingual, that is, the same inscriptions seemed to be repeated in three different languages. It was not unreasonable to assume, since the monuments were located in Persepolis, that they were inscribed by one or more kings of the Achaemenid dynasty and that the first version in each inscription was in the Persian language. Fortunately, at approximately the same time, Old Persian was becoming known to western European scholars through the efforts of Duperron, who had studied in India under the Parsees and was preparing translations of the Avesta. And so by 1802, with the help of the newly acquired knowledge of Old Persian and by keen manipulation of the

p. 3

[paragraph continues] Achaemenid proper names as handed down in Biblical and classical literature, the German scholar, Grotefend, succeeded in deciphering a large part of the Persian version of the inscriptions. Additions and corrections were made by numerous scholars in the ensuing years. But the crowning achievement belongs to the Englishman H. C. Rawlinson. A member of the English Intelligence Service, Rawlinson was first stationed in India, where he mastered the Persian language. In 1835 he was transferred to Persia, where he learned of the huge trilingual inscription on the rock of Behistun and determined to copy it. The Persian version of the Behistun inscription consists of 414 lines; the second, now known as the Elamite version, consists of 263 lines; while the third, the Accadian (designated in earlier Assyriological literature as Assyrian or Babylonian--see note  3) version, consists of 112 lines. During the years 1835-37, at the risk of life and limb, Rawlinson succeeded in copying 200 lines of the Persian version. He returned in 1844 and completed the copying of the Persian as well as the Elamite version. The Accadian inscription, however, was so situated that it was impossible for him to copy it, and it was not until 1847 that he succeeded in making squeezes of the text. To return to the decipherment of cuneiform Persian, by 1846 Rawlinson published his memoir in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, which gave the transliteration and translation of the Persian version of the Behistun inscription together with a copy of the cuneiform original.

Long before the final decipherment of the Persian text, however, great interest had been aroused in western Europe by the third version of the Persepolis inscriptions. For it was soon recognized that this was the script and language found in numerous inscriptions and bricks, clay tablets, and clay cylinders which were finding their way into Europe from sites that might well be identified with Nineveh and Babylon. In 1842 the French under Botta began the excavation of Khorsabad, and in 1S45 Layard began his excavations of Nimrud and Nineveh. Inscribed monuments were being found in large quantities at all three sites; moreover,

p. 4

[paragraph continues] Layard was uncovering at Nineveh a large number of inscribed clay tablets. By 1850, therefore, Europe had scores of inscriptions coming largely from Assyrian sites, made in the very same script and language as the third version of the Persepolis and Behistun inscriptions. The decipherment of this language was simplified on the one hand by the fact that it was recognized quite early in the process that it belonged to the Semitic group of languages. On the other hand, it was complicated by the fact that the orthography, as was soon recognized, was syllabic and ideographic rather than alphabetic. The leading figure in the decipherment of Accadian, or Assyrian as it was then designated, was the Irish scholar Edward Hincks. But once again a major contribution was made by Rawlinson. In 1851 he published the text, transliteration, and translation of the Accadian version of the Behistun inscription, the large trilingual to whose text he alone had access.

As for the second, or Elamite version, of the Behistun inscription, it offered relatively little difficulty as soon as progress was made in the decipherment of Accadian, since it uses a syllabary based on the Accadian system of writing. The major figures in its decipherment were Westergaard and Norris. As early as 1855 Norris, the secretary of the Royal Asiatic Society, published the complete text of the second version of the Behistun inscription, which had been copied by Rawlinson, together with a transliteration and a translation; this remained practically the standard work on the subject until Weissbach published his Achämenideninschriften zweiter Art in 1896.

As will be noted, nothing has yet been heard or said of the Sumerians. As early as 1850, however, Hincks began to doubt that the Semitic inhabitants of Assyria and Babylonia had invented the cuneiform system of writing. In the Semitic languages the stable element is the consonant while the vowel is extremely variable. It seemed unnatural, therefore, that the Semites should invent a syllabic system of orthography in which the vowel seemed to be as unchanging as the consonant. Moreover, if the Semites had

p. 5

invented the script, one might have expected to be able to trace the syllabic values of the signs to Semitic words. But this was hardly ever the case; the syllabic values all seemed to go back to words or elements for which no Semitic equivalent could be found. Hincks thus began to suspect that the cuneiform system of writing was invented by a non-Semitic people who had preceded the Semites in Mesopotamia. In 1855 Rawlinson published a memoir in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society in which he speaks of his discovery of non-Semitic inscriptions on bricks and tablets from sites in southern Babylonia such as Nippur, Larsa, and Erech. In 1856 Hincks took up the problem of this new language, recognized that it was agglutinative in character, and gave the first examples from bilinguals which had come to the British Museum from the Nineveh excavations. The name of the language was variously designated as Scythic or even Accadian, that is, the very name now given to the Semitic tongue spoken in Assyria and Babylonia. In 1869, however, the French scholar Oppert, basing himself on the royal title, "king of Sumer and Accad," and realizing that Accad referred to the land inhabited by the Semitic population, rightly attributed the name Sumerian to the language spoken by the non-Semitic people who had invented the cuneiform script. Nevertheless, Oppert was not immediately followed by the majority of the Assyriologists, and the name Accadian continued to be used for Sumerian for many years. 5

For several decades following the discovery of the existence of Sumerian, practically all the source material for its decipherment and study consisted of the bilinguals and syllabaries from the so-called Ashurbanipal library which was discovered and excavated at Nineveh. This material dates from the seventh century B. C., some fifteen hundred years after the disappearance of Sumer as a political entity. As for the material from the Sumerian sites, it consisted almost entirely of a very small group of bricks, tablets, and cylinders from the Sumerian and post-Sumerian periods which had found their way into the British Museum. In

p. 6

1877, however, began the first successful excavation at a Sumerian site. In that year, the French under De Sarzec began to excavate at Telloh the ancient Sumerian city of

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« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2008, 10:47:40 pm »

MAP 1. SUMER IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE THIRD MILLENNIUM B. C.

The Sumerians were a non-Semitic, non-Indo-European people who probably entered Mesopotamia from the east prior to or during the fourth millennium B. C. At the time of the Sumerian invasion much of the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers was no doubt inhabited by the Semites, and the entrance of the Sumerians marked the beginning of a struggle between the two peoples for control of the two-river land, which lasted for some two millennia. To judge from our present data, victory first fell to the Sumerians. There is reason to assume that at one time the Sumerians were in control of the better part of Mesopotamia and that they even carried their conquests into more distant lands. It was no doubt during this period of conquest and power in the fourth millennium B. C. that the Sumerians made important advances in their economic, social, and political organization. This material progress, together with the growth and development of the spiritual and religious concepts which accompanied it, must have left an enduring impress on all the peoples of the Near East who came in contact with the Sumerians during the fourth millennium.

But the early defeat of the Semites by the Sumerians did not mark the end of the struggle between the two peoples for the control of Mesopotamia. No doubt with the help of new invasion hordes from the Arabian peninsula, the Semites gradually regained some of their strength and became ever more aggressive. And so in the first part of the third millennium we find the Sumerians being gradually pushed back to the more southerly portion of Mesopotamia, roughly from Nippur to the Persian Gulf on our map. North of Nippur the Semites seemed well entrenched.

Approximately in the middle of the third millennium arose the great Semitic conqueror, Sargon, the founder of the dynasty of Accad. He and the kings that followed him attacked and badly defeated the Sumerians to the south, making it a practice, moreover, to carry off many of their victims into captivity and to settle Semites in their places. This defeat marked the beginning of the end for the Sumerians. It is true that toward the very end of the third millennium the Sumerians made a final attempt at political control of Mesopotamia, and under the so-called "Third Dynasty of Ur" met with a certain initial success. However, the important role played by the Semites even in this "Neo-Sumerian" kingdom, which lasted for no more than a century, is indicated by the fact that the last three kings of the dynasty bore Semitic names. With the destruction of Ur, their last capital, in approximately 2050 B. C., the Sumerians gradually disappeared as a political entity. Not long afterwards, the Amurru, a Semitic people who had begun to penetrate into lower Mesopotamia toward the end of the third millennium, established the city of Babylon as their capital, and under such rulers as Hammurabi succeeded in obtaining temporary sway over Mesopotamia. Because of the prominence of Babylon in the second and first millennia B. C., the country once held and ruled by the Sumerians came to be known as Babylonia, a name which has continued in use to the present day. 4

(Map drawn by Marie Strobel, after one facing page 643 in Handbuch der Archäologie (München, 1939).)

p. 7

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« Reply #9 on: December 16, 2008, 10:48:47 pm »



MAP 1. SUMER IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE THIRD MILLENNIUM B. C.
(For description, see opposite page.)



 

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« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2008, 10:49:03 pm »

Ancient sites, ancient names (in vertical lettering)

 Ancient sites, modern names (in oblique lettering)

 Modern sites

p. 8

[paragraph continues] Lagash, an excavation which has been conducted by French archaeologists intermittently and with long interruptions almost to the present day. It was at this site that the first important Sumerian monuments were excavated, the objects and inscriptions of the ishakkus or princes of Lagash. Here more than one hundred thousand tablets and fragments were dug up, dating from the pre-Sargonid and Ur III periods."

The second major excavation on a Sumerian site was that conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, the first American expedition to excavate in Mesopotamia. All through the eighties of the nineteenth century discussions had been going on in American university circles pertaining to the feasibility of sending an American expedition to Iraq, where both British and French had been making extraordinary finds. It was not until 1887, however, that John P. Peters, professor of Hebrew in the University of Pennsylvania, succeeded in obtaining moral and financial support from various individuals in and about the university, for the purpose of equipping and maintaining an excavating expedition in

_____________________

PLATE I. A SCENE FROM THE NIPPUR EXCAVATIONS: ROOMS OF THE TEMPLE "TABLET HOUSE."
In the history of American archaeology, the Nippur expedition, organized by the University of Pennsylvania more than 50 yean ago, will always be remembered with special interest and regard. For it was the Nippur excavations, supported over a number of years by a relatively small group of Philadelphians of unusual vision and understanding, which were responsible to no small extent for making America "archaeology-conscious." Moreover, it was largely the interest and enthusiasm aroused by the Nippur discoveries that led to the founding and organizing of the University Museum, an institution which for almost half a century has proved to be a leading pioneer in all branches of archaeological activity.

The ruins of Nippur, among the largest in southern Mesopotamia, cover approximately 180 acres. They are divided into two well-nigh equal parts by the now dry bed of the Shatt-en-Nil, a canal which at one time branched off from the Euphrates and watered and fructified the otherwise barren territory through which it flowed. The eastern half contains the temple structures, including the ziggurat and the group of buildings which must have formed the scribal school and library; it is in this part of the mound that the "tablet house" was excavated. The western half seems to mark the remains of the city proper. 7

 

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« Reply #11 on: December 16, 2008, 10:49:43 pm »



A SCENE FROM THE NIPPUR EXCAVATIONS: ROOMS OF THE ''TABLET HOUSE.''
(For description, see opposite page.)

 

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« Reply #12 on: December 16, 2008, 10:50:15 pm »

p. 9

[paragraph continues] Iraq under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania. Nippur, one of the largest and most important mounds in Iraq, was chosen, and four long and extremely difficult excavating campaigns were conducted during the years 188990, 1890-91, 1893-96, and 1896-1900.

The hardships and handicaps were severe and discouraging. One young archaeologist died in the field, and there was hardly a year in which one or the other of the members of the expedition did not suffer from serious illness. Difficulties with the Arab tribes were not infrequent and at times assumed a most threatening character. In spite of the obstacles, however, the excavating continued, and in the course of the four campaigns which lasted more than a decade, the expedition achieved magnificent and in some respects unparalleled results, at least in the inscriptional field. The Nippur expedition succeeded in excavating approximately thirty thousand tablets and fragments in the course of its four campaigns, the larger part of which are inscribed in the Sumerian language and date from the second half of the third millennium to the first half of the second millennium B. C.

The contents of these tablets are rich and varied. The greater part is economic in character; it consists of contracts and bills of sale, promissory notes and receipts, lists and accounts, wills, adoptions, court decisions, and other legal and administrative documents. Many of the tablets are letters; some are historical inscriptions; still others are lexical in character, that is, they contain Sumerian dictionary and grammatical material of priceless value for our study of the language, since they were actually compiled by the ancient scribes themselves. But especially noteworthy is the large group of tablets dated about 1750 B. C. a which are inscribed with the Sumerian literary compositions consisting of epics and myths, hymns and laments, proverbs and "wisdom."

After Nippur, the excavations by the Germans at Fara (the ancient "flood" city Shuruppak) in 1902-03 and those by the University of Chicago at Bismaya (ancient

p. 10

[paragraph continues] Adab) in 1903-04 uncovered important Sumerian economic and lexical material dating largely from the pre-Sargonid and Sargonid periods in the third millennium B. C. Excavations at Kish, begun by the French in 1911 and continued under Anglo-American auspices from 1922 to 1930, have yielded important inscriptional material. In Jemdet Nasr, not far from Kish, a large group of semi-pictographic tablets that go back to the early beginnings of Sumerian writing were uncovered. Ur, the famous site excavated by a joint expedition of the British Museum and the University Museum between the years 1919 and 1933, yielded many historical and economic inscriptions and some literary material. In Asmar (ancient Eshnunna) and Khafaje, east of the Tigris, a large number of economic tablets dating largely from the Sargonid and Ur III periods, that is, the latter part of the third millennium B. C., were excavated by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago in recent years. Finally in Erech, where the Germans conducted excavations from 1928 until the outbreak of the war, a large group of pictographic tablets antedating even those found at Jemdet Nasr has been uncovered. 8

This brief survey furnishes a bird's-eye view of the Sumerian inscriptional finds uncovered and brought to light by legitimate excavations. d In addition, scores of thousands of tablets have been dug up clandestinely by the native Arabs in the mounds of Sumer, especially in the ancient sites of Larsa, Sippar, and Umma. It is therefore difficult to estimate the number of Sumerian tablets and fragments now in the possession of the museums and private collections; a quarter of a million is probably a conservative guess. What now is the nature of the contents of this vast accumulation of Sumerian inscriptional material? What significant information can it be expected to reveal?

In the first place it is important to note that more than ninety-five per cent of all the Sumerian tablets are economic in character, that is, they consist of notes and receipts, contracts of sale and exchange, agreements of adoption and partnership, wills and testaments, lists of workers and

p. 11

wages, letters, etc. Because these documents follow a more or less expected and traditional pattern which is found also in the Accadian documents of the same character, their translation, except in the more complicated cases, is not too difficult. It is the contents of these tablets which furnish us with a relatively full and accurate picture of the social and economic structure of Sumerian life in the third millennium B. C. Moreover, the large quantity of onomastic material to be found in these economic documents represents a fruitful source for the study of the ethnic distribution in and about Sumer during this period. 9

Of the Sumerian inscriptions that are not economic in character, one group consists of approximately six hundred building and dedicatory inscriptions on steles, bricks, cones, vases, etc. It is from this relatively small group of inscriptions that the political history of Sumer has been largely recovered. The translation of these inscriptions, too, offers no very great difficulties, since the contents are usually brief and simple. Moreover, the structure and pattern of the Sumerian dedicatory inscriptions are followed to a large extent by the later Accadian building inscriptions; the bilingual material, too, is of considerable help. All in all, therefore, except in the more complex instances, the Sumerian historical material is relatively simple to translate and interpret. 10

In addition to the economic and historical material described above, there is also a varied and important group of tablets inscribed with lexical and mathematical texts and with incantations. 11 But by far the most significant material for the study of Sumerian culture, especially in its more spiritual aspects, consists of a group of "literary" tablets dated about 1750 B. C. which are inscribed with Sumerian epics and myths, hymns and lamentations, proverbs and "words of wisdom." And it is important to note that, in spite of the vast quantity of Sumerian inscriptional material excavated to date, only some three thousand tablets b and fragments, no more than one percent, are inscribed with Sumerian literary compositions. Of these three thousand

p. 12

pieces, approximately nine hundred are distributed as follows. Some three hundred very small fragments have been found in Kish by the French and were published by De Genouillac in 1924. Approximately two hundred tablets and fragments were bought by the Berlin Museum from dealers; these were published by Zimmern in 1912-13. Approximately one hundred were acquired by the Louvre from dealers; these were published by De Genouillac in 1930. Less than a hundred pieces have found their way to the British Museum and the Ashmolean Museum; these have been published in the course of several decades by King, Langdon, and Gadd. To these must be added an uncertain number (two hundred?) excavated in Ur which are to be published by Gadd of the British Museum in the near future. 12

The remaining two thousand and one hundred tablets and fragments, by far the major part of our Sumerian literary tablets, were excavated by the University of Pennsylvania at Nippur some fifty years ago. Of this number, over one hundred have found their way to the University of Jena in Germany; approximately eight hundred are in the possession of the Museum of the Ancient Orient in Istanbul; almost eleven hundred are located in the University Museum at Philadelphia. It is no exaggeration to state, therefore, that it is the Nippur expedition of the University of Pennsylvania which is to be credited in large part with the recovery and restoration of the ancient Sumerian literary compositions as written down at approximately 1750 B. C. It is well worth noting that these Sumerian literary creations are significant not only for their remarkable form and illuminating contents. They are unique, too, in that they have come down to us as actually written by the scribes of four thousand years ago, unmodified and uncodified by later redactors with axes to grind and ideologies to satisfy. Our Sumerian literary compositions thus represent the oldest literature of any appreciable and significant amount ever uncovered.

p. 13

Let us now examine very briefly the nature of the contents of this Sumerian literature. As already mentioned, it consists of epics and myths, hymns and lamentations, proverbs and "wisdom" compositions. Of the epic tales at least nine can now be restored in large part. Six of these commemorate the feats and exploits of the great Sumerian heroes Enmerkar, Lugalbanda, and especially Gilgamesh, the forerunner of the Greek hero Heracles; these three Sumerian heroes lived in all probability toward the end of the fourth and the beginning of the third millennium B. C., fully five thousand years ago. The remaining three epic tales deal with the destruction of Kur, the monstrous creature which at least in a certain sense corresponds to the Babylonian goddess Tiamat, the Hebrew Leviathan, and perhaps the Greek Typhon. As for the myths, their contents, which obviously enough represent the prime source material for our Sumerian mythology, will be sketched with considerable detail in the following chapters. Only the Tammuz myths dealing with the dying deity and his resurrection will be omitted; the contents are still too obscure for reasonably safe interpretation. 13

The hymns are both royal and divine. e The latter consist of songs of praise and exaltation directed to all the more important deities of the Sumerian pantheon; they are quite diversified in size, structure, and content. The royal hymns, frequently self-laudatory in character, were composed largely for the kings of the Third Dynasty of Ur and of the Isin Dynasty which followed it. This is a significant historical fact, for it helps us date the actual composition of much of our Sumerian literature. The Third Dynasty of Ur reigned during the last two centuries of the third millennium. B. C.; with the defeat and capture of their last king Ibi-Sin in approximately 2050 B. C. Sumer ceased to exist as a political entity. The kings of the Isin Dynasty which followed were Semites; nevertheless their hymns, like those of their predecessors, were composed and written in Sumerian, which continued to be used as the literary and religious language of the conquerors. 14

p. 14

The lamentation is a type of tragic composition developed by the Sumerians to commemorate the frequent destruction of their cities by the surrounding more barbaric peoples; it is the forerunner of such Biblical compositions as the Book of Lamentations. One large poem, consisting of more than four hundred lines which lament the destruction of the city of Ur, has already been restored and published," and a similar composition dealing with the destruction of Nippur and its restoration is in the process of being restored. In addition it is now possible to reconstruct large

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« Reply #13 on: December 16, 2008, 10:51:42 pm »

PLATE II. OLDEST LITERARY CATALOGUE

This plate illustrates a literary catalogue compiled in approximately 2000 B. C. (clay tablet 29.15.155 in the Nippur collection of the University Museum). The upper part represents the tablet itself; the lower part, the author's hand copy of the tablet. The titles of those compositions whose actual contents we can now reconstruct in large part are as follows:


1. Hymn of King Shulgi (approximately 2100 B. C.).
2. Hymn of King Lipit-Ishtar (approximately 1950 B. C.).
3. Myth, "The Creation of the Pickax" (see p. 51).
4. Hymn to Inanna, queen of heaven.
5. Hymn to Enlil, the air-god.
6. Hymn to the temple of the mother-goddess Ninhursag in the city of Kesh.
7. Epic tale, "Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Nether World" (see p. 30).
8. Epic tale, "Inanna and Ebih" (see p. 82).
9. Epic tale, "Gilgamesh and Huwawa."
10. Epic tale, "Gilgamesh and Agga."
11. Myth, "Cattle and Grain" (see p. 53).
12. Lamentation over the fall of Agade in the time of Naram-Sin (approximately 2400 B. C.).
13. Lamentation over the destruction of Ur. This composition, consisting of 436 lines, has been almost completely reconstructed and published by the author as Assyriological Study No. 12 of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.
14. Lamentation over the destruction of Nippur.
15. Lamentation over the destruction of Sumer.
16. Epic tale, "Lugalbanda and Enmerkar."
17. Myth, "Inanna's Descent to the Nether World" (see p. 83).
18. Perhaps a hymn to Inanna.
19. Collection of short hymns to all the important temples of Sumer.
20. Wisdom compositions describing the activities of a boy training to be a scribe.
21. Wisdom composition, "Instructions of a Peasant to His Son." 16

 

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« Reply #14 on: December 16, 2008, 10:52:34 pm »



PLATE II
OLDEST LITERARY CATALOGUE
(For description, see opposite page.)


 

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