The Textual Criticism of Sumerian Literature 

The Textual Criticism of Sumerian Literature 

Paul Delnero
Volume: 3
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 230
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5615/j.ctt2jcb4n
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  • Book Info
    The Textual Criticism of Sumerian Literature 
    Book Description:

    The occurrence of textual variation is a significant but frequently neglected aspect of the study of Sumerian literary compositions. The correct evaluation of textual variants and the proper understanding of how and why they occur is essential to producing reliable editions of such texts. Such explorations also provide invaluable evidence for the written transmission of Sumerian literary works and a wealth of data for assessing aspects of Sumerian grammar. Drawing from a detailed analysis of the different types of textual variants that occur in the numerous duplicates of a group of ten compositions known collectively as the Decad, this book aims to provide a much needed critical methodology for interpreting textual variation in the Sumerian literary corpus which can be applied to editing and analysing these compositions with improved accuracy.

    eISBN: 978-0-89757-029-9
    Subjects: Archaeology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-16)

    Textual variation is a very significant, but nonetheless frequently neglected aspect of the study of the Sumerian language and the texts composed in it. Variation is particularly common in copies of Sumerian literary compositions compiled during the Old Babylonian period, primarily at Nippur, but also at Ur, Uruk, Isin, Babylon, Sippar, Kish, and other cities in the heartland of Mesopotamia. Although the majority of surviving copies date to the nineteenth and eighteenth centuries b.c.e., most of these texts were composed earlier. Several are preserved in Ur III sources from the end of the third millennium, and at least two are...

  5. CHAPTER 2 MECHANICAL ERRORS
    (pp. 17-60)

    Mechanical errors are errors that were made by scribes during the act of copying. As mistakes that can be attributed directly to the scribe who produced the source, mechanical errors are distinct from synchronic and diachronic variants, which entered the text at another stage in its transmission, and were already present in the version(s) the scribe used to compile the copy. Since mechanical errors are the inevitable result of the copying process, they occur frequently in the duplicates of Sumerian literary compositions.

    The types of mechanical errors that are the most likely to occur depends, to a large extent, on...

  6. CHAPTER 3 LOCAL AND REGIONAL VARIATION
    (pp. 61-84)

    Sumerian literary compositions were copied at many cities throughout the ancient Near East during the Old Babylonian period. Although most of the sources for these texts come from Nippur, the religious center of southern Mesopotamia from the third to the end of the second millennium, there are also numerous duplicates from other sites. In addition to Nippur, from which over two-thirds of the surviving copies of Sumerian literary works originated, sources are preserved from Ur, Uruk, Larsa, Isin, Babylon, Sippar, and Kish in southern Mesopotamia, as well as from Meturan (Tell Haddad) in the Diyala region, and sites distant from...

  7. CHAPTER 4 DIACHRONIC VARIATION
    (pp. 85-104)

    Literary compositions written in Sumerian are attested from nearly all periods of Mesopotamian history. The earliest surviving copies of Sumerian literary works date to as early as the middle of the third millennium b.c.e., or the period known as the Early Dynastic IIIa period (ca. 2600–2500). Copies of Sumerian literary compositions from this period were discovered at the southern Mesopotamian cities Fara (ancient Shuruppak) and Abū Ṣalābīkh (located approximately 12 miles to the northwest of Nippur). One of the compositions that was copied at Abū Ṣalābīkh is KH, the sixth composition in the Decad. KH and at least two...

  8. CHAPTER 5 VARIANTS IN SOURCES COMPILED BY THE SAME SCRIBE OR GROUP OF SCRIBES
    (pp. 105-122)

    Some, and probably even many, of the preserved sources for Sumerian literary compositions were copied by the same scribes. The most direct evidence that multiple duplicates were the work of a single copyist is the occurrence of colophons with the name of a particular scribe at the end of two or more sources. An example from Nippur is a scribe named Qurdi-Eshtar who is identified in the colophons of an extract tablet of GH and two extract tablets of the Curse of Agade as the scribe who copied these sources.¹ From Ur there are also at least five tablets with...

  9. CHAPTER 6 IDIOSYNCRATIC VARIANTS
    (pp. 123-142)

    One of the consequences of the means by which Sumerian literary compositions were copied is the occurrence of idiosyncratic variants in the duplicates of these texts. Most, if not all of the preserved sources for Sumerian literary compositions were produced by apprentice scribes who were being trained to read and write Sumerian. As an exercise that was intended to facilitate the process of learning Sumerian, the copying of literary texts had a didactic purpose. Unlike the act of copying texts for the functional reason of creating a new copy of a particular composition when the primary objective was to produce...

  10. CHAPTER 7 INTERPRETIVE VARIANTS
    (pp. 143-178)

    The last significant type of variation in copies of Sumerian literary compositions is interpretive variation. Interpretive variants are errors that were caused by scribes interpreting the content of the text incorrectly and replacing the intended form with another that is erroneous. Since many of the scribes who copied Sumerian literary works were not native speakers of Sumerian, and were still learning the orthography and grammar of the language at the time they copied these compositions, they would have made similar mistakes. When a particular form was difficult, more than one scribe would have been likely to reproduce it incorrectly, resulting...

  11. CHAPTER 8 PROCEDURE FOR EVALUATING TEXTUAL VARIATION
    (pp. 179-198)

    Since variants occur in nearly all duplicates of Sumerian literary works, a method for evaluating textual variation is essential to reconstructing and interpreting these compositions accurately. If the goal of a procedure for analyzing variants is to distinguish primary from secondary, and correct from incorrect writings, the main contention of this study is that the most accurate means of assessing variation is to identify the causes of individual variants, as opposed to merely classifying their formal effects. Each of the six main variant types is associated with a distinct cause: mechanical errors with mistakes that are specific to how the...

  12. CHAPTER 9 CONCLUSION
    (pp. 199-208)

    At every stage in the process of interpreting Sumerian literary compositions, there are many factors that complicate understanding the content of these texts. In addition to the lack of sufficient knowledge of the definition of specific lexemes, the form and function of particular grammatical elements, and the extent to which the phonology and grammar of the Sumerian language is reflected in the cuneiform writing system, how to interpret textual variation meaningfully is one of the numerous difficulties that must be overcome to arrive at the meaning of these important compositions. Since compiling accurate reconstructions is fundamental to addressing the orthographic,...

  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 209-218)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 219-230)