Posts Tagged ‘cuneiform’

Nice things, as I said, which means,  I lazily use other person’s explanation instead of doing it myself ^^J


And now, transliteration + translation:

It’s a very easy text, though!

(ed. Daniels, Bright, The World’s Writing Systems)

From Postgate’s review of Brigitte Menzel’s book about Assyrian temples(1):

“A study of the temples of Assyria is, like most things Neo-Assyriam, long overdue, and we are fortunate that Dr Menzel has undertaken this with the painstaking philological standards that we have come to expect of the Heidelberg students.”

Heh. Can you smell it? It’s the 19th century!

Also, from the article about “Assyrian Porsche”:

“Chikako Watanabe pointed out to me that the passage assigned under citation I to Tiglath-pileser is in fact from Assur-bel-kala’s Broken Obelisk (AKA 139:10), an error resulting from a homoioteleuton on my part.”

Aw. I can’t decide whether it’s more adorable or passive-aggressive(2).

Postgate, he’s such a dork! <3<3<3



(2) Homoioteleuton.

You know you’re a terrible terrible geek, when you’re laughing hysterically at something, and then immediately realise none of your friends would laugh hysterically with you. They would, maybe, snort contemptuously, shrug, and have one moar coffee to cleanse the dead language aftertaste from the delicate palate.


It is a law of humanities that every philologist ever  will at some point in their career have a terrible  moment of epic fail. This usually starts even before grad school, when you get a classical Japanese poem, which you then proceed to translate thus:

The lost ark of madness

Underwater emu murmurs


The languages especially susceptible to that sort of fail unfair treatment are those in which you don’t have spaces between words in the original notation, because then you have to know where which word ends, and sometimes, you just won’t know.

Until it’s too late!

Another type of  languages in which critical translation failures are likely to occur are the most ancient ones, where you sometimes seriously just won’t know period, or the text is partially damaged, so you’re left to make stuff up as you go theorize make educated guesses about what could fill in the lacunae.


In one corner, we have a Russian team of philologists, I. Diakonoff and N.B. Jankowska(2). In the other, the three cuneiform tablets that they analysed. The tablets were found during a campaign at an Armenian site that is called Argishtihenele. What was found at Argishtihenele apart from the three tablets was the remains of an Urartean fortress, but this is not very relevant to the topic at hand(3).

Now, the three tablets that were found in Argishtihenele were written in Elamite, a language that had been used in Iran a very long time ago(4). This made them terribly remarkable, because it might have actually been the first time tablets in  were found so far up north.

Anyway, D(iakonoff)& J(ankowska) were totally excited and high on coffee and cuneiform(5), and this is most likely the reason why they identified the tablets as little pieces of the Gilgamesh  epos in Elamite(6).

Granted, the tablets were sort of hard to read. As in, partially destroyed, and the cuneiform signs weren’t too easy on the eyes, either. And, to be frank, it may very well be that every philologist ever wants to find a fragment of the Gilgamesh epos in the language they study. Alas! D&J were caught red-handed in their momentaneous incompetence by Heidemarie Koch in the same journal (ZA = Zetschrift für Assyriologie) three years later:

In ZA 80 (1990) haben I.M. Diakonoff und N.B. Jankowska Fragmente dreier elamitischer Tontäfelchen publiziert, die bei Grabungen in der urartäischen Festung Argištihenele gefunden worden sind. Sie deuteten diese als elamische Variante des Gilgameš-Epos aus 8.-7. Jh. vor Chr. Eine genaue Untersuchung der Texte kann indessen zeigen, dass es sich um achämenidische Verwaltungstäfelchen handelt, die von Steuerabgaben und Korndeponierungen sprechen.

(In ZA 80 (1990) I.M. Diakonoff and N.B. Jankowska published fragments of three Elamite clay tablets that were found during the excavations in the Urartean fortress Argishtihenele. They interpreted the tablets as belonging to an Elamite version of the Gilgamesh epos from 8-7 century BCE. However, a careful study of the texts shows that they are in fact  administrative tablets about grain storage and taxes from the Achaemenid period.)

(Mah translation, all mistakes are belong to me. Emphasis also are belong to me)

(Of course, Skitt’s law sometimes also works IRL too, and H. Koch was later corrected by F. Vallat in NABU 1995/46, as duly noted by George in his awesome treatment/translation of the Gilgamesh epic(s))

So, are you laughing yet?

I thought not :(

(1)I made it up. But it’s pretty close to what some of us would sometimes get as the final result of their arduous toils.

(2)They’re actually good philologists, especially Diakonoff whose articles about something I distinctly remember reading. *Cough*. I forget about what, though.

(3) But nonetheless very interesting.

(4) I could tell you when in excruciating detail, but you probably wouldn’t be interested. Meh.

(5) I have to rationalize it away, somehow.

(6) This, I didn’t make up.

Today’s rec is The Epic of Gilgamesh!

(There really should be a Wiki version in Akkadian. It’d edit that)

Anyway, because for me, the  joys I associate with reading Gilgamesh consisted mostly of:

1) trudging to and fro in the library with any and all of the twenty volumes of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary in my hands, on my back, in my pockets(1), and carefully balanced on my head,  and with Borger’s Assyrisch-Babylonische Zeichenliste dangling precariously in the steely yet loving embrace of my upper and lower jaw(2),

(Um. Please disregard the disturbing mental image)

2)finding stuff to fit into the lacunae in the original tablet,

3)crowing triumphantly for no reason at all,

4)consuming copious amounts of coffee,

it would be, I think, a good idea to just let a sane person speak his mind: here, PZ Myers on the awesomeness that is the Epic of Gilgamesh.

This is one of my favourite  Pharyngula post ever, by the way.

(1) Haha, NO.

(2) thank Darwin for pdf files! EVOLUTION! SYMBIOSIS!

1. Via a Camels with Hammers commenter:

John’s Scalzi’s trip to the Creation Pseumuseum + photos. The post includes delightful scatological imagery, such as this:

The guy who built the temple, satisfied that it truly represents his beloved load of horseshit in the best possible light, then opens the temple to the public, to attract not only the already-established horseshit enthusiasts, but possibly to entice new people to come and gaze on the horseshit, and to, well, who knows, admire its moundyness, or the way it piles just so, to nod in appreciation of the rationalizations for its excellence or to clap in delight and take pictures when an escaping swell of methane causes the load of horseshit to sigh a moist and pungent sigh.

Yes, please. I might have to pick up his books one day, after all.

Also, creationist commenters and their typically overblown dramatics:

274. John Scalzi on 13 Nov 2007 at 9:43 pm

“Re: the Ark and Dinosaurs isn’t big a deal when you realize that the DInosaurs didn’t have to be full grown to be on the Ark.”

I’m sorry, I’m getting the giggles again, here.

275. Joe on 13 Nov 2007 at 9:54 pm
John, to think, my mom told me I wasn’t funny. I guess she was wrong. Put a gun to my head and tell me to renounced Christianity or you’d shoot me…Pull the trigger because I am not doing that. It isn’t because I am me, I don’t like being shot at, it’s because I fear God, not man.

Heh heh. The evil Scalzi, shooting poor persecuted creationists in the head again. Which makes a little sense, after all, since it’s not like they use them all that much anyway. I bet he also had Christian-baby-porridge for breakfast!

(Commenter number 300 also claims that Scalzi is so mean, because he’s just like Ann Coulter, heh heh. Heh heh!)

(A few comments down, Joe also proudly announces that he 1) never met Pascal, 2) gambling’s not for him. I’d think TROLL TROLL TROLL, only Poe’s law)

Also, I’d like to maybe repeatedly emphasise that there are 101 photos. With captions. Go, now!

2. A truly bizarre article about the oppression of women in fundamentalist regimes. On the one hand, it raises several important points, on the other:

The use of women’s naked bodies to market commercial products in the West is merely another application of the idea that women are commodities. Anyone who visits the redlight district in Amsterdam can see for himself how wretched prostitutes, completely naked, are lined up behind glass windows so that passers-by can inspect their charms before agreeing on the price. Isn’t that a modern-day slave market, where women’s bodies are on sale to anyone willing to pay?

Yeah, right. Because being oppressed by men with political and religious power is just like deciding to be a sex-worker.

I’m not saying everything is legal and perfect in the blessed land of socialism and sexual permissiveness, and that there’s no human trafficking and that sort of stuff. It’s just that apples and oranges, dude.

What’s also quite disturbing is how women/feminists/activists who are supposedly against the sex industry and pornography for the sake of the women always end up blaming the sex-workers anyway, and not maybe suggesting the logical solution, which would be “so let’s convince people that paying for sex is uncool or something“. Because, seriously, demand and supply, dudes!

3. My Randroid special this week: how the Market (blessed be His name) works when nobody’s looking.

4. Twitter novel. The Japanese, of course, have been there first.

5. WTF is wrong with this dictionary? It should come with trigger warnings D:

6. Concordat Watch‘s got stuff on the creepiest of concordats out there. Like the one in Dominican Republic:

Back in 1954 the dictator, Trujillo, concluded a concordat with the Vatican which is still in force. On 11 July 2006 representatives of the Dominican Republic’s more than 1,600 Protestant churches filed an appeal against this concordat with the Dominican Supreme Court (SCJ). They claimed that it is unconstitutional. However, over two years later on 22 October 2008 the Supreme Court upheld the concordat. In its ruling it states that although the State assumes the obligation to teach the Catholic religion and moral education in elementary and secondary public schools, in no way prohibits that education by another religion in their establishments, nor has evidence been contributed that demonstrates that this has been prevented by virtue of what is agreed to in the Concordat.

No to mention the outrageous one in Cote d’Ivoire.

7. I’m reading MerodachBaladan‘s kudurru! Posts about Assyrian/Biblical propaganda coming soon, yay!

8. ALSO, I CAN HAS A LEXICAL LIST ZOMD. (They look like that, but mine is smaller and much harder on the eyes. Ow!)