Detail, Illegally Excavated Mesopotamian Clay Tablet

Detail, Illegally Excavated Mesopotamian Clay Tablet



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Detail, Illegally Excavated Mesopotamian Clay Tablet - History

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The genealogical tables or other records in the book of Genesis which are either introduced or concluded with 'These are the generations. ' (or similar words) have provided material for many studies. Professor DeWitt, formerly of the Department of Bible in Grace Bible College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, took a look at them in 1976 in the light of recent Near Eastern discovery and scholarly assessment. Though this article is 35 years old, it is still useful for study on this subject today.

In his essay, “Biblical History in Transition", written in 1957 for the Albright memorial volume The Bible and the Ancient Near East, George Mendenhall wrote of the traditions preserved in Genesis,

However much these narratives have been refracted in the process of centuries of oral transmission, they nevertheless preserve with such vividness and accuracy cultural features which we know to be characteristic of the pre-Mosaic period that scholars today must take them seriously as historical sources, at least potentially. A seemingly endless stream of details has shown us that the cultural milieu of these narratives lies in the Bronze Age, especially the period from 2000 to 1400 B.C. No longer does the cultural and religious history of Israel begin with a tabula rasa in the time of Moses. The religion of ancient Israel did not necessarily begin from scratch, so to speak, but rather it had behind it traditions which show a continuity extending over at least half a millennium. Furthermore, the very beginnings of this cultural continuity took place in a region which we now know to have been in close contact with the high civilizations of Mesopotamia preceding the migrations which mark the beginnings of Israelite traditions, associated with the name of Abraham [1]

The discoveries which support these generalizations are, of course, the approximately 40,000 clay tablets found at Nuzi and Mari in upper Mesopotamia, at levels dating to the Middle Bronze Age. Mendenhall affirms that the discoveries support the cultural background reflected in the patriarchal material, though the material still evidences a certain refraction which has occurred in the process of oral transmission. The question must be raised, however, as to why we must continue to think about refraction in the process of oral transmission when the very same discoveries which support vividly the cultural scenes and historical accuracy of the narrative also clearly illustrate the development of writing and the written preservation of events and transactions. This in turn suggests the creation, fixation and stabilization of the patriarchal tradition during the very same age when the patriarchal history occurred.

A second orientation point for this study is the more specific question of the origin and structure of Genesis, a problem closely intertwined with the oral transmission/written transmission discussion. The idea of a new approach to both the early writing of the Genesis accounts and the origin and structure of the book is encouraged prima facie by two facts: (1) what is preserved is a record of covenants between God and man, and (2) the mention of “a book of the generations of Adam” (5:2). The references to covenants in Genesis are suggestive because a possible analogy might be sought between them and other agreements and pacts already written down on clay during the Middle Bronze Age at a time very close to the conclusion of the agreements themselves. The reference to the “book of the generations of Adam” (Gen. 5:2) is important in the light of the north Mesopotamian milieu of the patriarchal history and cultural background. The presence of the word “book” in one of the “generations of” formulae in Genesis could be a clue of importance for both the structure of the book and its writing in the Middle Bronze Age.

Accordingly, both points will be explored in this article: (1) the development of writing formats in the patriarchal cultural milieu and (2) the origin and structure of Genesis in the light of writing and book-making in this milieu. The first point will be approached by way of the second.

The Genesis expression “these are the generations of. . .” and the problem of its meaning have generated discussion for a long time. It is however, generally agreed by representatives of otherwise widely divergent viewpoints that this language is some kind of clue to the schematic structure of chapters one to thirty-seven of Genesis.

This article continues the discussion begun by P. J. Wiseman in 1936 with New Discoveries in Babylonia About Genesis [2]. In 1969, R. K. Harrison gave new currency to Wiseman’s view in his Introduction to the Old Testament. Harrison believes that Wiseman’s studies have opened a line of inquiry which is fruitful both as a guide to understanding the sources and structure of Genesis and as a viable alternative to the still widely current documentary analysis of Genesis in the Wellhausen tradition. [3]

Three specific suggestions on the ideas of Wiseman and Harrison are offered here: (1) that “these are the generations of . . .” refers not only backward to a preceding history, but both to the preceding history and the following genealogy (2) that the words following such as “the heavens and earth” (Gen. 2:4) or “Adam” (5:1) refer not to the owner or writer of the tablet, but its contents and (3) that the most likely creator of the proposed tabletary format is not God himself, or even Adam, but Abraham followed by Jacob.

The word tôledôth (“generations”) can have the meaning “history-origin” or “offspring-descendant.” Brown-Driver-Briggs speak of “an account of man and his descendants.” They refer most of the uses of tôledôth in Genesis to this concept which they distinguish from “successive generations” and “genealogical division.” This is worth noting because it recognizes the ambiguity inherent in tôledôth.

Earlier Old Testament scholarship usually asserted that tôledôth in Genesis introduces genealogical material which regularly, though not always, follows it [4].This, or course, always proved problematic with Genesis 2:4 and 37:2 since no genealogy follows, and the subject matter covered by the rubric appears to precede not follow its appearance. Accordingly, in pursuing a clearer concept of the construction of Genesis, Wiseman suggested on the basis of Mesopotamian clay tablets that tôledôth referred to material preceding rather than following its occurrence. The basis for this suggestion is the observation that clay tablets often use a notation (colophon) which identifies preceding rather than following material. Such a view is indeed attractive. However, in Genesis 5:1 10:1 11:10, and 36:1, the reference seems certainly to include the genealogy immediately following.

We suggest, therefore, that “these are the generations of . . .” was indeed, as Wiseman and Harrison maintain, a colophon at the bottom of a tablet to identify its contents, but that it denoted both the history on the face of the tablet (or series of tablets) and an attached genealogy probably inscribed on the back. “These are the generations of . . .” thus functions as an identifying colophon for the whole contents of a tablet, the primary content of which is both an historical event of decisive importance and a list of the offspring of chief personnel involved in the event. This does not imply two meanings for tôledôth, but a denotative reference encompassing the whole of the tabletary contents—primarily history and genealogy.

Genesis 5:1 contains a clue to the background materials with its reference to the “book of the generations of Adam.” The word sēpher (“book”) is so broad in the possibilities for its denotative meaning that it can cover nearly any kind of written material. Only the artifactual evidence can fill out the picture of its denotation at any time or place during the history of the Old Testament. In ancient Mesopotamia “book” could only mean a clay tablet since clay was the primary if not only medium for recording and preserving information. Wiseman and Harrison have shown how the use of the colophon in Mesopotamian clay tablets illustrates the use of the generations rubric in Genesis. Normal colophons include a title or name for the material, a dating of the writing, a statement that the tablet did not finish the series, and/or the name of the owner or scribe who wrote the tablet.

Certain variations in tabletary format, however, provide even closer (possible) analogies to the suggested Genesis format. One such is the type which contains the record of a transaction on the front and a list of witnesses on the back. [5] Wiseman illustrated this type in a photograph facing page 80, but he did not draw out its implications. He describes its contents as “a will and Law of adoption” and notes that “The names of thirteen witnesses are given on the back.” The tablet dates from 1950 B.C. [6] Similar in content are Nuzi tablets 210 and 211. [7] Tablets 210 is a record of the sale of a slave with an accompanying list of officials of some sort, the significance of which is not clear. [8] Tablet 211 is also the record of the sale of a slave and likewise contains a list of personal names following the record of transaction. It is also worth observing that there was great variety possible in the use of colophons and notations. [9] Usually they appear at the bottom of the face of a tablet, though sometimes on the sides when there was interest in storing them on shelves or in jars. [10] These possiblities of format open the way for the suggestion that the Genesis colophon “these are the generations of . . .” denoted a significant historical event or series of events on the face (obverse) of the tablet and a genealogy related to the personnel involved in the event or its results on the back (reverse) of the tablet.

The publication in 1966 by J. J. Finkelstein of a tablet containing the genealogy of the Hammurapi dynasty adds further material to certain dimensions of the suggested background and structure. [11]

The tablet, now in the British Museum (BM 80328) is probably from Sippar and is thought to have been written near the end of the First Dynasty of Babylon, i.e., about 1600 B.C. It consists of a genealogical list of kings constituting the rulers of the First Dynasty of Babylon with a summarizing “history” (i.e., historical notations) at the end. The genealogy begins on the front and continues on the back. The bottom half of the reverse side contains notes about the historical connections of the persons or groups of persons in the genealogy. These historical notes are of sufficient importance to the discussion to be reproduced here in translation:

The palū of the Amorites, the palū of the Haneans, the palū of the Gutium, the palū not recorded on this tablet, the soldiers who fell on perilous campaigns for their lord, princes, princesses, all “persons” from the East and West who have p. nor s., come ye, eat this, drink this, (and) bless Ammisaduqa the son of Ammiditana, the king of Babylon.

Palū means something like “dynasty, era,” a segment of time during which a particular city or power held sway over an area. [12] The note thus gives a summary of several successive eras dominated respectively by Amorites, Haneans and Gutians, probably spanning the period c. 2200-c. 1650 B.C. The eras are to be read in reverse order so that the proper sequence is: Gutians—Haneans—Amorites. Their sphere of tribal influence is the West Euphrates plain. [13]

It is of considerable importance that the tablet and the information it contains are of Amorite origin since this is the provenience of the Biblical patriarchs also, as we now know from the appearance of the patriarchal names in Amorite-related texts of the Middle Bronze Age, especially those from Mari. The fact that the format follows a genealogy-history (rather than the Biblical history-genealogy) sequence is significant only as a format variation. The salient facts are that Semitic (i.e., Amorite) tribes of the western plain of the Upper Euphrates had evolved and elaborated genealogical traditions at a time not later than the end of the third millennium B.C., and that by no later than 1650 B.C. they had begun to write genealogies accompanied by historical notes. The writing development may have begun long before, but we do not know of it yet.

British Museum Tablet 80328 containing the geneaology of the Hammurapi along with historical notes. Its geneaology-history format is a variation of the biblical history-geneaology format.

Finkelstein himself is prepared to go further, though we must here follow him with great caution and with a tentative mind. He thinks it proper to speak of a “heretofore unsuspected genre of document” which may now take its place along with royal inscriptions upon which the Mesopotamian scholarly tradition could have drawn in compiling king lists, chronicles and similar literature. [14] The suggestion of a new genre is interesting for our thesis, since it would broaden support considerably. It is not farfetched, but, of course, is not yet established either. The possibility exists, however, that since two Amorite interests in genealogical-historical data have been identified (Hammurapi and Biblical), talk of a new genre may not be too optimistic. At any rate, the analogy to the suggested construction of the generations material in Genesis is of interest.

Finally, C. H. Gordon has observed the close coordination of history and genealogy in East Mediterranean epic literature in a broader sense. A case in point is the meeting of Glaucus and Diomedes on the battlefield, a narrative accompanied by Glaucus’s genealogy (Iliad 6:119–236). [15] Gordon thinks it would be “fantastic” to rip the history and genealogy apart in such a context, as is done in Pentateuchal studies by assigning a narrative to J or E and the accompanying genealogy to P. Regardless, the notice of narrative and genealogy in proximity is of importance for its possible analogy to the origins of the Genesis material. [16]

With these observations in mind, a new sketch of the contents and construction of Genesis is offered, embodying the implications of the preceding discussion. It will be noted that the general outline of the tabletary structure suggested by Wiseman and Harrison is followed. [17] One additional factor is the possibility that each of the tablets except the first originally contained a summary or concluding colophon at the end of the genealogy on the back side of the tablet.

Genesis 10:32 is so striking an example of a concluding summary (cf. 10:1 and the genealogy between the two notices) that it may be taken as a clue to the broader pattern of the whole series. [18] The outline below uses the tôledôth passages as a guide.

Tablet I. Gen. 2:4. The Creation Tablet

Back: No genealogy survives, but none needed because none existed. If back of tablet view is adopted, the 1st tablet simply left back blank. Tablet I complete in itself on front side.

Colophon: Genesis 2:4-7 (possibly on bottom edge)

Tablet II. Gen. 5:1 The Adam Tablet

  • Title: Genesis 2:7a
  • Decisive History: Genesis 2:7b-4:26
  • Creation of Man
  • Fall
  • Front Colophon: Genesis 5:1-2

Tablet III. Gen. 6:9 The Noah Tablet

  • Title: Genesis 6:1a
  • Decisive History: Genesis 6:1-8, Pollution of the Earth
  • Front Colophon: Genesis 6:9-12

Back: no geneaology needed here since it comes in next section.

Tablet IV. Gen. 10:1 (This section is almost perfectly complete and symmetrical.) The Sons of Noah Tablet

  • Title: Genesis 9:19
  • Decisive History: Genesis 9:20b-29, Noah's Drunkeness, Prophecy of Noah's descendants
  • Colophon: 10:1

Tablet V. Genesis 11:10. The Shem Tablet. (Complete Pattern).

  • Title: Genesis 11:1, cf. 10:5, 25
  • Decisive History: Genesis 11:2-9, Tower of Babel
  • Colophon: Genesis 11:10

Tablet VI. Genesis 11:27. The Terah Tablet

  • Title: Missing
  • Decisive History: Missing. But the same decisive event may hold for Terah as for Shem, i.e. the Tower of Babel. Perhaps the geneaology was simply extracted from a larger whole by Moses in the editing process.

Tablet VII. Genesis 25:12. The Ishmael Tablet

  • Title: Missing
  • Decisive History: Genesis 12-16, History of Ishmael, particularly his elimination from the inheritance.
  • Colophon: Genesis 25:12a
  • Geneaology: Genesis 25:12b-16. Geneaology has been detached from the history by later editing, perhaps in interest of regrouping materials to give centrality and continuity to Abrahamic material.
  • Summary Colophon: Genesis 25:17-18

Tablet VIII. Genesis 25:19. The Isaac Tablet

  • Title: Missing
  • Decisive History: Genesis 17:1-25:11. Abrahamic history in its Isaac phase, showing the continuity of the promise to the true heir, Isaac.
  • Colophon: Genesis 25:19
  • Geneaology: None Given. Instead, a record of the birth of Jacob and Esau is given hence the geneaological idea is represented, i.e. the text tells about their birth: Genesis 25: 20-26. This material taking the place of a geneaology has again been removed slightly from the history, hence rearranged in the later editing process.
  • Summary Colophon: Genesis 25:26

Tablet IX. Genesis 36:1. The Esau Tablet (Tabloid contents again fully intact showing all format features, but with some rearrangement.)

  • Title: Genesis 25:27a-28:9
  • Decisive History: Genesis 25:28-27:48. Esau sells birthright. Jacob steals Isaac's dying blessing.
  • Colophon: Genesis 36:1
  • Geneaology: Genesis 36:1-43a. Again, the geneaology has been removed from its original place and rearranged in the editing process. Otherwise, the entire contents and format are intact.
  • Summary Colophon: Genesis 36:43b

Tablet X. Genesis 37:3. The Jacob Tablet (Tabloid contents rearranged, but all elements are present.)

  • Title: Genesis 28:10
  • Decisive Events: Genesis 28:11-35:22. Jacob at Padan-aram, return to Palestine. The theme is the triumph of Jacob and his family over Esau.
  • Colophon: Genesis 37:2

Some further comments and implications can now be drawn. To begin, the Joseph narratives are not part of the suggested scheme. The distinguishing features of the tabletary format are not visible in the Joseph narratives. The relevant background for this portion of Genesis is rather to be sought in Egypt, where the popular “Tale of Two Brothers,” the traditions regarding seven lean years, and the “Tale of Sinuhe” furnish the literary backdrop and thematic motifs.[19]

The tabletary structure and its background suggest that Genesis originated as family archive material. Thus far, the tablets discovered at Nuzi furnish the closest Middle Bronze (or earlier) parallels to this implication. Of those so far found, the best illustration of family archives in clay is furnished by the records of the Tehiptilla family of Nuzi. The archives of this business family contained tabletary lists of workmen and slaves and records of business transactions. The records became permanent contributions to a cumulative family record. The material is full enough to form the source for composing an outline history of four or five generations of the family based on employee lists, major family events, and business transactions. [20]

Turning now to the origin of the specific Biblical form, it is noteworthy that the central figure in this history is Abraham. If a suggestion must be offered as to the creator of the format and writer of the tablets through Isaac, or at least Ishmael, Abraham seems to be the best possibility. Enough time had to elapse in human history for the development of writing generally and the kind of clay tablet format under discussion particularly. The cultural developments forming the background are well attested by the Middle Bronze Age. This implies unlikelihood in the view that God himself or Adam composed the original tablets, a view which glorifies God at the expense of docetizing Scripture. Furthermore, the primary focus of interest in Genesis is the Abrahamic covenant in its inception and history. It is this covenant which lies at the base of Israel’s national consciousness and stands as the indispensable preface to the Mosaic covenant. The writing of treaties and agreements is well attested in the Middle Bronze Age from the Cappadocian texts, the Alalakh tablets, and other Mesopotamian documents including the directly applicable Nuzi texts. In addition to the attestation of written agreements, there is evidence that they were concluded with sacrifice. [21] The magnitude of the covenant promises and the experience of the beginnings of their historical fulfillment in his own lifetime would certainly have been sufficient cause for Abraham to have committed the most important aspects to writing. The concern of the covenant with the continuity of the “seed” would be sufficient cause for the acute sense of genealogy needed to make family lists part of the record. This covenant is sufficient to create the sense of history necessary to the compilation of covenant disclosures and their implications. [22]

Despite whatever cogency there may be in an appeal to family archives or written treaties to explain the impulse to writing such documents, there is yet another factor with equally suggestive possibilities, i.e., the occasion for the draft of the Hammurapi tablet referred to above. [23]

Finkelstein is of the opinion that the last several lines, while giving the historical connections of the genealogy, also give us the occasion for its recital, i.e., the care and feeding of the dead. The broader life-context for the use of genealogy appears to have been mortuary activity, ceremonial for caring for the dead (ancestors) whose spirits are invited to come and share in the meal with the royal family still living. Parallels to these ceremonies can be cited in the Mari texts, [24] which are also of Amorite background. This kišpu ceremony was not limited to western Semites, but was part of the regular series of rituals attending new moon, going back to pre-Sargonic Sumer and continuing through Neo-Babylonian times. [25] Finkelstein suggests that the recital of pedigree must have been sufficiently regular to warrant the preparation of such a text as the Hammurapi tablet. In this way mortuary interest can be seen to have been an impulse to the writing of genealogy-history material, an occasion more religiously oriented than archival-commercial or treaty-draft contexts might provide.

The Amorite origin (of which Ezekiel 16:3, 45 may be caustic echoes), the patriarchal interest in ancestors (with which the patriarchal narrative is replete) and the interest of the narrative in the circumstances of deaths and burials (cf. Genesis 23, 25, 48–50) all harmonize well with the possible mortuary occasion for the origin, use and preservation of such material. We do not know, of course, how much ancestral ceremonial Abraham or Jacob continued to practise once they were drawn into their relationship with a new God. But if the correspondence of patriarchal practices to ancient Near Eastern customs now evidenced by the Nuzi, Mari, Cappadocian and Alalakh texts are any indication, we may certainly assume that many of the old ways were continued. [26]

The preceding discussion implies that one must choose one of the three possible settings, since the three seem mutually exclusive, and indeed this may be the case. But the possibility should be left open that the three may at least have been capable of correlation, if not coalescence. No patriarchal coalescence of archive-deposition, treaty renewal and mortuary-ceremonial interests is in evidence in Genesis, at least not explicitly. There is, however such a coalescence in the case of Joshua, whose death was the occasion for treaty renewal and deposition of the renewed treaty in the Shechem Yahweh sanctuary (Joshua 23–24, especially 24:25–29). This, of course, is not sufficient evidence, which must be sought in the Middle Bronze Age, not the Late Bronze Age, to be of any significant value. It is nonetheless suggestive, and leads one to want to look further.

Jacob was the likely continuator of the work. Through him the tablet series perhaps was completed and transported to Egypt where it came into the hands of Moses. Mosaic editing would be a suitable way to account for the relocations of some details insofar as some portions have been removed from their original position and placed in other settings in Genesis while other elements have not been preserved at all. [27]

In addition, some implications can be drawn for Biblical Theology. The scheme suggested above yields a clear outline of the distinctive contents of each tablet. These are the proper units for study of the theology of Genesis. Each tablet makes its own distinctive contribution while the covenantal character of the whole is the organizing principle by which a genuinely unified Biblical theology of Genesis can be achieved.

The whole will be markedly Abrahamic-Jacobic up to chapter 36. This is important, since Biblical Theology, if done with proper respect for the Biblical concept of prophetic authority, needs to stress the role of the key persons in the history of revelation who served as the chief instruments of the divine revelatory activity. In this way alone both the personal and propositional aspects of revelation can be meaningfully balanced.

Finally, to return to the point of departure—Mendenhall’s observations about the cultural milieu of the patriarchal history — there is good reason to think in terms of the writing rather than oral transmission of the traditions of Genesis in the Middle Bronze Age. The evidence is clear for the writing of “books” in that period. No longer should the cultural milieu be thought of as something in addition to the development of writing and writing formats. Rather the cultural background of the patriarchs includes the development of writing and its application to book-making and record-making. Since the format of such a Middle Bronze Age “book” can be traced in Genesis, there is reason to place the original writing of the history as well as the history itself in the Middle Bronze Age.

(Reprinted by permission from The Evangelical Quarterly, Vol. XLVIII, No. 4, Oct.-Dec., 1976, and reprinted in the Spring 1977 issue of Bible and Spade.)

* The Docetae were an early heretical sect which held that Christ’s body was merely a phantom or appearance or that if real its substance was celestial. — Ed.

1. G. E. Mendenhall, "Biblical History in Transition," in The Bible and the Ancient Near East, edited by G. E. Wright (Garden City: Doubleday and Company, 1961), pp. 36-37.

2. D. L. Cooper, Messiah: His First and Second Coming Scheduled (Los Angeles: Biblical Research Society, 1939) attempted to popularize Wiseman’s views without any modification or critical assessment.

3. G. E. Mendenhall, The Tenth Generation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1973) thinks too that any documentary analysis must be radically modified so as to allow the historical events behind the Biblical literature to have their proper role in analysing literary origins. Dissatisfaction with Wellhausenism is evident especially in treatments of Biblical origins concerned with the movement of events in the ancient Near East. Mendenhall wants a wholly new historical synthesis with which to explain Biblical literature. Documentary analysis is allowed by Mendenhall but largely eclipsed by his concern for the events which generated the Biblical tradition.

4. Cf. R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969), p. 544, for a list of commentaries and studies which represent this point of view.

5. P. J. Wiseman, New Discoveries in Babylonia About Genesis (4th ed., London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1946), plate facing p. 80.

7. T. J. Meek, Excavations at Nuzi. Vol. III: Old Akkadian, Sumerian, and Cappadocian Texts from Nuzi. Vol. X of Harvard Semitic Series, edited by H. A. Wolfson, W. Thomson, and R. H. Pfeiffer (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1935), p. liii.

9. E. R. Lacheman, Excavations at Nuzi, Vol. VIII: Family Law Documents, Vol. XIX of Harvard Semitic Series, edited by F. M. Cross, Jr., H. A. R. Gibb, and G. E. Wright (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962), passim. The sketches of tablets are helpful in illustrating the variety of format possibilities.

10. G. Fohrer, Introduction to the Old Testament, translated by D. E. Green (New York: Abingdon Press, 1968), p. 39.

11. J. J. Finkelstein, "The Genealogy of the Hammurapi Dynasty," Journal of Cuneiform Studies, XX, 3–4 (1966), pp. 95-118.

15. C. H. Gordon, Homer and Bible (Ventnor, N. J.: Ventnor Publishers, 1967), p. 31.

16. Further discussions will be found in M. D. Johnson, The Purpose of the Biblical Genealogies (London: Cambridge University Press, 1969), A. Malamat, "King Lists of the Old Babylonian Period and Biblical Genealogies," Journal of the American Oriental Society, 88 (1968), pp. 163-173, and R. Wilson, "The Old Testament Genealogies in Recent Research," Journal of Biblical Literature, 94, 2 (June, 1975), pp. 169-189. The influence of the Finkelstein article and its implications are obvious in these discussions. Both Malamat and Wilson are interested in the historical and social connections of ancient genealogies, induced in part at least by the Finkelstein tablet.

17. Wiseman, op. cit., pp. 45-68 Harrison, op. cit., p. 548.

18. A good Middle Bronze example of this structural feature has not been located, A very striking later example is visible, however, in the text Pritchard calls "Daily Sacrifices to the Gods of the City of Uruk" (ANET, 343–345). The text contains ritual prescriptions for the daily sacrifices offered to the deities of Uruk. On the front of the tablet is an outline of the drink and meal offerings with instructions for performance of the cultuc rituals. On the back, however, is a heading which reads: "(Below are enumerated) the bulls and rams for the regular offerings. . . ." This is followed by the list of animals. The back of the tablet concludes with a colophon which summarizes the whole tabletary contents. Further discussion of this colophon is necessary since it includes a notice that the tablet was copied from older tablets during the reign of the Kings Seleucus and Antiochus. This note of the source of the tablet takes the form of an appendix to the colophon. It reads, "(This tablet was copied) from tablets which Nabupalausur (sic), King of the Sea Land, carried off as plunder from the city of Uruk. . . ." Presumably the text existed before this time and is, therefore, of at least Iron II antiquity, if not older. The first half of the colophon seems to belong to this earlier history of the text. The second half is later as noted above. While, therefore, the tablet nicely illustrates a concluding summary colophon of several lines in length, it may not properly be used as evidence for Genesis since it is much too late.

19. ANET, pp. 18ff., 23ff., 31ff. D. W. Thomas, Documents from Old Testament Times (London: Thomas Nelson & Sons 1958), p. 168 for local color in the Joseph narratives, see C. H. Gordon, The World of the Old Testament London: Phoenix House, 1960), p. 139.

20. E. R. Lacheman, Excavations at Nuzi. Vol. VII: Economic and Social Documents. Vol. XVI of Harvard Semitic Series. Edited by R. H. Pfeiffer and H. A. Wolfson (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1958) Preface, pp. v-vi. Comments are offered on the archive.

21. For the Alalakh tablets, see ANET Supplement (1969), 531–532 for examples of sacrificial conclusion to agreements from Mari see G. Mendenhall, "Mari," The Biblical Archaeologist, XI (February, 1948), pp. 1-19. The Cappadocian texts show evidence that a personal and contractual relationship between a clan chief and the clan god was a widespread phenomenon among nomads (J. Bright, A History of Israel [Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1959], p. 89). Apart from these basic sources, however, the examples given in ANET, 217–220 show a wide variety of contractual arrangements put into writing in the Middle Bronze Age including court decisions, loans at interest, divorces, lawsuits, division of an estate, sale adoptions, and real adoptions.

22. The patriarchal origin of at least parts of Genesis now seems supported firmly by Albright in his last reassessment of Biblical history before his death. Cf. W. F. Albright, "From the Patriarchs to Moses," The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 36 (May, 1973), pp. 66-67.

26. The Middle Bronze burials at Jericho appear to be "Amorite" and may thus give us a picture of practices generally in Palestine. If so, we have some guidance on the burial customs of the Biblical patriarchs at Machpelah. Cf. K. Kenyon, "Palestine in the Middle Bronze Age," Cambridge Ancient History, 3rd Edition Edited by I. Edwards, C. Gadd, N. Hammond, and E. Sollberger (Cambridge: The University Press, 1973), Vol. II, Part I, pp. 94-96.

27. Albright’s suggestions in the article cited in note 22 are realistic and helpful along the lines of Mosaic editing. ". I see no reason to doubt that most of this material was approved in Mosaic circles. "


References

G. Donald Allen. History of Mathematics: Babylonian Mathematics. Available at http://www.math.tamu.edu/

Janet L. Beery and Frank J. Swetz. “The Best Known Old Babylonian Tablet,” MAA Convergence, July 2012, www.maa.org/press/periodicals/convergence/the-best-known-old-babylonian-tablet.

William P. Berlinghoff and Fernando Q. Gouvea. Math through the Ages. MAA Press, 2015.

Jeremy Black and Anthony Green. Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia. University of Texas Press, 1992.

Roberta Binkley. “Feminist Theory Website: Enheduanna.” Center for Digital Discourse and Culture at Virginia Tech University, http://www.cddc.vt.edu/feminism/Enheduanna.html.

J. A. Black, G. Cunningham, E. Fluckiger-Hawker, E. Robson, and G. Zólyomi. The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature. Available at http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/, Oxford, UK, 1998.

Nicole Brisch, Mesopotamian History: The Basics, Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses. Oracc and the UK Higher Education Academy, 2013,. Available at http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/mesopotamianhistory/.

David Brown, John Fermor, and Christopher Walker. “The Water Clock in Mesopotamia.” Archiv für Orientforschung, 46/47 (1999/2000), 130–148.

David M. Burton. The History of Mathematics: An Introduction. McGraw Hill, 2007.

Mark Cartwright. Ancient History Encyclopedia: Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Available at https://www.ancient.eu/Hanging_Gardens_of_Babylon/, accessed July 27, 2018.

Karine Chemla (editor). The History of Mathematical Proof in Ancient Traditions. Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Mark Cohen. The Cultic Calendars of the Ancient Near East. CDL Press, 1993.

Andrew George (translator). The Epic of Gilgamesh. Penguin Books, 2000.

Senta German. “Ziggurat of Ur.” Available at https://smarthistory.org/ziggurat-of-ur/, accessed August 8, 2015.

Sarah Glaz and JoAnne Growney (editors). Strange Attractors: Poems of Love and Mathematics. A K Peters/CRC Press, 2008.

Sarah Glaz. “Poetry Inspired by Mathematics: A Brief Journey Through History.” Journal of Mathematics and the Arts 5 (2011), 171–183.

Sarah Glaz. Ode to Numbers. Antrim House, 2017.

William W. Hallo and J. J. A. Van Dijk (translators). The Exaltation of Inanna. Yale University Press, 1968.

Jeffrey Hays. Festivals and Calendars in Mesopotamia. Available at http://factsanddetails.com/world/cat56/sub363/entry-6064.html.

Anthony Hope. A Guide to Ancient Near East Astronomy. Available at http://www.astronomy.pomona.edu/archeo/outside/aneastro.html.

E. C. Krupp. Echoes of the Ancient Skies. Dover, 2003.

Evelyn Lamb. “Don’t Fall for Babylonian Trigonometry Hype.” Scientific American. Available at https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/roots-of-unity/dont-fall-for-babylonian-trigonometry-hype/, accessed August 29, 2017.

Brigitte Lion. “Literacy and Gender.” In The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture, K. Radner and E. Robson (editors), pp. 90–116. Oxford University Press, 2011.

Daniel F. Mansfield and N.J. Wildberger. “Plimpton 322 Is Babylonian Exact Sexagesimal Trigonometry.” Historia Mathematica 44 (2017), 395–419.

Joshua J. Mark. Ancient History Encyclopedia: Mesopotamia. Available ats https://www.ancient.eu/search/?q=Mesopotamia, accessed January 23, 2017.

Betty de Shang Meador. Enheduanna, the First Known Author: Seven Sumerian Temple Hymns. Jerome Rothberg’s blog, available at jacket2.org/commentary/enheduanna-2300-bce-seven-sumerian-temple-hymns, accessed June 27, 2017.

Betty de Shong Meador. Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart: Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna. University of Texas Press, 2001.

Betty de Shong Meador. Princess, Priestess, Poet: The Sumerian Temple Hymns of Enheduanna. University of Texas Press, 2009.

Duncan J. Melville. Mesopotamian Mathematics. Available at http://it.stlawu.edu/

Duncan J. Melville. “After Neugebauer: Recent Developments in Mesopotamian Mathematics.” In A Mathematician’s Journey, A. Jones, C. Proust and J. M. Steele (editors), pp. 237–263. Springer, 2016.

Piotr Michalowski, “Sailing to Babylon, Reading the Dark Side of the Moon.” In The Study of The Ancient Near East in The Twenty-First Century: The William Foxwell Albright Centennial Conference, J. S. Cooper & G. M. Schwartz, (editors), pp. 177–193. Eisenbrauns, 1995.

Stephen Mitchell (translator). Gilgamesh. Atria, 2004.

Otto Neugebauer and Abraham J. Sachs. Mathematical Cuneiform Texts, American Oriental Series 29. American Oriental Society and the American Schools of Oriental Research, New Haven, 1945.

Jamie Novotny, Eleanor Robson, Steve Tinney, and Niek Veldhuis. Open Richly Annotated Cuneiform Corpus. Available at http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/index.html.

John J. O’Connor and Edmund F. Robertson. MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive, History Topics: Babylonian Mathematics. Available at www.history.mcs.stand.ac.uk/

A. T. Olmstead. “Babylonian Astronomy: Historical Sketch.” American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literature 55 (1938), 113–129.

Christine Proust. “Interpretation of Reverse Algorithms in Several Mesopotamian Texts” (translated by M. Ross). In The History of Mathematical Proof in Ancient Traditions, K. Chemla (editor), pp. 384–422. Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Christine Proust. “Floating Calculation in Mesopotamia.” HAL Archives-Ouverter, France, https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01515645, 2017.

Karen Radner and Eleanor Robson (editors). The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture. Oxford University Press, 2011.

Jim Ritter. “Translating Babylonian Mathematical Problem Texts.” In Translating Writings of Early Scholars in the Ancient Near East, Egypt and Rome, A. Imhausen and T. Pommerening (editors), pp. 75–124. De Gruyter, 2016.

Eleanor Robson. Mathematics in Ancient Iraq. Princeton University Press, 2008.

Bruce Satterfield. “Ancient Mesopotamian Temple Building in Historical Texts and Building Inscriptions,” preprint, 2019. Available at https://emp.byui.edu/SATTERFIELDB/Papers/MesopotamiaTempleBuilding.htm.

Ake Sjoberg and E. Bergmann (translators). The Collection of the Sumerian Temple Hymns. J.J. Augustin, 1969.

Ake Sjoberg. “In-nin-sa-gurra: A Hymn to the Goddess Inanna by the en-Priestess Enheduanna.” Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und Vorderasiatische Archäologie 65 (1975), 161–253.

Marten Stol. Women in the Ancient Near East. De Gruyter, 2016.

D. E. Smith. History of Mathematics, Vol. II. Dover, 1958.

Pierre-Louis Viollet. “A Short History of Ancient Canals for Agriculture and Industry.” Congress on Industrial and Agricultural Canals, Lleida, September 2–5, 2014.

Joan Goodnick Westenholz. “Enheduanna, En-Priestess, Hen of Nanna, Spounse of Nanna.” In Dumu-E-Dub-Ba-A: Studies in Honor of Ake W. Sjoberg, Hermann Bherens, Darlene Loding, and Martha T. Roth (editors). Occasional Publications of the Samuel Noah Kramer Fund, Philadelphia, 1989.


Cornell to return 10,000 ancient tablets to Iraq

Cornell University is preparing to forfeit to Iraq a vast collection of ancient cuneiform tablets in what is expected to be one of the largest returns of antiquities by an American university.

The 10,000 inscribed clay blocks date from the 4th millenium BC and offer scholars an unmatched record of daily life in ancient Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization.

New York antiquities collector Jonathan Rosen and his family began donating and lending the tablets to Cornell in 2000. Many scholars have objected to the arrangement, suspecting the tablets were looted in Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, which unleashed a wave of plundering in the archaeologically rich expanse of southern Iraq between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Among the tablets is the private archive of a 21st century BC Sumerian princess in the city of Garsana that has made scholars rethink the role of women in the ancient kingdom of Ur. The administrative records show Simat-Ishtaran ruled the estate after her husband died.

During her reign, women attained remarkably high status. They supervised men, received salaries equal to their male counterparts’ and worked in construction, the clay tablets reveal.

“It’s our first real archival discovery of an institution run by a woman,” said David Owen, the Cornell researcher who has led the study of the tablets. Because scholars do not know precisely where the tablets were found, however, the site of ancient Garsana cannot be excavated for further information.

Other tablets provide detailed administrative records of ancient life, including the procedures for temple rituals, the resettlement of refugees and the output of agricultural lands.

The source of the Garsana tablets was the subject of a 2001 investigation by the Department of Homeland Security, according to records obtained by Harvard researcher Benjamin Studevent-Hickman under the Freedom of Information Act. Buying and possessing antiquities illegally removed from countries such as Iraq, which claim them as government property, can be a violation of U.S. law.

Investigators also looked into potential violations of the Trading With the Enemy Act, which at the time barred doing business with Iraq, and tax fraud, the records said. The 1,679 tablets were valued at less than $50,000 when they were imported, but the donor received a $900,000 tax deduction when they were given to Cornell in 2000, the records said.

Ultimately, there were no findings of wrongdoing because investigators could not determine precisely when or where the objects were found, the records show.

Harold Grunfeld, attorney for Jonathan Rosen, said all of the tablets “were legally acquired” and that the federal investigation found “no evidence of wrongdoing.” He said the tablets at issue were donated by Rosen’s late mother, Miriam.

“It has always been the Rosen family’s intent that these tablets reside permanently in a public institution for scholarly research and for the benefit of the public as a vast informational tool in explaining life in the ancient world,” Grunfeld said.

The Iraqi government requested the return of the tablets last year, and the U.S. attorney’s office in Binghamton, N.Y., is brokering the transfer.

“We’re not accusing anyone of a crime, but we believe they should be returned,” said Assistant U.S. Atty. Miro Lovric.

Cornell officials declined to comment pending a formal announcement but issued a statement saying that the university “appreciates the opportunity it has had to participate in the preservation and study of these invaluable historical artifacts and welcomes the opportunity to continue this work in participation with the U.S. and Iraqi governments.”

Other American universities have recently agreed to return ancient art after evidence emerged that the objects might have been recently looted. Last year, Princeton University returned about 170 objects and fragments to Italy after authorities there linked them to antiquities dealer Edoardo Almagià, who was investigated for trafficking in looted objects. That same year, Ohio’s Bowling Green State University signaled it was willing to return a dozen ancient mosaics to Turkey after evidence emerged that they had been looted.

Such cases often involve universities accepting donations from antiquities dealers, raising complex questions about the role that academia plays in a market that is rife with recently looted objects.

Rosen, a benefactor to several American museums and universities, was for years a business partner with antiquities dealer Robert Hecht, who sold the J. Paul Getty Museum several antiquities that have been returned to Italy.

Cornell’s acceptance of the cuneiform tablets from Rosen has stirred controversy among scholars who contend that publishing studies of antiquities that were possibly looted increases their value on the art market and fuels the illegal digging seen across the region in recent years.

Damage from illegal excavations in Iraq has far exceeded the more notorious thefts from the Iraqi museum in 2003, experts say. At the ancient Sumerian city of Umma, for example, thousands of tablets like those at Cornell have been found by looters who have dug pits over an area the size of 3,000 soccer fields in search of new finds. At the height of the looting, an estimated 150,000 cuneiform tablets were being stolen from Iraq every year.

Objects looted from such sites are smuggled out of Iraq and find their way to the international art market. Along the way, dealers rely on experts to authenticate the objects and describe their significance, facts that can determine their market value.

The antiquities trade has also been a source of funding for insurgent groups. Most famously, 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta attempted to sell antiquities looted from Afghanistan to raise money for the terrorist attacks.

“You buy tablets and you’re feeding the antiquities market,” said Elizabeth Stone, a professor at New York’s Stony Brook University who has directed archaeological digs in Iraq since 1975. “That feeds an enormous amount of destruction.”

To address the problem, scholars adopted a 2004 policy that required the permission of Iraqi authorities before publishing studies of objects that may have been looted, a step that Cornell has not taken.

On the other side of the debate are scholars such as Owen, the Cornell Assyriologist who has led the research of the Rosen tablets. Owen has argued that ancient texts should be studied regardless of how they were excavated. To do otherwise, he said, would be to forsake valuable information about the ancient world.

Thanks to funding provided by Rosen, Owen and a team of international scholars have worked with experts at UCLA to carefully conserve, photograph and study the tablets, publishing their work in more than 16 volumes over six years.

“Study of these cuneiform tablets is providing much new data on the history, literature, religion, language and culture of ancient Iraq that is filling major gaps in our knowledge of Mesopotamian civilization,” Owen said in a statement released by Cornell.

Some have questioned whether Iraq is stable enough to care for the delicate tablets once they are returned. About 600 antiquities that the U.S. returned to Iraq in 2009 later disappeared.

“We know there are problems there, but the Iraq museum seems to be secure at this point,” said Richard Zettler, a curator at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, which will soon return tablets borrowed from Iraq decades ago. “The real thing is, they belong to Iraq.”


The Garsana Archive of Cuneiform Tablets is Returned to Iraq

On November 2, 2013 it was announced that Cornell University planned to forfeit and return to Iraq the archive of about 1400 cuneiform tablets known as the Gar&scaronana archive (Garsana), which was donated to Cornell beginning in the year 2000. The archive was returned under the assumption that the tablets were looted in Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War.

The Gar&scaronana archive represents the records of a rural estate at or near the town of Gar&scaronana located somewhere in the territory of the Sumerian city of Umma, probably in the vicinity of ancient Zabalam (Zabala) and Karkar. The tablets date from an eight year period, 2031-2024 BCE, during the Third Dynasty of Ur.

"The estate was owned by &Scaronu-Kabta, a physician and general, and his wife, the princess Simat-I&scarontaran. These documents record many of the daily functions of the estate and provide for the first time a comprehensive picture of life on such an estate. Detailed information on the construction and maintenance of the many buildings on the estate that included a brewery, textile and flour mills, leather working shop, and kitchen the hiring and supervision of builders and laborers coming from various towns near and far management of orchards canal travel and trade between the estate and the cities of Sumer and numerous other details of daily life. Particularly noteworthy are the funerary records of the family and the role of the princess Simat-I&scarontaran who assumed the control of the estate upon the death of her husband" (http://cuneiform.library.cornell.edu/collections/garsana, accessed 11-03-2013).

"Among the tablets is the private archive of a 21st century BC Sumerian princess in the city of Garsana that has made scholars rethink the role of women in the ancient kingdom of Ur. The administrative records show Simat-Ishtaran ruled the estate after her husband died.

"During her reign, women attained remarkably high status. They supervised men, received salaries equal to their male counterparts' and worked in construction, the clay tablets reveal.

" 'It's our first real archival discovery of an institution run by a woman,' said David Owen, the Cornell researcher who has led the study of the tablets. Because scholars do not know precisely where the tablets were found, however, the site of ancient Garsana cannot be excavated for further information.

"Other tablets provide detailed administrative records of ancient life, including the procedures for temple rituals, the resettlement of refugees and the output of agricultural lands.


Contents

The theory was presented by Percy J. Wiseman, who during a tour in Mesopotamia as an air commodore in the Royal Air Force, found an interest in studying ancient civilizations of the region. He visited a number of excavation sites and archeologists and collected cuneiform tablets and inscriptions while familiarizing himself with the writing conventions of the ancient Mesopotamians. He noted the correlation between the method of recording authorship in pre-Abraham clay tablets and the style of Genesis. Wiseman pointed out in his 1936 book, New discoveries in Babylonia about Genesis, that ancient tablets carried at the end the name of the scribe (or owner) as well as information on the author (or owner) and the date of the recording, much like the way in which newspaper reporters today provide that same information at the end of news articles. This pattern seemed to make sense of the outline of Genesis, which divides narratives with a statement on the central figure of the preceding text and then proceeds to list a series of generations to set up the following narrative. Despite his publication and his son's updated edition printed in 1985, the Tablet Theory has not received much attention over the JEDP Documentary Hypothesis.

Most recently Curt Sewell has refined the hypothesis. [1]


Cornell to return 10,000 ancient tablets to Iraq

Cornell University is preparing to forfeit to Iraq a vast collection of ancient cuneiform tablets in what is expected to be one of the largest returns of antiquities by an American university.

The 10,000 inscribed clay blocks date from the 4th millenium BC and offer scholars an unmatched record of daily life in ancient Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization.

New York antiquities collector Jonathan Rosen and his family began donating and lending the tablets to Cornell in 2000. Many scholars have objected to the arrangement, suspecting the tablets were looted in Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, which unleashed a wave of plundering in the archaeologically rich expanse of southern Iraq between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Among the tablets is the private archive of a 21st century BC Sumerian princess in the city of Garsana that has made scholars rethink the role of women in the ancient kingdom of Ur. The administrative records show Simat-Ishtaran ruled the estate after her husband died.

During her reign, women attained remarkably high status. They supervised men, received salaries equal to their male counterparts’ and worked in construction, the clay tablets reveal.

“It’s our first real archival discovery of an institution run by a woman,” said David Owen, the Cornell researcher who has led the study of the tablets. Because scholars do not know precisely where the tablets were found, however, the site of ancient Garsana cannot be excavated for further information.

Other tablets provide detailed administrative records of ancient life, including the procedures for temple rituals, the resettlement of refugees and the output of agricultural lands.

The source of the Garsana tablets was the subject of a 2001 investigation by the Department of Homeland Security, according to records obtained by Harvard researcher Benjamin Studevent-Hickman under the Freedom of Information Act. Buying and possessing antiquities illegally removed from countries such as Iraq, which claim them as government property, can be a violation of U.S. law.

Investigators also looked into potential violations of the Trading With the Enemy Act, which at the time barred doing business with Iraq, and tax fraud, the records said. The 1,679 tablets were valued at less than $50,000 when they were imported, but the donor received a $900,000 tax deduction when they were given to Cornell in 2000, the records said.

Ultimately, there were no findings of wrongdoing because investigators could not determine precisely when or where the objects were found, the records show.

Harold Grunfeld, attorney for Jonathan Rosen, said all of the tablets “were legally acquired” and that the federal investigation found “no evidence of wrongdoing.” He said the tablets at issue were donated by Rosen’s late mother, Miriam.

“It has always been the Rosen family’s intent that these tablets reside permanently in a public institution for scholarly research and for the benefit of the public as a vast informational tool in explaining life in the ancient world,” Grunfeld said.

The Iraqi government requested the return of the tablets last year, and the U.S. attorney’s office in Binghamton, N.Y., is brokering the transfer.

“We’re not accusing anyone of a crime, but we believe they should be returned,” said Assistant U.S. Atty. Miro Lovric.

Cornell officials declined to comment pending a formal announcement but issued a statement saying that the university “appreciates the opportunity it has had to participate in the preservation and study of these invaluable historical artifacts and welcomes the opportunity to continue this work in participation with the U.S. and Iraqi governments.”

Other American universities have recently agreed to return ancient art after evidence emerged that the objects might have been recently looted. Last year, Princeton University returned about 170 objects and fragments to Italy after authorities there linked them to antiquities dealer Edoardo Almagià, who was investigated for trafficking in looted objects. That same year, Ohio’s Bowling Green State University signaled it was willing to return a dozen ancient mosaics to Turkey after evidence emerged that they had been looted.

Such cases often involve universities accepting donations from antiquities dealers, raising complex questions about the role that academia plays in a market that is rife with recently looted objects.

Rosen, a benefactor to several American museums and universities, was for years a business partner with antiquities dealer Robert Hecht, who sold the J. Paul Getty Museum several antiquities that have been returned to Italy.

Cornell’s acceptance of the cuneiform tablets from Rosen has stirred controversy among scholars who contend that publishing studies of antiquities that were possibly looted increases their value on the art market and fuels the illegal digging seen across the region in recent years.

Damage from illegal excavations in Iraq has far exceeded the more notorious thefts from the Iraqi museum in 2003, experts say. At the ancient Sumerian city of Umma, for example, thousands of tablets like those at Cornell have been found by looters who have dug pits over an area the size of 3,000 soccer fields in search of new finds. At the height of the looting, an estimated 150,000 cuneiform tablets were being stolen from Iraq every year.

Objects looted from such sites are smuggled out of Iraq and find their way to the international art market. Along the way, dealers rely on experts to authenticate the objects and describe their significance, facts that can determine their market value.

The antiquities trade has also been a source of funding for insurgent groups. Most famously, 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta attempted to sell antiquities looted from Afghanistan to raise money for the terrorist attacks.

“You buy tablets and you’re feeding the antiquities market,” said Elizabeth Stone, a professor at New York’s Stony Brook University who has directed archaeological digs in Iraq since 1975. “That feeds an enormous amount of destruction.”

To address the problem, scholars adopted a 2004 policy that required the permission of Iraqi authorities before publishing studies of objects that may have been looted, a step that Cornell has not taken.

On the other side of the debate are scholars such as Owen, the Cornell Assyriologist who has led the research of the Rosen tablets. Owen has argued that ancient texts should be studied regardless of how they were excavated. To do otherwise, he said, would be to forsake valuable information about the ancient world.

Thanks to funding provided by Rosen, Owen and a team of international scholars have worked with experts at UCLA to carefully conserve, photograph and study the tablets, publishing their work in more than 16 volumes over six years.

“Study of these cuneiform tablets is providing much new data on the history, literature, religion, language and culture of ancient Iraq that is filling major gaps in our knowledge of Mesopotamian civilization,” Owen said in a statement released by Cornell.

Some have questioned whether Iraq is stable enough to care for the delicate tablets once they are returned. About 600 antiquities that the U.S. returned to Iraq in 2009 later disappeared.

“We know there are problems there, but the Iraq museum seems to be secure at this point,” said Richard Zettler, a curator at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, which will soon return tablets borrowed from Iraq decades ago. “The real thing is, they belong to Iraq.”


Decipherment

But before decipherments can be considered typologically, they must be described individually. The facts of individual achievements are little known – it might be supposed that Champollion's reading of Egyptian hieroglyphics was the first such accomplishment it is only the best known. Several scripts were deciphered earlier and several more afterward – the most celebrated being those of Old Persian, Ugaritic, and Linear B. All decipherments involve common methods and characteristics: accurate renderings, a familiar target language, a known related script, and bilinguals.

Accurate renderings. This observation might escape notice in the individual episodes of decipherment, but it becomes obvious when all decipherments are taken together: the absolute sine qua non of any decipherment is an accurate copy of the inscription in question failures due to poor data are legion. We take this for granted today, with the photographer constantly in attendance, but in the 1830s – coincident with several decipherment projects – photography was just being invented by, among others, one of the pioneers in Mesopotamian cuneiform, H. W. Fox Talbot. But bits and pieces of inscriptions dribbled in from both Palmyra and Persepolis all during the 18th century and even back in the 17th. Some Himyaritic fragments arrived as early as 1803. All of these were uninterpretable – understandably, since it is indeed rather difficult to copy an inscription in unfamiliar letters when one has no idea what it says. But it was close to 150 years between the first publication of a Palmyrene text and the decipherment of the script – which was accomplished immediately when careful reproductions appeared in 1754 ( Daniels, 1988 ). In every case, not until, and then immediately upon, the arrival of accurate copies could their interpretation be accomplished.

A familiar target language. Each of the Big Four decipherments was of a language closely related to a known one – Egyptian to Coptic, Old Persian to less old Persian, Ugaritic to Hebrew, Linear B to Greek (Type IA). Similarly, Palmyrene is nearly Syriac, the language of the early Indian Brahmi is an older Prakrit, Old North Arabic and Epigraphic South Arabian are just what their names proclaim (Type IB). On the other hand, Proto-Elamite, Indus Valley, Linear A, and pseudo-hieroglyphic of Byblos continue to resist decipherment, because their languages cannot be securely identified (Type III).

A known related script. The decipherer of Palmyrene, Jean-Jacques Barthélemy, noted that his alphabet resembled those of both Hebrew and Syriac (though he did not use such correspondences in his work). However successfully we can interpret Hurrian or Elamite or other obscure languages of the ancient Near East is due to their being written in cuneiform. But, looking at Etruscan, we see that being able to pronounce a language does not mean we can understand it. At least twice, though, a similar script was one of the keys to a decipherment rather than an interpretation (Type II as well as IB). Emil Rödiger and Wilhelm Gesenius were able to use a Himyaritic alphabet preserved in a few Islamic manuscripts for interpreting the South Arabian inscriptions and James Prinsep could read successively earlier Indian texts whose scripts approached closer and closer to the Brahmi. (For brief accounts of most decipherments see Daniels, 1996 .)

Bilinguals. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz is credited with the first comment on how to decipher a script. In 1714 he wrote:

In Palmyra and elsewhere in Syria and its neighbouring countries there exist many ancient double inscriptions, written partly in Greek and partly in the language and characters of the local people. These ought to be copied with the greatest care from the original stones. It might then prove possible to assemble the Alphabet, and eventually to discover the nature of the language. For we have the Greek version, and there occur proper names, whose pronunciation must have been approximately the same in the native language as in the Greek. (quoted in Pope, 1999: 95 )


Fancy Breeds of Pigeons:

Rock Doves in
Natural Habitat

In the 1st century AD the Roman historian Pliny discussed the breeding of fancy pigeons, confirming that the practice had been ongoing for some considerable time. In the same century, the Roman scholar Varro made clear references to cross-breeding.

Fancy Pigeons Illustration

Throughout the next 2000 years breeding and cross-breeding of the pigeon to produce fancy breeds has become an art form, with over 300 known breeds of fancy pigeon in existence today.

The grouping of fancy breeds is complex but can be roughly defined in 8 separate headings:

Utility Pigeons:

These are breeds that were originally bred for meat and include the ‘French Mondain’ and the ‘King’.

Flying Tumblers and Highfliers:

This group of fancy pigeons includes birds that are bred for show purposes but which can also be used in flying competitions for their acrobatic abilities. This group includes the ‘Tumbler’, the ‘Tippler’ and the ‘Roller’.

Asian Feather and Voice Pigeons:

This group has been developed for extensive feathering and for their laughing or ‘trumpeting’ voice. The group includes the well-known ‘Fantail’, the ‘Trumpeter’ and the ‘Jacobin’.

Homer Pigeons (Homing Pigeons):

As the name suggests, this group of pigeons was bred for their homing abilities but also includes racing birds bred specifically for showing. The group includes the ‘English Carrier’, the ‘Dragoon’ and the ‘German Beauty Homer’.

Exhibition Tumblers:

Some members of this group were originally bred for their acrobatic abilities but have been interbred to such an extent that they are now considered to be purely show birds. This group includes the ‘Nun’, the ‘English Short Faced Tumbler’ and the ‘Magpie’.

English Short Faced
Tumbler

Colour Pigeons:

This group consists of many different varieties of fancy pigeon bred specifically for their colour and markings. The group includes the ‘Archangel’, the ‘Swallow’ and the ‘Danish Suabian’.

Pouters and Croppers:

This group of fancy pigeons is bred purely for their ability to inflate their crop with air. The group includes the ‘English Pouter’, the ‘Norwich Cropper’ and the ‘Pigmy Pouter’.

Frills and Owls:

This group has been bred for their stunted beaks and their extraordinary chest feathers. This group includes the ‘Old German Owl’, the ‘Oriental Frill’ and the ‘Aachen Lacquer Shield Owl’.

Aachen Lacquer Shield Owl

The breeding of fancy pigeons is an international pastime, with pigeon fanciers coming together at local, national and international shows to compete for ever-growing prizes. The German National Pigeon Show, one of the largest national pigeon shows, is held annually in Nurnberg and attracted 33,500 people to the 2006 event. This demonstrates how popular pigeon fancying has become. The annual show held by the Royal Pigeon Racing Association in Blackpool is attended by upwards of 25,000 people each year, with all profits raised from the event being donated to charity.


Conclusions

From this study I conclude that Nephi was familiar with the Israelite legal practice of using double documents or deeds and that he instructed his posterity to construct the Nephite record in a fashion that would conform with that tradition. His discussion in 2 Nephi 27 not only expands on Isaiah 29 but also draws on Jeremiah 32 or the general tradition of doubled, witnessed documentation, one part of which was sealed and the other left open.

Nephi envisioned that the Nephite record would eventually consist of two parts—one being sealed, hidden, sacred, and protected and the other being open, public, revealed, and revealing. In this regard the record of the brother of Jared and the rest of the Book of Mormon differ Nephi’s conception of a sealed text differed from that reflected in Moroni’s abridgment and description of material in the book of Ether. Although these two sealed or sealed-up records may come forth at the same future time, they are different.

According to the double-document practices of the ancient Mediterranean, the two parts of the doubled document were closely associated with each other: the sealed portion typically provided confirmation of the revealed portion. Moreover, because the revealed, or open, portion (the published Book of Mormon) is itself an abridgment of other records, one may surmise that the sealed portion of the plates of Mormon is a longer version of, and closely related to, the material that has been revealed to us. In conformance with the concepts of the double deed, then, the purpose of the sealed portion will be to confirm the truth of the revealed portion. Moroni himself said, “Ye shall see me at the bar of God and the Lord God will say unto you: Did I not declare my words unto you?” (Moroni 10:27). Thus a primary purpose of the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon will be to stand as a witness that what has been declared unto us in the Book of Mormon is true.

The format of the double documents in antiquity was somewhat flexible, depending on materials available and the individual needs and circumstances. One cannot expect that the Book of Mormon plates physically conformed exactly to patterns used in other ancient legal and administrative practices. Double documents could be inscribed in various fashions on papyrus, parchment, metal tablets, or clay-case tablets. Although the particular details of implementation varied to suit the available writing media and sealing materials, the underlying concepts remained essentially the same.

The necessity for, and functions of, witnesses are attested through many ancient legal documents. Although the number of witnesses varied, it could not be less than three for a sealed document, according to Jewish law. Biblical law called for two or three witnesses in judicial settings. The witnesses were crucial for verifying the validity of the document, the sealed part standing as a witness for the revealed part in time of judgment, when the seal was broken by an authorized person. Since the witnessed document was received under oath, curses fell upon those who failed to give heed to these documents: “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them” (Deuteronomy 27:26). All this gives additional force to the comment found in Job, “For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not” (Job 33:14).

In ancient societies, where duplicating equipment and central record offices did not exist, the practice of stating important decisions or transactions twice provided an important degree of certitude concerning the accuracy of crucial official records. No wonder this practice was impressive and memorable to many ancient people: it provided a powerful image to the prophet Jeremiah, it grew to be prevalent in Hellenistic Egypt, it was remembered by the Dead Sea sectarians, it was useful in the hands of apocryphal writers, it became mandatory in certain cases under Jewish law, and it persisted in Roman administration. For many of the same reasons, it also was paradigmatic for Nephi and the plates of Mormon.


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