The Literature of Ancient Sumer by Jeremy Black

By Jeremy Black

This anthology of Sumerian literature constitutes the main finished assortment ever released, and comprises examples of many of the kinds of composition written within the language, from narrative myths and lyrical hymns to proverbs and love poetry. The translations have benefited either from the paintings of many students and from our ever-increasing figuring out of Sumerian. as well as reflecting the advances made through glossy scholarship, the translations are written in transparent, available English. an in depth creation discusses the literary features of the works, the folks who created and copied them in old Iraq, and the way the examine of Sumerian literature has developed over the past one hundred fifty years.

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But around this time a large-scale American expedition to Nippur (Nibru) was established, in order to bring the USA into the game. But whereas the French and British collectors all had long-standing interests and expertise in the area, only one of the American expedition members had even set foot in the Middle East before. In 1888 their first season went disastrously wrong within weeks as the local men they employed as labourers revolted. Undeterred, the Nippur expedition regrouped and went on to run until 1900, gradually bringing to light many tens of thousands of cuneiform tablets.

Your name shall exist in songs and make the songs sweet. A young singer shall perform them most pleasingly in the king’s palace. A shepherd shall sing them sweetly as he tumbles his butter-churn. A shepherd boy shall carry your name to where he grazes the sheep. And this, we are to believe, is one such song. However, the reference to the ‘shepherd boy’ should not necessarily lead us to imagine the widespread dissemination of such compositions amongst the illiterate peasant classes. Rather, Inana may be humiliating Su-kale-tuda one last time by reminding him of the existence of her lover, the shepherd-god Dumuzid.

Well-run schools, households, and scribal institutions regularly cleared out their storage areas of outdated tablets and soaked them in bins for reuse. Thus we find large caches of tablets only when they were thrown away en masse, reused as xlviii  building materials (as in House F), or abandoned suddenly along with the building they were stored in (the Me-Turan scholar’s house). For the Sumerian literary tradition was, paradoxically, not exclusively a literate one. Examining the different sources for individual works shows us that compositions were passed on not through the copying of earlier manuscripts but through dictation, repetition, and memorization.

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