8 Sumerian in the Middle Assyrian Period

Klaus Wagensonner


8.1 Introduction

Sumerologists are in the fortunate position that their research is based on a huge and long-lasting corpus of royal or votive inscriptions, lexical, literary, liturgical, legal, and administrative texts, to name just a few of the main textual categories. If we take the archaic tablets from Uruk into account, for which a Sumerian background is not more than an unsubstantiated hypothesis, we are facing roughly three millennia of Sumerian scribal lore.1 Given this enormous timespan, which includes periods of actively compiling texts in Sumerian as well as ones in which older scribal lore was copied and transmitted, it is imperative to consider that there are not just “as many Sumerian languages as there are Sumerologists,”2 but indeed there are as many Sumerian grammars, or grammatical nuances, as there are periods or places where Sumerian was transmitted. Maybe this view is too exaggerated considering that the basics of Sumerian language remained more or less the same. However, over such a vast amount of time no language stays untouched or is resistant to modifications and changes in its structure, syntax, or lexicon, let alone to influences from other languages.3 And, of course, there is the texts’ orthography that frequently may conceal grammatical details and, hence, obstructs our perception of Sumerian grammar.4 Often, peculiar spellings were coined “errors” or “mistakes,” but this notion should be widely abandoned. Language contact is one, but not the exclusive, motivator for such changes.5 In this respect, let us consider K. David Harrison’s view, when he states: 

Languages are highly complex, self-organizing systems in constant flux. [...] We all participate in constant change, but no individual speaker controls the speed, trajectory, or character of change. A process of emerging complexity—not yet well understood—gives a language its constantly changing and characteristic shape.6 

This does certainly not mean that Mesopotamian scribes, and young ones, in particular, made no mistakes; scribal errors do exist, quite frequently at times, but every peculiar spelling must be treated with utmost care.7 Stefan Maul argued that the scribes working on bilingual texts during the first millennium BCE were not necessarily unable to comprehend the Sumerian, but that the interpreter or commentator instead wanted to introduce a new text layer, which subsequently led to discrepancies between the Sumerian and Akkadian versions.8 

From a grammatical point of view, the Sumerian language and its written lore are frequently treated in relative homogeneity, almost concealing the fact that grammar and lexicon may show important differences between sites and periods. Grammarians often deal with linguistic phenomena in texts that cover either long periods of time or whose manuscripts originate from various places or even different scribal milieus.9 Such a treatment is certainly reasonable when dealing with a language overview as, for instance, in Marie-Louise Thomsen’s Sumerian Language10 or Brahm Jagersma’s A descriptive grammar of Sumerian,11 or within a greater linguistic framework.12 There are, nonetheless, important studies as, for example, Jeremy Black’s Sumerian Grammar in Babylonian Theory,13 which provides a more close-up view of the Sumerian language with a focus on a specific period on the one hand and on a specific kind of dataset, namely the rather artificial framework provided by the so-called Old Babylonian Grammatical Texts (short OBGT), on the other.14 

The Old Babylonian period, which is often perceived as a pristine example for the study of scribal education and transmission of knowledge, does not present a coherent treatment of the Sumerian language either. Grammatical lists, such as the Old Babylonian Grammatical Texts published in the fourth volume of the Materialien zum Sumerischen Lexikon are mere glimpses and simply treatments of single verbs or morphological elements. All in all, they do not provide a full-fledged paradigm that can be exploited in order to deal, for instance, with narratives or even the syntax of a sentence.15 Recently Paul Delnero discussed the variation in a rather coherent group of Sumerian literary texts, which was copied in the Old Babylonian period at various places.16 

This paper deals with a period in which copying Sumerian scribal lore was still at its peak. Scholarly texts deriving from various sites in Babylonia reached its northern periphery. Unfortunately, exactly how texts are transmitted is often unclear. Colophons of the time offer a few clues, but it is clear that sources reached the north under very different circumstances. The title of this paper might imply a comprehensive treatment of Sumerian grammar in the Middle Assyrian period in an area north of the Mesopotamian core and therefore at its periphery. But this is certainly not attempted here because of exactly the reason stated above. Furthermore, the Sumerian found in these texts is usually the Sumerian of the sources. An exception are texts that were compiled in Assyria proper, such as a few texts praising the Assyrian king.17 The main objective of this paper, however, is to pinpoint some observations on Sumero-Akkadian bilingual texts and subsequently the relationship between the late tradition of a Sumerian source text and its Akkadian translation. The Middle Assyrian period contributes significantly to our understanding of the ancient scribal lore, which is often insufficiently preserved in the areas a majority of the compositions were imported from. The reasons for this temporal—and also geographical—limitation are mostly based on our meagre knowledge about the transmission of lexical and literary texts in the late second millennium BCE on the one hand, and the extraordinary good state of preservation of the Middle Assyrian scholarly texts on the other. 

8.2 Translating Sumerian

In order to deal appropriately with translations from the late second millennium, let us first provide some general remarks on the physical appearance of bilingual texts. By the Middle Assyrian period, bilingualism fully infiltrated scholarly texts. Among the many Sumero-Akkadian texts dating to this period there are large numbers of lexical lists, which are already more or less parallel to the tradition of the respective lists in the first millennium BCE. On the other hand, we are dealing with a slightly smaller corpus of bilingual literary compositions.18 Except for lexical texts, which distribute the Sumerian and Akkadian versions in columns, bilingual texts in the Middle Assyrian period conventionally use an interlinear distribution, which means that each Sumerian line is followed by its Akkadian equivalent.19 

As has been attested previously,20 and in particular during the first millennium BCE, indented lines for the Akkadian equivalents are a widely absent feature in the Middle Assyrian period. In those instances in which the Sumerian version retains a rather short form, the scribes frequently saved space by putting both versions on one single line and separating Sumerian and Akkadian by a so-called Glossenkeil (e.g., , , ).21 The famous tablet of the “Astrolabe” B in its Middle Assyrian version KAV 218 represents a subtype of interlinear translations. Due to the tablet’s layout and the division into three columns, the scribe had to break each version several times. In order to keep the Sumerian and Akkadian versions apart, all lines except for the first are indented.22 This subtype, however, still belongs to the category of interlinear translations. Similar to lexical texts, some bilingual compositions distribute the Sumerian and Akkadian versions into separate columns with the Sumerian text on the left and its Akkadian equivalent to the right.23 It is difficult to decide whether this kind of layout derived from the source used by the copyist, or whether it was restricted to certain genres of scholarly texts. In any case, this type of layout is rather scarce in the Middle Assyrian period outside the genre of lexical texts. 

In quite a few instances, both versions demonstrate a tendency towards segmentation into smaller (syntactical) units. The separation of a line into two halves is well attested in literary sources of the first millennium BCE, but is relatively uncommon in the Middle Assyrian period. In the subsequent example attested on VAT 9710 (Lugale IX–XII, line 421), the following segmentation can be observed: 

O ii 07 nam-ug5-ga-mu mu-un-ku5-da-[gin7]
08 a-na na-ri-ia ki-i ta-at-tama˺-[an-ni]

More common are segmentations in even smaller units such as in line 9 of Nin-Isina’s Journey to Nippur :24 

O 17 dudug-sa6-ga a-a d+en-lil2-la2 zi-da-na mu-un-du
18 dudug.sa6.ga a-bi d+en.lil2 im-nu-ša illak˺

A similar kind of segmentation can, of course, occur in the aforementioned column-based bilingual texts as well. The following example comes from tablet VI of the lexical series Ana ittišu:25 

O i 12 min3-na-ne-ne ki-lal-lu-šu-nu
13 3(diš)-a-ne-ne ša-la-aš2-ti-šu-nu
14 u3 ku3-babbar 4(diš)-kam2-ma-ta u3 i+na ku3.babbar er-bit-ti-šu-nu
15 kaskal-še3 i3-su8-ge-eš a-na har-ra-ni il-li-˹ku˺

Sometimes a text became too long to fit one line. In such a case the scribe needed to abandon any kind of segmentation. Another noteworthy feature concerns the so-called “firing holes.” This frequently attested feature of late library texts, which is produced by punching deep holes into the clay body using a round stylus or pin, requires an in-depth study. Whereas it is perfectly feasible to interpret such holes on large tablets to reduce the strain on the tablet during the firing process, their purpose to do so on smaller or medium-sized clay tablets appears to be negligible and further explanations are possible. Very occasionally the placement of these holes appears to take the syntax of the text into account.26 

The relationship between the Sumerian and the Akkadian versions of a composition quite often pose a certain amount of difficulties, which was pointed out by Markham J. Geller: 

Like any good translation, Akkadian translations of Sumerian literature had to be cast in idiomatic Akkadian, which often makes it difficult to match the Akkadian and Sumerian texts grammatically.27 

Elsewhere Geller challenges the necessity of our separate treatment of the Sumerian and Akkadian versions of a literary composition, in order not to judge the ability of the ancient translator to understand the Sumerian source correctly: 

On the other hand, it is questionable whether one must translate each version of a bilingual text independently, which assumes a priori that the ancient translator has failed to grasp the sense or even spirit of the original text.28 

The Middle Assyrian scribes had all the necessary tools, such as lexical texts, specialized vocabularies,29 and even paleographical lists30 at their disposal. These reference works play a pivotal role in the transmission of scholarly texts, but whether they were used as tools for an interpreter is difficult to judge based on the textual record.31 

In terms of their transmission in the last third of the second millennium BCE both versions should be considered as one unit.32 The Middle Assyrian scribes were mostly not concerned with translating the Sumerian of older compositions into Akkadian; they had already copied a bilingual text. However, the advantages of stand-alone translations of either the Sumerian or the Akkadian version are not always self-evident.33 Henri Limet summarises these issues as follows: 

La traduction est l’art de presenter [...] dans une langue un texte qui a été écrit ou prononcé dans une autre. On passé donc d’une langue A, dite “de depart,” le sumérien, à une langue B, dite “d’arrivée,” appelée aussi “langue cible,” l’accadien. La difficulté vient, non seulement de ce que les deux langues A et B different dans leur vocabulaire et leur grammaire, mais aussi de ce que le texte à traduire a été conçu dans une culture qui n’est pas celle de la langue cible.34 

Some bilingual compositions of this late stage appear to have been compiled from an Akkadian perspective. The Sumerian of such texts frequently demonstrates a great variety of unusual spellings, which frequently seem impenetrable and almost of arcane and cryptographic nature. Fluent translations of such texts seem to be impossible without the Akkadian equivalent. However, the Sumerian language received the status of a pseudo-original by placing it first.35 

The textual record of the Middle Assyrian period remains rather silent about the means of transmitting scholarly texts. Any information about the origin of a source can be gleaned from the colophons.36 The so-called “Astrolabe” B with its sophisticated astronomical menology of the month names is available in its full form thanks to the Middle Assyrian tablet VAT 9416. Most other text witnesses and parallels date to a significantly later date and are much more fragmentary.37 A textual analysis of the Middle Assyrian tablet clearly favors an earlier date. Some of its verbal forms show features of Middle Babylonian texts. As we will see further down, the Sumerian of this composition shows an array of peculiar or at least arcane spellings.38 

The colophons on Middle Assyrian tablets, as far as they are preserved, may provide information on the origin of a source text or the family background of the copy’s scribe,39 but colophons never include information on the responsible translator of a Sumerian composition. This is mainly due to the fact that the translated source in its bilingual setting was considered as one inseparable entity.40 A rather different case presents itself through two copies of the lexical series Ea. The colophons on Ass. 523 as well as VAT 10172 both refer to the source as being an “old A.A series” (Ass. 523: a.ameš-tu libir.rameš-tu and VAT 10172: geš.gar3 a.ameš libir.rameš). Indeed, both tablets contain archaizing sign forms. One can contrast this kind of lexical tradition with another tablet dated from the Middle Assyrian period which also contains a copy of the first tablet of Ea lacking any older sign forms.41 Note that both the paleographical sign list AfO 4, plates III–IV written by a certain Marduk-kābit-ahhēšu as well as the Middle Assyrian copy of the creation myth KAR 4 (see section 8.3.6) go back to “old sources.” 

Some information can be gained through textual analysis, which might provide clues as to the origin of the source text used by the copyists.42 However, even such analyses provide mere glimpses, but fail to give the whole picture and thus many issues persist. An unfortunate fact is the lack of information regarding both the translators of Sumerian texts as well as the exact circumstances of the process of translating these texts.43 The colophons are generally ignorant about these highly intriguing aspects and limit themselves to the scribes, who already had a bilingual copy at their disposal.44 Nonetheless, it can be taken for granted that the Middle Assyrian scribes were not the translators of Sumerian compositions, neither lexical nor literary.45 

In Emar, whose texts date slightly earlier than the Middle Assyrian texts from Assur, the colophons on copies of scholarly tablets are separated by a double ruling from the actual “base text” as well. Over the double ruling the sequence be man be is written in smaller script. Yoram Cohen notes that besides Mesopotamia and Emar this notation is also known from Ugarit and Hattusa. At least for Mesopotamia or Assyria, in particular, it seems rather plausible to see in be a notation that stands for Sumerian til. This is somewhat verified by the parallel al.til also written over the double ruling on VAT 8876. man, on the other hand, still poses some problems. An interpretation of be for bēlu, “lord,” and man for šarru, “king,” appears too far-fetched. Cohen emphasizes that in the Western periphery, this notation may have lost any semantic affiliation and kept only a symbolic value.46 

A few redactional remarks such as hepi, “it is broken,” not only show that the Middle Assyrian scribes attempted to produce a faithful copy of their sources, but moreover that they did not have to bother with translating or interpreting Sumerian compositions.47 If such remarks also occur in the Akkadian version, it is quite clear that the Middle Assyrian scribes already copied from a bilingual source. Such a source text quite certainly can be traced in a center of learning such as Nippur of the slightly earlier Middle Babylonian period. Amid the scarcity of Middle Babylonian literary sources, N 6286 is a comparatively well-preserved bilingual source of “Ninurta’s Return to Nippur,” whose layout puts the Sumerian and Akkadian versions into columns.48 Another issue is the fact that we know almost nothing about scribal education in the Middle Assyrian period. There should have existed some means of transmitting the know-how of writing and dealing with “old” scribal lore, either affiliated to an institution49 or within the private sphere of skilled scribes or officials in the city’s administration. Compared to the richness of sources for the Old Babylonian period50 and the later evidence from first millennium BCE Babylonia,51 we search in vain for any meaningful information regarding this issue. There are neither archaeological traces nor any valuable hints in the texts that may help in identifying the Middle Assyrian bīt ṭuppāte as locus operandi for the education of young scribes.52 For the time being, any reconstruction of teaching methods must remain speculative.53 Additionally, the copies of the Middle Assyrian scribes appear not to resemble school texts.54 

Yet another issue defying any easy approach is the choice of texts that have been copied in Assur. The composition “Nin-Isina’s Journey to Nippur,” for instance, is otherwise known only from a small fragment originating from Old Babylonian Nippur.55 Was it mere coincidence that this composition found its way to Assur? In his recent overview of the lexical tradition in Mesopotamia, Niek Veldhuis noted that the Middle Assyrian corpus of lexical texts contained, besides regular school texts, also “rare archaic compilations, such as the phrasebook Ki-ulutinbiše (also known as ana ittišu), which originated in Old Babylonian Nippur.”56 

Given all those circumstances and the complex history of text transmission, which is shrouded from view by a lack of information, it is an arduous task to treat the “quality” of a language in such a late stage. When exactly the Sumerian language ceased to be used as vernacular is a cause of much debate and might have happened in various stages after the downfall of the Ur III Empire at the end of the third millennium BCE. All written scribal lore that has been compiled in the two millennia that followed may show deficiencies or peculiarities of any kind.57 The decline of Sumerian is due further to the ever-increasing infiltration of Akkadian into the economic and daily life. However, a great share of the textual material used for grammatical observations and setting up an artificial paradigm belong to some extent to the Old Babylonian school milieu.58 The variation between copies belonging to the same composition often allows for the identification of scribal errors, Hörfehler, and other deficiencies in copying source texts.59 

Frequently, secondary literature texts dating after the Old Babylonian period are deemed to contain mistakes or errors by the respective scribe. Just a few attempts were undertaken to interpret unusual spellings as evidence for linguistic change or variations in virtue of regional customs.60 But one has to bear in mind that the Old Babylonian texts are, strictly speaking, not a product of speakers of the Sumerian language. Bilingual sources from the Old Babylonian scholarly sphere are relatively scarce. Bilingualism infiltrated royal inscriptions and lexical texts faster than narrative compositions. Complete interlinear translations are practically absent from the Old Babylonian text corpus. Partial Akkadian translations are usually added to Sumerian texts as annotations or glosses.61 

Jerrold S. Cooper states about bilingualism and bilingual texts in the first half of the second millennium BCE:62 

But unlike the period after 1600 BCE, when Sumerian texts were as a rule accompanied by an Akkadian translation, in this earlier period, translations were quite rare, often from outlying areas, and by their appearance and quality betray themselves as the work of inferior scribes, either students who needed a ‘pony’ to learn Sumerian, or scribes who never learned Sumerian well enough in the first place. The rarity of these early bilinguals, compared to the thousands of unilingual Sumerian tablets of the same period, is eloquent testimony to the strength of Sumerian tradition in the Old Babylonian (2000–1600 BCE) academy.63 

The variation and use of local orthographical as well as grammatical features allows local traditions or even only the preference of a single scribe to be highlighted. Even while comparing the wide array of text witnesses to a given Sumerian literary text in the Old Babylonian period, the variants between the respective manuscripts may be astonishing.64 

Copies of lexical and literary texts, which came down to us from the Middle Assyrian period, offer important insights, such as possible evidence for dictation. A proper investigation of many of these features, however, is still a desideratum. There is ample evidence that Sumerian at the end of the second millennium BCE was not just widely used in the scholarly tradition, but was given a pivotal role in the scribal sphere as well. The physical appearance of the (bilingual) texts themselves provide enough hints, let alone the fact that in bilingual texts the Sumerian version generally appears first—both in interlinear as well as column-based bilingual texts—, and is followed by the Akkadian translation.65 This feature for bilingual narrative texts might have completely derived from the lexical tradition.66 

Amid the fact that we have only small glimpses of the original textual record at our disposal, the extant texts suffice in order to get a good perception of the scribal lore that was transferred to Assur and copied there. The prominence of compositions such as “Ninurta’s Exploits” or “Ninurta’s Return to Nippur” is noteworthy. Together with the two manuscripts of “Nin-Isina’s Journey to Nippur,” it is astonishing to note that most of the Sumerian literary texts associated with the Middle Assyrian period in Assur deal (at least to some extent) with the topic of the divine journey. Whether this fact has any relevance for a kind of “program” in acquiring cuneiform sources, must remain speculative. 

8.3 Text Basis

In the Middle Assyrian period, the elite67 of Assur came into contact with a huge amount of literary and lexical texts, which originated in Babylonia. It is almost impossible to reconstruct the transmission paths of these scholarly texts. Following one possible, and not unlikely, hypothesis Babylonian scribes brought their text collections with them when moving to the Assyrian realm.68 

With the Middle Assyrian period, we enter an age of diplomacy and international relations.69 The Assyrian “state” was increasing its power and political hold in the Fertile Crescent. According to a fragmentary passage in the “Epic of Tukultī-Ninurta I,” the Assyrian king plundered Babylonian libraries and brought their contents to Assyria.70 There are a couple of Middle Babylonian scholarly texts among the tablets found at Assur, and those might very well have come to Assur on such an occasion.71 

By looking at all the extraordinarily well-preserved Middle Assyrian manuscripts, one might wonder what happened to the sources, the Vorlagen. It is unlikely that all bilingual texts were transmitted orally. This is confirmed, on the one hand, by the great stability in compositions such as “Ninurta’s Exploits,” but also by internal remarks that imply copying from a physical source. Such remarks might occur within the copy itself.72 Some of the tablets add til or al.til before the colophon, thus indicating that the copy is “complete.” Also, the Sumerogram gaba.ri quite certainly refers to a physical tablet, which was used as a source text for the copyist. It is, however, not always clear whether every scribe copied from such a tablet, or whether sometimes text witnesses also went back to other forms of transmission, such as dictation. The texts themselves are usually not very explicit, but give nevertheless some small clues. The colophon of the aforementioned text witnesses for “Nin-Isina’s Journey to Nippur” refer to the source as being written ana pî ṭuppi šaṭāri, “according to the wording of the written tablet.” Amid the well-preserved corpus of Middle Assyrian copies at our disposal, the sources are gone. Were they sent back? Were the sources first copied onto perishable material or on tablets, which were then recycled? All these questions unfortunately cannot be answered. One can, however, entertain such a possibility and compare the situation in Assyria in the last third of the second millennium BCE with medieval scriptoria, where manuscripts were copied before being returned to their home institutions.73 

The majority of Middle Assyrian scholarly texts discussed in this study was assigned to a possible institutional library with the preliminary designation “Reconstructed Library M 2” by Olof Pedersén. The reconstructed state of this library or manuscript collection is owed to the find conditions at Assur, for the texts assigned to it were found spread over a relatively large area at the site of Assur, more precisely between the Aššur temple precinct and the temple of the gods Anu and Adad.74 This Middle Assyrian collection is often referred to as a royal library supposedly established in the reign of Tiglath-pileser I.75 The studies by Claudio Saporetti and Helmut Freydank about Middle Assyrian eponyms showed that an affiliation of these texts to the reign of Tiglath-pileser I appears to be unlikely.76 Whether the tablets belonging to this reconstructed group were part of an institutional library or part of smaller manuscript collections stored in the houses of various Middle Assyrian officials can no longer be verified.77 Be that as it may, by the Neo-Assyrian period specific tablets were selected and moved to the royal libraries in Nineveh, which were assembled by either Esarhaddon or Ashurbanipal.78 It is, however, rather unclear why certain tablets were chosen and others not. It is therefore rather surprising that either Esarhaddon’s or Ashurbanipal’s officials chose BM 122625+ containing a copy of sections XIII–XVI of “Ninurta’s Exploits”,79 because this copy attests to several deficiencies compared to the tradition of this literary text. The tablet’s scribe Marduk-balāssu-ēreš presumably copied the complete composition onto four large tablets, of which three exemplars survived.80 Another example is a god list published as CT 24, 20–46 written by a certain Kidin-Sîn son of Suti’u. This god list is an exceptional case within the Middle Assyrian evidence because Kidin-Sîn copied the text “according to the wording of an old ‘big tablet’” (rev. vi, 8’: a-na pi-i dub.gal-le libir.ra).81 The same scribe also copied the creation myth KAR 4, which has not been transferred to Nineveh. However, there are copies known of this composition at Kuyunjik. Thus one can entertain the possibility that this composition was copied on clay or wax before being transferred to the capital. 

The Middle Babylonian and Middle Assyrian “library” texts from Assur are often considered to be part of a royal collection established by Tiglath-pileser I.82 But, as was emphasized by Niek Veldhuis recently, the archaeological and textual evidence speaks against assigning this group of texts to the reign of Tiglath-pileser I.83 According to Pedersén, three libraries date to the Middle Assyrian period. Besides the small library in the Old Palace (M 1) and an even smaller collection of a couple of school tablets found near the Ištar temple (M 3), the largest group of Middle Assyrian library texts has been reconstructed by Pedersén due to the “findspots and external appearance of the tablets” (M 2).84 The archaeological context poses many difficulties. It is, for instance, not possible to affiliate the group M 2 with the Aššur temple. As indicated above, it is not entirely certain whether the texts of this group were part of an official collection or belong to several private manuscript collections.85 The many findspots of Middle Assyrian material found together with Neo-Assyrian scholarly texts in the southwest of the Aššur temple seem to indicate that the earlier tablets were incorporated into a later (temple) library (N 1).86 

A brief survey of the manuscript collection M 2 with its affiliations to the later Neo-Assyrian group N 1 shows that it contained a large variety of scholarly texts.87 Apart from the literary texts, the most important part comprises copies of lexical lists. An intriguing group are texts dealing with hippology. For this study, the bilingual sources are of particular interest. 

The Middle Assyrian period offers one of the most pristine sources for the transmission of bilingual texts in Mesopotamia, much of which is owed to the good state of preservation of most of the tablets. Amid the creation of various Assyrian scholarly texts, the prime focus of the Assyrian kings was the south, and it is this period that presents most of the major compositions in a form that is rather reminiscent of the “standardized” editions in the first millennium BCE.88 The elite living and working in Assur or Assyria in this period drew an enormous amount of knowledge from the south, from Babylonia.89 Despite the propagandistic and possibly ahistorical view presented in the Tukulti-Ninurta Epic, most sources of scholarly texts might not have been brought to Assyria as war booty, but might have accompanied scribal families of Babylonian descent who settled in Assyria and brought their manuscript collections with them. 

The most homogenous group of colophons can be found among the aforementioned array of tablets originating from the collection M 2 at Assur with stray finds that had been identified as belonging to the group N 1. Currently (at least) 23 tablets can be assigned to the three sons of the royal scribe Ninurta-uballissu.90 Amid the relative abundance of sources, there is no information available on this family, which goes beyond the names, occupations, and family relations of these scribes. Ninurta-uballissu’s title “royal scribe” suggests that he held a high position within the Middle Assyrian state administration. However, there are no legal or administrative documents known so far that shed any light onto this individual. Such a lack of information regarding this family in everyday documentation is quite intriguing, but might simply be due to the incomplete dataset that is at our disposal. All the information on the individual careers of the royal scribe’s sons is also only known from the colophons of scholarly tablets. Unless all these gaps in our documentation are merely coincidence, these comparatively productive scribes certainly did not share the same destiny as the (Babylonian) scribe Marduk-nādin-ahhē, whose tempus operandi falls into the reign of the fourteenth century king Aššur-uballiṭ. This scribe, whose Babylonian origin is evident,91 moved to Assur probably shortly after the new Marduk temple was inaugurated and built a house ina ṣilli bīt Marduk.92 In contrast to him, the societal backgrounds of our scribes Marduk-balāssu-ēreš, Bēl-aha-iddina, and Sîn-šuma-iddina lie in the shades of time. Judging from the layout of the extant colophons, it seems likely that the last-mentioned scribe learned his skills from a different tutor.93 

The texts selected for this study are by no means numerous. This is due to the fact that observations aim at focusing on bilingual text sources going beyond single word-to-word equivalents. Hence, lexical lists such as Ea or Ura will not feature here.94 Consequently, this survey deals with bilingual literary compositions and those lexical texts that contain phrases and expressions. Among the texts discussed in the subsequent sections are one lexical and four literary texts as well as a text that might be called astronomical or “technical literature.”95 The most important lexical text for this brief survey is certainly the series Ana ittišu which was well known in the Middle Assyrian period. 

Amid the rather problematic connotations of this term, the Middle Assyrian texts discussed below can be considered, in general, “canonical” compositions in the sense that their contents can sufficiently be compared to later first-millennium BCE successors in terms of lexicon, grammar, and sequence of entries or lines.96 In this study, this term is used in quite a superficial sense; it ought not to be taken literally. In Mesopotamia, this term was frequently used for compositions, which were standardized to a high degree within the stream of tradition. This process of standardizing a composition does not necessarily imply any rigid copying of texts sign by sign. This terminology is usually applied to witnesses of compositions, which preserve the same wording. Variants are frequently attested and a relative flux in the textual integrity may be quite evident.97 The grammatical analysis of the Sumerian language in this late stage of its transmission cannot limit itself to the dataset provided by lexical texts alone. They usually—Ana ittišu is an exception—provide not enough context for a given lexeme. Hence, bilingual narrative compositions offer crucial insights into both the use and the understanding of Sumerian grammar. One of the most important sources for such an analysis is the long composition “Ninurta’s Exploits,” also known by its incipit as Lugal-e. This literary text offers the opportunity to trace the modifications in the text from the first half of the second until the second half of the first millennia BCE. Several text witnesses dating to the Middle Assyrian period are known from finds at Assur and Nineveh. Also the much shorter composition “Ninurta’s Return to Nippur” is preserved through manuscripts from these two places. It should be noted that the text witnesses from Nineveh were moved there from Assur in the Neo-Assyrian period. An intriguing case represents the account on the divine journey of the goddess Nin-Isina to Nippur. We have here a hardly known composition, which by chance entered the scribal repertoire of two Middle Assyrian scribes. All these three compositions show some relation to the topic of Sumerian divine journeys. Whether this is a coincidence or the texts were chosen on purpose, can no longer be verified due to the gaps in the documentation. Due to the shattered archaeological context the texts were found in, the question of either private or institutional libraries arises. According to Dominique Charpin, the term “library” is frequently used inadequately, since the contents of libraries are categorised and scholarly works usually derive from purpose-driven collecting. In constrast to libraries are archives, which contain the written sources pertaining to either an individual, a group of people or an institution.98 Charpin states that the intentional firing of a tablet in ancient times can be a criterion for a library, although this feature is not ultimate proof of its existence.99 For the Middle Assyrian texts, which will be studied in the subsequent sections, the term manuscript collections is preferred.100 

There are many further texts that might awaken our curiosity and be worth studying in much greater detail. In order to keep this study within reasonable limits, only a small selection of examples has been chosen. 

8.3.1 The Lexical Series Ana ittišu

The lexical series usually referred to by its Akkadian incipit Ana ittišu (henceforth Ai) or, less frequently, by its Sumerian equivalent ki-ulutin-bi-še3101 is unusual compared to other members of this genre. The composition has more in common with grammatical texts, since many passages resemble paradigmatic features.102 The composition was edited by Benno Landsberger in the first volume of the Materialien zum Sumerischen Lexikon (abbrev. MSL). Landsberger only included the later sources from Assyria and was not aware of any earlier versions, such as the forerunners from Nippur dating to the Old Babylonian period (so-called Proto-Ai).103 The Middle Assyrian scribes possibly imported the complete series from Babylonia. The colophons on VAT 9552 (= Ai III) and VAT 8875 (= Ai VI) refer to sources from Nippur. So far no traces of this list can be found among the Kassite or Middle Babylonian lexical tradition.104 

The Middle Assyrian text witnesses are extraordinary because of their excellent state of preservation compared to many of the later sources and can therefore be considered one of the major sources for the reconstruction of this lexical series. The subsequent discussion is based on the following two manuscripts in particular:105 

1VAT 9552 is the upper half of a copy of Ai III (ur4 : hamāmu) written by Bēl-aha-iddina of the Ninurta-uballissu family.106 

2VAT 8875 is an almost completely preserved text witness of Ai VI (sib2-ta : elātu). The tablet was written by Marduk-balāssu-ēreš and checked by his brother, the aforementioned Bēl-aha-iddina.107 

It is rather probable that the Middle Assyrian scribes of Assur imported the whole series of Ana ittišu.108 Unfortunately, the colophon does not mention any scribe’s name. All other text witnesses containing copies of Ai originate from the context of the sons of the royal scribe Ninurta-uballissu. 

A full discussion of grammatical features between the Sumerian and the Akkadian versions is not attempted here. The subsequent paragraphs only contain a few glimpses. 

Example 1: Ai III (VAT 9552) obv. i, 10

buru14109 nu-ub-da-me-a

: : la-a-am e-bu-ri

This example contains one of the rare attestations for a Sumerian equivalent to the Akkadian preposition lāma, “before.” Later grammatical texts such as NBGT I, 423 offer the entry nu-da : la-ma.110 A morphologically rather close parallel can be found in NBGT IV, 19: nu-ub-dam : la-ma.111 The sample taken from the grammatical text, however, conceals the presence of the verbal base me, “to be,” as is clearly shown by the line in Ai. Example 2 deals with a very similar verbal chain. 

Example 2: Ai III (VAT 9552) obv. i, 11

buru14 nu-ub-da-g̃enkin-a

: : min(la-a-am e-bu-ri) il-˹la˺-kam2

In this instance, the preposition lāma is not attested in its usual prepositional use (e.g., lām ebūri; Ai III obv. i, 10), but as the conjunction “before.” Thanks to the pronunciation gloss kin, the Sumerian version clearly uses a hamṭu base. Examples 1 and 2 show that the prefix chain nu-ub-da-° alone renders the Akkadian conjunction lāma. 

Example 3: Ai III (VAT 9552) obv. i, 22

[ur3-r]a-˹ta˺ ka ba-ab-še3

: : iš-tu u2-ri ana112 ˹pi ap˺-ti

This entry on the Middle Assyrian tablet might contain an orthographic error. Against the usual equivalent ab for the Akkadian word aptu, “window,” this copy of Ai reads ba-ab. Since the genitive is not marked, the Sumerian version should be understood as ka-ab:ba-še3 instead. It is noteworthy that Bēl-aha-iddina uses the same spelling in the subsequent entry: [ur3-ra-t]a igi ba-ab-še3 : ki.min a-na pa-ni ˹ap-ti˺. One might even entertain the possibility that the scribe confused Akkadian aptu with the close semantic term bābu, “door,” and transposed the latter onto the Sumerian version. 

Example 4a: Ai III (VAT 9552) obv. ii, 38–39 // Ai VI (VAT 8875) obv. i, 26–29

a2-tuku a-na i3-g̃al2-la113 / teš2-a se3-ga-bi in-ba-eš

: : min(ni-me-lu) ma-la ib-ba-šu-u2 / mit-ha-riš i-zu-zu

a2-˹tuku a˺-na i3-g̃a2-g̃a2-a / igi-dutu-še3 / teš2-a se3-ga-bi / in-ba-e-ne

: : ni-me-la ma-la ib-ba-aš2-šu-u2 / i+na ma-har dutu / mi-it-ha-ri-iš / i-zu-uz-zu114

Example 4b: Ai III (VAT 9552), obv. ii, 40–41 // Ai VI (VAT 8875) obv. i, 30–33

˹a2˺-tuku a-na i3-g̃al2-la / [te]š2-a se3-ga-bi in-ba-e-ne

: : eš5(ni-me-lu) ma-la ib-ba-šu-u2 / mit-ha-riš i-zu-zu

a2-tuku a-na i3-g̃al2-la / igi-dutu-ka / teš2-a se3-ga-bi / in-ba-eš

: : ni-me-la ma-la i-ba-šu-u2 / i+na ma-har dutu / mi-it-ha-ri-iš / i-zu-zu.

The respective Akkadian versions do not differentiate the Sumerian verbal chains in terms of aspect. Both hamṭu in-ba-eš and marû in-ba-e-ne are rendered i-zu-zu. Whereas the former should be analyzed izūzū, the last-mentioned should be a present form izuzzū. As quoted above Ai VI contains a parallel to these entries with a couple of variants. Whereas Ai III renders Sumerian i3-g̃al2-la in both entries as ibbašû, Ai VI differentiates between ibbaššû for i3-g̃a2-g̃a2-a and i-ba-šu-u2 for i3-g̃al2-la. Noteworthy is also the inconsistency between igi-dutu-še3 and igi-dutu-ka, which are both rendered ina mahar Šamaš. 

More interesting is the Sumerian equivalent to the Akkadian adverb mithāriš, “each one.” All instances of Ai attest to the form teš2-a se3-ga-bi.115 Line 490 of “Ninurta’s Exploits” has the form teš2-a-ra-ke4.116 This form appears to be rather close to teš2-ba ri-a-g̃a2 in the Old Babylonian text. Another bilingual source dating to the Neo-Assyrian period (ms. j1) renders teš2-a si-ga for mithāriš instead. The Sumerian form is already attested in the Middle Assyrian period within the tradition of Ai.117 The form teš2-a si-ga clearly goes back to Old Babylonian teš2-a se3-ga as attested in royal inscriptions.118 

Example 5: Ai III (VAT 9552) obv. ii, 5–7

ku3-im-ba : bu-tuq-quu2˺
ku3-im-ba ag-a : ba-ta-˹qu˺
ku3-im-ba ba-an-ag : ib-ta-ta-˹aq˺

The third tablet of Ai provides two Akkadian equivalents for the Sumerian expression ku3-im-ba: (1) butuqqû, and the loanword (2) ibissû (< i-bi2-za), “deficiency, loss.”119 

It is noteworthy to look on the greater context of these lines in Ai III and compare the overall sequence of entries with other text genres. The Sumerian literary composition Inana C incorporates some of these terms in line 123: 

Ai III, ku3-dun (ii, 2) \rightarrow ku3 a2-tuku (ii:4) \rightarrow ku3-im-ba (ii, 5. 22) \rightarrow i-bi2-za (ii, 23)
Inana C, 123 ku3-dun ku3 a2-tuku i-bi2-za ku3-im-ba dinana za-a-kam
Ms. Oa (Tell Ḥarmal) [ta]-ak-ši-tum ne-me-lum i-bi-su-u2 / bi-ti-iq-tum ku-ma eštar
Business, great winning, financial loss, deficit are yours, Inana.i

8.1  iSee Sjöberg (1975, 190–191).  

It is extraordinary that the literary text, which was rather popular in the Old Babylonian period and survived through many copies, presents these terms widely in the same sequence. Precursors of the list Ai were already known in Nippur in the first half of the second millennium. 

The tablet’s scribe Bēl-aha-iddina used some peculiar sign forms on his copy of Ai III, such as KU3 (; VAT 9552 obv. ii, 20). It appears that the same sign form occurs in this scribe’s copy of “Nin-Isina’s Journey to Nippur” (VAT 9308 [text B] obv. 25).120 

Example 6: Ai VI (VAT 8875) obv. ii, 18–25

inim g̃a2-g̃a2 : ba-qa-ru
inim g̃a2-g̃a2 : ra-ga-mu
inim-ma in-g̃a2-g̃a2 : ib-ta-qar
inim-ma in-g̃a2-g̃a2 : ir-ta-gum2
inim-ma in-g̃a2-g̃a2-a : a-na ba-qa-ri3
inim-ma in-g̃a2-g̃a2-a : a-na ra-ga-me
inim-ma nu-un-g̃a2-g̃a2-a : a-na la-a ba-qa-ri3
inim-ma nu-un-g̃a2-g̃a2-a : a-na la-a ra-ga-me

Similar to grammatical lists, this lexical series includes a couple of paradigms as well. In this example, each Sumerian entry is duplicated and translated with a form of either the verb baqāru or ragāmu. In the first pair of entries, the Sumerian form inim g̃a2-g̃a2, which appears to contain a reduplicated form of the verb g̃ar, is rendered by the Akkadian infinitives. In the remaining entries, the Sumerian word inim is followed by a locative postposition. The second group renders the finite verbal form either as a I/2 stem preterite or a I stem perfect. The sequence is progressing afterwards. The third group adds a nominalising morpheme °-a and the last group negates the finite verbal chain. Instead of *ša (lā) ibtaqru or *ša (lā) irtagmu, these lines render the Sumerian expressions as infinitive constructions. 

Example 7: Ai VI (VAT 8875) obv. ii, 33–34

eg̃ir-ra-ni in-gug4-e : ki.min(arkassu)u2-pa-ra-as
eg̃ir-ra-ni nu(-)in-gug4-e : ki.min ul u2-pa-ra-as

In this example the negative morpheme *nu- is added paradigmatically without influencing the subsequent syllable. This phenomenon is not completely unknown. The second tablet of Ura contains many Sumerian verbal forms. Entry 70 contains the form in-na-an-sum followed by nu-in-na-an-sum in the subsequent entry.121 Whether or not this particular orthography is influenced by the separate negative particle in the Akkadian equivalents remains uncertain. Examples such as Ai VI (VAT 8875) obv. i, 47—gugu3 li-bi2-in-sum : ul iš-ru-ur—show that the phonetic adaptation of the negative modal prefixe in the Sumerian verbal chain was known.122 

Example 8: Ai VI (VAT 8875) obv. iv, 23–27

tabtab2-e-da bi2-in-e-eš : ṣa-ra-pa iq-bu-u2
ur5 in-nu-bi / in-na-an-eš : la-ka-šu / iq-bu-u2
na4kišib-a-ni ib2-ta-an-ze2-er / bi2-in-e-eš : ka-nik-šu pu-su-sa / iq-bu-u2

In this example, the Sumerian version contains the plural base of the verb du11, which renders, as expected, the Akkadian verbal form iqbû, “they said.” Nonetheless, the different orthographies bi2-in-e-eš and in-na-an-eš are noteworthy. The latter can be compared to in-na-an-ne-eš attested in lines 275 and 278 of “Inana’s Descent”123 as well as in lines 241 and 243 of the “Nippur Lament.”124 

8.3.2 “Nin-Isina’s Journey to Nippur” (abbrev. NJN)

According to the colophon on the Middle Assyrian copy VAT 9304, this composition had 49 lines of text.125 This short šir3-nam-šub was already known through a small fragment dating to the Old Babylonian period. An almost perfectly preserved manuscript of the Sumerian text also dating to the Old Babylonian period in a London private collection has now been published.126 The only information so far about the subsequent history of this composition comes from the aforementioned colophons on the two parallel Middle Assyrian text witnesses, which were written by the two brothers Marduk-balāssu-ēreš and Bēl-aha-iddina. Both brothers also checked each other’s copy (igi.kar2). These colophons are comparatively precise as to the source’s provenience, which is stated to originate in a tablet in the possession of a certain Iqīša-Ninkarrak.127 The few observations that follow are based on a composite text derived from both Middle Assyrian manuscripts. 

Example 9: NJN, line 3

e2-ta hul2-la-ni nam-ta-e3 u4-g̃a2-nun-na-g[in7]

: : iš-tu e2 la-li-ša i+na ku-um-mi-ša it-ta-ṣa-a

The syntax in both the Sumerian and Akkadian versions differs quite significantly. Whereas in the Sumerian text the “joy of the goddess” comes forth of the temple, it is the goddess herself who leaves the “house of her joy” in the Akkadian interlinear translation. The Akkadian form la-li-ša cannot be used as subject here. Hence, the translation renders Sumerian *e2-hul2-la-ni-ta.128 Another irregularity in this line is the verbal form nam-ta-e3 with its rendering ittaṣâ in the Akkadian version. Here, it is appropriate to have a comparative look at a couple of further examples of na-preformatives in the respective text corpus: 

Lugal-e 379 na-ba-nig̃in : la-a u2-sa-hi-ra-ma
491 nam-ba-ra-be2 : e ta-na-še-er
567 na-ab-tar-[re] : ia ip-pa-r[is]
568 nam-[DI] : a-a iq-qa-[bi]
Angim 68 nam-mi-in-[us2] : i-rad-[di-šu]

This line allows a comparison to Gudea Cyl. A viii, 1: gu3-de2-a eš3 e2-ninnu-ta zalag-ga nam-ta-e3, “indeed Gudea came out again from the shrine Eninnu with a radiant face.”129 The Akkadian rendering ittaṣâ is to be understood as separative I/2 stem, although one rather expects *luttaṣâ, “she indeed came out.” The Akkadian directional phrase ina kummiša, “in/from her cella,” renders Sumerian u4-g̃a2-nun-na-gin7, “like day(light) of the/her cella.” 

Example 10: NJN, line 5

sila-dag̃al-uru-na-ke4 mi-ni-in-dib-be2 uru-ne2 mu-un-da-sa2

: : re-bit uru-ša a-na ba-’-i uru-ša i-ša-an-na-an

The translation of this line (possibly dating to the Middle Babylonian period) renders the Sumerian finite verbal chains quite differently. While the first one corresponds to an infinitive construction (ana bâ’i), the second one is given as durative (išannan). In contrast to lexical (word-to-word) attestations, this different treatment is due to the fact that the verbal forms appear in a context.130 Finite verbal chains of the Sumerian verb dib, “to pass, to walk along,” often contain a dimensional locative or directive infix. In Akkadian, however, the verb bâ’u is transitive.131 The verb dib occurs also on VAT 8884132 rev. 8–9: ˹e2˺-šu-me-ša4 pa-e3 dib-dib-be2-ke4 : ana e2.šu.me.ša4 šu-pi-iš i+na ba-’-ka.133 

Example 11: NJN, line 6

g̃idlam-a-ni ur-sag̃ dpa-bil2-sag̃ hi-li-a mu-un-du

: : hi-rat qar-ra-di dpa.bil2.sag i+na ri-ša-ti il-lak

This line is part of a lengthy description of a divine procession of the goddess Nin-Isina to the quay in Isin. While g̃idlam-a-ni, “his/her spouse,” clearly refers to the goddess’ spouse Pabilsag̃, the Akkadian translation misinterprets this detail by providing the genitive construction hīrat qarrādi, the “warrior’s wife.” Thus, according to the Akkadian, the goddess herself is still subject. In this context, however, we expect her spouse to be part of the procession. 

8.3.3 “Ninurta’s Exploits” (lugal-e ud-me-lam2-bi nir-g̃al2; Lugal-e)

The composition nowadays referred to as Lugal-e is one of the most frequently copied texts in the Old Babylonian period. Far more than a hundred manuscripts are known for this period alone.134 Manuscripts were found among the school tablets in “House F” at Nippur. In the Old Babylonian period, the texts or parts of it belonged to the curriculum of apprentice scribes. “Ninurta’s Exploits” is among fourteen literary texts that were copied by advanced scribes.135 The attestation of “Ninurta’s Exploits” for the early second millennium is comparable to the Standard Babylonian “Gilgamesh Epic” in the first millennium BCE. 

In his edition, Jan Dijk discussed the various tablet types through which the composition is preserved. The Old Babylonian period attests to a few Type I tablets, which contained the whole text of approximately 730 lines in twelve columns. Most text witness, however, encompass much shorter sections, either half or a quarter, or even a sixteenth.136 

Whereas all Old Babylonian sources of this composition were only transmitted in Sumerian, it can be assumed that the Akkadian translation goes back to the Middle Babylonian period, although secure bilingual text witnesses dating to this period are missing so far.137 

The Middle Assyrian period offers the best evidence for the bilingual text before the first millennium BCE. By this time, the composition was divided into sixteen sections, which go back to the Old Babylonian format of the im.gid2da-tablets. The extant colophons locate the sources in Nippur. It is quite certain that the Middle Assyrian apprentice scribe Marduk-balāssu-ēreš of the Ninurta-uballissu family produced a copy of the whole composition, which was inscribed onto four large tablets. He wrote the well-preserved four-column tablet VAT 9710,138 with sections IX–XII. He was also responsible for BM 122625+139 containing sections XIII–XVI. This copy was selected and transferred to Nineveh in the Neo-Assyrian period. Last but not least VAT 9306140 is a fragment of a four-column tablet comparable to the aforementioned two texts. Due to its paleography and the placement of sub-colophons between the sections, it is beyond any doubt that this fragment with sections I–IV was written by the same scribe as well. 

The list above represents extraordinary sources for the composition “Ninurta’s Exploits.” It is not certain whether its scribe Marduk-balāssu-ēreš decided himself to combine four sections on each tablet or whether this arrangement was already present on his source. Be that as it may, the Middle Assyrian texts from Assur also attest to several tablets, which only contain one section of the text. 

1VAT 10565141 is the damaged upper half of a one-column tablet, which contains the third section of “Ninurta’s Exploits.”142 Its colophon is comparable to the one on VAT 9441 + VAT 10648 + VAT 11216, an extract tablet of “Ninurta’s Return to Nippur.” Unfortunately, this type of colophon does not contain any information on the responsible scribe.143 

2VAT 10628144 is the badly damaged lower part of a possibly one-column tablet.145 The preserved lines can be assigned to section XII. 

3VAT 10643146 is just a small fragment. It probably contains the same recension as BM 122625+147 cited above, because it also inserts lines 524–530 between 568 and 569. This could either mean that Marduk-balāssu-ēreš did not intentionally forget the respective lines on KAR 14, but that this discrepancy was already present already in the source he used, or BM 122625+ used VAT 10643 as its source or vice versa. Based on the distribution of text on obverse and reverse, the fragment should have contained just sections XII and XIII. It could be argued whether Bēl-aha-iddina wrote VAT 10643. If so, this case is comparable to “Nin-Isina’s Journey to Nippur.”148 

In his study, Stefano Seminara thoroughly discussed the bilingual version of “Ninurta’s Exploits.” Therefore, I will only highlight specific peculiarities that occur in the Middle Assyrian text witnesses. 

Example 12: Lugal-e, line 97 (tablet III) (VAT 10565 obv. 15–16)

OB lu2-im2-ma-bi kur-ra/re im-ra uru(ki)-bi/ba bu-du/tu-ug im-za
MA [lu2-i]m2-ma-bi kur-ra ˹im˺-[r]a-ah uru-bi bu-[u]g-tu ˹za˺
: [la-si-m]u-šu ina kur-i ˹i-du˺-uk-ma˹uru˺-šu ˹u2-nap*?˺-[pil(?)]

The Akkadian verb rendering the Sumerian compound bu-ug-tu—za, “to destroy, to kill,” is badly damaged.149 Dijk150 reads u2-[a]b-[bit(?)]. Based on the sign remains the identification of the sign ab is rather questionable. CAD L, 106 s.v. lāsimu favors a reading u2-ṣa[b-bit]. The sign form erin2 appears to be much closer to what is still visible on the tablet. However, there is also a third possibility: nab. The lexical text Nabnītu E (= VII = VAT 8755)151 reads on rev. i, 44 bu-du-ug : 6(diš) ša mim3-ma in a section starting with patāqu. In contrast to the manuscript of “Ninurta’s Exploits,” the lexical text preserves the older form bu-du-ug instead of bu-ug-tu. Interpreting the sign remains as nab may lead to a potential verbal form unappil, which derives from the verb napālu, “to tear down, to demolish,” and in stem II, “to turn upside down.” 

Example 13: Lugal-e, line 378 (tablet IX) (VAT 9710 obv. i, 7–9)

OB mu-ud-(da-)na in-ši-tu-ud ba-an-uš2/uš hur nu-mu-da-(ab/an-)g̃ar-ra
MA mu-ud-na mu-ši-tu-ud ba-an-ta hur nu-mu-da-an-g̃ar-re-eši
: ša a-na ha-i-ri-ia ul-du-šu u2-rab-bu-šu u2-ri la-a iš-šak-na-ma
NA mu-ud-na mu-ši-e-tu-ud [b]a-an-tu-ud! hu-ur nu-mu-da-[a]n-nen-g̃a2-g̃a2
: a-na ha-‘-i-ri-ia ul-du-šu2 u2-rab-bu-šu2 hu-ru la iš-šak-nam-ma

8.2  iThe construction hur + negation was discussed in Cavigneaux and Al-Rawi (2000, 37), where the authors refer to the first lines of the Sumerian composition “Bilgames’ Death” based on manuscript M1 from Me-Turan (hur nu-mu-un-da-an-zi-zi: “A cause du calque (?) akk., nous transcrivons dans ce cas hur; pour l’hésitation entre ur5 et mur [...]. L’akk. hur(ru), s’ils’agit d’un dérivé de √’hr ‘être en arrière’ (dans d’autres langues sémitiques des dérivés de cette racine portent aussi le sans ‘autre’) donne à penser que l’étymologie du mot est sémitique” (Cavigneaux and Al-Rawi 2000, 37, note 73). The reading of this lemma must be deduced from the Neo-Assyrian version: hu-ur. See also Falkenstein (1938, 19–20 s.v. line 7).  

The greatest discrepancy between the various manuscripts is the verbal form ba-an-ta.152 The Akkadian version has urabbûšu, for which the Neo-Assyrian manuscript e1 provides the expected verbal base tu-ud. The extant Old Babylonian text witnesses have either til (ms. O1) or us2 (mss. L4 and X4), which should be interpreted as phonetic variants (based on the readings uš2 and uš). The Middle Assyrian base, however, defies any suitable explanation.153 

Example 14: Lugal-e, line 380 (tablet IX) (VAT 9710 obv. i, 12–3)

OB šul-zi munus-zi-da/de3 ba-an-du11
MA šul-zi nu-nus-zi-de3 ba-an-tu-ud
: eṭ-lu ki-nu ša sin-niš-tu kit-tu ul-du-šu
NA šul-zi munus-zi-da ba-an-tu-ud
: eṭ-lu4 ki-i-nu ša sin-niš-tu4 kit-tu4 ul-du-šu2

The Middle Assyrian text is the only text witness that provides the spelling nu-nus for munus, “woman.”154 The Old Babylonian as well as first millennium sources read munus instead.155 Another noteworthy variation is the verbal base tu-ud in post-Old Babylonian manuscripts. All extant text witnesses from the first half of the second millennium read du11 instead. The co-occurrence of the verbal bases tu-ud and du11 is attested in the “Tale about the šumunda-Grass” as well. Lines 10–13 contain the following parallelismus membrorum: an in-du11 {x} ki in-tu-ud / u2.du6&du6.še.sar in-ga-an-tu-u[d] / ki in-tu-ud an in-du11 / u2.du6&du6.še.sar in-ga-an-tu-u[d].156 

Example 15: Lugal-e, line 383 (tablet IX) (VAT 9710 obv. i, 18–9)

OB ga-ša-an-g̃en dili-mu-ne ga-an-ši-g̃en en-(da-)gi16-sa-še3
MA [ga]šan g̃a2-e dili-ša4.ab da-ši-in-g̃en en-da-gi16-sa-a-še3
: [be]-le2-ku e-diš-ši-ia lu-ul-lik a-na be-li2 da-ri-i
NAi umun-g̃en dili-mu-ne da-an-ši-g̃en en-da-gi16-s[a...]
: be-le2-ku e-diš-ši-ia lul-lik-šu2 a-na be-li2 da-[...]

8.3  iThe composite transliteration derived from manuscripts e1 and a2; see Dijk (1983, II, 110).  

The first millennium version appears to be closer again to the Old Babylonian text than to the Middle Assyrian recension. While both the text of the early second millennium as well as the late recension use the Emesal form of the enclitic copula °-g̃en as in ga-ša-an-g̃en, “I am the lady,”157 the Middle Assyrian text contains the independent pronoun g̃a2-e. In light of the Akkadian stative bēlēku, a copula would be more suitable.158 It is not unlikely that the interpreter had issues with the spelling °-g̃en for the Emesal enclitic copula of the first and second persons.159 While the use of the independent personal pronoun in place of the commonly used enclitic copula is surprising, but not inexplicable, the subsequent form dili-ša4.ab is difficult to interpret in light of the other versions. Both the Old Babylonian and Neo-Assyrian texts read dili-mu-ne instead, which fits quite well with the Akkadian equivalent ēdiššīya, “I alone,” offered by the Middle Assyrian recension onwards. Although a satisfactory solution of this form might escape us, one can pinpoint lines 3 and 5 in “Bilgames’ Death” according to manuscript M1: ša3-aš-ša4.160 Also the bilingual letter from Mari published by Dominique Charpin reads in obv., 22: [lugal (ša3) aš-š]a4 [...], whose Akkadian offers a-na lugal gi-it-ma-lim [...].161 The Akkadian adjective gitmālum is known as gloss and thus equivalent to aš-ša4 in Proto-Izi I, 174. There it is preceded by dili-ni accompanied by the gloss we-di-iš-ši-šu.162 The lexical series Izi was copied by the Middle Assyrian scribes and even by a member of the Ninurta-uballissu family.163 The close proximity of these two lexemes in a lexical text already known from the Old Babylonian period onwards might be no coincidence for the problematic form attested in the Middle Assyrian text. This, however, does not solve the sign ab. BM 122625+164 obv. ii, 40–41 equates dili-a with e-diš-ši-šu.165 Ana ittišu should also not be unmentioned in this respect. Its sixth tablet (VAT 8875) equates dili-ni-ni with i-di-iš-ši-šu.166 

Finally, da-gi16-sa deserves a brief discussion. This form is already attested in the Old Babylonian manuscript L4 and represents most likely a hybrid spelling.167 It is a mixture of da-ri2 derived from Akkadian dārû, and gi16-sa, the Sumerian term for “eternal.”168 

Example 16: Lugal-e, line 419 (tablet X) (VAT 9710 obv. ii, 3–4)

OB [n]a4u2 kur-ra ma-an-zi-ge-en-na-gin7
MA na4u2 kur-ra ba-an-zi-ga-[en-na-gin7]
: šam-mu i-na kur-i ki-i te-e[t-bi-a?-am]

Frequently, Sumerian verbal chains attested in later periods contain a hiatus as, for instance, in the given example between ga and en.169 A similar phenomenon occurs in line 4 of the creation myth KAR 4: [...] mu-un-gi-na-eš-a-ba or in Ai VI rev. ii, 33–34, which reads na4-kišib mu-sar-ra-ne-ne ib2-ra-ra-eš. Stefano Seminara correctly points out that “[q]ueste grafie denunciano la natura artificiale della lingua sumerica della recensione bilingue” and “presenta un’insolita grafia franta, forse esito di un eccesso di scrittura analitica”.170 

Example 17: Lugal-e, line 420 (tablet X) (VAT 9710 obv. ii, 5–6)

OB šu-se3-ke-mu-še3 mu-e-dab5/gib-ba-gin7
MA šu-siki-mu-še3 mu-e-dib-ba-[gin7]
: a-na ka-mi-ia ki-i tak-mi-[in-ni]

The Sumerian expression šu-siki-mu-še3 is only clear by checking the Old Babylonian text witnesses, which have šu-se3-ke-mu-še3 instead.171 Thus šu-siki, “hairy hand,” is certainly a phonetic variant. Whether such a variant was caused by either a memory error or by dictation is difficult to answer.172 The Middle Assyrian recension of “Ninurta’s Exploits” does not offer an abundance of such phonetic variants, but the rather technical text of the “Astrolabe” B does offer quite a few.173 

Example 18: Lugal-e, line 424 (tablet X) (VAT 9710 obv. ii, 13–14)

OB ug2-gal / pirig̃-banda? usu-bi-ta nir-g̃al2-la-am3 he2-me-zi-ir-zi-re-de3 / he2-me-ze2-er-ze2-re-de3
MA u4-gal a2-kal-ga-bi-še3 nir-g̃al2-e he2-en-zi-re-de3
: u4-mu gal-u2 ša a-na e-mu-qi2-šu dan-na-ti tak-lu li-pa-sis-ka

As was pointed out by Seminara, there is a lexical variation between ug2-gal (O1) or pirig̃-banda (S1) in the Old Babylonian period and u4-gal in the Middle Assyrian text.174 The Akkadian interpreter understood u4-gal literally and rendered it ūmu rabû, “the great storm.” The same phenomenon occurs in the subsequent expression a2-kal-ga-bi-še3, which re-interprets the Old Babylonian form usu(a2.kal)-bi-ta. This does not mean that the elements of the sign group a2.kal are always treated individually in the Akkadian translation. Already in the subsequent line usu is rendered with Akkadian emūqu. Splitting Diri compounds into their elements and interpreting them is not uncommon in cuneiform sources. It is a particular feature of late commentaries and can be compared to the hermeneutic method of etymography.175 

Example 19: Lugal-e, line 506 (tablet XI) (VAT 9710 rev. i, 33’)

OB mar-za-dutu me-zu he2-a
MA g̃arza-dutu g̃arza he-a
: pa-ra-aṣ dutu lu par2-ṣu-ka
NA g̃arza-dutu g̃arza he2-a
: pa-ra-aṣ dutu lu-u par2-ṣu-ka

The Old Babylonian text differentiates in all available manuscripts between the Emesal form mar-za, “rites,” and me-zu, “your me (cult ordinances).” Both concepts are merged together in all later recensions of this line. Instead of the Emesal form, both occurrences use g̃arza. It is quite likely that in the second instance g̃arza can be considered a phonetic misinterpretation of me-zu, since the signs me and bar are paleographically quite similar.176 This discrepancy is indicated by the Akkadian equivalent lū parṣūka, “they may be your rites,” which is not substantiated by the Sumerian version. 

Example 20: Lugal-e, line 541 (tablet XII) (VAT 10628 obv. 2–3)

OB pu-uh2-ru-um-ma šagina mu-e-ni-g̃ar-ra-gin7i
MA [x x]xii -ma ˹gu2* mi*?-ni*-ib2*˺-[g̃ar(?)-ra(?)-gin7(?)]iii
: [ki-m]aiv ša ina pu-˹uh-ri tak2˺-nu-[šu(?) ...]

8.4  i Ms. H2 has šagina-me-en instead and reads afterwards gu3-g̃ar-ra-gin7; for the score, see Dijk (1983, II, 147).iiAccording to van Dijk (1983, II, 147), there are remains of the sign bu at the beginning of the line. However, there is not enough space for p[u-uh2-ru-u]m-ma. Even for a shorter spelling (compare the Old Babylonian pu-uh-ru2 in ms. H2) space is limited. The lexical list Proto-Izi II, 142 has me-lam2 with the gloss pu-uh2-ru; see Civil et al. (1971, 45). The available space in VAT 10628 would be enough for [me-la]m2-ma, but this is not a common equivalent of Akkadian puhru. Compare for this sign sequence, though in another context, also the hymn Šulgi D, line 388: ni2 me-lam2-ma gu2 hu-mu-ni-us2, “May you lift (your) head with a terrifying splendour” Klein (1981, 88–89).iii There doesn’t appear to be enough space to fit a second person °-g̃ar-re-en-na-gin7 as expected by the Akkadian translation.iv See for this reconstruction the Neo-Assyrian manuscript z1 and compare lines 419–422 of “Ninurta’s Exploits”; see the score in van Dijk (1983, II, 119–120). Line 422 equates im-hu-luh-ha-en-na-gin7 with ki-i tu-gal-li-ta-ni.  

The Middle Assyrian version (collated from the original) offers a couple of variants. The title šagina(gir3.nita) appears to be missing. Instead, it is plausible to assume that the Sumerian line attests to the compound verb gu2—g̃ar, “to submit.”177 Thus a reconstruction of the Akkadian verb kanāšu, “to submit,” a known equivalent of the aforementioned compound verb,178 appears to be suitable. 

Example 21: Lugal-e, line 545 (tablet XII) (VAT 10628 rev. 1–2)

OB kur-kur-re/ra giri17 ki-šu2-šu2-zui giri17 šu ha-ra-ab-tag-ge
MA kur-kur-ra ki-[a]g̃2 su-up-pa-ni giri17 šu ha-ra-˹ab*˺-tag-ge
: kur.kurmeš ina šu-ke-ni ap-pa li-il-[b]i-na-ku-x-[...]

8.5  i This part of the line differs in every single manuscript. The quoted version is attested in manuscript H2. J2 has ki-šu2-[u]b-e, which is more revealing in light of the Middle Assyrian text; A4 has ki-šu2-šu2-da.  

Unfortunately, the only sufficiently preserved later version does not provide any clues toward an understanding of the modifications that took place in the late second millennium BCE.179 Line 161 of “Ninurta’s Return to Nippur” is similar in content but does not show significant variation between its Old Babylonian and Middle Assyrian recensions.180 In this line, the verbal compound giri17 ki-su-ub ha-ma-ab-ak-ke4-e-ne is translated as liš-ki-nu-u2-ni, “they may prostrate themselves,” in its Akkadian version. The quoted line from “Ninurta’s Exploits” uses the Akkadian verb šukênu as well, but deviates greatly in the Sumerian line. The enigmatic ki-ag̃2 (badly damaged but visible) appears to have somehow slipped into this line. It is noteworthy as well that the scribe wrote su-up-pa-ni instead of su-ub-ba-ni. 

Example 22: Lugal-e, line 675 (tablet XV) (BM 122625+ rev. i, 6’-7’)

OB en-ra ma2-sagx(iti.gunû)-a mu-un-na-b[e2-ne?]
MA ˹en-e ma2-sag̃-g̃a2˺ mu-un-˹na˺-ni-ib2-e3-n[e?*]
: ˹en i+na mah-rat˺ gešma2 i-ta-mu-u2

Based on the verbal base e3 in the Middle Assyrian recension, the Akkadian should have some form of the verb (w)aṣû, “to come out (etc.).” The interpreter, however, translates the Sumerian verbal form with itammû, “they utter.”181 The use of this particular verbal base might have been caused by the preceding line, which renders he2-en-na-˹e3˺ with Akkadian liš-ta-p[i-šu(?)]. There, the verbal base fits the context. 

Example 23: Lugal-e, line 724 (tablet XVI) (BM 122625+ rev. ii, 13’-4’)

OB [nin-s]ag̃-gi6-ga en3-tar-tar ug̃3-e inim si-sa2
MA nin-sag̃-gi6-ga en3-tar-tar-re ug̃3-e si ba-ab-si
: ˹be˺-let ṣal-mat sag.du muš-tal-tu muš-te-ši-rat kurmeš

In this final example, the unusual spelling si—si for the compound verb si—sa2 should be highlighted. Although this phenomenon has been discussed elsewhere,182 it should be emphasized here again that the same spelling occurs in another text copied by the same scribe. This text, “Nin-Isina’s Journey to Nippur,” renders si mi-ni-ib2-si with the Akkadian verbal form uš-te-šir3. 

8.3.4 “Ninurta’s Return to Nippur” (an-gin7 dim2-ma; Angim)

The composition known as “Ninurta’s Return to Nippur” was the second major Sumerian literary text about the deeds of the warrior god. Unfortunately its state of preservation in the Middle Assyrian period is poor compared to “Ninurta’s Exploits.” So far, it is available through three text witnesses:183 

O 01’ [° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° : ° ° ° ° ° °] ˹in?˺x
02’ [° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° °] [mu-n]a-an-˹du˺
03’ [° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ina ma]h-˹ra˺ il-la-a[k]
04’ [° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° °] eg̃ir-a-ni nam-mi-in-[us2]
05’ [° ° ° ° ° ° °]-˹tume˺ ti ar-ka i-rad-[di-šu]
06’ [° ° ° ° ° ° : °]xina a[p]-si-i ana par-ṣi ez-zu-te šu.[ti-u2]
07’ [° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° °] ˹mu˺-un-na-˹rig7˺
08’ [° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° °] ˹an˺-e ˹ana˺ ši-rik2-te iš-˹ru-ka˺-[šu]
09’ [° ° ° ° ° ° nu-mu-ni-i]b2-g̃a2-g̃a2 : da-nun-na-ku dingir˹meš˺ [g]alme[ ...]
10’ [° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° °] : ˹en˺ a-bu-˹ba˺-ni-iš i-ba-˹˺
11’ [° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° °] a-˹ma2˺-ru an-ur3-˹ru˺-da
12’ [° ° ° ° ° ° ° nu-k]ur2ti a˺-bu-˹ba˺-niš i-ba-’
13’ [u4-gi]n7 a[n-ur2-ra dum-dam mu-ni-i]b2-za ˹: ki˺-ma u4-me ina i-šid an-e ut-ta-[az-za-am]
14’ ˹du˺-ni [inim d+en-lil2-la2-t]a (x) ˹e2-kur˺-ra g̃a2-g̃a2-d[e3?]
15’ a-lak-šu ina? ˹x ub?˺ [d+en.l]il2 [a-na] ˹e2˺.kur it-ta-aš2-[kan]
16’ ur-˹sag̃˺-dig̃ir-e-˹ne˺ [...-s]u3-su3 : ˹ur˺.sag dingirmeš na-as2-pa-nu ˹kalam x˺[...]
17’ nibruki-˹še3?˺ an-ba[d ° ° ° ° ° ]-a-ta : ˹a˺-na ni-pu-ru ni-siš la-a t[e4-he-e]
18’ dnuska [sukk]al-˹mah˺-d+en-lil2-la2-˹ke4˺ e2-kur-ra gaba im-mi-in-[ri]
19’ dnusk[a ]˹x x˺ ]i-ru ša d+[en.li]l2 i+na e2.kur uš-tam-hi-ir-[šu]
20’ en d˹nin˺-urta-ra silim-ma mu-˹un-na˺-a[b-d]u11 : ana en dnin.urta šul-ma i-qa[b-bi]
21’ lugal-g̃u10 ˹ur-sag̃˺ šu-˹du7˺-me-en ˹ni2˺ -zu-še3 g̃eštu2 [...]

It is not unreasonable to assume that the last-mentioned two tablets were used by Marduk-balāssu-ēreš to produce his copy of the complete text.184 Unfortunately, the poor state of preservation of his copy does not allow for clear answers. The last lines, however, run parallel on both text witnesses including the omission of line 202 compared to the Old Babylonian and Neo-Assyrian evidence. 

Jerrold S. Cooper collected the “errors” or variants in the transmission of this text. His classification includes (1) perceptual errors, (2) unmotivated alteration, and (3) motivated alteration.185 The Akkadian interlinear translation was affected by variants as well.186 

Example 24: Angim, line 162 (VAT 8884 obv. 18–19)

OB šu-mah sag̃ pirig̃-g̃a2 den-lil2-la2 ne3-ni-še3 tu-da-me-e[n]
MA usu-mah sag̃ ug-ga den-lil2-le UG.UG-ta tu-ud-da-me-en
: e-mu-qa-an ṣi-ra-ti zi-im la-a-be ša den.lil2 ina e-mu-qi2-šu ul-du-šu ana-ku
NA [u]su-mah sag̃ pirig̃-g̃a2 den-lil2-la2 šu u3-tu-ud-d[a-me-en]
: ˹e˺-mu-qan ṣi-ra-a-te zi-im la-bi ša2 dmin ina e-mu-qi2-šu ul-d[u-šu2 ana-ku]

This is one of the few lines of Angim that allows for a diachronic overview of the Old Babylonian and Neo-Assyrian text layers. The example clearly shows that the Middle Assyrian recension of this line is a kind of mixture between the Old Babylonian sources and the later tradition that followed in the first millennium BCE. The Sumerian expression ug.ug-ta is rendered with ina emūqīšu, “in his strength.” Whereas ug is used for lābu, “lion,” in this line as well, both the Old Babylonian and Neo-Assyrian versions have pirig̃ instead. Sumerian ug for Akkadian emūqu is found again in line 164.187 According to Jerrold S. Cooper, the orthography ug.ug is erroneous and was caused by the similar paleography of the signs pirig and ug in Babylonia.188 It is noteworthy to find the same phenomenon in line 4 of the composition, which is preserved in Assur through manuscript aA copied by Marduk-balāssu-ēreš. This material might be taken as a hint that either all Middle Assyrian manuscripts of “Ninurta’s Return to Nippur” derive from the same source text(s) or one version was copied from an already existent copy in Assur. 

Example 25: Angim, line 83 (VAT 9441+ obv. 27’)

OB g̃ešgigir-za gu3-du10 ur5-ša4-bi
MA [...]xgu3-du10 ur5-ša4-zu
: gešgigir-ka [° ° ° °] ˹x x x˺ [...]
NA g̃ešgigir-zu gu3-de2 ur5-ša4-bi
: nar-kab-ta-ka ana ri-gim ra-me-me-ša2

The sign remains at the beginning of this line are inconclusive, but the given space does not necessarily support either [g̃ešgigir-z]u or [[...]-z]a. It seems that the possessive suffix has been moved toward the end of the line in the Middle Assyrian version. 

The joined tablet VAT 9441+ allows for a diachronic examination of this line. The Middle Assyrian version appears to be closer to the Old Babylonian. The Neo-Assyrian text re-interprets gu3-du10, “pleasant voice,” and replaces it by gu3-de2, “call” (Akk. rigmu). Unfortunately, the Akkadian version on the Middle Assyrian text is almost completely broken off. In line 428 of “Ninurta’s Exploits,” the Middle Assyrian version renders gu3-de2-zu as ši-si-it-ka (= VAT 9710 obv. ii, 21–22). Nevertheless, there are a couple of other possibilities for the Middle Assyrian text. VAT 8884189 rev. 17’) reads gu3-du10 or inim-du10 in line 200. Since the score in Cooper190 is misleading, it is given here again without incorporating the different variants in the Old Babylonian and Neo-Assyrian manuscripts: 

OB inim-du10 lugal-la sud-ra2-še3 mu-un-na-ab-be2
MA inim-du10 nam-lugal-la su3-ud-ra2-še3 du11-mu-un-na-ab
: ṭe2-em ša[r-ru-ti ana ru ¯\bar{u}qeti(?) qi-bi-ši]
NA inim-du10 ˹lugal u4˺-sud-˹da˺-še3 mu-un-na-ab-be2
: a-ma-˹tu2 ṭa˺-ab-tu2 ša2 šar-ri ana ru-qe2-e-ti iq-bi-ši

In contrast to line 83 cited above, the Neo-Assyrian recension stands much closer to the Old Babylonian text and it is the Middle Assyrian version that deviates quite substantially. Here, the Middle Babylonian editor probably took the imperative du11-[mu-un-na-ab] already present in line 188 of the Old Babylonian text. The first millennium BCE version, however, has a finite verbal form in the Sumerian line (mu-un-na-ab-be2), which is translated as preterite (iq2-bi-ši) both in the Middle Assyrian and first millennium sources. The beginning of this line, again, offers intriguing variation, which pertains to the Akkadian interpretation. Whereas the Middle Assyrian line renders the logogram group ka.hi as ṭēmu,191 the Neo-Assyrian version translates its constituents separately: amātu ṭābtu.192 

8.3.5 “Astrolabe” B

The Middle Assyrian scribes of Assur did not indulge in the mere copying of the Sumerian literature that was passed down to them from Babylonia. Among the texts that came to Assur from Babylonian sites was also quite technical literature, such as the so-called “Astrolabe B.” As was pointed out elsewhere, this designation is of course a misnomer, since the relevant texts do not represent measuring tools for the rising of stars.193 Apart from the two known examples of circular Astrolabe-texts, this kind of scholarly literature is usually treated in lists or tables.194 The text of Middle Assyrian “Astrolabe B” has forerunners and several successors in the first millennium BCE. Although the origins of this text might reach far back, it appears that the various parts of this text were put to writing not earlier than the Middle Babylonian period. The Kassite dynasty in Babylonia was the driving force for many aspects of scholasticism, and scientific thought such as it appears in texts like “Astrolabe B” demonstrate this quite well. The Middle Assyrian copy was written by Marduk-balāssu-ēreš and checked by his brother Bēl-aha-iddina, both members of the Ninurta-uballissu family.195 As was pointed out by Wayne Horowitz, who recently collected all related material and presented it in a thorough study, the Middle Babylonian tablet containing a short version of the Sumerian text represents one of the precursors of this tradition.196 

Since this composition is now available in an up-to-date study by Horowitz, this short treatment will limit itself to a few passages.197 KAV 218 contains a couple of forms that are clearly Middle Babylonian. It is quite likely that Marduk-balāssu-ēreš had already a bilingual source at his disposal, which also included the other parts as the star catalogue. 

Among its four sections only the first part is of interest here. It contains a bilingual menology for the twelve month names of the Babylonian calendar. The relationship between the Sumerian and the Akkadian shows many peculiarities that should be highlighted here in greater detail. As was discussed in section 8.2 above, due to its tabular format, the “Astrolabe” can be considered a sub-type of interlinear translations. Regarding its Sumerian version, the main phenomenon we will encounter in this text is the case that finite verbal forms in the Akkadian “translation” are frequently represented by bare verbal bases or infinite verbal constructions in the Sumerian version. Another phenomenon, orthographical in nature, quite frequently uses rarely attested readings in the Sumerian text, which could either be interpreted as auditory or memory errors, or erudite or arcane ways of writing Sumerian. The following observations concentrate on the better preserved menologies in the first two columns of the tablet. In order to properly discuss the text, each menology is fully transliterated with indication of the respective line number on KAV 218. Variants in other manuscripts are given in the discussion. The versions are provided, against the original, in columns. 

Nisannu (I)

O i 01 [1(diš) iti bara2] mul 1(aš) gana2 bara2-an-na (07) [it]i bara2 i-ku-u2 šu-bat da-nim
02 [ba]ra2 il2-˹la˺ bara2 g̃ar-ra (08) lugal in-na-aš2-ši lugal gar-ani
03 [s]ur*-ra-an sig5-ga (09) šur-ru-u2 sig5 ša da-˹nim˺
04 ˹an˺-na d+en-lil2-la2-ke4 (10) ˹u3˺ d+en.lil2 iti d+en.zu
05 ˹iti˺ dnanna dumu-sag̃
06 ˹d+en-lil2-la2˺-ke4 (11) [d]umu sag-ti-i ˹ša˺ d+en.lil2

8.6  i Note that in line 43 the scribe wrote the verbal form syllabically (iš-ša-ka-an) instead of using the mixed orthography (gar-an (line i, 8). The parallel in Sm 755 reads iš-šak-kan.  

In the treatment of the first month, the Akkadian compiler interpreted Sumerian bara2 in two ways: In the first instance it is translated with Akkadian šubtu, “dwelling.” The other occurrence offers the equivalent šarru, “king.” Although none of these equivalents take the primary semantic meaning of bara2, “dais,” into account, the expression bara2 il2-la bara2 g̃ar-ra could easily be understood literally.198 There are a few instances in Sumerian literature that support the meaning “ruler,” therefore taking the dais as symbol for the king.199 

After collation the first sign in the subsequent line is certainly sur instead of gar. Thus, Akkadian šurrû appears to be a loanword of the Sumerian form sur-ra-an.200 The whole expression this term appears in is omitted both in the earlier version VS 24, 120 as well as in later related texts. It is, however, included in the Neo-Assyrian copy Sm 755.201 But it is safe to say that this entry was already available in the source Marduk-balāssu-ēreš used for his copy. Was the inclusion of this entry triggered by the phonetic similarity between vsarru and šurrû? 

Ayyaru (II)

O i 12 ˹1(diš) iti˺ gu4 mul-mul dimin-bi (19) iti gu4 za-ap-pu dimin.bi dingirmeš galmeš
13 dig̃ir-gal-gal-e-ne
14 ki-pad-ra2 gu4 si-sa2-e-ne (20) pe-tu-u2 er-ṣe-ti
(21) gu4meš ul-te-eš-še-ru3
15 ki-dur5 gal tak4-tak4 (22) ru-ṭu-ub-tu up-ta-ta
16 g̃ešapin dur-dur-˹ru˺-ke4 (23) gešapinmeš ir-ra-ah-ha-ṣu
17 iti dnin-g̃ir2-su (24) iti dnin.gir2.su qar-ra-di
18 ur-sag̃ ensi2-gal d+en-lil2-la2-ke4 (25) iš-ša2-ak-kigal-i ˹ša˺ d+en.lil2

The Sumerian phrase gu4 si-sa2-e-ne is rendered by the Akkadian alpū ulteššerū, which is one of the few characteristic Middle Babylonian forms in this text. Compare this to line 11 of “Nin-Isina’s Journey to Nippur,” which equates si mi-ni-ib2-si with Akkadian ušteššer.202 The subsequent phrase in the Sumerian version is ki-dur5 gal tak4-tak4, which is rendered ruṭubtu uptattâ in the Akkadian version. Lexical attestations of ruṭubtu, “wet land,” are practically non-existent. This lexeme may be connected to ruṭibtu, “flooded ground,” whose equation after the lexical series Igiduh I, 295 is ki-dur5.203 Sumerian gal clearly is a phonetic variant of g̃al2 and thus belongs to the Sumerian compound verb g̃al2—tak4, “to open.” On the Middle Babylonian fragment VS 24, 120 we read in obv. 3 [...] ki-dur5 ˹g̃al2 tak4˺-tak4.204 The final difficult phrase is the Sumerian g̃ešapin dur-dur-ru-ke4, which is equated in the Akkadian text with epinnū irrahhaṣū, “the ploughs are devastated.” It should be noted that “Astrolabe” B is the only lexical occurrence for durrahāṣu, so far. Nevertheless, the lexical series Antag̃al attests to the equation dur2-dur2-ru : min(rahāṣu) ša ašābi.205 The third tablet of the lexical series šarru206 has on CT 18, plate 29–30 (K.2054)207 from the Kuyunjik collection the equation usan2+kak () : rahāṣ ūme (rev. ii, 20). A glance onto the ligature in this list from Ashurbanipal’s library reveals that the latter part equals the sign dur (). Horowitz assumes a semantic link between the two verbs rahāṣu A, “to trample, to destroy,” and rahāṣu B, “to wash, to bathe,” since the cause of destructions of the former is the weather god Adad.208 

Simānu (III)

O i 26 1(diš) iti sig4 mul gu3-an-na aga-an-na-ke4 (32) ˹iti˺ sig4 is-le-e a-ge da-nim
27 mul-bi kaxne ba!-an-sa2 (33) [mu]l.˹bi d˺gi:bil ša-nin
28 iti u3-šub lugal-ke4 (34) [it]i na-al-˹ba˺-anlugal
29 lugal u3-šub sig4-ke4 (35) [lu]gal na-al-ba-na i-la-˹bi˺-in
30 kur-kur e2-ne-ne mu-un-du3-a (36) [k]urmeš e2meš-ši-na ip-pušu2˺
31 iti gul-la kalam-ma-ke4 (37) iti gul.la ša ma-a-ti3

In the menology of the third month, the phrase lugal u2-šub sig4-ke4 is difficult to interpret. The Akkadian version has šarru nalbāna ilabbin. Usually, sig4 alone should not mean “to make bricks.” We would expect here additionally the base du8, which is well attested in lexical texts.209 Syntactically this phrase runs parallel to the preceding one: iti u2-šub-lugal-ke4. For a lexical attestation see, for instance, Proto-Izi I, 263: sig4-du8la-ba-a-nu.210 

Du’ūzu (IV)

O i 38 [1(diš) i]ti šu mul sipa-zi-an-na (45) iti šu ši-ta-ad-da-lu dpap.sukkal
39 dnin-šubur sukkal-mah (46) sukkal ṣi-i-ru ša da-nim
40 an-na dinana-bi-id-da-ke4 (47) u deš18-tar2 iti numun ša2-pa-ku
41 iti numun dub-bu-ni numun (48) numun-ni har-pi šu-ṣi-i
42 nim-ta-e3-de3
43 kid2-kid2 iti dnin-ru-ru-gu2 (49) ši-si-itdnin.ru.ru.gu2
44 sipa ddumu-zi ba-dab5-dab5-˹ba˺ (50) iti sipa ddumu.zi ik-ka-mu-u2

In this menology, one can highlight a couple of intriguing orthographical spellings. The conjunction °-bi-da is written °-bi-id-da in line i, 40.211 In line 43, the scribe uses kid2-kid2 to render Akkadian šisītu, “cry.” The sign kid2 or tak4 cannot be traced per se in lexical lists neither as equivalent for šisītu nor the infinitive šasû. Nonetheless, the lexical series Diri attests in I, 231 to a logogram group gada.tak4.si with the equivalent šisītu.212 It might not be too far-fetched to propose that kid2 is actually a phonetic reflection on Sumerian gu3-de2, the common equivalent to šasû and its derivatives.213 In this line, the Akkadian interpreter did not take iti into account. Was is forgotten in virtue of the phonetic similarity to it in ši-si-it? 

Abu (V)

O ii 01 ˹1(diš)˺ [iti ne mulkak-si-s]a2 dnin-urta-˹ra˺ (08) iti ne šu-ku-du dnin.urta ki.izimeš
02 [ki-izi bar7(?)-ba]r7*-re-de3i (09) ut-tap-pa-ha di-pa-ru a-na da.nun.na.ke4
03 g[i*-izi-la2 gur3(?)-ru(?)-de3(?)]ii da-nun-na-ke4-ne
04 dkaxne am-ta-e11-de3 ki-dutu-ra (10) in-na-aš2-šidgi:bil
05 tum4(NIM)-tum4-mu-de3 g̃uruš gešbu2 (11) iš-tu an-e ur-ra-dam-ma
lirum-ma (12) it-ti dutu i-ša-na-an
06 iti dbil3-ga-mes ka2-ne-ne (13) iti dgeš.gin2.maš tu-šu-u’-u2
07 u4-9xiii-kam2 a-da-min3 (14)
(15) u4-mi eṭ-lu-tu ina ka2meš-šu2-nu
(16) u2-ma-aš2 u2-ba-ri ul-te-ṣu-u2

8.7  i Wayne Horowitz reads [ki-ne sar-sa]r-re-ne; see Horwitz (2014, 68).ii Both the reconstruction of the verbal form as well as the verb base itself are uncertain. For a bilingual attestation of gi-izi-la2—gur3, “to carry a torch,” see R IV p. 26, no. 3, 41–42: [gi]-izi-la2 gur3-ru gi6-gi6-ga zalag2-ga-ab : [nāš] di-pa-r[i] mu-nam-mir ek-le-ti; cited after CAD D, 156 s.v. dipāru. Alternatively, we could also expect the verbal base il2 and possibly a form il2-la-de3. Wayne Horowitz reads only the nominal part; see Horowitz (2014, 68).iii Although there is plenty of space available in this line, the scribe wrote (or copied) just three wedges over each other in order to indicate the numeral “9.” This is a common administrative practice. Its Akkadian representative tušu’û is one of the rare syllabic spellings of this numeral.  

The month name Abu contains a passage that is quite clear in its Akkadian version, but less so in the Sumerian “source.” The Akkadian has Girra ištu samê urradam-ma itti Šamaš išannan, “Girra descends from heaven and rivals Šamaš.” In the Sumerian version, this passage goes as follows: dkaxne am-ta-e11-de3 / ki-dutu-ra nim-nim-mu-de3. For the Akkadian verb šanānu, we would expect a form containing the base sa2 in the Sumerian text.214 In line i:27 is rendered as stative šanin in its translation.215 

The base nim is problematic. This logogram is also attested in the fourth month (line i, 42), where it is equated with Akkadian harpu, “early” (line i, 48). An alternative reading in the menology of the month Abu could be tum4. This reading may solve the vowel harmony: tum4-tum4-mu-de3. Also compare it to line 143 of “Ninurta’s Return to Nippur,” which has in its Old Babylonian text the following: e2 ki-bal tum4-tum4 gešbu(geš.ru) kušguru21(e.ib2.ur3)-g̃u10 mu-da-an-g̃al2-[la-am3], “I bear those which carry off the temples of rebellious lands, my throwing stick and shield.”216 

Tešrītu (VII)

O ii 22 1(diš) iti du6 mul mudul(mu.bu)i-keš2-da (30) iti du6 ni-i-ru d+en.[l]il2
23 d+en-lil2-le PA šu-nir-ne-{x}-ne (31) šu-pa2-a-tuii u2-tal2-la-[l]a
24 ku3-ku3-mu nam-lu2+u18-lu umun in-dadag (32) ni-šu u ru-bu-u2 u2-tab-[b]a-bu
25 ˹ne˺-sag̃ mu ku3-ga kur-kur-ra (33) ni-iq šat-ti el-lu šakur˹meš˺-ti3
26 da-nun-na-ke4-e-ne mu-un-na ka2 (34) a-na da.nun.na.ke4 in-na-˹qi˺
27 abzu ta-e3 ki-se3-˹ga˺ (35) ba-˹ab ap˺-si-i ip-pat-[t]e
28 lugal-ddu6-ku3-ga d+en-ki dnin-˹ki˺ (36) ki-is-˹pu a-na lugal˺.du6.k[u3.g]a
29 iti pap-bil2-ga d+en-lil2-la2-˹ke4˺ (37) d+en-ki u dn[in.ki [...]] ˹KA?˺ [...]
(38) iti a-bi a-bi [ša d+en.lil2]

8.8  i See, for instance, Diri Nippur ix, 18: [x-d]u-ul : mu.bu : ni-ru-um; see Civil, Farber and Kennedy (2004, 32).ii The sign ba should indeed be read here with unvoiced consonant. The manuscript Sm 755+ (Çağirgan (1985, text B); see the photo in the CDLI database, no. P426447) reads in obv. ii, 15: šu-pa-tu. Unfortunately, its Sumerian pendant is not preserved.  

The Akkadian construction šu-pa2-a-tu is problematic. In the previous edition of the text by G. Çağirgan, the signs after the divine name in the Sumerian line are read gup2(li)-pa šu-nir-ne-ne, which led to the translation “shrines are purified.”217 The sign li certainly needs to be connected with the divine name Enlil.218 The Neo-Assyrian manuscript Sm 755+219 has in obv. ii, 10 [...mul mu.b]u-keš2-˹da˺ d+en-lil2-la2. The remaining part could be read pa/g̃idri220 šu-nir-ne-ne, “sceptre (and) emblems.” In light of the Neo-Assyrian version Sm 755+ (šu-pa-tu), it is not unlikely to interpret it as stem III of (w)apû, “to make visible.”221 This interpretation would not literally translate the Sumerian term, but provide a descriptive equivalent: “the visible ones.”222 For favoring šubtu, “dwelling, shrine,” one should look at the ṣâtu commentary CT 41, 42 (CCP 3.4.9.M) line 3, which reads: šub-tu4 šu.nir : šu.nir : kak-ku : min : mun-dah-ṣ[u].223 Horowitz refers the lexical list Antag̃al, where the equation šu.niršurinnu occurs within a group of designations for shrines.224 

The Akkadian verbs ūtallalā and ūtabbabū are parallel. The first Sumerian equivalent ku3-ku3-mu seems to have its conjugation prefix in suffix position, which normally indicates an imperative or a defective writing for a “pronominal conjugation.”225 

Last but not least the Sumerian phrase ka2 abzu(-)ta(-)e3 is worth a remark.226 This solution is closer to the Middle Assyrian text, which has kispu in the Akkadian translation. The Akkadian interpreter approached this expression and translated bāb apsî ippattê,227 “the gate of the Apsû is opened.” The Sumerian base e3 is not a common equivalent of Akkadian petû.228 A similar case is found in the menology of the fourth month. There, the Sumerian phrase numun nim ta-e3-de3 is translated numun-ni har-pi šu-ṣi-i. The base e3 appears to be merged with the dimensional marker. 

Arahsamnu (VIII)

O ii 37 1(diš) iti apin g̃išal-la2-bi g̃eš˹apin-na˺ [edin-na] (41) iti apin pa-ṭar3i gešapin!(T: MAH) gešal-˹la˺
38 a-da-min3 di5-di5-˹de3˺ (42) u3 gešapin a-na edin ul-te-ṣu-u2
39 a-ki-tu ur g̃ar-ra iti d˹iškur˺ (43) a-ki-it e-re-ši iš-ša-ka-an
40 gu2-gal an-ki-a (44) iti dim gu2.gal an-e u3 ki-ti3

8.9  i The use of the relatively complex sign dar3 instead of simple tar is noteworthy. Sm 755+ has indeed pa-ṭar in obv. ii, 22.  

In line 41 the scribe deliberately wrote gešmah () instead of the expected gešapin (). Both signs share a couple of graphical similarities but, one wonders whether the sign mah was mistakenly copied for *apin.na (see line 37) or the scribe considered the reading /al6/ of the sign mah and therefore anticipated the subsequent gešal-la. 

Quite intriguing is the Sumerian phrase a-da-min3 di5(ri)-di5-de3, which was interpreted in the Akkadian version as ultēṣû, a Middle Babylonian form of šutēṣû, “to quarrel.” According to the lexical attestation in Nabnītu M (= XXVII), line 269 the Sumerian should be a-da-min3 di instead.229 This orthography is not uncommon. See, for instance, the initial line of the Old Babylonian “Tale about the šumunda-Grass”: ab-ba na mu-un-de. The verbal form clearly needs to be connected with na de5, “to instruct.”230 

Finally, Sumerian ur (line 39) represents in light of its Akkadian equivalent erēšu, “to cultivate” in line 43 certainly a peculiar writing. Similar to di5 for di it appears to be another phonetic variant, in this case for uru4(apin).231 

8.3.6 The Creation Myth KAR 4

This text was last discussed and edited together with the Old Babylonian unilingual fragment IB 591232 by Wilfred Lambert.233 Most of this composition is known thanks to the Middle Assyrian tablet, which itself already constituted a copy of an imported source. The text received much attention in the past, not to mention its side-by-side presentation with the Silbenalphabet A.234 The textual record shows that this list of syllables goes beyond being a conventional learning tool and lexical text. The Kuyunjik text refers to the combined copy of the Silbenalphabet and the creation myth as “second tablet” (dub 2(diš).kam2.ma) of a series, whose incipit is given as me me [kur2]-˹kur2˺ i-li. In the colophon, this information is preceded by a catch-line referring to the Atra-hasis epic.235 The serialization of this creation myth in a larger context might have been a first millennium invention. Lambert sees the Silbenalphabet as the first composition in the series and the creation myth as the second, since the former is also attested in its own accord. But the Kuyunjik tablet clearly puts the Silbenalphabet and the creation myth side by side, as does the Middle Assyrian text. Be that as it may, KAR 4 represents an intriguing text within the corpus of the Middle Assyrian scribal lore. It was copied by a young scribe called Kidin-Sîn, son of Suti’u. There is only one other text known from this scribe, a copy of the god list AN : Anu on a large tablet with twelve columns text, which found its way into the royal libraries of Nineveh.236 

It remains uncertain whether at this occasion also the text of the creation myth was copied from the Middle Assyrian source and brought to Nineveh. Instead of the broken areas designated as such on the Middle Assyrian tablet, the Kuyunjik has, besides the entries of the Silbenalphabet, unintelligible traces of the Sumerian and Akkadian versions.237 Unfortunately, Kidin-Sîn’s colophons do not insert a date, as is known from a couple of other scribes in library M 2 such as the aforementioned Marduk-balāssu-ēreš and Bēl-aha-iddina from the Ninurta-uballissu-family. Therefore, his copies cannot be placed within a chronological framework. Whereas on KAR 4, Kidin-Sîn serves in the rank of lu2dub.sar tur (Akkadian ṭupšarru ṣehru), “young scribe,” he is a.ba on the copy of the god list. This writing is a comparatively rare Sumerogram for ṭupšarru in the Middle Assyrian period.238 Based on this difference in the given occupations, the god list should date later when Kidin-Sîn was farther advanced in his career.239 

The colophon categorises this composition as “secret lore” (ad.hal, pirištu) followed by the expression mūdû mūdâ lukallim, “may the knowledgeable show (it) to the knowledgeable.” In the Middle Assyrian textual record this expression is rather unique. Possibly its scribe Kidin-Sîn took this expression over from the tablet he copied from, which probably originated from Middle Babylonian Nippur. The well-preserved tablet CBS 6060 containing an interesting collection of correspondences between objects such as trees, plants, or animals and deities240 bears a colophon, which includes the same formula as well: zu-u2 {A} zu-a li-˹kal˺-lim.241 This expression is followed by the wish that “the ignorant must not see (it)” (nu zu-u2 nu igi-mar).242 

However, it is less the implications of secret lore or esoteric knowledge that shall be highlighted here, but rather the bilingual tradition of this text. Karl Hecker notes that “der Text war schon in der Antike stark verderbt überliefert und ist daher nicht überall sicher verständlich.”243 Among the instances of bilingual texts in the Middle Assyrian period KAR 4 is one of the rare cases in which the Sumerian and Akkadian versions are written in separate columns.244 Whether this arrangement was caused by the presence of the Silbenalphabet A is uncertain.245 A new hand copy of KAR 4 is presented on p. , below. 

Example 26: KAR 4 obv. 10–11

bara2-mah ni2-te mu-un-ki-ku-mu2-a : ina bara2 ṣi-r[i...]
ni2-te-a-ni šu mi-ni-ib2-gi4-gi4 : u2-ši-bu-ma i+na r[a-ma-ni-šu2-nu...]

The Akkadian translation can partly be reconstructed from the Kuyunjik tablet. Although this text offers the reading du5-ru for the sign ku in the Middle Assyrian copy, KAR 4 seems to use the noun ki-tuš(ku) here as the verbal base. This becomes clear from the equivalent ūšibū, “they sat down,” in the subsequent line.246 On rev. 18 of KAR 4 we read as follows: 

g̃ešhur-gal-gal mu-un ni2-zu* hur-hur-re : i+na ra-ma-ni-šu2-nu u2-ṣu-˹ra-te˺ r[a-ab-ba-te uṣ-ṣi]-˹ru!˺

Similar to ki-tuš above, the reflexive pronoun ni2-zu is inserted within the verbal chain. The translation however contains the suitable—though without a corresponding personal suffix—expression ina ramānīšunu. 

Example 27: KAR 4 obv. 16–17 and 19–20

a-na-am3 he2-en-bal-en-ze2-en : mi-na-a i ni-pu-uš
a-na-am3 he2-en-dim2-en-ze2-en : mi-na-a i ni-te-pu-uš (line 20: i ni-ib-ni)

In both instances, the Sumerian and Akkadian versions show a clear discrepancy between the verbal forms. Whereas the Sumerian text uses the suffix for the second person plural, the Akkadian translation indicates a first person plural: i nīpuš and i nītepuš or i nibni. The Kuyunjik text differs quite substantially from the Middle Assyrian recension. In lines 16–17 it uses the verbal prefix ga-ab-° for the cohortative while keeping the °-en-ze2-en as suffix. The verbal base bal with a corresponding Akkadian verb epēšu in the Middle Assyrian version is noteworthy. The Neo-Assyrian text, however, uses the verbal base du3 in line 16 instead, but keeps bal in line 19. The interlinear translation of this later recension, nonetheless, has the expected i nuš<bal>kit. Also line 20 differs quite substantially from the Middle Assyrian text. Here, the Sumerian verbal form reads mu-un-me-e-e-ze2-en. Its scribe clearly interpreted the verbal base as du11 with its marû stem e, “to speak.” This explains why instead of i nibni the Akkadian translation in the Neo-Assyrian text has i nibbi.247 Similar discrepancies of the distribution of suffixes occur in this composition elsewhere. In line 25 of KAR 4, for instance, the Sumerian verbal chain im-ma-an-tag-en-ze2-en is equated with i ni-iṭ-bu-ha in the corresponding Akkadian text.248 

Example 28: KAR 4 obv. 21

dig̃ir-gal-gal-e-ne mu-un-sur-re-eš-a : dingirmeš galmeš šu-ut iz-zi-zu

Here, the Middle Assyrian text clearly uses the base sur for the Akkadian verb izuzzu. Jan Lisman interprets this spelling as an unorthographic writing.249 The later Neo-Assyrian text uses (correctly) the base su8 in the infinite form su8-ge-eš. Omitting the initial wedge of the sign sur would lead to g̃ar, which is semantically much closer to the Akkadian verb i/uzuzzu.250 

Example 29: KAR 4 obv. 26

uš2-uš2-e-ne nam-lu2+u18-lu mu2-mu2-e-de3 : i+na da-me-šu-nu i ni-ib-na-a a-mi-lu-ta

The infinite verbal form mu2-mu2-e-de3 corresponds to the cohortative i nibnâ.251 Both previous and subsequent Sumerian lines contain the second person plural, which is rendered with the first person plural in the respective Akkadian translation. It cannot be ruled out completely that the suffix –e-de3 is a defective spelling for –en-de3-en.252 For a possible Old Babylonian example, see Sîn-iddinam A (text B = Wagensonner 2007, 545–546), line 21’: se3-ga-de3-en; see the commentary (Wagensonner 2007, 554). The suffix °-e-de3 is frequently translated by an infinitive construction as well.253 One example is, for instance, obv. 29: gi-de3 : a-na ku-un-ni.254 

Example 30: KAR 4 obv. 27

a2-g̃eš-g̃ar-ra-dig̃ir-e-ne eš2-gar3-ne he2-a : iš-kar dingirmeš lu iš-kar-ši-na

Similar to Example 19 above the Akkadian translation uses the same equivalent for two (seemingly) different terms in the Sumerian text: (1) a2-g̃eš-g̃ar-ra and (2) eš2-gar3.255 In all likelihood, it seems that the former is an erudite spelling for the latter, both imitating the Akkadian lexeme. 

Example 31: KAR 4 obv. 32–33

e2-dig̃ir-gal-gal-e-ne : šub-tugal-tu ša dingirmeš
bara2-mah-a tum2-ma : ša a-na pa-rak-ki ṣi-ri šu-˹lu-kat2?˺

In this example, the adjective gal referring to the gods in the Sumerian text, was re-interpreted and assigned to denote a quality of the house or abode. A similar case can be found in line 41 of “Nin-Isina’s Journey to Nippur”: 

bara2-gal-mah-ba sisic mi-ni-in-g̃ar-re-eš [...]

: : i+na pa-rak-ki ṣi-ri ra-biš uš-bu-˹ma˺ [...]

While the Sumerian line qualifies bara2 with both adjectives gal and mah, the interpreter understood gal as adverb and used rabîš. 

Example 32: KAR 4 rev. 13–14 (= line 54)

gu4 udu maš2-anše ku6 mušen-ne-ta-a : gu4 udu bu-la ku6meš u3 mušenmeš
he2-g̃al2-kalam-ma zil(nun)-zil-e-de3 : he2.gal2 i+na kur a-na du-še-e

The Sumerian verb zil is usually not equated with dešû, “to be abundant.”256. Already line 7 on the reverse corresponds to line 14 cited above. Instead of duššû, the interpreter uses the verb rubbû, “to enlarge.”257 The Middle Assyrian scribes in Assur knew the base zil, but apart from KAR 4 it appears to have never been used to render a form of Akkadian dešû. VAT 9541, which contains a Middle Assyrian excerpt from Ea V, equates this verbal base with ša2-la-tu, “to split off” (obv. i’, 13’).258 In line 48 of “Nin-Isina’s Journey to Nippur”259 the Akkadian form u2-da-aš2-ša-ši renders Sumerian mu-un-na-ab-šar2-re. The base šar2 is a common equivalent for Akkadian dešû. 

A last remark shall be made on the ending °-NE-ta-a in line 13 of the example cited above. The Sumerian conjunction °-bi-da appears in various readings. The “Astrolabe” B renders it °-bi-id-da. It is therefore likely to see in our line another way of spelling this conjunction: mušen-bi2-ta-a. 

8.3.7 Varia

Jerrold S. Cooper published an overview of the bilingual texts found at Assur (and Nineveh), which date to the period in question.260 No attempt is made in this brief section to provide any exhaustive treatment of additional texts. 

In 1976, Wilfred G. Lambert edited a fragment, which he believed to date to the reign of the Assyrian king Tukultī-Ninurta I based on linguistic parallels to KAR 128 and 129.261 Based on a paleographical analysis between the text published by Lambert and texts written by Marduk-balāssu-ēreš, Markham J. Geller concluded that all these texts might have been copied by the same scribe and that “a Tukulti-Ninurta prayer, albeit containing statements by the king himself in the first person, could have been composed in the reign of Tiglath-Pileser I, during a period when the Assur scribal schools were thriving and productive.”262 Lambert deemed the Sumerian of BM 98496 as “obscure in the extreme.”263 The layout of the Sumerian and Akkadian versions is column-based. Unfortunately, most of the Akkadian text is gone, leaving the Sumerian text with many peculiar spellings intact: Examples are the obvious adverb zi-ne2-eš in obv. i, 10 as a variant to more common zi-de3(ne)-eš or the two consecutive verbal chains mu-un-dir-dir-re nam-bal-la2-e (obv. i, 8), which probably need to be understood as non-orthographic renderings of *mu-un-dir-diri-ge nam-ba-la2-e.264 

Another example dating to this period is a “bilingual hymn to Ninurta” edited by Wilfred G. Lambert in his Babylonian Wisdom Literature.265 This bilingual text follows the usual interlinear layout. Unfortunately, the tablet does not preserve a colophon. It differs, however, quite substantially from the previous text. Its Sumerian version is to a great extent well understood, as demonstrated by the following example: 

Example 33: VAT 10610 rev. 16–17

sila-dag̃al abul u2-zug sil6-la2 g̃al2-la dib-be2-da-zu-[ne]

: : ina re-bit a-bu-ul u2-suk-ki ša2 ri-ša2-ti ma-la-a-at ina ba-i-k[a]

This line allows for a comparative analysis to the composition “Nin-Isina’s Journey to Nippur” discussed above. Line 5 contains both sila-dag̃al (: rebītu) and the verbal base dib (: bâ’u).266 Noteworthy is also Sumerian g̃al2 for Akkadian malû. Line 43 of NJN contains the intriguing syllabic spelling g̃a2-la-ni in order to render malât. 

The Middle Assyrian scribes from Assur copied collections of incantations as well. A case in point is the fragment VAT 9833 (= KAR 24), which belongs to the series Utukkū lemnūtu.267 As was pointed out by Andrew R. George, this fragment is part of the “same tablet as BM 130660” edited by Markham J. Geller.268 A reconstruction favors a six-column tablet (see p. 288 below). As was noted by Geller, two of the Neo-Assyrian text witnesses from the Kuyunjik collection contained six-column tablets as well.269 Since VAT 9833 comes from an archaeological context, it is not entirely clear how BM 130660 happened to enter the collection of the British Museum. It is known that twenty boxes with finds from Assur were taken to London in the early 1920s, before Walter Andrae could tend to their shipment to Berlin, and that some objects were extracted from them.270 Geller notices about this text that “[a]lthough the script is indicative of a library hand, the errors in the text attest to the scribe’s carelessness or ignorance.”271 Its scribe Marduk-kābit-ahhēšu is known from at least one other scholarly text. He copied the paleographical list AfO 4, plates III–IV.272 

Geller discussed the variants in the Middle Assyrian copy compared to versions dating to the first millennium BCE. Besides orthographical variants, lexical or semantic differences are particularly revealing. As Geller pointed out, the Middle Assyrian text uses quite frequently rare equivalents when rendering the Sumerian.273 We get a similar perspective by looking on other texts used in this study. 

Example 34: BM 130660 obv. ii, 24–25 (= Tablet 13–15, 106)

e2-a mu-lal2 g̃iri3-ni ha-ba-an-gi

: : ša2 ina e2 it-te-ne2-’e-lu-u giri3-šu lip-pa-ri-is

Lexical texts provide two Sumerian equivalents for the Akkadian verb e’ēlu, “to hang up”: šu-ur-g̃ar and ri. Stem I/3 seems to be triggered by the reduplication of the grapheme la2. Noteworthy is also the verbal base gi, which is rendered here by stem IV of the Akkadian verb parāsu. The Neo-Assyrian text K.111+274 reads ha-ba-an-tar at the end of the line (rev. ii, 8) and renders it li-ip-ru-us in the subsequent Akkadian translation. Although the verbal base tar is usually equated with parāsu elsewhere in the Middle Assyrian evidence,275 there are a few hints for the usage of gi : parāsu in the Middle Assyrian version of Utukkū lemnūtu. The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary cites a Late Babylonian bilingual litany, which was published by Wilfred G. Lambert.276 This text reads in obv. 11 as follows: an-ra a mu-ni-ib2-gi4-a-ni : e-liš mi-la ip-ru-su.277 The Neo-Assyrian fragment K.5255 (= CDLI P395959) offers in rev. 8–9 the Akkadian equivalent še-pi ip-ru-su for g̃iri3 mu-un-se3-ki-ta. Hence, the verbal form in Utukkū lemnūtu cited above should rather be read ha-ba-an-sig17.278 

8.4 Conclusions

Although the main focus of this study is to pinpoint a selection of orthographical and morphological peculiarities, it is clear from the previous pages that many obstacles remain while dealing with Sumerian texts of a late period. Even if all these texts had been copied at the same place and date within a rather narrow time frame, many issues persist. On the one hand, the data is obscured by the sometimes rather complex ways and methods of textual transmission. In the case of Assur in the Middle Assyrian period, in general, and the group of the M 2 texts, in particular, there are many uncertainties regarding text acquisition and distribution of source texts. This is mainly due to the fact that the archaeological context was already disturbed in antiquity and the boundaries between the Middle Assyrian texts in this group and texts that had been assigned to the later temple library N 1 are not always clear. A place for copying tablets in this period, as for instance a scriptorium, has never been found. In the Old Babylonian period, the transmission of Sumerian literary texts was mainly triggered by the scribal education in the “schools,” the e2-dub-ba-a. But there is no evidence for such an institution in the last third of the second millennium BCE. While we are in the lucky position that there is even archaeological evidence for such institutions in the first centuries of the second millennium and also to some extent for the first millennium BCE, we know astonishingly little about textual transmission in the latter part of the second millennium. 

On the other hand, variations between different texts often hamper our understanding of specific grammatical problems. Furthermore, just a minor part of the extant texts give us data about the provenances of the sources. This information is mostly general in a way that allows no further investigation. Textual or linguistic analysis of the Akkadian translations may sometimes give clues, especially in light of particular Middle Babylonian forms,279 but here too we have no knowledge of the degree of redaction undertaken by the Middle Assyrian copyists. As long as we do not have more extensive sources for the Middle Babylonian tradition of Sumerian compositions, we have no way of knowing for sure whether these young scribes blindly copied sources or did redaction work themselves. 

The Sumerian may contain peculiarities as well. Phonetic variants appear to be quite common.280 Even if they pose problems for the modern reader, the Akkadian translations frequently solve a great deal of issues. In this paper, it was deliberately decided not to speak about Sumerian in the Middle Assyrian period in terms of quality. We are not deemed to judge the Sumerian of this period. There are a great deal of peculiar writings, either phonetic variants or widely abbreviated verbal forms. One might even substantiate the claim that the former originates either from dictation or from minor hiccups in the scribe’s memory.281 

Recently, Eckart Frahm argued that the Kassite rulers “initiated some of the earliest editorial projects that led to the emergence of the new corpus of ‘canonical’ texts that remained in use until the end of cuneiform civilization.” A clue to such an editorial endeavor is provided by a scribal note on the later hemerological tablet KAR 177, according to which scholars copied and selected from seven tablets originating from places such as Sippar, Nippur, Babylon, and so forth, and gave (the new edited compendium) to the Kassite king Nazi-maruttaš.282 

As I have tried to show throughout this short study,283 the Akkadian versions of the Sumerian compositions discussed above should not be considered a secondary layer of text.284 Originally derived from glosses and annotations, they eventually became part of the stream of tradition. Both Sumerian and Akkadian versions of a given line were treated as one unit. 

The Sumerian language and its scribal lore were able to preserve its status and importance long after its demise as spoken language at the end of the third millennium or slightly later. Whereas the Akkadian language infiltrated and soon dominated the socio-economic life, many areas of the religious and cultural sphere still thrived from the presence of Sumerian texts. Lexical texts, both those dealing with the shapes and readings of signs as well as thematic word lists, were the essential tools for dealing with Sumerian semantics. But word lists present the Sumerian out of context. Bilingual texts that put whole Sumerian phrases and their Akkadian equivalents side by side can be seen in this light as well. They extend the lexical corpus by providing context. In doing so, they kept the Sumerian language alive and removed it from the artificial environment of lexical lists. 

Highly learned literature, such as the treatment of the various month names of the year in the “Astrolabe” text presented above, are often considered erroneous due to the fact that their Sumerian appears to reveal deficiencies on a morphological basis or orthographical details that seem peculiar compared to more classical Sumerian literature of the early second millennium BCE. But these texts and their compilation need to be located in the arcane realm of the scribal art. When the scribe of the “Astrolabe” uses the sign dur for the Akkadian verb rahāṣu instead of dur2, it must not necessarily be an error or misinterpretation. In a recent article about the various text layers that remain hidden within the orthography of a word, Stefan Maul argues that the Akkadian versions on late bilingual texts should be considered more as comments than simple transpositions into Akkadian.285 This view has many merits, in particular, in light of annotations on text witnesses of Sumerian literature dating to the early second millennium BCE. 


This contribution benefitted from the involvement in the project part “Episteme als Konfigurationsprozess: Philologie und Linguistik im ‘Listenwissen’ des Alten Orient” (under direction of E. Cancik-Kirschbaum and J. Klinger) within the framework of SFB 980 “Episteme in Bewegung.” I would like to thank the organizing committee of the conference “Crossing Boundaries: Multilingualism, Lingua Franca and Lingua Sacra” (Berlin, 8–10 November 2010) for inviting me to publish this work. This study originates in an unpublished master thesis on Sumerian divine journeys.286 In this thesis, the various Sumerian compositions were discussed and re-edited. Among the known texts were two bilingual tablets of a composition now known as “Nin-Isina’s Journey to Nippur” dating to the Middle Assyrian period.287 The new edition led to an investigation of the responsible scribes and their wider familial and occupational background during several research stays at the Vorderasiatische Museum in Berlin and the British Museum in London. Previous studies focused primarily on the information gleaned from the respective colophons.288 For abbreviations, see the list provided by cdli:wiki.289 Lexical and literary compositions are referred to by their incipits or by the subsequent abbreviations (in alphabetical order): (1) Lexical: Aiki-ulutin-bi-še3 : Ana ittišu; Aaa : a2 : nâqu; Antag̃alan.ta.g̃al2 : šaqû; Diri = diri : si.a : (w)atru; Ea = ea : a : nâqu; Erimhušerim.huš : anantu; Urahar-ra : hubullu; Igiduhigi.duh : tāmartu; Iziizi : išātu; Kagalka2.gal : abullu; Lulu2 : ša; Nabnītusig7.alan : nabnītu; Sa/SbSilbenalphabet A/B; (2) Literary: Lugal-e = “Ninurta’s Expoits”; Angim = “Ninurta’s Return to Nippur”; NJN = “Nin-Isina’s Return to Nippur.” Corresponding entries in the CDLI database290 are given by the respective P-no. 

8.5 Appendix

8.1 VAT 10498 (= KAV 8) 

8.2 VAT 10565 (= KAR 17 = 1983 text q) 

8.3 VAT 10628 (= KAR 363 = 1983 text o1) 

8.4 VAT 10643 (= KAR 370a = 1983 text m1) 

8.5 VAT 9441 + 10648 + 11216 (= 1978 text bB), obverse 

8.6 VAT 9441 + 10648 + 11216 (= 1978 text bB), reverse 

8.7 VAT 8884 (= KAR 18 = 1978 text cC) 

8.8 VAT 9307 (= KAR 4), obverse 

8.9 VAT 9307 (= KAR 4), reverse 

8.10 VAT 9833 (= KAR 24) 

8.11 Reconstruction of VAT 9833 (+) BM 130660, obverse 

8.12 Reconstruction of VAT 9833 (+) BM 130660, reverse 


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See Thomsen (1984, 26–33) and Michalowski (2004) for a brief chronological overview of the attestation of Sumerian.


For this saying of linguist and Sumerologist Igor M. Diakonoff, see Diakonoff (1976, 99).


This is of course quite apparent dealing with compositions that were copied and transmitted throughout a long period of time and at different places, as well as by scribes who were at different stages in their career. The best case in point is the composition “Ninurta’s Exploits” or Lugal-e; see section 8.3.3 below. For linguistic change, see with previous literature, for example, Brisch (2007, 91–94).


See Edzard (2003–2005) and Edzard (2003–2005, 132): “‘Rechtschreibung’ ist ein für jedes Schriftsystem unabdingbares Prinzip, das der Summe der Benutzer ein gemeinsames Verständnis ermöglicht.”


Language contact is already recognizable in texts dating to the first half of the third millennium. For the latest study about loanwords and their origin, see Civil (2007).


See Harrison (2007, 207).


Since a majority of literary and lexical texts came down to us through school exercises, there are plenty of cases of apparent scribal errors and erasures. Nonetheless, each supposed error need to be evaluated individually.


See Maul (1997, 266—267).


Almost all major Sumerian literary compositions originate from rather diverse findspots. Dealing with the often rather variant orthographies in single witness texts and the sometimes painstaking task of providing scores instead of composite transliterations is a first step in understanding the complex stream of tradition. I will not attempt in this study to discuss the question of textual criticism regarding Sumerian literary compositions. A study about the variation in compositions dating to the early second millennium was recently undertaken by Paul Delnero (2012b).


Thomsen (1984).


Jagersma (2010).


See, e.g., Michalowski (2004).


See Black (1991 [1984]).


The major text source for Black’s study is the Old Babylonian Grammatical Texts (abbrev. OBGT) that comprise a rather important source for the Old Babylonian linguistic view of Sumerian grammar. In the review of Seminara’s treatment of the Akkadian version of “Ninurta’s Exploits” Markham J. Geller tries to compare the verbal forms in OBGT with those of the literary text and concludes his comparative approach as follows: “[W]hile bilingual texts represent translation of Sumerian into idiomatic Akkadian, and that use of an appropriate Akkadian verbal form was determined by context and meaning, rather than by any mechanical or fixed correspondence between a Sumerian and an Akkadian verbal form. The paradigms, on the other hand, have no context with which to determine the Akkadian translation, and the patterns are often unusual or exaggerated, which might suggest that the grammatical paradigms are functionally unusable for deciphering Sumerian texts. However, the paradigms cannot be altogether discounted, since they were intended to establish the form rather than the meaning of Sumerian verbal forms” (Geller 2005, 124–125). See also Veldhuis (2005) and Huber (2007). For this notion, see also Krispijn (1982, 145): “In der rezenten Forschung misst man dem sonstigen Korpus der zweisprachigen Inschriften aus dieser Periode, der sogenannten OBGT und ihrer späteren analytischen Überlieferung NBGT, ziemlich viel Bedeutung bei. Die Schwierigkeit ist, dass die in diesen Texten vorkommenden Verbalformen ohne Kontext sind, uns also nichts näheres über die Syntax übermitteln, und dass obendrein viele Formen nur hier belegt sind.” Niek Veldhuis subdivides the grammatical lists into “Verbal Paradigms” and “Grammatical Vocabularies”; see Veldhuis (2014, 194–199).


See Vanstiphout (1979, 119–120) and Civil (2010, 246).


See Delnero (2012b; 2012a).


One among these is briefly discussed on page 274 below.


For the latter, see the list in Cooper (1971, 1–2, note 2).


On interlinear translations in Mesopotamia, see the keyword “Interlinearbilinguen” in the Reallexikon der Assyriologie (Krecher 1976–1980) and Cooper (1993, 80).


See the rare example MS 2624 dating to the Old Babylonian period and compare footnote 61. Although full translations already exist from the first half of the second millennium BCE, they are relatively scarce compared to the overwhelming majority of monolingual Sumerian compositions. Quite frequently, Sumerian texts of this period contain glosses, which annotate certain signs, words, or expressions. Besides providing semantic variants or indicating the syllabic reading of a (difficult) sign, these annotations usually contain Akkadian equivalents in a certain idiomatic use. A good example is UET 6, 175, containing both pronunciation glosses as well as Akkadian equivalents. UET 6, 176 comes from the same scribal context, but omits these glosses, despite adding a partial translation to the colophon; for a discussion of this text and exegetical literature, see now Civil (2009, 67–68). Glosses are quite rare in the Middle Assyrian texts discussed here and limit themselves to phonetic indicators, such as in copies of lexical texts; see, for instance, VAT 8875 obv. i, 10: dili i3i-ni-ma6ma-a : i-di-iš-ši-˹šu˺-ma. For a gloss in a copy of a literary composition, see VAT 10565 obv. 13: [...] imim2 [...].


In the examples of bilingual texts given below, Akkadian equivalents are separated by “ : ” from their Sumerian version, irrespective of the presence of a Glossenkeil.


The tablet’s scribe Marduk-balāssu-ēreš marked these indentations with additional vertical ruling on the tablet; see the hand copy of VAT 9416 in Wagensonner (2014b, 474–475). Similar subdivisions by ruling can be found in copies of lexical texts, such as VAT 9713, on which the scribe inserted an additional ruling in order to separate the classifier GIŠ. One can compare this layout to lexical texts from Ugarit. In a version of Ura XXI (RSO 7, 57), for instance, the scribe subdivided the Sumerian column into three subcolumns. This part of Ura contains place names. The place names are classified by preceding uru and following ki, which are separated from the lexeme by the aforementioned dividing lines. Is uru omitted the scribe, nevertheless, starts in the first subcolumn.


Examples are KAR 4 with an additional preceding column containing the so-called Silbenalphabet A (see section 8.3.6 below), or VAT 9833 (+) BM 130660 where the same layout can be observed.


The transliteration follows manuscript A; for a new hand copy, see Wagensonner (2008, 292).


For a new hand copy of VAT 8875, see Wagensonner (2014b, 470–471). For current images of the tablet, see the Digitale Keilschrift Bibliothek (see footnote 105). The modern line count represents the physical appearance on the tablet. Every ten entries—not lines—are marked by a Winkelhaken.


This can be observed, for instance, on the copies of Nin-Isina’s Journey to Nippur, and is discussed in Wagensonner (2008, 278).


Geller (2010, 98).


Geller (2005, 122).


See, for instance, the Emesal vocabularies found in Assur. One of these vocabularies was copied by Sin-šuma-iddina of the Ninurta-uballissu family (Ass.2001.D-586); see Frahm (2002, 60–61). The tablet can be added as 3.1.3 to the inventory given in Wagensonner (2014b, 460). Its colophon is intriguing because it is the only hitherto known text written by this young scribe to add an eponym. It shows that Sîn-šuma-iddina copied this tablet contemporary to his brothers. In the same eponymy, his brother Marduk-balāssu-ēreš copied the third tablet of Aa and the sixth tablet of Ai. Bēl-aha-iddina copied the second tablet of Diri in the same year. The other known colophons on tablets written by Sîn-šuma-iddina do not add a date and differ from the customs used by his two other brothers. Whether this fact indicates that he received his education from another individual remains unanswered.


We may refer here to the paleographical sign list written by Marduk-kābit-ahhēšu, which collects significantly older sign forms; see the photos in Meissner (1927, plates III–IV). The entries in this list follow the sequence of the Silbenalphabet A. The scribe added to each entry the contemporary equivalent in smaller script. For its colophon, however, he clearly used archaizing sign forms, maybe as additional practice. The same scribe was also responsible for copying VAT 9833 (= KAR 24) containing incantations from Utukkū lemnūtu. This tablet is said to be part of BM 130660 edited in Geller (1980); see section 8.3.7 below.


In late commentary literature of the first millennium BCE, lexical texts were occasionally cited or quoted, but there is no evidence for this practice in the Middle Assyrian period.


Jerrold S. Cooper states that after the Old Babylonian period the “Akk. translation gradually became a standard and standardized accompaniment to all Sum. texts” (Cooper 1978, 46).


For such an approach see, for instance, Wagensonner (2008, 284–286).


Limet (2000, 607).


Wilfred G. Lambert, for instance, in discussing BM 98496 hypothesized: “The difficulty of this piece, and no doubt the reason for its neglect hitherto, arises from the loss of most of the Akkadian. Where it is preserved the sense is clear, but the Sumerian, which is what mostly remains, is obscure in the extreme. The author obviously thought and wrote first in Akkadian, and then produced a totally artificial rendering” (Lambert 1976, 86). For an Old Babylonian example, see footnote 61.


Frauke Weiershäuser recently investigated the dependence of lexical texts found in Assur and possible ways of their transmission; see Weiershäuser (2008).


See Çağirgan (1985). In the meantime new text witnesses became known, one among them dates to the Middle Babylonian period. For a new edition of this text together with duplicates and parallels, see now Horowitz (2014).


Despite the addition of an Akkadian translation, this composition might go back to a significantly earlier date; see section 8.3.5 below.


It should be noted that the level of data provided by colophons varies from scribe to scribe and might even be related to the respective scribe’s education. Very often a colophon does not go beyond identifying the copied text. For the exceptional case of the family of the royal scribe Ninurta-uballissu, see now Wagensonner (2011; 2014b).


An intriguing case is provided by the composition “Nin-Isina’s Journey to Nippur” preserved now through four manuscripts, among which two were written by Middle Assyrian scribes. A fragment of the Sumerian text dates to the Old Babylonian period and originates from Nippur. Another manuscript dating to the Old Babylonian period has now come to light in the London private collection. It contains the complete Sumerian text (see Cohen 2017). There is no direct evidence for the transmission of this text in the centuries between the Old Babylonian and Middle Assyrian periods. When was it translated? Who was its translator? The scribes were not concerned with these matters. But the colophons on the Middle Assyrian copies at least provide some clues to a previous scribe or owner of the source; see footnote 44 below.


See Wagensonner (2011, 662, 1.1.1; 676–677, 3.1.1); for a new hand copy of VAT 10172, see Wagensonner (2014b, 476–477) and a photo is found at the Digitale Keilschrift Bibliothek (see footnote 105). For a new hand copy of BM 108862 (= CT 35, plates 1–8), see Wagensonner (2014b, 478–479).


See footnote 8.3.5 for some Middle Babylonian characteristics.


We have seen above that the Old Babylonian period and to some extent the Middle Babylonian period attest to a rich corpus of glosses added to Sumerian texts. Though partial in nature, such annotations can be considered as early attempts to provide interlinear translations.


One intriguing exception are the colophons on KAR 15 and KAR 16, both containing the bilingual version of “Nin-Isina’s Journey to Nippur.” Its colophon deviates from the usual array of data provided and adds the following information on the source tablet’s provenience: “According to the wording of the written tablet of Iqīša-Ninkarrak, son of Ninurta-bāni, it is written” (KAR 16, rev. 29–30). However, it remains uncertain whether this Iqīša-Ninkarrak, whose name contains the Akkadian form of the goddess Nin-Isina, was the translator of the Sumerian version or had this tablet only at his disposal. For the latest edition of this composition, see Wagensonner (2008) and for further remarks on the colophons of the Ninurta-uballissu family, see Wagensonner (2011; 2014b). Frequently the double ruling that separates the colophon from the body of the text contains the remark til or sometimes even al.til, that is, a Sumerian expression for Akkadian qati, “(the source) is complete/finished.”


For discussing the possibility that the Assur scribes “composed and redacted Mesopotamian literary texts, and thus actively contributed to the process of canonization,” see Geller (1990, 210 and passim).


See Cohen (2009, 59–60).


See for this remark Worthington (2012, 25–27). This remark is attested, for instance, on KAR 4 and appears there in three consecutive lines almost at the top of the tablet’s reverse in both the Sumerian as well as Akkadian columns. This might indicate that Kidin-Sîn’s source text from which he copied had significant damage at the upper part of the reverse or even a broken bottom edge.


For a photo of this tablet, see Cooper (1978, plate XIV, text Aa) and see http://cdli.ucla.edu/P280051, accessed April 7, 2017. The Middle Assyrian copy of KAR 4 (see footnote 47) follows the same pattern.


For the “tablet house” bīt ṭuppāte, see Jakob (2002, 255–256), who concludes: “Es muß angesichts der vorgestellten Belege letztlich offen bleiben, ob im mA bīt ṭuppāte Schreiber nicht nur beschäftigt sind, sondern auch ausgebildet wurden. Andererseits ist relativ unwahrscheinlich, daß die assyrische Verwaltung die Ausbildung von Schreibern, die doch das Rückgrat der Bürokratie bilden, nicht in eigener Regie durchführt und den ‘Lehrplan’ von Anfang an bestimmt” (Jakob 2002, 256). See further the overview in Waetzoldt and Cavigneaux (2009, 305–306).


See, for example, Charpin (1986, 420–425) and Robson (2001).


See Gesche (2001, passim).


Jakob (2002, 255) and see footnote 49 above.


For this problematic situation, see the introductory remarks in Wagensonner (2011).


See Veldhuis (2014, 336).


For a hand copy of CBS 15132, see Wagensonner (2008, 294, text C).


See Veldhuis (2014, 318).


Markham J. Geller states about the late tradition of Sumerian compositions as follows: “Late bilingual texts often differ considerably from earlier duplicates, especially in the prefixes, infixes and suffixes of their verbal forms, and nor can these forms be easily explained by the Akkadian translations. The suspicion is that those who translated the Sumerian in late periods had no real understanding of Sumerian grammar, or simply chose to ignore it” (Geller 2010, 98).


See, for instance, George (2005, 128) and Veldhuis (2005). A rather important case study is the evidence from “House F” in Nippur, which yielded a staggering amount of school texts allowing for an analysis of an Old Babylonian school curriculum; see Robson (2001, 45–50).


See, for this aspect, the recent study by Paul Delnero, who based his analyses on the orthographical variation between text witnesses of a group of Sumerian literary compositions known as the “Decad”; see Delnero (2012b; 2012a).


For a recent treatment of linguistic change in the Sumerian language with a focus on the songs of praise of the Larsa dynasty, see Brisch (2007, 91–113) and also some remarks in Wagensonner (2012, 17–18). A good example is a composition known as “Ur-Namma, the canal digger.” Steve Tinney treated the various sources originating from Nippur and Ur separately; see Tinney (1999).


See, for instance, UET 6, 175 and Civil (2009, 67–68). The most compelling example for a complete interlinear version is the recently published tablet MS 2624; see George (2009, 78–112, plates 38–43). Its editor Andrew George pointed out that it represents “an exercise in arcane learning” (George 2009, 78). In terms of the tablet layout the Sumerian version of the text appears to be prior to the Akkadian, for the Akkadian lines are intended. The Sumerian text, however, is highly artificial and uses “rare and obscure words culled from academic lists, and a frequently morphemic presentation of Sumerian words that is alien to the grammar of that language” (George 2009, 78).


For bilinguals in the Old Babylonian period and their sentence structure, see also Sullivan (1979).


Cooper (1993, 79).


Only recently Paul Delnero in his PhD thesis studied the variation between texts belonging to the so-called Decad, a group of ten Sumerian literary compositions, which were copied in an early stage of the scribal training in the Old Babylonian period; see Delnero (2006). Examples such as “Ninurta’s Exploits” demonstrate the huge discrepancies that occur over the long and complex stream of tradition. For the Old Babylonian period, the same author studied the importance of memory errors in the transmission of texts; see Delnero (2012a).


The term “translation” is frequently inappropriate or not precise. The supplemental sign syllabary Diri provides a good case in point. Some of the designations for stones contained in it have Akkadian equivalents that go beyond pure translation. These also provide information on certain characteristics of the respective stones. Thus, lapis lazuli is not only translated by the Akkadian term uqnû or by the loan form zaginnu, but adds the characteristics ellu, “pure,” ebbu, “bright,” and namru, “shiny”; see now Wagensonner (forthcoming). Niek Veldhuis summarised the various types of translating Sumerian in this lexical text and categorises them as “multiple translations,” “qualified translations,” “translations of partially represented entries,” “Emesal entries,” “transferred meaning,” and “archaizing and rare entries”; see Veldhuis (2014, 183–187).


For the physical appearances of bilingual texts after 1600 BCE, see Cooper (1993, 80–83). See also Krecher (1976–1980), who states: “Die sum. Fassung ist in jedem Fall, auch wenn aus der akk. übersetzt, wie die (angeblich) primäre und wichtigerer aufgezeichnet, d. h. links von der akk. oder über ihr. Beabsichtigt ist offenbar in der Regel die ‘wörtliche’ Entsprechung beider Fassungen. Ist die sum. Fassung in sich unverständlich und ist aus ihr auch unter Annahme von korrupter Tradition kein in sich verständlicher Wortlaut rekonstruierbar, so ist unabhängig vom Vorhandensein irgendwelcher einsprachiger Duplikate die akk. Fassung als die primäre zu vermuten” (Krecher 1976–1980, 125).


This term can certainly be considered an apt designation for the Middle Assyrian scribal sphere. It is, however, important to differentiate between common administrative scribes and such scribes, who mastered the copies of large lexical series and literary texts, all of which we consider nowadays as library texts, leaving aside the issues relating to this term; see Charpin (2008, 193–194; 2010, 178–179) and see also Cancik-Kirschbaum and Kahl (2017, 35–99).


See, for example, Geller (1990, 210, note 8): “One might even entertain the possibility that Marduk-balassu-eriš belonged to a Babylonian scribal family living in Assur. Babylonian tablets were, in any case, found in the Assur libraries.” Compare the case of the Babylonian scribe Marduk-nādin-ahhē settling at Assur, which was studied by Frans Wiggermann; see Wiggermann (2008).


See Veldhuis (2014, 226).


For the pertinent passage see, for instance, Fincke (2003–2004, 123–124, note 108). See also Cooper (1978, 50–51): “Ten or more years after Nebuchadnezzar’s death, Tiglathpileser I invaded Babylonia and sacked Babylon, and our MA mss., which date to his reign, may very well be copies of texts brought back by him as booty. In any case, it was under this ruler that Assyrian scribes first began copying Babylonian texts on a large scale, and we may suppose that the Babylonian model for our MA mss. dates to this period or slightly earlier.” See further Wiggermann (2008, 215).


See, for instance, KAR 19, which has been collated at a research stay in the Vorderasiatische Museum, Berlin, in September 2009. For the Middle Babylonian tablets, see also Fincke (2003–2004, 138–139).


One such remark is hepi, “it is broken,” found in some of the texts. See page 232 above.


See also Fincke (2003–2004, 141).


For a summary, see Pedersén (1998, 83–84): stating that “[i]t is not clear whether all the tablets diverted in Neo-Assyrian times had, during the Middle Assyrian period, belonged to one, single library or whether they may have been divided into a few separate libraries” (Pedersén 1998, 84). A superficial survey of the texts catalogued by Pedersén provides the following text genres: literary (MB), 1; literary (MA), 4; lexical (Ea, Aa, Diri, Kagal), 7; lexical (Ai), 1; lexical (Nabnītu), 1; lexical (Ura), 1; texts concerning hippology, 20; omens, extispicy, 5; prescription, recipe, 6; law, 5; palace or harem regulations, 1; list of booty, 1; map, 1; royal, 2; letter, 1. The Middle Babylonian and Middle Assyrian tablets incorporated into the Neo-Assyrian library N 1 at the Aššur temple represent a substantial increase in the texts of that group; see Pedersén (1986, 17–18).


See Weidner (1952–1953).


See, in particular, Freydank (1991). For dating the Middle Assyrian lexical texts from Assur, see Weiershäuser (2008, 351–352, note 3).


Jeanette Fincke states that “[t]here is no proof for the existence of a Middle Assyrian library in Aššur that had been assembled by a king, nor that these tablets had been acquired for the palace” (Fincke 2003–2004, 138). See further Freydank (1991, 94–97).


For the claimed literacy or scholarship of the Neo-Assyrian king Ashurbanipal and his predecessor Esarhaddon, see now Frame and George (2005); see further Fincke (2003–2004, 122–124).


I.e., Van Dijk (1983, text n1).


KAR 14 is his copy of sections IX–XII and there is sufficient reason to suggest that this scribe also copied KAR 13, which contains sections I–IV; see Wagensonner (2011, 666–667).


Such dubgallu-tablets are known in rare instances; for the discussion of a first millennium BCE fragment of a “big tablet,” originally containing the whole composition Maqlû see Abusch and Schwemer (2009) and the tablet reconstruction (Abusch and Schwemer 2009, 55, Fig. 1). The colophon on CT 24, 20–46 (K. 4349) is preceded by a particularly intriguing statement, which to some extent refers to “editing” work by the scribe: qaq-qu-ru im-tiid?˺-[ma(?)] / ˹il˺-te-niš al-tar?˺-, “The surface is enough, (therefore) I wrote(?) (them) together” (see Hunger 1968, No. 51). As a marginal note, the Akkadian word qaqquru for qaqqaru raises suspicion as to the date of the tablet, since attestations are usually Neo-Assyrian and not Middle Assyrian. Quite surprisingly, the same scribe wrote a second version of this god-list, an unprovenanced tablet which was used by Richard Litke in his reconstruction of the god-list An : Anum (ms. B). As the Kuyuncik-text its “chapters” are followed by a short colophon containing the number of entries (and in the case of YBC 2401 also the location within the series), which are separated by double rulings from the main text. However, the colophon of YBC 2401 differs. It states that the tablet was written and collated (in.sar igi.kar2) “according to the wording of old tablets” (ana pi-i ṭup-pimeš libir.rameš). Both on KAR 4 and the god-list CT 24, 20–46 Kidin-Sîn’s profession and the profession of his father Suti’u are written with the logogram A.BA. Only YBC 2401 has dub.sar tur and dub.sar lugal respectively. It seems not implausible to interpret the Kuyuncik-tablet as a later copy—despite variants and Middle Assyrian sign forms—produced for Ashurbanipal’s library with YBC 2401 as its source. The latter could very well be the dubgallu referred to in the colophon of the Kuyuncik-tablet. Paul-Alain Beaulieu, in a footnote, raises the possibility of a Neo-Assyrian date as well, Beaulieu (1992, note 19); see further the remarks in Beaulieu (1992, 71, note 13) and Litke (1998, 16–18 (ms. A).


See, for instance, Geller (1990, 211–212).


See Veldhuis (2014, 323).


See Pedersén (1985, 31). Jeanette Fincke summarizes their physical appearance as follows: “However, many of the Middle Assyrian tablets of the Aššur temple that were fired in antiquity have a distinct appearance—a red core with an ivory-colored outer surface—which can also be observed on Middle Assyrian tablets from the Anu-Adad temple in Aššur and from the area between these temples” (Fincke 2003–2004, 138). See further the remarks on the firing process with focus on the Middle Assyrian library texts in Lambert (1965, 283).


See also Fincke (2003–2004, 138), who states that “[t]here is no proof for the existence of a Middle Assyrian library in Aššur that had been assembled by a king, nor that these tablets had been acquired for the palace.”


See Pedersén (1986, 13–19; 1998, 132). The term “library” is used here cautiously; see also Cancik-Kirschbaum and Kahl (2017, 123–139).


See footnote 74.


See Weiershäuser (2008, 353–357).


Although often omitting such important information, some colophons give at least rudimentary proveniences of their sources. According to this data, most texts came from Babylon and Nippur, the latter being one of the major centres for scholarly tradition in the Old Babylonian period.


For an inventory as well as style and content of the known tablets belonging to this corpus, see now Wagensonner (2011, 658–678; 2014b, 460). A paleographical analysis might reveal even further examples. This is possible to some extent using the excellent photos provided by the Digitale Keilschrift Bibliothek, which focuses on the lexical texts from Assur (see footnote 105). See Geller (1990), who compared the scribal hand on BM 98496 (= Lambert 1976, 93) with texts that have been copied by Marduk-balāssu-ēreš with the conclusion that “it is probable that Marduk-balassu-eriš copied all [...] [these] tablets, since the ductus is identical” (Lambert 1976, 212).


See Wiggermann (2008, 205–206).


BM 96947, edited in Wiggermann (2008, 219–222, line 5).


Only four texts can be assigned to Sîn-šuma-iddina so far. These are VAT 10172, a copy of the first tablet of the lexical series Ea (for a hand copy, see Wagensonner (2014b, 476–477); JON 38, a well-preserved manuscript of the “twelth tablet” of the series Izi (see Civil 2010, 45–51); and BM 121117, a tiny fragment of a possible literary composition (for a hand copy, see Wagensonner (2011, 701, 3.2.1). The Emesal vocabulary Ass.2001.D-586 copied by this scribe shows that this scribe copied texts at the same time as his two other brothers. But due to the differences in the colophons’ layout, it must remain open whether he was indeed instructed by a different master scribe.


For the transmission of lexical texts in Middle Assyrian Assur, see Weiershäuser (2008) and now Veldhuis (2014, 317–353).


For this designation, see Cooper (1971, 1–2, note 2).


Francesca Rochberg-Halton states that “[t]here is in any case no evidence in the cuneiform scholarly tradition that suggests that standardization became a rigorous law applied to a text’s particular form and content” (Rochberg-Halton 1984, 128). Recently, Frauke Weiershäuser pointed out that the Middle Assyrian recensions of lexical lists from Assur contain a good number of variation compared to later versions. Variations concern, in particular, entries that became obsolete later on and the sequence of entries. On the other hand, parts of the Middle Assyrian recensions may be completely parallel to versions of the first millennium BCE; see Weiershäuser (2008, 356).


See, for example, the diachronic comparison of a section from Ura in Weiershäuser (2008, 361–364).


See Charpin (2008, 193).


See Charpin (2008, 193).


See Charpin (2010, 201).


For this reading, see canonical Diri IV, 267: u2-lu-tin : ki.kal : ittu; see Civil, Farber and Kennedy (2004, 160).


See Veldhuis (2014, 329).


See Landsberger (1937, I).


See the summary in Veldhuis (2014, 229–269), and see further Veldhuis (1996, 20; 2005, 237, note 26).


The lexical texts found by the German excavations in Assur are now available within the framework of the project Digitale Keilschrift Bibliothek: Digitale Keilschriftbibliothek Lexikalischer Listen aus Assur (University of Göttingen), http://keil.uni-goettingen.de/, accessed April 7, 2017). All discussed texts have been collated. Ai VII is kept in the İstanbul Arkeoloji Müzeleri; see also footnote 108.


See Wagensonner (2011, 672, text 2.1.3); for a hand copy of this tablet, see Wagensonner (2011, 696–699). An edition is presented in Landsberger (1937, 33–50).


See Wagensonner (2011, 664, text 1.1.4). For a new hand copy of the tablet, see now Wagensonner (2014b, 470–471).


Another tablet copied by Marduk-balāssu-ēreš is Const. 4523; see Wagensonner (2011, 664–665, text 1.1.5). Since this text needs collation, it is not included here. Among the Middle Assyrian text finds from Assur is also VAT 10498 (= KAV 8), whose colophon identifies this copy as the twenty-third extract tablet (im.˹gid2.da˺ 23.kam2.ma) of the series. Since according to the colophon this copy contained 35 lines of text, it can indeed be considered an extract. For a new hand copy, see p.  below.


This copy of Ai contains a couple of peculiar sign forms. buru14 appears to be such an instance: (obv. i, 9).


See Hallock and Landsberger (1956, 146). The preceding entry reads nu : la-a.


See Hallock and Landsberger (1956, 164). The Old Babylonian Forerunner of Izi provides a direct parallel. While in II, 198–200 the entries follow the sequence nu-šenu-ub-damnu-ub-diri (see Civil et al. (1971, 46), NBGT IV, 18–20 has nu-un-šenu-ub-damnu-ub-diri (see Hallock and Landsberger 1956, 164).


The use of the sign diš (vs. a-na in the subsequent entry) for the Akkadian preposition ana is rarely attested in Middle Assyrian texts, but might have been caused by the limited space in this line. Compare VAT 8884 obv. 18 (ana-ku) and VAT 10565 (= KAR 17) rev. 6 (ana ta-ha-zi).


Add an initial horizontal wedge in the hand copy in Wagensonner (2011, 697) to the sign form LA (as in the subsequent line).


Due to the parallel passages in Ai III and Ai VI, both versions are presented here together.


For an interpretation, see Seminara (2001, 339 s.v. “Linea 490”) and Prang (1976, 35) with attestations from Middle Babylonian legal texts.


This reading is based on the text witness VAT 9710 (= KAR 14 / van Dijk 1983, ms. d1), rev. i, 6; for a new hand copy, see Wagensonner (2011, 688–691). Line 52 of the Old Babylonian text reads teš2-ga-ru-še3, which is equated with mit-[ha-riš] in the Neo-Assyrian manuscript i; see Dijk (1983, II, 45) and the discussion in Geller (2010, 97 s.v. line 52).


The Middle Assyrian manuscript of “Ninurta’s Exploits” cited here offers several other intriguing “unorthographic” spellings, which shall be briefly discussed in section 8.3.3 below.


For the expression gu3 teš2-a se3-ga/ge/ke see, for instance, RIME, line 7, and RIME, line 25. For finite verbal constructions, see RIME, line 53 (gu3 teš2-a u3-bi2-se3-ke) and RIME, line 6 (teš2-a bi2-in-se3-ga).


The equation ku3-im-ba : ibissû is, however, separated from the other entries and concludes the section on expressions containing ku3, “silver” (obv. ii, 22). Against CAD B, 356 s.v. butuqqû, the Sumerian expression in fact reads ku3-im-g̃eš, which may be interpreted as a scribal error. It is directly followed by the section on i-bi2-za (obv. ii, 23–25).


See the hand copy of VAT 9308 (= KAR 15) in Wagensonner (2008, 294).


See Landsberger (1957, 56). In addition to the prefix chain nu-in-°, there are also attestations for nu-i3 and nu-im-°.


Compare Gudea Statue B vii, 49–53: alan-e / u3 ku3-nu za-gin3 nu-ga-am3 / u3 urudu-nu u3 an-na-nu / zabar-nu / kig̃2-g̃a2 lu2 nu-ba-g̃a2-g̃a2, “For this statue nobody was supposed to use silver or lapis lazuli, neither should copper or tin or bronze be a working (material)” (Edzard 1997, 36); for the use of the particle nu alone in negated copular clauses, see now Zólyomi (2014, 24–25); for an example outside royal inscriptions or literary compositions, see Wagensonner (2015, line 3).


See Sladek (1974, 137).


In all manuscripts, this form is followed by the enclitic copula -am3; for the matrix, see Tinney (1996, 236).


This amount of lines only makes sense if the Sumerian and Akkadian versions are taken as one unit each. Compare manuscripts of “Ninurta’s Exploits” and “Ninurta’s Return to Nippur” in the same corpus; see Wagensonner (2008, 290).


Cohen (2017).


This personal name implies that this individual was quite probably related to a temple or shrine of the goddess Nin-isina or Ninkarrak. See above, footnote 44.


Usually, the noun hul2 is used only as an adjective. Hence, a reconstruction *e2-hul2-la-na-ta, though suiting the Akkadian version better, is improbable. See, for instance, a royal inscription by Warad-Sîn, RIME, line 31: sag̃-ki-zalag-ša3-hul2-la-ni-ta, “with shining face and joyous heart” Frayne (1990, 242 ).


See Edzard (1997, 74).


OBGT VI, 130 equates the Sumerian verbal form mu-un-da-g̃ar with iškunšu; see Hallock and Landsberger (1956, 83). See Geller (2010, 98), who discusses a Late Babylonian text witness of “Ninurta’s Exploits” and the fact that its translation was “cast in idiomatic Akkadian.”


Instead of ribīt ālīša ana bâ’i, one expects the construction **ana ribīt ālīša bâ’i. For further bilingual attestations, see CAD B, 178–179 and line 13 of “Nin-Isina’s Journey to Nippur”: e-sir sila-dag̃al mu-un-na-ab-sikil-e uru mu-un-na-ab-ku3-ge : su-qu u3 ri-bi-tu ul-lu-lu-ši uru u2-lal-ši. In the Sumerian version, both verbal chains are identical except for the base. Nonetheless, the Akkadian renders the first form as a stative (ullulūši) and the second one as a durative (ullalši).


VAT 8884 =  Cooper (1978, text cC).


For a full score of this line, see Cooper (1978, 96, 98). The Old Babylonian version reads dib-dib-be2-da-ni. The Neo-Assyrian text is much closer to the early second millennium sources than to the Middle Assyrian text. This discrepancy might have been caused by the form pa-e3-a-ke4 in the preceding line (pa-e3 ak-e in the Old Babylonian version).


See the list of sources with majuscule sigla in Dijk (1983, II, 13–19).


For a reconstruction of this curricular setting, see Robson (2001, 54, table 6). Another group of advanced-level teaching was the so-called Decad. Robson states that the fourteen compositions “held a similar curricular status to the members of the Decad,” although it was “not as strong or as pervasive as the Decad’s” (Robson 2001, 55).


For a diachronic overview of the extant manuscripts and their textual reconstruction, see Dijk (1983, II, 1–12).


Compare, however, the bilingual ms. Aa of “Ninurta’s Return to Nippur,” which presents the Sumerian and Akkadian versions of the text in columns; see Cooper (1978).


VAT 9710 =  KAR 14 =  Dijk (1983, text d1). For a new hand copy of this tablet, see Wagensonner (2011, 688–691, 1.2.1).


BM 122625+ =  Dijk (1983, text n1). For a new hand copy of this tablet, see Wagensonner (2014b, 472–473).


VAT 9306 =  KAR 13 =  Dijk (1983, text h). See Wagensonner (2011, 692).


VAT 10565 = KAR 17 =  Dijk (1983, text q). The museum number “VAT 10567” in Dijk (1983, II, 20) needs to be corrected accordingly.


See the hand copy on p. .


It is not unlikely that both tablets stem from the hand of the same scribe.


VAT 10628 = KAR 363 =  Dijk (1983, text o1).


For a hand copy, see p. .


VAT 10643 = KAR 370a+b+c =  Dijk (1983, text m1). For a hand copy of KAR 370a, see below, p. .


BM 122625+ =  Dijk (1983, text n1).


See above, section 8.3.2. In this case, both Marduk-balāssu-ēreš and Bēl-aha-iddina copied the whole composition and checked each other’s copy.


For this loanword, see Civil (2007, 30 s.v. 207. putuk).


Dijk (1983, II, 59).


The tablet has been collated during a research stay in Berlin in March 2011. For a photo, see the website of the Digitale Keilschrift Bibliothek (see footnote 105).


See the score in Dijk (1983, II, 108).


Note, however, the possible verbal base ta in the form im-ma-ni-ta in ms. Ma of “Bilgames and the Bull of Heaven” from Me-Turan, line i, 39. See Cavigneaux and Al-Rawi (1993, 105). Line 45 of the composition reads (= ms. Ma, line i, 34) presumably im-ma-ni-[ta?] again, while manuscript No from Nippur reads me-e[n-de3-en]; see George (2010, 109).


See Schretter (1990, 246–247 s.v. nunus), whose reading “nús” should be corrected to “nus.”


The later sources appear to be closer to the Old Babylonian version than to the Middle Assyrian text. In his discussion of “Ninurta’s Return to Nippur,” Jerrold S. Cooper states that “[t]he presence of an Akkadian translation, and the absence of the standardized translation format, supports the assumptions previously made from evidence of the Bogh[azköi] texts alone, that the addition of Akkadian translations occurred early in the formation of the canon, while the standardization of translation formats occurred later [...]” (Cooper 1978, 50).


See Wagensonner (2009, 359). For the line in “Ninurta’s Exploits,” see the comments given in Seminara (2001, 307 s.v. line 380): “Lo sviluppo du11 > tu-ud dalla recensione monolingue a quella bilingue è giustificato dal consueto espediente dell’omofonia.”


The later version (text e1) has umun-g̃en, “I am lord.”


The use of the independent pronoun g̃a2-e instead of °-g̃en could have been triggered by the presence of the independent pronoun in the subsequent line of the Middle Assyrian recension: [a2]-še g̃a2-e mu-un-na-ni-in-du8 : [lu-m]a-an a-na-ku am-ma-ra-aš2-šu. Compare the following occurrences of the enclitic copula: line 422 (= VAT 9710 obv. ii, 9–10): en dnin-urta-me-en [...] : en dnin.urta a-na-ku [...] [see also line 617 (= BM 122625+ obv. i, 9–10)]; line 428 (= VAT 9710 obv. ii, 21–2) g̃uruš-me-en [...] : eṭlu at-ta [...]; line 432 (= VAT 9710 obv. ii, 27–28): en-me-en [...] : be-le2-ku [...]; line 489 (= VAT 9710 rev. i, 4–5): [...] du14-me-en [...] : [...] mu-uṣ-ṣa-lu at-ta [...].


See footnote 158 for further examples of the copula written in normal orthography °-me-en.


See Cavigneaux and Al-Rawi (2000, 25 and 37–38 s.v. lines 3 and 5). The authors refer to legend of an Old Babylonian cylinder seal reading aš-ša; see Collon (1986, 107, no. 177).


See Charpin (1992, 11).


See Civil et al. (1971, 23).


See a text kept in a private collection; Civil (2010, 45–51).


BM 122625+ =  Dijk (van Dijk 1983 text n1).


See Dijk (1983, II, 158 s.v. line 584) for the full score.


See also footnote 20 above.


But see Seminara (2001, 308–309).


Compare the semantic sequence in the lexical entries in Proto-Izi II, 359/360–361: gi16-sa, da-ri2; see Civil et al. (1971, 51).


See also Lugal-e X, line 422: im-hu-luh-ha-en-na-g[in7] compared to the Old Babylonian form ba-e-hu-luh-en-na-gin7 (texts S1 and W1).


Seminara (2001, 321). Compare Example 7 above.


There is no separate discussion of this phenomenon in Seminara’s treatment.


For variants in (Old Babylonian) Sumerian literary texts caused by memory errors, see now Delnero (2012a).


See section 8.3.5.


See Seminara (2001, 323).


See Frahm (2011, 70–76).


See also Seminara (2001, 346).


See examples in Karahashi (2000, 97–98).


See the lexical attestations in CAD K, 144.


See text k1 in the score in Dijk (1983, II, 148). It reads giri17 ki-s[u ...] : ina š[u-...].


But note that the Neo-Assyrian version of this line deviates from all its predecessors; for a score, see Cooper (1978, 86).


See also Seminara (2001, 367).


See Wagensonner (2011, 653–656) with further attestations. To these can be added line 259 of the composition and furthermore a manuscript of “Inana and Ebih” (UET 6, 17), which reads in obv. 13: [igi-za er2]-ra [si] ba-ni-in-si.


For some general notes on the Middle Assyrian manuscripts of “Ninurta’s Return to Nippur,” see Cooper (1978, 32–36).


The composition would have been divided into four parts; see Cooper (1978, 38). This is substantiated by the amount of lines mentioned in the colophon of manuscript bB: 53.


See Cooper (1978, 45–46) and compare both the table 6 on pp. 40–42 dealing with lexical variants between the Old Babylonian text and later recensions.


See Cooper (1978, 48–49 with table 10).


VAT 8884 reads in obv. 20: [an-n]e2 ug gal-a-ni-še3 pa3-da-me-en : [ša2 da-nu i+]na e-mu-qi2-šu ra-ba-a-ti u2-tu-u2-šu a-na-ku. Both the Old Babylonian and the Neo-Assyrian versions have a2 instead; for a score transliteration, see Cooper (1978, 88).


See also the commentary in Cooper (1978, 105–106 s.v. line 4).


VAT 8884 =  Cooper (1978, text cC) = KAR 18.


Cooper (1978, 98).


See, for instance, Igiduh 1, 200: kadi-im-mahi : ṭe-[e-mu]. For further lexical and bilingual attestations, see CAD Ṭ, 85 s.v. ṭēmu.


See the late commentary SpTU 1, 49 (= CCP 4.2.E) on a therapeutic text, which aims at explaining the ailment called “Hand-of-a-Ghost” (šu.gidim.ma). Via the otherwise not attested orthography of the Akkadian word for “ghost” written eṭem˺-me (rev., 14) the commentator seeks to establish an “etymological” link between the syllables e and ṭem by correctly taking the Sumerian e in the meaning of Akkadian qabû, “to speak” and relating the syllable ṭem to ṭēmu (fully quoted as ˹ka˺[de-]˹em4˺-ma.hi; rev., 15). Therefore, ghosts are “those who give orders” (qābû ṭēmi); for a discussion of this explanation, see Finkel (2014, 309–311).


See, for instance, Horowitz (1998, 154).


For this distinction and the various sources, see now Horowitz (2014, 2–3).


Horowitz (2014, 3) and passim reads “Ninurta-bullissu,” but the latter element cannot be corroborated by the evidence in the colophons, since quite frequently and also on the Astrolabe-text the spelling u2ti.la-su clarifies its interpretation. See the remarks to this tablet and its colophon in Wagensoner (2011, 670–671, 1.2.5). A new copy of the VAT 9416 is presented in Wagensonner (2014b, 474–475); see further Horowitz (2014, Plates I–IV).


Horowitz states that “VS 24, 120 would appear to give witness to one of the sources for the Alb [i.e., KAV 218] menology to which other materials, particularly the Akkadian translation and a set of month-stars, were later added to complete the text as we know it from Alb B I. Exactly how, where, and when this happened is unknown, but it may have occurred proximate to the time of the composition of Alb B itself” (Horowitz 2014, 48). See also Horowitz (1998, 159) and Sassmannshausen (2008, 269). Horowitz argues that the Middle Babylonian sources themselves may derive from earlier Old Babylonian traditions. Another Middle Babylonian tablet from Nippur (HS 1897) can be interpreted as forerunner to the 30-star catalogue, which then was incorporated into the composition of the “Astrolabe B”; for an edition and discussion of this text witness, see Oelsner and Horowitz (1997–1998).


See Horowitz (2014, 33–46) with commentary thereafter. For an older edition, see Çağirgan (1985).


See Aa I/2, 353–364 (Civil, Green, and Lambert 1979, 218), which equates bara2 with [šar]-risic, šub-tu4, ni-me-du, pa-rak-ku, mu-ša2-bu, a-ša2-bu, ba-ša2-mu, and [ša]b-su-u2.


See, for instance, the composition Enlil A, lines 81–82: en-en-e bara2-bara2-ge2-ne / nidba-ku3-ga si mu-ni-in-sa2-eš, “Lords and sovereigns prepared lofty regular offerings there” (composite text based on the score given in Delnero 2006, 2145–2146). See also Example 29 below, which provides the Akkadian equivalent iškaru for two different spellings in the Sumerian version.


See also Horowitz (2014, 54).


See Horowitz (2014, 54–55).


See also Example 23 above.


See CAD R, 437 and Sjöberg (1988, 172, note 5).


See the comments in Horowitz (2014, 58).


See Antag̃al F, 250 (Cavigneaux, Güterbock, and Roth 1985, 219). The verbal base dur2 is confirmed by an Old Babylonian grammatical text published in Civil (1994, 205–206). Line ii, 5 reads: a-ša3 gu4 dur2-ru-na : i-na a.ša3 gu4 ra-ha-ṣu hup-p[u-x].


For general remarks on this series, see Cavigneaux (1969, 638).


For an image of the respective tablet, see entry P346055 in the CDLI database.


See Horowitz (2014, 58).


See also Horowitz (2014, 62).


See Civil et al. (1971, 26).


In the creation myth KAR 4, we find the possible spelling °-bi2-ta-a; see the discussion of Example 30 below.


This logogram group is read ak-kil; see Civil, Farber and Kennedy (2004, 112). As a marginal note on intertextuality, one has to pinpoint the fact that in Diri two entries farther down the same logogram is equated with bīt Ninšubur, a deity that is dealt with in the menology of the fourth month; for Ninšubur/Papsukkal, see Wiggermann (1998–2001).


Horowitz (2014, 65) refers to Ea VIII: 13, which equates kad5.kad5 with šisītu.


See, for instance, “Nin-Isina’s Journey to Nippur,” line 5: [...] uru-ne2 mu-un-da-sa2 : [...] uru-ša i-ša-an-na-an; see Wagensonner (2008, 280). But see also KAV 218 where the verb in the Sumerian phrase mul-bi kaxne ba-an-sa2


See the discussion on the menology of the month Simānu above.


For score and translation, see Cooper (1978, 82–83) and compare his comments (1978, 127–128). The reading tum4 instead of nim is confirmed by tun-tun in the Neo-Assyrian manuscript.


See Çağirgan (1985, 411) and compare Horowitz (2014, 77), who differentiates between “divine-emblems” in the Sumerian and “shrines” in the Akkadian translations.


For this solution, see also CAD Š/III, 179 s.v. šubtu A 3 b.


Sm 755+ =  Cagirgan (1985, text B).


The sign is clearly pa and not geš.


See either CAD A/II, 203 s.v. apû A 5 or CAD Š/III, 328–329 s.v. šūpû.


For similar attestations in stone names in the lexical series Diri, see Wagensonner (forthcoming) and footnote 65 above.


See Labat (1933, 116) and Frahm (2011, 185).


See Horowitz (2014, 77).


The Neo-Assyrian version Sm 755+ has in obv. ii, 11 [...ku3?]-ku3-ga.


The Neo-Assyrian recension Sm 755+ possibly reads [k]a2 abzu a-sa6-ga. Horowitz (2014, 78) offers the reading ki!-se3!-ga instead.


Horowitz (2014, 77) reads ip-pata[t?-t]e, but there does not appear to be any pronunciation gloss in this line.


As noted by Wayne Horowitz, the lexical list Antag̃al offers an equivalent petû ša bābi. See the bilingual attestations given in CAD P, 341–342. The dictionary proposes that the scribe of KAV 218 has forgotten a second sign ab after zu.ab in order to indicate the beginning of a verbal chain (CAD P, 342); see also Horowitz (2014, 78).


See Finkel (1982, 237). Pascal Attinger discussed the compound verb a-da-min3 du11/e/di; see Attinger (1993, 417–422, §§ 226–234).


For the different spellings of this compound verb, see Sefati et al. (2005, 233).


So the other known manuscripts. Horowitz (2014, 82) reads uru13.


This fragment from Isin was first mentioned in Edzard and Wilcke (1977, 86), but remained unpublished.


See Lambert (2013, 350–360). For another recent edition, see Lisman (2013, 330–346). Lambert does not include the rather thorough treatment of this text in Pettinato (1971, 74–81). Whereas Lisman uses siglum A for the Middle Assyrian text discussed here, Lambert designates the tablet simply as “Main text.” The joined fragments from the Kuyunjik collection are designated “K” by Lambert, but taken as separate sigla by Lisman (B–D). The small fragment A 17634 is text “A” in Lambert’s edition (but given A 17643) and “E” in the one by Lisman. Since this study will limit itself to just a few brief remarks, there is no need to reference the additional text witnesses extensively. See further the discussion in Viano (2016, 97–99).


This feature is already present in the Old Babylonian version from Isin. See also the discussion in Cavigneaux and Jaques (2010).


Joan Goodnick Westenholz interprets these texts as “secret lore”; see Westenholz (1998, 456).


This text was published as CT 24, 20–46; see also Geller (1990, 212, note 17). Its colophon reads as follows: ˹a˺-na pi-i dub.gal-le libir.ra / [m]ki-din-d30 a.ba / dumu su-ti-e a.ba man / in.sar igi.kar2, “According to the wording of the old inventory, Kidin-Sîn scribe, son of Suti’u royal scribe, it is written and checked” (CT 24, pl. 46, col. xii:8–11); see also Hunger (1968, 32, no. 51).


See Lambert (2013, 356). It should be noted that in contrast to the Middle Assyrian text the Sumerian and Akkadian versions in the Kuyunjik manuscript are written in interlinear format. The entries of the Silbenalphabet are written, however, in two subcolumns.


For its attestation in the textual record, see Jakob (2002, 237). It is also attested in the legend of the impressive seal of the Middle Assyrian scribe Aššur-šumī-aṣbat, son of Rībāte, which was thoroughly discussed in Deller (1982). There too, the father’s occupation is given as a.ba man, which equals dub.sar lugal and therefore ṭupšar šarre. Deller (1982, 151–152) highlights the possibility that there might be functional differences between an a.ba-scribe and the more commonly attested dub.sar. Nonetheless, we find both designations among the texts of Ninurta-uballissu’s sons: Bēl-aha-iddina is attested in the function as a.ba on VAT 9487, a text that dates later than all others known to derive from this family. a.ba therefore might indicate a certain stage in the career of a scribe, but writings such as a.ba man seem to favor just an orthographical variant; for VAT 9487, see now Wagensonner (2011, 675–676, 2.1.6, hand-copy on p. 700) and an improved hand-copy of the reverse in Wagensonner (2014a).


For a parallel, see the case of Bēl-aha-iddina, who checked a tablet written by a certain Nabû-šuma-iddina, son of Badû in the function as a.ba. Unfortunately the end of the line is broken. It therefore must remain open whether he actually left the status as a.ba tur or dub.sar tur at this stage; for attestations of the writing a.ba tur see, for instance, VAT 5744, a copy of the third tablet of the lexical series Erimhuš, where Marduk-šuma-izkur is a.ba tur and son of a royal incantation-priest named Hambizi.


See Livingstone (1986, 175–188) and Lenzi (2008, 188–189).


See also Hunger (1968, no. 40).


Both phrases are part of a tripartite secrecy formula in later periods; see Beaulieu (1992, 98) and for a list attestations Borger (1957–1971). Laurie Pearce discusses the phrase mūdû lā mūdâ likallim (not in the list of Borger 1957–1971) and translates it “The knowledgeable should keep (the tablet) from the unknowledgeable”; see Pearce (2006, 12). This translation appears to take likallim as form of the verb kullu, “to hold back,” instead of the expected kullumu, “to show.” Further notes on these “secrecy formulae” are available at Frahm (2011, 344) and, in particular, Lenzi (2008, 186–203) with an updated list of attestations. Paul-Alain Beaulieu adds: “Since the colophon of that manuscript [i.e., KAR 4] specifically labels the text as esoteric knowledge [...], it seems reasonable to posit the existence, within the Mesopotamian scribal tradition, of a subsystem of esoteric speculations based on the Silbenalphabet” (Beaulieu 1995, 11).


See Hecker (1994, 606).


The Kuyunjik manuscript uses the interlinear layout.


See Beaulieu (1995).


A rather similar example is attested in the royal inscription RIME dating to the reign of the Urukean king Anam (lines 17–19): ki-tuš-ša3-hul2-la-na / la-la-bi-še3 tum2-ma / mu-un-ki-g̃ar, “I founded there his/her abode of rejoicing, suitable for her delight” (see Frayne 1990, 472–473).


Lambert (2013, 354) erroneously has “i ni-ib-ni.” See also Seminara 2001, 408–409.


But compare line 26 where i ni-ib-na-a corresponds to mu2-mu2-e-de3 in the Sumerian text.


See Lisman (2013, 341).


See CAD U/W, 373–374 s.v. uzuzzu.


Compare rev. 29 (= line 70) in this text, which reads ki nam-lu2-u18-lu ba-ni-in-dim2-eš : a-šar a-mi-˹lu˺-tu ib-ba-nu-u2.


For a recent discussion of the so-called “pronominal conjugation,” see Edzard (2003, 137–142, ch. 12.14.4), who gives no examples for the first and second plural forms; see further Jagersma (2010, 672–674, ch. 28.6).


For a discussion, see Edzard (2003, 134–137, ch. 12.14.3). The later evidence for our line has he2-mu2-mu2 in the Sumerian version. Line obv. 37 on KAR 4 has in its Sumerian version the phrase eg2 si-sa2-e-de3-ze2-en, which is rendered i-ka a-na šu-t[e-šu-ri-ku-nu] in its Akkadian equivalent. The latter form fits the syntax for the “pronominal conjugation.”


See also obv. 36: gi-na-e-de3 : a-na ku-u[n-ni].


The former is also attested in canonical Lu, Excerpt II, line 95; see MSL 12, 107. The editors of CAD I/J state that “[i]n Sum. lit. texts éš.gàr occurs beside á.giš.gar.ra, while the Ur III econ. texts use only the latter, whereas in those of the Akkad period éš.gàr alone is found. In bil. texts and vocabularies both Sum. words appear and are rendered by iškaru. In Akk. contexts, however, we normally have éš.GÀR and rarely a late logogram giš.gàr” (MSL 12, 249 s.v. iškaru A). For a2-g̃eš-g̃ar-ra used in Ur III economic texts, see Sigrist (1992, 91–92), who translates this term “prestation impose.”


See CAD D, 129–130 s.v. dešû v.


See, for instance, the vocabulary Sb II, line 127: nu-un : nun : ra-bu-u (Hallock et al. 1955, 139). A closer parallel is attested in Reciprocal Ea, tablet A, “section” B, line 6: nu-un : nun : ru-bu-u (Civil, Green, and Lambert 1979, 530).


See Civil, Green and Lambert (1979, 404). For a photo as well as a new edition, see the website of the Digitale Keilschrift Bibliothek (see footnote 105). Unfortunately the colophon is broken on this tablet. The scribal hand appears not to be related to Kidin-Sîn or a member of the Ninurta-uballissu family. The scribe of VAT 9541, for instance, writes the sign gar with four wedges instead of the common three.


Text A = KAR 16; text B = KAR 15; for a new edition of this composition, see Wagensonner (2008).


See Cooper (1971, 1–2, note 2).


See Lambert (1976, 85 [referring to KAR 118 and 119]).


See Geller (1990, 212).


See Lambert (1976, 86).


Compare the parallel in Ai I, 72 (= K.4350 rev. ii, 29’ = CDLI P395509): he2-diri-ga nam-ba-la2-e : li-tir a-a ˹im˺-ṭi2.


See Lambert (1996 [1960], 118–120) with a new copy of KAR 119, ibid.: plate 32 (VAT 10610).


See the full discussion of this line in Example 10 above.


For a new hand copy of this fragment, see below, page 288 and now also Geller (2016, plates 116–117).


See George (2003, I, 493, note 169) and Geller (1990, 211, note 15 [“a non-contiguous join”]). For an edition of the British Museum text, see Geller (1980, hand copy on pages 43–44). Mauricio Viano briefly treated this VAT 9833; see Viano (2008–2009, 115–117). Both fragments contain paleographic features (for instance, the Glossenkeil with four slanted wedges or the size of the so-called firing holes), which make this hypothesis very plausible. See now also Geller (2016, 6), where it is edited as ms. R.


See Geller (1980, 26). To these belong K 4905+, which similar to the Middle Assyrian text contains tablets 13–15 of the series.


See Crüsemann (2003, 60). This, however, happened too early. According to the museum catalogue, BM 130660 was donated by Edmund Clough on 3 November 1948.


See Geller (1980, 26).


See Meissner (1927); see also Geller (2016, 498, note to line 271).


See Geller (1980, 23).


K.111+ =  Geller (1980, text i) = CDLI P237782 =  Geller (2016, 434, text b).


See, for instance, Ai VI (VAT 8875) obv. ii, 37: en3-bi bi2-in-tar : ar-ka-su par2-sa-at.


See CAD P, 166 s.v. parāsu.


See Lambert (1971, 340).


Compare line 505 of “Ninurta’s Exploits,” which reads according to rev. i, 32’ in the Middle Assyrian text witness VAT 9710 ug̃3-za g̃iri3!(T: ab2)-za ba-ab-sig3-ge-da rendering it a-na še-ep ni-še-ka ta-taš-pak.


Compare Sassmannshausen (2008, 265), who states that one urgently needs a descriptive linguistic study of late Old Babylonian texts in order to discern the grade of phenomena that have previously been treated as typical Middle Babylonian and which may have already existed earlier.


See, in particular, the discussion of “Astrolabe” B in section 8.3.5 above.


For the latter, see the recent study by Paul Delnero, who investigated variations between literary manuscripts belonging to the so-called Decad, which might be interpreted as memory errors; see Delnero (2012b).


See Frahm (2011, 323).


See footnote 20.


For some of the texts discussed above, the Middle Babylonian period already provides fully developed interlinear translations. For a rare Sumerian text still adding Akkadian glosses one can refer to the Middle Babylonian text witness of the “Instructions of Ur-Ninurta” (MM 487b). The annotations on this fragment can be compared to similar glossing in Old Babylonian literary texts. They do not provide full translations, but merely select single verbs or idioms and add the Akkadian translation in smaller script in the centre of the line; see the latest treatment of this text witness in Rowe (2012).


See Maul (1999, 13).


Wagensonner (2005).


Wagensonner (2008, texts A and B).


See Wagensonner (2011; 2014b).


http://cdli.ox.ac.uk/wiki/, accessed April 7, 2017.


http://www.cdli.ucla.edu/, accessed April 7, 2017.


Multilingualism, Lingua Franca and Lingua Sacra

Table of Contents

List of Contributors

Markham J. Geller, Jens Braarvig

Markham J. Geller, Jens Braarvig

Part I: General Reflections

1 Empires and their Languages: Reflections on the History and the Linguistics of Lingua Franca and Lingua Sacra
Reinier Salverda

2 Dependent Languages
Jens Braarvig

Part II: Europe

3 Lehnübersetzung und Lehnbedeutung vs. Lehnwort: Zu den Entlehnungen aus dem Lateinischen und Französischen in das mittelalterliche Deutsch
Kurt Gärtner

4 Konrad of Megenberg: German Terminologies and Expressions as Created on Latin Models
Kathrin Chlench-Priber

5 What Language Does God Speak?
Florentina Badalanova Geller

6 Islamic Mystical Poetry and Alevi Rhapsodes From the Village of Sevar, Bulgaria
Florentina Badalanova Geller

7 Learning Arabic and Learned Bilingualism in Early Modern England: The Case of John Pell
Daniel Andersson

Part III: Ancient Near East

8 Sumerian in the Middle Assyrian Period
Klaus Wagensonner

9 The Concept of the Semitic Root in Akkadian Lexicography
Markham J. Geller

10 Multilingualism in the Elamite Kingdoms and the Achaemenid Empire
Jan Tavernier

11 Diplomatic Multilingualism in the Middle East, Past and Present: Multilingualism, Linguae Francae and the Global History of Religious and Scientific Concepts
Lutz Edzard

12 Some Observations on Multilingualism in Graeco-Roman Egypt
Alexandra von Lieven

Part IV: India and Central Asia

13 Indo-Iranian Sacred Texts and Sacrificial Practices: Structures of Common Heritage (Speech and Performance in the Veda and Avesta, III)
Velizar Sadovski

14 Aspects of Multilingualism in Turfan as Seen in Manichaean Texts
Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst

Part V: China

15 Multilingualism and Lingua Franca in the Ancient Chinese World
William G. Boltz

16 The Imprint of Buddhist Sanskrit on Chinese and Tibetan: Some Lexical Ontologies and Translation Strategies in the Tang Dynasty
Jens Braarvig

17 Classical Chinese as Lingua Franca in East Asia in the First to Second Millennia CE: Focusing on the Linguistic Situation in Traditional Korea
Vladimir Tikhonov

Part VI: The Americas

18 Multilingualism and Lingua Francae of Indigenous Civilizations of America
Lars Kirkhusmo Pharo

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