3d. The greatest innovation, however, was to give syllabic value to given signs in order to try to reduce the spoken language to a written form. Unfortunately, for the student this can be exceedingly complex since most signs are characterized by polyphony (multiple syllabic values). Old Babylon had 598 signs most of which had numerous phonetic values.
4d. In order to help alleviate some of this confusion, determinatives were placed before and after some classes of nouns. Their purpose was to identify the general group to which a particular noun belonged; they are not, however, translated although they are transliterated.
5d. Later, phonetic complements were added to the last syllable or the last two syllables of an ideogram in order to help clarify the grammatical form.
It should already be clear to the student that the invention of the alphabet was truly a revolutionary event which greatly simplified the requirements for literacy. The following may be used as a follow-up list on this subject:
David Diringer, Writing. New York: Praeger, 1962.
Fischer, Steven R. A History of Writing. London: Reaktion, 2001
I.J. Gelb, A Study of Writing, The U. of Chicago, 1974 (1952) a classic.
Samuel N. Kramer, The Sumerians, U. of Chicago, 1963. another classic.
D. Schmandt-Besserat, “An Archaic Recording System & the Origin of Writing,” SMS 1 (1977), 31-70.
Ibid, “Reckoning before Writing,” Archaeology 32 (1979), 22-31.
Ibid, “An Archaic Recording System in the Uruk-Jemdet Nasr Period,” AJA 83:1 (Jan., 1979), 19-48.
W.C. Brice & E. Grumach, “The Writing System of the Proto-Elamite Account Tablets of Susa,” BJRL 45 (1962-63), 15-33
H.L.J. Vanstiphout, “How did they learn Sumerian?” JCS 31:2 (April, 1979), 118-126.
See especially CANE, 2097-2486 for a most important collection of articles on this.
Benjamin Sass, “The Genesis of the Alphabet & its Development in the Second Millennium B.C.,” Agypten und Altest Testament. Wiesbacken: Harrassowitz, 1988.
Bottero, Jean, et al. Ancestor of the West: Writing, Reason, and Religion in
Mesopotamia, Elam, and Greece. Chicago: U. of Chicago, l996.
Colless, Brian E. “The Egyptian and Mesopotamian Contributions to the Origins of the Alphabet,” in Cultural Interactions in the ANE, ed. Guy Bunnens, 67-76
Hallo, William W. ed. The Context of Scripture: Canonical Compositions from the
Biblical World. 3 Volumes, Leiden: Brill, l997. This is the definitive trans-
lation of all ANE relevant texts into English.
William Hallo, “Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Literatures: a General Introduction: Formalizing Biblical Constitutional Theory,” in Literature as Politics, Politics as Literature, ed. David Vanderhooft, 151-64.
6d. It should be remembered that cuneiform is not a language, rather, it is a writing system. Due to the necessity of writing on clay, it rapidly necessitated a development from the early pictography; hence, cuneiform (wedge-shaped writing).
7d. The impetus for writing. Generally speaking, it seems that the need for writing developed from the temple’s need to inventory its stock. It was temple personnel who were to form the first great scribal schools. In light of the token system on the other hand, it should be noted that at least some of the early pictographs had nothing to do with temple holdings
It cannot be stated too strongly that geography is the ultimate factor in the development of writing and civilization. On the other hand, it should be remembered that a sovereign God has created the world in such a manner, in accord to His divine Will. Some excellent reading on this subject may be had in:
Max Mallowan, “The development of Cities from Al-‘Ubaid to the End of Uruk 5,” CAH 1:1, 373-374
Martin Beek, Atlas of Mesopotamia, Nelson, 1962, 9-16.
C.L. Redman, “The Environmental Background, “The Rise of Civilization, 16-49. This is the best concise treatment on the subject.
W.I. Davisson and James E. Harper, European Economic History, Vol. 1. This is also a fascinating introductopm to the study.
The impact of writing for world literature and the Bible is substantial. Especial reference may be made to the S. N. Kramer, “Sumerian Literature and the Bible,” in The Bible and its Literary Milieu, ed. by John Maier & Vincent Tollers, 272-284. See also the standard histories.
8c. The Early Dynastic Period. ca. 2900-2400
1d. Mixed ethnology: Sumerians in the south; Semites in the north; unknown element evidences in place names and borrowed vocabulary.
2d. The earliest historiography: The Sumerian King List. The classical work on the subject is:
T. Jacobsen. The Sumerian King List. AS 11
Essentially, the SKL is divided into 2 parts. The first lists 5 cities at which kingship was first experienced before the flood. A total of 8 antideluvian kings reigned for 241,200 years! Archaeology cannot support the city sites mentioned as being possible.
The second part speaks of another start for the experience of kingship after the flood. The SKL states that it was first experienced at Kish. For many years, it was thought that there was little or no historical value to the SKL. Jacobsen has demonstrated that the present text groupings go back to an original created by Utu-hegal who sought to show that he had just cause for his kingship at Uruk ca. 2116-2110. A number of considerations have evidenced, however, that there is some historical value to the SKL.
Thus far, the first clear instance of a royal palace is that found at Kish.
Royal inscriptions always utilize the title ‘King of Kish’ as the most prestigious of earthly titles.
It lies within the sphere of the capital district.
Some of its figures have been proven to be historical figures:
(en) mebaragisi is mentioned in SKL as a King of Kish. His inscription at Kish has actually been found.
Gilgamesh himself has been found to be listed as a King of Ur in some inscriptions.
Kitchen, The Bible in its World, p. 32ff. has pointed out certain stylistic similarities between the SKL & Genesis.
The SKL varies its formula in introducing and terminating successive dynasties. There are different formulaic features in the genealogies of Gen 5 and 11. Gen 5, furthermore is said to belong to the generation of the succession of Adam while 11:10f. belongs to the succession of Shem.
In both, there is select biographical data for individual kings.
He also suggests that the number of generations and kings, in Gen 5 and the pre-flood SKL are 10 and 8 or 10 in the latter. (This seems a bit weak to me) The point may also be made that neither works are meant to stand for the mentioned figures as the sole features in reconstructing history. For example, all agree that there are gaps in the genealogies of Genesis wile many think SKL is really speaking of Dynasties rather than such long-lived kings. See Hallo, The Ancient near East: a History, p. 34-42. See John Walton, “The Antediluvian Section of the Sumerian King List and Genesis 5,” in
BA (Fall, 1981):207-08.
Both credit their kings with long lives; thus, (En) mebaragisi, king of Kish was said to have had a reign of 900 years.
There are other points of comparison, in general, as Creation, Conflict, Flood, etc. What, however is the most value to Biblicists, the SLK has shown the ability of the inhabitants of the ANE to keep accurate records over incredibly long periods of time. This is also seen in the Assyrian King List where a Tudiya (ca 2300) has been accurately transmitted over a period of 1300 years. Until the Ebla finds, this was totally unknown.
It may be stated, then, that the Bible’s claims to remember origins has been demonstrated peripherally in the literature of the ANE and, in particular, in the SLK and AKL. This is not to say that say that everything in those works is accurate-on the contrary.
3d. Apart from the SKL, it is not until the dynasty at Lagash (Tello), ca. 2550-2350 that any kind of real history is possible. Lagash was connected with the Tigris & Euphrates by canal. It was the only place where there are detailed inscriptions for a relatively long line of rulers. Furthermore, it is the only place where economic archives are large enough to study genuinely the state. See, besides the standard histories, E. Sollberger, “The Rulers of Lagash,” JCS 21 (1967), 279-91. There are 7 or 9 kings in this dynasty, some of importance.
1e. Ur-Nanshe is the founder. His reign is characterized by unrelenting warfare with Umma over water rights. He is the earliest king we can date with confidence.
2e. There are several following kings of little importance.