I've been an avid language learner for years and the idea of getting a tattoo which symbolizes my passion for languages has been growing in me for a while. The cuneiform script being the oldest writing system makes it an awesome candidate. I've also read about the epic of Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta in which there's an allusion to the confusion of languages myth. Which makes it all the more awesome.
I'd like to get the last 3 lines of the myth tattooed.
" Endowed with wisdom, the lord of Eridu Changed the speech in their mouths, [brought] contention into it, Into the speech of man that (until then) had been one."
However, I'm not sure on how to go about finding the correct Sumerian cuneiform extract
The interpretation of the Spell of Nudimmud is still in dispute. An alternative reading, which puts it in the past, not in the (immediate) future, is not impossible. Grammar and philology could bear such a reading. Yet the style of the episode and certainly its meaning and function in the story argue strongly for my interpretation. Putting it in the past cannot be of any use in the development of the narrative. Reference to the future - as one expects from a spell - can and does, since it makes a very neat and sophisticated pendant to Enmerkar's invention of cuneiform, which accompanies the last challenge. (Vanstiphout 94).
One can use the transliteration plus a sign list, this one for example ETCSL Signlist but it is a bit tricky because the sign names differ on both sources, for example it is "jectug" in the transliteration and ĝeštug in the sign list, so the "ĝ" get´s exchanged with "j" But having at least a transliteration is a good start.
Last Edit: Jun 10, 2019 15:56:30 GMT -5 by sheshki
Because you are unmatched among the Great Princes, maiden Inana, praising you is magnificent!
Post by us4-he2-gal2 on Jun 15, 2019 21:26:54 GMT -5
Hello Jonathon - Welcome to the board.
Well, the passage you have selected is certainly among the more interesting passages of Sumerian literature that I have encountered. I think Sheshki has given some good advice thus far. Before moving to the problem of cuneiform signs, I think it would be best to examine the text once more and we could consider again what does the it really mean, and what is its significance in terms of world literature?
I actually don't think it compares well with the Old Testament confusion of tongues at all. This comparison is only possible if outdated (and in all likelihood, inaccurate) translations are relied on. The second of the links you provided is preferable to the first, as at least this link cites the source of its translation. Despite being a LDS resource, it does go so far as to list a more recent and (I think) preferable translation done be Vanstiphout. But LDS is mainly concerned with the Kramer translation, of course, because this translation allows for an intriguing comparison with the Old Testament. Samuel Kramer was the godfather of modern Sumerology, a giant in the field, the man who traveled to the museums of the world, painstakingly piecing together the thousands of fragments and tablets that together form much of what is today the modern corpus of Sumerian literature. That doesn't mean, however, that we should now depend on his pioneering interpretations of some 60 years ago, because the field has improved its command of the material to an extent since that time. Kramer has already formed his notion of 'the Namshub of Enki' (variously 'the Spell of Nudimmud' with Nidimmud being another name for Enki) (lines 114-155 of the text Enmerker and the Lord of Aratta) in his 1956 work "History Begins at Sumer: Thirty-Nine Firsts in Recorded History". Like other pioneers of the field, Kramer also sought to popularize Sumerian culture when academically permissible, meaning any opportunity to draw comparisons with the Bible was eagerly (and really, overzealously) seized upon.
The Cuneiform writing system is, unfortunately, sometimes ambiguous when it comes to articulating the fine details of Sumerian grammar. Differences of interpretation often result and this has to do with modern scholars differing knowledge and application of grammatical theory. But it may also relate to a modern scholars conception of the text and its Sitz im Leben (place in life, or function in society). In my opinion, the understandings of Vanstiphout are more convincing and represent the current understanding of the field - we can see this as the translation available at ETCSL (Sheshki linked this) is closer to Vanstiphout's version. ETCSL was the project from Oxford university, active in the 2000s, which published in widely available English translations all of the best and most authoritative Sumerological work on the Sumerian literary corpus at that time. It is the current 'gold standard' of Sumerian translation (even as small nuances can always be, and will always be, debated).
One must recall that Uruk, one of the oldest cities in Sumer, enjoyed a period of high political importance in the Early Dynastic period. From the Sumerian King List, we see that, in the first dynasty of Uruk, four consecutive kings ruled from approx. 2700-2600 BC: Enmerker, Lugalbanda, Dumuzi and Gilgamesh. These four kings are some of the best known today because they became legends in a literature written down later, in the Ur III period (2150 BC). The kings of the Ur III period, Sumerians, rule after the Akkadian period in which all of Sumer was subjected to the rule of Semitic interlopers, Sargon and his descendants. Hence, when the Sumerians again come to power in the Ur III period, their epics and legends tell the story of great Early Dynastic Sumerian rulers of the Uruk I dynasty, perhaps it is something of a 'national' revival of sorts. The Ur III kings elevate their own prestige by identifying with the Sumerian kings of old, and by commissioning great literary works in their memory. It is from this point of view, that of the kings of the Ur III period, that Vanstiphout contextualizes Enmerker and the Lord of Aratta (which contains the passage the Namshub of Enki). It is from this field of reference that the Sitz im Leben of the text must be assessed. As I wrote on this topic here at enenuru, 12 years ago:
The other epic tale related to the above, again features a rivalry between Aratta and Unug, and a demand for submission. In his first challenge to Aratta, Enmerker instructs his messenger to relay a number of demands and in addition to recite before the Lord of Aratta the "Spell of Nudimmud." This is somewhat paradoxical and obscure and readings are in dispute evidently, Vanstiphout's interpretation is very interesting though as he renders this spell in the future tense (as oppose to the past tense as elsewhere). It reads this way as:
"It is the spell of Nudimmud! "One day there will be no snake, no scorpion, "There will be no hyena, nor lion, there will be neither (wild) dog nor wolf. "And thus there will be neither fear nor trembling, "For man will then have no enemy. "On that day the lands of $uber and Hamazi, "As well as twin-tongued Sumer-great mound of the power of lord-ship- "Together with Akkad-the mound that has all that is befitting- "And even the land Martu, resting in the green pastures, "Yea, the whole world of well-ruled people, "Will be able to speak to Enlil in one language! "For on that day, for the debates between lords and princes and kings "Shall Enki, for the debates between lords and princes and kings, "For the debates betweens lords and princes and kings, "Shall Enki, Lord of abundance, Lord of steadfast decisions, "Lord of wisdom and knowledge in the Land, "Expert of the gods, "Chosen for wisdom, Lord of Eridug, "Change the tongues in their mouth, as many as he once placed there "And speech of mankind shall be truly one!'"
Hence, now the Spell of Nudimmud is an incantation sent from Unug to Aratta, and in the future (if not by virtue of the magic of the incantation itself) tongue's will become one, presumably given the source of the magic, Sumerian. In his explanation of the "Intention and Message" of these epics, the Vanstiphout says they have an explicit aim to praise the glorious past of Sumer, while at the same time, they "unmistakably have in mind the glory of the Ur III state" (the period in which they were composed and written down.) The composers of Enmerker and the Lord of Aratta refer to the superiority of Sumer over Aratta in a number of ways, most prominently that the formers technological advancements, and superiority in trade give them claim to the latter's raw materials (precious stones/metals) - "but there is more: by the globalization of the use of their language (The Spell of Nudimmud!) and by the invention of writing they also control this international trade." This explanation also fits well with the fact Enmerker's final challenge to the Lord of Aratta carried with it an explanation of how writing was invented, for that very message even, which Vanstiphout see's as a "parallel of sorts" to the first challenge - as knowing 'Sumerian was equivalent to knowing how to write' or at least 'compliments the notion of Sumerian as the international language." The Spell of Nudimmud would seem to be a literary device used largely for propagandistic purpose's then, and its possible there would be little actual correlation between the concerns of the composer and those of the incantation specialist.
Perhaps with that in mind, we could now turn to the question of signs.
Wow, thanks a lot us4-he2-gal2/ Bob, I didn't expect such an insightful response.
So it seems that our state of the art knowledge of Sumerian concurs with Vanstiphout. It's fascinating how much work these linguists have put into deciphering Sumerian, what a difficult task they have in front of them.
Now that you've explained it better I agree that relating it to the confusion of tongues seems a bit far fetched but this passage is still particularly interesting, maybe not for the original symbolic reasons but it's nevertheless growing on me by the day. I'm still interested in finding the cuneiform signs for this passage.
Post by us4-he2-gal2 on Jun 23, 2019 11:41:28 GMT -5
So I think I have found some cuneiform signs, some of the actual script from the particular passage of Enmerker and the Lord of Aratta that we are concerned about (lines 134-155, the subsection called The Namshub of Nudimmud variously the spell of Nudimmud (Enki)). I will show some of the steps I took below to give an idea of how one goes about hunting for tablet photographs and line drawings in this field.
Every ETCSL entry contains both a translation (top link) and a transliteration (bottom link) of a given composition, the transliteration is the rendering in our Roman alphabet of the differing values of the Sumerian cuneiform signs. At the bottom of the transliteration link, there is always a list of tablets or fragments of tablets that were used to assemble the version of the text shown at ETCSL. ETCSL texts are therefore composites, a compromise between the contents of many tablets and fragments, they may contain information from many different tablets which contain part, often a tiny part, of the text which makes up the entire epic or myth. In the case of Enmerker and the Lord of Aratta, we can see that some 27 different sources are listed.
The cuneiform tablets which have been excavated by modern archaeology, while great in number, are very often broken (especially around the edges and corners), or exist as fragments of what was once a bigger tablet. Sometimes the breaks occurred in antiquity, sometimes perhaps as a result of being crushed under tons of debris for 4,000 years, occasionally, the breaks are a result of the excavation process or poor preservation in the modern era.
Often one can take the Museum numbers listed in this section, such as Ash 1924-475 or CBS 10435, and run a search on the field's online cuneiform library project cdli.ucla.edu/ - many times, CDLI will have a photograph of the tablet and/or a line drawing - a line drawing being a close approximation of the signs on the tablet hand drawn by someone looking directly at the tablet, this was customary practice in the first 100 years of Assyriology (it is far easier to read the text when referring to a line drawing than when look at a photograph of the tablet). However, in some cases, CDLI do not yet have an entry for a given tablet and one has to try something else.
In this case I was able to refer to a dissertation done by S. Cohen in 1973 Enmerker and the Lord of Aratta (U. Pennsylvania). Cohen provides an analysis of the 27 fragments which explains which fragments can be used to reconstruct which parts of the overall composition:
Cohen indicates in the above that lines 134-155 are partially preserved on two tablet pieces, what he refers to as source E and source K
In this picture I have combined the transliteration from ETCSL, a photo of the tablet from CDLI (which, as you can see, is BRUTAL to try and read), and a line drawing of the text which I obtained from a book in the series OBO (Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis). In particular, this is OBO 239, Mittermayer's edition of Enmerker and the Lord of Aratta. The museum number is UM 29-16-422 (University Museum of Pennsylvania). I have added red lines to distinguish where the relevant column begins and ends.
In this second picture I have combined the transliteration from ETCSL along with a line drawing to the tablet piece Ash 1924.475 (Ashmolean museum, London). The line drawing was obtained in the journal JAOS (Journal of the American Oriental Society) 88, page 100 where it was published by Kramer in 1966. Some of the signs seem to deviate from the ETCSL transliteration, but again, the ETCSL transliteration is a composite (combining the signs present on many different tablets and fragments, occasionally, it will favor those signs which seem to belong to a core textual tradition).
So at this point, if you were still looking to make a tattoo out of this in some way, you would have to deliberate on which lines you would want in particular. Then our resident cuneiform guru, the dubsar, namely Sheshki, could use the above sources and make a composite text from what may be missing from one or the other and so on. This has been done numerous times before as you see from the different threads on this tattoo sub-board. Best regards - Bill
I think I'll go for lines 154-155 and add "Enki" so that it reads "[Enki] shall change the speech in their mouths, as many as he had placed there, and so the speech of mankind is truly one.". How much would that complicate the task in terms of syntax?
Last Edit: Jun 23, 2019 16:20:35 GMT -5 by jonathan