Researching the Isin II Period Nov 6, 2019 19:26:02 GMT -5
Post by us4-he2-gal2 on Nov 6, 2019 19:26:02 GMT -5
The Isin II Dynasty - History of Scholarship
Hello all - I thought I would post and mention my work on the Isin II period. The Isin II dynasty, so named because of the native designation of the dynasty in texts (PA.ŠE = Isin), was a dynasty of eleven kings ruling from the city of Babylon from 1157-1026 BC. A listing and description of said kings is available at the online RIMB website here. The dynasty is sometimes said to fall in the 'Post-Kassite Period' or alternatively in the 'Middle Babylonian Period' which is just a matter of terminology. The last substantial treatment of the period was by J.A. Brinkman 1968 Political History of Post-Kassite Babylonia 1158-722 B.C. For my doctoral research project, my adviser and I have decided that I will write a dissertation on the Isin II dynasty, updating Brinkman's pioneering work where this is possible, but also taking a holistic approach which will also consider the religion and literature of the period in light of it's political developments.
The first part of my dissertation will be a history of scholarship, which I am now working on. This section should be useful to persons interested in the period, I hope, given that I am not aware of any current history of scholarship on this period. Researching this topic is quite enjoyable, it serves as my personal introduction to the complexities of the modern reconstruction of Babylonian chronology and dating etc. and an excuse to really dwell on the early pioneers with a larger focus then I have before.
Given the task at hand, I have had to learn about a number of very old journals and how to use them. For example, journals dating to the later 1800s such as Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology and The Babylonian Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania. Fortunately, this being the digital information age, and the copyrights for such works having long since expired, these early publications are usually available online at archive.org or else at etana.org:
To give a sense of what this sort of work can be like, I was researching what seems to constitute the beginning of the modern reconstruction of Babylonian chronology. A good place to start seemed to be Sayce, A.H. 1889 "The Dynastic Tablets and Chronicles of the Babylonians" published in Records of the Past: Being English Translations of Ancient Monuments of Egypt and Western Asia (Volume 1) pages 1-41. See a description of this scholar here. Sayce discusses numerous 'dynasty tablets' - in later scholarship, these texts would be split into two categories: the king lists and the chronicles.
Starting with Sayce's "Third Dynasty Tablet" I referred to the primary (the original) publication of this text which was cited by Sayce, that being Smith, George. 1874. "On Fragments of an Inscription Giving Part of the Chronology from which the Canon of Berosus was Copied." Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology III/2: 361-379. See a description of this scholar here. Smith is a legend among Assyriologists, a brilliant and largely self taught cuneiform enthusiast who came, in time, to work for the British Museum. Smith was the first to read and recognize the Mesopotamian flood story as it occurs in Gilgamesh, the first person in thousands of years to read the story that has so much import especially when compared with the Biblical flood story (Smith's finding caused a world wide sensation). He died prematurely at the age of 36 while in Iraq, after contracting dysentery. Smith's paper begins with the following statement:
"Berosus the Chaldean historian, in the time of the successors of Alexander, translated the records of his country into the Greek language; and as the whole body of the literature of Assyria and Babylonia was inscribed on clay tablets, it was doubtless from such tablets that Berosus compiled his history.
Among the thousands of inscriptions which have been discovered, embracing every variety of subject, there had been hitherto a remarkable absence of any fragments of the general chronology of the country. In various inscriptions chronological notices have been found stating the number of years that had elapsed between particular reigns or events, and these extracts served to show the existence of a regular scheme of chronology, making it appear more singular that such a chronological scheme had not hitherto been discovered."
In other words, the tablet fragments that Smith is about to treat in this article from 1874 are the first native documents to be found and published in modern times which record sequences of Babylonian kings as understood by the ancient scribes, the native chronology. The fragments come from Assyria, specifically from Kouyunjik, an important mound at Nineveh, and were recovered by Austin Henry Layard in 1849. Smith's article, then, may be considered the real beginning of the modern reconstruction of Babylonian chronology (as far as I understand at the moment).
A difficult aspect of compiling a history of scholarship, as I am trying to do, is that scholars of this era are not yet in the habit of including 'identifying information' about their tablets. So they do not include either a primary publication reference or a museum number. It's possible that museum numbers had not been finalized at the British Museum at the time of Smith's writing. Without a museum number one could be at a loss for any way to find more information about the tablet Smith is discussing, such as who has worked on it since and are there more recent translations (of course it is always important to test different translations against each other, weigh varying interpretations - translations from 30 or 40 years ago are generally not as accurate as recent translations, let alone translations from 140 years ago). Since Smith and other early scholars do not provide translation numbers, one is forced to reference Bezold's 1889-1899 5 part Catalogue of the Cuneiform Tablets in the Kouyunjik Collection of the British Museum:
In a monumental undertaking, Bezold catalogued every cuneiform text from the Kouyunjik collection at the British Museum as of 1899 together with publication information, i.e. in which journal or book the text had been discussed or translated as of 1899. A huge task given that the British Museum website lists 35,554 objections from Kouyunjik, the majority of which, I'm sure, are tablets. Since the pdfs are searchable, I was able to search T.S.B.A Vol. III and to locate, finally, the Museum number of the relevant text Smith publishes for the first time, the number being K 8523, and Bezold's entry for K 8532 is as follows:
Portion out of the middle, 4-in. by 31in.; 3 + 4 + ...... ..... +
..... +) 5 + 15 +..... lines. Part of a Babylonian chronicle
concerning the early Babylonian kings, their dynasties and reigns. For
the text see G. SMITH, T.S.B.A., Vol. III, pp. 371 if.; and WINCKLER,
Untersuchznzqen, p. 153. Cf. also DELITZSCH, Koss., p. 14, note 3; BEZOLD,
Lit., p. 21, § 11, mi; SCHRADER, Sitzber. Preuss. Ak. d. TW., 1887, pp. 580 ff.;
SAYCE, Rec., N.S., Vol. I, p. 20f.; HALEVY, Recherches bibliques, part 8,
p. 308; and Guide Kouy. Gall., 1885, p. 171, No. 16. [K. 8532]
As Bezold's entry indicates, text K 8532 had from early on been categorized as a "chronicle" and this categorization stuck and has been maintained by the field ever since, although some scholars point out that in terms of form and content, it should really be described as a kinglist. The text K 8532 is frequently examined and discussed in modern scholarship and is usually known as (one of the fragments making up) the Dynastic Chronicle, also known as ABC 18, however numerous other small fragments have been joined to K 8532 to form the reconstructed text as presently known. The CDLI link is here:
The wiki entry gives a good orientation here: "The Dynastic Chronicle, "Chronicle 18" in Grayson's Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles or the "Babylonian Royal Chronicle" in Glassner’s Mesopotamian Chronicles, is a fragmentary ancient Mesopotamian text extant in at least four known copies. It is actually a bilingual text written in 6 columns, representing a continuation of the Sumerian king list tradition through to the 8th century BC and is an important source for the reconstruction of the historical narrative for certain periods poorly preserved elsewhere." The British Museum website also has an entry. Finally, livius.org supplies an up to date and reliable translation here. While the list is important for an overall reconstruction of the order of the dynasties of Mesopotamia, the chronicle (or king list) goes from the first dynasty of Babylon to the second Sealand dynasty and the dynasty of Bazi, skipping the Middle Babylonian Kassite and Isin II dynasties (which would have been of direct interest to me at present).