IAA Initiatives: IAA Subsidies for Cuneiform Studies (Previously Maureen Kovaks Fund)

Alexandra Kleinerman is a faculty research associate in the Jonathan and Jeannette Ancient Near Eastern Studies Tablet Collection at Cornell University. She is collaborating with Prof. Alhena Gadotti (Towson University) to publish close to 800 Old Babylonian Sumerian scribal exercise texts currently housed at Cornell. These exercises are primarily lexical, and so represent the elementary stage in the Old Babylonian curriculum used to train Akkadian speakers to read and write Sumerian. While this elementary phase is well documented at Nippur, it has not been systematically examined in other southern Mesopotamian cities during this period. The texts under investigation at Cornell University represent the largest known corpus of non-Nippur school material.

Research on the collection at Cornell coincides with the work for which Dr. Kleinerman was granted the IAA Subsidie for Cuneiform Studies. This fund will support Dr. Kleinerman to continue her work on some 200 unpublished tablets in the Martin Schøyen Collection, Oslo, Norway, that preserve excerpts from the Old Babylonian Sumerian and Akkadian personal name lists. Like the documents at Cornell, these Schøyen texts were student exercises, and represent all phases of students’ practice with the personal name lists, including small round lenticular tablets, which first introduced the students to the name lists, and large prisms containing entire lists and perhaps representing final examinations.

In the fall of 2013 Dr. Kleinerman began work in Oslo to collate the tablets, which she transliterated from photographs on the CDLI. While there, however, she identified many more tablets belonging to this group. She was able to make preliminary transliterations and take photographs, but did not have enough time to complete the work. As such, the Maureen Kovacs Subsidy will allow her to return to Oslo to collate the entire corpus in order to prepare a volume of the Old Babylonian personal name lists to be published with Prof. Gadotti in the Schøyen Collection series (CUSAS).

Eventually, Dr. Kleinerman and Prof. Gadotti hope to publish the school tablets in the Cotsen Collection at the University of California, Los Angeles, another collection of elementary stage school texts from outside Nippur. The publication of all three collections, and their comparison with the known corpora from Nippur, will allow us to understand more fully the nature of the Old Babylonian curriculum, and answer to what extent the curriculum was standardized across southern Mesopotamia. As such, publication of the Schøyen personal name list tablets is one important step in making available the documents necessary to address these issues and ultimately advance our understanding of the early stages in the development of education in southern Mesopotamia during the Old Babylonian period.

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