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5973Re: [ANE-2] Cuneiform variants

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  • Robert M Whiting
    Sep 2, 2007
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      On Sun, 2 Sep 2007, Jim Wagner wrote:

      > I've been working my way through some of the Annals of the Kings of
      > Assyria
      > (http://enlil.lib.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/eos/eos_title.pl?callnum=PJ3835.B85_cop2)
      > Mainly because they have transliterations so I can check my own work
      > afterward. I'm using Labat's sign list. On occasion, however, I find
      > a sign that doesn't exist in Labat.

      I suspect that what you are saying is that you come across a variant sign
      form that isn't shown in Labat. If you are reading Akkadian texts, every
      sign you come across will be in Labat. However Labat is much abbreviated
      as far as the paleography of cuneiform signs is concerned, so not every
      variant form of every sign is illustrated.

      > An example is on p. 103. line 55, the sign transliterated as 'su' in
      > "an-ḫu-su-nu" is not in Labat's list.

      You do realize that the cuneiform signs in this volume are typeset from a
      modern font and don't have anything to do with cuneiform impressed in
      clay, don't you?

      > A further interesting thing is that in one of the earlier annals,
      > Pudu-ili, p3, line 9, "Å¡arra-su" is written with an unusual sign
      > representing the "su." It is not the same as the one on p103 but it
      > looks, to me, as if it could be an earlier development of the same sign.

      It is the same sign. The two signs are the principal variants of the SU
      sign in Assyrian script. The second is the standard from of the SU sign
      in Assyrian script. The first is a variant that developed from the
      Babylonian form of the sign.

      > The sign does not appear to occur in the _List of Neo-Assyrian
      > Cuneiform signs_, based on Borger (with the caveat that I may have
      > missed a variant sign too different for my eyes to distinguish.)

      Look at the "Paläographie" beginning on p. 5 of Borger's
      Assyrisch-Babylonische Zeichenliste (AOAT 33/33A) under no. 7 and you will
      find these variants of the SU sign along with a number of others.

      > Part of the impetus behind this letter is that I have discovered, here
      > and there, three different methods of writing the sign meaning
      > iṣṣuru, _bird_. These differences are radical differences, not simple
      > alterations

      They are alterations. You just have to be aware of the principles behind
      the alterations.

      > Clearly, signs change through the ages.

      As does everything else (with the possible exception of sharks).

      > The question is, is there a "better" signlist to be using, or should I
      > just go on as I have been, making separate notes of each sign and its
      > apparent value as I come on it?

      The best manual on cuneiform paleography remains C. Fossey, Manuel
      d'assyriologie, vol. 2: Evolution des cunéiformes (Paris 1926).

      There is no need to guess about these things. Cuneiform script has been
      thoroughly studied and extensively written about. You can of course
      continue to reinvent the wheel if you wish; if you think your wheel may be
      more efficient or effective than the one currently in use it might be
      worthwhile. Otherwise, I don't see much point to it.

      > Or is there some other suggestion I have not thought of?

      Among these, the most productive might be to see the list of published
      lists of cuneiform signs provided by the Cuneiform Digital Paleography
      Project <http://www.cdp.bham.ac.uk/Publications/signlists.htm>. You can
      also use the CDP Project database to see examples of the signs in
      cuneiform. Go to <http://www.cdp.bham.ac.uk/Database/login.htm> and click
      on "Click here for Guest Access". If you want to see examples of the SU
      sign, click on "Search instances - simple" and when the search form
      appears type "su" (without the quotation marks) in the "Sign" space.
      This will take you to a page where you can select different examples of
      the SU sign. Examples 1 and 3 will illustrate the two primary variants of
      the sign in Assyrian script. If you look at all the examples, you will
      see the relationship between the various forms of the sign.

      Bob Whiting
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