On Tue, 28 Feb 2006, Peter T. Daniels wrote:
> Robert Whiting wrote:
> > On Tue, 28 Feb 2006, Peter T. Daniels wrote:
> > > Couyld it be as simple a matter as whether there was room on the
> > > line to write the KI?
> > Unlikely since the name is not at the end of the line. The full line
> > is
> > 287:025 [a-]mur KUR URU ú-ru-$a10-lim an-n[i-]ta
> > Akkadian cuneiform, on the other hand, was a logogram-including syllabic
> > system (much as English is a logogram-including alphabetic system).
> > Logograms were used quite frequently in writing Akkadian, but basically it
> > could be written entirely syllabically. With completely syllabic writing,
> > determinatives are not essential because the reading of a sign group is
> > explicit. Hence determinatives could be, and often were, dispensed with
> > in conjunction with syllabic writing.
> > In the Amarna texts, as with Ur III Sumerian, the determinative KI was
> > most often used, but not infrequently omitted when a name was written
> > syllabically.
> The scribe did not want to break a word onto the next line, and the
> scribe wanted a neat right margin. Thus he could have included the KI if
> there was room for four signs, or omitted it if there wasn't.
> If there was even less space, he might even have written a-ni-ta instead
> of an-ni-ta, since <a> is much narrower than <an>.
> You noted that the GN occurs both ways on the same tablet, so unless you
> want to claim the use of KI is totally random, this is a reasonable
Fortunately, with the link to a photograph of the tablet by Giuseppe del
Monte, your "reasonable explanation" (viz. "just-so story") has become
a scientific theory (i.e., it has a test for falsification).
The photograph of the obverse (http://amarna.filol.csic.es/amarna/Tablillas/EA%20287/EA%20287-VAT%201644%20(
shows clearly that the right margin is not justified and, as NPL and
Giuseppe del Monte have observed, there is room on the line for an
additional KI, especially since, as NPL has again observed and the
photograph of the right edge (http://amarna.filol.csic.es/amarna/Tablillas/EA%20287/EA%20287-VAT%201644%20(
clearly shows, the scribe had no compuction about continuing the lines
onto the right edge of the tablet.
I don't claim that the use is random, only that when a name is written
syllabically, determinatives are no longer essential to interpretation
and thus more easily elided. Differences that don't make a distinction
tend to become neutralized. When differences are important to
interpretation and understanding they are preserved even in English
where, when the context is unclear, we use determinatives to clarify
whether we are talking about "the city (of) Assur" or "the god Assur."
However, if you require a "reasonable explanation" for the missing KI,
The scribe was part of an espionage ring sending information
to the Egyptian chancery and the message was conveyed by the missing
signs in the text. The recipient had to note what signs were missing
and then combine them correctly to interpret the message. The missing
KI in line 26 and the missing URU in line 61 indicate that the writer
was sending information about some city, but since portions of the
tablet are destroyed we'll probably never be able to reconstruct the
Now there's something for the next ANE thriller. But the point is that
"reasonable explanations" aren't evidence. They are what we use to
bridge the gaps where there isn't any evidence.