Akkadian School Texts
The Eduba Curriculum:
The scribal school curriculum was divided into two phases of education, basic and advanced. A scribal apprentice would begin his training at a very young age in early childhood (5-7 years old). Only wealthy or elite families had the means to send their children to school. There is evidence of young girls being educated as scribes but the majority of students were young boys.
At school the students first learned how to form the different types of tablets required for various documents. A student would learn to form the primary rectangular tablet and practice dividing it into columns and lines. For shorter exercises, small round tablets could be made to fit in the palm of his hand. The prism is a more complex form that has 4-6 sides and has a stick in its center along the vertical axis to allow for easy rotation.
Many of the school tablets were reused in several ways. Often students erased their work in order to write over it again and again. This would save them the trouble of creating numerous small tablets for one exercise. Some tablets have also been found incorporated into the structure of buildings as bricks. In some instances this has served to protect the tablets enabling them to endure to present day.
The dubsar apprentice spent their days practicing their writing and memorizing lessons. Niek Veldhuis, an expert on Mesopotamian scribal education, identifies four patterns of learning in the eduba: 1. Writing techniques 2. Sumerian nouns 3. Sign lists and mathematics 4. Sumerian language (learned through literature) The young scribe began his education by learning to write simple, individual signs based off of Syllable Alphabet A or B (single sign lists). Next he moved onto the TU-TA-TI list where signs are grouped phonetically by their first phoneme, alternating the vowels: u,a,i (ex. mu-ma-mi, gu-ga-gi). After the basic signs had been acquired the scribe began writing lists of personal names to practice short Sumerian constructions. This completed the elementary exercises. Then the scribe would move onto the simple set of lexical lists (known as the hur-ra = hubullu lexical lists), where he wrote out semantically grouped vocabulary for types of trees, metals, animals, stones, plants, clothing, geography and foodstuffs. Upon successful completion of this corpus, the young dubsar would be given more advanced lexical lists to copy and memorize (e.g. acrographic, bilingual or compound sign lists). In fact, committing to memory the scribal exercises was an integral part of their education. There is no evidence that the teacher had his own copy of texts or exercises, therefore most scholars believe instruction was given orally since the teachers had committed the lessons to memory (as a product of their own scribal education).
To this would be added training in mathematics, including simple arithmetic, metrology, algebra, geometry and some trigonometry. Scribes were responsible not only for writing but for calculating quantities and surveying fields. Given the emphasis upon administrative and economic documents in Mesopotamia, training in mathematics was paramount.
As the final step in the basic phase of training was instruction in writing contracts and other business documents. Scribes were used in a variety of ways by businessmen including drafting letters and contracts. The average Mesopotamian was illiterate and relied on a scribe to write and read all of their correspondences. Many wealthy households employed their own scribe. The palaces of Mesopotamia kept large numbers of scribes for all of their daily communication needs.
The study of proverbs linked the basic training to the advanced curriculum. It exposed the scribe to literary forms and language preparing them for the demands of such complex texts. However, not all scribes continued onto the advanced training in literature. Scribes were able to specialize in a particular field, such as legal affairs, field surveying, palace administration, or domestic affairs. Such employment would not require the knowledge of epics and hymns.
For those who continued their training there was a rigid outline of literature that Steve Tinney has divided into two categories: the Tetrad and the Decad. These are groups of four and ten literary pieces that were standard practice in edubas. The divisions, though, do not adhere to modern standards. The categories include both hymns and epics with no apparent method of categorization apparent to the modern reader. To the Tetrad and Decad were added 14 lesser texts, practiced to varying degrees at different edubas.
- Black, Jeremy, Graham Cunningham, Eleanor Robson, and Gabor Zolyomi, trans. The Literature of Ancient Sumer. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
- Robson, Eleanor. “The Tablet House: A Scribal School in Old Babylonian Nippur.” Revue d’Assyriologie et D’Archeologie Orientale 95:1 (2001): 39-66.
- Sjober, A.W. “The Old Babylonian Eduba.” In Sumerological Studies in Honor of Thorkild Jacobsen on this 70th Birthday (AS 20). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975.
- Vanstiphout, H. L. J. “How Did They Learn Sumerian?” Journal of Cuneiform Studies, 31:2 (Apr., 1979): 118-126.
- Veldhuis, Niek. “Elementary Education at Nippur: The Lists of Trees and Wooden Objects.” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Groningen, 1997).
- Wilson, Mark. Education in the Earliest Schools: Cuneiform Manuscripts in the Cotsen Collection. Los Angeles: Cotsen Occasional Press, 2008.
Lexical Lists and the Mesopotamian School: Selected Bibliography (source: click here)
1. Introductions to the Lexical Tradition
Lexikalische Listen <i>Reallexikon der
Assyriologie 6, 609-641.
Civil, Miguel 1995 "Ancient Mesopotamian Lexicography" In Jack M. Sasson, ed. Civilizations of the Ancient Near East. Pp. 2305-2314. New York: Charles Scribnerés Sons.
Civil, Miguel 1976 "Lexicography" In Stephen J. Lieberman, ed. Sumerological Studies in Honor of Thorkild Jacobsen on his Seventieth Birthday June 7, 1974. Assyriological Studies 20. Pp. 123-57. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
1.2. Specific Periods 1.2.1 Archaic Englund, Robert K. 1998 "Texts from the Late Uruk period" In Pascal Attinger and Markus Wäfler, eds. Mesopotamien. Späturuk-Zeit und Frühdynastische Zeit. Annäherungen 1. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 160/1. Pp. 15-233. Fribourg: Universitätsverlag.
1.2.2 Early Dynastic Civil, Miguel 1987 "The Early History of HAR-ra: The Ebla Link" In Luigi Cagni, ed. Ebla 1975-1985. Dieci anni di studi linguistici e filologici. Atti del convegno internazionale (Napoli 9-11 ottobre 1985). Istituto Universitare Orientale. Dipartimento di Studi Asiatici. Series Minor 27. Pp. 131-158. Naples: Istituto Universitario Orientale.
1.2.3 Old Babylonian Veldhuis, Niek C. 1997 Elementary Education at Nippur. The Lists of Trees and Wooden Objects. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Groningen.
1.2.4 Middle Babylonian Van Soldt, Wilfred H. 1995 "Babylonian Lexical, Religious and Literary Texts and Scribal Education at Ugarit and its Implications for the Alphabetic Literary Texts" In Manfried Dietrich and Oswald Loretz, eds. Ugarit. Ein ostmediterranes Kulturzentrum im Alten Orient. Ergebnisse und Perspektiven der Forschung. Band I. Ugarit und seine altorientalische Umwelt. Pp. 171-212. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag.
Veldhuis, Niek C. 2000 "Kassite Exercises: Literary and Lexical Extracts" Journal of Cuneiform Studies 52: 67-94.
1.2.5 Neo-Babylonian Gesche, Petra D. 2001 Schulunterricht in Babylonien im ersten Jahrtausend v. Chr. Alter Orient und Altes Testament 275. Ugarit-Verlag: Münster.
2. Schools and Intellectual History Gesche, Petra D. 2001 Schulunterricht in Babylonien im ersten Jahrtausend v. Chr. Alter Orient und Altes Testament 275. Ugarit-Verlag: Münster.
Robson, Eleanor 2001 "The Tablet House: a Scribal School in Old Babylonian Nippur" Revue déAssyriologie et déArchéologie Orientale 95: 39-66.
Sjöberg, Åke W. 1976 "The Old Babylonian Eduba" In Stephen J. Lieberman, ed. Sumerological Studies in Honor of Thorkild Jacobsen on his Seventieth Birthday June 7, 1974. Assyriological Studies 20. Pp. 159-179. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Tanret, Michel 2002 Per aspera ad astra. Léapprentissage du cunéiforme à Sippar-Amnanum pendant la période paléobabylonienne tardive. Mesopotamian History and Environment. Series III Texts I/2. Ghent: University of Ghent.
Tinney, Steve 1998 "Texts, Tablets, and Teaching. Scribal Education in Nippur and Ur" Expedition. The Magazine of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology 40 2: 40-50.
Veldhuis, Niek C. 1996 "The Cuneiform Tablet as an Educational Tool" NELL 2: 11-26.
Veldhuis, Niek C. 1997 Elementary Education at Nippur. The Lists of Trees and Wooden Objects. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Groningen.
Volk, Konrad 2000 "Edubbaéa und Edubbaéa-Literatur: Rätsel und Lösungen" Zeitschrift für Assyriologie 90: 1-30.
Von Soden, Wolfram 1936 "Leistung und Grenze sumerischer und babylonischer Wissenschaft" Die Welt als Geschichte 2: 411-64 and 509-57. Reprint, with B. Landsberger, Die Eigenbegrifflichkeit der babylonischen Welt in: Sonderausgabe Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt (1965).
Waetzoldt, Hartmut 1986 "Keilschrift und Schulen in Mesopotamien und Ebla" in: L. Kriss-Rettenbeck and M. Liedtke (eds.): Erziehungs- und Unterrichtsmethoden im historischen Wandel. Schriftenreihe zum Bayerischen Schulmuseum Ichenhausen, Zweigmuseum des Bayerischen Nationalmuseums, Bd.4. Bad Heilbrunn, pp. 36-50.
Waetzoldt, Hartmut 1988 "Die Entwicklung der Naturwissenschaften und des naturwissenschaftlichen Unterrichts in Mesopotamien" in: J.G. Prinz von Hohenzollern and M. Liedtke (eds.): Naturwissenschaftlicher Unterricht und Wissenskumulation. Geschichtliche Entwicklung und gesellschaftliche Auswirkungen. Schriftenreihe zum Bayerischen Schulmuseum Ichenhausen, Zweigmuseum des Bayerischen Nationalmuseums, Bd.7. Bad Heilbrunn, pp. 31-49.
Waetzoldt, H. 1989 "Der Schreiber als Lehrer in Mesopotamien" in: J.G. Prinz von Hohenzollern and M. Liedtke (eds.): Schreiber, Magister, Lehrer. Zur Geschichte und Funktion eines Berufsstandes. Schriftenreihe zum Bayerischen Schulmuseum Ichenhausen, Zweigmuseum des Bayerischen Nationalmuseums, Bd.8. Bad Heilbrunn, pp. 33-50.
3. Major Text Publications Al-Fouadi, Abdul-Hadi 1979 Lenticular Exercise School Texts. Texts in the Iraq Museum 10/1. Baghdad: The State Organization of Antiquities.
Arnaud, Daniel 1986 Recherches au pays déAštata. Emar VI. Textes Sumériens et Accadiens. Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilizations. (4 volumes).
Chiera, Edward 1929 Sumerian Lexical Texts from the Temple School of Nippur. Oriental Institute Publications 11. Chicago: Oriental Institute.
Civil, Miguel 1996 "HAR-ra = hubullu: Tablet X dug = karpatu" Der babylonische Töpfer und seine Gefässe nach Urkunden altsumerischer bis altbabylonischer Zeit sowie lexikalischen und literarischen Zeugnisse. Mesopotamian History and Environment. Memoirs. Pp. 129-59. Ghent: University of Ghent.
Englund, Robert K., and Hans J. Nissen 1993 Die lexikalischen Listen der archaischen Texte aus Uruk. Archaische Texte aus Uruk 3. Berlin: Gebr. Mann.
Landsberger, Benno, Miguel Civil, and others 1937- Materials for the Sumerian Lexicon. Rome: Pontificum Institutum Biblicum. (17 volumes).
Matouš, Lubor and Wolfram von Soden 1933 Die Lexikalischen Tafelserien der Babylonier und Assyrer in den Berliner Museen. Berlin: Staatliche Museen. (2 volumes).
Pettinato, Giovanni 1981 Testi lessicali monolingui della biblitheca L. 2769. Materiali Epigrafici di Ebla 3. Napoli: Istituto universitario orientale di Napoli.
Pettinato, Giovanni 1982 Testi lessicali bilingui della biblitheca L. 2769. Materiali Epigrafici di Ebla 4. Napoli: Istituto universitario orientale di Napoli.