Text Typologies


The number of surviving cuneiform texts from Mesopotamia has required that tablets be classified according to type or genre, sub-type or sub-genre, and further divisions within these categories. While there is some consensus in the field as to how these divisions should be drawn and labelled, it is generally agreed that typology is a useful hermeneutic and organisational device that can highlight shared features of texts that can help with their translation and interpretation in a larger textual and historical context.

Within a particular category, many texts conform to a shared structure. For example, Old Babylonian letters usually begins with the addressee framed by ana and qibīma ("say to …"), followed by the sender (order can be reversed), and salutations, similarly, law codes follow a rigorous pattern of conditional clauses. In some cases, texts of a particular subject or type can be further divided into sub-types or sub-genres within which features are shared. The following entries provide an overview of the corpus classified in a particular genre or type and shared typological features.

For most beginners reading texts in an area or from a particular period that they are not familiar with, identifying these features can be daunting. Therefore, cdli:wiki includes under its tools a series of text typologies. The categories of text found here represent our attempt at structuring the Ancient Near Eastern textual corpus.

Suggestions or corrections should be sent to J.L. Dahl.

Overview and Schema for Entries

We currently list four main categories in cdli:wiki:

  1. Practical Texts
  2. Official and Display Texts
  3. Scholarly Texts
  4. Literary Texts

Forgeries are classified as Ø genre, and uncertain as uncertain.
Texts can have more than one genre, and more than one sub-genre.
All entries should seek to this schema.

1. Practical Texts

2. Scholarly Texts


Texts used in the education of the Old Babylonian school were from various genres and are discussed in a general article on Education.

3. Official and Display Texts

4. Literary Texts

Object Typologies

Here goes information on multi-column tablets etc.

text_typologies.txt · Last modified: 2016/04/22 15:15 by lafont
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