Sumerian Mythology: A Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millennium B.C

Sumerian Mythology: A Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millennium B.C

Sumerian Mythology: A Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millennium B.C

Sumerian Mythology: A Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millennium B.C

Excerpt

When this book first appeared in 1944, Sumerian mythology was virtually terra incognita in cuneiform studies and Oriental research. To be sure, there were hundreds of tablets and fragments inscribed with Sumerian mythological tales lying about in museum drawers, and quite a number of them had been copied and published in the preceding half century by various scholars. But because of the fragmentary nature of most of the published pieces, not to mention their abundant linguistic difficulties and ambiguities, no adequate translation, interpretation, and synthesis was possible. The preparation and publication of Sumerian Mythology followed a decade of intensive study of the unpublished Sumerian literary tablets and fragments in the Museum of the Ancient Orient in Istanbul and the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, many of which were first identified, transliterated, and copied by the writer. On the whole, the book has stood the test of time; it is still a trustworthy and useful compendium for both scholar and layman. However, close to three decades have now elapsed since its first printing. The accumulation of new texts and deeper insights into the old, resulting from numerous contributions by various scholars, make some corrigenda and addenda essential. In this enlarged preface prepared especially for the present edition of the book, I shall try to bring its contents up to date with the help of the most recent, and hopefully, most trustworthy, translations of the relevant Sumerian literary documents.

Cosmology and cosmogony . As yet no Sumerian myth concerned primarily with the creation of the universe has been unearthed, and the résumé of the Sumerian cosmological assumptions and cosmogonic concepts on pages 40-41 still stands but requires some explanatory and qualifying comment.

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