Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

Mesopotamian Scholarship in Hattusa and the Sammeltafel KUB 4.53

Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

Mesopotamian Scholarship in Hattusa and the Sammeltafel KUB 4.53

Article excerpt

The tablet published as KUB 4.53 is something of an enigma in the cuneiform text corpus from Hattusa. E. Weidner (1922) first included it among the Akkadian-language "Med-izinische Texte" (KUB 4.48-62) from the early excavations at the Hittite capital, placing it in a heterogeneous group of fragmentary sources that consist mainly of medical therapeutic texts with incantations and recipes. (1) Several decades later E. Laroche (1971: 148) listed KUB 4.53 among the unidentified fragments of Sumero-Akkadian literary compositions (CTH 819), and G. Wilhelm (1994b) made hesitant mention of the tablet in his edition of the medical diagnostic texts from Hattusa, a classification that has gained traction in subsequent discussions (e.g., Sassmannshausen 2008: 286). The purpose of this article is to reexamine KUB 4.53 in order to situate it more precisely within the traditions of cuneiform scholarship in circulation in Hattusa during the Late Bronze Age. In what follows I argue that KUB 4.53 is a collective or Sammeltafel with an incantation-prayer or hymn (perhaps to the sun-god Samas) on its obverse and a collection of terrestrial omens on its reverse.

In the course of the complex editorial history of ancient Mesopotamian divinatory compositions, individual omens or groups of omens were sometimes incorporated into a variety of different omen series known principally from first-millennium manuscripts. The case of KUB 4.53 rev, is curious in that it may correspond with sections of two different first-millennium omen compositions. I suggest that KUB 4.53 rev, contained terrestrial omens of the kind later incorporated into the series gumma Nu. At the same time, this section of text may also provide a second-millennium forerunner of the otherwise unknown Tablet 25 of the medical diagnostic-prognostic series Sakikka. However, before investigating the specific contents and significance of KUB 4.53 it is necessary to provide a few general remarks about the diagnostic-prognostic series and the relationship between that genre and the wider text corpus of Mesopotamian omen literature. I will then discuss the placement of KUB 4.53 in the Mesopotamian scholarly traditions of Hattusa, focusing on both the specific textual genres that contain therapeutic recitations against illness and the transmission of terrestrial omen texts. An edition of KUB 4.53 can be found in the appendix.

The forty-tablet Mesopotamian treatise on disease, medical diagnosis, and prognosis, the standard diagnostic handbook or diagnostic-prognostic series, is referred to in first-millennium Babylonia and Assyria by the incipit of its first tablet, Enuma ana bit marsi asipu (2) illaku, "When an exorcist goes to a sick man's house," as well as with the designation SA.GIG = sakikku, probably to be glossed as 'symptom(s)' (Labat 1951; Hee[beta]el 2000; Maul 2003: 64-66). First-millennium scribal traditions attributed the redaction of this text to an eleventh-century Babylonian scholar (Finkel 1988; Hee[beta]el 2000: 104-10), and a number of fragmentary sources point to the existence of the genre in the second millennium B.C.E., so it is no surprise that Akkadian-language medical diagnostic texts have been found in the tablet collections of the Hittite capital (CTH 537). (3) To date some eighteen fragmentary sources have been identified, and among them are at least three sets of duplicates. (4) These sources are witnesses from an important and poorly documented period in the transmission of both medical and divinatory texts from Mesopotamia proper.

The series Sakikku is a treatise devoted specifically to reading and interpreting medical signs, but in fact a variety of Mesopotamian omen collections have select entries or entire sections that read aspects of the phenomenal world vis-a-vis health, illness, and death (van der loom 1985: 77-78; Bock 2000: 33-37; Hee[beta]el 2000: 76-77; Geller 2010: 39-42). Omens read from signs around (as opposed to on) the patient's body were even incorporated into Sakikku itself: it is well known that the first two tablets of the standard version of Sakikku are devoted not to a patient's medical signs but rather to various terrestrial omens that find their clearest parallels in the first-millennium omen series gumma alu (Freedman 1998, 2006; Hee[beta]el 2001-2b, 2007; Maul 2003: 58-62). …

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