Sumerian lexical and literary compositions both emerged from the same social sphere, namely scribal education. The complexities of inter-compositional dependence in these two corpora have not been thoroughly explored, particularly as relevant to questions of text-building during the Old Babylonian period (c. 1800–1600 bce). Copying practices evident in lexical texts indicate that students and scholars adopted various methods of replication, including visual copying, copying from memory, and ad hoc innovation. They were not confined to reproducing a received text. Such practices extend to copying literary compositions. A study of compositions from Advanced Lexical Education in comparison with several literary compositions shows a complex inter-dialectic between the corpora, in which lexical compositions demonstrate dependence on literary compositions and vice versa. Thus, Old Babylonian students and scholars could experiment with multiple text-building practices, drawing on their knowledge of the lexical and the literary, regularly creating new versions of familiar compositions.
Francesca Rochberg has for more than thirty-five years been a leading figure in the study of ancient science. Her foundational insights on the concepts of “science,” “canon,” “celestial divination,” “knowledge,” “gods,” and “nature” in cuneiform cultures have demanded continual contemplation on the tenets and assumptions that underlie the fields of Assyriology and the History of Science.
“The Scaffolding of Our Thoughts” honors this luminary with twenty essays, each reflecting on aspects of her work. Following an initial appraisal of ancient “science” by Sir Geoffrey Lloyd, the contributions in the first half explore practices of knowledge in Assyriological sources. The second half of the volume focuses specifically on astronomical and astrological spheres of knowledge in the Ancient Mediterranean.