In the course of digitizing the cuneiform collection of the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford within the framework of CDLI, the database not only grew by approximately 1,000 new entries, but some new intriguing sources appeared. One among them shall be the topic of this short note.
Entry 1718 of the unpublished catalogue of the excavated texts from the site of Kiš mentions “Miscellaneous fragments” classified as “Pre-Sargonic texts.” In total, 26 fragments belong to this group. The bulk of these fragments appear to be of administrative nature. However, a tiny fragment among them, Ashm 1930-409g, shows physical features of “scholarly” or literary texts indicated by the quite rectangular shape of the upper left corner.
Although not much text is preserved on this fragment, the extant remains can be identified as the initial entries of the professions list Early Dynastic Lu2 A. Both the fragment’s shape as well as the signs’ palaeography favor an Early Dynastic date, probably ED IIIa. It can be compared to other manuscripts known from the sites of Fāra and Tell Abū Ṣalābīḫ, such as SF 75. Ashm 1930-409g is thus far the only known manuscript of this frequently copied lexical text from the ancient site of Kiš.
Oliver Gurney did not include this fragment in his inventory of lexical texts in the Ashmolean Museum published in MSL SS 1 (Gurney 1986: 58-67). The majority of lexical texts from the site of Kiš dates to the 1st millennium BC and mostly represent the rather fossilized corpus of lexical texts around that time. There is hardly any evidence from earlier periods, except for some important evidence dating to the Old Akkadian period (see below).
In what follows the remains of text on Ashm 1930-409g are copied and transliterated followed by a few comments that pertain to the preserved entries of the profession list:
Noteworthy is the second entry of the list: nam2-tuku. The Ebla Sign-list, which in its first half clearly draws on the entries of ED Lu2 A, has in its third entry the sign TUKU (Archi 1987a: 106, manuscript A). The same is the case for the manuscripts of this list in Ebla, such as MEE 3, 1. In Fāra, the situation is a bit different. The aforementioned manuscript SF 75, for instance, has in its second entry the sign ḪUB2 instead of TUKU, the former adding two small wedges at the end of the sign form of TUKU (see Fig. 1 and the remarks in Krebernik 1998: 282). The “school text” SF 76, which contains the first entries of this list, has a clear TUKU in the second entry. The Old Akkadian and later manuscripts do use the simpler sign form TUKU. It is noteworthy that in EDSL-C the entries TUKU and ḪUB2 follow each other (entries col. 2, 12-13; see Civil 2010: 170).
A common feature of Early Dynastic lexical texts is the entry marker 1(aš) going back to the numeral 1N1 in the archaic predecessors. This feature is omitted on Ashm 1930-409g. There are but a few copies of lexical texts in the later Early Dynastic period, which omit the entry marker (see, for instance, the “school text” SF 76 containing entries of ED Lu2 A). All other copies of this lexical text in Fāra include the entry marker. The manuscript OIP 99, 2 from Tell Abū Ṣalābīḫ writes the entry marker rather faintly. This same manuscript also uses the sign form TUKU instead of the more complex form ḪUB2.
Another intriguing feature of the fragment Ashm 1930-409g are traces of a drawing, which appears on the fragment’s top edge and which resembles a waved line (Fig. 2). The drawing most likely was done by three impressions of the stylus. Drawings on tablets dating to the ED IIIa and IIIb periods are quite common. This type of drawing resembles characteristics of the complex drawing found on the aforementioned text SF 76 from Fāra. There are in fact several instances of drawings found on manuscripts of ED Lu2 A, which were collected and discussed by Pietro Mander (1995: 6-9). But on our fragment too little is preserved in order to make any attempt towards its classification.
The Early Dynastic list of professions Lu2 A with its archaic roots in Uruk is one of the most popular compilations of the 3rd millennium BC and was still copied faithfully in the first half of the 2nd millennium BC.
The role of ancient Kiš in the dissemination of writing particularly to the north and northwest in the first half of the 3rd millennium is undeniable and was the subject of much debate. Recently Niek Veldhuis discussed the so-called “Kiš Tradition” and the lexical texts associated with this tradition (Veldhuis 2014). The various intentions for compilations associated with this tradition is fairly different compared to the fossilized archaic lexical corpus, dealing to a great extent with terminology that is absent from the contemporary vernacular. Nevertheless, these arcane lists were copied and studied; the latter aspect is quite apparent in the Old Babylonian period when pronunciation glosses are being added to the various entries of archaic lists. A case in point is a list of professions, which started to appear among the texts found at Tell Abū Ṣalābīḫ. This list, nowadays known as ED Lu2 E, is clearly “more relevant for scribal practice” (Veldhuis 2014: 245) than ED Lu2 A.
To my knowledge, Ashm 1930-409g is the only manuscript of ED Lu2 A thus far known from the site of Kiš. It is furthermore the earliest known lexical source from that site and one of the few 3rd millennium lexical texts, which originate from Kiš. Other early sources such as the well-preserved prism Ashm 1931-128 containing a copy of ED Metals or the poorly preserved manuscript of ED Birds A Ashm 1931-123b date to the slightly later Old Akkadian period.
Nonetheless, lexical texts from the site of Kiš dating to the 3rd millennium are poorly documented. Much of its role for the dissemination of lexical texts in the Early Dynastic period is probably owed to the proximity to the site of Jemdet Nasr with texts finds from the Uruk III period. Kiš figures prominently in the administrative texts from Ebla (see, for instance, Archi 1987b) and served as source for the transmission of lexical and literary material from southern Mesopotamia utilizing Mari on the Middle Euphrates as intermediary (see the colophons of the Ebla lexical texts MEE 3, 47 and MEE 3, 50, both mentioning that they were written when young scribes came up from Mari; see, for instance, Archi 1992: 11 and 13).