Cuneiform Digital Library Notes (ISSN: 1546-6566)
Published on 2011-10-15
© Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
I offer here a few remarks to the article “More on the Archaic Writing of the Name of Enlil/Nippur” by P. Steinkeller (2010) that appeared in the Festschrift Owen, of which one might rather claim, “more is less, and less is more.” The question of the graphic realization of Enlil/Nippur in the period from Late Uruk to Old Babylonian (ca. 3500-1500 BC) is in fact, after extensive research, still quite fascinating, leading the reader along various paths that touch on early Mesopotamian totemic cult symbols; pantheistic syncretisms, often “marriages made in heaven” by court theologians of the Early Dynastic period; complex paleographic tables of the signs E2 and KID; the history of Nippur; and the semantics of NUN and EN. Wang deals comprehensively with many of these issues in his recently published AOAT volume Metamorphosis of Enlil in Early Mesopotamia (2011), and this excellent study should be the basis of subsequent discussion. The following restricts itself to the method of presentation in the Steinkeller article, and on the reliability of his conclusions, with but passing notice given to the record of attestations of the sign combinations representing the Nippur pair Enlil and Ninlil in 3rd millennium texts. The ultimate etymology of “Enlil” is left aside, although it will be obvious from the data presented that the Semitic origin *il-ilī (“god-of-gods”), long believed by Gelb, then popularized by Steinkeller (1999: 114, n. 36) and others (for instance, Michalowski 1998; wisely rejected by Jacobsen 1989), merely perpetuates an ancient folk eymology.
P. 239. “The logograms such as UNUG.UTU = Larsa, UNUG.INANA = Zabalam, UNUG×HA = Nina/Nimin, and kulUNUG = Kulab demonstrate the primacy of Uruk as a political and cultural center during the Uruk period.” UNUG is merely one of a string of complex signs and sign combinations based on the sign AB. Thus AB.MUŠ3/INANNA = ZABALA(~a; of the 38 Late Uruk attestations, a singular instance [W 15771,w] is said to be written with the UNUG sign, but it derives from the reading of a poor photo of an inaccessible and heavily damaged fragment in the Iraq Museum); AB×KU6 = NANŠE/NINA (12 Late Uruk attestations, one ED I-II, exclusively with AB); UD.AB = ARARMA2/LARSA (12 Late Uruk attestations, three ED I-II, exclusively with AB). The source of the author's “kulUNUG = Kullab” seems to be two instances of SI NUMUN UNUG in UET 2, 274 and 279, and thus not from the Uruk period, but also with no likelihood that NUMUN would signify anything other than “seed.” The author does not mention the combination URI3.AB = URI5 that, while attested only four times in the proto-cuneiform records, does lead both the lexical Archaic Cities List as well as the Jemdet Nasr Cities Seal that themselves also demonstrate only the presumed “household” referent AB in toponyms, but that offer the interesting graphic indication that the striations incised within the base of the AB sign to form UNUG might indicate the terraces of a stepped tower, or rather the niches of the Anu Ziggurat (cp. Mattthews 1993: 37-38). UNUG is, incidentally, in fourth position in the Cities List and the JN Cities Seal (disregarding Steinkeller 2002: 254-255) and therefore not likely, in the conceptual world of the ancients, to offer a good justification for an Uruk primacy exposed by proto-cuneiform orthography—if anything, one would have to argue that the replacement of AB with UNUG, inconsistently in the ED I-II period (for instance, Ur City Sealings nos. 4 and 9-11 in Matthews 1993: 61-62 and figs. 12-13) and more systematically in the ED IIIa period, signalled a shift of cultural focus to Uruk only after the close of the Late Uruk period ca. 3000 BC. The matter of EN KIDa//NUNa found in the second (list) and third (seal) entries, respectively, and apparently representing Nibru, did not seem pertinent to the author in this connection (discussed in Matthews 1993: 34; but cp. Wang's argument [2011: 43-46] that the seal entry is to be read ENx+KIDx!?.NUNx?). Quite aside from any UD.GAL.NUN or rebus speculation, however, the pair is of some syntactical relevance, given the correspondences between Late Uruk Cities List l. 38 (ATU 3, pp. 35 and 147) and ED IIIa Cities witness OIP 99, 21, obv. iii 4 with E2?.NUN and KID.NUN, respectively (of the archaic witnesses, ATU 3, pl. 77 W 23998,1 appears to have E2 NUNa+E2, while the other three are damaged, making the reading of the component “E2” uncertain), on the one hand, and ED IIIa witness SF 23 obv. iii 1 with NIN.KID = NINLIL on the other, suggesting that the local cults of “EN.KIDa” and “E2 (or KIDa).NUNa” (Wang's comments [2011: 88] on ED IIIa NIN // NUN are unclear to me) were conjoined in the span between Late Uruk and ED IIIa times to form the union EN.E2 and NIN.KID in Nippur (EN.E2ki). In the full archaic corpus, there are more than 100 instances of “EN NUNa” and “EN+NUNa” recorded, many reaching back to the Uruk IV period (cf. expecially the references in ATU 5; EN+NUNa has, based on its appearance in the list entries Lu2 A l. 92 and Officials l. 14, usually been considered a professional designation), and 25 of “E2 NUNa” (plus 14 in the ED I-II period). We should remember that NUNa (NUNb, with a single long horizontal stroke, is a glyph derived from the buckling [young male goat] sign MAŠ), as one of a series of signs representing early cult totems (Englund 1998: 102), is usually considered the standard of the Enki cult of Eridu to the far south, and therefore of Eridu itself—and that the classical Sumerian pantheon as it emerged in the ED IIIa god lists is nowhere to be found in proto-cuneiform texts, so that discussions of archaic cults remain highly speculative, but should also not leave the ground of the textual evidence.
p. 240. “Englund then chose to analyze the sign in question [namely, KIDa of ENLIL] as a variant of KID ...”. It remains a source of some frustration for those of us who have contributed to the Hans J. Nissen-led Uruk project that the basic precept of consistency in readings vs. preference in readings will not set in the minds of some casual users of our data. The proto-cuneiform sign list ATU 2 is most assuredly not “Green and Englund” as Steinkeller cites the volume in fnn. 7 and 9, but was created and published by Margaret W. Green and Nissen; it offers a variety of signs that the authors determined should be gathered under specific designations (and note that the lexical lists volume ATU 3 is authored by Englund and Nissen, whereby major contributions to that volume were made by Green and Nissen well before I became a project staff member in Berlin). As I and others have stated, in the course of transferring the proto-cuneiform transliterations to electronic form, we had to make decisions about a number of these graphic variants that were at odds with the leveling intent of ATU 2. One of many such instances is the case of KID that, in the Green/Nissen scheme, contained at least four relatively distinct graphic forms consisting of a rectangle with varying iterations and orientations of strokes incised within. Semantically neutral graphic variation will of course be greater in the earlier phases of writing systems, but we nevertheless assiduously assigned distinguishing tags to many of the Uruk IV period exemplars that in a more mature stage of decipherment can, where justified, be removed, so that KID signs were initially entered and may be referenced in our online files as KIDa, KIDb (Uruk III forms), KIDc and KIDd (Uruk IV forms; the Uruk III period KIDe was added later; all Late Uruk variants can be accessed via CDLI search). Of these entries, that labeled by us as KIDa was the grapheme which corresponded to the sign I inspected in the Baghdad text ATU 3, pl. 76, W 21126. Whether this KIDa or the graphically similar, but syntactically distinct sign KIDb (a tripartite KID frame but with oblique strokes top to bottom), is the true precursor of KID = reed mat is not clear; the pictographic referent of KIDa may have been something like three wooden slats woven together with reed or rope (see figure 1).
Pp. 240-241. Of the three ED I-II EN.E2 references offered as corroborating evidence for the line of reasoning in this article, no. (1) is a seal rendering that could be E2, could be KIDa—one needs merely move on from this seal to the second in Matthews' convenient compilation of Ur City Sealings (1993: 61 and fig. 12 nos. 1-2) to find the presumably intended rendering of KIDa in the sequence Ur – Larsa - Nippur; no. (2) (now CUSAS 17, 104), based on the much better images available at http://cdli.ucla.edu/P251646, could be E2, could be KIDa; no. (3) may be KIDa, at least according to the hand drawing fig. 3 (the image p. 242 is illegible), but the discussion p. 241 of ED I and II has neither archaeological nor paleographic credibility. Read E2 or KIDa as you will, all three corroborate nothing at all.
I offer in figure 1 above my own hypothetical paleography of Enlil (and Ninlil) that derives from evidence available through the CDLI. The Uruk IV forms are little more than idle speculation. In Uruk III, “Enlil”/”Nibru” is written EN.KIDa/NUN, whereby the stone text MSVO 4, 73, offers an excellent parallel to the form of EN (“ENc”) found in the JN City Seal (and note the strong resemblance of this sign to the offering of stacked beveled-rim bowls carried by an officiant standing above the bearded ram in the uppermost frieze of the Uruk Vase), and “Ninlil” appears to be written E2.NUN (quotation marks signal conventional pronunciations; incidentally, an image of the tablet MSVO 4, 73 = AO 19936 may be viewed at the commercial site
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