The Real Identities of Tablet JCS 17, 021 Nebraska

CDLN 2016:2

Cuneiform Digital Library Notes (ISSN: 1546-6566)

Published on 2017-01-01

© Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Tablet JCS 17, 021 Nebraska has an incomplete entry in the CDLI database. Its primary publication is Goetze (1963). In examining the names listed in Goetze's work, along with references made in his article to the date of the tablet and how Goetze came to be able to have knowledge of its contents, not to mention knowledge of the University of Nebraska State Museum collection of tablets, it becomes clear that the tablet noted as JCS 17, 021 Nebraska is a false identity and that the Nebraska tablet in Goetze's article is actually based on content from two tablets that already exist in the CDLI database: Nebraska 01 and Amorites 18 (pl.7).

Two Nebraska Tablets Visit Yale

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has a collection of around 12 cuneiform tablets as part of the anthropology collections of the University of Nebraska State Museum (see Pickering 1964; Forde 1967; Arp 2001) and a single tablet in the Archives and Special Collections of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries (see Arp 2015).

The first serious work on the collection was undertaken by Dr. Alan J. Pickering. In 1961, Pickering was able to send the two largest tablets to Dr. Ferris J. Stephens at the Yale Babylonian Collection who agreed to “bake and clean the two largest of the Nebraska tablets” (Pickering 1964: 3). These two tablets are found in the CDLI database as Amorites 18 (pl.7) and Nebraska 01, both dated to Amar-Suen 5 (mu en-unu6-gal dinanna ba-hun). It was during this time at Yale that Goetze notes he was able to access a tablet from the University of Nebraska that was being cleaned and that dated to Amar-Suen 5 (Goetze 1963: 3 and 5).

Two Tablets Become One

It is important to note that Goetze never explicitly notes that he examined both tablets from Nebraska that were at Yale to be cleaned and all references in his article are singular: “Nebraska tablet” and “this tablet” (p. 5) and “an unpublished tablet of the University of Nebraska” (p. 22) are examples. His most frequent reference is “Nebraska (AS 5),” which occurs throughout the article text. And therein may rest the root of the problem as both Nebraska 01 and Amorites 18(pl.7) date to the same year, Amar-Suen 5, but to different months in that year.

Signs of Confusion

There is little at first in Goetze's text to give a clue that he was pulling content from two different tablets. The appearance of names seems reasonable and give that both tablets shared a year date, the names are time relevant. A more careful reading, however, shows that most of Goetze's references to the appearance of names in the text are accompanied by the day or days in which they appear on what would have been a larger text. That said, some name references give no associated day or days, which seems odd.

Owen (1993) raised the issue with Goetze's work and the confusion as to what tablet he was actually examining. Goetze's inaccuracy impacted Owen's work. Owen (1993: 135) lists the following ensi of Gudua:

“37. Gudea AS 5/?/15-16 Nebraska (unpublished?) (Goetze, JCS 17 [1963] 3 and 21)”

In his footnote on this entry, Owen writes, “It is not clear to me if the Nebraska text refered [sic] to by Goetze is Forde, Nebraska 1 transliterated above in note 11. If so, no ensi is mentioned in the text” (135, note 20). The problem is that two tablets are acting as one in this entry due to Goetze's inaccuracy.

Owen's first page reference from Goetze, page 3, is a listing of Šu-Eštar, who appears in Owen's article (132, note 11) in a transliteration of a tablet from Forde (1967). Owen notes “The Umma text was unpublished when cited by Goetze, JCS 17 (1963) 3 and 22”. The text in the footnote belongs to Nebraska 01 and references Gudua (gu2-du8-aki) and not Gudea (gu3-de2-a, ensi2), which also explains the lack of ensi in the text. Both of the appearances in Goetze, pages 3 and 22, refer to a single instance of the name Šu-Eštar.

Owen's second page reference from Goetze, page 21, is a listing for Gudea (gu3-de2-a, ensi2), who does not appear in the transliterated text in Owen's footnote 11, and thus is not found in Nebraska 01. Goetze cites the name as appearing on two different days in a text, which links it not to Nebraska 01 but instead to Amorites 18(pl.7), the only tablet in the Nebraska collection with two occurrences of the name Gudea with the title ensi. In expressing his doubt, Owen rightly suspected Nebraska 01 was examined by Goetze and included in his article, but the influence of Amorites 18 (pl.7) was not discovered. Owen (1993) supports the appearance of Gudea in Amorites 18 (pl.7) by including the references in his listing at No. 43 (p. 135).

Table 1, below, makes a comparison between the Nebraska tablet citations in Goetze and how these parallel references in Nebraska 01 and Amorites 18 (pl.7).

Name as denoted by Goetze (1963) Occurrence in Tablet per Goetze (1963) Goetze Pg.# Current Transliteration Occurrence in Tablet Updated Tablet Identity
Šu-Eštar šakkana.Gú-du8-aki Unspecified 3 szu-esz18-dar szagina gu2-du8-a{ki} O, L6 Nebraska 01
Ur.dŠul-gi-ra, šakkana Unspecified 25 ur-{d}szul-gi-ra szagina O, L7
I-làl-lum Days 7, 9, 22 5, 12 i3-lal3-lum O, C2, L9
O, C2, L34
R, C1, L18
Amorites 18 (pl. 7)
Ir-mu Days 14, 22, 28 9 ARAD2-mu O, C4, L19
R, C1, L16
R, C3, L10
Lugal.má Day 8 11 lugal-ma2-gur8-re O, C2, L18
Wa-tá-ru-um, sanga Days 5, 8, 9, 12, 20, 24 12 wa-ta2-ru-um sanga O, C1, L23
O, C2, L20
O, C2, L36
O, C3, L17
O, C5, L20
R, C1, L27
Ṣe-lu-uš-dDa-gan Day 27 13 s,e-lu-usz-{d}da-gan R, C2, L28
Nir.i-da-gál Day 8 14 nir-i3-da-gal2 O, C2, L26
Šu-dSin Day 13 15 ur-{d}suen O, C3, L36
Á-bí-la-ša Day 17 15 a2-bi2-la O, C4, L37
Šeš.kal-la Day 15 15 szesz-kal-la O, C4, L27
Ur.dNin.sún Day 29 16 ur-{d}nin-sun2 R, C3, L19
Du-ug/k-ra Day 10 16 du-uk-ra O, C3, L2
Ša-ga-na-kum? Day 13 18 [sza3-ga]-na-kum O, C3, L40
Ur.mes, ensi Days 2, 13, 18, 23 20 ur-mes ensi2 O, C1, L19
O, C3, L6
O, C4, L14
R, C1, L22
Na-ah-šum.BAL Day 29 20 na-ah-szum-bala R, C3, L14
A-a-mu Day 11 21 a-a-mu O, C3, L8
Gù.dé-a Days 15 and 16 21 gu3-de2-a O, C4, L25
O, C4, L32
Nibruki Days 3, 12, 20, 24 21 nibru{ki} O, C1, L22
O, C3, L22
O, C5, L24
R, C1, L15
A-bí-akki Day 11 24 a-pi5-ak{ki} O, C3, L7
Da-da, gala Day 22 24 da-da gala R, C1, L19
Nu-úr-dDa-gan Day 12 26 nu-ur2-{d}da-gan O, C3, L27
Šeš.šag5-ga Day 28 27 szesz-sa6-ga O, C4, L17
Ú-ú-mu Day 28 28 u2-u2-mu R,C3,L9
Za-ri-iq Day 22 29 za-ri2-iq R, C1, L8
Kur.gìr-ni-šè Day 15 29 kur-giri3-ni-i3-dab!5(SZE3) O, C4, L23ùg Day 15 29 nig2-e2-nig2-ki-du10 O, C4, L34
dŠará-kam Days 1 and 4 29 {d}szara2-kam O, C1, L2
O, C1, L17


Clearly, JCS 17, 021 Nebraska is not an actual tablet, but a pastiche of two existing tablets, Nebraska 01 and Amorites 18 (pl.7), whose content was comingled in Goetze's article (the primary publication proving the tablet's existence). JCS 17, 021 Nebraska has since been removed from the CDLI database as it is a false entry.



Arp, Don, Jr.
  2001 “Signs of the Times: The University of Nebraska Cuneiform Tablets”. Museum Notes 108.
Forde, Nels W.
  1967 Nebraska Cuneiform Texts of the Sumerian Ur III Dynasty. Lawrence, KS: Coronado Press.
Pickering, Alan
  1964 “Hentracks from Antiquity”. Museum Notes 23.