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THE ARCHAIC INSCRIPTION IN DECOUVERTES 
EN CHALDEE, PLATE Ibis 

Geoege A. Baeton 

Beyn Hawb College 

No teanslation of this very archaic and difficult inscription 
has, so far as I know, ever been published. Four or five years 
ago I worked out a translation of it, but the only portion of 
it which has been published was five lines which I quoted in 
the article 'Poles and Posts' in Hastings' Encyclopaedia of 
Religion and Ethics, Vol. 9, p. 91. Since that time I have 
given the text further study and herewith present the results. 

Face. 

i, 1. ner eS nunuz^gaP-ti 3 i, 1. 630 strong, living saplings, 

2. gis-nu-ru nu-gi-ru en- 2. wood unworked, reeds un- 
nam-ag worked, Ennamag, 

3. isib* te^-ti^-ge 1 gin 3. the priest suitable for a 

dwelling brought. 

4. nu-gup sag-pa nu-gup en- 4. Uninjured was the chief 
nam-ag officer, uninjured was En- 
namag. 

1 The sign nunuz, which primarily means 'necklace' means also 'shoot', 
'offspring'; see Barton, Babylonian Writing (hereafter cited as OBW) 
no. 348, 2 and 6. It is either equivalent to the Akkadian Upu (Briinnow, 
8177; hereafter cited as B.) or to pir'u, (B. 8179). The next line implies 
that the material designated by this sign was large enough to be 'worked' ; 
it must, therefore, have been a young growth of some size. I have ac- 
cordingly rendered it 'sapling'. 

s See OBW, 87 5. J See OBW, 76 5. * See OBW, 478 27. « OBW, 330 33. 

e Cf. OBW, 76 2 which gives the verb aSdbu. A sign which stands for 
an act usually also stands for the corresponding noun. 

i gi (OBW, 439 6) stands for the numeral 'one'. Here it is used in 
the sense of the indefinite article 'a', or, better, as a substitute for ge, 
the post-position, (OBW, 269 l). 



The Archaic Inscription in Decouvertes en Chaldee 339 



5. dg-nam-en s sag-sam gub 
gar 9 tiru^-maS ru 

6. igi-da-su sam-gid sam-Su 
gu n gub 

7. igi urii tu 12 en-nam-ag 

8. sag sam ga(?) ls en-nam- 
ag 



5. Ennamag in the vegetation 
placed bricks; the princely 
dwelling made. 

6. At the front side was tali 
vegetation; by the vege- 
tation he placed the wall. 

7. At the front of the dwel- 
ling entered Ennamag. 

8. In the vegetation Enna- 
mag established (it). 



Reverse. 



i, 1. nu n[am]-lal u su n 
engar 16 

2. me-me 17 zag l *-Jca 

3. nin-gir-su isib sag 

4. en-Si igi-gd gal 

5. [nin]-su-gir isib. 

ii, 1. bara HI ner-v ba-gal 

2. dnin(?) gal 

3. eS 

4 

iii, 1. en-nam-ag 

2. ud tu gd nin-[gir-su] 
iSib-lal™ ba-ge 2i -ti 



i, 1. No peasant raised a 
curse. 

2. It was the command of 
the oracle; 

3. Ningirsu was priest of 
the oracle. 

4. The seeing lord guards 
before the house; 

5. Ningirsu is priest. 

ii, 1. The sanctuary the spirits, 
the five igigi 19 , protect; 

2. the divine lady protects. 

3. Thirty 

4 

iii, 1. Ennamag, 

2. when he entered the 
house, Ningirsu, the high 
priest, received (him). 



8 This is an example of the fact that in early Sumerian writing of proper 
names the order of the syllables frequently varies. So long as all the 
elements were written, they seem to have been careless of the order. 

9 This is an unusual form of gar, but is, I believe, rightly identified 
with that sign. Cf. OBW, 509. 

10 OBW, 57 is. ii OBW, 120 2. 
is OBW, 230 ai. «« OBW, 440 2. 
io OBW, 55 5. " OBW, 478 22. 

1 9 For the use of this ideogram to designate igigi, see OBW, 442 2. 

20 For this meaning of lal see OBW, 440 52. It seems to be used here 
instead of mag. 

2 i This use of ge as a verb infix is most unusual. I take it to be an. 



12 OBW, 57 4. 
is OBW, 311 1. 
is OBW, 49136. 



340 



George A. Barton 



3. ba-an-gdl 

4. dJca[l] 4. 
iv, 1. tab gizi 22 e-gu me nirba iv, 1 

u 

2. nin-gir-su gizi 2i -dingir- 
dim u te(?) 

3. nig-gan da-se 

4. nin e-dim 

v, 1. nin-gir-su dingir 

2. gir-su isib 

3. nirba u gu me tab-e 



4. nin-gir-su [nir]ba .... 

5. gan Sar nig-uri 2 " 

vi, 1. gan iv bur zal-ter vi, 

2. #a;xwc bur sar-uri 

3. Z ^'m iSib-su 

4. «## su§ur 2% -a 

5. awmc 6ur 2aZ cfc 

6. i uzu 



3. There guarded it fa- 
gal) 

the god Kal. 
(There were) two posts, 
a bird-house where was 
grain for food. 

2. Ningirsu propitiated the 
great plant god(?). 

3. The possession of a field 
bearing grain 

4. was the lady's of the 
great house. 

1. Ningirsu is a god; 

2. (at) Girsu he is priest. 

3. Grainis the food of birds; 
they are companions of 
the house. 

4. Ningirsu the grain 

5. A field, a garden, a pos- 
session of palm-tree land, 

1. a field of 4 bur, abound- 
ing in trees; 

2. 3600 bur, a garden of 
palm-tree land; 

3. 50 birds for divining; 

4. 30 goat-fish (?); 

5. 1800 bur abounding in 
dwellings ; 

6. 1 diviner. 



It cannot be too strongly emphasized that any translation 
of an inscription of this nature is, in the present state of our 
knowledge, purely tentative. Nevertheless the way in which, 
according to the interpretation reached, the parts of the text 
fit together lends a good degree of probability that the rend- 
ering is on the right track. The text describes the building 

example of that carelessness as to the order of the signs which appears 
in the early writing. In other words it is for ge-ba-ti, the ge being for 
ge = 'verily'. 

22 OBW, 32716. 23 OBW, 327 21, 26-28. 24 OBW, 60 7. 

25 OBW, 316 s, 6, 6. 26 OBW, 363 1. 



The Archaic Inscription in Decouvertes en Chaldee 341 

of a primitive sanctuary, the establishment of a god in it, the 
equipment of the temple with a flock of sacred birds, for divining, 
and the endowment of the temple with lands for its support. 

The name of the builder of the temple, Ennamag, means 
'lord of building' and might be translated 'architect'. One is 
at some loss to know whether so to translate it, or to regard 
it as a proper name. After much hesitation it was decided 
to regard it as a proper name. At the front of the structure 
two posts were erected. These remind one of the Asheras 
erected in connection with Semitic sanctuaries. The face of 
the tablet pictures a man, probably Ennamag, in the act of 
grasping one of these posts. 

The statement that 'no peasant raised a curse' shows that 
Ennamag had taken care to satisfy the land-owners and culti- 
vators of the vicinity, so as to prevent their invoking the ill- 
will of any supernatural powers against the building. This was, 
from the ancient point of view, very important. Manishtusu, 
as we learn from his obelisk inscription, took great pains to 
do the same for a new settlement that he undertook, as did 
Sargon king of Assyria, centuries afterwards. 27 The appearance 
of the name 'Ningirsu' in the various parts of the tablet is 
interesting and somewhat puzzling. In i, 3 of the reverse of 
the tablet Ningirsu, written without determinative for deity, 
is said to be isib zag, 'priest of the high-place' or 'oracle'. 
Again in i, 5 Ningirsu, again without determinative for deity, 
is said to be isib, 'priest'. Again in iii, 2 it is said that, when 
Ennamag entered the house, Ningirsu, still written with no 
determinative for deity — Ningirsu, described as isib-lal, 'ex- 
alted priest' or 'high priest', received him. It is natural to 
assume in all these cases that Ningirsu is the name of a human 
being who is acting as a priest. But in v, 1 and 2 it is stated, 
that Ningirsu, again without a determinative, 'is a god, at 
Girsu, a priest'. Does this mean that Ningirsu was, at the 
time this text was written, a man on the point of being deified? 
That is a tempting theory. In that case the famous god of 
Lagash, who is so prominent in the texts from that city from 
those of Ur-nina to those of Grudea, originated in the deifi- 
cation of a human being. 



" See KB ii. 46. 47. 



342 George A. Barton 

There is, however, another possibility. Ningirsu may be the- 
name of a deity wherever it occurs in our text, and this deity 
may have been regarded as a kind of priest among the gods. 

The god 'KaP, mentioned in iii, 4 of the reverse, is designated 
by the sign which afterward designated lamassu or Sedu, the 
guardian deities which guarded the portals of temples and 
palaces. We might render the two lines referring to him, 'He 
(Ennamag) set up the god Kal'. If Ningirsu were the deity 
within the sanctuary, then Kal was the spirit which guarded 
the doors. 

Finally, the sign uri, which I have translated 'palm-tree 
land', is the sign later employed as the ideogram for Akkad. 
Professor Clay has shown that uri or uru is another spelling 
of Amurru. This might, therefore, be translated 'a possession 
of Amurru', a 'garden of Amurru'. True, the sign has in the 
text no determinative for place, but neither is the name Girsu 
followed by such a determinative. Indeed, it seems probable 
that the text comes from a time before the use of determi- 
natives had fully developed.