MS 2041 (7.6×5.2×2.3) is a new recension of the so-called “Letter to the Generals.” The standard version of this letter was part of the Old Babylonian Sumerian literary curriculum, and is attested on nine manuscripts from Old Babylonian Nippur, one from Mari and one of unknown provenance. The “Letter to the Generals,” together with 17 other literary letters and four miscellaneous compositions, formed what modern scholars identify as the Sumerian Epistolary Miscellany (SEpM), and which had an established order, at least among the known Nippur schools (Kleinerman 2011: 21-2). I offer here a transliteration and translation along with a brief commentary of the new version of this letter. A hand copy will be published by K. Volk (forthcoming).
Overall, MS 2041 presents a version of SEpM 11 with many mistakes and the addition of new lines. This is in contrast to the other eleven attested versions of the letter, which are remarkably consistent. In fact, the majority of SEpM tablets do not deviate, even those that come from outside Nippur. Nevertheless, the collection is a Nippur phenomenon and the order of the compositions attested at Nippur is not attested elsewhere (Kleinerman 2011: 21-2). Conversely, there are a number of Sumerian literary letters only preserved on tablets found outside Nippur (Kleinerman 2011: 8 fn. 41).
In light of this, the presence of alternate versions of Nippur texts should not come as a surprise. Indeed, the existence of variant recensions fits well with our current understanding of the advanced Sumerian literary curriculum in Old Babylonian schools. Although by the OB period there was certainly a well established corpora of Sumerian teaching texts, individual teachers chose which to teach and the order of study. This is clear not only across southern Babylonia but within Nippur as well. In the case of MS 2041, however, it is unclear whether the teacher taught this divergent recension or the student simply improvised.
* I would like to thank Mr. Martin Schøyen and the Schøyen Collection for permission to publish the tablet, Profs. K. Volk and A. George for arranging for my work in the collection, and Profs. George, D.I. Owen as well as K. Wagensonner for their suggestions.
ISSN 1546-6566 © Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative | Archival: 15 January 2014