Why is any of this important? Well, on Monday afternoon at the Pacific Coast Regional meeting of the SBL, I’m going to tell those gathered that there were at least 120 tablets in series Šumma Ālu and I’d prefer not be wrong by nearly one hundred tablets.
Following the colophons on Šumma Ālu tablets from the Ashurbanipal Library and other clues Sally Freedman, 23, lists 107 tablets and suggests there might have been more. But she appears to have missed one tablet and its colophon. There were likely at least 120 tablets in the series. Walther Sallaberger, provides a modern publication of K.3074. The omens on K.3074 involve things that can happen during ritual processions. The first line of the colophon of this tablet reads:
[DU]B 1 ME 20 KAM ana DIŠ URU ina SUKUD-e GAR [. . . M]U.ŠID.BI.IM
Tablet 120 of Šumma Ālu ina Mēlê Šakin [. . . l]ines of text
The tablets between numbers 107 and 120 are either no longer extant or remain unidentified.
And then there’s this first line of the colophon on a tablet (VAT 13805) from Assur:
DUB 60*3 30-KAM DIŠ <<ina>> URU ina SUKUD-e [GAR-in]
Tablet 210 of Šumma Ālu <<ina>> Ālu ina Mēlê Šakin
Of this, Nils Heeßel, 111, whose modern publication I follow, says, “Da die Serie šumma ālu sehr wahrscheinlich 120 Tafeln umfasste, ergibt sich hier eine Diskrepanz. Man wird jedoch nicht fehlgehen, wenn man weiterhin 120 Tafeln als den Umfang der kanonischen šumma ālu-Serie ansieht, und den vorliegender Kolophon emendiert.“ (Since the series Šumma Ālu most likely included 120 tablets, a discrepancy arises here. One will not go wrong if one still sees 120 tablets as the range of the canonical Šumma Ālu series and emend the existing Colophon.)
But to what should we emend it? Should we emend 210 to 120? Hardly. The number 210 is written 60*3 30 but 120 would most likely have been written, as it is in K.3074’s colophon, ME 20 (100+20). In addition the content of the text that purports to be tablet 210 does not match anything in K.3074, tablet 120.
Of the VAT 13805 text, all we have are 8 more or less readable lines from the obverse and 10 lines from the reverse plus the colophon. The readable text contains ritual prescriptions presumably to mitigate bad portents from omens that were on the now lost portion of the tablet fragment. The king appears to be a major actor in these rituals. The specified role of the king need not be indicative of much but many of the procession omens, like those on tablet 120, appear to involve the king rather directly. It is not a good thing when Marduk falls into the water during a ritual procession. The king has big problems and needs to take (ritual) action to avoid the dire consequences. We cannot be certain of the nature of omens whose portent stands in need of the mitigation once on this tablet that identifies itself as tablet 210 of Šumma Ālu (if there were any omens on the tablet). In addition, while there is the occasional ritual or ritual reference in Šumma Ālu, the text of VAT 13805 doesn’t obviously to go with anything else in the series.
The DUB sign ends with four vertical wedges. In VAT 13805 this is followed by three vertical wedges (60*3) followed in turn by three Winkelhaken (30). If we assume the scribe got carried away and added a wedge in error, we might think that the scribe intended 60+2 plus 30, i.e. 150. But that is also well beyond any otherwise known Šumma Ālu tablet count.
I’m staying with “at least 120 tablets” in series Šumma Ālu.
Heeßel, Nils, Divinatorische Texte I: terrestrische, teratologische, physiognomische und oneiromantische Omina (Ausgrabungen der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft in Assur, 1.; Wissenschaftliche Veröffentlichungen der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft, 116; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2007)
Sallaberger, Walther, „Das Erscheinen Marduks als Vorzeichen: Kultstatue und Neujahrsfest in der Omenserie Šumma ālu,“ ZA 90/2 (2000), 227-262.