I’ve written about this before but I thought I’d try to cut the cake in a somewhat different way this time. The Royal Palace at Ugarit yielded eight classical school and literary texts or excerpts written on seven tablets in normal cuneiform. By “in normal cuneiform,” I mean not in alphabetic cuneiform. I didn’t say syllabic because a few these texts have a very high density of ideograms. I didn’t call them Akkadian because one of them isn’t at all and two of them are bilingual. But the relatively low number of such texts and their distribution, both in terms of their place in the curriculum and their physical location in the palace itself, is abnormally interesting. If you need a refresher on some of the terms I will be using in this post head over to my old post where I discussed the scribal curriculum at Ugarit and elsewhere in the Late Bronze age Levant.
First, here’s the tablets I am talking about with along with their find spots.
- Excerpts from Ḫarra=ḫubullu 11-12 and Lú 1 on a single tablet, RS 16.364, a unilingual Akkadian text from room 65 in central archive
- Ḫarra=ḫubullu 18-19, RS 17.03, unilingual, central palace surface find
- RS 15.54, a Akkadian acrographic list of personal names, from the east archive
- RS 15.10, an Akkadian – Hurrian wisdom text, from the east archive. See Kämmerer, 174-175 for relatively recent critical text and translation
- RS 15.152, an Akkadian-Sumerian bilingual incantation test from the room 30 of near the central archive
- RS 16.416, Sumerian incantation text from room 62, in the area of the central archive
- A Literary fragment of Unknown Genre in Akkadain, RS 16.346, from the central archive
For the record, my previous post on this subject listed an Akkadian/Sumerian grammatical text, RS 12.47, that is certainly from the House of the High Priest and not the Royal Palace. Also van Soldt, 179, n. 47, seems to indicated another (?) lexical text from the western archive, but he does not list it in his reference tables, 196-206. Or does he mean the find spot of RS 16.364 which he lists among the tablets from room 65 on 203. So far, I’ve been unable to track this down, but I’m still on the case.
The above list should be contrasted with the large number of school and literally tablets from other places at Ugarit like the House of Raša’abu which yielded nearly two hundred such tablets or the smaller but still impressive number that came from the House of the Tablets, the Lamaštu archive or even the House of the High Priest. Of the Palace scholarly tablets, less than half are tablets from the classical curriculum and one of those is a hybrid of excerpts from two school series. This has led van Soldt, 180, and others, to suggest that there wasn’t a scribal school in the Royal Palace at Ugarit. While I not so sure about this conclusion, I don’t want to argue it here. I will say that in the light of the fact that half abecedaries in alphabetic cuneiform, seven in total, and that nearly a third of the total number of clear alphabetic school tablets came from the Royal Palace, I think van Soltd’s observation can at best be limited to training of students in Akkadian.
It should be noted that the Palace yielded not a single Tu-ta-ti or Silbenalphabet A tablet. These tablets are the most elementary school texts in the curriculum. But then, the House of the High Priest, with its many school texts, yielded but a single elementary exercise, a Silbenalphabet A and not even one Tu-ta-ti. Only advance students need apply?
Four, or possibly five (or maybe only three or possibly four), of the listed scholarly texts came from the central palace archive or very near it, with but two coming from the east archive. The only comparable alphabetic text with scholarly features from the central archive is KTU 5.25, a likely once complete cuneiform abecedary that follows an Akkadian legal text on the same tablet. Should we count the whole of this tablet as a school text? That would add one more tablet from central archive our list. In addition to these scholarly tablets, the central archive yielded numerous Akkadian administrative text and letters and somewhat less numerous but still plentiful, Ugaritic legal and administrative texts.
In contrast to this concentration of scholarly tablets found in or near the centrally archive, the alphabetic school texts, while generally associated with or near one of the major archives, came from all over the Royal Palace. Only the south archive appears to lack them. While this south archive yielded many Akkadian diplomatic texts and a few Ugarit letters and legal texts, no obvious school or scholarly texts were found there.
What is the point of all this? I’m not completely sure as yet.
van Soldt, W. H., “Babylonian Lexical, Religious and Literary Texts, and Scribal Education at Ugarit and its Implications for the Alphabetic Literary Texts,” Ugarit: ein ostmediterranes Kulturzentrum in Alten Orient: Ergebnisse und Perspektiven der Forshung, Dietrich and Loretz eds., Abhandlungen zur Literatur Alt-Syrien-Palästinas; Bd. 7, Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 1995, 171-212