The Genre Of Jerusalem 1: One More Time

Christopher Rollston has updated his post on the Jerusalem 1 tablet fragment with two comments by people who have spent a lot of their professional lives looking at Late Bronze Age tablets from the western periphery, John Huehnergard and Wilfred Van Soldt. While Huehnergard addresses the issue of genre rather directly (“that leaves us even less on which to judge what type of text it is”), the heart of both their comments are strictly philological in the most narrow sense.
Huehnergard questions the reading of tab-ša, “you are,” in obverse line 2’ in terms of both reading and grammar. Both his points seem on target. See Van Soldt’s comment on this line. I do wonder, however, if this text really reflects Amarna Canaano-Akkadian. If its scribe was trained in Syria, for example, than the tablet would not reflect Amarna Canaano-Akkadian and therefore Huehnergard’s grammatically point is questionable. Huehnergard himself raises the possibility that the tablet was not written in Amarna Canaano-Akkadian. If one agrees with Huehnergard, without reference to Van Soldt’s comment, then all internal evidence for the text being a letter fragment disappears.
Van Soldt’s comments deal with the restoration of obverse lines 2’ and 3’ that I think he mistakenly calls lines 3’ and 4’. Van Soldt would read 2’, i?-[š]a-am-m[u-ú, “They (will) hear” instead of Horowitz and Oshima’s, 6, tab-ša am-m[u . . . , “You were . . [ . . .” And Van Soldt reads iš-tu4 a-na URU […… a/ta/illik(u)], “After I/you/he/they had gone to the city of […]” in 3’ instead of Horowitz and Oshima’s, 6, iš-DUM a-na-a[l? . . ., “a foundation/after for.” Part of this restoration is based on Amarna parallels. The morphology of the partially broken sign that Van Soldt reads URU doesn’t seem quiet right to me but it is within the range of what one might expect. Tracking this down is beyond the scope of this post!
If one agrees with Van Soldt, and, as I look at the tablet, the parts of his readings that are not in brackets seem very plausible but not completely certain (I do wonder about the URU and agree with his caution on the i in line 2′) then the text shows narrative elements that would be unlikely in an administrative text but somewhat more likely in a letter.
Where does this leave us? It is still not possible to determine the genre of Jerusalem 1. There are just too many unknowns and uncertainties.

Mazar, Eilat, Wayne Horowitz, Takayoshi Oshima and Yuval Goren, “A Cuneiform Tablet from the Ophel in Jerusalem,” IEJ, 60:1 (2010), 4-21

2 thoughts on “The Genre Of Jerusalem 1: One More Time”

  1. Hi Duane,
    Your comment that the genre of Tablet 1 cannot be determined with certainty is unassailable.
    But your earlier comment was also unassailable, that, if the reading of Horowitz et al is accepted, the balance of probability lies with the “letter” hypothesis.
    Furthermore, as we have both noted, if van Soldt’s understanding of the traces is followed, the letter hypothesis is once again the more compelling among conceivable alternatives.
    The interesting thing, which has not been duly emphasized, is that this cuneiform text scribed by someone who had to have years of training was put on local clay and the product not sent out (as letters normally are, unless they are archive copies or exercise texts) but kept around.
    Certainty is impossible but it is natural to suggest that Tablet 1 was part of a collection or library of some kind.
    Given that the scribe of Tablet 1 is not likely to be the same as that of the Jerusalem correspondence recovered from Akhetaten = Tel el-Amarna (see Seth Sanders’ post), it makes sense to infer that the LB Jerusalem polity employed a succession of trained scribes whose dexterity in a tradition of writing with origins in Babylonia allowed Jerusalem to participate as a two bit actor in a larger geopolitical drama defined by competition and collusion among great powers like Egypt, Hatti, Mitanni, and Karaduniash, relatively large and prosperous territorial states like Ugarit and Alashiya, and squabbling lesser polities of which Jerusalem was one of dozens.
    All of this is worth speculating further about. Controlled speculation, of course, is the name of the game if one’s area of interest includes fields like Bronze and Iron Age Syria-Palestine.
    We engage in thought experiments, which is the opposite of pointing out that we hardly know what we are talking about, which is also true and always will be.

  2. John,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. As to the succession of scribes at LB Jerusalem, I addressed that to some extent in my post “The Scribes Of Late Bronze Age Jerusalem.” I plan to address the a couple of your other points in a future post. I’m still trying to get my hands on one missing important piece of secondary literature.

Comments are closed.