SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Advanced Cuneiform Texts: The Age of Babylon

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Full Year

This module offers an intensive reading in cuneiform texts written in Mesopotamia in the second millennium BC. Study is concentrated on the Old and Middle Babylonian and Old and Middle Assyrian dialects of Akkadian. Peripheral dialects can also be studied, among them that of Mari on the middle Euphrates and those of the western centres of cuneiform writing in the Late Bronze Age. Texts in contemporary Sumerian may also be read. Equal attention is usually given to archival documents, royal texts and literature. The set texts will be selected from letters, deeds and contracts of all periods, Sumerian and Akkadian royal texts and land grants (kudurrus), Sumerian and Middle Assyrian laws, the professional literature of Babylonian diviners (omens and rituals) and exorcists (incantations), and poetic works, such as the early versions of the Epic of Gilgamesh, Anzu and Etana, and compositions in the 'hymno-epic' style of Akkadian.

Qualifications for entry

The module is specifically designed as a component of the School’s MA Ancient Near Eastern Languages. It is suited to the third or fourth year of the study of Akkadian. Prerequisites are, e.g., Introductory Akkadian and at least one other unit of Akkadian (or equivalent study). Experience of Sumerian (e.g. Introductory Sumerian or equivalent study) is not always essential.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module the student should have acquired competence in the reading of advanced-level cuneiform texts in Akkadian and Sumerian dating to the second millennium BC; should have made progress in the reading, translation and interpretation of cuneiform texts in the genres studied; should have a better understanding of the written legacy of ancient Mesopotamia; and should have gained appropriate knowledge of the philological and methodological issues with which Assyriologists and Sumerologists engage.


A total of 22 weeks teaching, consisting of a 2 hour lecture per week.

Scope and syllabus

The module comprises mainly the reading and discussion of a selection of set texts in cuneiform.

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination (70%); one 3,000 word essay to be submitted on Friday, week 1, term 3 (30%).

Suggested reading

a) Old Babylonian 
  • Altbabylonische Briefe. Leiden: Brill, 1964- (abbr. AbB) Archives épistolaires de Mari. Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1993- (AEM) Archives royales de Mari. 27 vols. Paris: Geuthner, 1946-93 (abbr. ARM)
  • Finet, A.: L'accadien des lettres de Mari. Académie Royale de Belgique, Mémoires (Lettres) LI/1. Brussels: Palais des académies, 1956 
  • Schorr, M.: Urkunden des altbabylonischen Zivil- und Prozessrechts. Vorderasiatische Bibliothek, 5. Leipzig, 1913 
  • Goetze, A.: Old Babylonian Omen Texts. Yale Oriental Series, Babylonian Texts 10. New Haven & London: Yale UP, 1947 (abbr. YOS XI)
  • Jeyes, U.: Old Babylonian Extispicy. Omen texts in the British Museum. Istanbul: Nederlands Historisch-Archaeologisch Instituut, 1989
  • van Dijk, J., A. Goetze, and M. I. Hussey: Early Mesopotamian Incantations and Rituals. Yale Oriental Series, Babylonian Texts 11. New Haven & London: Yale UP, 1985 (abbr. YOS X) 
b) Middle Babylonian
  • Aro, J.: Studien zur mittelbabylonischen Grammatik. Studia Orientalia 20. Helsinki, 1955 Hinke, W. J.: Selected Babylonian Kudurru Inscriptions. Semitic Study Series 14. Leiden: Brill, 1911 
  • King, L. W.: Babylonian Boundary Stones. London: British Museum, 1912 
  • Radau, H.: Letters to Cassite Kings. Babylonian Expedition 17/I. Philadelphia, 1908 
  • Gurney, O. R.: The Middle Babylonian Legal and Economic Texts from Ur. London: British School of Archaeology in Iraq, 1983 
c) Old and Middle Assyrian 
  • Hecker, K.: Grammatik der Kültepe-Texte. Analecta Orientalia 44. Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1968 
  • Grayson, A. K.: Assyrian Rulers of the Third and Second Millennia BC. Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia, Assyrian Periods 1. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987 
  • Mayer, W.: Untersuchungen zur Grammatik des Mittelassyrischen. Alter Orient und Altes Testament, Sonderreihe 2. Kevelaer: Verlag Butzon & Bercker, Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1971 
  • Schroeder, O.: Keilschrifttexte aus Assur verschiedenen Inhalts. Wissenschaftliche Veröffentlichungen der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft 35. Leipzig, 1935 (abbr. KAV) 
d) Literary Akkadian of the second millennium 
  • George, A. R.: The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic: Introduction, Critical Edition and Cuneiform Texts. 2 vols. Oxford, 2003 
  • Groneberg, B. R. M.: Untersuchungen zum hymnisch-epischen Dialekt der altbabylonischen literarischen Texte. Münster, 1971
  • Groneberg, B. R. M.: Lob der Istar. Gebet und Ritual an die altbabylonische Venusgöttin. Cuneiform Monographs 8. Groningen: Styx, 1997 
  • Kinnier Wilson, J. V.: Etana. Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1985
  • Lambert, W. G., and A. R. Millard: Atra-hasis: the Babylonian Story of the Flood. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969
  • Vogelzang, M. E.: Bin sar dadmê. Edition and analysis of the Akkadian Anzû poem. Groningen: Styx, 1988 
  • Westenholz, Joan G.: Legends of the Kings of Akkade. The Texts. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1997 
e) Peripheral Akkadian of the second millennium 
  • Giacumakis, G.: The Akkadian of Alalah. The Hague: Mouton, 1970 Huehnergard, J.: The Akkadian of Ugarit. Harvard Semitic Studies 34. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1989 
  • Nougayrol, J.: Le palais royal d'Ugarit III. Textes accadiens et hourrites des archives est, ouest et centrales. Mission de Ras Shamra, 6. Paris, 1955 (abbr. PRU III) 
  • Nougayrol, J.: Le palais royal d'Ugarit IV. Textes accadiens des archives sud (archives internationales). Mission de Ras Shamra, 9. Paris, 1956 (abbr. PRU IV) 
  • van Soldt, W.: Studies in the Akkadian of Ugarit. Dating and Grammar. Alter Orient und Altes Testament, 40. Kevelaer: Verlag Butzon & Bercker, Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1991 
  • Izre'el, S.: Amurru Akkadian: a Linguistic Study. Harvard Semitic Studies 40-1. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1991 
  • Labat, R.: L'akkadien de Boghaz-Köi, Étude sur la langue des lettres, traités et vocabulaires trouvés à Boghaz-Köi. Bordeaux, 1932
  • Weidner, E.: Keilschrifturkunden aus Boghazköi, 4. Berlin, 1922 (abbr. KUB IV) 
  • Weidner, E.: Politische Dokumente aus Kleinasien. Leipzig, 1923 
  • Wilhelm, G.: Untersuchungen zum Hurro-Akkadischen von Nuzi. Alter Orient und Altes Testament 9. Kevelaer: Verlag Butzon & Bercker, Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1970 
f) Sumerian texts of the second millennium 
  • Frayne, Douglas R.: Old Babylonian Period (2003-1595 BC). Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia, Early Periods 4. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990 
  • Ludwig, Marie-Christine, Untersuchungen zu den Hymnen des Isme-Dagan von Isin. Santag 2. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1990
  • Römer, W. H. Ph.: Sumerische "Königshymnen" der Isin-Zeit. Leiden: Brill, 1965
  • Steible, H.: Rimsîn, mein König. Freiburger Altorientalische Studien 1. Wiesbaden: Steiner Verlag, 1975 
  • Kramer, Samuel N., Selim Levy and Taha Baqir, "Fragments of a diorite statue of Kurigalzu in the Iraq Museum", Sumer 4 (1948) 1-29 
  • Roth, Martha T.: Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995


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