SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Sumerian Language

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Full Year
This course includes a study of grammar and simple texts suitable for a beginner. The texts read will progress in difficulty, and will be selected from the huge range of Sumerian written in Mesopotamia in all periods. The syllabus might typically begin with selected royal inscriptions of the third and second millennia, then cover passages of the law-codes of Ur-Nammu and Lipit-Ishtar, and move on to court literature such as royal hymns and the poems of Bilgames, and religious and mythological texts.



Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course the student should have acquired competence in the reading of cuneiform texts in Sumerian; 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 Sumerologists engage.


This course will be taught over 22 weeks with 2 hours classroom contact per week in language classes.  10 research seminars to be taken within SOAS.  Attendance to be proven by signature from chair and to be submitted to the Associate Dean for Masters by the last day of term 2.

Scope and syllabus

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

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination taken in May/June (70%); a language learning portfolio consisting of a set of marked homework, short in-class tests, translation projects (30%).

Suggested reading

  • Steible, H.: Die altsumerischen Bau- und Weihinschriften. Freiburger Altorientalische Studien 5/I-II. Stuttgart: Steiner Verlag, 1982
  • Edzard, D. O.: Gudea and his dynasty. Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia, Early Periods 3/1. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997 
  • Thureau-Dangin, F.: Les cylindres de Goudéa. Textes cunéiformes du Louvre 8. Paris: Geuthner, 1925 (abbr. TCL VIII) 
  • Roth, Martha T.: Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995 
  • Römer, W. H. Ph.: Sumerische "Königshymnen" der Isin-Zeit. Leiden: Brill, 1965 
  • Römer, W. H. Ph.: Das sumerische Kurzepos "Bilgames und Akka" (AOAT 209/1; Kevelaer: Butzon & Bercker, Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1980) 
  • Dina Katz, Gilgamesh and Akka. (Groningen: Styx Publications, 1993). 
  • Edzard, Dietz Otto: 'Gilgames und Huwawa A. I. Teil', Zeitschrift f¨ur Assyriologie 80 (1990) 165-203; 'II. Teil', ZA 81 (1991) 165-233
  • Edzard, Dietz Otto: "Gilgames und Huwawa". Zwei Versionen der sumerischen Zedernwaldepisode nebst einer Edition von Version "B" (Phil.-hist. Klasse, Sitzungsberichte 1993, IV; Munich: Bayerische Akad. der Wissenschaften, 1993) 
  • Cavigneaux, Antoine, and Farouk N. H. Al-Rawi: 'Gilgames et Taureau de Ciel (sul.mè.kam). Textes de Tell Haddad IV'. Revue d'assyriologie 87 (1993) 97-129 
  • Shaffer, Aaron: 'Sumerian Sources of Tablet XII of the Epic of Gilgames'. PhD diss'n, Univ. of Pennsylvania, 1963 (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, 1963). 
  • Alster, Bendt: Dumuzi's Dream. Mesopotamia 1. Copenhagen: Akademisk Forlag, 1972 
  • Cooper, Jerrold S.: The Curse of Akkade. Baltimore & London: Johns Hopkins UP, 1983 
  • Michalowski, P.: The Lamentation over the Destruction of Sumer and Ur. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1989 
  • Sladek, W.: Inanna's Descent to the Netherworld. Ann Arbor: University Microfiche, 1976 
  • Volk, Konrad: Inanna und Sukaletuda: zur historisch-politischen Deutung eines sumerischen Literaturwerkes. Santag 3. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1995 
  • Chiera, E.: Sumerian Religious Texts. Upland, Pa: Crozer Theological Seminary, 1924 
  • Hallo, W. W., and J. van Dijk: The Exaltation of Inanna. Yale Near Eastern Researches 4. New Haven & London: Yale UP, 1968
  • Sjöberg, Å. W.: The Collection of Sumerian Temple Hymns. Texts from Cuneiform Sources 3. Locust Valley: Augustin, 1969 
  • Alster, Bendt: The Instructions of Suruppak. Mesopotamia 2. Copenhagen: Akademisk Forlag, 1974 
  • Alster, Bendt: Proverbs of Ancient Sumer. Bethesda, Md: CDL Press, 1996 
  • Geller, Markham J.: Forerunners to Udug-hul. Sumerian Exorcistic Incantations. Freiburger Altorientalische Studien 12. Stuttgart: Steiner Verlag, 1985


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