• Report: Crafting and Curating Knowledge in Ancient Babylonia
  • Update Time: 2024-06-07

Crafting and Curating Knowledge in Ancient Babylonia:
The Masters of the Scribal Art

Dr T.M. Oshima


Typically scribes are not considered craftsmen but rather clerks or bookkeepers. This is also true for ancient Mesopotamian scribes (in Akkadian, tup?arrum): administration and bookkeeping fell within their everyday duties. There were, however, small groups of scribes whose tasks were very different from their colleagues: with the secret knowledge of the divine world transmitted for generations, they maintained the world order at whose center, the king stood as the ultimate intermediatory between the gods and humans. By studying ancient scriptures, they constantly attempted to gain a better understanding of the divine will and transmit it to the future generations of the scribes. They were the craftsmen and curators of secret knowledge, so to speak. These specialists were revered as the masters of scribal art (Akkadian, ?up?arrūtum) even by the king. This lecture will discuss their activities and the corpus of their knowledge, as well as their relationships with the king.

Dr Habil Takayoshi M. Oshima (大嶋孝義) PhD is a visiting professor at the Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations, Northeast Normal University, Changchun, and a research associate at Department of Ancient Studies, Stellenbosch University, South Africa. He did his PhD in Assyriology at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem and Doctor Philosophiae Habilitatus in Ancient Near Eastern Studies at University of Leipzig. He specializes in Sumerian and Akkadian religious texts, the wisdom literature of the ancient Near East including the biblical ones, and ancient Mesopotamian iconography. Among his publications are Cuneiform in Canaan (with Wayne Horowitz), Babylonian Poems of Pious Sufferers, Affronter le mal en Babylonie (with Stéphanie Antonioz), and Teaching Morality, the results of a conference he organized. Currently he is preparing Gods’ Punishing Hands: The Interdependence of the Divine Will and Human Ethics in Cuneiform Literature, revised version of his Habilitationsschrift.

History, Archaeology, Society
Chinese-European Academic Lecture No. 203

2024 Cycle
Crafting Legacy: Tracing the Threads of Traditional Craftsmanship

Takayoshi Oshima (Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations, Northeast Normal University)

Language: English

Date: 14th June 2024 (Friday) 3:00 pm

Place: Conference Hall, Institute for the History of Natural Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences
          (55 Zhongguancun Donglu, Haidian District, Beijing)