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Production and Dissemination of Scholarly and School Texts during the Late Bronze Age


Principal investigators: Prof. Yuval Goren* and Prof. Yoram Cohen**

Research student: Idan Horen*


*Ben Gurion University of the Negev

** Tel Aviv University

The Late Bronze Age (ca. 1500-1200 BCE) witnessed the production and dissemination of a large quantity and variety of textual materials. While some of these textual materials dealt with matters of state, administration, religious life or economy, a significant part was aimed at achieving proficiency, first in the very writing and reading of the cuneiform script, and secondly, in the knowledge of magic, medicine and the art of divination. This group of basically scholarly and schooling texts were transmitted from Mesopotamia and elsewhere to be received in numerous Late Bronze Age sites in the western part of the ancient Near East, including Anatolia, Syria, ancient Israel/Canaan and Egypt. The majority of these materials are associated with learning and educations. Therefore, they are essential for understanding the intellectual foundation that enabled communication, discourse and the exchange of knowledge between political and social entities during the Late Bronze Age.

The aim of this research is to enhance our understanding of the ways of transmission and the means of production of cuneiform scholarly and schooling materials in the Late Bronze Age. By examining textual remains from select major sites and by combining philological aspects with petrographic and elemental provenance studies, this research wishes to explain where, how and by whom were school and scholarly materials produced and disseminated.

The present research project employs a methodological approach that integrates two procedures: a textual analysis which utilizes traditional investigation tools (philology, text criticism, and linguistics); and a cutting-edge scientific research which employs non-intrusive and, in selected cases, minimal intrusive examination of the mineralogical and elemental composition of cuneiform clay tablets (generally known under the title of provenance study, but also with the endeavour of defining technological preferences and processes). The research project uses delicate sampling techniques for petrographic and other physical analyses, as well as Non-Destructive-Testing (NDT) employing a portable X-Ray Florescence (pXRF) apparatus for elemental analyses.

The research project brings new results that are otherwise not obtainable. The provenance study of the material remains combined with a close examination of their content, as well as their archival and archaeological contexts, significantly improves the understanding of how a group of school and scholarly tablets were produced and, subsequently, of how a body of knowledge was transmitted in the Late Bronze Age throughout many sites.

This research is supported by the ISRAEL SCIENCE FOUNDATION (grant No. 241/15).

Hittite vocabulary fragment from Ḫattuša (Boğazköy), Turkey (photo: Y. Goren with permit by the Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin).

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