Angelika Kellner (University of Innsbruck, Austria) “The Sumerian Lamentation ‘The Screaming Cow’ ( gu3.de2.de2). The Background, Textual Reconstruction and Transmission”


The types of Sumerian texts called Balaĝ(s) are named after the accompanying musical instruments used for the recital of these lamentations. They have been transmitted in cuneiform literature from the beginning of the Old Babylonian Period in the 19th century B.C. onwards until the end of the cuneiform script in the first century B.C. This presentation aims to put the Balaĝ ‘The Crying Cow’ into the general religious and literary context, thus painting a more nuanced picture of this specific genre in the Mesopotamian cuneiform literature. In the next step the basic methodology for the textual reconstruction will be shown, illustrating the reconstruction of the composite text by using various tablets and fragments. Due to newly gained insights the standard edition by Mark Cohen from 1988 will be brought up to date. Additionally, this Balaĝ will be analyzed for its lexicographical importance: Before the Old-Babylonian Period (c. 1800-1600 B.C.), Sumerian had already ceased to exist as a spoken language, but these lamentations were written down in Sumerian nevertheless. Many tablets provide the Sumerian text with an additional translation into Akkadian, which was the spoken language at the time. The habit of non-verbatim translations and the possibility of multiple interpretations create methodological challenges to be overcome in the compilation of a dictionary. Furthermore, the recently established theory that literal works were mainly copied from memory will be discussed. Despite the limited number of texts the question whether there are any indicators for this scribal practice in the present Balaĝ shall be addressed.