New Work on Ugarit.

Gregorio del Olmo Lete has a post at the blog of the American Schools of Oriental Research on “The Current State of Ugaritic Studies” (available to “Friends of ASOR”), with what looks like a pretty comprehensive bibliography; I’ll quote some of the description:

Juridical and diplomatic texts and the diverse corpus of economic and administrative texts have been tackled. Many diplomatic tablets record the relations between Ugarit and the Hittite empire to which it was subject, and with other Syrian kingdoms. Administrative matters include the organization of the Ugaritic city-state, transfers of property, and management of prisoners of war. The corpus of letters is the only section of Ugarit texts that is waiting for a fresh revision. The mythological and epic material, already the best studied in the past, has been visited anew in books on the Baal Cycle, which discuss the tablets where Baal receives permission to build his palace from El, the myth of the “Gracious Gods” (birthed by El and his wives), and the Refaim, a term apparently referring to dead kings. But above all it is the genre of the cultic texts that has received the most attention.

Aside from those overall text studies, different religious and ideological topics have been dealt with in monographs giving witness to the almost inexhaustible material Ugaritic offers to scholars. Studies on the Ugaritic Pantheon and the divine epithets are examples. Other topics are hippology (equine knowledge), economy, society, literary impact, topography and material culture in general. Most of these monographs also take into account comparative Biblical material. In fact, comparison between Ugarit and the Bible is going on in an uninterrupted way,

Special mention should be made of the new Ugaritic material offered by the new series of Ägypten und Altes Testaments for its use of comparative Ugaritic-Biblical studies. In fact no serious commentary of the Hebrew Bible can nowadays be carried out without casting an eye on the Ugaritic materials. Other topics also very significant in this regard are the origin and history of the alphabet and the collapsing geo-political situation of the Levant at the end of the second Millennium.

We live in exciting times (much as they did at the end of the second millennium). Thanks, Paul!

Comments

  1. I bought Schniedewind & Hunt’s A Primer on Ugaritic sight unseen a couple of years back and was somewhat disappointed to find that the authors assumed any readers would already have solid grounding in Biblical Hebrew first. Indeed, they seemed to think that no one would be interested in Ugaritic unless they had studied the Bible for years and wanted the larger areal context for the Bible that Ugaritic could provide. There seems to have been a similar assumption, that anyone interested in non-Arabic Semitic would know Biblical Hebrew, in Akkadian resources too.

  2. There’s a brief summary (12 pp.) of Ugaritic in The Semitic Languages, ed. Weninger, which does not presume any knowledge of Hebrew. The author, Dennis Pardee, refers to a longer summary chapter (30 pp.) in The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World’s Ancient Languages, which perhaps equally stands on its own. There’s also

  3. The article mentions that work at the site has been stopped by the war. I wonder if the site or any texts or artifacts have been damaged or destroyed. What a damn shame for so many reasons.

  4. Stefan Holm says:

    In the theological institution at the university of Lund in Sweden there is a prodigy (well, aged 30 something by now), Ola Wikander, who is a specialist in extinct languages and is fluent in Sumerian, Coptic, Sanskrit, Oscian, Gothic, Etruscian, Hebrew and – Ugaritic. In his own words: nobody ‘knows’ Etruscan since only a hundred or so words are known but he corresponds with his international friends in Sanskrit.

    He is specialized in Ugaritic and claims that some parts of the Hebrew bible are more or less literal translations of Ugaritic texts. The monotheist gods Allah or Yahveh seems to have been single members of the proto-Semitic pantheon. El being the chief of the gods (like Wodan) and Yahweh a thunder and rain god (like Thor).

    I pray to whatever there is beyond that the warriors in the eastern Mediterranean will pay respect to our common heritage and, more so, to human lives and welfare.

  5. fluent in Sumerian

    I don’t think this has been possible for the last few thousand years, but I take your meaning. An impressive guy.

  6. Stefan Holm says:

    My source was an article in the Stockholm conservative newspaper ‘Svenska Dagbladet’ (‘Swedish Daily Paper’). But the guy is remarkable.Were it not for his connection to an institution dealing with religion, he would be considered one of the world’s leading experts in the field of extinct languages.

    Maybe he is like Isaac Newton, who satisfied with having discovered the principles of calculus put them in his drawer,not caring about the outside world. ‘They will never understand, anyway’, he probably thought. Only when Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibnitz twenty years later did the same he got angry and claimed: I did it first!

  7. I was told by an Assyrologist that we don’t know enough about Ancient Egyptian and Sumerian for fluency to be really possible,

    But there are tons of documents in Akkadian (literally weighing tons, since they were all written on clay tablets) available, so there are quite a few people who know it well enough to call them fluent.

    Assyrology students in Russia even translate Pushkin poems into Accadian to pass an exam.

  8. Yeah, Akkadian is well attested but we don’t even know how to pronounce Ancient Egyptian and there’s tons of stuff we don’t know about Sumerian.

  9. David Marjanović says:

    we don’t even know how to pronounce Ancient Egyptian

    For reasonable values of “know”, great progress has been made. You are, however, right about Sumerian.

  10. I also met an Israeli who claimed that Ugaritic is mutually intelligible with modern Hebrew.

    I somehow doubt it

  11. Though, the modern Hebrew is essentially a resurrected Semitic language spoken from 10th century BC to 1st century AD.

    And Ugaritic is attested between 14-12 centuries BC.

    I don’t know, maybe….

  12. “I also met an Israeli who claimed that Ugaritic is mutually intelligible with modern Hebrew.”

    I am not sure that Modern Hebrew is mutually intelligible with Biblical Hebrew. In fact, it has been claimed by at least one scholar whose name now eludes me that Modern Hebrew is a Germanic language with Hebrew morphology and lexicon (except for the many borrowings).

  13. But syntax and phonology that important not is. I think for a fish buying an Israeli an Israelite perfectly understand able each other.

  14. There isn’t any real evidence that such massive relexification, down to grammatical particles, ever actually took place (except among conlang creators, where it’s routine). English, which of course has borrowed massively, has almost 2000 surviving words from Old English, including most of the basic vocabulary.

    Mixed/intertwined languages exist, but they are another thing, and the lines are rarely or never so simple as “grammar of X, vocabulary of Y”.

  15. I think for a fish buying an Israeli an Israelite perfectly understand able each other.

    Especially if it’s this fish.

  16. GeorgeW, phonologically at least, I don’t think a speaker of Modern Hebrew, even someone who reads the Old Testament regularly, could make much sense of spoken Biblical Hebrew. It’s more of a stretch than any of us carrying a conversation with Shakespeare, I’d say.

    As to Ugaritic “mutually intelligible with modern Hebrew”, maybe he meant that he can figure out enough words to make sense of a number of sentences. I can see that, but no further.

    The Israeli-Hebrew-as German-in-Semitic-drag idea was advocated in recent years by Ghil’ad Zuckermann. I think this came up here at LH a few times.

  17. Zuckermann was discussed in this LH post and left a long comment in the thread.

  18. “As to Ugaritic “mutually intelligible with modern Hebrew”, maybe he meant that he can figure out enough words to make sense of a number of sentences. I can see that, but no further.”

    I agree.

  19. “phonologically at least, I don’t think a speaker of Modern Hebrew, even someone who reads the Old Testament regularly, could make much sense of spoken Biblical Hebrew.”

    Yes, probably although there are a number of differences. Everything else being equal (which it wouldn’t be – syntax, lexicon, etc.), it might just sound like a really strange accent.

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