Wednesday, June 8, 2011

28,000-Word Akkadian Dictionary Finished

Love notes and divorce papers. Accounting ledgers and legal briefs. Omens, letters between kings, thoughts on the benefits of flaxseed and the fortune-telling properties of sheep livers.

All were carved in stone or written in cuneiform on clay tablets in ancient Mesopotamia — the cradle of human civilization — between 2500 BC and AD 100. Scholars at the University of Chicago have worked for nearly a century on a comprehensive guide for those reading the ancient language in which some of the earliest days of human history were written.

Ninety years in the making, the 21-volume, 28,000-word Chicago Assyrian Dictionary is complete. Started in 1921, the dictionary was created over the years by about 85 employees writing on millions of index cards in up to five large offices at the school’s Oriental Institute at University Avenue and 58th Street.

Read it all here.

Akkad was one of the "cities" founded by Abraham's ancestor Nimrod according to Genesis 10: 8,9:  "Kush fathered Nimrod who was the first potentate on earth... the mainstays of his empire were Babel, Erech and Akkad."

Nimrod is probably Sargon I who lived from about 2290 to 2215 BC.  It is assumed that he died in 2215 BC because that is when his son Rimush (Ramesh) by his sister-wife ascended the throne.  Nimrod was ethnically Kushite.

Akkadian cuneiform script was used to write Sumerian, Elamite, Hurrian, and Hittite. The University of Minnesota Classical and Near Eastern Studies Department provides this explanation: "Akkadian is attested in writing from the mid-third millennium BCE until the early first millennium CE, and during this long span of time it became the vehicle for literature and scholarship as well as for practical record-keeping, legal documents, correspondence, and public inscriptions. The Akkadian language and the cuneiform script were adopted as the international medium of written communication throughout the ancient Near East, from Iran to Egypt, during the second millennium BCE."

In other words, Akkadian was the script of the ancient Afro-Asiatic Dominion and it was a simplified system which made communication across a vast empire easier. For example, all of the 29 Proto-Semitic consonants are preserved as distinct sounds in the ancient Southern Arabian languages (the languages of Sheba and Dedan), but Akkadian has only 18 consonants.

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