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Title: The adaptation of cuneiform to write Semitic : an examination of syllabic sign values in late third and early second millennium Mesopotamia and Syria
Author: Hawkins, Laura Faye Presson
ISNI:       0000 0004 6495 839X
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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The earliest, but scarce, evidence of cuneiform signs being used syllabically to write Akkadian words and proper nouns is at Fara and Tell Abu Salabikh between 2600 BC and 2500 BC. Between around 2350 BC and 1800 BC, there is an increase in the development and use of signs with syllabic values across Mesopotamia and Syria, but these syllabic values (together called 'syllabaries') are still very local in nature with significant and observable differences in sign usage and values between sites. Starting around 1800 BC, reforms to the system begin to be enforced that standardise these signs and their values, which essentially ends any major variability in the script within specific periods. This provides us with a period of almost 600 years, spanning the second half of the third millennium and early second millennium BC, during which there is a wealth of textual data documenting the first full adaptation of the cuneiform script to syllabically write Semitic words and proper nouns. This thesis investigates the attestations and usage of syllabic values to write Semitic lexemes in the cuneiform text corpora from Ebla, Mari, Nabada, Tuttul, Adab, Eshnunna, Kish, Tutub, Assur, and Gasur - with a particular focus on the Syrian sites - during the second half of the third millennium BC and early second millennium BC in order to answer the following two research questions: 1. Did each third millennium site in Mesopotamia and Syria have its own unique syllabary? 2. What were the primary factors that influenced the differences between the syllabaries? This research uses a series of three interdependent techniques to determine and understand the use and distribution of syllabic values within the cuneiform writing system during the second half of the third millennium BC and early second millennium BC. The results suggest that during this period cuneiform syllabaries are variable, and that variation can further inform us about the regional, temporal, and dialectical contexts in which they existed. The addition of this research to the wider literature on the early adaptation of cuneiform will enhance the field's understanding of how cuneiform syllabic values began to develop and emerge across the ancient Near East, and demonstrates how scientific and computational methods of analysis can be applied to research questions in humanities subjects.
Supervisor: Dahl, Jacob L. Sponsor: Clarendon Fund ; Hertford College
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Cuneiform writing ; Cuneiform inscriptions ; Akkadian ; Akkadian language--Syllabication ; Writing--Middle East--History--To 1500