Fun with Mesopotamian literature

The Epic of Gilgamesh fragment in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

The Epic of Gilgamesh fragment in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

One of the (at times very frustrating) basic facts about ancient Mesopotamian literature is that it comes down to us on clay tablets. Clay tablets are, perhaps, more likely to survive the test of time than papyrus, but they are also fragile artefacts, prone to breaking. Therefore, especially when we consider the extreme antiquity of many of these tablets as well as the turbulent history of the countries they come from, we are fortunate that we have as much as we do.

Part of the fun is filling in the gaps.

Now, if I were a scholar of ancient Akkadian and the cuneiform writing system, I could make educated guesses with an ancient tablet in front of me. I am not, so I don’t. I look at the English text and think, ‘What would work here?’

My favourite is, as one may well guess, ‘Your mom.’

So, Tablet 2 of Gilgamesh would read in one place:

She went up into his gateway, plaintively she implored your mom.

That sort of thing.

It’s good fun. You should try it.

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