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Reading and Writing in Babylon

Reading and Writing in Babylon

Dominique Charpin

Translated by Jane Marie Todd

ISBN 9780674049680

Publication date: 01/03/2011

Dominique Charpin

Over 5,000 years ago, the history of humanity radically changed direction when writing was invented in Sumer, the southern part of present-day Iraq. For the next three millennia, kings, aristocrats, and slaves all made intensive use of cuneiform script to document everything from royal archives to family records.

In engaging style, shows how hundreds of thousands of clay tablets testify to the history of an ancient society that communicated broadly through letters to gods, insightful commentary, and sales receipts. He includes a number of passages, offered in translation, that allow readers an illuminating glimpse into the lives of Babylonians. Charpin’s insightful overview discusses the methods and institutions used to teach reading and writing, the process of apprenticeship, the role of archives and libraries, and various types of literature, including epistolary exchanges and legal and religious writing.

The only book of its kind, Reading and Writing in Babylon introduces Mesopotamia as the birthplace of civilization, culture, and literature while addressing the technical side of writing and arguing for a much wider spread of literacy than is generally assumed. Charpin combines an intimate knowledge of cuneiform with a certain breadth of vision that allows this book to transcend a small circle of scholars. Though it will engage a broad general audience, this book also fills a critical academic gap and is certain to become the standard reference on the topic.

Praise

  • Many books have been written on the origins of the cuneiform script and the role of reading and writing in Mesopotamia. But Charpin's book has no rival that could even stand in its shade.

    —Karel van der Toorn, President, University of Amsterdam, and author of Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible

Awards

  • 2010, Joint winner of the FAF Translation Prize

Author

  • Dominique Charpin is Professor of Mesopotamian History at the Sorbonne, Paris.

Book Details

  • 336 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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