Memorization and the Transmission of Sumerian Literary Compositions Author(s): Paul Delnero Reviewed work(s): Source: Journal of Near

Eastern Studies, Vol. 71, No. 2 (October 2012), pp. 189-208 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 11/10/2012 10:06
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact


The University of Chicago Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Journal of Near Eastern Studies.

Memorization and the Transmission of Sumerian Literary Compositions*
Paul Delnero, The Johns Hopkins University

Introduction It is widely recognized that nearly all preserved copies of Sumerian literary compositions were copied by apprentice scribes as part of their training in the Sumerian language. References to the use of Sumerian literary texts as tools for training scribes, which can be found in nearly every treatment of Sumerian literature published to date, appear as early as the second decade of the twentieth century, when it had become clear that many of the thousands of tablets found during the initial excavations at Nippur contained scribal exercises.1 H. Hilprecht, who had participated in the excavation that yielded most of these tablets, had al*  Special thanks are due to Daniel Fleming, Christian Hess, Jacob Lauinger, Eleanor Robson, Christopher Woods, Martin Worthington, Gábor Zólyomi, and an anonymous reviewer for their insightful criticism of an earlier draft, which was invaluable in revising this article. 1  To cite only two more recent examples, see Jeremy Black and Gábor Zólyomi, “Introduction to the Study of Sumerian,” in Analysing Literary Sumerian: Corpus-based Approaches, ed. J. Ebeling and G. Cunningham (London, 2007), 3: “The majority of such clay tablets (i.e. tablets containing Sumerian literary compositions) are the material debris of the educational process, as young Babylonian scribes learnt to speak and write Sumerian in scribal academies and training workshops”; and Piotr Michalowski, “Sumerian Literature: An Overview,” in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, vol. 4, ed. J. Sasson (New York, 1995), 2283: “As is the case with most southern

ready begun to acknowledge the existence of a “temple school” with the announcement of a forthcoming volume of tablets from the “Temple School of Nippur” in 1910.2 By 1916, E. Chiera had demonstrated decisively, on the basis of the shape and format of the tablets on which these texts were inscribed, that many of the tablets from the Old Babylonian levels of Nippur, including tablets containing lists of personal names, thematic lexical lists, syllabaries, and grammatical texts, were produced by scribes-in-training.3 While Chiera did not include literary compositions in
literary texts of this period, the surviving tablets represent the curriculum of the scribal schools.” 2  Hermann Hilprecht, The Earliest Version of the Babylonian Deluge Story and the Temple Library of Nippur, The Babylonian Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania, Series D: Researches and Treatises, vol. 5, pt. 1 (Philadelphia, 1910), 7 . The promised volume, “Model Texts and Exercises from the Temple School of Nippur,” scheduled to appear as “Vol. 19, Part 1, of Series A of ‘The Babylonian Expedition of Pennsylvania,’” was never published, but some of the copies from the volume were recently “co-published” by Niek Veldhuis and H. Hilprecht, “Model Texts and Exercises from the Temple School of Nippur: BE 19,” Archiv für Orientfor­ schungen 50 (2003/2004): 28–49. 3  Edward Chiera, Lists of Personal Names from the Temple School of Nippur: A Syllabary of Personal Names, Publications of the Babylonian Section, vol. 11, pt. 1 (Philadelphia, 1916), 16–17 and 41–48.

[JNES 71 no. 2 (2012)] © 2012 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 022–2968–2012/7102–001 $10.00.


S. “More than Metrology: Mathematical Education in an Old Babylonian Scribal School. for example. the faulty copies of these texts made by the pupils in the school.” 351–412. “How did they Learn Sumerian?” Journal of Cuneiform Studies 31 (1979): 118–26. J. ed. when it only occurs once in an original). and J. By contrast. Vanstiphout.” Iraq 99 (1999): 159–72. the observation that copies of Sumerian literary compositions were produced by apprentice scribes has a direct bearing on how these texts are interpreted and understood by modern scholars. and proverbs were learned. For a more detailed list of this reconstruction of the scribal curriculum see either Robson.190  F  Journal of Near Eastern Studies this group. all of the literary compositions cited in this study will be identified with the names and numbers assigned to these texts by the Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature (ETCSL) as they appear on the project’s website (http:/ /etcsl. 1938).8. the lower level of competence of student scribes would have presumably increased the number of errors that occurred in the process. Steve Tinney. in which syllabaries. 172: “As a source for our knowledge of the important textbooks used in those times. “More than Metrology. 2. with the recognition that many of the sources for these texts were the byproducts of scribal training. haplography (the omission of a word that occurs in direct or near sequence to an identical or similar word). the errors that occur in manuscripts copied by different means are qualitatively distinct. L. and a final stage. the original temple library containing all the classics and. and E.9 In addition to providing invaluable insight into the nature of scribal education during the Old Babylonian Period. it is clear from his later writings that he assumed they had also been copied as scribal exercises.. including dittography (writing the same word twice. Veldhuis. See also Paul Delnero.” Journal of Cuneiform Studies 62 (2010): 53–69 and “Sumerian Literary Catalogues and the Scribal Curriculum. we have accordingly. 4  lists.5. Steele. “The Tablet House: A Scribal School in Old Babylonian Nippur.2. Elementary Education at Nippur: The Lists of Trees and Wooden Objects (Groningen. “Sumerian Extract Tablets and Scribal Education. containing a model text copied by pupils on the same tablets. H. 8  9  . Veldhuis. Robson. Chiera. the text contains a sequence of basic.” Zeitschrift für Assyriologie 100 (2010): 32–55. Building on Vanstiphout’s pioneeering work. Robson have been able to reconstruct the content and sequence of the scribal curriculum at Nippur (and probably also at Ur. in which much of the known corpus of Sumerian literary compositions was copied. in many instances. “Lipit-Eshtar’s Praise in the Edubba. paradigmatic grammatical forms that seems to have been contrived for purely pedagogical purposes. Cf. and parablepsis (the unintentional omission of everything between one occurrence of a word and the next occurrence of the same word). L. Uruk. In antiquity and throughout the Middle Ages. “On the Curricular Setting of Sumerian Literature.5. They Wrote on Clay: The Babylonian Tablets Speak Today (Chicago.4 Recently. there has been a renewed interest in the educational context in which these documents were copied.1. 1997). N. and Sippar) during the Old Babylonian Period. 7  N. before the invention of movable type and the printing press. Eleanor Robson. While the goal in each case may have been to produce an accurate copy. “Introduction to the Study of Sumerian. table 2. from errors made while copying from another and in Black and Zólyomi. Additionally. Vanstiphout. 6  H.” 5  ETCSL no. for ETCSL no. an initial stage. the motivation for copying each of these works was not to produce another perfectly accurate master copy to ensure the survival of the composition in written form. 2002). Vanstiphout identified the royal hymn “A Praise Poem of Lipit-Eštar (Lipit-Eshtar B)”5 as an elementary exercise based on the tablet format of the sources for this text as well as the content and structure of the composition itself. 2. an intermediate stage. E. Since Sumerian literature was copied for didactic reasons. metrology.” 331 or Robson.6 Many of the sources for Lipit-Eshtar B are written on tablets which are quite clearly exercise tablets. The errors that resulted from direct copying were typically visual and mechanical. “Tablet House”: 47. A. Another factor that would have contributed to the occurrence of errors was the means by which exercise tablets were compiled. consisting of elementary literary compositions such as “A Praise Poem of Lipit-Eštar (Lipit-Eshtar B)” and “A Praise Poem of Enlil-bani (Enlil-Bani A)”8.7 According to their reconstructions. Alter Orient und Altes Testament 297 (Münster. Tinney. in broad outline. first.orinst.” in Under one Sky: Astronomy and Mathematics in the Ancient Near East.5. model contracts.ox. then. the scribal curriculum would have comprised. copies produced with a printing press. duplicate copies of texts were generally produced by expert scribes who copied directly from one or more available manuscripts. but instead to fulfill the requirements of a particular exercise. Unlike errors that result from direct copying. Imhausen and J.” Revue d’Assyriologie 95 (2001): 39–66.” Journal of Cuneiform Studies 30 (1978): 33–61 and H. Unless otherwise indicated. The types of errors that occur in a resulting copy reflect the method that was used to compile any given text.

like ‘Schooldays’12 and ‘A Dialogue Between Two Unnamed Scribes. Gadd wrote in his study of the “oldest schools”: “The pupils in the (Old Babylonian) scribal schools were in the habit of copying or having (Sumerian literary compositions such as ‘The Debate between Date Palm and Tamarisk’10) read out to them. a similar correlation must exist between how Sumerian literature was copied and the variants that occur in the duplicates of texts of this type. almost all the literary works that have come down to us are known only from copies and redactions prepared in what might be described as the post-Sumerian edubbas. xlviii. The Sumerians: Their History. the issue of copying methods is rarely considered. the evidence presented was confined to a relatively small number of examples. *5. L. 1956). with care and understanding. Even in discussions of the transmission of Sumerian literature or of Old Babylonian scribal education.” in Sumerological Studies in Honor of Thorkild Jacobsen. “The Old Babylonian Eduba. Leo Oppenheim. also to reproduce the original for his master’s ETCSL no. more explicitly. But even in these instances. Cyril J. at times. but. and copying from memory—have all been proposed as methods employed to create duplicates of Sumerian literary compositions. . it will be argued that nearly all of the preserved copies of Sumerian literary 15  A. 17  J.4. . J. 2004). will be identical in all their details. copying from dictation. on the other hand. laboratory research on verbatim memory by cognitive psychologists and studies of memory errors in other text corpora will be examined. the three primary methods of compiling a copy that were possible in antiquity—copying directly from another textual exemplar. 159–79. . Teachers and Students in the Oldest Schools (London. Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization (Chicago. Å. and redacted with zest and zeal. Lieberman. the question of which method or methods were used to copy Sumerian literature remains unresolved. the notion that the pupils in scribal schools had compositions “read out to them” seems to imply copying from dictation. Sjöberg did cite textual references that might allude to the practice of copying from dictation. S. 169.7 . 1963). this being the usual way of building up a collection. In the absence of a more thorough investigation. Black et al. 13  ETCSL no. repetition. 14  Åke Sjöberg. 243. Culture. Kramer.’13 as evidence: “The following passages (from the aforementioned compositions about scribal education) show that dictation was used as a method of instruction.”11 While Gadd was not precise about how the scribes copied these texts. suggested that apprentice scribes copied directly from master copies: “The student copied (literary compositions) not only for practice purposes. 1975).” Journal of the American Oriental Society 69 (1949): 199–215.. literary works were studied. J. One of the main reasons for this is that the more basic question of how these texts were copied has yet to be sufficiently addressed. and the few published statements on the subject are frequently contradictory. ed. 12  Samuel Noah Kramer. limiting the extent to which they can be representative.’ citing selected lines from Sumerian literary texts about scribal education. Sjöberg adopted a similar position in his seminal study of the Old Babylonian ‘Edubba. On the basis of the criteria derived from these studies.”15 or. Gadd. J. 10  11  or his own use.01 (unpublished). “Schooldays: A Sumerian Composition Relating to the Education of a Scribe. “. 39.”16 Finally.”17 As illustrated by these citations. and Black and his colleagues called attention to errors in copies of Sumerian literary texts that appear to have resulted from mishearing and misremembering to demonstrate that scribes copied from both dictation and memory. and memorization.3. In this study. Oppenheim and S. Kramer. and Character (Chicago. 5. Yet none of these explanations relies upon a systematic consideration of the evidence. the question of how Sumerian literary compositions were copied will be reconsidered in light of the types of variants that occur in their duplicates. but will also contain the same errors that were in the manuscript before it went to print. To cite a few examples. Assyriological Studies 20 (Chicago.Memorization and Transmission of Sumerian Literary Compositions  F 191 example. C.”14 A. copied. along with dictation. Given the extent to which the different methods of copying are associated with distinct types of errors. N. N. 16  S. as a copying method: “Examining the different sources for individual (literary) works shows us that compositions were passed on not through the copying of earlier manuscripts but through dictation. The Literature of Ancient Sumer (Oxford. To establish criteria for determining how the errors in the sources for these compositions were introduced. But the means by which apprentice scribes compiled tablets is rarely considered in explanations of the cause or significance of textual variation in the duplicates of Sumerian literary compositions. Black and his colleagues have suggested memorization. 1977).

Since understanding why people forget is essential to determining how memory functions. The sensation of having the word on the “tip of the tongue” is caused by the feeling of certainty which arises from remembering the conceptual category to which the word belongs without being able to remember the word itself. 22  Ibid.” transience and blocking are particularly useful for identifying the types of omissions likely to occur in texts copied from memory. The observation that memory weakens over time has inspired countless studies in cognitive psychology on how memory works. 20 and blocking is the so-called “tip-of-the tongue” phenomenon. if not entire words and phrases. Transience predicts that details in a narrative will inevitably be forgotten during recall: the number of details that are forgotten will increase in proportion to the amount of time that elapses between memorization and retrieval. The title of D.” the most common type of forgetting. The findings of these studies provide a valuable framework for identifying memory errors in the duplicates of Sumerian literary compositions. on the other hand.18 Schacter categorizes the first three—transience.. thousands of experiments have been conducted that examine different types of forgetting. or thing they denote. The first modern scientific studies of human memory were carried out in the late nineteenth century by H. that memory for detail declines with the passing of time and that most forgetting takes place during the earliest stages of learning. suggestibility.22 Since sounds are more difficult to remember than words that can be retrieved by association with other words belonging to the same conceptual field. 19  Ibid. but nevertheless cannot retrieve the information that is being sought. and blocking—as “sins of omission. Schacter’s seminal book. will inevitably be forgotten and inaccurately recalled. Memory Errors in Cognitive Psychology Research The errors that are likely to occur when copying from memory differ significantly from other types of copying mistakes. entity. The results of his experiments. subjects could recall over three-quarters of it. bias. occurs frequently with proper nouns and numbers.. subjects were likely to have forgotten more than half of its content.” Within the category of “sins of omission. 13–40. without being able to see or hear the text while copying. and persistence—which he counts as “sins of commission. Although a systematic study of the types of mistakes that can be expected to result from memory errors has not been undertaken for Sumerian texts. alludes to what he identifies as the seven primary forms of forgetting. when a person feels that he or she is on the verge of remembering something. memory and the process by which the mind remembers and forgets has been investigated extensively for over a century by cognitive psychologists. and are memorized more as sounds than as concepts.192  F  Journal of Near Eastern Studies works were copied from memory. L. typically leads to the occurrence of errors that are causally linked to this process. which is sometimes called the “curve of forgetting. and decrease in proportion to the number of times the text has been learned or memorized. 20  Ibid.21 Of the three “sins. as certain details. transience. proper nouns and numbers are more likely to be “blocked” during recall than words of other types. and not by copying from dictation or from other exemplars. 2001). 61–87 . The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers (Boston. typically because of external distractions. As 18  Daniel Schacter. The rate of retention observed by Ebbinghaus. which were published in 1885 in a book entitled Über das Gedächtnis. but that after one month of relearning the list each day. 41–60. Even when a text has been memorized well. Blocking. and the ability to recall material memorized by rote memorization improves steadily over time only after repeated intervals of relearning. who examined rote memorization by testing subjects’ recall of lists of nonsense syllables after periods of learning and relearning these lists.” in contrast to the remaining four—misattribution. absent-mindedness. denotes the phenomenon observed earlier by Ebbinghaus.” established two of the fundamental attributes of human memory: details are forgotten rapidly. One explanation for why lexical items of these two types can be difficult to recall is that they are typically expressed with words that bear little or no discernible semantic or conceptual relationship to the person. 21  Ibid.. Reproducing a text entirely on the basis of how well it is stored in the mind. it can rarely be reproduced perfectly.. . demonstrated that after twenty minutes of learning a list. Ebbinghaus. The Seven Sins of Memory.19 absent-mindedness refers to the failure to recall information that was either never encoded properly or was overlooked at the time of retrieval. 62.

” American Journal of Psychology 43 (1931): 579–88.” Journal of General Psychology 9 (1933): 377–89. however. unrelated adjectives. who observed that subjects had much greater difficulty remembering the content of a list when asked to perform another task before recalling the list than when the list was recalled immediately after it was learned. and/or visually associated with it. A. much of the more recent research on memory has focused on the causes of interference rather than its effects.31 The results of these experiments demonstrate that memory errors often involve the confusion of one word for another word associated with it in meaning or form. “A Study of Retroactive Inhibition. M. or (in this case) text in place of the correct detail.” “desk.24 “memory binding. Müller and A. T. when previously learned items interfere with the recall of subsequently learned material.23 Blocking therefore predicts that more specific (and less conceptual) lexical items like the names of people and places. M. are more likely to be recalled incorrectly than more meaningful and familiar words or concepts.”26 Each of these three errors is caused by what cognitive psychologists call “interference. phonologically. such as when the words “spaniel” and “varnish” are recalled as “spanish.30 Having subjects memorize different lists—consisting of either synonyms. 29  S. McDonald. Ibid.. or three-place numbers—they observed that recall was lower for the list of synonyms than for any of the other lists. 23  24  shown to increase (i.. Ergänzungsband 1 (1900). DeCamp. “Honda” is little more than a meaningless and easily forgotten sound to many English speakers. “Some Factors Determining the Degree of Retroactive Inhibition.” which has fewer Jacqueline E.” “stool. E. Johnson.. 94.” was then Ibid. J. Robinson. Schacter identifies three types of misattribution: “unconscious transference.28 The effect increased even further when the content of the later (or interpolated) list was similar to the content of the initial list. 65–68. 26  Ibid. is more likely to be incorrectly recalled as “table” or another of its associates (“sit. as a result of proactive or retroactive interference. This observation was soon elaborated upon by A. In a classic study. This phenomenon was first identified in a series of experiments published in 1900 by G. 92. antonyms.” in which two or more separate pieces of information are combined into a single unit..29 The decisive breakthrough in understanding the causes of interference. only came in a 1931 experiment conducted by J. who observed that interference can occur proactively as well as retroactively.25 and “memory conjunction errors. “The Influence of Degree of Interpolated Learning on Retroactive Inhibition and the Overt Transfer of Specific Responses. M. 30  John Alexander McGeoch and W.” when details or components from different sources are brought together as remembered aspects of the same experience. McDonald.). 31  Arthur Weever Melton and J. For a more complete survey of the earliest experiments on interference see L.” Psychological Monographs 19 (1915): 1–69. Experimentelle Beiträge zur Lehre vom Gedächnis.e.” which is a concept that is activated on a daily basis. Deese observed that certain words are more likely to be confused with associated words in recall tasks than others. from which the summary presented here is largely drawn. indicating that retroactive inhibition is the highest when it becomes necessary to recall synonymous or semantically associated words. “Similarity of Meaning as a Factor in Retroactive Inhibition.. 27  Georg Elias Müller and A.” remembering a specific detail from a different place. T.” which has high associative power. time. Building on the groundwork established by earlier studies. Melton and J. which Müller and Pilzecker labelled “retroactive inhibition. One of Schacter’s “sins of commission”—misattribution—is another particularly common type of memory error.” “legs. Mistakes of misattribution are instances in which a lexical item is recalled erroneously as another word that is semantically.27 This effect.” American Journal of Psychology 53 (1940): 173–203. Pilzecker. 95.” Interference is defined as the process by which memory errors result from any form of previously acquired knowledge intruding or “interfering” with the recall of the information one is trying to remember. people will often recall “car” before recalling the name of the car manufacturer “Honda.” “seat. including items within the same list (“inter-list intrusions”). meaningless syllables. 28  .” etc. than a word like “butterfly. Irwin. “Meaningful Relation and Retroactive Inhibition. as well as numbers and units of measurement. Pilzecker. W. so that a word like “chair.” Psychological Monographs 28 (1920): 1–57 . Words with numerous associates have higher associative power than words with fewer associates. 25  Ibid. to lead to more forgetting) when subjects were asked to perform a similar task (such as learning another list) before recalling the original list. McGeoch and W. especially when the similar word is learned before or after the correct word. E. Zeitschrift für Psychologie. Irwin.Memorization and Transmission of Sumerian Literary Compositions  F 193 an example.” because in contrast to “car.

first put forward by C. and McDermott (also known as the DRM paradigm). the more accurate recall of later items. What distinguishes fuzzy-trace theory from other memory models. more mistakes are made recalling lists of words with high associative power than are made recalling lists of words with low associative power.” Learning and Individual Differences 7 (1995): 1–75. Brainerd and J.34 To explain the cause(s) of the results obtained by Deese. Tendencies to recall the beginnings and ends of a list or text more effectively than its middle are observed frequently in memory experiments. Lewis. like semantic associates. “Toward a Psychology of Memory Accuracy. accounting for why proactive and retroactive interference are frequent causes of memory errors. Goldsmith. Roediger. Sommers and B. and recency. M. “Who Really Lives Next Door: Creating False Memories with Phonological Neighbors. B. Learning related words before or after stimulus words strengthens the gist memory of those words at the expense of verbatim memory.” Journal of Experimental Psychology 58 (1959): 17–22. Pansky. Roediger and K. Brainerd and V. J. J. Reyna. F. of a stimulus in gist memory.”37 Verbatim and gist memory represent two ends of a continuum of exactness.38 Furthermore. J. P. For a discussion of the distribution of extract tablets containing metrological tables and the place of such tables in the Old Babylonian scribal curriculum. fuzzytrace theory provides a convincing explanation for different types of interference. which assume that memories are reconstructed from a combination of verbatim and gist traces. “More than Metrology. with the details of the same stimulus in verbatim memory. It may also account for why many of the extracts of the metrological tables that were memorized by apprentice scribes tend to cluster toward the beginning as opposed to the middle or end of a series of tables. “Gist is Grist. For a useful overview of fuzzy-trace theory and other models of memory accuracy. Kingma. “Distortions of Memory. McDermott. M. were replicated almost forty years later by Roediger and McDermott. verbatim memory stores the exact content of a particular stimulus. . F. and are known more generally as serial position effects. The two most common serial position effects are primacy.39 Phonological associates. Memory and Cognition 21 (1995): 803–14. I. “On the Prediction of Occurrence of Particular Verbal Intrusions in Immediate Recall. Deese’s results.” As the terms suggest. S. and C. and A. Brainerd and J. In general there tend to be significantly fewer variants and mistakes among the individual sources for the lines at the beginning of a text than toward the middle. “Fuzzy-trace Theory and Children’s False Memories. B. which were largely overlooked when they were published. C. 34  This phenomenon is also clearly observable in the patterns of variation found in the copies of Sumerian literary sources. see especially Asher Koriat. in a process called “gist extraction. “The Distinctions of False and Fuzzy Memories. L. Roediger and K. Brainerd. 2000).” in The Oxford Handbook of Memory. 149–62. F. 33  Henry L. depending on the nature of the task. but also to words that are phonologically associated. Brainerd and V. Kingma.” 7–8.36 information is encoded in memory using 32  James Deese. J. is the notion that the mind can choose to recall information using either verbatim or gist memory. 37  Brainerd and Reyna. Reyna and C.194  F  Journal of Near Eastern Studies associates with which it could be confused. like the subjects in Deese’s experiment. or the more accurate recall of earlier items.” Psychological Science 3 (1992): 332–39. Reyna.33 They found that items in the middle of the list were more frequently confused with their associates than items at the beginning and end of the list. 39  M. a theoretical model called fuzzy-trace theory has been proposed. rather than in any order. two distinct processes: “verbatim memory” and “gist memory. J.32 As a consequence. and gist memory reduces the same information to its general sense or gist. or associations.” Developmental Review 10 (1990): 3–47. Schooler. “Creating False Memories: Remembering Words Not Presented in Lists.” Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 71 (1998): 130–43. By conceiving verbatim and gist recall as separate processes. are stored separately in gist “Gist is the Grist: Fuzzy-trace Theory and the New Intuitionism. “Explaining ‘Memory Free’ Reasoning. Further refinements of fuzzy-trace theory include C.Learning. among many others.” Developmental Review 4 (1984): 311–77 . according to which words are confused with other associated words because the mind confuses the fuzzy traces. 36  Charles J.” 339–45. ed. 38  For a similar application of fuzzy-trace theory as an explanation for interference and other types of memory errors see Jonathan W. Tulving and F. “Fuzzy-trace Theory: An Interim Synthesis. fuzzy-trace theory applies not only to semantically related words. E.35 According to this model.” Journal of Memory and Language 40 (1999): 83–108. Craik (Oxford.” Annual Review of Psychology 51 (2000): 481–537 and H. with the precise details of a stimulus at one end and the general sense or “fuzzy traces” at the other. “Do Children Have to Remember to Reason? A Fuzzy-trace Theory of Transitivity Development. Reyna. see Robson. V. F.” Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 71 (1998): 81–129. Brainerd and V. McDermott. 35  Special thanks are due to Peggy Intons-Peterson for bringing the literature on fuzzy-trace theory cited in this section to my attention. with the additional refinement that subjects were asked to recall words in the same order in which they appeared in the original list. where the number of textual variants and errors often increases substantially.” Journal of Experimental Psychology .

has confirmed many of Bartlett’s results. C. Bartlett. and combine information from all three of these encoded sources when reproducing the text from memory. and to substitute familiar expressions for more archaic language. and popular Beatles songs. 40  . who had subjects memorize and recall a short text called “War of the Ghosts. Memory in Oral Traditions: The Cognitive Psychology of Epic. and/or graphically similar interferes during recall.. The most frequent errors were omissions. in the process of learning narratives. 81–82.. 176–88. or contains a word with high associative frequency. and transposed “grinning a grin” for “into his room” in line 8. but also D.” Memory and Cognition 18 (1990): 205–14.48 Since words are remembered as a combination of their auditory. 84–89. David C. Rubin observed that subjects were much more successful when recalling the beginning of a text than the middle. 41  Bartlett.42 The cognitive psychologist David Rubin.44 Recalling the song “Rocky Raccoon. subjects incorrectly substituted words like “everybody” and “legs” with the semantically associated words “most people” and “hands. and Rubin. sound. because “grinning a grin” occurs in a similar context in line 18. “Memorabeatlia: A Naturalistic Study of Long-term Memory. and are thus more likely to be confused with similar-sounding words than words which are phonologically distinct.46 Finally.41 In addition to omissions. The results he obtained verify that interference is just as much a cause of false recall with prose narrative as it is with word and syllable lists. Hyman. C. semantic. proper names and numbers were omitted with particularly high frequency.” and erroneously replaced words like “Dan” and “revival” with phonologically related words like “Stan” and “survival. Rubin and Hyman. and D. Middle English romances.. semantically. 42  Ibid. “Very Long-Term Memory for Prose and Verse. 147–55.43 To test the effects of long-term memory on verbatim recall. was carried out by F. 90–94. Rubin had subjects memorize and reproduce well known texts like the preamble to the constitution. with a few modifications. Memory in Oral Traditions.Memorization and Transmission of Sumerian Literary Compositions  F 195 memory apart from the verbatim traces of the same word. 44  45  Frederic Charles Bartlett. as opposed to lists.”40 The mistakes made in Bartlett’s experiment are the same types of errors that occur when lists of words or syllables are recalled. Rubin. Hamlet’s soliloquy. mistakes occur most frequently when a word that is phonologically. in particular. 1932). Remembering. and visual properties.” Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 16 (1977): 611–21. 1995). particularly when the source of interference is similar to the line or passage being recalled. “Memorabeatlia. the Merry Wives of Windsor. and appearance of each word and passage. people encode the meaning. a result which can be attributed to blocking. E.”45 Subjects also transposed similar words and phrases from different sections of the song as a result of proactive and retroactive interference. confirming that the serial position effect known as “primacy” occurs for continuous narratives to the same extent as it does for lists. 43  See. Rubin and I. Memory Errors in Other Text Corpora While research on the errors that are likely to occur when copying from memory has yet to be conducted for the purpose of classifying variants in the duplicates of Sumerian texts.” 210. Moreover. but many of the results apply equally to prose texts. who studied memory errors as a way of explaining why the content of epics changes as a result of oral performance. Most research on memory errors in cognitive psychology has been conducted using word and syllable lists. and Counting-out Rhymes (Oxford. 47  Rubin. Remembering: A Study in Experimental and Social Psychology (Cambridge. Rubin. subjects transposed the expression “walked into” for “checked into” in line 8 because “walked into” occurs in a similar context earlier in the song in line 6. and the first printed editions of such William Shakespeare plays as Romeo and Juliet. Memory in Oral Traditions. Bartlett identified certain types of memory errors that seemed to be specific to recalling prose texts. To account for the errors that occur in the recall of prose texts.” for example.47 Rubin’s explanation for these types of mistakes is also compatible with fuzzy-trace theory. Ballads. For instance. studies of this type have been carried out for at least three other text corpora: Old English poetry. 210. including the tendency to replace events that did not seem logical to the readers with material that was more concordant with their experience. Rubin argued that. One of the earliest experiments testing the verbatim recall of continuous narratives. 48  Ibid. with subjects shortening the text considerably by leaving out content that had been forgotten as a result of transience. 46  Ibid.

.. The errors she reported making include omissions.” “holy” for “lordly. Antony and Cleopatra. of Shakespeare’s play Hamlet were the results of mistakes made by actors who had copied the play from memory. who replicated Shapin’s experiment with a different memory experiment of her own. including most recently by L. 1941). conflations.”56 2) Substitutions . “An Experiment in Memorial Reconstruction. whole lines. The results of Shapin’s study have been corroborated by other scholars attempting to confirm or refute the memorial reconstruction hypothesis.53 By comparing the director’s playtext used for each play with the filmed performances. The Winter’s Tale. so the number and types of memory errors that occurred could be accurately determined by simply studying the broadcast recordings. indicating that the criteria can be generalized with equal validity for compositions of different types.50 To test this theory—which has become known as the memorial reconstruction hypothesis—Shapin memorized a play entitled Witch Hunt to determine whether the errors she made in recall were similar to the types of mistakes found in the so-called “bad quarto” of Hamlet.both locally within a line (e. and the “anticipation of a word or line and its omission from its rightful place.49 Prior to Shapin’s study. Moreover. Maguire. 59  Ibid.54 The errors that occurred were numerous (55–163 errors per play). Shapin in 1944. Maguire.” etc. 50  George Ian Duthie.usually of a correct word with a synonym (e.g. Duthie.g. Julius Caesar.59 5) Inversions . the BBC filmed a series of Shakespeare plays to be broadcast on television.).196  F  Journal of Near Eastern Studies Hamlet. 135. but distributed more or less evenly across roles. Maguire labels these types of errors “transpositions. Richard III.often of conjunctions. The ‘Bad’ Quarto of ‘Hamlet’ (Cambridge..” “so bade” for “obey’d.” Shapin concluded that Duthie’s argument for memorial reconstruction was essentially correct. E. 136–39. 56  Ibid. The criteria for identifying memory errors in the copies of these texts accord completely with the results of experiments on memory conducted by cognitive psychologists. and other small units of text. 196–98). 60  Ibid. explanations. Ibid. “ought” for “oft.” 9. an if we could” for “we could. and Henry IV).55 The most common types of errors observed by Maguire were: ­ 1) Grammatical errors . I. 1996). inductions.” etc. or quartos. an influential book was published by G. Since the plays were produced under time pressure.. 53  54  .” or “yet” and “now.. 136. 142–44.) or with a similarsounding word (e. they are discussed in the section for “aural error” in Maguire’s analysis of the errors that occur in the quartos for different Shakepeare plays (pp. the features that have been determined to be characteristic of memory errors for each individual text corpus are nearly identical across all three corpora.. 55  Ibid. “An Experiment in Memorial Reconstruction. 139–41.” and “in sight” for “incite”).typically of connective or emphatic conjunctions such as “and” and “but... 58  Ibid. an if we would.” “just” for “good. and with entire lines that were moved erroneously from one place in the play to another. 57  Ibid.”58 4) Omissions . Maguire catalogued and analyzed all of the errors the actors made for six plays (Hamlet. and changes in the forms of possessive pronouns. very little re-filming was done to correct mistakes that had been made by the actors during performance. Ibid.57 3) Additions .. 52  Laurie E.”51 Since similar mistakes occur in the “bad quarto. 136. 144–45.g.52 Beginning in 1979. Due to time and budget constraints. “force” for “strength. the participating actors were given an average of six weeks to memorize and rehearse the plays before they were filmed. but also more substantial omissions of half lines.” but the term “inversion” seems more precise to prevent confusion with transpositions in the sense of blocks of texts transferred from one point in the text to another as is the case with anticipations and preservations (discussed below).including “changes of tense.” Modern Language Review 39 (1944): 9–17 . Shakespearean Suspect Texts: The ‘Bad’ Quartos and Their Contexts (Cambridge..60 49  Betty Shapin.” “we would. transpositions of clauses. changes of mood. 136. One of the earliest attempts to establish definitive criteria for identifying memory errors in copies of literary works was carried out by the Shakespeare scholar B.. who argued that some of the textual corruption and errors in earlier manuscripts. and entire sequences of lines. alterations of singular to plural and vice-versa. “either pluck back or push on” for “either push on or pluck back. Although the substitution of similar-sounding words was not included in the discussion of errors made by actors for the BBC recording. 51  Shapin.

77 addition.. 40–41.” 63 Furthermore. 68  Ibid.. substitutions. Memorization in the Transmission of the Middle English Romances (New York.69 McGillivray identified another type of error called transpositions.72 McGillivray distinguished four subtypes of transpositions: 8a) Anticipations . “Time as much again / My brother would be fill’d up” for “Time as long again / Would be fill’d up.62 All of these types of errors are caused by factors identified in experiments conducted by cognitive psychologists. in the case of borrowings.the “insertion of words or phrases several lines or scenes before their proper place.” “a thousand” for “ten thousand. inversions of word-order. Rychner.78 or omission79 of words and phrases as a result of confusion with similar expressions or passages within the same text (or.g. 1990). including substitution and inversion (e. 63.. and 71. for example. 79  Ibid. grammatical errors.75 8d) Borrowings . 146. and substitutions of synonyms and similar sounding words.the transferring of material from a different text. 36–37 . McGillivray. Memorization.71 and a less elaborate typology for variants in medieval vernacular texts by J. and Sir Orfeo.. 73  McGillivray. 63  Bartlett. 40. “Memorial Transmission in Old English Poetry.66 substitutions of similar expressions... 77  Ibid. 71–74. 52.68 and auditory errors. as well as addition and omission (e. 61  62  . as predicted by the DRM paradigm and fuzzy-trace theory. from another text). Memorization.such as “three and twenty” for “three and thirty. 78  Ibid.Memorization and Transmission of Sumerian Literary Compositions  F 197 6) Numerical errors . and inversions. the forgetting of numbers is the anticipated result of blocking. and inversions are caused by proactive and retroactive interference.76 All four types of transpositions are “memorial transfer” errors that involve the replacement.g. 65  Murray McGillivray. The Seege of Troy. 76  Ibid. 67.65 In addition to grammatical variants. transposition errors can also be explained as having been caused by cognitive interference. my brother”). 80  Cf.. 67–71. 64  Alan Jabbour. Ibid. almost exactly the same types of errors identified by Maguire have been found in other text corpora thought to have been compiled from memory. In A... 52–53. 75  Ibid. as well as “memorial skips”—“from one phrase to a similar phrase farther along. 1960). McGillivray and Hoppe use the term “recollection” for this type of transposition.”73 8b) Preservations .70 Basing his definitions on a similar classification by H. R. Contribution à l’étude des fabliaux (Geneva. 37–39.”74 8c) Repetitions .61 7) Compound errors . 74  Ibid. in which encountering similar material Ibid. confirmed by Ebbinghaus’ “curve of forgetting”. Romeo and Juliet. 47 . 81. who studied the mistakes that occur in manuscripts of the Middle English romances Floris and Blaunchefore. 72  Jean Rychner. who investigated the memory errors in a seemingly corrupt manuscript of another Shakespeare play.” Chaucer Review 3 (1969): 184–87 .the replacement of words or phrases with expressions that occur earlier or later in the same text.. 66  67  Ibid. 70  Ibid. 48–49. 50–51.“words and lines used later than their proper place.67 omissions. he noted a proliferation of omissions.”64 The same types of memory errors have also been observed by M. Remembering. Jabbour’s study of the errors in the medieval sources for the Old English text Soul and Body. which he defined as expressions interchanged within the same line or between different lines within the same text. The Bad Quarto of ‘Romeo and Juliet’: A Bibliographical and Textual Study (Ithaca. 1948). 69  Ibid. King Horn..80 Like substitutions.. additions.. McGillivray. Hoppe. 145–46...” etc. Omissions are the inevitable consequence of transience. grammatical errors (in which the correct grammatical form is substituted with an analogous construction). 71  Harry Hoppe. but “preservation” seems more precise. 63–67 . Anticipations are the expected result of proactive interference. “the wrongs that I have done thee” for “the wrongs I have done thee stir”). Ibid. and the addition of conjunctions and stock phrases to convey what is perceived to be the style of a text can be attributed to what Bartlett termed the “reproduction of style.two or more of any of these types of errors in combination.

each of the lines in these texts is preserved in an average of fifteen to thirty copies. 1. 541 were from Nippur. out of which nearly half. and preservations are analogous to errors caused by retroactive interference. Distribution. 2006): 22–24 with notes 17–27 . Ebeling and G.82 Furthermore. and which appear to have been copied frequently as a group by apprentice scribes.3. 1. see Delnero. dissertation (Philadelphia. For treatments of the Decad as a group of compositions and its use and significance in the Old Babylonian scribal curriculum see Tinney. 4. This house. a total of 742 exemplars had been identified.2  5) EnA: Enlil in the E-kur (Enlil A) = ETCSL no.4  8) IEb: Inana and Ebiḫ = ETCSL no. were from a private house at the site known as House F.5. This group comprises the following texts:  1) ŠA: A praise poem of Šulgi (Šulgi A) = ETCSL no. or 204 exemplars. the movement of material from one part of a text to another part which is physically remote.28.4. “On the Curricular Setting of Sumerian Literature”. Ph. which could be caused by either proactive or retroactive interference (depending on whether the incorrectly repeated passage occurs earlier or later within the same text). see P. 22–147 (with additional literature). “Pre-verbal /n/: Function. Because the causes of transposition errors are evidently rooted in memory. 82  . and P. since complete scores of all of the texts in this group could be consulted. Memorization. Interference would also account for repetitions. it was not necessary to rely on composite texts in selecting the examples cited. 4. in which material learned later is confused with similar material earlier in the text. 1.2.2  9) Nu: A hymn to Nungal (Nungal A) = ETCSL no. Variation in Sumerian Literary Compositions. Robson. “Tablet House”. which presuppose that the borrowed passage was transferred from a previously learned text as a result of proactive interference. content. entitled The Tournament of Tottenham.01  2) LiA: A praise poem of Lipit-Eštar (Lipit-Eštar A) = ETCSL no. and Stability. 2007): 116–18 with notes 5–15. but which is liable to confusion with it because of similarities of situations. Black et al. Delnero. contained a representative cross section of the literary compositions copied as part of the scribal curriculum For a more detailed discussion of the use of the Decad as a corpus for studying Sumerian grammar and for further references to select treatments of the individual compositions in this group of texts. Delnero. Since these compositions were copied extensively during the Old Babylonian Period.8.1 10) GH: Gilgameš and Huwawa (Version A) = ETCSL no.5 These texts were selected because they are among the compositions for which there are the most preserved duplicates. McGillivray considers such transfer errors particularly diagnostic: Memorial transfer.198  F  Journal of Near Eastern Studies before learning new material leads to false recall. 4.5. 1857–2473. 4.05.” Mosaic 26/3 (1993): 33.1 81  McGillivray. are attested in duplicates of Sumerian literary compositions. which was almost certainly a place where scribal training was conducted. 299–301. ed.83 At the time the scores used for this study were compiled. Variation in Sumerian Literary Compositions. Of these. and in particular the eight identified by Maguire and McGillivray described above. it is unlikely that they were caused by other forms of textual reproduction. who corroborated the results of McGillivray’s study by identifying similar types of memory errors in the sources for another Middle English romance. To illustrate memory errors of each of these types.1  6) KH: The Keš temple hymn = ETCSL no.80. 2. 5.1. 83  For these scores. Variation in Sumerian Literary Compositions: A Case Study based on the Decad. 2.5. providing abundant data for distinguishing intended forms from erroneous variants.07. J. and Delnero. is a very secure indication that the entire text in which it occurs has at some stage in its transmission been copied from memory..D. 5 apud Linda Marie Zaerr and Mary Ellen Ryder.81 Memory Errors in the Sources for Sumerian Literary Compositions Nearly all of the types of memory errors that occur in other text corpora.2  7) ErH: Enki’s journey to Nibru = ETCSL no. or language. The Literature of Ancient Sumer.4  4) InB: The exaltation of Inana (Inana B) = ETCSL no. and for borrowings. “Psycholinguistic Theory and Modern Performance: Memory as a Key to Variants in Medieval Texts. examples were selected from the sources for a group of ten literary compositions known as the Decad.1.” in Analysing Literary Sumerian: Corpus-based ­Approaches. Cunningham (London.  3) Al: The song of the hoe = ETCSL no.

there are two good reasons for assuming that the content of the compositions copied during the Old Babylonian Period was relatively fixed (at least in the versions that were taught to apprentice scribes) and that constraints were normally placed on the amount of variability tolerated (again in the context of scribal training). intended to be completely faithful reproductions of a single “definitive” version of the text.85 To eliminate variants that may have been the result of synchronic or diachronic factors. such as acceptable alternative writings. All of the variants noted occur only in a single source. only examples that occur in sources from Nippur. or the use of different ­ cuneiform signs to render the same word. 42. To address this issue. there are few sources which consistently contain variant spellings and grammatical interpretations of particular words and forms. when the technology exists for producing identical copies of a master text. 1739 b. such as the omission of grammatical elements that could have been deduced from the context. the large number of sources that contain the form from which they vary is a further indication that they are mistakes. there are typically fewer than five to ten textual variants for that line. Recognizing that copies of Sumerian literary compositions were rarely. First and more briefly.” If scribes had been permitted to choose freely between two or more acceptable renderings of a form. which in some instances have as many as thirty copies per line. The possibility must therefore be allowed that differences in the way certain words or forms are spelled and grammatical constructions are rendered are not necessarily errors.” 85  Ibid. In discussing the transmission of pre-modern texts that have not been mechanically reproduced.). if ever. it is necessary to determine the extent to which variability was tolerated in the copying of Sumerian literary works and to establish criteria for distinguishing between “free variants” and scribal errors. and whenever possible. with the exception of a small number of duplicates which contain a substantial number of variants and whose content differs significantly in many other respects from other sources. the following assumption can and should be made: cultural attitudes toward reproducing a text so that a copy of the text is identical in every.c. orthographic economy.84 Moreover. tendencies to make such choices should be observable throughout individual sources and not merely in isolated instances .Memorization and Transmission of Sumerian Literary Compositions  F 199 throughout Mesopotamia at the time. from House F. The consistency with which multiple sources do in fact have the same content therefore suggests a certain degree of stability in the content of the version(s) that served as model texts in different scribal centers at the time the known copies of these compositions were compiled. but acceptable alternative writings that would have been tolerated when conceptions of “faithful reproduction” were less rigid and more tolerant of alterations intentionally introduced by scribes. an average of 90–95 percent of the content of all of the duplicates for the line is completely identical in every orthographic and grammatical detail. When a source contains an orthographic or grammatical variant that is not attested in any other source. or nearly every respect to a hypothetical Vorlage were almost certainly less strict in antiquity than they are today. the content of the individual duplicates for compositions that survive in numerous copies from the same period is more often identical than it is different. some additional clarification about how mistakes can be distinguished from other types of variants. there are rarely additional variants of a similar type in the same source. but free alterations resulting from a more general tolerance for variability. In addition to it being unambiguous that these variants are incorrect on the basis of the extent to which they deviate from the standard form expected in the context of the clause or passage. This is contrary to what would be expected if there was a large amount of tolerance for rendering forms “freely. the duplicates from House F were probably produced by a small group of scribes during a short period of time before the house was abandoned in the tenth year of the ruler Samsuiluna (ca. and that a certain degree of variability was unquestionably permitted and indeed inevitable. Secondly. and intentional grammatical alteration. is required. will be cited. “Tablet House.. Although this is not the place for a detailed presentation of the evidence. Since the identification of certain variants as mistakes is essential to the argument being made in this study. For the ten compositions in the Decad. the objection could be raised as to whether some of the variants that have been identified as misFor a detailed discussion of the archaeology of House F and the reconstruction of the scribal curriculum on the basis of the tablets that were found there see Robson. and when variation occurs at all. 84  takes are not mistakes at all.

87  The first form cited in each example is a variant form that only occurs in one of the preserved sources for the line in which it is attested. variants that are the result of source relationship. seven sources are 86  . This form is followed by two numbers in parentheses. it is only being claimed that scribal errors do occur and that it is (sometimes) possible to distinguish such errors from variants of other types. adding. or substituting occur consciously. 56b. in this system. 3) variants of the same type are rare in Sumerian literary sources. So. (11. Since. “Pre-verbal /n/. These two observations have important implications for how variation in copies of Sumerian literary compositions is interpreted more generally. Since the acts of intentionally omitting.” are all attested in duplicates of Sumerian literary compositions.200  F  Journal of Near Eastern Studies within a single source. why would a scribe choose to render a form differently only once when it would have been permissible to do so with each and every similar form? Since “free variants” seem to be the exception and not the rule. Variation in Sumerian Literary Compositions. for example.) and the omission of determinatives (such as na4 with za-gin3. substitutions. idiosyncratic variants. etc. the line numbers do not always correspond exactly to the line numberings for these compositions in the ETCSL corpus. the form is overtly incorrect and differs substantially from the form that occurs in the other preserved sources. Conscious Memory Errors Omissions (1) IEb 14086: ba-ti (3 N-T 728) for ba-an-šiin-ti (4. Thus. it is more likely that a variant that occurs only once within the same source and among the other preserved sources for the line is an error and not an intentional alternate writing. If variation had been more generally tolerated. As shown above. Instead. and out of these eleven. 48a. isolated or otherwise. 2) the source in which the variant occurs does not contain multiple variants of the same type. and the second number (after the comma) refers to the number of sources from this total which are from Nippur. mistakes of this type can be considered conscious memory errors. In light of this. diachronic variants. is an error. Examples of these types of errors from the Decad include those treated below. As a consequence. it is useful to make a distinction between conscious and unconscious mistakes. then.” 540–41 n.. 1857–2473.g. only lines that occur in the majority of extant sources were numbered with whole numbers. is only able to store information temporarily. uru for uru × a . The form following this citation is the form that is found in the majority of preserved sources for the same line. and is thus subject to a continual process of decay. a variant has only been classified as an error if it meets all of the following conditions: 1) the variant only occurs in one of the preserved sources for the line. either guessed and wrote something they thought could have been correct. by its nature.).4)87 All of the examples cited in this study follow the line numbering of the scores of the Decad in Delnero. 15 and Delnero. and “free variants. and ̃g iš with al) and phonetic complements (such as ulu3 followed by lu). it is very likely that there were instances in which the scribes who produced these sources could not remember all of the details of the composition they were copying. what types of variants have been identified as mistakes: it is not being assumed that every textual variant.7) indicates that there are a total number of eleven sources with the non-variant form. The second implies that scribes generally did not permit themselves a significant amount of flexibility in the rendering of the words and forms in the compositions they copied—with minor exceptions. and lines that occur in less than half of the preserved sources were given lettered numbers (e. The first implies that something like a standard text was used as a model for many of the surviving duplicates. see Delnero. and 4) whenever distinguishable. since variants of other types. “Sumerian Extract Tablets. or simply omitted what had been forgotten entirely. For the equivalences of the line numbers used in this study and the corresponding ETCSL numbers. the human mind. The first number refers to the total number of sources that contain this non-variant form. or additions can be identified as mistakes that resulted in this manner. including synchronic variants. and after unsuccessfully attempting to remember more clearly. Variants involving conspicuous omissions. for the purposes of this study. In classifying memory errors. muš 2 for muš 3. 33.” 119–20 n. The museum number of the source in which this variant occurs is listed in parentheses directly after the citation of the variant form. To summarize. such as the use of nearly identical graphemes ( gi for gi4. mistakes made while copying from memory often result from the inability to recall specific details. etc. allowing for minor differences in orthography and grammar among the different versions of this “standard” text that served as models in different places.

6) e-ne KAxLI ki am3-ma-g Additions (7) EnA 125: nu-mu-ni-ib2-ra-ra (CBS 10475) for nu-ra-ra (3.3) (10) CBS 8533: (mu-ni-in-)si3 for (mu-ni-in-) sig7 (9. . these . or was not concentrating fully on the task at hand. and in a moment of distraction unintentionally omitted. (13) ŠA 84: (an-ne2) aga zi maḫ (sag gi-en) (UM 29-16-198+N 1519+N 1572. of še3 in kur-še3 and uruki-še3 (12) EnA 78: (an-ne2) us2-sa (CBS 14152) for (an-ne2) im-us2 (10.) ̃ a2-g ̃ a2[-de3] (3 N-T (14) ŠA 72: i3(NI)-še3-g ̃ a2-g ̃ a2(-de3) (10. . . line 84 of ŠA and line 24 of LiA. These types of errors. examples include inversions. of (ni2) me-lam2 for nig (13..8) in ant. ̃ -g ̃ a2) ḫe2-em-mi-in-gi-en (5. These types of errors can be classified as unconscious memory errors.AB) ru2-a uri2(ŠEŠ.3) in ŠA 84 sag Two of these examples.5) in ant. 525) (11. UM.7) pres. . . . the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. gi-en) (11.6) (an-ne2 aga) zi maḫ (sag in LiA 24 Preservations (pres. collective source with ŠA and LiA) for (an-ne2 ̃ -g ̃ a2 .g. these mistakes seem to have taken place passively. when the scribe was either not aware of having falsely recalled something.6) (6) KH 112: EN. While memory errors deemed to be conscious can be explained as instances in which the scribe actively tried.9) in InB 21 ̃ -g ̃ a2) ḫe2-em-mi(16) LiA 24: (an-ne2 . . which occur frequently from Nippur.4) pres. of (an-ne2 . and are also commonly attested in copies that were produced from memory of Old English compositions (e.7) ̃ ar (3 N-T 721) for ki-si3-ga (3) InB 69: ki bi2-g ̃ ar (19. All of the other museum numbers (CBS. are of particular interest. added. in experiments testing verbatim memory.13) bi2-ib-g Substitutions (4) EnA 45: uri5(ŠEŠ. sag ̃ in-gi-en (UM 29–13–615) for (an-ne2 . but failed. ni2-bi nam-KU (9. . or replaced a correct sign or lexeme with another that was not correct. All of the variants cited occur only in sources from Nippur and are unique to the sources in which they are attested. and the transference of writings or forms that occur in a similar context to another where they are incorrect. Sources that are from or near “House F” at Nippur carry “3 N-T” numbers.Memorization and Transmission of Sumerian Literary Compositions  F 201 (2) ŠA 40: gub-ba me-en omitted (3 N-T 927. some of the mistakes that are found in the copies of the compositions in the Decad appear to have been committed without immediate or direct awareness that they had or could have been made. . to remember the content of the text. and N) refer to tablets that are from unknown findspots at Nippur.6) pres.” and are clearly diagnostic of memory errors.PAP-e ki am3-ma-MUŠ3-le an-ma-MUŠ3-eš (UM 29-13-422) for enkum̃ al2-le-eš (11.6) (5) Nu 33: kuš2 nu-til-le gal (CBS 3424b) for peš10 gal (6. . . of (an-ne2) us2-sa (7. of (e2-a-) 826) for i3-g ni-še3 ̃ 2-me-lam2(-)g ̃ ar (3 N-T 302) (15) InB 22: nig ̃ 2-me(-)g ̃ ar (9.5) in EnA 96 and sig7-ga for si3-ga (2. . and preservations. ni2-bi nam-du8 (3 N-T 791) for ni2-bi nam-du8 . . Although cases in which forms are erroneously transferred from one part of a text to another are frequently influenced by similar forms that occur later or earlier in the same line (or in a different line in the same composition). or Middle English romances such as Sir Orfeo and the Seege of Troy) are attributed to what cognitive psychologists term “proactive” or “retroactive interference. Another set of unconscious mistakes consists of the inversion of the order of specific elements or lexemes. . UNUG)ki (3 N-T 507) for ki uri3(ŠEŠ) ru2-a uri3(ŠEŠ) (9. Inversions (9) ErH 86: ni2-bi nam-KU . sag ̃ga2) mu-ni-in-gi-en (11.3) 3534+N 3530) for dub-ba g Unconscious Memory Errors In addition to these types of errors.3) in ant. anticipations.) (11) GH 88: gir3-še3 (3 N-T 465) for gir3 (7.2) ̃ a2-g ̃ a2 (N (8) KH 12: dub-ba-am3 mu-un-g ̃ a2-g ̃ a2 (6.6) in EnA 144 ̃ -g ̃ a2 . .1) in EnA 157 Anticipations (ant. . gi-en) (7. of aga) ku3-ge (sag ̃ -g ̃ a2 .

g. 7 . both aspects are combined when the word is remembered. Homophonous Signs (21) ŠA 40: ne(-ba) (3 N-T 927. are recalled by “seeing” in the mind how they look. Variation in Sumerian Literary Compositions. does “seeing” or “hearing” take place in remembering in the same way as it occurs when actually seeing or hearing by direct perception. one source for ŠA line 84 has zi mah instead of ku3-ge after aga. ‘pure’.202  F  Journal of Near Eastern Studies two examples involve the confusion of forms from different compositions. Although words (and other stimuli) are “experienced” differently in the mind than they are experienced directly through the senses. 89  To avoid confusion with visual errors that are caused by seeing the content of the source text incorrectly while copying directly from another written exemplar.instead of mu-ni-in-. 30–34.3) Sandhi Writings (26) IEb 145: a2-tar-ri-a-ta (CBS 4586) for a2-ta ri-a-ta (10.” 169–70. however.” in which similar material is erroneously transferred from a different text. For this reason some of the same types of “visual” and “phonological” errors can occur while copying from memory as 88  such as the confusion of lexemes or signs that are visually similar. aga ‘crown’ is qualified with ku3-ge. anticipating the form in LiA line 24. Just as a particular melody is recalled by “hearing” in the mind how it sounds. which have both a visual and an aural component (the way they look when they are written and the way they sound when they are pronounced).9) (25) InB 79: (munus-bi) in-ga-am3-maḫ (3 N-T 781) for (munus-bi) in-ga-maḫ (7. Visualizing Errors Other types of mistakes that could have occurred while copying from memory include visualizing errors.2) mu)-nig (24) InB 118: gi-ri2-na (3 N-T 469) for girin-na (14. they can nonetheless be visually (and phonologically) confused with similar looking (or sounding) words in much the same way as they can when they are seen (or heard) directly.4) (20) Al 36: ̃gišal mu2-mu­ (3 N-T 919. and from collective tablets containing both of these texts.463) for 2 al-mu2-mu2 (14. and the phonetic combination of two forms into a single form (also known as “sandhi” writings) are other errors of this type. “On the Curricular Setting of Sumerian Literature.” 33 n. their underlying causes are completely different and should be distinguished when evaluating how mistakes were caused.89 For lists of the sources connecting ŠA and LiA see Tinney.RU)-še3 (7.8) (27) Nu 1: ug ̃ 3-g ̃ ir3-še 3 (CBS 3424b) for ̃ 3(UN) erim2(NE.instead of mu-ni-in-. Both of these variants are instances of the memory errors McGillivray identified as “borrowings. and each of these two aspects of a stimulus are frequently combined during the act of recall. and Delnero. visual stimuli. and the verbal chain preceding the verb gi-en. preserving the verbal form from ŠA line 84. As shown in example 13.6) for a2-g (18) InB 1: (nin me) du10-ga (UM 29-15422+CBS 7847) for (nin-me) šar2-ra (12. . one of the sources has the verbal chain he2-em-mi-in. As described in the section above entitled “Memory Errors in Cognitive Psychology Research. Delnero. such as landscapes. the phonetic writing of multi-sign logograms or substantives. In ŠA.525) for ne3(-ba) (8. these are clearly indications that the sources with these mistakes were copied from memory. In neither case. Examples of such errors include: Resemblance Errors ̃ a2 ‘command’ (3 N-T 675) (17) Nu 78: a2-ag ̃ 2-g ̃ a2 ‘in my arm’ (6. Even though the errors are qualitatively identical..” memory has both a visual and a mnemonic (phonological) component.8) Division Errors (19) ErH 24: im-ma-ti-a (HS 1447) for ni2(IM) šu-ti-a (7.6) Syllabic Writings (23) ŠA 73: (ḫu-)ni-g ̃ in (3 N-T 826) for (ḫũ in2 (7. is he2em-mi-in. instead of zi mah ‘true majestic’. From catch-lines connecting ŠA and LiA. however. “Sumerian Literary Catalogues.7) (22) IEb 120: (gurun im-)la (3 N-T 577+3 N-T 440) for (gurun im-)la2 (7. the confusion of signs with identical or similar phonological readings). In the case of words and forms. 4 and 34–35 with n.5) ug when copying directly from another source. or the misreading of a sign with a value that is incorrect in a way affecting the rendering of an entire form. and in example 16.8) Phonetic Errors Phonetic errors (e. it is known that the two compositions were sometimes copied in sequence.88 Line 84 of ŠA and line 24 of LiA are identical in all but two details. ‘to establish’. the term “visualizing” is used throughout this study to refer to memory errors that are triggered by a visual aspect of the content of a text as it is being remembered.

2) (33) InB 84: an-na(-kuš2-u3­-de3-en) (UM 2915-422+CBS 7847) for na-an(-kuš2-u3-de3-en) (12. . the omission of the form an-ki-a.3) The Evidence for Memory Errors in Individual Sources The strongest evidence that Sumerian literary compositions were often copied from memory is the occurrence of numerous memory errors of more than one type within individual sources. While nearly all of the most common types of memory errors that occur in other text corpora and in experiments conducted by cognitive psychologists are also attested in the copies of Sumerian literary works. . like the writings ba-ti for ba-an-ši-in-ti. Although mechanical errors of these types are more familiar to the text criticism of biblical and classical manuscripts as mistakes that can occur in sources copied directly from another exemplar. but are also attested in sources for compositions that contain diagnostic memory errors. and that the reversal of the signs gi and rin must also have been the result of a memory error.7) (37) ŠA 39: ḫa-ma-ab-<du11> (3 N-T 927. as well as simple omissions. . show clearly that this source was copied from memory.7) Haplography (30) ŠA 73: <kaskal> danna (3 N-T 826) for kaskal danna(KASKAL. metathesis. or transpositions of single signs or lexemes.g.5) (35) IEb 83: e11<da-gin7> da-ga (3 N-T 577+3 N-T 440) for e11-da-gin7 da-ga (7. additions. 525) for ḫa-ma-ab-du11 (7.4) Metathesis (32) IEb 55: rin-gi (3 N-T 728) for gi-rin (4. tag) (6. This source. which is in the Oriental Institute in Chicago. mu-si-le for mu-un-si-il-le. no dative) (41) KH 116: (suḫ3-saḫ4) mi-ni-g ̃ ar (3 N-T 478) for (suḫ3-saḫ4) mi-ni-ib-za (8. .9) Parablepsis (34) ŠA 75: nibru<ki uri5>ki-ma (3 N-T 826) for nibruki uri5(ŠEŠ.ra (CBS 12594) for (dumu gal) dsuen-na (9. This is especially evident with phonetic errors which are just as likely to result from scribes mishearing a word or form being recited to them as it is when they are recalling compositions from memory.7) (29) GH 130: dlugal-ban3-ban3-da (3 N-T 777+3 N-T 778) for dlugal-ban3-da (11.4) Substitutions (40) InB 41: (dumu gal) dsuen.BU) (12. As noted above.AB)ki-ma (12. tag) (HS 1576) for dur-an-ki ki (. some classes of memory errors also occur when duplicates are produced by a different means. 393) for u4-de3 ba-te(-en) (15. this in itself is not sufficient proof that the copies of these texts were necessarily copied from memory. frequently attested in sources that were copied visually. conspicuous omissions. and parablepsis. a fourcolumn tablet from House F containing the entire composition of IEb. or preservations) demonstrates that they could have also occurred during copying from memory. One example of a source that contains both mechanical and memory errors is 3 N-T 728.8) (39) GH 129: (šu ki-a) li-bi2-in-šum2 (3 N-T 777+3 N-T 778) for (šu ki-a) bi2-in-šum2 (5. their frequent occurrence in sources which also contain variants that are more diagnostic of memory errors (e. These include dittography. a mechanical error involving the reversal of two signs. contains the writing rin-gi for gi-rin. The presence of numerous conspicuous omissions. haplography. anticipations. The same holds true for errors of dittography and haplography.6) (31) EnA 68: dur-an-ki <ki> (.3) (genitival construction. called metathesis. such as copying from dictation or copying directly from another exemplar. and the entire verbal chain before the verb gur5-gu2. Examples of mechanical errors include: Dittography (28) ErH 64: nundum-nundum (3 N-T 532) for nundum bur2-re (12. which are common in sources copied directly from another exemplar. or from ­ visual errors caused by scribes visually confusing graphically similar . however..7) Omissions d (36) InB 115: da-<nun>-na (3 N-T 721) for a-nun-na (12.3) Additions (38) InB 70: u4-di-de3 ba-te (3 N-T 917.Memorization and Transmission of Sumerian Literary Compositions  F 203 Mechanical Errors The last group of variants relevant to this discussion comprises mechanical errors.

sources copied from dictation by inexperienced or careless scribes who did not know or understand the texts are more likely to contain numerous phonetic errors than errors of the types that occur primarily in duplicates copied visually or from memory. and borrowings. and 174. and • the omission of other elements in the forms ga-mifor ga-am3-mi. One of the many examples of a source with a distribution of errors corresponding to the number and types of mistakes expected in a duplicate copied from memory is 3 N-T 577 + 3 N-T 440 (= NI7). 149. te-me-en for te-a-me-en (lines 29–31). an-na-še3 for an-na-ka-še3 (line 85). There are over seventy omissions in this source. • the omission of “-(C)e” in the forms kur for kur-re (lines 29–30). 65. ki-dar-ba for ki-in-dar- The element /b/ was omitted in the verbal forms in lines 90. Additionally. and 98.204  F  Journal of Near Eastern Studies signs when copying texts directly from other tablets. But it is rarer that a competent scribe would make numerous minor and major mistakes when copying from a clean and clearly written duplicate than he or she would from memory. Even more diagnostic of copying from memory than the extent of such errors. visualizing errors. There are. ḫe2-em-šum2 for ḫe2-em-mi-in-šum2 (line 78). • the omission of two or more elements in the forms ga-zu for ga-am3-mi-ib-zu (line 35). and parablepsis) are errors typically associated with direct copying. gid2-da for gid2-da-bi (line 84). dittography.. 95. and e3-za for e3-a-za (line 12). there are twenty-one verbal forms in which the pre-verbal elements /b/ and /n/ were omitted. the probability is higher that the source was copied from memory. ša3-tur3 for muš ša3-tur3 ̃ iš-an-dul3 (line (line 145). which originally contained the entire composition of IEb. 82. ga-bad for gaan-ši(-in)-bad (line 81). however. ̃gišBU for ̃gišmu-bu-um-gin7 (line 70). 80. and /n/ was omitted in lines 6. however. and/or other mistakes that can also occur in sources copied from dictation or from another exemplar. many of the mechanical errors (e. ebiḫki for ebiḫki-e (line 140). The text is a well-preserved four-column tablet from House F at Nippur. 108. 148. u6-di for u6-di-de3 (line 121).90 In addition to the omission of grammatical elements. phrases. 171.(lines 36 and 94). including: • the semantic omissions nu-za for nu-še-ga(-za) (line 9). or confuse graphically similar forms in the moment between looking at a source text and copying what has just been seen onto another tablet or manuscript. however. 122. omissions of entire words.g. 84 (twice). ḫuš for ḫuš-a (line 54). A scribe copying directly from dictation or from another exemplar would have been more likely to confuse a word or form with a word or form that was similar to one he or she had just seen or heard than to substitute it for one that occurred in a similar context earlier or later in the same text. and kur-ku for na-kur-ku (line 165). the number of errors in a source copied directly from another written duplicate is generally small. some types of mistakes more diagnostic of memory errors than others. 141. there are also more significant omissions. were caused by any other means than by copying from memory. In more than half of these instances. haplography. It is difficult to envision that all of the forms of memorial transfer together. 167. Conversely. 107. if a source contains numerous errors of different types—including diagnostic memory errors. Furthermore. McGillivray’s observation that memorial transfer errors are the most reliable indication that a source was copied from memory is almost certainly correct. a single sign representing one or more grammatical elements is omitted. Even the most attentive scribe would occasionally omit a word or form. na4 for na4-su (line 143). a2-ta-ri-ta for a2-ta-ri-a-ta (line 145). and even lines are less likely to have occurred if the scribe had access to written or aural duplicates of the composition than if he or she had to rely entirely on memory to reconstruct the content of the text. such as anticipations. an-ki for an-ki-a (lines 66 and 88). since the scribe could compare the new copy with the other source to correct or avoid making mistakes. As a result. The same holds true of conspicuous additions. and gaz for gaz-e (line 73). memorial transfer errors and significant omissions—in addition to phonetic errors. an-na for anna-ka (line 74). 83. Unless a scribe is particularly careless and unskilled. 79. These include: • the omission of “(-)a(-)” in the forms maḫ-za for maḫ-a-za (line 11). 96. 90  . ebiḫki for ebiḫki-ke4 (line 31). which are difficult to explain as mistakes of the eye or ear that occurred immediately after seeing or hearing the text. a2-maḫ for a2-maḫ-za (line 161). is the occurrence of large numbers of different types of memory errors within a single source. preservations. For different reasons. metathesis. and the omission of g 122).

5. 40 + UET 6/3. 617). and the mechanical ̃ in2-na-g ̃ u10-ne for nig ̃ in2-namemory errors an nig ̃gu10-ne in line 26. sa (line 103). and Ur7 = UET 6/1: 17 .5 (UET 6/1: 38 and UET 6/1.2 (UET 6/1: 33. and ḫub2-TA?gin7-EN for ḫub2-dar AK (line 3). suggest that they are the result of memory errors. and • the omission of lines 27. Another example of duplicates of Sumerian literary compositions with a similar distribution of variation is a group of extract sources from Ur containing connected sections of IEb. Each of the sources in this group also contain numerous phonetic variants.E.NE. e-šen for KI. and additional groups of sources for “The Ur Lament” = ETCSL no. there must have been two additional tablets between Ur5 (which has lines 95 to 119) and Ur7 (which has the last thirty-two lines. 92  Examples include three tablets containing extracts of the composition “Ewe and Wheat” = ETCSL no. “The Lamentation over the Destruction of Sumer and Ur” = ETCSL no.3. Ur5 = UET 6/1: 15. 38.2. 1 Broad Street. 5. landscape-shaped tablets with a longer width than length. which are similar in format and contain extracts of approximately the same length from different sections of the text. 137. lines 150–181) containing lines 65 to 95 and 119 to 150. Ur5. where the scribe omitted all of the signs between the two occurrences of da (parablepsis). and as a consequence was unable to memorize the composition properly. 129.DI.Memorization and Transmission of Sumerian Literary Compositions  F 205 ra-gin7 (line 82). and Ur7 are all Type III tablets. and 133). • a2-nig 91  Ur1 = UET 6/1: 12.2. 104. 138. and e11 da-ga for e11-da-gin7 da-ga in line 83. Ur2. kin-g IŠ. it is not unlikely that the group of sources with IEb was also written by this scribe. caused by an being erroneously carried over from the beginning of the preceding line. and phonetic writings such as: kur-e for kur-re (lines 6 and 149). each contain between thirty and thirty-four lines and probably belong to a series of sources with different sections of the entire composition.(line 105). which are relatively small. Since source NI7 is from House F at Nippur. 131. Grammatical variants such as: kur-re for kur-ra (line 84).3 (UET 6/2: 124. and ̃ in for a-nig ̃ in (Ur2 line 46 and Ur5 line 105). 2. many of the literary sources from Ur are also groups of Type III extract tablets that had originally connected sections of entire compositions.92 Since most of the Type III sources from Ur with a secure provenience come from a private house known as “No. 34.3. 48. U16900N. Sources Ur1. and 35). and 68 of Ur1. Ur2 = UET 6/1: 13. The scribe’s inability to learn the content of the text is also clear from the semantic errors gal-zu for dumu-gal (line 22). 128. Since all four sources contain nearly the same number of lines and Ur 1 (which contains the first thirty-four lines of the text) ends with the same line with which Ur2 (which contains lines 34 to 65) begins.2 (UET 6/2: 136. It is likely that this group of sources was copied during the same period of time by the same scribe. Another indication that most of the omissions within source NI7 were the result of memory errors is the occurrence of large numbers of other types of mistakes.91 The tablets. It is therefore very likely that the omissions and other erroneous writings in this source were the result of mistakes made by a scribe who had learned the content of the composition poorly. and sig3 for sig3-ga-ke4 (line 164). g and mu-de2-e for im-ma-de2-e (line 151). Like the series of tablets containing IEb.dMUŠ3 (line 97). 175.” and since some of these tablets have colophons indicating that they were copied by Damqi-ilišu. and the literary sources from this house generally contain few substantial mistakes.DU8 (line 74). • gu3 for gu2 in lines 45 and 49 of Ur2. im-si for im-sa2 (line 121). . and 176 entirely. • -su for the verb -su3 (Ur2 line 47 and Ur5 line 106). im-da-an-ri for im̃ in-a-zu for g ̃ in-a-za (line 13) da-ri (line 115). including the writings • me for me3. the number and nature of omissions. -du-be2 for -dub2be2 (line 82). While it is possible that in some cases (such as the omission of the pre-verbal elements /n/ and /b/ and nominal endings “-a” and “-Ce”) the omissions were intentional because the presence of the omitted elements could be easily inferred. it is unlikely that variants that occur in this source are synchronic or diachronic. 2.DU for IŠ. and 139). ur5 for ur3. and im-la for im-la2 (line 120) all suggest that the scribe who copied this source had difficulties understanding the grammar and orthography of the composition. and “Bird and Fish” = ETCSL no. 132. the quantity and nature of the variants that occur within the duplicate are consistent with the types of errors made by less advanced or experienced scribes. and du-du for du7-du7 in lines 3. 106. many of which are substantial. us2-a for us2̃ a2 for kin ga. Moreover.

59). 78). du7-du7 for du7-du7-dam (l. the phonetically and ̃gišal-g written logograms and diri-compounds a-ra-ta for arattaki (lines 13–14) and a-lim for alim(ANŠE) (1. 52). Finally. 61). 37). These include the consistent writing of den-ki-ka in place of d en-ki-ke4 (in lines 58.for mu-un. There are at least two significant indications that the two sources are directly the verbal chain na-ma-ra-abAK-gin7 in line 32. 80). Nearly all of the duplicates for the compositions in the Decad. 85). and not from dictation or memory. 76). ̃ ar-sur-ra for ̃gišal-g ̃ ar-sur9-ra (l. contains a similar distribution of phonetic writings. 107). there are also a large number of grammatical variants. The other indication that the sources are related is that the lines which overlap in X3 and X4 share 26 variants. including • mud-bi for mud-Ø and an-ne2 for an-na in lines 2 and 13 of Ur1. and kaš for kaš-a (ll. 37).206  F  Journal of Near Eastern Studies But in addition to these phonetic writings. • ga-ba-ši-in-gub for ga-ba-ši-ib-gub and ebiḫ2-bi for ebiḫ2-gin7 in lines 96–95 and 100 of Ur5. and the sandhi writings men-na-da for men an-da (l. two extract sources of unknown provenience for ErH.94 The quantity of syllabic writings. du3-du3 for du7-du7 (l. a four-column source for IEb from the early seasons of excavation at Nippur. and could also have been copied from dictation. an-e for an-ne2 (l. resulting from the preservation of the infix -an. The occurrence of memorial transfer errors such as • na-ma-ra-an-te-a-gin7 for na-ma-ab-te-a-gin7 in line 33–34 of Ur1. 21 of which are unique to these two sources. is one of the few examples copied from dictation.of the verbal form mu-un-na-an-gub preceding it in the same line are further evidence that this group of sources was copied from memory. These variants are unlikely to have resulted from mistakes made while copying from dictation. Of the more than seven hundred sources for this group of texts. 66). and ̃ u10 in line 169 of Ur7 • mir for mir-g it is more probable that these duplicates were copied from memory. Since there are also numerous omissions in all of the sources in this group. an-da-an-ti for am3-da-an-ti (l. 117–118). there is evidence that AO 9067 (= X3) and AO 6714 (= X4). may indicate that X3 for KH. 108). fewer than ten apparent exceptions could be identified. 77). nam for na-nam (l. which contains lines 1–82 of the composition. the grammatical variant nam-ma-gub for am3-ma-gub (line 78). ša3-gi16 for ša3 ki (l. in addition to the phonetic variants. and that the phonetic variants were caused by a scribe who had difficulties remembering the orthography of the composition. One of these sources is NBC 7799 (= X3). 23). ama-la for ama gal-la ur-sag (l. • ga-ba-ni-ib2-si-sa2 for ga-ba-ab-sa2 and mu-ni-ingub for bi2-in-gub in lines 39 and 59 of Ur2. • kur for kur-re in lines 112 and 113 of Ur5. 60). Additionally. 119–120). the These include the syllabic writings sig7-a for sig7-ga (l. 110). over half of the remaining variants in the source are omissions. 74). and • mu-un-na-de2-e for im-ma-de2-e and nu-mu-unra-ab-ur3-ra-zu-še3 for nu-ur3-ra-zu-še3 in lines 151 and 157 of Ur7 .KIN (l. ši-in-ga-nu-tu and ši-in-ga-nu-u3-tu ̃ 3-g ̃ al2 for for ši-in-ga-an-u3-tu (ll. 116). together with the absence of numerous occurrences of the types of grammatical and semantic mistakes characteristic of sources copied from memory. den-lil2 for den-lil2-le (l. 93  . ensi2 for ensi2-ke4 (l. were copied from another exemplar. whenever they are sufficiently preserved to contain a representative number of variants. su3 for su3-ud (l. Thirty of the variants in this source (approximately one third) are phonetic writings. 19. including • ga-ba-su for ga-ba-ni-ib-su3 and še-ka for še-erka-an in lines 47 and 54 of Ur2. 54. du3 for du10 (ll. and 122). 46). resulting from the preservation of the infix -ra. 4).93 Moreover. un.(l. tug2-ba for tug2-ba13(ME) (l. The pattern of variants most directly characteristic of sources copied from memory is not confined to the sources described in this section. tu-daKIN for tu A. CBS 4586 + Ni 4199 (= NI4). have a distribution of variation that is consistent with the pattern most closely associated with sources copied from memory. ends with the same line as X4. and ug ̃ 3(UN) gal (l. 92). among all the duplicates for the compositions in the Decad. im?-il2-il2 for mi-ni-ib-il2-il2(-i) (l. the semantic variant ni2 maḫ for i7 maḫ (in line 59). and 70). ug 94  ̃ -ur-e-ne for ur-sag ̃ The omissions include the forms ur-sag ̃ -e-ne (l. du10 for e2 du10 (l. One indication is that X3. 70. de2 for de6 (l.  76). an almost perfectly preserved four-column tablet of unknown provenience containing the entire composition of KH. 60). which contains exactly half the number of lines as this source (lines 41–82). and • the form mu-un-na-an-ab-be2 for mu-na-ab-be2 in line 60 of Ur2. ušumgal for ušumgal-am3 (l. and may even have been produced by the same scribe. incorrectly spelling certain forms with phonologically similar or identical writings of the correct forms. 66.

By contrast. preservations. however. As these sources show.96 and minor omissions. minor omissions. and transfer errors. for which different patterns of variants would be expected. visual mistakes. and orthographic) 4) Phonetic errors 5) Visualizing errors 6) Mechanical errors (dittography. conspicuous omissions and additions. from the amount and nature of the evidence demonstrating that most of the preserved sources for Sumerian literary compositions were copied from memory. 3) Substitutions (semantic. especially of more conspicuous types. parablepsis. grammatical. haplography. it can be deduced from the patterns of variation that scribes were typically trained by producing written copies of the texts they had learned from memory. .Memorization and Transmission of Sumerian Literary Compositions  F 207 ̃ al2 for mu-un-da-g ̃ al2 (line 80). 89 above. but contain very few variants that occur in one of the two sources but not the other. and borrowings) 2) Conspicuous omissions and additions 95  For a complete list of the variants shared by these two sources see Delnero. mechanical errors. metathesis. inversions. This list comprises the following errors (in the order of most to least diagnostic): 1) Memorial transfer errors (anticipations. In the majority of preserved sources for the Decad. and confirming that similar mistakes are also attested in copies of texts from other corpora that were also produced from memory. which could be indicative of any one of several different types of copying. omission mu-da-g and the omission of lines 49 and 54. and Ur7 for IEb. such as Middle English romances and quartos of Shakespeare plays. together with numerous mistakes of all or some combination of the remaining types of mistakes within nearly all of the individual duplicates for the compositions in the Decad serves as evidence that these sources were copied from memory. and very few conspicuous errors of the type typically found in duplicates copied from memory. many of which are unique to these two sources. but fewer mistakes in general. The occurrence of more diagnostic memory errors. discussed in the previous section. Variation in Sumerian Literary Compositions. By analyzing the types of errors that occur in experiments conducted by cognitive psychologists on verbatim memory and different forms of forgetting. Conclusion Proceeding from the widespread assumption that all or most of the preserved duplicates of Sumerian literary compositions are scribal exercises produced by apprentice scribes. and substitutions) The means by which a source was copied is most evident not in the occurrence of isolated variants. such as by dictation or direct copying. phonetic writings of the words—forms the scribe was hearing—but fewer nonaural variants. the question of how these sources were copied has been addressed. such as grammatical mistakes. it is possible that these were copied at a place and time in which scribes were not being trained to reproduce the compositions they were learning from memory. semantic substitutions. a list of the most common memory errors was compiled. can be expected to contain patterns of variants similar to NI7 and Ur1. and visual(izing) mistakes. on the other hand. Duplicates copied from memory. all of which can also occur in sources copied from dictation or direct copying. 1510– 15. such as memorial transfer errors and conspicuous omissions/additions. additions. The exceptions are just that—exceptions—and since all but one of these sources are without clear provenience. 95 Since both X3 and X4 for ErH share a relatively large number of variants. Ur2. Sources copied from dictation are likely to contain a relatively large number of incorrectly spelled. including phonetic writings. The presence of possible exceptions does not detract. sources copied from memory contain not only memorial transfer errors and conspicuous omissions—the two types of errors that are most diagnostic of memory errors— but also numerous variants of other types. Each method of copying results in distinct patterns of variation. and not by another means. and may have been written at a later date. they were probably copied from another exemplar which contained these variant forms. The number of sources with the types and distribution of mistakes characteristic of memory errors strongly suggests that scribes first 96  For the difference between “visual” and “visualizing” errors see fn. sources copied directly from another exemplar will contain more mechanical errors. Ur5. but instead in the distribution of different variant types within a source.

but these are topics for another study. . The role of memorization in the copying of literary compositions has critical implications for understanding how scribal education was conducted in ancient Mesopotamia and also for how the variants in the copies of Sumerian literary works are to be interpreted. and then produced written duplicates of those texts from memory. this claim has always been made without citing any evidence that supports it.208  F  Journal of Near Eastern Studies learned the texts they were taught by memorizing the compositions. It has been the goal of this study to provide such evidence. Although others have suggested that memorization played a critical role in the transmission of literary texts.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful