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Posted by Iraqi Panch from ( on Thursday, April 17, 2003 at 4:37PM :

Those Infamous Business Tablets

I've read a fair amount of books on Mesopotamian history, most of them written by Western white folk, most of whom were either Christian or Jewish. Now I wouldn't accuse them of any bias, certainly not..I mean we all know Academia is color blind and and just about blind in every other way as well.

There aren't three scholars who agree among themselves as to what our ancestors were like. I've even read of the same sculpture described as being cast in copper by one expert and in bronze by another...carved from soft diorite in one instance and in hard granite in another book. One expert calls a sculpture, "Gilgamesh", another calls it, "Lion Tamer Hero". They can't even get the material right...let alone the people who used it or produced it. So I decided long ago I would take the best these people had to offer and throw away the rest. Why not? Till they can agree, why should I accept poor scholarship...unless it pleases me.

Then there's the puzzle of the Dead Sea Scrolls...not the scrolls themselves but the bizarre and byzantine way they've been handled since their discovery. They've been treated as if they were atomic waste...kept hidden far away in obscure corners of the Jewish world. Only certain scholars were allowed to read them and any reports about their content dribbled out over the last sixty years till one enterprising fellow put the whole batch on the internet briefly and it was copied. Reading over what they contained I can't figure what all the secrecy was about, except that if I knew more about the intricacies of that bloody book, I might be better able to figure it out. I have a lingering suspicion though that there really isn't much...except the revelation that the bible was even less of a "revelation" than a hodge podge taken from here and there and that if too many "bible sounding" portions and additions are found to becomes obvious that some handful of Jews back then were really the ones to figure out what God OUGHT to have said. If people, sheepshit herders at that, were the ones to decide on what was "canonical" and what was comical...then it was people ultimately who gave validity to God's word...not God who decided what he wanted to say...but silly, stupid, ordinary, less than bright people...just people. In other words...god was made in our image, made to allow us to sugar-coat our bloody savagery, wanton cruelties, and wantin' lusts.

The other odd piece of scholarly shennanigins is this business of dismissing the thousands...the tens of thousands, of clay tablets written in cuneiform that lie, unread, mouldering away in the vaults of several museums around the world. After over 2500 years of being buried beneath the rubble in Nineveh, hidden from all sight...thousands of tablets have been exhumed to lie hidden away from sight in museum vaults. Is someone hiding something?

I've read of these tablets as being of little or no interest because they are all, "business documents, contracts and lists". It seems odd in the first place that, without reading them, scholars pass judgement on their contents. And even if that was all they contained...they would still reveal a great deal about the intricacies, the wealth, the structure, the cares and several other details of the lives of those people...things that could be deduced certainly, if not learned of outright. Why the lack of interest...why the foregone conclusions when all that rich material...left to us by no other civilization, lies there waiting to be read? This is scholarship?

Take the Epic of Gilgamesh for instance. A hundred years ago George Smith went out from England to dig around in Nineveh. Almost immediately the workers discovered a portion of a tablet that when taken back and examined turned out to contain almost all of the Utnapishtim portion of the Epic. Naturally the Western world was stunned to read about the precursor to Noah.

Smith was sent back to see if he might find the rest of it and on the third day of digging, there among a pile of clay tablets, he found the missing portion. No great fuss was made about all the other tablets surrounding these two. Are we supposed to believe that the library of Ashurbanipal contained 40,000 business documents and ONE Epic poem?

In Gordon and Rendsburg's book, "The Bible and the Ancient Near East", scholarship does what it always has when confronted with the Mesopotamians and their pet gets goofy. Somewhere in the book there is mention made again about the thousands of clay tablets that were all, alas, only lists of things or business documents. This is nothing new or startling, all scholars say that. But these two, ever alert for an opportunity to make the most of them Jews (as I have learned to do where my people are concerned) say the following..."The Israelites themselves, in addition to bequeathing to the world the Hebrew Bible, also have left some inscriptions that have been discovered in modern times. In the northern capital of Samaria were found ostraca, or inscriptions written in ink on pieces of pottery. The Samaria ostraca are wine and oil receipts. Though they are short and give us very little detail, they provide interesting insights into ninth-eighth century Israelite administration and tell us something about the northern Israelite dialect of Hebrew, as distinct from the Judean dialect that predominates in the Bible." All this from a shopping list made of only two items? There is no telling what the addition of bread would have revealed.

And just one more..."Also from Judah are the Lachish ostraca, which are the most important historic inscriptions left by the Hebrews. These date from the early sixth century B.C.E. and tell of military operations and signals around the southern cities of Lachish and Azekah during Nebuchadnezzar's invasion."

So, we have Hebrew wine and oil receipts, which nevertheless provide, "interesting insights". I agree, business contracts and receipts do indeed offer insights...but which people had more "business" to list..even assuming that all those thousands of tablets are ONLY business contracts etc.? Then there is the, "important historic inscription" from the early sixth century...that's around 580 BC or so, that tell of "military operations and signals". The only military operations the Hebrews were involved in back then were aimed at their own people's throats and their women's bellies. Any other military operation consisted of "victories" wherein the Hebrews would, "stop the advance" of various invaders by causing them to trip all over the dead Jews in their path. These "operations and signals" in the time of Nebuchadnezzar probably consisted of signalling..."oh shit...start packing" and maneuvering themselves into columns of refugees bound for camp where attempts would be made, yet again, to civilize least get them to stop killing their "dear" firstborn boys.

But what of all the Assyrian tablets from one thousand years or more earlier? What other discovery of such a trove of written material...from what other ancient people, would ellicit as much apathy as this...and not just from ourselves, we all know no Assyrian is interested in Assyrians...but from "scholars"?

The Assyrian community of Phoenix is laboring mightily to raise five million dollars for...guess...yet ANOTHER church glorifying a Jew carpenter and murder victim. We are "proud" of being Assyrian? We wept far more for Jesus and Israel than we ever have in 2000 years for BetNahrain.

I tell you...there is lot more to being a scholar than I ever thought. It's so damn just get your degree first and THEN lie.

-- Iraqi Panch
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