Die Lebermodelle aus Bogazkoy.

Author:Beckman, Gary
Position:Book review

Die Lebermodelle aus Bogazkoy. By An De Vos. Studien zu den Bogazkoy-Texten, Beiheft 5. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2013. Pp. 274, 56 pits. [euro]76.

As has long been known, one of the primary methods by which the ancient Mesopotamians, as well as the participants in peripheral cultures partaking of cuneiform civilization, elicited information from their deities was the examination of the internal organs of sacrificial sheep--haruspicy or extispicy. Within this method of divination, inspection of the liver (hepatoscopy) played a major role. Instruction in the reading of the future from livers was undoubtedly predominantly oral, from master to apprentice, but written documentation--a "reference library"--also developed. It is from the surviving scraps of this professional literature that modern scholars have derived their still rudimentary understanding of this ancient "science."

Two basic types of text comprise this arcane genre: extensive lists of individual observations in casuistic format--"If X is to be seen, then Y will occur"--and clay models of the liver, displaying the particular physical features of the organ in question, each often accompanied by (sometimes abbreviated) inscriptions of the oracles (a better designation than the usual "omens") thereby indicated.

Hittite culture adopted the cuneiform writing system and along with it various features of Mesopotamian religion, literature, etc. Indeed, excavations at the Hittite capital Bogazkoy/Hattusa have yielded the greatest number of model livers (CTH 547) from a single site--fifty-eight, easily eclipsing runner-up Mari with thirty-two. The book under review, the revised version of a 2010 Wurzburg dissertation written under the direction of G. Wilhelm, is a full edition of these objects, each presented in excellent photographs and those published here for the first time also in hand-copies (by G. Wilhelm and H. Otten).

De Vos transliterates and translates each model, assigning new sigla (Bo 1 to Bo 58) and providing extensive references to previous studies where relevant. Her philological commentaries are exhaustive and contribute to progress in our knowledge of the technical details of the underlying system of inquiry, the current state of which she conveniently illustrates in a sketch (p. 235, appendix 2). She also establishes that, as in Mesopotamia, the features were interpreted at Hattusa in a fixed, counterclockwise, order (p. 46).

Of the fifty-seven model livers...

To continue reading