Wirtschaftstexte aus Fara II. By HORST STEIBLE and FATMA YILDIZ. Die Inschriften von Fara, vol. 4. Wiesbaden: HARRASSOWITZ VERLAG, 2015. Pp. x + 272. [euro]78.
General consensus seems to support dividing the Early Dynastic Ilia period into an earlier Fara phase in the south and a later phase characterized by the texts from the more northerly Abu Salabikh, Kish, and Nippur. Excavators in both regions uncovered cuneiform text artifacts exemplifying non-utilitarian text genres (lexical and literary compositions, and school texts) and texts from the utilitarian administrative and legal spheres. Almost as if in a routine removal of stratigraphic levels of a Mesopotamian ruin mound, first organized campaigns, later supplemented by irregular excavations, returned, for European and North American Assyriological inspection, with text artifacts from Persian, neo-Babylonian, and neo-Assyrian settlements of the first millennium BC, then those of the second, third, and finally fourth millennium.
Looking backwards, presargonic inscriptions from ancient Girsu, however, formed a final chronological stage in the ability of specialists to digest and communicate text content among themselves and to the larger public. Dating to ca. 2500-2350 BC according to the conventional Middle Chronology, these were texts in a largely standardized logo-syllabic writing system employing relatively clear lexical and syntactical conventions. A preponderance of administrative accounts from that phase of writing closely resembled the Sumerian texts of the Ur III period (ca. 2100-2000 BC), and royal inscriptions and dedicatory texts opened new avenues to understanding the earliest high literature of court officials in an otherworldly language.
Excavations at Shuruppak, ancient Fara, conducted in 1902-1903 as a side-operation by the Babylon expedition of the German Oriental Society, recovered some hundreds of tablets dated, mostly on paleo-graphical considerations, to a century before those of the Girsu archives, and, following chronological designations applied by those early archaeologists, were assigned to the ED Ilia period, preceding the ED 111b texts of Girsu. I say hundreds because, now 115 years after the initial removals from Fara and nearly a century after the WVDOG publications of those texts commenced with Anton Deimel's Liste der archaischen Keilschriftzeichen (1920), Schultexte aus Fara (1923), and Wirtschaftstexts aus Fara (1924), we must still take the word of those few specialists who have been granted access to excavation records and the texts themselves in Berlin and Istanbul, that the grand total from ED Ilia levels of Fara amounts to "well over 1000 administrative clay tablets" (p. 1; elsewhere "just over 1000" and "about 1000"); CDLI currently records a total of 735 such texts, including the 81 published here in WFT II for the first time.
Beyond these administrative accounts lie those texts that aroused the greatest interest in the ED Ilia discoveries, namely, those copies of non-utilitarian lexical lists, of a limited palette of literary compositions, and a fuzzy category of literature in the so-called UD.GAL.NUN cryptographic...