Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Archaeology and Texts in the Ancient Near East

This reading spoke more about tablets and writings, like we had talked about in past classes but also focused on the important aspect that the Ancient Near East has a great written record, unlike that of many countries, that has survived until present day. This is largely due to the fact that tablets were made out of clay and that the environment in which they were created was very hospitable to their survival. This fact brings out a very interesting point. Not only are tablets that contain texts valuable for the simple reason that they provide us with texts from that time, but also that they are artifacts in and of themselves.
This leads us to the differences between scholars interested in archaeology and scholars interested in languages and ancient writing. Archaeologists are more concerned with the context in which the item was found and what we can learn about the culture as a whole. Because many tablets are found in areas varying from trash heaps to libraries and archives, what an archaeologist can learn from these tablets also varies. This is in contrast to Philologists, who view the inscriptions as the key importance for the tablets. There are a large number of tablets that are put on to the black market, which can lead to problems between these two groups. Philologists often are willing to purchase these tablets, even at the expense of encouraging black market trade, in order to retain the information on the tablets and to keep them safe.

The main issue of this discrepancy is that both communities can be singularly focused on their disciplines and tend to not share information or collaborate in their studies. It astounds me that this hasn’t come to pass at this point, just simply because so much could be learned if the two groups would work together to create new hypothesizes and learn more about the artifacts than either group could do alone. What is the reason that they can't seem to come together? I have no idea but I think that there is no reason not to work together when a greater result can be achieved together. 
This article was interesting, but repeated some of the same information that I had read in the past about cuneiform and writings in the Ancient Near East. While I do enjoy continuing to learn about this subject, the most interesting idea that the article proposed was about the differences in academic study. I can't seem to understand why it would be so hard to work together in an academic study. I understand that everyone wants to focus on their own ideas and perspectives but when an area would greatly benefit from both working together, it doesn't make good sense for the advancement of academics that they would keep working in their separate fields. 

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