Irving Finkel + Jonathan Taylor

The British Museum 2015
A book review by Danny Yee © 2018
This is only a slim little book and half of it is taken up by high-quality colour photographs of key cuneiform tablets and inscriptions. It offers a brief history of writing in cuneiform, and a glance at the social context of writing and literacy in ancient Mesopotamia. There is little on the details of cuneiform script itself, just a brief "try this at home" appendix with a chart of syllables and representations.
"The rather unusual, two-language heritage of ancient Mesopotamia had many consequences. Sumerian and Akkadian lives side by side and students had to study both, for a great proportion of national literature remained encapsulated in Sumerian even as this language began to disappear from daily usage by the early second millennium BC. As a result, Sumerian texts often needed to be translated into Akkadian, first by glossing odd difficult words, but eventually in fully developed bilingual form. The existence of such bilingualism facilitated the classroom teaching of both languages, and also generated sophisticated grammatical analysis by the teachers."

Finkel and Taylor are curators of the British Museum collection of tablets, but this is a fully coherent book, not an attempt at a survey of the museum's holdings or an exhibition guide.

August 2018

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%T Cuneiform
%A Finkel, Irving
%A Taylor, Jonathan
%I The British Museum
%D 2015
%O paperback, colour photographs, index
%G ISBN-13 9780714111889
%P 110pp