Monday, August 13, 2007

What, you don't have a secret decoder ring?

Several people (not just you, Mom) have asked about the translation/pronunciation/meaning of the inscription on the shirts I blogged about on Friday. Take this as fair warning if you get one — people will ask.

The main inscription is from the first two lines of Enuma Eliš, the traditional Babylonian creation story:

The first two lines of Enuma Elish

e-nu-ma   e-liš   la   na-bu-ú   šá-ma-mu
šap-liš   am-ma-tum   šu-ma   la   zak-rat

When on high no name was given to heaven,
nor below was the netherworld called by name

So, basically, "In the beginning" for Babylonians — something most students of the Ancient Near East would recognize readily. (Or so I am told.)

The smaller inscription next to "" has the determinative LÚ.DAM.GÀR (merchants) plus the phrase kib-rat erbe-tim "of the four corners [of the earth]," which was a classic epithet of the Neo-Assyrian kings.

Don't you feel smarter already?


Jonathan Erdman said...

I recently had an old cuneiform scholar approach me and he claimed that my shirt said, "I am a loser. Please Kick me, box my ears, or hit me upside the head."

Is this your idea of a joke? Or was this just a wiley old man looking for the chance to give me a pop in the head???

Andy said...

We've had numerous reports lately of older gentlemen roaming around, pretending to be cuneiform scholars, distracting the naïve, and beating them up for their lunch money.

Don't be one of them, Jonathan. You run half-marathons for fun; you can probably get away from most cuneiform scholars if you don't stop and try to argue with them.

Anonymous said...

This would be written in Sumerian; it is found in one of te Sumerian texts referring to a student who did not do his homework an was roundly punished.