For some 3,500 years (34th century BC to 1st century AD), cuneiform served to document, preserve and disseminate intellectual content. The capacity for great cultural and political achievement found among the empires of the Near East was closely bound to the development and use of this medium.
Characteristic to the cultures of the ancient Near East is thus not in the least the extraordinary richness of preservation within the textual record, which provides very precise indications as to how in behaviour and thought humans organised their lives and comprehended their own world within a context seemingly foreign to the present day.
In Assur, the erstwhile capital of the Assyrian Empire in northern Iraq, German excavations at the beginning of the 20th century uncovered numerous, mostly fragmentary clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform. Among these are to be found some 4,500 manuscripts of ‘literary’ content composed in the Babylonian, Assyrian, or Sumerian languages. These descriptions of festivals and rituals, reports of the deeds of kings, chronicles, myths, fables, hymns, prayers, astronomical, medical-therapeutic, pharmacological, and divinatory tractates, dictionaries, and much more, and are testament to the extremely high epistemic potential of ancient Near Eastern cuneiform culture.
The research centre’s team examines and deciphers thousands of cuneiform tablet fragments, reconstructs textual passages, and presents the unpublished ‘literary’ cuneiform texts within the edition series “Keilschrifttexte aus Assur literarischen Inhalts” (“Cuneiform Texts from Assur of literary Content”: KAL), the volumes of which contain transcriptions, translations, commentaries, facsimile drawings, and glossaries. Sought thereby is the reclaiming of this once extremely potent knowledge and its transference into our own present age, so as to engender new impulses within the study of the cultural history of the ancient Near East, and further promote the understanding of the intellectuality of the Sumerians, Babylonians, and Assyrians.