Mesopotamian lexical lists: structure, history, and interpretations

Carlos H.B. Gonçalves


The present article provides an introduction to the study of the Mesopotamian lexical lists, to wit, lists of signs and words formulated in the course of Mesopotamian history mainly to teach the Sumerian language. Those lists are also objects of knowledge, being both records of, and tools for the production of knowledge on the language they conveyed. First I discuss what a list is, and illustrate that notion with the description of some of the main lexical lists, to finally mention some of the prevailing interpretations on this subject. To contribute to the investigated topic, I discuss the opposition between the actual execution of the lexical lists on clay tablets, and the theoretically established text from which the tablet lists derive, i.e., the text nature of those objects. Finally I report some results of recent research that point to the impossibility to separate the lexical from the mathematical texts, at least from the perspective of the training of scribes.

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