Studies in Ugaritic Epistolography

Abstract : The tell of Ras Shamra on the Mediterranean coast of Syria has yielded thousands of cuneiform tablets which shed light on the scribal traditions of ancient Ugarit, a city-state which flourished during the latter part of the Late Bronze Age. This dissertation treats one aspect of the local scribal practice, the letter-writing tradition in the Ugaritic language. The studies presented here contain a description and analysis of the formal characteristics of all currently known Ugaritic letters, not only stereotyped formulas, but also patterned motifs found in the body. Chapters 1-4 treat the major epistolary formulas, building on previous research by incorporating data from unpublished letters, by approaching the formal analysis from the wider perspective of cuneiform letter-writing in Late Bronze West Asia, and by consistently attempting to understand the patterns of formal variation in terms of social vocabulary drawn from the letters themselves. Chapter 5 is a preliminary study of the structural patterns in the body of Ugaritic letters. A dual emphasis on form and function is attempted; the provisional conclusions are intended to complement a more traditional philological approach in the ongoing interpretation of Ugaritic epistolary prose. On a broader level, the Ugaritic letter-writing tradition shows striking formal kinship with the Akkadian and Hittite epistolary traditions of the "Western periphery"; formal similarities with contemporary Mesopotamian traditions are much less pronounced. These parallels suggest that the Ugaritic epistolary tradition was a local manifestation of a common "Amorite" heritage which persisted among the scribal cultures of Hittite Syria. In its contemporary context, however, the Ugaritic tradition should ultimately be considered as independent, since none of the contemporary or anterior traditions is fully parallel. It was a local scribal culture, unique in many respects, and not demonstrably derivative of the traditions of neighboring cultures.
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Robert Hawley. Studies in Ugaritic Epistolography. Humanities and Social Sciences. University of Chicago, 2003. English. ⟨tel-00434324⟩

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