Photo of a small statue of a seated, robed person in a museum display case.

Seated female figure with tablet on lap (Ur III Period ca. 2212-2004 BCE) Alabaster 11.6 x 5 x 4.5cm. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Photo: Beate Pongratz-Leisten

Enheduana, Nisaba, Gilgamesh, and the Lapislazuli Tablet:

Some Thoughts on Authorship in Ancient Mesopotamia

Beate Pongratz-Leisten


This lecture will take place online; a Zoom link will be provided via email to registered participants.

Registration is required at THIS LINK.

How do we think about authorship in a world in which the production of text took place with a strong commitment to the past? In which passages from older texts could be reused to construct some kind of bricolage with no notion of forgery? In which arguments were expressed not explicitly, but implicitly, through intertextual references and quotations? In which the notion of the individual author played a very minor role and was forever tied to the perception of major socio-political change? In which authorship was a matter of mere intellectual concern rather than scribal reality? Rather than dwelling on our modern concept of authorship, this talk will shift the attention to the notion of the authority of the text and investigate the cultural meaning of its materiality – stele or tablet - in order to throw new light on Gilgamesh’s lapis lazuli tablet.

Beate Pongratz-Leisten is Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at ISAW. She was trained as a translator and interpreter of French and Spanish at the École Supérieure d'Interprètes et de Traducteurs, Paris, and the University of Mainz. In 1983 she embarked on a second career in ancient Near Eastern Studies, Egyptology, and Religious Studies at Tübingen University and Harvard University. She received her doctorate and habilitation from Tübingen University. Before joining the faculty of ISAW she taught at Tübingen University and Freiburg University in Germany, as well as at PrincetonYale, the University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton Theological Seminary.

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