God lists

Some elementary school tablets have both Syllabary Sa on the obverse and a god list on the reverse. They show, not surprisingly, the intimate link between education and religion from the beginning of the schooling on.

There are several different lists of gods. The one that was taught in Uruk is known as the "Weidner list" (also called Anum) after the modern scholar who first identified and published it. It comprised 244 gods' names at its largest extent. Only the first gods seem to be listed according to religious principles. Afterwards, no other organisational principles can be identified but it is possible that our knowledge of the pantheon is not yet sufficient to recognize them. Moreover, the (long) second part of the list shows some regional and chronological variations in the gods' names, their ordering, and spelling, etc. These choices may thus have rested with the teacher or the community who taught the list.

The "Weidner list" appears in different formats. Manuscripts from Uruk provide the simplest: a straightforward list of gods (e.g., SpTU 3, 108 [/cams/gkab/P348712/]). Most often though, the "Weidner list" is divided into two columns: one containing the name of the god, the other offering an explanation, such as a short description of the deity. For instance:

Kurgulgul: the divine adviser of Lugalbanda (SpTU 3, 109 [/cams/gkab/P348713])

But the most complete format has two or three further columns, making four or five in total:

  1. pronunciation of the name of the god;
  2. the god's name;
  3. the sign names of the god's name;
  4. a description of the god.

A fifth column is visible on some manuscripts but is always too fragmentary to know what it contained.

There are three manuscripts of another god list from Huzirina (on 8 fragmentary tablets) that duplicate each other. It partially duplicates a god list from Assur and shows some distinctively Assyrian features (such as opening with the name of the god Aššur). But it is otherwise unattested, so far as we know.

Further reading

Marie-Françoise Besnier

Marie-Françoise Besnier, 'God lists', The Geography of Knowledge, The GKAB Project, 2019 [http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/cams/gkab/scribalapprenticeship/lexicallists/phasei/godlists/]

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