When Speech Was Nails
Visual Poetics of Writing in
Clark Research Associate Professor
of Assyriology, and Director, Pennsylvania Sumerian
University of Pennsylvania
Presented by the Penn Humanities Forum
and University of Pennsylvania Museum
22, 2006 5:00 pm
Auditorium, Penn Museum
3260 South Street, Penn
Free. Public invited.
Writing was born in Mesopotamia as pictographs,
which then turned into cuneiform characters. Noted Babylonian
scholar Steve Tinney explores the interface between
writing and image in ancient Mesopotamia from the earliest
experiments with the new art of writing, to the sophisticated
graphical word games played by the late sages in the
royal courts of Assyria and Babylon.
Dr. Steve Tinney is director
of the Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary Project at the
University of Pennsylvania Museum. He holds a B.A. in
Assyriology from Cambridge University, England, and
a Ph.D. in Assyriology from the University of Michigan
at Ann Arbor. His research interests include all aspects
of Sumerian language, literature, and culture. Much
of his current work is devoted to developing and publishing
Sumerian texts and to analyzing and presenting the Sumerian
language. This work is primarily focussed on the creation
of two major projects, the online Pennsylvania Sumerian
Dictionary (ePSD), a project he began work on when he
joined Penn in 1991 as a postdoctoral research assistant
and which he now directs, and the Cuneiform Digital
Library Initiative based at UCLA.
Founded in 1976, ePSD's mission is to
produce the first comprehensive dictionary of the world's
oldest written language. Implemented as a web-based
project, the dictionary is an unfolding work that is
continually updated as scholars at Penn and around the
world continue to decipher Sumerian writings.
The online Sumerian Dictionary is to be
much more than a list of Sumerian words and their English
meanings. It will also be accessible through an English
language interface that includes grouping of words conceptually
and by object type. Because the word definitions link
to examples of usage in the online collections of Sumerian
texts, the Sumerian Dictionary will be a gateway to
early Mesopotamian culture. Tinney and his team plan
to augment the Dictionary with essays on concepts, material
culture, and ethnographic matters to enhance its cultural
Sumerian Dictionary Project, University of Pennsylvania
Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative, University
of California, Los Angeles. See also NEH coverage.
Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, University
ancient Israel, and the alphabet, University of Pennsylvania
Cuneiform Writing. . ., University of Pennsylvania
Words, by Susan Frith. Pennsylvania Gazette,
Dictionary to Dechipher Ancient Texts, by Faye Flam, Philadelphia Inquirer, July 24, 2002.
Ancient writing system gets Internet
update, by Dan Vergano. USA
on the Information Superhighway, by Arthur Clark. Saudi Aramco World, March/April 2000.
like a Babylonian, Penn Museum. What would your
monogram look like in cuneiform?