Johannes Dams 

Title: The Ubānu Chapter of the Extispicy Series Bārûtu: Edition, Commentary, and Evaluation

University: Philipps-Universität Marburg

Supervisor: Nils P. Heeßel

Abstract: The Ancient Near East is characterized by the conviction that the world is full of signs. In the things that can be observed by humans – whether on earth or in the sky – the counsels and orders of the gods can be seen. This “bond between all things” enabled Mesopotamian scholars to fathom the will of the gods by means of divination, the art of which was given to humans by the gods at the beginning of the world, and to react to it with appropriate rituals. Already since the 3rd millennium B. C. there are the first indirect indications of divinatory practices. However, these become tangible in technical texts only from the beginning of the 2nd millennium B.C. Since this time, the art of extispicy in particular already played an important role. In the course of time, around the turn from the 2nd to the 1st millennium B. C., the standardized extispicy series bārûtu emerged, which formed a collection of extispicy omens in 10 chapters on 100 tablets. The arrangement of the chapters is based on the sequence of examination in the course of the extispicy ritual. It begins with the skeleton (chapter 1) followed by the examination of the colon (chapter 2). Chapters 3-7 deal with particular characteristics of the most important organ for extispicy: the liver. Thus, the “presence,” the “path”, the gallbladder, the “finger” and various other signs are examined. Chapter 8 then deals with the “weapon mark”, a characteristic that appears only occasionally on the liver or lungs and is treated separately here in a chapter of its own. The 9th chapter deals with the lung, and the 10th with divinatory principles of interpretation. So far, only about one third of the entire text can be reconstructed. Most of the documents come from Assurbanipal’s universal library in Nineveh. Other textual witnesses come from the Assyrian cities of Kalḫu, Dūr-Šarrukīn, and Ḫuzirīna, as well as Uruk, Borsippa, Babylon, Sippar, Nippur, and Kiš in Babylonia. So far, only chapters 3, 4, 5, and 10 have been edited. The other chapters are therefore still unpublished. This includes the 7th chapter šumma ubānu “When the finger”. The “finger” is anatomically the processus caudatus, which is formed by the lobus caudatus and forms a particularly conspicuous feature on the sheep’s liver. It has three edges, three surfaces, and tapers to a point. The ubānu chapter consists of 11 tablets, of which only the 6th is preserved complete in a copy from the Seleucid period. All other tablets are either fragmentary or not preserved at all. Of the non-preserved tablets, however, the incipits are known in some cases.
In addition to its detailed treatment in the seventh chapter of the extispicy series bārûtu, the finger is also frequently mentioned in Neo-Assyrian extispicy reports. Another text genre, the “dub ḫ” texts, deals with the adannu, the stipulated term of the omens. This term can range from 7 to about 100 days and was already calculated in ancient Babylonian times in Mari, although at that time the term adannu was not yet in use. The calculation of this period is also based on markings on the finger. For this purpose, the three most significant markings on the top, middle, or base of the right or left surface of the finger are evaluated: the notch (piṭru), the hole (šīlu), and the “weapon mark” (kakku). The calculation is done in two steps: first, the base of the validity period rēš adanni is calculated by multiplying the period for which the extispicy is performed by the constant coefficient uddazallû, “correction” as well as another number. In the second step, the markings on the finger are examined in more detail. From the number and position of these marks on the right or left side of the finger, another coefficient is calculated and thus the validity period of the extispicy is determined. Within this period, the prediction resulting from the extispicy is then also fulfilled. Thus, the extispicy is made only for limited periods of time. Its purpose is not to predict the future in general, but to make predictions about the outcome of current events. Whether the calculations in the “dub ḫa-la” texts were actually applied in practice, however, cannot yet be said with certainty.
Within the framework of the planned dissertation, chapter 7 ubānu of the extispicy series bārûtu is now to be edited for the first time. For this purpose, first, the already known texts will be collected, copied, transliterated, and collated where necessary and possible. Next, an attempt will be made to locate further hitherto unidentified texts and also to edit them in the manner described above. After the available text inventory has been recorded and processed, it will be edited in the form of a score, translated, and provided with a philological commentary. The completion of the text edition will be followed by the evaluation of the content. The structure of the arrangement of the omens will be examined, which principles of interpretation can be derived from the statements of the omens, and which meaning was attributed to the finger in particular. The evaluation of the content is followed by the contextualization of the text on synchronic and diachronic levels. On the synchronic level the question arises, what meaning the finger had in other text genres and what practical relevance this might have had. Concerning the practical application, the extispicy reports are of interest. In addition, the calculation of the validity period adannu in “dub ḫ” texts will play a special role. On the diachronic level, on the other hand, the focus will be on the genesis of the serialization of omens involving the finger against the background of the process of serialization in Mesopotamia in general. For these purposes, precursors from the second half of the 2nd century B. C. are compared in order to look for clues to the serialization process.

Keywords: divination, extispicy, ubānu, bārûtu, omina, liver


Lucrezia Menicatti

Title: An Investigation of Repetition and Analogical Reasoning in Mesopotamian Divinatory Literature from the First Millennium B.C.E. 

University: Universität Wien

Supervisor: Prof. Nicla de Zorzi


My PhD thesis is part of the project “Repetition, Parallelism and Creativity: An Inquiry into the Construction of Meaning in Ancient Mesopotamian Literature and Erudition” (REPAC). The project, which was funded by the European Research Council (ERC) and is led by Assoz. Prof. Dr. Nicla De Zorzi, investigates repetition and parallelism in different branches of Akkadian literature and scholarly writing.

This thesis focuses on divinatory literature from the first millennium B.C.E. The corpora under investigation include the extispicy series Bārûtu, and the astrological series Enūma Anu Enlil. My main objective is to define principles and rules that structure these texts, both on the horizontal and on the vertical axis.

To achieve this goal, I will investigate these two divinatory series on two different levels. On the one hand, consideration will be given to the relation between sign and prediction in single omens, and I will elucidate and explore the role of analogy, similarity, and repetition in establishing the so-called syntagmatic connection between protasis and apodosis on the horizontal axis. On the other hand, I will focus on the inter-omen connections and on the so-called paradigmatic relationships between different omens on the vertical axis. It will be shown that the choice of terms and themes is often dictated by principles of analogy and by the inter-play of repetitive patterns and concepts not only on the horizontal, but on the vertical axis as well. This will shed a light on the structure of larger omen sequences.

The aim is therefore to provide a thorough investigation of omen-organisation and omen sequencing in the first Millennium divinatory sources, focusing especially on the generative power of repetition and analogy in the macro-structure of divinatory compendia. Eventually, this research will lead to a better understanding of how repetition and analogical thought reflect the Mesopotamian worldview, which understood the world as governed by correspondences resulting from similarity and contrast between different elements. This thesis will show that divinatory texts are a fundamental expression of this vision.

Keywords: divination, extispicy, astrology, repetition, analogy, text structure


Maria Teresa Renzi-Sepe

Title: The Perception of the Pleiades in the Mesopotamian Culture

University: Universität Leipzig

Supervisor: Prof. Michael P. Streck

Abstract: The study aims at analysing the conceptualisation of the Pleiades as reflected in the Mesopotamian Culture. The Pleiades are among the most visible stars to the naked eye, and they are perceived in Ancient Mesopotamia as a group of “seven.” The task of describing and analysing the role of Pleiades is accomplished by focusing on three main aspects. First, the constellation’s practical function in cuneiform sources as a setting tool for the Mesopotamian calendar. Second, a collection and study of all the Pleiades’ references in literary texts, such as myths, prayers, rituals, reports, letters, and omens. Third, an edition and study of the relevant Enūma Ānu Enlil tablets to the Pleiades (the assumed tablets 52 and 53). Part of the last aspect involves collecting tablets in museums to reconstruct their original text.

The study is framed by an introductory chapter on celestial bodies’ role within the cuneiform knowledge and by a final chapter that summarises the foregoing investigation and describes the perception of the Pleiades in comparison with other cultures. Further, a study on the structure and the interpretation of celestial omens is included to highlight their logic and working principles.

Keywords: Akkadian, astral science, astronomy, astrology, divination, Pleiades


Tommaso Scarpelli

Title: Das Wetter in der Mesopotamischen Kulturgeschichte des II. und I. Jahrtausends V. Chr.

University: Universität Leipzig

Supervisor: Prof. Michael P. Streck


The aim of the project is to provide an overview on the human perception of meteorological phenomena. Many different texts describe the consequences of natural events on everyday life and how weather phenomena were considered with regard to the supernatural. This work treats the dependent relationship of the Mesopotamians with weather during the 2nd and 1st Millennium B.C. only by means of philological methodology. It is possible to summarize the main sources for this research as follow: everyday texts, letters and administrative texts, omens, documents from the Mesopotamian divinatory tradition, meteorological recordings from the 1st Millennium B.C., literary compositions. The first task of the work consists in collecting both detailed and brief attestations dealing with atmospheric events, that are contained in cuneiform letter corpora from two Millennia, and to present them in chronological order. The texts should be analyzed in each geo-climatic context, in order to provide a better understanding of the use of natural resources in Mesopotamian cultural history. The weather appears in omen compendia as part of the protasis, or as part of the apodosis. After collecting meteorological omens and integrating them to the Enūma Anu Enlil Tablets 42-49 (previously edited by E. Gehlken), they will be examined and compared to each other as well as to omens drawn from other phenomena with which weather is combined, such as astral events. A first edition of unpublished omen tablets in the British Museum is also planned with a view to investigate a continuous development of weather divination throughout two Millennia. In conclusion, a study on weather terminology will be provided together with idiomatic and regional expressions: figures of speech are often based on meteorological elements, so they offer another key to unlock Mesopotamian perceptions of weather.

Keywords: Akkadian, weather, environment, everyday life, divination, letters, philology, cultural perception, lexicon


Turna Somel

Mesopotamian Divinatory Texts from Syria and Anatolia in the Late Bronze Age

Philipps-Universität Marburg

Prof. Dr. Nils P. Heeßel

Even as early as the late 3rd millennium BCE, there is evidence of divinatory practices in ancient Mesopotamia. A new text genre listing the meanings of omens appears during the first half of the 2. millennium BCE and attests to the continuous development of divinatory practices in Mesopotamia into the Hellenistic period. Furthermore, textual sources from neighbouring regions in the Near East dating to the Late Bronze Age (second half of the 2nd millennium BCE) demonstrate that this knowledge, and possibly the practices, were imported from Mesopotamia and existed parallel to local divinatory traditions, as hundreds of fragments have been found in Hattusa and Emar, and smaller numbers have been discovered in Alalah, Ugarit, Susa and Kabnak.

While the majority of the aforementioned fragments have already been edited, a comprehensive study treating this corpus of divinatory texts as a whole is needed. The aim of the present thesis is to study this corpus with a focus on the intellectual history of the Late Bronze Age. Of particular relevance are organisatory characteristics, hermeneutical strategies and areas of interest as documented in omen compendia, to be studied through a comparative perspective encompassing Hattusa and Emar, as well as Mesopotamian sites such as Assur, Babylon, and Nippur.

In addition to intellectual history, a major focus of this study is to document the process and effects of transmission and reception in the case of Hattusa and Emar, as well as to investigate whether (and how) the omen compendia were further developed within the local scribal communities. In the case of Hattusa, where translations of Akkadian omen compendia into Hittite are attested, a study of translation techniques is to be undertaken.