The Cuneiform Studies Laboratory, housed within the Department of Religious Studies at UNC Charlotte, introduces advanced undergraduate and graduate students to the study of the languages and cultures of the various ancient Near Eastern civilizations deemed critically important for the proper understanding of biblical language(s), literature, and religion. These cultures registered the written form of their languages in the so-called ‘cuneiform script,’ arguably the earliest type of written sign invented by humanity. Ranging chronologically from the fourth millennium BCE to approximately the beginning of the Common Era and encompassing a geographical span stretching from western Anatolia to eastern Iran, the more prominent cuneiform cultures include those of Sumer, Babylonia, Assyria, Hatti, and the various Canaanite city-states, especially Ugarit. Thanks to the archaeological rediscovery of their material remains and the philological recovery of their literatures, a process which began approximately one hundred and fifty years ago and which still proceeds at a slow but steady pace today, scholars increasingly recognize the tremendous contribution which these supplemental texts and artifacts can make to a historically and culturally responsible biblical interpretation.
A primary difficulty for the establishment and development of a cuneiform studies program is the extraordinary expense involved in the acquisition and maintenance of essential reference works. Students of these languages and cultures require a convenient access to highly specialized lexical resources—dictionaries, lexicons, grammars, sign-lists, multi-lingual word indices, and encyclopaedic databases—which very few academic libraries (and no public libraries) possess. Also cumulatively expensive, but no less needed, are copies of the standard editions of previously published texts, as well as a reference collection of the more important interpretative translations and commentaries prepared by western researchers during the course of the last century. Finally, physical equipment such as a computer and microfiche reader are necessary components for the Laboratory, for they will give students easy access to the microform and digitalized texts and resources, many of which are now becoming available on-line and on compact disc.
Thanks to the generous monetary commitments and book donations of an initial group of contributors and donors, the Cuneiform Studies Laboratory presently houses a core collection of reference tools for the use of students and faculty. Current efforts for the Laboratory’s continued development focus on acquiring and building the basic lexical and textual resources required for the study of the cuneiform and biblical languages; later efforts will concentrate on developing a collection of secondary sources and related texts which directly address the manifold relationships extant between ancient Near Eastern and biblical religiosity.
Current Bibliographic Holdings of the Cuneiform Studies Laboratory
Languages and literatures
History and culture
Dinât mišarîm ša bît tuppim (i.e., Law code for the ‘scribal archive’)