Experiencing Wissenstransfer in the First Episteme: Mesopotamia

Geller, Markham;


Experiencing Wissenstransfer in the First Episteme: Mesopotamia.

In: Weil, Dror and Krause, Katja and Auxent, Maria, (eds.)
Premodern Experience of the Natural World in Translation.
(pp. 1-6).

Routledge: New York, NY, USA.


It can be useful to take a long view of knowledge transfer and the experiences of those who participated in it, by tracing its origins back to the earliest records in the long history of philology, for which abundant data can be found from Mesopotamia in the form of myriads of extant cuneiform tablets. These sources, the earliest dating from the third millennium BCE and remaining legible until at least the third century CE, provide the first examples of many different writing genres, beginning with rudimentary accounts but soon progressing into narratives (myths, legends, chronicles, legal codes, incantations), as well as technical literature (medicine, divination, mathematics, astronomy, etc.). The same cuneiform script was used by students, scribes, scholars, and laymen for different, non-cognate languages such as Sumerian, Akkadian, Hittite, and Hurrian, so that knowledge transfer through translation was a key feature of this ancient episteme. There are some specific features of early writing that offer useful perspectives on ways in which the ability to record knowledge transformed society permanently and indelibly.

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