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"Surpassing Work": Mastery Of Materials And The Value Of Skilled Production In Ancient Sumer

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Chapter Summary

In 1985, with the publication of Materials and Manufacture in Ancient Mesopotamia, Roger Moorey noted the potential of textual evidence in contributing to the understanding of ancient Mesopotamian material culture. Moorey chose to begin his own introduction to ancient Mesopota-mian materials with a quote from Leo Oppenheim to the effect that the notable lack of attention to technological achievements in the past was directly proportionate to a lack of scholarly interest in material culture. Fortunately in the textual record one may distinguish a variety of verbs in Sumerian, along with their Akkadian counterparts from lexical lists and bilinguals, that differentiate drawing ,carving ,mounting in precious metal and building. In the various city-states of ancient Sumer, including Lagash, Ur and Isin, such works were often deemed of sufficient import that their construction and/or dedication became the signature event in a number of regnal year-names.

Keywords: ancient Mesopotamia; ancient Sumer; carving

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