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The “Stars (of) Heaven” and Cuneiform Writing

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Chapter Summary

It is believed that the Babylonian astrologers and scholars of the second millennium likened the heavenly stars, wherein they could 'read' the future and the fates of human beings, to cuneiform writing. In other words, just as they could read and foretell the hidden future from the omen series written with cuneiform writing on tablets, so they could read it from the heavenly stars. Accordingly, the authors assume that at a certain stage in the development of Mesopotamian astrology the Mesopotamian scholars and poets began to refer to the stars by the poetic expression "heavenly writing". In fact, a survey of the contexts in which the stars of heaven are mentioned in Sumerian literature indicates that they are never employed as similes and metaphors for writing. This chapter also determines the meaning and significance of the terms mul and mul-an in connection with the scribal schools in ŠB and ŠE.

Keywords: cuneiform writing; heavenly stars; heavenly writing; Sumerian literature

10.1163/9789004260757_010
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