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On Knowledge among Cuneiform Scholars

On Knowledge among Cuneiform Scholars

mudē UZU irrī “Knowledgeable in Intestines”

(p.61) Chapter Three On Knowledge among Cuneiform Scholars
Before Nature
Francesca Rochberg
University of Chicago Press

What it was to know something, how to define someone knowledgeable, and what objects or phenomena were considered appropriate objects of knowledge in the cuneiform world form the major structural outlines of this chapter. Knowledge of signs, both celestial and terrestrial, knowledge of phenomena of the heavens and their periodic appearances, and knowledge of plants, animals, and stones provide the major substance of discussion. The question of classification arises, and is investigated by means of a native taxonomy constructed by the use of determinatives to indicate the category to which a word (or name) belongs. As used in the cuneiform script, determinatives afford a look into some of the fundamental organizational categories of a conceptual world as it existed for the ancient scribes, as well as the criteria they may have used to create such categories.

Keywords:   epistemology, natal astrology, natural kinds, extispicy, celestial divination, determinataives, Babylonian medicine, scholar-scribes, polythetic classification

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