The Current State of Ugaritic Studies

Posted in: Ancient Near East Today, ASOR
Tags: Ancient Near East, ANET, Aramaic, Gregorio del Olmo Lete, Hebrew, Mesopotamia, Minet el Beda, Phoenician, Ras Shamra, Syria, Ugarit, Urgaritic

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ANET_Oct2014_BannerBy: Gregorio del Olmo Lete 

No other language and culture of Northwest Semitic – the family of languages and cultures used in the Levant including Hebrew, Phoenician and Aramaic – prior to the appearance of the Hebrew Bible has offered a similar corpus of linguistic and mythological material as Ugaritic. In 1929 the discovery of a tomb at Minet el Beda on the north Syrian coast led to excavations at nearby Ras Shamra, ancient Ugarit. Excavations there quickly turned up cuneiform tablets similar to those long familiar from Mesopotamia but written with a much smaller number of signs.

Satellite view of Ugarit and immediate surroundings

Satellite view of Ugarit and immediate surroundings

By the early 1930s the tablets had been deciphered and revealed to be an alphabet of 30 signs. The texts themselves include a rich corpus of literary works whose language and imagery is similar to that of the Hebrew Bible. Today, Ugaritic studies continue to be at the forefront of Northwest Semitic philology due to their unique linguistic and literary contributions to our knowledge of the second Millennium BCE. New discoveries indicate a permanent revision of earlier reconstructions. First, the publication of the new texts recovered in the excavations from (more…)

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