Friday, November 30, 2007

ASOR 2007 (p. 15)

David Carr read his paper stoically from 4:55 to 5:18:

"The Tel Zayit Abecedary in (Social) Context"

"This presentation will survey some prominent possibilities for determining the social function of the Tel Zayit abecedary: educational, mantic, etc. Particular attention will be given to possible criteria that might be used to determine whether or not a given text, particularly an abecedary, was used in some kind of educational context. This paper will also consider other epigraphic finds that are chronologically and/or geographically close to the Tel Zayit abecedary and present a preliminary proposal about how this find fits into a broader picture of developing textuality in the Levant."

I made a note that he liked to quote others, but he didn't deliver any memorable nuggets of his own, with one possible exception: "[The Zayit Stone] does not prove the existence of a golden age."

His biggest problem was his failure to make a point, present evidence, make another point, etc., then tie them together. Instead, he just tossed out these quotes & failed to hold my attention. In my notebook, I jotted this down in parentheses: "I'd rather be looking at more of the stone's inscription photos right now!"

There wasn't much I could do about missing Hebron-excavation VIP, Jeffrey R. Chadwick who had delivered a paper in another room at the same time as Ron Tappy & Christopher Rollston, but I regret not having exited after Rollston was finished to catch the conclusion of Steven Collins' lecture. It was the biggest mistake I made the whole day. (I hear Cher's voice in my head singing, "If I could turn back time..."

Seth Sanders spoke from 5:18 to 5:45, & in great contrast to David Carr, he spoke in lively, animated tones:

"Nonstate Writing and Early Iron Age Israel: Old Problems and New Connections"

"With the theory of Cultural Evolution -- and its assumptions about literacy and state formation -- subjected to sustained, often devastating critique (see Yoffee, Myths of the Archaic State) are there new ways to meaningfully connect writing and politics in early Iron Age Israel? This paper will first set the Tel Zayit abecedary in the complex history of Syro-Palestinian alphabets and states, then compare it with its typologically closest relative, the paleographically slightly later Gezer calendar. While both texts show features of an emerging inland script well known from Iron IIb Israel and Judah, neither fit crucial features of standardized Classical Hebrew, lacking a bureaucratically regimented alphabetical order and month names. The two inscriptions thus seem to represent a craft tradition not strictly tied to a state bureaucracy. Seen in a larger material context, these texts suggest different ways people may have exercised power over communication and coercion in early Iron Age Syria-Palestine. If neither the Tel Zayit abecedary nor the Gezer calendar are most plausibly products of a state, both shed light on what Israel may have been."

Christopher Rollston passed out a 2-sided handout, one side listing 5 abecedaries with the heading, "Language and (vs?) Writing in Iron Age Hebrew":


Izbet Sartah:

T Zayit:

Majority IA IIb:

Minority IA IIb:

The purpose of this section was to highlight the swapped pairs (wh, hz, lk, & p`).

The other side of the handout contained "The Main Ideas":

I) What do Zayit & Gezer represent? Issues of evidence
__A) Alphabetic order
____i) T Zayit: more features in common with pre-Israelite than Known IAIIb orders.
____ii) Ayin-peh order is not found in standard Ugaritic abecedaries; may originate through influence from another order altogether.
____iii) Zayit not a well-standardized order.
__B) Calendrical order
____i) Gezer calendar is not that of a bureaucracy or a state
______a) Writers employed by states organize time into countable units
________1) Discrete, even units for taxation & logistics
________2) Named, either ordinally or through proper nouns (Early Mesopotamia examples; Solomon's 12-month cycle for tribute)
__C) Early linear alphabetic is nonstate writing
____i) Much early alph writing is indecipherable, either gibberish or non-Semitic
____ii) No evidence of anything "curricular" beyond abecedaries before late IAIIb
____iii) Ugarit too shows little alphabetic curriculum (contra Hawley RAI 51)
II) Links between writing & the state: Questions from history & theory
__A) Do you need a state to mass produce writing?
__B) Do you need a state to organize large-scale economic & military activity?
____i) Mari military organization
____ii) EBA nomadic copper-smelting 'factories' in Faynan of Jordan (R Adams)
____iii) Judean mercantile system of weights (Raz Kletter)
III) New ways of connecting writing & political order in IA Israel
__A) How did linear alphabetic writing & scribalism survive LB/IA transition?
__B) scattered elite patronage (Byrne (BASOR 2007))
____i) survival of hieratic
____ii) a small-scale, adaptable craft tradition not allied to language or regime
__C) emergence of curriculum in the Levant
____i) Kuntillet Ajrud: practice texts at emergence of written Hebrew
____ii) hieratic & alphabetic scribalism are what survived LBA/IA transition, not what are being created by state now
__D) emergence of history in the Levant (Nadav Na'aman, Mark S. Smith)
____i) idea of royal first-person inscriptions taken from Assyria?
______a) early to mid c9 Assyrian inscriptions in Syria
______b) mid to late c9 alphabetic inscriptions local kingdoms first using own scripts
____ii) How did the state start to speak through the linear alphabet?
______a) adaptation of alphabetic writing is recruitment by state, but also way to help create the state by making it visible (Byrne's "cosmetics of statecraft")

[Note that I took the liberty of correcting his unusual bulleting from 1.a.i.1.a.i. to I.A.i.a.1.]

He spoke at length about the Moabite Stone, which he said "ventriloquizes" Mesha. I thought that was quite clever.

When discussing the Gezer Calendar, he noted 1Kings 4:7--"victuals, each man his month", & noted that the GC "doesn't break time", & groups agricultural activities by 8 months as a "calendar of seasons". He also noted 1Kings 6:38's "month of Bul" as the "2nd month" (though I notice now that the actual Scripture references it from the other annual starting point as the 8th month). And he also pointed out that the Arad ostraca name days, "not numbers of months".

Towards the end of his time limit, Ron Tappy held up a sign indicating that he had 5 minutes remaining, which Dr. Sanders humorously interpreted as an Olympics-competition scorecard & said, "Oh, oh--I'm only getting a 5 out of 10..." Then he read faster, & the only other point I captured was, "You don't need a state for writing."

I did drift a bit mentally, & noted to myself how cool it was to just sit there & soak in the fact that I was there experiencing this day, & in this particular session surrounded by prominent names such as Hershel Shanks, Robert Deutsch, Aren Maier, Oded Borowski, Jane Cahill, Ron Tappy, & P. Kyle McCarter (& probably others--I would very much have liked to just stand up in between the Carr & Sanders switchover, & eyeball everyone's name tag to see if any other VIPs were there).

G.M. Grena

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