Samuel Noah Kramer, 93, Dies; Was Leading Authority on Sumer
Samuel Noah Kramer, one of the foremost authorities on the ancient Sumerian language and literature, died yesterday at his home in Philadelphia. He was 93 years old.
The University of Pennsylvania, where Dr. Kramer was a professor emeritus in Assyriology, said he died of throat cancer.
The Sumerians flourished in Mesopotamia more than 4,000 years ago, and their culture was one of the first to leave a written record in cuneiform script on clay tablets. In 1930, Dr. Kramer began the work that continued the rest of his life, excavating Sumerian tablets in Iraq and translating those, along with others from collections in Istanbul and at the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Ake Sjoberg, curator of the Babylonian tablet collection and director of the Sumerian dictionary project at the university, said Dr. Kramer “really rediscovered the whole Sumerian literature.” ‘Completely Transformed’ Field
Dr. Thorkild Jacobsen, a Sumerologist at Harvard University, said Dr. Kramer was one of the rare scholars whose contribution to his field was “so basic that the field may be said to have been completely transformed, almost created, by him.”
As Dr. Kramer discovered in ample detail, the Sumerian scribes and poets sang of their gods and goddesses, of floods and kings, of school boys and apple polishing. They created a rich literature of myths, epics, lamentations and proverbs.
In scholarly articles and some 30 books for both academic and popular audiences, Dr. Kramer portrayed the Sumerians as people not very different from those in modern societies. They worked hard to earn a living, worried about their children, argued with each other about land and business and did not like to pay taxes. He discovered and enjoyed quoting one of their proverbs: “You can have a lord, you can have a king, but the man to fear is the tax collector.”
Among his books were “History Begins at Sumer,” published in 1959 and reissued three years ago, and his autobiography, “In the World of Sumer. ” With characteristic modesty, he once told an interviewer that he had managed to write so much only because he had lived so long.
Born near Kiev on Sept. 28, 1897, Simcha Kramer, as he was then named, came to Philadelphia with his family in 1905. His first public school teacher began calling him Samuel. Later, he enrolled at Temple University intending to become a writer. He also tried his hand at printing and made other false starts at law school and as a graduate student in philosophy.
At the age of 29, while taking courses at Dropsie College in Philadelphia, he discovered the excitement of Egyptology. But a falling out with his professor made him quit Dropsie and Egyptology. He entered the University of Pennsylvania as a graduate student in Oriental studies, specializing in Mesopotamian languages. He earned his doctorate in 1929 with a dissertation that gave no hint of the scope that he would bring to his later research. It was entitled, “The Verb in the Kirkuk Tablets.”
Dr. Kramer spent 1930 on an archeological expedition to Iraq. It was a time of extraordinary ferment in Mesopotamian archeology with excavations of the ruins of Ur, Kish and Uruk, the great walled city to which the Sumerian hero Gilgamesh returned after many of his adventures.
Dr. Kramer began transcribing tablets as a Guggenheim Fellow in Istanbul and worked on the Assyrian dictionary being prepared at the University of Chicago. He returned to Pennsylvania as a faculty member in 1942 and was appointed Clark Research Professor of Assyriology in 1948.
His retirement at age 70 in 1968 was merely a formality. He continued to translate Sumerian texts and write books, “working almost to the last moment,” as Dr. Sjoberg recalled. On his 90th birthday, the University Museum honored him with a public symposium, “History Begins at Sumer,” that attracted most of the world’s Sumerian scholars.
Dr. Kramer was a member of the American Oriental Society, Archeological Institute of America, Society of Biblical Literature and American Philosophical Society, which awarded him its John Frederick Lewis Prize. He was the recipient of several honorary degrees.
He is survived by his wife, the former Mildred Tokarsky; a son, Daniel, of Staten Island; a daughter, Judith Kramer-Greene of Albany, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Noah Kramer – Hudl
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September 17th, 2013
17 September 2013
Noah Kramer – Hamilton Athletics
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44 – Noah Kramer
|Hometown:||New York, N.Y.|
|High School:||Stuyvesant HS|
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|Apr 19||#17 Rensselaer||L, 13-10|
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Sumerian Mythology, by Samuel Noah Kramer – Free ebook
Excerpt from ‘Sumerian Mythology’
The study of Sumerian culture introduced by the present volume, Sumerian Mythology, is to be based largely on Sumerian literary sources; it will consist of the formulation of the spiritual and religious concepts of the Sumerians, together with the reconstructed text and translation of the Sumerian literary compositions in which these concepts are revealed. It is therefore very essential that the reader have a clear picture of the nature of our source material, which consists primarily of some three thousand tablets and fragments inscribed in the Sumerian language and dated approximately 1750 B. C. It is the first aim of the Introduction of the present volume to achieve such clarification. It therefore begins with a brief sketch of the rather rocky road leading to the decipherment of the Sumerian language and continues with a brief résumé of the excavations conducted on various Sumerian sites in the course of the past three-quarters of a century. After a very brief general evaluation of the contents of the huge mass of Sumerian tablet material uncovered in the course of these excavations, it turns to the Sumerian literary tablets which represent the basic material for our study, and analyzes in some detail the scope and date of their contents. The Introduction then concludes with a description of the factors which prevented in large part the trustworthy reconstruction and translation of the Sumerian literary compositions in the past; the details, not uninteresting in themselves, furnish a revealing and illuminating commentary on the course and progress of one of the more significant humanistic efforts of our generation.
The decipherment of Sumerian differed from that of Accadian and Egyptian in one significant detail, a detail which proved to be one of the factors in hampering the progress of Sumerology to no inconsiderable extent. For in the case of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylonia, the investigating scholars of western Europe had at their disposal much relevant material from Biblical, classical, and postclassical sources. Not only were such names as Egypt, Ashur, and Babylon well known, but at least to a certain extent and with much limitation and qualification, even the culture of the peoples was not altogether unfamiliar. In the case of the Sumerians, however, the situation was quite different; there was no clearly recognizable trace of Sumer or its people and language in the entire Biblical, classical, and post-classical literature. The very name Sumer was erased from the mind and memory of man for over two thousand years. The discovery of the Sumerians and their language came quite unexpectedly and was quite unlooked for; and this more or less irrelevant detail was at least partially responsible for the troubled progress of Sumerology from the earliest days to the present moment.
Historically, the decipherment of Sumerian resulted from that of Accadian, which in turn followed the decipherment of cuneiform Persian. Briefly sketched, the process was as follows. In 1765, the Danish traveler and scholar, Carsten Niebuhr, succeeded in making careful copies of several inscriptions on the monuments of Persepolis. These were published between the years 1774 and 1778, and were soon recognized as trilingual, that is, the same inscriptions seemed to be repeated in three different languages. It was not unreasonable to assume, since the monuments were located in Persepolis, that they were inscribed by one or more kings of the Achaemenid dynasty and that the first version in each inscription was in the Persian language. Fortunately, at approximately the same time, Old Persian was becoming known to western European scholars through the efforts of Duperron, who had studied in India under the Parsees and was preparing translations of the Avesta. And so by 1802, with the help of the newly acquired knowledge of Old Persian and by keen manipulation of the Achaemenid proper names as handed down in Biblical and classical literature, the German scholar, Grotefend, succeeded in deciphering a large part of the Persian version of the inscriptions. Additions and corrections were made by numerous scholars in the ensuing years. But the crowning achievement belongs to the Englishman H. C. Rawlinson. A member of the English Intelligence Service, Rawlinson was first stationed in India, where he mastered the Persian language. In 1835 he was transferred to Persia, where he learned of the huge trilingual inscription on the rock of Behistun and determined to copy it. The Persian version of the Behistun inscription consists of 414 lines; the second, now known as the Elamite version, consists of 263 lines; while the third, the Accadian (designated in earlier Assyriological literature as Assyrian or Babylonian) version, consists of 112 lines. During the years 1835-37, at the risk of life and limb, Rawlinson succeeded in copying 200 lines of the Persian version. He returned in 1844 and completed the copying of the Persian as well as the Elamite version. The Accadian inscription, however, was so situated that it was impossible for him to copy it, and it was not until 1847 that he succeeded in making squeezes of the text. To return to the decipherment of cuneiform Persian, by 1846 Rawlinson published his memoir in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, which gave the transliteration and translation of the Persian version of the Behistun inscription together with a copy of the cuneiform original.
Long before the final decipherment of the Persian text, however, great interest had been aroused in western Europe by the third version of the Persepolis inscriptions. For it was soon recognized that this was the script and language found in numerous inscriptions and bricks, clay tablets, and clay cylinders which were finding their way into Europe from sites that might well be identified with Nineveh and Babylon. In 1842 the French under Botta began the excavation of Khorsabad, and in 1S45 Layard began his excavations of Nimrud and Nineveh. Inscribed monuments were being found in large quantities at all three sites; moreover, Layard was uncovering at Nineveh a large number of inscribed clay tablets. By 1850, therefore, Europe had scores of inscriptions coming largely from Assyrian sites, made in the very same script and language as the third version of the Persepolis and Behistun inscriptions. The decipherment of this language was simplified on the one hand by the fact that it was recognized quite early in the process that it belonged to the Semitic group of languages. On the other hand, it was complicated by the fact that the orthography, as was soon recognized, was syllabic and ideographic rather than alphabetic. The leading figure in the decipherment of Accadian, or Assyrian as it was then designated, was the Irish scholar Edward Hincks. But once again a major contribution was made by Rawlinson. In 1851 he published the text, transliteration, and translation of the Accadian version of the Behistun inscription, the large trilingual to whose text he alone had access.
Noah Kramer, 3-star DT, would commit to Oregon Ducks if offered
Scout three-star prospect Noah Kramer poses in an Oregon jersey during his unofficial visit to Eugene
(Courtesy of Noah Kramer)
Scout three-star defensive tackle Noah Kramer has lived in Utah for the past eight years, but one can’t blame him for feeling like he was returning home during an unofficial visit to the University of Oregon on Monday.
The 6-foot-3, 270-pound spent the first nine years of his life in Lake Oswego and returned to Oregon this week for the first time since his move to Utah.
But beyond that, Kramer said he was comfortable around the program during his unofficial visit and viewing of spring practice.
“The coaches were friendly. It was great. They are very welcoming and very patient with the players,” he said. “They make them work hard and get on them, but it’s because they want what’s best for them. They want to be the best.”
Kramer did not receive an offer during his quick stop in Eugene, but he was happy to be met with an honest evaluation from the coaching staff, particularly defensive line coach Ron Aiken.
“They are looking at three or four more nose guards, but I’m just in the mix right now,” he said. “I’m trying to work my way on top.”
In nine games at Northridge last season the space eater finished with 32 tackles and 1 sack.
Those are decent numbers given his responsibility to absorb blockers and take up space, but it’s possible Oregon coaches would like to see a bit more production before they extend a scholarship offer.
But if that offer does come?
“To be honest, I think I would commit on the spot, just because I’m an Oregon native,” he said. “I have a lot of family out here, a lot of friends. I have a great support group and the coaches have been really supportive. The whole feel of Eugene really catches my eye.”
For now, BYU remains Kramer’s lone offer, and despite his excitement about the Ducks, the defensive lineman insists the Cougars are in it.
“BYU is definitely in the mix,” he said. “It’s a great school with great academics and they’ve got a really good football program.”
Far from Oregon’s strength, the defensive line has been an on-again, off-again concern for some time. Kramer is hoping that he can land an offer from the Ducks and help shore up the trenches for the next few seasons.
— Andrew Nemec