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Shai Gordin

Shai Gordin

Shai Gordin

E-Mail: gordin [at] grako-schrift.fu-berlin.de


Ph.D. Project

"Textual Process of the Literary Output in Late Bronze Age Hittite Anatolia
Analysis of Scribal Manuscripts from Late Empire Period Hattuša"



My aim is to analyse cuneiform manuscripts signed by Hittite scribes from Late Empire Period Hattuša. Namely, evaluate the writing habits (Schreibergewohnheiten) of specific scribal families or schools, as reflected from the documents they copied in cuneiform Hittite on clay tablets. This feat will be accomplished through the use of Diplomatics (Diplomatik), the science of document analysis, which will help unravel the rules which governed the classification, physical layout, orthography and ductus (schriftbild) of these documents.

The Hittite Kingdom was based in central Anatolia (modern Turkey) from ca. 1650 BCE till its downfall ca. 1200 BCE. Hattuša (modern Boğazköy), its capital, was the residence of the Hittite royal family and centre of the main administration and archives, which contained thousands of clay tablets written in cuneiform Hittite. The officials maintaining these archives were titled in Hittite sources DUB.SAR 'scribe'. These scribes, during the 13th century BCE at least, were likely biscriptual if not bilingual, writing cuneiform on clay tablets with a stylus, and concurrently using an indigenous Hieroglyphic script to write Luwian, a language closely related to Hittite, found almost exclusively on seals and state commissioned monumental inscriptions. It seems that for the most part Hieroglyphic Luwian was not written on the clay tablets, except very few instances in which scribes signed their name in Hieroglyphic signs. Such scribal signatures were for the most part written in cuneiform, and indicate not only the name of the scribe, but also his titles, patronyms, supervisors and teachers. In the Late Empire Period (latter half of the 13th century) there were many literate title holders, of which at least a hundred were professional cuneiform scribes, engaged in the copying, editing and preservation of cuneiform texts. These scribes seem to generate their literary output in different scriptoria (Kanzlei) in the Hittite capital.

My research will focus on the character of the cuneiform documents produced by the Late Empire Period Hittite scriptoria. The texts will be scrutinized following the rules of a 17th century science known as Diplomatics, the study of the being (Wesen) and becoming (Werden) of documentation, applied usually to the study of Mediaeval manuscripts. Initially, the hand of each scribe will be analysed, in order to attain an inventory of the sign forms produced by each scriptorium. Such a different palaeographical approach to these texts will help gain a fresh perspective on the extensively studied ductus of the Late Empire Period. Each of the manuscripts will also be subjected to a study of internal (objective) traits, such as orthography, logographic writing and scribal mistakes, and external (subjective) traits, such as the arrangement of the text, paragraph dividers, position of the cuneiform signs etc. Since many of the studied documents are later copies of older compositions, we can compare the writing habits of Late Empire Period scribes to that of their forerunners in order to clarify the rules which governed the physical layout and internal linguistic changes. For example, from the point of internal traits, Late Empire Period texts are abundant with logographic writing preferred over phonetic spelling of words. This study could explain if the choice was a decision made by later scribal schools. Another example, from the point of external traits, is the arrangement of dividing lines, space between signs etc. Why were some Late Empire Period copies of festivals arranged in three columns on each side, while older forerunners were arranged in two? Other questions that might arise are: What are the different levels of writing? Do proficient scribes use more complex signs? Do certain sign types agree with specific textual genres or scribal schools?



Curriculum Vitae


Dec. 2008

M.A. in Archaeology - Near Eastern Ancient Cultures specializing in Hittitology. Dissertation title: "Scribal Families of Hattuša in the 13th Century BCE. A Prosopographic Study". Dissertation supervisor: Professor Itamar Singer. Tel Aviv University, Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures

June 2007

B.A. in Archaeology - Near Eastern Ancient Cultures (Summa Cum Laude). Tel Aviv University, Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures


Military service; released at the rank of Staff Sergeant


Work Experience

Tel Aviv University, Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures


Instructor of "Advanced Hittite" B.A. course


Research assistant of Professor Ran Zadok, supervising his project on Neo-Assyrian Professions


Senior research assistant of Professor Itamar Singer, supervising his project on Hittite Prosopography (funded by the Israeli Science Foundation)


Field Experience

(Salvage Excavation)


Area co-supervisor, excavated Calcolithic building

2007 season


Excavated EB trench

2006 season

Tel Bareket

Area co-supervisor / Area supervisor, excavated EB domestic strata

(Salvage Excavation)


Square Supervisor, excavated MB domestic strata

2005 season

Tel Beth-Shemesh

Square Supervisor, excavated LB-EIA gate complex

2004 season

Tel Megiddo

Student, excavated LB administrative building



Forthcoming 2009

"Scriptoria in Late Empire Period Hattuša: The Case of the É GIŠ.KIN.TI".
To appear in a Festschrift in honour of Prof. Itamar Singer.

Forthcoming 2011

"Scriptoria in Late Empire Period Hattuša: The Case of Building A on Büyükkale". To appear in the proceedings of the VII congress of Hittitology, 25-31 August 2008, Çorum.


Conference Presentations


"Remarks on the Scribal Dynasties of the Hittite Empire Period". Paper presented in the VII. Uluslararası Hititoloji Kongresi Bildirileri, Çorum, 25-31 Ağustos, 2008


"'When in Hattuša a grave calamity occurs' the Hittite Royal Burial Ritual". Paper presented at the young scholars convention in Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan 


Awards and Fellowships

Since 10/2008

Doctoral Fellow at the DFG Research Training Group "'Notational Iconicity': On the materiality, perceptibility and operativity of writing" at the Freie Universität Berlin


M.A. Fellowship (last year Faculty Matching), Tel-Aviv University (Professor Singer on behalf of the Israeli Science Foundation)


Yohanan Aharaoni Award for excellence in studies in the year 2007, Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology, Tel-Aviv University


Ignaz Bobis Fellowship, Tel-Aviv University


Ziva and Hanoch Finkelstein Fellowship for excellence in studies in the year 2006, Tel-Aviv University


George Mayevski Award for excellence in studies in the year 2004


Work Experience (other than academic)


FedEx: Export customs agent


ECI Telecom: Assistant to legal advisor


AIG insurance: Technical writer for Bug 2000 project


Languages (also ancient)

Hebrew – native speaker

Arabic – basic reading

English – as native speaker

Hittite – excellent

German – good reading, basic writing

Akkadian – good

French – basic reading and writing


Italian – basic reading



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