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<h1><strong>Cuneiform On Wax</strong></h1> <p>An interdisciplinary project of the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, <a href="http://www.altorientalistik.uni-wuerzburg.de/startseite/" rel="nofollow">Ancient Near Eastern Studies</a> & <a href="http://www.didaktik.chemie.uni-wuerzburg.de/startseite/" rel="nofollow">Didactics of Chemistry</a></p> <hr> <p><img alt="" src="https://mfr.osf.io/export?url=https://osf.io/6zsvp/?action=download&direct&mode=render&initialWidth=633&childId=mfrIframe&format=1200x1200.jpeg"></p> <hr> <h2>Background</h2> <p>Cuneiform script, used in the Ancient Near East over more than three millennia, represents one of the world’s earliest writing systems. With hundreds of thousands of recovered manuscripts, cuneiform texts constitute the widest pre-classical written corpus, a heritage of invaluable importance to understand the languages and civilizations of the Ancient Near East as well as the origins of urban culture. Cuneiform is characterized by wedge-shaped marks, typically obtained by impressing a stylus on the moist clay. Besides clay, cuneiform script was also used on stone, metal, and wax. The specific physical properties and challenges posed by the various mediums necessarily determined differences in the writing techniques used on them, as well as in the writing tools. Given the almost total absence of archaeological finds securely identifiable as styli, <a href="http://www.cdli.ox.ac.uk/wiki/doku.php?id=cuneiform_writing_techniques" rel="nofollow">cuneiform writing techniques</a> are best investigated by combining the evaluation of textual and iconographic sources with the analysis of wedge impressions. As far as the latter point is concerned, wax bears the disadvantage of being extremely perishable as compared to clay, stone, and metal, a fact which tends to obscure the place waxed boards had vis-à-vis other mediums within the cuneiform world.</p> <h2>Focus</h2> <p>Waxed boards were extensively used in the Ancient Near East, both for ephemeral records and for composition which were to be stored in libraries and erudite collections. Attested in textual sources from the end of the 3rd millennium BC onwards, writing boards are archaeologically documented for the 2nd and 1st millennium BC (examples are known from the Ulu Burun shipwreck, Aššur, and Nimrud). The boards were made of wood or ivory, two or more leaves being hinged together to form diptychs, triptychs, or polyptychs. The sunken portion of each leaf accomodated a layer of beeswax mixed with other substances, primarily yellow ochre (Akkadian <em>kalû</em>), which made the paste apt to be written on and gave it a yellowish colour.</p> <p>On wax, both cuneiform and linear scripts like aramaic or hieroglyhps could be used. The existence of waxed boards inscribed in Luwian hieroglyphs in Hittite Anatolia is virtually assured by the discovery, at Boğazköy/Hattuša, of bronze styli with pointed tip and a spatula at the back end; Anatolian hieroglyphs continued to be used on waxed boards in Iron Age Syria. On the other hand, two of the Neo-Assyrian writing boards from Nimrud still preserve a portion of the wax layer inscribed with cuneiform signs. According to analyses performed in the 1950s in the British Museum laboratories, the wax layer of the Nimrud writing boards consists of beeswax compounded with ca. 25% sulphide of arsenic (orpiment). The use of orpiment, a highly toxic substance, was apparently aimed at giving this luxurious showpiece the appearance of gold. New evidence suggests that cuneiform styli used for waxed boards were immersed in a special fat, probably serving as release agent to prevent the wax paste bonding to the stylus: in a letter to the Assyrian king Aššurbanipal, Babylonian scholars refer to “[ ... ] syrup, ghee and pressed (oil) for the kettle of their styli, to soak (them into it)” ([ ... <em>diš</em>]<em>pu</em>(làl) <em>ḫimētu</em>(<a href="http://ì.nun.na" rel="nofollow">ì.nun.na</a>) <em>ù ḫal-ṣa ana ruqqi</em>(šen) <em>qan</em>(gi)-<em>ṭup-pí-šú-nu ana ṣe-pu-ú</em>: BM 2885 obv. 17, cf. G. Frame – A. R. George, Iraq 67, 274f.). Furthermore, styli connected with writing boards, as depicted on seals and reliefs, display two peculiarities as compared to those used for clay tablets: scribes with board-books are regularly shown holding the stylus with index and middle fingers extended; moreover, their styli show a groove on one side. Which purpose did the groove serve and how did it work? The issue has not been addressed in detail yet, and several options are open, requiring an interdisciplinary approach to be investigated. <img alt="" src="https://mfr.osf.io/export?url=https://osf.io/gc7yr/?action=download&direct&mode=render&initialWidth=633&childId=mfrIframe&format=1200x1200.jpeg"> [One of the writing boards from Nimrud (ivory, each leaf 34 × 16 cm). BM 131952, © Trustees of the British Museum]</p> <h2>Goals</h2> <p>Based at the Würzburg University, the “Cuneiform On Wax” project aims to investigate the writing technique(s) used to write cuneiform on wax through a interdisciplinary experimental approach. For this purpose, it brings together the perspectives of philology (Department of Ancient Cultures, Ancient Near Eastern Studies), chemistry (Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy, Science Teaching), and biology (HOneyBee Online Studies), also availing itself of advice, collaboration and support from external scholars and institutions. Among its goals there are the reconstruction of waxed boards and writing implements, the experimentation of related writing techniques, and a critical reassessment of the role, diffusion, and terminology of beeswax and waxed boards in the Ancient Near East, with a special focus on the chemical composition of the wax paste and on matters of writing technology, manufacturing, and raw material supply. <img alt="" src="https://mfr.osf.io/export?url=https://osf.io/w76w7/?action=download&direct&mode=render&initialWidth=633&childId=mfrIframe&format=1200x1200.jpeg"> [Detail from the wall panel BM 124875 (Nineveh, North Palace, © The Trustees of the British Museum); experimental wax boards manufactured at the Würzburg University]</p> <p>Further, the project aims to design interdisciplinary educational modules for schools, museums and ‘learning labs’, which integrate history, chemistry, and biology around the theme of ‘writing on wax’. <img alt="enter image description here" src="https://mfr.osf.io/export?url=https://osf.io/d7xwb/?action=download&direct&mode=render&initialWidth=653&childId=mfrIframe&format=1200x1200.jpeg"> [Cuneiform for kids: pupils of the Riemenschneider Gymnasium Würzburg take part in a Keilschriftlabor (Dec 2016, read their report [here]<a href="http://www.riemenschneider-gymnasium.de/2016/12/02/auf-den-spuren-der-keilschrift/" rel="nofollow">8</a>)]</p> <h2>Get involved!</h2> <p>Are you interested in participating? Would you like to share informations and ideas? Do you have suggestions or critique? You are welcome! Contact us at michele.cammarosano@uni<a href="http://-wuerzburg.de" rel="nofollow">-wuerzburg.de</a> or katja.weirauch@uni<a href="http://-wuerzburg.de" rel="nofollow">-wuerzburg.de</a></p> <h2>Project Partners</h2> <ul> <li>Dr. <a href="http://www.altorientalistik.uni-wuerzburg.de/team/cammarosano/" rel="nofollow">Michele Cammarosano</a> (JMU Würzburg)</li> <li>AORin <a href="http://www.didaktik.chemie.uni-wuerzburg.de/arbeitsgruppe/" rel="nofollow">Katja Weirauch</a> (JMU Würzburg)</li> <li>Prof. Dr. Jürgen Tautz (<a href="http://www.hobos.de/" rel="nofollow">HoneyBee Online Studies</a>)</li> </ul> <h2>Cooperation & Support</h2> <p>Prof. Dr. <strong>Robert Fuchs</strong> (TH Köln, Cologne Institute of Conservation Sciences)<br> Prof. Dr. <strong>Ekkehard Geidel</strong> (JMU Würzburg)<br> <strong>Gert Jendritzki</strong> (Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin)<br> Prof. Dr. <strong>Joachim Marzahn</strong> (FU Berlin)<br> Prof. Dr. <strong>Astrid Nunn</strong> (JMU Würzburg)<br> Dr. <strong>Doris Oltrogge</strong> (TH Köln, Cologne Institute of Conservation Sciences)<br> Dr. <strong>Heinrich Piening</strong> (Bayerische Schlösserverwaltung)<br> Prof. Dr. <strong>Daniel Schwemer</strong> (JMU Würzburg)<br> <strong>Miron Sevastre</strong> (JMU Würzburg)<br> Dr. <strong>Jonathan Taylor</strong> (British Museum, London)</p> <h2>Publications and Theses</h2> <ul> <li> <p>Feline Maruhn, Altorientalische Wachstafeln. <em>Alte Medien neu erforscht</em>. Zulassungsarbeit zur Ersten Staatsprüfung für das Lehramt an Gymnasien. Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, 2017.</p> </li> <li> <p>F. Maruhn, K. Weirauch, E. Geidel, M. Cammarosano: "Historische Wachstafel. Alte Medien neu entdeckt", <em>Praxis der <br> Naturwissenschaften</em> 2/66, 2017, 31-35. A PDF is available <br> <a href="https://osf.io/uxjv4/" rel="nofollow">here</a>.</p> </li> </ul> <h2>Presentations</h2> <ul> <li> <p>F. Maruhn, K. Weirauch, E. Geidel, M. Cammarosano: <em>Cuneiform on Wax</em>, poster presented at the 63th <em>Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale</em>, Marburg, July 24-28 2017; a PDF is available <a href="https://osf.io/3gdy5/" rel="nofollow">here</a>. </p> </li> <li> <p>Weirauch, K.: <em>Die Chemie der Schreibmedien in der Geschichte: Ein fächerübergreifender Ansatz für Unterricht, Schülerlabor und Museu</em>m. GDCh-Tagung, Berlin 2017.</p> </li> </ul>

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