My Cuneiform Tablets


This post is dedicated to Brian Sloan. Friend. Gamer.

There is/was/will be/whatever a social media meme of of "List X of Y things for some reason". Almost always you are asked to not give a reason for why you chose them. Sometimes you are asked to tag N number of other folks to do the same.

Some time in May of 2020 this came floating down my digital stream:

"I have been nominated to post 180 Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform tables in 180 days that profoundly influenced me, at any point in my life. I was instructed to post each tablet without explanation."

Along with an image of this tablet:

cuneiform tablet

This started on my Facebook feed. I had to catch up on my twitter feed after not doing it on twitter on the first day.

That day was May 11, 2020.

I had done some longish running "art" projects. The first being "#ParkingGarageSock". That was in the halcyon Before Times starting August 2, 2019 on Twitter, In Real Life, it started July 2nd.

Ok, I've been meaning to post this for about a month.
My little art project #ParkingGarageSock
I noticed this lost soul on 2019-07-02
wadded up white sock on pavement — gizmomathboy @gizmomathboy 12:47 PM · Aug 2, 2019

So, I guess I can have a will towards things.

Being in a pandemic gave me few outlets for such...whimsy, so I decided to "make this a thing" and gave it the hashtag #MyCuneiformTablets.

The line "profoundly influenced me, at any point in my life" gave me the latitude to do this in an honest and earnest manner. Each tablet profoundly influenced me on the day I decided to post it, or even on the day I selected it to post in the future. Some actually more than others.

Ok, I needed to find a lot of cuneiform tablets. A quick Duck Duck Go search led me to this:

100 Most Important Cuneiform Objects

I now had 100 tablets I could use. Cool, almost half of the 179 I needed. Or so I thought.

Going through that list and looking for tablets with images was not very fruitful. I was able to get about 50 tablets with an associated image. Most even have an interesting description or page to go with it.

So..just 130 to go.

On the left side menu was the link Cuneiform Collections which looked promising for more places to look for tablets.

Indeed, there was more. I wandered about for a bit but it wasn't very satisfactory.

So, there is CDLI: Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative. As near as I can tell it catalogues all cuneiform objects. I. Mean. All. Cuneiform. Objects.

There is an associated wiki that serves as documentation for the project as well.

Eventually I figured out how to use their search after reading and re-reading the search information page.

There were a few of the fields that I really needed:

  • Physical Information
    • Object type
  • Text Content
    • Translation
    • Genre
    • Sub-genre

Object type includes: tablet, tablet & envelope, bulla, tag, prism, barrel, cylinder, brick, cone, sealing, seal.

The real fun is the Text Content fields.

Genre has lots of choices:

  • Administrative
  • Royal/Monumental
  • Votive
  • Lexical
  • Lexical; Literary
  • Lexical; Literary; Mathematical
  • Lexical; Mathematical
  • Legal
  • Letter
  • Literary
  • Literary; Mathematical
  • Omen
  • Prayer/Incantation
  • Ritual
  • School
  • Mathematical
  • Astronomical
  • Scientific
  • uncertain
  • fake (modern)
  • other (see subgenre)

Sub-genre is more free form and no real categories like Genre. It can be stuff like "witness", "composite", etc. For searches I would look at the Sub-genre to what is there to use in other searches.

Translation is just that, a translation of the text. If available it can be the English translation or even just the transliteration of the written cuneiform. This means you can search for tablets with a translation of "dog" in them.

MySQL is the back end for all of this. For those fields you can use MySQL regular expressions. I used it in the Translation field to search for an alpha characters. That syntax is [:alpha:].

Once I understood how search worked I wrote a script to automate the searching for tablets and then downloading any that had a photo of it.

I searched Mathematical, Astronomical, Scientific, School, Literary, Administrative, and Royal Genres. I would also search translations containing things like magic, spells, Gilgamesh, etc.

This then generated a lot of tablets that I could then sift through, read, and select for "publication".

And that is how I found about 180 cuneiform tablets to post.

So, a little bit about how I chose tablets.

Days 005 through 054 basically come from the top 100 cuneiform tablets/things. After that it was me fumbling around to find things until I figured how to use the CDLI search.

You might be wondering if any of them were meaningful or impactful.

Well, yes and no.

Day 002 to day 051 are all interesting. They are the top 100 cuneiform artefacts as judged by cuneiform people.

Of those, for me the most interesting are Day 006. This is the derivation/calculation of the square root of 2.

Day 007 is more math. Lots of quadratic problems. Stuff with rectangles and squares. This is people thousands of years ago working out some decently complex math.

Day 012 is neat since it's the floor plan and such for a temple. That feeds my dungeon master soul.

Day 023 is the Descent of Ishtar to the Netherworld. Ancient mythology right there.

Day 031 I liked because of how it is about border and water conflicts between 2 states.

Day 038 is a peace treaty. Always cool.

Day 041 is kinda famously known as the Plympton table. It's a list of "Pythagorean Triples". The a2+b2=c2 equations. Thousands of years before Pythagoras.

Day 043 is calculations for the area of various bits of land.

Day 048 is another important tablet. This is the Flood Myth. Way older and basically the same story you'll find in the Book of Genesis for you Abrahmic religion folks.

Day 050 The. Codex. Hammurapi. One of the first "these are the laws" kind of things.

Day 051 Is kind of a Rosetta Stone. It has Greek, Akkadian, and Sumerian on it. Helpful to figure what everything might translate or transliterate to.

After that are a lot of mathematical tablets. I mostly choose those for hopefully obvious reasons.

Also, as near as I can determine, all of those round tablets are basically homework. Scribes or whomever learning to write or even how to do math.

Day 064 starts with "as for the liar". Seemed appropriate for the times we are living in.

Day 067 is fun because it's basically a hype table for Kind Nabu. Always be stroking egos.

A bunch of parables and such go on for a bit after this.

Day 093 I started looking for magic and such. This is a curse against Agade. You know just a king having a throw down with the gods.

This starts a bunch of Literary genre search choices.

Day 094 is just lamenting about Ur getting messed up by a storm and the goddess Ningal being sad about it.

By day 097 my search for magic and such led to some rituals.

Many tablets that are just School work follow.

Day 114 is for Jon Johnson I think. It's about a liver being used for a sacrifice.

Day 115 is another hype tablet. This time for the city of Ur.

Day 125 is some instructions to farmers for how run their farms.

Day 126 is a Creation Myth, always interesting to read such things.

Day 145 through 147 are some riddles. Just showing you that your culture dictates assumptions about what one might or should know.

From here onwards I was trying to avoid "School" tablets and for interesting ones by shape. Which is most anything else. Mostly Literay stuff. I did some searches for Gilgamesh to see what that turned up.

Day 170 might one of the first times Gilgamesh shows up in my choices.

After that are bunches of mythology related stuff.

Days 178 and 179 are total coincides for choices. I wasn't thinking about the election or anything when I selected them for those days.

Day 180 was the only deliberate choice for a specific day. Gilgamesh and Enkidu are epic friends. This tale is important to that. It also is coincidentally appropriate for this day as well.

Dave Jacoby sent this wonderful video about cuneiform and how to write it.

Irving Finkel Teaches How To Write Cuneiform

I hope you enjoyed the distraction this has been for the last 180 days.

Some folks have asked in comments to my FB and Twitter posts about what happens next.

Where do I go from here?

Well, I am using a 3 digit number for the days.

Below are all of the 180 days of My Cuneiform Tablets.

The text is a link to either the CDLI wiki with a paragraph or so explaining the text. Otherwise the text links will go to the CDLI page for the tablet. The images are all thumbnails. If you click on an image it links to a higher resolution version of it.

The descriptions are brief and for the most part my quick summary of what the English translation of the tablet is.

Day 001 (2020-05-11) : Random tablet that caused all of this

Day 002 (2020-05-12) : Barton Cylinder

Day 003 (2020-05-13) : Ashurbanipal praising his education

Day 004 (2020-05-14) : Finding old inscriptions

Day 005 (2020-05-15) : Foundation Tablet in Gold

Day 006 (2020-05-16) : square root of 2

Day 007 (2020-05-17) : the manual of quadratic problems

Day 008 (2020-05-18) : Astrolabe B

Day 009 (2020-05-19) : A literary catalog

Day 010 (2020-05-20) : A song of praise to Amurru

Day 011 (2020-05-21) : Agushaya A, with Lorem ipsum text for some reason

Day 012 (2020-05-22) : A temple plan

Day 013 (2020-05-23) : Your money or your life, lorum ipsum text

Day 014 (2020-05-24) : The growth of a herd of cattle

Day 015 (2020-05-25) : A large account of a basketry and carpentry workshop

Day 016 (2020-05-26) : A Collection of Proverbs

Day 017 (2020-05-27) : The Shamash Tablet

Day 018 (2020-05-28) : Designations for Swine

Day 019 (2020-05-29) : A cylinder of Nabonidus, from wikipedia

Day 020 (2020-05-30) : Sargon's Birth Legend

Day 021 (2020-05-31) : Venus tablet of Ammisaduqa

Day 022 (2020-06-01) : A tablet on Epilepsy

Day 023 (2020-06-02) : The Taylor Prism

Day 024 (2020-06-03) : The Descent of Ishtar to the Netherworld

Day 025 (2020-06-04) : Succession Treaty of Essarhadon, for the blog found it's cdli number

Day 026 (2020-06-05) : Tilgath-pileser's Annalistic Text

Day 027 (2020-06-06) : How to Read Signs

Day 028 (2020-06-07) : An early literary catalogue

Day 029 (2020-06-08) : The Laws of Ur-Nammu

Day 030 (2020-06-09) : The earliest known mathematical exercise

Day 031 (2020-06-10) : The Umma-Lagash border conflict

Day 032 (2020-06-11) : Architecte au plan

Day 034 (2020-06-13) : Figure aux plumes (The Figure with Feathers)

Day 035 (2020-06-14) : The largest account of the archaic period

Day 036 (2020-06-15) : Bassetki statue

Day 037 (2020-06-16) : The Black Obelisk

Day 038 (2020-06-17) : Treaty between Hattushili III and Ramesses II

Day 039 (2020-06-18) : The Cylinders of Gudea

Day 040 (2020-06-19) : The Middle Assyrian Laws, A

Day 041 (2020-06-20) : A list of Pythagorean triples aka Tablet Plimpton 322

Day 042 (2020-06-21) : Sargon's Letter to Ashur

Day 043 (2020-06-22) : Complex surface calculations at Jemdet Nasr

Day 044 (2020-06-23) : The Manistusu Obelisk

Day 045 (2020-06-24) : The Stele of Vultures

Day 046 (2020-06-25) : The Cyrus Cylinder

Day 047 (2020-06-26) : The Weld-Blundell Prism/The Sumerian King List

Day 048 (2020-06-27) : The Flood Tablet

Day 049 (2020-06-28) : Bisitun Inscription, used image

Day 050 (2020-06-29) : Codex Hammurapi

Day 051 (2020-06-30) : Graeco Babylonica, Akkadian and Sumerian cuneiform on one side and transliterated Greek on the other

Day 052 (2020-07-01) : The Pedestal of Tukulti-Ninurta I

Day 053 (2020-07-02) : Old Assyrian Testimony, with lorem ipsum text

Day 054 (2020-07-03) : Old Assyrian Sargon legend, used image from wiki

Day 055 (2020-07-04) : mathematical

Day 056 (2020-07-05) : mathematical

Day 057 (2020-07-06) : mathematical

Day 058 (2020-07-07) : mathematical, justice

Day 059 (2020-07-08) : mathematical calculation

Day 060 (2020-07-09) : mathematical calculation

Day 061 (2020-07-10) : what_is_he_saying

Day 062 (2020-07-11) : literary_mathematical_junior_scribe

Day 063 (2020-07-12) : literary_mathematical_heaven_is_a_raven

Day 064 (2020-07-13) : as_for_the_liar

Day 065 (2020-07-14) : literary_mathematical_hold_my_cheek

Day 066 (2020-07-15) : literary_mathematical_mongoose_ate_it

Day 067 (2020-07-16) : to_nabu_exalted_lord

Day 068 (2020-07-17) : literary_mathematical_scribe_knew_one_line

Day 069 (2020-07-18) : literary_mathematical_singer_new_one_song

Day 070 (2020-07-19) : literary_mathematical_shaved_head

Day 071 (2020-07-20) : lion_caught_boar

Day 072 (2020-07-21) : when_a_dog_bites

Day 073 (2020-07-22) : know_your_mother

Day 074 (2020-07-23) : dog_was_speaking

Day 075 (2020-07-24) : spying_fox

Day 076 (2020-07-25) : fox_was_speaking_to_a_goat

Day 077 (2020-07-26) : pig_takes_away

Day 078 (2020-07-27) : pig_splattered_with_mud

Day 079 (2020-07-28) : mathematical_calculation

Day 080 (2020-07-29) : speak_of_my_fate

Day 081 (2020-07-30) : if_he_runs_after

Day 082 (2020-07-31) : the_mouth_of_mankind

Day 083 (2020-08-01) : the_umunu_bird

Day 084 (2020-08-02) : cities_do_not_boast

Day 085 (2020-08-03) : you_should_not_practice_wisdom

Day 086 (2020-08-04) : my_voice_to_you_monthly

Day 087 (2020-08-05) : because_i_am_going

Day 088 (2020-08-06) : from_the_mouth

Day 089 (2020-08-07) : he_of_enlil

Day 090 (2020-08-08) : female_worker_did_not_have_authority

Day 091 (2020-08-09) : where

Day 092 (2020-08-10) : justice

Day 093 (2020-08-11) : curse_of_agade

Day 094 (2020-08-12) : lament_for_ur

Day 095 (2020-08-13) : lamentation_over_sumer_and_ur_p_32

Day 096 (2020-08-14) : lamentation_over_sumer_and_ur_p_33

Day 097 (2020-08-15) : ritual_with_beads

Day 098 (2020-08-16) : ritual_festival

Day 099 (2020-08-17) : school_administrative_

Day 100 (2020-08-18) : mathematical_exercise

Day 101 (2020-08-19) : list_of_year_names

Day 102 (2020-08-20) : you_are_the_appeal_of_her_heart

Day 103 (2020-08-21) : proverbs_collection

Day 104 (2020-08-22) : have_not_caught_the_fox

Day 105 (2020-08-23) : fox_in_the_tigris

Day 106 (2020-08-24) : ornaments_of_the_orchard

Day 107 (2020-08-25) : give_dont_give

Day 108 (2020-08-26) : as_for_the_lion

Day 109 (2020-08-27) : lion_seized_the_goat

Day 110 (2020-08-28) : a_sweet_dog

Day 111 (2020-08-29) : do_not_display_hostility

Day 112 (2020-08-30) : dog_get_it

Day 113 (2020-08-31) : dog_going_to_a_banquet

Day 114 (2020-09-01) : this_is_the_liver_sacrificed

Day 115 (2020-09-02) : ur_is_cool

Day 116 (2020-09-03) : ten_pounds_of_silver

Day 117 (2020-09-04) : i_am_the_sixth

Day 118 (2020-09-05) : i_am_the_one

Day 119 (2020-09-06) : inannas_descent

Day 120 (2020-09-07) : cleansing_ritual

Day 121 (2020-09-08) : inanna_and_dumuzi

Day 122 (2020-09-09) : nisaba

Day 123 (2020-09-10) : two_scribes

Day 124 (2020-09-11) : dialogue_between_two_women

Day 125 (2020-09-12) : farmers_instructions

Day 126 (2020-09-13) : creation_myth

Day 127 (2020-09-14) : some_monument

Day 128 (2020-09-15) : foodstuffs

Day 129 (2020-09-16) : list_of_stuff

Day 130 (2020-09-17) : ningiszida_song

Day 131 (2020-09-18) : some_king_is_cool

Day 132 (2020-09-19) : hero_ninurta

Day 133 (2020-09-20) : leeks_are_taboo

Day 134 (2020-09-21) : checking_junior_brother

Day 135 (2020-09-22) : make_it_flash

Day 136 (2020-09-23) : with_preciousness

Day 137 (2020-09-24) : bird_radiates_allure

Day 138 (2020-09-25) : performing_upon

Day 139 (2020-09-26) : uncleanliness_he_seeks

Day 140 (2020-09-27) : if_i_speak

Day 141 (2020-09-28) : some_wisdom_sorta

Day 142 (2020-09-29) : the_rich_man

Day 143 (2020-09-30) : bring_fire_from_heaven

Day 144 (2020-10-01) : the_goose_says

Day 145 (2020-10-02) : riddle

Day 146 (2020-10-03) : obscure_riddle

Day 147 (2020-10-04) : riddle

Day 148 (2020-10-05) : more_riddles

Day 149 (2020-10-06) : hymn_to_nidaba

Day 150 (2020-10-07) : wicked_youth

Day 151 (2020-10-08) : sweet_like_honey

Day 152 (2020-10-09) : kill_my_ewe

Day 153 (2020-10-10) : donkey_in_the_river

Day 154 (2020-10-11) : restores_a_fallen_god

Day 155 (2020-10-12) : wisdomd_should_not_be_perfect

Day 156 (2020-10-13) : mouse_speaking_to_its_mother

Day 157 (2020-10-14) : belongs_to

Day 158 (2020-10-15) : a_god_occupies

Day 159 (2020-10-16) : lament_for_ur

Day 160 (2020-10-17) : inanna_and_ebih

Day 161 (2020-10-18) : ninurtas_exploits

Day 162 (2020-10-19) : lament_for_eridu

Day 163 (2020-10-20) : sulgi

Day 164 (2020-10-21) : letter_from_siniddinam_to_ninisina

Day 165 (2020-10-22) : letter_from_lugalnesage_to_enlil_massue

Day 166 (2020-10-23) : inanna

Day 167 (2020-10-24) : lament_of_lisin

Day 168 (2020-10-25) : bilingual_text

Day 169 (2020-10-26) : letter_from_x_to_utu

Day 170 (2020-10-27) : gilgamesh_and_huwawa

Day 171 (2020-10-28) : administrative_list

Day 172 (2020-10-29) : ningeszidas_descent

Day 173 (2020-10-30) : rim_sin

Day 174 (2020-10-31) : nanna

Day 175 (2020-11-01) : song_of_hoe

Day 176 (2020-11-02) : more_ur_is_cool

Day 177 (2020-11-03) : instructions_of_shuruppak

Day 178 (2020-11-04) : incantation_anger

Day 179 (2020-11-05) : they_are_sparrows

Day 180 (2020-11-06) : gilgamesh_enkidu_and_netherworld

Dreaming of floating heads and flying snake dragons


Ok, I had a dream last night that I'm not sure if it was connected to dreams I've had other nights or if that I had connected dreams throughout the night.

I seemed to have been The Flash, The Fastest Man Alive, or something like that.

There was this floating/flying silver head that was able to nullify my speed/powers unless I was able to run/move fast enough. However I had to be able to do that before or as it was trying to do that.

It was like trying to pull a heavy load or something.

Eventually it got me in this cage that I could escape. Sort of like the cells used to contain metahumans in The Flash tv series.

It wasn't a cell so much as what seemed like a very industrial office space or lab space but with no lab equipment. I was able to use my speed and such while in the space but I could get out of the space. I tried to phase through things but I couldn't.

That is until I tried phasing into a "weak" section of the duct work. I chalk this up to watching lots of Die Hard. As I was crawling through/along/on the duct work I happened upon what looked like a huge boa constrictor thing with a dragon-like head. It kinda roared at me. I then noticed a smaller snake dragon next to it. I assumed it was it's child or something. I convinced it not to eat me and I felt the need to help it escape.

The duct eventually led to a wall that I was able to phase through and break through. Thus freeing the flying snake dragons.

Through the dreams I think I had woken up but went back to sleep. Towards the end I realized I was remembering the dream and was trying to tell myself to remember to tweet about it or otherwise record it. This was when I started wondering if I had had the dream other nights because parts of it seemed familiar. I think even some of the "remember to record this dream" became its own dream.

So, I finally have recorded this weird dream where I was pursued and controlled by a silver floating head while I was The Flash. Was imprisoned. Befriended a dragon-like snake thing that could fly and freed us both. All the while aware it was a dream, trying to remind myself to write it down, and possibly even dream the parts of "awake" me trying to remember to write it down.

My brain went to some weird places last night.



I've internalized the All Cops Are Bastards (ACAB) meme/idea/motto for some time.

Rodney King was a starting point way back in 1991, but I was still very...white in my outlook. I wasn't on the side of the cops but I was still on the fence about the protests and rioting afterwards.

My awareness of police violence against blacks and people of color just kept growing. I would say that since 2001 I have not trusted authority much.

Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd are just the latest in a long line of Black people killed by the police.

The protests of the last few weeks just brought it home to almost everyone. Even to my kids.

My spouse wanted me to be aware of my rhetoric and language around the kids. Mostly to let them come up with their own thoughts on it without me injecting to much of my dislike of the police. We do talk about this with them but I am much more strident than my spouse.

My spouse said that she knows that I am willing to judge people on what they do and generally not make a generalization for an entire class of people. They made me want to think about my thoughts about police.

In a nutshell, I reframed it in my mind that it was the institution more than the people. The institution made those people bastards.

Several days ago, just a few days after I did my bit of self-reflection, someone created some images that capture my framing almost perfectly.

how I have been explaining ACAB to white family members art by @furbyrose on twitter and @mrosearts on instagram. head1 holding ACAB sign. head2 asking 'What does ACAB mean?' art by @furbyrose on twitter and @mrosearts on instagram. head1 saying 'ACAB stans for All Cops Are Bastards. This does not negate that individual cops are not capable of good, rather it highlights that the system is corrupt and beyond reform. There are no "good" cops as tehy stand beside the unjust actions of the institution adn continue to harm black people.' art by @furbyrose on twitter and @mrosearts on instagram. head1 saying 'Your positive experiences with cops, who may be relatives or friends, does not negate the fact that the institution is violent and unjust. It is built on systematic racism and must be remade for the safety of our communities' — micha BLM (@furbyrose) 12:28 PM, Jun 4, 2020

The Days Go By So Fast and Slow


Even in the best of times things just go by faster than we wish.

In this pandemic, normal routines are no more while we try to find new ones.

The last few weeks have just ratcheted up the base stress levels. Seeing fellow humans killed with no accountability. Knowing that their killers will face few repercussions. Even though one killer has been charged I have no faith that he will face much time or be rehabilitated.

The President has wasted another month by doing nothing to lead us in this pandemic. at least 100,000 Americans have died from covid19. Many more will probably die. Even those that do survive it might have debilitating life long side effects that we still finding out about.

On the other hand, there are a few great days where the weather is great and you can do a fair bit of yard work and some gardening.

Then realize many of your fellow Americans went out to the streets and protested the killing of black men and women. With the police dropping tear gas on them. Firing rubber pellets into them. Attacking and arresting journalists.

This feels different than what was happening during the Ferguson protests. Somehow it feels the same as all of the others the people have tried to be heard for prior assaults and deaths.

The days are passing by too slow but aren't coming fast enough.

Grey Mood, Again?


My mood today is affected by the 6 weeks or some the feds have wasted in creating adequate testing and tracing capacity.

We see that the White House tests the fuck out of everyone any near it, and still they get hit with people getting infected with Covid19. Don't get me started on how Trump judged how effective testing is (or whatever you call his gibberish) when the VP's press secretary tested positive.

The WH has probably the most rigorous testing in the USA right now and are having problems dealing with it.

How are the rest of us able to even able to make effective and rational decisions when we are at a minimum of half the of the low end of recommended capacity (200K/day vs 500K/day) and nowhere near the middle of the band suggestion of 5M/day ( 35M/day is a really high bar to hit).

So, the shelter in place stuff was intended to give hospitals time to deal with WTF was happening and to get us the resources needed to handle it going forward.

Instead, we got nothing but 80,000+ people dead, about 2K/day dying, and people fucking tired of dealing with the stay at home stuff.

Personally, I need to stay at home and deal with whatever vectors the rest of my family create when they venture out to do the minimum to get by. I need to wait until we have effective treatments and a vaccine before I can feel remotely safe.

The states have always basically implemented stuff coming from the feds. They can't order companies to switch production to make more PPE, or ventilators, or testing materials. The Feds get that job and all it's been used for is to keep meatpacking plants open which were shitty places to work before all this started. Now it's even worse to work there because it is no literally a lose-lose proposition for the workers. Go to work and maybe die, stay home and lose your job and deal with that without even the meager resources their jobs did provide.

So, Fuck Trump and his administrations mishandling of their response to this pandemic.

We won't know how fucked we truly are until June.

To see if we wasted yet another month.

To see how many more people we are ok with dying on a daily basis.