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Sumerian Literature: Gudea


Admission requirements

Basic knowledge of Sumerian grammar.


Gudea ruled the state of Lagash in southern Mesopotamia, the Sumerian heartland, around 2144-2124 BC. He left behind a large number of inscriptions, including two clay cylinders, which in about 1300 lines of literary Sumerian describe the construction and inauguration of the main temple in Lagash. Gudea’s Sumerian is considered to be the classic form of the language. In this course we will read selected passages from his ‘Cylinder A’, study its language and script, and look into its cultural and historical background.

Students will in fact participate in the BA course 'Sumerian Texts: Gudea'. Before each class, all students will prepare their own grammatical analysis and translation of ca. 10 lines from Cylinder A and read relevant other primary source texts in translation. In addition, the MA students will read an academic article. One hour of each class will be spent going over the translation together and discussing difficulties that may have arisen on the level of the cuneiform signs, the grammar. or the interpretation of the text. The final half hour will be dedicated to studying an aspect of the Cylinder's cultural context -- e.g. the function of temples in Sumerian urban society, Mesopotamian rituals for temple building and induction of the divine statue, the literary genre of commemorative inscriptions in ancient Mesopotamia etc. The MA students will summarize the article they've read for the benefit of the BA students and the whole group will discuss the article and the primary source texts. The instructor (dr. Julia Krul) will guide these discussions on the basis of her own research and expertise on ancient Mesopotamian religion, ritual, and literature (for example the rite of 'purifying the city with fire', which recurs several times in Gudea's inscriptions and was the central topic of dr. Krul's 2019 monography).

The examination will consist of the written exam for 'Sumerian Texts: Gudea' plus an additional written essay.

Course objectives

After this course you can • transliterate the cuneiform script of the Gudea inscriptions, • describe the make-up of composite cuneiform signs, • analyze the grammatical structure of complex Sumerian forms and clauses, • critically use the main Sumerian dictionary, • translate Sumerian texts of intermediate difficulty, and • understand and describe the historical, religious, and literary context in which the cylinders of Gudea were composed.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar;

  • Tutorials.

Assessment method


  • midterm take home assignment of about 60 lines of Sumerian not treated during the seminars

  • written exam with open questions on the subject matter of the course

  • wrritten paper of ca. 2000 words
    The subject of the paper can be either a relevant historical topic (e.g. Sumerian commemorative inscriptions, Sumerian religion, economical and political aspects of Gudea's reign and the early Ur III period etc.) or a literary analysis of (selected passages from) Gudea's texts. The requirements for MA and ResMA students are differentiated: ResMA students are expected to come up with their own original research topic, find literature, and write a scholarly report; MA students may expect more help in choosing their topic and their papers may consist of an assessment of the status quaestionis on a given question.


  • midterm take home assignment: 20%

  • written exam: 50%

  • wrritten paper: 30%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written exam must always be sufficient.


If the final grade is below 6.0, the written exam and/or the paper can be redone.

Inspection and feedback

Students will be invited to discuss their paper and their other results for this seminar (mid-term assignment and exam) individually with the teacher, as soon as the results have been published.

Reading list

The study materials will be provided through Brightspace at the beginning of the course.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte.
Registration Contractonderwijs.

Not applicable.


Dr. J.H.E. Krul


This course will be taught in Dutch if there are no international students participating in it.
This course is an admission requirement for the course Advanced Sumerian.