Comparison between Egyptian and Mesopotamian scribes
|Criteria||Egyptian Scribe - Sesh||Mesopotamian Scribe|
|Social Status||- The Scribe belonged to a well-defined and exclusive caste in the Social Pyramid
- They were the only Egyptians who knew how to read and write, standing out from the surrounding illiteracy by their command of the secret skills of reading and writing .
- These qualifications were considered a privilege shared only with the rulers and the gods,
- They did not perform any physical labor, had soft hands and clean clothes
|- Like the Egyptians, the majority of Mesopotamian scribes came from the wealthy families, the poor could hardly afford the cost and the time which a prolonged education demanded.
- Literacy was also very rare as in Egypt
|Education||- The schools were in the temples, and the future scribes learnt hieroglyphics, mathematics, record keeping and religion, all these skills were essential for the job
- Scribal education in temple-schools lasted for 10 years at least
|- The Sumerian scribes learnt their profession in a school known as the Edubba, "tablet house"
- Education was very similar to the Egyptian model, the Babylonian scribal education concentrated on learning mathematics, writing cuneiform, contracts and accounts.
|Script||- Drawing - on papyrus using pigments and reed brush
- The use of papyrus rolls provided the Egyptians with the advantage of being able to write long texts on large sheets, which were more easily kept compared to the small, fragile clay tablets used by the Mesopotamians
|- Carving - on soft clay tablets, which were baked hard in a kiln after being written
- A reed stylus was the main writing tool used by Mesopotamian scribes, this produced the known wedge-shaped cuneiform signs
|Language||- Egyptian scribes used three writing scripts, Hieroglyphics, Hieratic and Demotic||- The script language used by Mesopotamian scribes was called cuneiform, and it consisted mainly of 1000 pictographs|
|Patron Deity||- Egyptian scribes were under the patronage of Thoth the god of wisdom||- Mesopotamian scribes were under the patronage of the Sumerian goddess Nisaba. In later times her place was taken by the god Nabu whose symbol was the stylus|
|Duties||- Scribes were essential to intellectual life and considered the principal artists of culture, the concept of education and its significance was widespread among the Egyptians, which is highlighted in most of their literature .
- A scribe's duties ranged from writing letters for townspeople, to recording harvests, to keeping accounts for the Egyptian army
Everything had to be noted down, from the number of bags of grain harvested to the building supplies, work attendance, paid wages and gifts that followed the deceased into the next world or were daily sacrificed in his honor by the funerary priests.
- Although their basic task was administrative in nature, throughout Egypt's history scribes were the keepers of the oral tradition, which has survived to modern times.
- By the time of the New Kingdom, this ability to compose new literary texts was widespread
Texts preserved from this period onward present new stories and other types of literature that were not known before.
- They went beyond simply preserving the old texts and instead and had the creativity to edit and revise the theological, liturgical, medical, and sacred texts. Among such texts were biographies, instructions, literary, historical, political and propaganda writings
|- Literature developed as in ancient Egypt, but due to the fragile nature of clay tablets, much was lost to time
- Extensive literature and scientific work, especially many myths and epics which could not be recorded on a single tablet, they were spread over many tablets, and thus much of it was lost in time, and only small inconsistent fragments remain
- The finest literary work from ancient Mesopotamia is the Epic of Gilgamesh. Originally recited aloud, this towering work was probably recorded on clay tablets around 2000 BC
Video: Scribes at work
This video shows Professor Theo van den Hout, Editor of the Chicago Hittite Dictionary, writing a Hittite letter in cuneiform, and W. Raymond Johnson, Field ......