Introduction: 'infrastructural compendia' and the licensing of empiricism in Mesopotamian technical literature

Justin Johnson

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This paper focuses initially on just two ideas that have already developed a recognised place in the theoretical literature and that are also of special relevance to Mesopotamian technical literature: the infrastructural character of Mesopotamian compendia and the role of citation in the formation and elaboration of infrastructural compendia. The infrastructural character of Mesopotamian compendia is most visible, however, in the total absence of controversy or even polite disagreement within the boundaries of the written text. This feature of Mesopotamian compendia stands in contrast to many types of Graeco-Roman technical compendia, which are often explicitly framed as the point of view of a named author and include direct challenges to other practitioners. This contrast, though by no means absolute, does suggest that the oral-written divide was definitive, at least in the earlier phases of the cuneiform textual record. The infrastructural text was written, memorised by all card-carrying members of a given profession, and could only be modified by reconfiguration or addition, never deletion or replacement.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIn the Wake of the Compendia
Subtitle of host publicationInfrastructural Contexts and the Licensing of Empiricism in Ancient and Medieval Mesopotamia
EditorsJustin Cale Johnson
Place of PublicationBerlin
PublisherDe Gruyter
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9781501502507, 9781501502521
ISBN (Print)9781501510762
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015

Publication series

NameScience, Technology, and Medicine in Ancient Cultures
ISSN (Electronic)2194-9778


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