Zecharia Sitchin and Cuneiform Script

One of the accusations levelled at the late Zecharia Sitchin was that he was not able to read and translate the cuneiform scripts of the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians and other ancient Mesopotamian cultures.  There aren’t that many people who can read cuneiform, and Sitchin was not a recognised linguistic scholar of ancient languages.  As a result, it’s easy for scholars to question his ability to read, transliterate and interpret the ancient Mesopotamian writings.

I came across this issue first-hand in 2003 when appearing in a short university project documentary alongside some noted British Sumerologists and astronomers, discussing Planet X (1).  The Sumerologists, curators from the British Museum in London, were sceptical of Sitchin’s knowledge of cuneiform, and his expertise with the ancient languages that used this script:

Christopher Walker (Deputy Keeper, Cuneiform Collection, British Museum): “It’s basically a very subjective interpretation of individual pictures, individual ideas. But he [Sitchin] doesn’t actually sit down and work with the texts.  And people think this is a nice idea, this is a nice story, let’s have the next chapter of the story…It’s like Harry Potter.” (2)

Dr Irving Finkel (Assistant Keeper, Cuneiform Collections, British Museum): It is very easy to use Sumerian and the Sumerian culture as your explanation for things because hardly anyone in the world can read Sumerian, and if you can give the impression you can read these texts you can say what you like. And I do think this is a factor. The number of people who can read Sumerian reliably and properly you could fit into this room. I think it would be a bit of a squeeze, you would have to move the furniture, but you could get everyone in the world onto this room.” (2)

There’s a general disillusionment with experts these days.  Sometimes, experts get it horribly wrong:  Economists failing to see a looming crash, or bursting of an economic bubble; environmental scientists cooking the books to solidify their stance on climate change; politicians expounding doom and gloom if a particular decision is made, only to see markets lift when it comes to pass.  This may be a similar situation.  Read More…

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