Samuel Noah Kramer
Samuel Noah Kramer was one of the world's leading Assyriologists
Assyriology is the archaeological, historical, and linguistic study of ancient Mesopotamia and the related cultures that used cuneiform writing. The field covers the Akkadian sister-cultures of Assyria and Babylonia, together with their cultural predecessor; Sumer...

 and a world renowned expert in Sumerian history
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

 and Sumerian language
Sumerian language
Sumerian is the language of ancient Sumer, which was spoken in southern Mesopotamia since at least the 4th millennium BC. During the 3rd millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism...



Kramer was born on September 28, 1897 in Zhashkiv
Zhashkiv is a city in Cherkasy Oblast of Ukraine. Population is 15,853 .-External links:...

 in the Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

, the son of Benjamin and Yetta Kramer. In 1905 as a result of the anti-Semitic
Antisemitism is suspicion of, hatred toward, or discrimination against Jews for reasons connected to their Jewish heritage. According to a 2005 U.S...

A pogrom is a form of violent riot, a mob attack directed against a minority group, and characterized by killings and destruction of their homes and properties, businesses, and religious centres...

s under Czar Nicholas II of Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, his family emigrated
Emigration is the act of leaving one's country or region to settle in another. It is the same as immigration but from the perspective of the country of origin. Human movement before the establishment of political boundaries or within one state is termed migration. There are many reasons why people...

 to Philadelphia, where his father established a Hebrew school. After graduating from high school and obtaining a bachelor's degree, Kramer tried a variety of occupations, including teaching in his father's school, becoming a writer and becoming a business man.

Concerning the time when he began to approach the age of thirty, still without a career, he later stated in his autobiography
An autobiography is a book about the life of a person, written by that person.-Origin of the term:...

, In the World of Sumer: "Finally it came to me that I might well go back to my beginnings and try to utilize the Hebrew learning on which I had spent so much of my youth, and relate it in some way to an academic future" .

He enrolled at Dropsie College of Philadelphia for Hebrew and Cognate Learning, and became passionately interested in Egyptology
Egyptology is the study of ancient Egyptian history, language, literature, religion, and art from the 5th millennium BC until the end of its native religious practices in the AD 4th century. A practitioner of the discipline is an “Egyptologist”...

. He then transferred to the Oriental Studies Department of the University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania is a private, Ivy League university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Penn is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States,Penn is the fourth-oldest using the founding dates claimed by each institution...

, working with the "brilliant young Ephraim Avigdor Speiser
Ephraim Avigdor Speiser
Ephraim Avigdor Speiser was a Polish-born American Assyriologist. He discovered the ancient site of Tepe Gawra in 1927 and supervised its excavation between 1931 and 1938.-Pre-war career:...

, who was to become one of the world's leading figures in Near Eastern Studies" . Speiser was trying to decipher cuneiform
Cuneiform script
Cuneiform script )) is one of the earliest known forms of written expression. Emerging in Sumer around the 30th century BC, with predecessors reaching into the late 4th millennium , cuneiform writing began as a system of pictographs...

 tablets of the Late Bronze Age dating from about 1300 BC; it was now that Kramer began his life-long work in understanding the cuneiform writing system.

Kramer earned his Ph.D. in 1929, and was famous for assembling tablets recounting single stories that had become distributed among different institutions around the world. He retired from formal academic life in 1968, but remained very active throughout his post-retirement years.

In his autobiography published in 1986, he sums up his accomplishments: "First, and most important, is the role I played in the recovery, restoration, and resurrection of Sumerian literature, or at least of a representative cross section . . . Through my efforts several thousand Sumerian literary tablets and fragments have been made available to cuneiformists, a basic reservoir of unadulterated data that will endure for many decades to come. Second, I endeavored . . . to make available reasonably reliable translations of many of these documents to the academic community, and especially to the anthropologist, historian, and humanist. Third, I have helped to spread the name of Sumer to the world at large, and to make people aware of the crucial role the Sumerians played in the ascent of civilized man" .

Kramer died at age 93 on November 26, 1990 in the United States.

Selected writings

  • Kramer, Samuel Noah. Sumerian Mythology: Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millennium B.C. 1944, rev. 1961.
  • Kramer, Samuel Noah. History Begins at Sumer: Thirty-Nine "Firsts" in Recorded History. 1956.
  • Kramer, Samuel Noah. The Sumerians: Their History, Culture and Character. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press
    University of Chicago Press
    The University of Chicago Press is the largest university press in the United States. It is operated by the University of Chicago and publishes a wide variety of academic titles, including The Chicago Manual of Style, dozens of academic journals, including Critical Inquiry, and a wide array of...

    , 1963. ISBN 0-226-45238-7.
  • Kramer, Samuel Noah and Diane Wolkstein. Inanna : Queen of Heaven and Earth. New York: Harper & Row, 1983. ISBN 0-06-090854-8.
  • Kramer, Samuel Noah. In the World of Sumer, An Autobiography. Wayne State University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-8143-1785-5.

External links

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