The Great Fatted Bull
Tablet #36
Tablet #36 Sign List
Sumerian Images
Sumerian History
The Royal Tombs of Ur
The Standard of Ur:  War
The Standard of Ur:  King
The "Standard" of Ur?
Vulture Stele Translation
Sumerian War Chariots
War Chariot Deconstructed
Gudea Translation
The Face of Gudea
The Face of Ur-Ningirsu
The Face of Lugal-agrig-zi
Ur-Namma Translation
The Face of Ur-Namma
Face of Ur-Namma, part II
I am Ur-Namma
The Face of Shulgi
Who Were the Sumerians?
Other Sumerian Kings
The Princess Wife
The Great Fatted Jackass
Sargon's Victory Stele
Helmet: the King of Kish
The Standard of Mari?
The Invention of Writing
Adventures in Cuneiform
The Sumerian Scribe
A Masterpiece
Site Map

The purpose of this page is to provide citations to support the transliteration of Tablet #36. As such, it will be quite dull for the general reader, who is advised to skip it. This page is intended for anyone interested in cuneiform studies who wishes to verify that my translation of Tablet #36 is correct.

For the simple and obvious signs used on this tablet, I provide a picture of the ePSD font, followed by an example from the tablet. For the compressed signs (see some of the compressed signs on Tablet #36) or the signs written in an unusual manner, I also provide an example (or two) from other tablets on the CDLI. Click on the given line number to see a drawing of the tablet, or click on the CDLI number to view the tablet’s transliteration page.

All Sumerian signs have multiple meanings, but on this page I show only the definitions that are used on the tablet. Unless otherwise stated, all of the sign definitions can be found in the ePSD. All of them are also in the Sumerian Lexicon (SL) and most of them are in the ETCSL, but finding a definition in the ETCSL requires some expertise, and of course most people don't own a copy of the Sumerian Lexicon (although it is absolutely essential to anyone translating Sumerian into English because it has a much higher word-count than the ePSD).

If you are familiar with the CDLI, ePSD, and ETCSL, you can skip the following sections.

Instructions for a CDLI search:

Click on the given line number (e.g., o2,4 for obverse (front of the tablet) column 2, line #4, or r5 for reverse (back) line #5) to see a line drawing of the tablet with the sign highlighted in red. To check on the transliteration of a sign, click on the CDLI's “P” number, which links to the tablet’s page on the CDLI, and it will show the sign name in the given line number. It may be necessary to click on “View line art” to see the line drawing of the tablet. Note: on the CDLI, š is written as sz, ĝ is written as just g, and ḫ is just h.

Instructions for searching the ePSD:

Open the ePSD on a separate page.

Unfortunately, an individual sign on the ePSD is not accessible via an external link. To check on a sign’s definition, type the sign name in the window at the bottom of the ePSD page and then click on “SIGN” in the window on the right. The right-hand column will then display all of the names associated with the sign. Click on the given sign name to see its definition. Note: on the ePSD, type j for ĝ and type c for š. For example, type jec for ĝeš. Type h for ḫ.

Instructions for searching the ETCSL:

A line number is given when a sign is cited on the ETCSL. To verify the sign, click on the ETCSL link. There you will find the sign listed in the given line number. To verify the definition, click on the line number in the ETCSL transliteration page. The definition will appear in a translation of the relevant section.

Tablet #36 Sign List: 

a = in/into 

a2, see ed.  a2 = labor

ab = window, ab-ba = father   P100330 r3    P227771 o1,19

aĝ2:  na-aĝ2 = fate, aĝ2-ba = gift (Emesal)

ak = do/perform

al = maḫX = maḫ2 = maḫ = great

am3 (A-AN) = prefix meaning "(same) as" (SL p18). The AN part of the sign is compressed, as shown in the two signs below.

ama = mother    P346096 L46    P262958 r2,1    P259267 r12

an = heaven    P346096 o6

, see dili.  aš = one

ašte2 = throne

ba = ration (allotment)/give/share, aĝ2-ba = gift, ba-ab = open, ab-ba = father    P306561 r6

bad3 = fortress

bal:  ĝeš bal = sell

be6 = to diminish

bi = definition unknown because of damage to the line of text (o11)    P236138 r2

da = side/flank, suffix meaning "with", da-ri = support  

dab5 = seize

dam = wife/spouse    P109184 o2,18    P254216 o5 

dib2, see dab5.  dib2 = send

dili = single/one only

dim2 = to make

du3 = all, to plant/to drive in

du7 (ul) = complete (SL p46)    P346140  o5

du8 = to yoke (SL p46), du8-du8 (reduplication class) = to amass (SL p46)    P259267 o1

dug4, see ka.  dug4 = to order

duḫ, see du8.  duḫ = grain mash (SL p50)

ee-ne-eĝ3 = inim (Emesal) = decree (SL p54)    P236139 o5

ed:  ze2-ed = to beat

eĝ3, see aĝ2.  e-ne-eĝ3 = inim (Emesal) = decree

en = lord,    P108934 o4

er, see ir.  er = go

= to annoint (SL p65)

eš2 , see še3.  eš2-la2 = constrict/throttle/suffocate = choke (SL p66)

eš3, see ab.  eš3 = shrine

ga2/ĝa2:  lu2-ḫuĝ-ga2 = hired man (worker), ĝa2 (ĝar) = accumulate

gaba, see du8.  gaba-ri = adversary

gal:  ša3-gal = food/fodder

gal niga = great fatted    P115836 o8    P103460 o2  The signs are a bit unusual because the horizontal element of gal completely bisects the cluster of reverse cunei. Perhaps they were written this way to save space on the line. Otherwise they are clearly a combination of gal and niga.

ĝal2 = available    P227925 r2,12

gana2 (GAN2), see iku.  gana2 = field

gar = to place    P236013 o1

ĝe26, see ga2.  ĝe26 = I/me

geme2 = slave woman   P112882 o1   P112430 o3   What's different about the way the scribe writes this sign is that he uses only two reverse cunei instead of the usual three. Surprising, the only place that he uses all three reverse cunei is in line r6, where the sign is not only compressed but actually squashed in the crowded lettering of the line (see above right). The signs are written this way to help disguise the context of the tablet. Geme2 fits in all five instances in the three sentences where it appears. For further explanation, see line o15 in the Transliteration.

ĝen = go    P100879 o3 

ĝeš = prefix,  ĝeš-ur3 = abandon, ĝeš bal = sell    P100007 r1

gi = return    P130367 o1,8  The scribe writes GI and ZI almost exactly alike, except for a very minor difference. Click on ZI and see if you can spot the difference. The answer is given in line r7 in the Transliteration.

gid2 = to drag    P101725 r1

gin6, see gi.  gin6 = permanent

gir10, see ne.  gir10 = anger

gu3, see ka.  gu3 = voice (bellow)

gu4 = bull    P236016 o2    Four out of five times the scribe writes gu4 incorrectly (without the vertical stroke) in order to obscure the bull context of the story. The only time he writes it correctly is where it is written the smallest, crowded into the margin of the tablet (o8).

gu7 = food    P345390 o8

ĝu10, see mu.  ĝu10 = my

gur4 = to feel big (important)

gur11 (GA) = grain heap    P236299 o7 (the middle sign is ga since there are no pictures of gur11 on the CDLI)

ḫe2 = may

ḫenbur = the edible parts of a reed or rush (SL p112)    P227925 r2, 14   The cluster of reverse cunei is not the same as še (grain), but then again, the scribe uses about eight different versions of še, in signs like zid, li, ku4, gal-niga, etc. Henbur fits into the context of all three sentences where it appears. It is yet another theme of the story.

ḫi-li = luxuriant (abundant)    P346096 o9

ḫuĝ, see še3.  lu2-ḫuĝ-ga2 = worker

iku = land unit of measure (approx. 1 acre)    P102156 o2,9    P102011 o8. The third sign and the last sign have vertical lines across their lengths, but the last sign seems to lack a bold vertical stroke on its right (like the third sign) but it can be seen on the original tablet.

in = edge/ledge, also a CVNE (Compound Verb Nominal Element)

ir = plunder    P346190 o5    P127734 multi

iri = city/town/village

ka = mouth    P274206 r5

kal = strong, to esteem/value (treasure) (SL p134)

kar = marketplace (SL p135)    P343004 r2,7

ki:  ki-ma = earth    P100877 o2 

kiĝ2 = work    P357293 r2,11

kiri3, see ka. kiri3 = nose

ku6:  šu-ku6 = thief/bandit (SL p265)

ku10 = darkness (ku10-ku10)

kur = mountain

kur9 = to enter

la:  kal-la = strong, la-ba- = negative/not (SL p154)

la2 = throttle

li = twig    P247912 o4

lu = to be abundant

lu2 = man/he    P259267 o9,o12    P227889 r1,9 

lug, see lu.  lug = pasture

lugud2, see gur4.  lugud2 = tight/reduced

lum = satisfied

ma:  ki-ma = earth    P236039 o3

me = to be

mu = he    P268918 r12

munus = woman    P236221 r2

mur10 = to clothe oneself

murgu2 = shoulder/back

na = man    P306561 o1

namnam-a-a = fatherhood

ne = this

ni:  By itself, ni is a suffix meaning his/her; a-ni (right) is the actual word for his/her.

ni2 = self    P346091 o4

niĝin2, see gur4.  niĝin2 = to make the rounds (SL p204)

nin = lady    P345811 r5    P236026 r3

nir = trust, lordly    P346099 o9

nu = not    P268918 r9

pap = virile

ri:  da-ri = support

ru = offer    P254205 o11,r3

ša3 (šag4) = heart/stomach    P236210 r2    P100907 o10

ša2 = pig    P106164 o1

sar = garden    P236281  o3

še = grain    P142332 o1

še3 = to

šeš = brother    P236234 r1

si = to fill

sig3 = burning indigestion

susu-ba = shepherd (Emesal, A Praise Poem for Shulgi X (ETCSL, line 16), su-ub = rub    P106517 r4

šu = hand

ta = (Emesal, a-na, interrogative) = "what?"    P236055 o6

tab = companion

te-en = trample (SL p275)   P269077 o1,34

teš2, see ur.  teš2 = pride, all (SL p275)

ti = rib

tuku = to take

ub: su-ub = rub    P236037 r2

ud = storm    P107426 o13

ur = servant, man    P108578 o7

ur3: ĝeš ur3 = abandon    P108507 o3

usar = neighbor woman

utul2 (KAM) = large bowl, tureen   P101336 r4  The middle sign is kam because I was unable to find a useable picture of utul2 on the CDLI.

ze2, see zi2.  ze2-ed = to beat (Emesal)

zi2 = cut

zid, see zig3.  zid = virtuous (ETCSL, A tigi to Nanaya for Išbi-Erra (Išbi-Erra C), line 1)

zig3 = rise   The scribe uses the compressed version of the še cluster of reverse cunei (see the above še sign). This is a deliberate effort to diguise the sign, as explained in line r7 of the Transliteration.

zu = to know


The scribe puns with numbers for the same reason that he puns with words, to obscure the meaning of the text.

4(diš) = 4. It looks like niĝ2 (thing) or ĝar (to place), as seen on the far right.    P254323 r7
(See a tablet that has niĝ2 and 4(diš) written side by side.)

i = 5

P227771 o2,8    P102233 o8    The first sign on the left is i, likewise for the second sign. It is a commonly used sign, but it is not a number, it's a word, one that has no meaning that fits into the context of the three sentences where it appears. That's because the scribe uses it to represent the number five. 5(aš), which is written horizontally (unlike the vertical diš format shown above), always uses a 3-2 combination, as seen in the third sign. On Tablet #36, the scribe uses a 2-2-1 combination to represent the number 5. In a line of text, the sign would naturally be interpeted as i, which is meaningless in the context of the sentence, causing some confusion, which helps to obscure the context of the tablet. On the other hand, the "five" interpretation of the sign fits in all three sentences where it appears: field 5, pasture 5, and 5 big bowls.