My Away from Jerusalem


Fr Marcel Sigrist, OP is a French Dominican and the current Director of  École Biblique of Jerusalem. Here, he shares with us his current research works.

"For a number of years now I have spent my summers with the great collections of cuneiform tablets, like those found in the British Museum or at Yale. The time allows me to decompress after an academic year in Jerusalem, as well as to gather new epigraphic material that I would like to work on during the year. In this way I have been able to produce many editions of texts.

This year, due to particular circumstances of life at the École, I left Jerusalem June 16th to spend 8 days in Alsace for a family celebration. From there I went directly to Oklahoma to catalogue the Green Collection that interests me above all biblical texts, old as well as new. My interest in the collection is that it includes even cuneiform tablets that date well before the time of Christ. I was able to date the younger ones to the Akkadian Empire and almost completely got through Richard Caplice’s grammar.

From Oklahoma, I left for the Babylonian Collection at Yale University in New Haven. During those 8 weeks, I worked on the royal seals of tablets 4,000 years old; seals which were sealed prior to other tablets. The work consisted of noting those that still have a legible seal, not because of the age of the tablet, but because of the more or less good application on the clay. The best parallel would be postmarks on postage stamps that are now only partially legible. It is a thankless job that requires twisting and turning the tablet in all directions so as to be sure you have not missed any symbol on the seal.

In short, it is a daunting task, but one that is necessary. From September 19-20, there will be conference on 150 years of French archaeology in the Holy Land organized by the IFPO (Jean-Sylvain Caillou) and the École Biblique, and on September 21, I will arrive in Jerusalem to retake the task of directing the École".