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Samuel Noah Kramer; Scholar, Sumerian Language Expert

Samuel Noah Kramer, 93, a leading authority on the 4,000-year-old Sumerian language. Kramer began excavating Sumerian tablets in Iraq in 1930. He also transcribed tablets from a collection in Istanbul and worked on an Assyrian dictionary being prepared at the University of Chicago. He was a professor emeritus in Assyriology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he joined the faculty in 1942. The Sumerians, who lived in Mesopotamia, part of present-day Iraq, were one of the first civilizations to leave a written record in cuneiform on clay tablets. From the wedge-shaped characters, Kramer translated myths, epics, prayers and proverbs. Kramer was curator of the university museum’s collection of more than 40,000 of the ancient tablets. He published 30 books and numerous scholarly articles, including “History Begins at Sumer,” first printed in 1959 and reissued three years ago, and his autobiography, “In the World of Sumer.” In Philadelphia on Monday.


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