Lists

The Emperor was very interested in archeology. His Majesty personally supervised excavations in Corfu, where he held since 1907 the Achilleion, the palace Elisabeth of Austria had built.
Some years earlier the excavations of Assur (Ger., Eng.) had begun, under DELITZSCH (Ger., Eng.), KOLDEWEY (Ger., Eng.) and ANDREAE (Ger., Eng.), supervised by the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft (Eng., Ger.) (DOG), and Wilhelm’s interest surely was not purely scientific: his never ending dreams about Germany’s Platz an der Sonne (Ger., Eng.), his ambitions for glory and Weltmacht let him eye the Middle East as next area of interest (‘Interessengebiet’, ‘Einflussgebiet’), opposing the ever envied and admired English cousins.
The finds can be seen in Berlin in the Vorderasiatisches Museum (Ger., Eng.), which is part of the Pergamon Museum. They found thousands and thousands of cuneiform tablets.  In small clay tablets signs and sign combinations were ‘written’, pressed into the wet clay with a reed stylus. This writing, this kind of  alphabeth, took a long development and variations of more complicated and simpler varieties exist – the most notable scholar who had surely and undoubtely read the most of them and whose understanding was fundamental, was A. Leo OPPENHEIM (cdli, Eng.), editor of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary (Eng.).
I will not follow the development of the signs here, but want to look at the content of these tablets a bit.

They excavated no libraries, but mostly archives. So they did not find books, but files, Akten. These two sorts of texts are fundamentally different. A book has an author, devine or human,  and mostly contains a kind of story, regardless of the literary form.  A file has no author, it simply is: It tells a story, but only in second or thirt sight. A file is generated by a process and documents this process. And in this respect exists no difference between a file about the average cost of an Assurian worker from 3000 BC and a file about the construction of a Franconian castle from the 18th century. Files, Akten, are recording machines allowing the administration of an organization, regardless of the subject of the organization: It does not matter what is administered.

Files are ruled by lists. And the archeologists of the 19th century unearthed tons of lists. Lists programme files, they give series of steps that have to be followed in a certain order:  Control characters operate the file from the very first set up until the last filing, ad acta, in the archive. A set of operators gouvern the file, each one shows that a previous step is done and in doing so orders the next step: Without cor for correctum on the draft a clean copy can not produced; without the sign, that allows the expedition, the clean copy can not be sent out – and so on: One step gives the next, a chain reaction, sending  pieces of paper or tons of clay on their way …

And in the core of all this is a list, a list of signs, of operators, characters of control.

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25 thoughts on “Lists

  1. Lieber Mago, this sounds to me as a some sort of primary bureaucracy -not in a derogatory sense, but in the most genuine sense of the word-. What were the Akten about? Your first paragraph made me think of the Rosetta Stone, at the Britism Museum. Different eras but real treasures both.

    When I visit Berlin, I will make a long stop at the Pergamon Museum, to be sure.

    Bis später!

  2. that’s exactly what came to my mind a bureaucracy at its best or worse. i’m lost in my own bureaucratic malaise right now, so i’ll have to come back and read this again. y’all do give me food for my poor addled brain! xoxoxo

  3. Killed my own coment.
    AARRRs#####!

    Sorry. While I hit myself … ach … a c h …

    Seriously about the acta tomorrow Leni, after sleep.

    A bureaucratic malaise – ask Josef K., he knows all about the Prozess … sorry Savannah, my English will improve.

  4. At this point google shows an “unknow error” message and nothing works anymore. I had over the whole day difficulties commenting on google-blogs. Its either a major technical mistake or they are simply killing their own software. Anyway, a discussion is under way and started, and one of the google demi-gods possibly accepts that there could be a problem regarding comments.

    I think it is important to remember that this only works because Eroswings kept on nagging the google-forum and because a lot of people repeatedly put up the same question. A person who gets the blog deleted, restored and whose comments get erazed by google and is alone will not get this attention.

  5. Hi and dear all,

    Mago has described quite good what the situation was and hopefully MJ’s comments will be back. I’ve been asked to open a new thread to follow the same procedure.
    Yes, it started at 19.00h CET and ended now (1.46am).
    Let’s hope this nightmare ends soon.

    @ Mago, thank you for following the development of the thread. I’m sorry that Nitecruzr made you upset kicking you out of the thread. You have to walk on eggshells with these forum guys until they fix your problem.

    Aber… spielt mich mir noch einmal…

    Gute Nacht und süsse Träume, mein Lieber. 😉

  6. Dear Infomaniacs,

    I’m now exhausted, but just let me say that this would have never been possible without your help.

    Big hug.

  7. Fingers crossed.

    Mago, a friend went to Berlin — she works in Frankfurt– and thru her pictures I have “visited” Pergamon, and read the wikipedia entry. Specially about the gate with the strange creatures.
    Why would someone keep information in this listed way? To restrict access?

  8. Leni – I do not think that Nightcruizer kicked me out: I think that their serves had problems. Yesterday I was not able to comment on many blogger blogs, it always was a error “404”, “internal error” or a “number 500”. And when I wanted refresh the thread I was kicked out, the page not showing.

    Austere
    When the archeologists came on these tablets they first thought they would have found libraries. It took some time to recognize that they looked at files. In a list – and the administrators in Assur seemingly already used this – one can keep an order: Important things first and so down the list until the less important topics are reached. Step after step – an order in both senses of the word, and it gives what has to be done, it structures doing or deeds, its a process.

    The importance of something can expressed by the position in the list. And a position can be connected with a certain topic, like f.e. thirt line from above: taxes payed, in sheep.

    The list is a fundamental tool to organize, to structure. The information in the list is not freely accessible, because all administrators use their own language, shortings, signs, and they normally do not write in sentences – that is not important and sensefull, its a list. So the list and thus the administration is exclusive, excluding those who can not read the signs.
    And all that happens in the cancellaria, which is a separated area.

    The finding of these lists proofs that in Assur and other places they had a highly developed administration, a state, offices etc. a theory of what they were doing, a working organized and structured administration ruled by lists.

    Ah the heat gently boils my brain.

  9. Mago, wake up! Germany is thrashing Argentina 4-0! Frau Merkel is there at the VIP stand not far from Mick Jagger. I bet if you’d ask her now, she would grant you 3 wishes!

    ((I’m not a huge football fan, but Spain plays this evening vs Paraguay and the winner will play against Germany next week!!! ))

  10. Cheers and Congratulations Germany for wiping the floor with Argentina! I can’t stand that loud mouth, jacka$$ Argentinian coach! Ha!

    I’ll be rooting for Spain in two hours! Whooo! Hooo!

  11. Hello Leni – I thought that something was happening when these vuvus trööted on and on through my siesta. 4:0 is tough. The gouchos must have had sore legs and asses. Spain vs Paraguay – la bestia roja should be awake now and mange poor Paraguay for dinner … where the hell IS Paraguay anyway? The Spaniards always play strong soccer: Good luck for this evening and hopefully we will watch it on 7th!

    Eroswings – I am really astounded about the result, never would have estimated that the German team is really strong. That loss ads the necessary part of tragic to San Diego, he’s now something of an ‘Unvollendeter’, like an unfinished piece of ART, eros, ART is what I say … nevertheless he is a special man, Diego Maradona, hand of God. Enjoy the next game.

    I have to go and buy an icecream now.

  12. i just finished reading the blogger thread re:mj, et al. what’s the internet equivalent of roadrage? everyone’s postings were concise and wonderfully coherent, yet the “help” seemed positively dense.

    sorry, i’m from massachusetts, home of the short fuse.

  13. Hello and welcome, Normadesmond, thank you for your first comment here! May I call you Norma or is this inadequate? Massachusettians are hot tempered?
    The annoying thing was that it had to be explained over and over again until one of the demi-gods cautiously accepted that there could be truth in the blabber. Anyway, the problem should be solved sometimes in the coming days.

    Now excuse me please, its really early now.

  14. you can call me anything you’d like, i’m not fussy.

    baystaters are lovely. it was my road rage reference…..they drive like serious maniacs and get hot under the collar. i felt my collar sticking to my neck as i read all those postings, hence the reference.

    a high-falutin blog you got here….very smart folks. i’ll try to keep up!

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