Twelve Stories from the Mesopotamian Scribal School


Joshua J. Mark
published on 30 January 2024

Sumerian schools (known as edubba, “House of Tablets”) trained the scribes of ancient Mesopotamia in reading, writing, interpretation of texts, general knowledge, and the specifics of whatever field they would eventually work in. The Sumerian scribal school was operational by c. 2600 BCE and their curriculum continued by the other great civilizations of Mesopotamia that followed.

The curriculum began simply and then progressed to the Tetrad (four compositions), the Decad (ten compositions), and then more complex works to be mastered, through copying and recitation, prior to graduation. This collection includes one piece from the Tetrad, Hymn to Nisaba, nine from the Decad, and two – Schooldays and A Supervisor’s Advice to a Young Scribe – from the more sophisticated texts. Graduates from the edubba would go on to create the literary works Mesopotamia is famous for, including the Epic of Gilgamesh.



Questions & Answers

What were the Mesopotamian scribal schools called?

Mesopotamian scribal schools were known as "edubba" which means "House of Tablets."

What was the curriculum of the Mesopotamian scribal school?

Students at the Mesopotamian scribal schools began by mastering how to write cuneiform, then copied and recited four texts known as the Tetrad, then ten texts known as the Decad, then more complex texts prior to graduation.

What are some famous compositions from the Mesopotamian scribal schools?

Among the many famous compositions from the Mesopotamian scribal schools are the stories of Gilgamesh, hymns to goddesses like Inanna and Nisaba, and satirical texts like Schooldays and A Supervisor's Advice to a Young Scribe.

When were the scribal schools of Mesopotamia operational?

The scribal schools of Mesopotamia were already established by c. 2600 BCE and continued in operation past c. 612 BCE.
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About the Author

Joshua J. Mark
Joshua J. Mark is World History Encyclopedia's co-founder and Content Director. He was previously a professor at Marist College (NY) where he taught history, philosophy, literature, and writing. He has traveled extensively and lived in Greece and Germany.

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