The following interview with Professor Giovanni Pettinato was conducted by BAR Editor Hershel Shanks on May 4, 1980.
Professor Pettinato was the original epigrapher of the Italian Mission to Ebla. He resigned following a bitter personal and scholarly dispute with the mission director and chief archaeologist, Paolo Matthiae. Matthiae has now appointed a 10-man committee to publish the Ebla tablets and other related finds and studies. This 10-man [Matthiae’s] committee is referred to several times in this interview.
Matthiae has replaced Pettinato with a new chief epigrapher, Professor Alfonso Archi, also of the University of Rome. In an article which first appeared in the Italian journal Biblica, Archi violently disagreed with many of Pettinato’s conclusions relating the Ebla tablets to the Bible. Archi’s article was summarized in the May/June 1980 BAR (“New Ebla Epigrapher Attacks Conclusions of Ousted Scholar,” BAR 06:03). Professor Archi’s Biblica article is referred to several times in this interview. Professor Pettinato has responded to Archi’s Biblica article; this response will appear in a forthcoming issue of BAR.
BAR: You have been charged with retracting many of your readings of the Ebla tablets. Is this true?
Pettinato: I haven’t retracted anything. I can retract only what I write. If I have not written it, I cannot retract it. Some American newspapers, and BAR also [“Ebla Evidence Evaporates,” BAR 05:06], have written that I have retracted. But I still maintain what I have written.
BAR: What about the things that you have said orally. For example, according to the New York Times, you said that the Ebla tablets “seem to show that many Hebrew ideas and words came from Ebla.” Do you still maintain that?
P: I never said that.
BAR: Another New York Times report says that you stated that the Ebla tablets “shed light on the history of the Jewish people.”
P: I never said such a thing. This is the problem. Some newspapers and journalists say that they have interviewed me. The reality is something else. I have never been interviewed by such people. This is the big problem. As I said to the Syrian authorities, most of the interviews which, according to the journalists, I gave, I never gave. I know the interviews I give. And in the printed interviews, something else is written. I had occasion to go to Syria [for the first meeting of Matthiae’s committee] and I spoke with [Afif] Bahnassi [head of the Syrian Department of Antiquities], and he showed me many newspapers, in which were stated what you quoted earlier. I answered Bahnassi, “I have not made such statements.”
BAR: Did this satisfy him?
P: I think so.
BAR: How did he happen to ask you for the Declaration which you signed? [See “Syria Tries To Influence Ebla Scholarship,” BAR 05:02.]
P: I received a letter with this request, to have a declaration from me about the asserted parallelism between Ebla and the Bible. I said nothing new in the Declaration, nothing other than what I had written in my article in Rivista Biblica Italiana.a I have said nothing new.
BAR: In your Declaration you spoke of “interference of our colleagues beyond the ocean.” What interference did you refer to?
P: David Noel Freedman. I don’t know what “interference” means in English. In Italian, if you do something and another explains what you are doing, that is interference.
BAR: You objected to the explanations of your work that were given by David Noel Freedman?
P: Yes. Just like the journalist who says “Pettinato means … ” Pettinato means nothing! Pettinato [himself] says what he means.
BAR: You spoke in your Declaration about the “pretended” links with the Bible. What did you mean by the “pretended” links?
P: This refers to what the journalists, and what some scholars also, have done to relate the Hebrews historically to the Eblaite people. And this is not true. We cannot relate people historically who are at least 1,000 years apart. It is impossible. In my work, I speak only of parallels in lexicon, in grammar, in personal names, but not much more. To say that the Eblaites are the ancestors of the Hebrews is historical nonsense.
BAR: Who were the scholars that made these historical connections?
P: David Noel Freedman. I am sorry, but it is very clear.
BAR: Anyone else?
P: No, I don’t know if anyone else made such a statement.
BAR: Are you referring to his dating of the Patriarchal Age to the third millennium?
P: Yes. Impossible. Impossible.
BAR: Well, what about the five Cities of the Plain that he relies on, or did rely on, when he thought that they were in the Ebla tablets. Originally it was thought that the five Cities of the Plain mentioned in Genesis appeared in a single Ebla tablet in the same order in which they appeared in Genesis.
P: I can say what I have said in the article which I published in Rivista Biblica Italiana: that in my view, cities mentioned in the Ebla tablets have names like those of the Cities of the Plain. In that article, I have written “Sodom, Gomorrah, etc.” That is all that I have written.b
BAR: Have you found the names of the other three Cities of the Plain in the Ebla Tablets?
P: I don’t know if I can say yes or no. On this point, wait. To Mr. Archi [the new chief epigrapher of the Italian Mission to Ebla], who claims that they are not there I answer: “If you want to find them, you must look more closely.”
BAR: I take it you think that you have found them?
P: Might. But it is not necessary for me to retract what I have written. Surely the five cities are not in the same tablet. I have never said that they were.
BAR: Have you said that orally?
P: No. Remember when we talked on the telephone about tablet TM.75.G.1860 which you said was supposed to contain the five Cities of the Plain in the same order as they appear in Genesis? That is also the number of the tablet about which Freedman wrote. I asked Mitchell Dahood once—because Mitchell Dahood also wrote about this number 1860 of the tablets containing this material—and I asked him in Rome, “Excuse me, Mitchell, who told you that the Cities of the Plain are in tablet 1860? I have never said that to you.” And he answered, “David Noel Freedman told me.” It’s very interesting. At this point, no comment.
BAR: But you are willing to say now that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are in the tablets?
P: Not these only.
BAR: Are there other Cities of the Plain too?
BAR: Do you think that these two cities [Sodom and Gomorrah] are the same cities that are mentioned in the Bible as the Cities of the Plain?
P: We cannot say. For no city can we say that this is surely the same city as is mentioned in the Bible. We can say only that this is the name or that it is similar to the name. For example, when we find Mari, so frequently mentioned in the Ebla tablets, we cannot be sure that this is the famous city of Mari. Maybe it’s only a name similar to that city. Maybe it’s another city. We need much more analysis and discussion before we can prove that the identification of a city is really established. Now we can say only that the name reminds us of another city.
BAR: It’s been said that the Eblaite city resembling Sodom is in a list of deliveries of agricultural products and, therefore, it’s probably a little city around Ebla rather than the city mentioned in the Bible.
P: [That is what Mr. Archi says in reference to a city named] Sa-du-ma [in tablet TM.75.G.1992]. But I have never suggested a parallel between Sa-du-ma and Sodom of the Bible. I think Si-da-mu is the city mentioned in the 048Ebla tablets which recalls the Biblical city of Sodom. Mr. Archi thinks the only possible city is Sa-du-ma but there are many possibilities. I think that Si-da-mu is the city which reminds us of Sodom because in this period the long vowel o
BAR: How many appearances of this city have you found?
P: I cannot say.
BAR: Can you say approximately?
P: No. I must check my files.
BAR: And how many appearances of Gomorrah?
P: Also the same answer. But much more than Sodom.
BAR: Do they appear together most of the time or separately?
P: No. Separately. Always separately.
BAR: You have just published a catalog of the tablets haven’t you?
P: Yes. The names of Sodom and Gomorrah are already published in the catalog. You can check. Here is Si-da-mu [Catalog No. 6522; TM. 76. G. 524]. Here is Gomorrah—I-ma-ar [Catalog No. 1008; TM.75.G.1570 and Catalog No. 1671; TM.75.G.2233]. It appears twice. And here is Zoar—Za-e-ar [Catalog No. 1024; TM.75.G.1586]. These are only those Cities of the Plain which are mentioned in the Catalog. Not all the cities which are mentioned in the tablets are listed in the Catalog.
BAR: Why is that?
P: If I don’t have a transcription of the tablet, then I put in the Catalog all the information I collected in Aleppo about the tablet. But if I have a transcription of a tablet, I give no information in the Catalog about the contents because I will publish this in the near future.
BAR: How many tablets are in your new catalog [Catalogo dei Testi Cuneiformi di Tell Mardikh-Ebla, University of Naples, 1979]?
BAR: How large is the entire Ebla archive?
P: My catalog contains one-third of all tablets discovered between 1974 and 1976. But almost 10,000 additional numbers are very small fragments with one sign, or one line. I can say that my catalog contains 90 percent of the Ebla materials, because the other fragments are very small, not worth looking at.
BAR: Of these 6,643 tablets in your catalog, how many are fragments and how many are complete tablets?
P: About 1,500 are complete tablets. The rest are fragments, but sometimes large fragments.
BAR: You have made transcriptions of many of the tablets, haven’t you?
P: For about 1,000 tablets I have made a transcription and translation. I have transcribed all of the bilingual vocabularies.
BAR: Are the tablets you have transcriptions of whole tablets?
BAR: They are whole and fragments?
P: Yes. But typologically they are the most important tablets. Fifty percent are economic and administrative tablets, covering all aspects of the administration of Ebla, from agriculture to trade. The other 500 include about 250 lexical tablets (monolingual and bilingual); about 100 historical tablets (including all the treaty tablets); and also literary tablets.
BAR: How many full and substantial fragments do you not have in transcription?
P: I think 50 percent.
BAR: In other words, another 1,000?
P: Another 1,000.
BAR: Is Mr. Matthiae’s committee working on these other thousand?
P: I hope! I know that they are working on the same tablets which I am writing on. This was one of the points over which I resigned from Matthiae’s committee last year. I realized that Matthiae assigned to other scholars the same tablets I had already started writing on.
BAR: What was the source of the controversy between you and Mr. Matthiae?
P: I don’t know. Many people ask me about the source of the controversy. I don’t know. Really, I don’t know.
BAR: You’re not talking to each other now are you?
P: Now, of course not. In 1976 I noticed that I was no longer on the list of the Mission. I asked Matthiae why, but he gave no answer. Later I read, in an Italian newspaper, that the reason was that I had done nothing to study the tablets, so that he was constrained to choose another scholar. This is the official reason that Matthiae gave. You know that is not the reason.
BAR: What do you think is the real reason?
P: I think it’s power, academic power.
BAR: How does he get his academic power from the unpublished tablets?
P: If you have a treasure or a cake to divide, you have many claimants, at least at the time when they hope to get a part of the cake, a part of the treasure, and this is very great academic power.
BAR: Have you ever suggested to Mr. Matthiae that the difficult Ebla tablets be published in photographic form and transcriptions ?
BAR: What was his reaction to this suggestion?
P: He said, “Wait.”
BAR: When did you make this suggestion to him?
P: In 1975, when we found the tablets. Also in 1976. In the meantime, I have heard that many other colleagues have made this same suggestion to him, to publish the photographs.
BAR: And what has he said?
P: “No” to everyone. “Wait, wait, wait.”
BAR: Do you know what Mr. Matthiae’s plans are for publishing the tablets?
P: They will be published when Matthiae says.
BAR: As I understand it, Mr. Matthiae has assigned only 10 tablets per member of his committee per book?
P: About that.
BAR: How long do you think it will take 049them to publish their 1,000 tablets?
P: Perhaps 200 years.
BAR: Why will Mr. Matthiae’s committee be so slow?
P: The same answer I have given to you: academic power.
BAR: Has Mr. Matthiae published any excavation reports?
P: No. This is a big problem. Since 1966, when the excavation began, he has not published any archaeological reports of the excavation which he is conducting.
BAR: Is it important to publish excavation reports?
P: It is important first for scientific purposes. But it is also important in order to understand many things about the tablets. If, for example, the tablets speak about metals, golden ornaments, and they describe the percentage of gold, silver and, other metals, it is necessary to find out the percentage of these metals in the objects which have been found in the excavation.
Unfortunately, the necessary information has sometimes been destroyed by Matthiae. For example, the botanic and also human remains. Matthiae was not interested in such things. In one tablet—an economic and administrative text, not a lexical text—33 different types of barley are mentioned. Matthiae found magazines, large storage jars containing barley. Where are the remains of this grain? You must ask Matthiae.
BAR: Has Matthiae’s archaeological methods been criticized within the profession?
P: Yes. Often. Some archaeologists have even written about this. For example, a German scholar has written about the problems in dating the archive. Others criticize Matthiae’s methods orally. But most archaeologists say, “We cannot judge until Matthiae publishes. We must wait.” So they can wait.
BAR: According to an article which appeared in Science magazine, Robert D. Biggs of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, attributes some of what the article calls the “extravagance” of your early statements to your Sicilian temperament. According to Professor Biggs you are “very excitable. Pettinato gets easily carried away and tends to jump to conclusions,” Biggs says.
P: I don’t believe Bob Biggs ever made such a statement. I cannot believe a colleague would say such a thing.c I don’t believe I have been extravagant. I continue to maintain everything I have written. But only what I have written.
BAR: In Genesis 14, Birsha is listed as the king of Gomorrah. Does Birsha appear in the Ebla tablets as king of one of the Cities of the Plain?
P: His name is not in the tablets, and I have never written that it was.
BAR: According to David Noel Freedman you told him that Birsha was the king of one of the Cities of the Plain that appeared in the Ebla tablets.
P: You always quote David Noel Freedman.
BAR: He has written that you told him this and you even wrote it down at a famous breakfast he had with you. As a matter of fact, he told me that that day—when you told him this was the most exciting day of his life.
P: Even David Noel Freedman quoted me as saying “If I remember … ,” “If I remember correctly … ” He never checked with me in Rome. He never asked me in Rome if my memory was right or not.
BAR: He says you wrote down the name Birsha at that famous breakfast.
P: No, I never wrote such a thing. I am sorry, but I never wrote anything like this.
BAR: Not on a napkin?
P: No. No.
BAR: Did you write it on a piece of paper while you were having breakfast?
P: This is pure invention. I have never written such a thing.
BAR: Did you tell him that?
P: He asked me if there were any kings of the Cities of the Plain which were mentioned in the tablets, and I said, “If I remember correctly, there is one name something like Birsha.”
BAR: Did you later check your memory?
P: Yes, of course, I checked. It was not there. But he never asked me to check. I have not spoken or written to David Noel Freedman since 1976. So I was very surprised to hear from Mitchell Dahood that Freedman intended to write an article about the Cities of the Plain in the Ebla tablets. And I told Mitchell Dahood to try to stop the article but David Noel Freedman published it. (See Biblical Archeologist, Vol. 41, December 0501978, pp. 143–164). I cannot be responsible for what David Noel Freedman says I have said.
BAR: What are your plans for publishing the 1,000 tablets for which you have transcriptions.?
P: The catalog has already been published by the Oriental Institute of Naples. This is the new series Materiali Epigrafici di Ebla-I. Other volumes in the series will 051appear in the near future. The second volume, will appear in about 15 days. It will contain 50 administrative tablets. We hope we can publish three or four volumes of tablets this year.
BAR: Each with 50 tablets?
P: Yes. We are working very hard.
BAR: When you say “we,” who do you include?
P: I, and Italian and foreign colleagues. All Sumerologists and Semitists.
BAR: So you have your own committee.
P: Not really, not a committee. We are just workers.
BAR: Who assigns the tablets within your group?
P: We discuss it and I ask my colleagues if they are interested in working on some tablets and if they agree, the decision is already made.
BAR: Can you tell me who is working with you?
BAR: You prefer not to name them.
P: Because I don’t like to make a big announcement, like the announcement of Matthiae’s International Committee. I prefer that we really work first. More than ten people are working on their transcriptions and we are prepared to accept collaboration from other Assyriologists as well.
BAR: How long do you think it will take you to publish all these nearly thousand transcriptions that you have?
P: If we have money and if we have health, we hope in five years. But surely in ten years we will publish all the materials which I have transcribed.
BAR: Has Mr. Matthiae made any effort to stop you from publishing the material you have?
P: You have already published in BAR that he has written a letter to editors of journals not to publish my material (laughter).
BAR: Has he done anything else?
P: Of course.
BAR: Do you want to tell us what he has done?
P: He asked the University of Naples not to publish the volumes of my material because he says it’s his property.
BAR: And what has the University of Naples decided?
P: To publish, of course. It has already appeared.
BAR: The catalog?
P: The catalog. The second volume—containing 50 tablets—will appear in the next few days.
BAR: Has Mr. Matthiae threatened you with a lawsuit?
P: Yes. Many times. But only threatened. He has never sued. He writes, “I will” and “I think … ” but he still “thinks,” because he has no case.
BAR: You have said that there is a flood story in the tablets that has some similarities to the flood story in Genesis. According to a Washington Post story, dated December 9, 1979, based on information supplied by Professor Biggs, the flood story in the Ebla tablets has now been reduced to a single word translated as “water.” Is that true?
P: That’s very interesting. Who told the journalist this? Who gave him this information ?
BAR: According to the article, Robert Biggs.
P: You must ask Bob Biggs, not me.
BAR: Well, is that true, is there a flood story?
P: Maybe. I think one text presents a flood story.
BAR: Has that been translated?
P: No, not yet.
BAR: Would you make that transcription available to me?
P: That’s too difficult now. Because every transcription you cannot have. If I give you a transcription, that’s no help. You must have the first tentative translation of the tablet.
BAR: What if we wanted to print it so that other scholars could try to translate it?
P: If the other scholars are interested, yes I would give it. But I am not sure the other scholars are interested. (laughter).
BAR: According to the same Washington Post story, the creation story which is in the Ebla tablets now turns out to be four lines of poetry in which not a single word has been translated.
P: It’s now been translated.
BAR: It’s translated?
P: Why yes, of course. I have included a translation in my Ebla book, the whole text. And a scientific edition appeared in Oriens Antiquus [The translation appears in the next issue of BAR; see “Ebla and the Bible—Observations on the New Epigrapher’s Analysis,” BAR 06:06.]
BAR: What about the appearance of Ya in the tablets as a divine element in Eblaite names? Professor Archi, the new epigrapher on Professor Matthiae’s committee, has written that you are wrong, that Ya, as a divine element, as a shortened form of Yahweh, does not appear in the tablets and that it is simply a hypocoristicon, a diminutive as it were, like Mickey. Have you changed your mind about the appearance of Ya in the tablets?
P: No, no. I still maintain it.
BAR: On what do you base your arguments?
P: First, I have refuted what Professor Archi has written. The Ya names, the theophoric element Ya, is found in first position not in second position, and it is found with and without the determinative DINGIR (signifying a god). During the period of King Ebrium a change occurred in the tablets. Names with il were mostly supplanted with names with Ya (Archi to the contrary notwithstanding). And I believe that Ya and il names mean simply Divine Element, God; not the God IL or the God YA, but God generally. This is demonstrated also in the God lists from Mesopotamia. This is very important. In the God list from Fara, my assistant, Dr. Pietro Mander, found the God YA. Also in an economic tablet from Mesopotamia from the third millennium—we have an offering to the God Ya. So that the existence of this God is sure, and I cannot understand why some of my colleagues don’t want to accept the reality. Really I cannot understand it.
BAR: Is there any relationship between this God YA and the later Hebrew God.
P: I don’t know. Professor Archi and Professor [Anson] Rainey [of Tel Aviv University] speak of Ya-Yahweh, but I have never made such an equation. This is a problem which must be evaluated by religion scholars not by an Assyriologist.
BAR: Does the city Ur appear in the territory of Haran in the Ebla tablets? Abraham was born in Ur, and travelled with his father to Haran.
P: I remember.
BAR: There has been some dispute about where the Biblical Ur is.
P: I know.
BAR: I wonder if the Ebla tablets shed any light on this.
P: We know from the Ebla tablets that a city Ur was surely in northern Mesopotamia.
BAR: You know this?
P: In the territory of Haran. But that is all we can say. It was a city. If this is the city where Abraham came from 200, 300, or 400 or 500 years later, we don’t I know.
BAR: But is this Ur in the territory of Haran?
BAR: And it’s referred to as Ur in the territory of Haran?
P: Yes. In one tablet, but we have the city itself mentioned often. In one tablet it is mentioned in Haranki, which can mean only in the region, in the territory of Haran. It is important for people to know this.
BAR: As you know, in Mr. Archi’s Biblica article, he tweaks you because you haven’t published, even in the geographical lists, any references to Sodom and Gomorrah. Do you remember that in his article?
P: Yes, yes, of course. But I cannot help it if Archi cannot read what I have published. If he cannot see, I cannot help it. My answer to Mr. Archi is very hard, I know, but …
BAR: Mr. Archi also suggests that you are wrong in saying that kings at Ebla were anointed like Israelite kings many years later.
P: Mr. Archi must learn Sumerian. This is my answer. He doesn’t know Sumerian. Secondly, I am convinced that Archi’s article was politically motivated. It is not a scientific work which he has written, but only a political statement for the Syrians. Archi wrote this article and denied all relations between Ebla and the Bible only to please the Syrians.
BAR: Is he a Sumerologist?
P: No, he’s a Hittitologist.
BAR: You are now seen as a proponent of the importance of Ebla tablets for Biblical studies.
P: No, I have never said that. I have not emphasized the Biblical connections. Ebla is a great discovery because it allows us to know another civilization. That references to the Bible are there doesn’t mean that Ebla is important for the Bible. As I stated three years ago, it would be a mistake to consider Ebla in the light of the Bible and to study the Bible in the light of Ebla. It is a mistake which often happens, like the errors of Pan-Babylonianism, and the errors of Pan-Ugaritism.
BAR: Do you think that the Ebla tablets will eventually shed new light, new understanding on the Biblical world?
P: Surely, surely. I would be surprised if the Ebla tablets did not shed light on the Bible, because the Bible is the most important and largest text of a Semitic language from a later period that we have. So that we must find some relation in lexicon, in outlook, in culture. There are important links between Ebla and other Canaanite cultures of later periods. So it would be very unusual if we did not find in the Bible some customs which are already attested to in the Ebla tablets.
BAR: How about historical connections? Do you think there is any possibility of any historical connections?
P: No, it’s impossible. There’s too large a time gap between Ebla and the Biblical people.
BAR: There’s no possibility of putting the Patriarchal Age in the third millennium?
P: No, I don’t believe. As a scholar, I don’t believe it. This is a problem which must be decided by Biblical scholars, not me. I remain an Assyriologist.
BAR: Do you have any other thoughts 052about the significance of these tablets?
P: The structure of the Eblaite state was quite unusual. The king was elected every seven years by the governors of the land, which were like the elders of the State. This is a new discovery. According to the documents which I have studied, the 14 governors of the land are the fathers or the chiefs (sheikhs) of the most important families of Ebla. This is a new feature of state organization which must be distinguished from the Egyptian model on the one hand and from the Mesopotamian model, on the other, where the king is appointed and comes from God. In Ebla it is very different.
BAR: Do you think that this has parallels in the Biblical leadership of the elders?
P: The elders are the judges.
BAR: Do you find a parallel between them and the Biblical judges?
P: The Eblaite judges do not fulfill a judicial function. They are governors like the Biblical judges. This is the basis on which I see a parallel. Archi [in his Biblica article] denies this.
BAR: He says that the Eblaite judges are palace authorities.
P: That’s nonsense. He says the Ebla culture is urban culture, whereas the Biblical judges belong to a culture with tribes. But Eblaite culture is a tribal culture. The governor, elders, are the chiefs or the heads of the large, important families of the city of Ebla—just as in medieval times, our cities like Genoa, Venice, Amalfi—you remember?—or Hamburg in the north—were commercial centers where the power was concentrated in the hands of the important families. This was obviously an urban civilization, not a nomadic civilization.
BAR: But still organized along tribal lines?
P: Yes, of course. This is no surprise to me. The Arabic states today are organized on a tribal system. The Sheikh—what is the Sheikh of Saudi Arabia? It’s one family which rules over all the families of the kingdom.
BAR: The Syrian ambassador to Washington said that he didn’t like some of your early statements because, he says, “Dr. Pettinato tried to give interpretations to the Ebla tablets with a political dimension. This is what we didn’t like.” Do you have a response to that?
P: Yes. I was very angry about that statement. I am a scholar. I am not a politician, like the ambassador. I have never made a statement with “political dimensions.” Everything I have said is only scholarly truth. I never had any intention of making a political statement. If someone says I do, that makes me very angry.
BAR: Do you think the Syrian authorities have tried to interfere and affect what the scholars say?
P: This is very difficult to say. I know what the Syrians say to me. I didn’t know before what the ambassador said because the Syrians had said to me that we want the Ebla tablets to be published very quickly so that every scholar can check what is written in the tablets.
BAR: You said that Professor Archi wrote what he did in order to please the Syrian authorities ?
BAR: He must know what the Syrian authorities want.
P: What they want him to say. I agree that some exaggerations have been made in finding parallels between the Bible and the Ebla tablets, but I cannot agree with the conclusion of those people who deny all parallels. This is too much. That is not scientific. And if I find in the tablets what Mr. Archi denies, then I must say, “You are incompetent or you will not say what is in the tablets.” The second sometimes is clear.
BAR: You obviously believe that the Syrians would be pleased if there were no Biblical connections.
P: Yes. If you call the language of Ebla Arabic, it means only one thing: that you are making a political statement. No scholar can believe that. Nobody.
BAR: Are you referring to Mr. Archi’s Biblica article?
P: Yes. In his article, Archi wrote: “The language of Ebla is so ancient as to still show morphological elements common to Old Akkadian and to the languages of most ancient structure from South Arabia … as for [ Ebla’s] lexical relationships, it does not tie Ebla itself to Canaan, so as to justify the classification of the language as Early Canaanite.” With regard to the reference to the languages of South Arabia, permit me to be more explicit: If one seeks to please the descendants of the Eblaites [the Syria authorities], one might reasonably call Eblaite an Arabic dialect.
The following interview with Professor Giovanni Pettinato was conducted by BAR Editor Hershel Shanks on May 4, 1980. Professor Pettinato was the original epigrapher of the Italian Mission to Ebla. He resigned following a bitter personal and scholarly dispute with the mission director and chief archaeologist, Paolo Matthiae. Matthiae has now appointed a 10-man committee to publish the Ebla tablets and other related finds and studies. This 10-man [Matthiae’s] committee is referred to several times in this interview. Matthiae has replaced Pettinato with a new chief epigrapher, Professor Alfonso Archi, also of the University of Rome. In an article […]