My work on the royal letters of the Ur III kings began many years ago as a doc- toral dissertation at Yale University under the direction of W. W. Hallo. Soon after I began work on my thesis, I visited the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago to examine the pertinent cuneiform documents that were in their care. Advised by a friend to pay my respects to the great master, A. Leo Oppenheim, I knocked on

the frame of his open door and was granted an audience. After a minor exchange of pleasantries, Prof. Oppenheim asked me what I was doing at the Institute; when I told him that I was editing the Sumerian literary correspondence, he looked into my eyes and stated dismissively: “This is work for an experienced scholar, not for a be-ginner.” This was hardly what I wanted to hear at the time, and I left in a somewhat depressed mood. I eventually finished my dissertation, and by that time I had come to appreciate the wisdom of his prescient, if troubling statement, but I never saw him again and was unable to acknowledge his advice.