Assyrian Women’s Contribution to International Trade with Anatolia

The Assyrian women* living in Aššur during the 19th century BC had own property in their own right, independent of their husbands and also distinct from their dowries.[1] Their capital originated, at least partially, from their contribution to the long distance trade with Anatolia, established by the Assyrians since the end of the 20th century BC. The following presentation is devoted to the involvement of women in this international trade and their income from the sale of their textiles.

Textile production is well-known in large scale manufacturing organised by Ur III or Old Babylonian palaces; archaeological material also documents the private sphere, with discoveries of spindle whorls and loom weights in houses. The Old Assyrian level has not been excavated at Aššur, thus to understand textile production in this city, we rely almost exclusively on written sources. Thanks to the numerous letters sent by women from Aššur to their family members at Kaneš, we can follow the private textile production in Aššur and the conditions of its sale in Anatolia. The sale of women’s textiles in Anatolia generated revenues for them. To estimate the women’s contribution to the international trade it is necessary to evaluate the income per garment and the number of textiles produced by a household.


1. Textile production

The cuneiform documentation excavated at Kültepe, with the help of other corpuses, allow the reconstruction in varying amount of detail of the textile production by Aššur women, from the purchase of wool to the sale of textiles in Anatolia, or their use for clothing family members.

1.1. Purchase of wool

From the letters they sent to Kaneš, we learn that the Assyrian women used large quantities of wool for the production of textiles, both for their households and for the long distance trade with Anatolia.[2] The wool was bought on the market in Aššur or at the city gate. The kutānum-textile, which was the most common type of fabric exported to the West by Aššur women, could be woven with expensive wool from Šurbu located in the Hamrin Mountains, Southeast of Aššur, in an area well-known for sheep breeding.[3]

Women’s letters refer regularly to the lack of wool on the market. According to the Royal archives from Mari dated to the 18th century BC, this could be caused by political tensions.[4] In a letter sent to the king, a high official, proposed that the plucking of the sheep should take place, not as it used to be, in the vicinity of Aššur, but where the flocks used to graze, in the Suhûm, Southeast of Mari: “The plucking (of sheep) from Suhûm must be done here, so that the Aššur people come and it must be here that they take the wool.”[5] This was a way for Mari to control the people of the Suhûm, and their contact with the Assyrians. As herds no longer came to Aššur, wool was lacking on the market.[6]

When they could not find wool at a reasonable price on the market, women wrote from Aššur to their relatives in Anatolia asking them for small quantities of wool: “(Here), in the City (of Aššur), wool is expensive” and “When you send the purse, enclose some wool”.[7] Lamassī complains that she did not receive the wool sent by her husband from Anatolia:[8] “You wrote me as follows: ‘Ahuqar and Ia-šar are bringing you each 5 minas of wool.’ (But) they gave me nothing! Ia-šar (said) as follows: ‘I will myself make one textile for him.’ ” Wool was then carried to Aššur on donkeys together with gold and silver.[9] But these wool shipments to Aššur concern only small quantities of wool, because of the cost of the transport.

1.2. Manufacturing of textiles

If the wool bought on the Aššur market was in the form of raw material, one had to remove from it dust and waste wool. It was aired, disentangled, cleaned by teasing, and could be combed before being spun into a thread.[10] None of these activities are attested by our documentation, but we can imagine that they were time-consuming. An Ur III text indicates that one woman could clean and comb 125g in a day.[11]

It has been presumed that spinning and weaving were the main activity of all the women of the house, including young girls, elderly women and female slaves.[12] Women’s letters sent to Anatolia contain allusions to the making of textiles, but data are scarce and technical details not always clear. The Assyrian merchants marketing the Assyrian products in Central Asia were able to judge the quality of the textiles and to give them technical advice. Puzur-Aššur sent a letter to the lady Waqqurtum insisting on the thinness of the textile and its density: “Add per piece one mina more of wool than you used for the previous textile you sent me, but they must remain thin!”, and giving its size, 4.5×4 metres: “A finished textile that you make must be nine cubits long and eight cubits wide.”[13] This implies that it was not woven in one piece. This letter which was sent to Aššur was found in Kaneš lower city, it could be a copy. Merchants’ remarks about the textile qualities were sometimes quoted by the women while answering back, as in this letter sent by Lamassī to her husband:[14] 

« Why do you write to me every time as follows: ‘The textiles which you keep sending me are not good?’ Who is this man who lives in your house and who is criticizing the textiles when they get to him? »

They also cite some received advice indicating that they followed it. But there could be some misunderstanding. When Lamassī wrote to her husband that she had reduced the size – i.e. put less wool – in her textiles, that was presumably not what Pūšu-kēn intended; he wanted denser, i.e. warmer textiles:[15]

As for the textiles about which you wrote to me as follows: ‘They are (too) small, they are not good!’ Was it not at your own request that I reduced the size? And now you write (again), saying as follows: ‘Process half a mina (of wool) more in each of your textiles.’ Well, I have done so.”

According to another letter, she added half a mina of wool per textile but alerts her husband that those she is sending were made previously:[16]

Those to which I am adding ½ mina (of wool) each, I will send you with Ia-šar. Those that Urani is bringing you, (were made) earlier, before you wrote to me.”

Assyrian women were thus producing textiles to be exported to Anatolia, their production was much appreciated there and it was improved by advice given by merchants aware of the demands of the local market.

1.3. Transport of textiles to Anatolia

Once woven, textiles needed to be finished, i.e. cleaned; this was done by the ašlākum, the “washerman”, usually a male specialist. It is not clear whether the textiles sent to Anatolia were finished in Aššur or not, but when they were sent as garments for the Assyrian merchants there, they were first cleaned in Aššur as we learn from this letter, again from Lamassī to her husband:[17] 

“As for the textile (made of wool) from Šurbu about which you wrote me as follows: ‘Send me a garment for me to wear’, the garment has indeed been made, but (it is) now with the washerman, so I have not yet sent (it) up to you. I will send up to you by a later (caravan) the textile (made of wool) from Šurbu for you to wear.”

Women of Aššur used to entrust several textiles to travellers going along with caravans of merchandise to Kaneš: “I will send to you with later caravans whatever textiles I can manage (to make).”[18] These transporters added the textiles to their own consignment and so would generally not accept more than ten textiles, often less; they also regularly refuse to take textiles as Lamassī complains:[19]

“Kulumaya is bringing you 9 textiles. Iddin-Suen is bringing you 3 textiles. Ela refused to accept textiles (for transport). Iddin-Suen refused to accept 5 textiles more (for transport).”

An average of entrusted textiles could be five pieces according to Pūšu-kēn who writes to his wife: “Give to the servants good quality textiles in lots of five so that they carry (them) to me.”[20] Women usually specified in letters sent separately the number and quality of the textiles they sent: “Abatananum is bringing you 3 kutānum-textiles. Šumī-abia is bringing you 1 heavy textile.”[21] But they could not be always certain that their textiles arrived at the destination. In the following letter, Lamassī asks her husband to acknowledge the receipt of her textiles:[22]

“When you were still here, I gave to Aššur-malik 1 heavy textile, and upon his return, I gave him 1 kamdum-textile (and) 3 kutānum-textiles. Why, though I repeatedly send textiles to you (do you claim that you have not received any)? Send me a message saying if he did or did not bring (them) to you so that I know (about it)!”

We have no idea about the cost of the transport; perhaps the women had some agreements with the transporters, paying their services in kind. But taxes were deduced on the price of the textiles according to the following letter sent by Šūbultum: “Dān-Aššur is bringing you 7 kutānum-textiles (and) a tablet with my seal; they are not liable to dātum-toll and import tax.”[23]


2. An activity paid by piecework

The sale of their textiles by relatives in Anatolia assured an income to these women of Aššur. But only part of their production was commercialized.

2.1. Textile production for exports

In fact, the intensive production of textiles by Aššur women was intended both to dress the household members and for the international trade. We have no data about the existence of a centralized textile production in Aššur, as it is attested for example during the Middle Assyrian period.[24] There is also no mention of the purchase of large amounts of wool by local institutions. Textiles sold by Aššur eponyms could have previously been bought by the House of the eponyms or Town Hall to Babylonian merchants or to Aššur houses.[25] The import of numerous Babylonian textiles supplemented local production, and thousands of textiles were thus exported each year to Anatolia.[26]

It seems clear that the textile production of these Aššur households exceeded their needs; the surplus was sent to Anatolia, thus contributing to the international trade. The Assyrian merchants’ demand in Anatolia was very high as we understand from Ababaya’s letter to Kulia: “What is the purpose of constantly writing me as follows:  ‘Send me five textiles!’ ”,[27] or from Lamassī’s letters to her husband: “I try my best to make and send textiles to you!”.[28] As well, Tarām-Kūbi wrote to her husband Innaya that she could not follow the demand: “6You keep sending me consignments (of silver); but, here, I cannot send you (in return) each time textiles that (are) heavy.”[29]

Production of textiles intended for export to Anatolia was difficult to combine with weaving of textiles for home use.[30] With about a dozen of people to clothe at home, their need for textiles was important as explains Lamassī to her husband:[31]

“If you are my master, do not be angry on account of the garments about which you have written me and (which) I have not sent you. Since (our) girl has grown up, I have made a few heavy textiles for the wagon. And I also made garments for the household personnel and for the children, (this is why) I could not manage to send you some textiles. I will send you with later caravans whatever textiles I can manage (to make).”

Moreover, some of the garments made in Aššur and sent to Anatolia were not for sale but for the Assyrian men to wear, husbands, brothers and sons, and other relatives of the Aššur women. As mentioned earlier, Lamassī made for Pūšu-kēn a garment from expensive Šurbu wool. Some fabrics could even be sent as garment for the local family of the Assyrian traders. The daughter of Aššur-nādā sent a shawl for the Anatolian wife of her father, adding “(…) I shall (so) love your amtum-wife who is with you in Kaneš.”[32]

Wealthy households in Aššur could include about ten women, including the aged ones, young daughter-in-laws, children, and female slaves. A half-dozen or so of small size textiles could be necessary yearly to cloth both these women and their male relatives in Anatolia.

2.2. Payment for the exported textiles

As their textiles were sold on the Anatolian markets, Aššur women received back small amounts of silver.[33] This is quite clear from several letters sent by women who claim the price of their textiles, as, for example, Tarām-Kūbi in a letter to her brother Imdīlum: “Why don’t you send to me the proceeds from my textiles?”[34], or Lamassī to her husband: “Concerning the textiles that Aššur-malik brought with the previous caravan, why don’t you send me the silver?”[35] or “As for me, in order that from each caravan trip at least 10 shekels of silver accrue to your house, I try my best to make and send textiles to you![36]

Some letters give detailed accounts between husband and wife concerning the sale of textiles, as for example this message sent by Pūšu-kēn to Lamassī and for which we have a copy excavated at Kaneš:[37]

“The pri[ce] of your previous textiles has been paid to you. Concerning the 20 textiles that you gave [to] Puzur-Aššur: 1 textile for the import tax, 2 textiles as purchase, 17 textiles of yours remain. Ahuqar brought me 6 textiles, Ia-šar brought me 6 textiles, Iddin-Suen brought me 2 textiles; to these, I added 3 textiles for Puzur-Aššur. I made for him an upqum-packet of 20 textiles and I put (it) at his disposal. The remainder of [your textiles], 11 textiles, (are) on my account.
[For] these, Kulumaya is bringing you under my seal 1 ½ minas of silver – its import [tax] added, its transport tax paid for. You w[rote me] as follows: ‘In[cluded with] the textiles that I sent [you] (are) 2 textiles from Šūbultum.’ (So) of the 1 [½ minas] of silver that Kulumaya is bringing [to you], 1 mina of silver (is) yours (and) give ½ m[ina] to Šūbultum. They will bring me from Burušhattum the price of the heavy textile from Šūb[ultum]. I will get together the 7 shekels of silver from Ilī-bāni that the son of Kuzari has paid and the silver from the sale of the rest of your textiles and will send [(it) to you] by Iddin-Suen.”

Pūšu-kēn explains here to his wife how the 20 textiles she sent him have been sold and details the amount of silver she can expect from their sale. Among these, were some textiles made by Šūbultum who should get back their proceeds.

Letters often quote amounts of silver sent to women in Aššur.[38] Also, several private notices list šēbultum-consignments; these correspond to small amounts of silver or gold meant for women,[39] which could sometimes correspond to the payment for textiles they had sent to Kaniš for sale, even if this is not always indicated. With the silver they received, women of Aššur could buy grain for their household and wool to make more textiles: “The time is now, be sure to send me silver you have in exchange for my textiles, so that I can buy barley, about 10 ṣimdu measures (ca. 300 l.).”[40]


3. Evaluation of their contribution to the international trade

Part of the payment they received for their textiles increased the personal capital of women. It is almost impossible to give an evaluation of the percentage that was spent on food and daily life goods and that which they kept for them or reinvested in financial operations. But we can try to compute the income per garment as well as the textiles produced yearly by Aššur households. 

3.1. Income per garment

Because we lack documentation from Aššur, it is quite difficult to estimate the income per textile. However, some letters sent to Kaneš give indications about the amount of silver women hoped to receive or did receive for the textiles they sent. In a message addressed to her brother, Tarām-Kūbi complains that her textiles have been underpaid:[41]

“Kutallānum brought you 6 textiles in his previous transport. 7-8You sent me 1 mina 10 shekels of silver, 8-11but [si]nce you left, you have never sent me any other consignment. 11-14To whom else but me would you send (only) 1 mina 10 shekels for 6 textiles? 15-16(Now) Kutallānum is bringing you 6 kutānum-textiles. 17-18If you (are) my brother, you should not send me (less) than ⅓ mina per (textile)!”

The 6 textiles transported by Kutallānum were paid 1 mina 10 shekels, thus 11 2/3 shekels a piece, but Tarām-Kūbi claims 1/3 mina per textile (i.e. 20 shekels). In the following letter, Ištar-lamassī received 12 shekels of silver, plus another 5 shekels for a textile, thus 17 shekels: “Enna-Suen is bringing you a textile (…) Enna-Suen brought me 12 shekels of silver, and he also brought me another 5 shekels separately.”[42] As a matter of comparison, a list of expenses made in Anatolia for a wedding feast quote the purchase of 5 kutānum-textiles at a price of 5/6 minas, thus 10 shekels a piece.[43] But we know that such quality textiles could be sold at 15 shekels a piece in Kaneš; thus, after all the taxes deduced, women could hope to get back between 10 and 12 shekels for each textile they sent to Anatolia. Taxes were indeed levied on the textiles sent to Anatolia, and on the silver sent back to Aššur. According to the letter of Pūšu-kēn to his wife quoted above,[44] on an amount of 20 textiles, one piece was given to pay the import tax (5% of the textiles) and two others were bought by the palace at a low price (equivalent to the tithe of 10%). On the silver, proceeds of the textiles, a transport tax was levied by the kārum authorities of 1/60 and an import tax by Aššur Town Hall amounting to 4% of the precious metal. On the 1 ½ minas of silver sent, the transport tax has already being paid, and the import tax has been added. So Lamassī receives 1 ½ minas all taxes deducted for 11 textiles, i.e. a little more than 8 shekels each, which is quite low.

The fine and good quality textiles were more expensive according to a letter sent by Puzur-Aššur to Waqqurtum: “The thin textile you sent me, make (more) like it and send (them) to me with Aššur-idī and I will send you ½ mina of silver (apiece).”[45]

To compute the income per textile exported to Anatolia, we need to know the price of the wool at Aššur. Unfortunately, it is not given by texts from Kaneš. However, a royal inscription of Šamšī-Adad I (18th century BC) gives a list of basic commodities and the quantities that one could buy for one shekel of silver: “When I built the temple for the god Enlil, my lord, the prices in my city, Aššur, (were the following): 2 gur of barley could be purchased for 1 shekel of silver; 15 minas of wool for 1 shekel of silver; 2 bán of oil for 1 shekel of silver, according to the prices of my city Aššur.”[46] A price of 15 minas of wool per shekel of silver seems to be the average for Upper Mesopotamia during the first half of the 2nd millennium BC.[47] This price probably applied to raw material. So with 1 shekel of silver it was possible to acquire 15 minas of wool, which could be used to weave 3 textiles.[48] Indeed, according to a letter from Lamassī already quoted, one needed 5 minas of wool (2.5 kg) to make a textile.[49] During the cleaning of wool before spinning, there could be a waste of 20 to 30% of the original wool;[50] with 5 minas of wool it may have been possible to produce a textile weaving about 4 minas (2 kg).

Thus, with the income of one textile corresponding to 10-12 shekels of silver, a woman could buy wool to produce 30 to 36 textiles if she had no other expenses to make, although this was usually not the case. According to a letter sent by the consecrated woman Ištar-lamassī, a third of the sale price of a textile could be invested in the purchase of wool to make various quality textiles:[51]

“Šū-Anum, son of Hanu, brought me 12 shekels of silver (…) From the silver that the son of Hanu brought, I made 1 Abarnian-textile, 2 fine (textiles) and 4 medium quality (textiles), and they are deposited in the …”

With 12 shekels of silver, it was possible to buy 3 talents of wool. She made altogether 7 textiles. With an average of 5 minas per textile, she needed about 35 minas of wool, thus a little more than one fourth of the 12 shekels of silver available. The remaining silver was used to buy barley for the household – Šamšī-Adad’s inscription indicates that it was possible to purchase 2 gur (600 litres) for 1 shekel of silver – other food products, various utensils for the house, and perhaps some textiles to send to Anatolia.

3.2. Estimated number of textiles produced by a household

It is difficult to evaluate the total number of textiles sent annually by each Aššur household; these were supposedly counted in dozens, each weighing about 4 minas, plus or minus one or a half of mina of wool.[52] In fact, in such estimation, each parameter is based on assumptions. However, thanks to the data given in the Ur III corpus and experiments made at the Centre for Textile Research (Copenhagen), we can present a tentative estimation.[53] Our calculations will be based on pieces of textiles measuring 4 × 4.5 metres and weighing 4 minas (2.5 kg), but prepared from 5 minas of raw wool.

The women had first to prepare and comb the raw wool they have purchased. As seen above, a craftsperson would only prepare for spinning about 125 g of wool a day (op. cit. note 11). Thus, for 5 minas, it would have taken 20 days to prepare the necessary amount of cleaned and combed wool. Perhaps this estimation is a little pessimistic.

As for spinning, depending naturally on the thickness of the thread, it is possible to spin an average of 35 to 50 metres of thread per hour.[54] To weave a square metre of textile, depending on the density of the fabric, one needs about 2 km of thread, and some 2 to 5% more for the setting of the loom; one person had thus to spin for 5 days to obtain this 2 km of thread. For a 18 m2 piece (4 × 4.5 metres), at least 36 km of thread were necessary, thus some 3 months of spinning for a single woman.

The preparation of a loom to weave a 3.5 square metre textile needed, according to Ur III texts, the work of three women during three days, and two women could weave on this loom some 50 cm per day.[55] But according to experiments, one person is able to weave about 50 cm per 8 hours day of work depending naturally on the width of the loom.[56] The Assyrian textile measuring 4 × 4.5 metres would presumably not be woven in one piece and we must suppose that it was woven in at least two, preferably three, pieces which were then sewn together. To set up the looms, one needed at least some 9 women-days. If the textile was made from three strips of fabric of 1.5 metres wide each, a woman would achieve it in a minimum of 24 days (3 × 8 days), a number which needs to be double if women were working on the looms by pairs. Adding the different stages of work, we obtain the following results:[57] 

 Tasks / women-days  One woman per loom Two women per loom
 Cleaning and combing






 Setting of the loom(s)






 Total of working


[4 2/3 months]  


[5 months 1/2]  

We can thus reasonably suppose that, if textile production was performed almost throughout the year,[58] a women was able to weave the equivalent of 2 to 2.5 textiles (of 4 × 4.5 m) a year. A wealthy household such as the one of Lamassī could perhaps house a dozen active girls and women who would then be able to produce some 20 to 25 textiles a year, among which 4 or 5 would have been needed each year to clothe the members of the household.

According to the letters found in Kaneš, the shipments of textiles by Aššur women seem indeed quite regular.[59] Lamassī’s textile shipments to her husband can be summarized as follows:[60]


Shipments of textiles by Lamassī and names of transporters

165 Kulumaya: 9 textiles Iddin-Sîn 3 textiles    
166 Kulumaya: 9 textiles Iddin-Sîn 3 textiles    
163 Done : Kulumaya 3 kamsum + 6 kutānum Done: Aššur-malik 5 kutānum Urani = 8 (before adding wool) Ia-šar (later on + ½ mina)
164   Done : Aššur-malik1 heavy+1 kamdum + 3 kutānum    
167 Aššur-bāšti : 2 textiles      
168 Gave 20 textiles to Puzur-Aššur some from Šubultum Iddin-Sîn 2 textiles Ahu-waqar 6 textiles Ia-šār 6 textiles
169 Aššuriš-takil 1 heavy textile      

The first three texts (165, 166, 163) deal with the same shipment transported by Kulumaya, in the first two letters it is announced, according to the third letter, the shipment has been made. The third and the sixth texts both deal with a shipment by Ia-šar (163,168). Texts three and four refer to the same shipment transported by Aššur-malik (163, 164). It is not impossible that the last text refers to more or less the same period. Adding all these textiles together, we obtain a total of 33 textiles sent by Lamassī to Anatolia in a limited span of time, of perhaps a year or two. 

* * *

 Thousands of textiles were exported each year by the Assyrians to Anatolia; the Aššur women production was complemented by textiles bought from the Babylonians and called “Akkadian” textiles. There is no reference to a possible centralized textile production with workshops belonging to the palace or to temples as attested elsewhere in Upper Mesopotamia or Babylonia. Thus, textile production was a private activity, done by women at home.

For one piece of textile, the expenses of wool amounted to 1/3 shekel of silver, and a woman needed some four two-thirds to five and a half months to prepare the wool, spin the thread and weave a 4 × 4.5 m textile weighing 2 kg. The income per textile, minus the price of its wool, was about 11 shekels per item. A woman was able to produce two to two and a half textiles per year, thus a household of a dozen of women could manufacture between twenty-five and thirty textiles per year, most of them being sold in Anatolia; this corresponded to an income average of 5 minas of silver, which was the price of a small house in Aššur.[61] A few texts from Late Bronze Age Aššur show that such a profitable business also went on during the Middle Assyrian period.[62]



Albayrak, İ.
2002     Kültepe’den Değişik Bir Masraf Listesi, Archivum Anatolicum 5, 1-10.

Andersson Strand, E.
2012     The Textile chaîne opératoire: Using a Multidisciplinary Approach to Textile Archaeology with a Focus on the Ancient Near East. In C. Breniquet, M. Tengberg & E. Andersson (eds), with the collaboration of M.-L. Nosch, Prehistory of Textiles in the Ancient Near East, Paléorient 38, 21-40.

Andersson Strand, E. & Cybulska, M.
2013     Visualising Ancient Textiles – how to make a Textile Visible on the Basis of an Interpretation of an Ur III Text. InM.-L. Nosch, H. Koefoed & E. Andersson Strand (eds), Textile Production and Consumption in the Ancient Near East, Ancient Textiles 12, Oxford – Oakville, 113-127.

Breniquet, C.
2008     Essai sur le tissage en Mésopotamie, des premières communautés sédentaires à la fin du IIIème millénaire avant J.-C., Travaux de la Maison René-Ginouvès 5, Paris.

Charpin. D & Durand, J.-M.
1997     Aššur avant l’Assyrie. Mari, Annales de Recherches Interdisciplinaires 8, Paris, 367-392.

Dercksen, J. G.
2004     Old Assyrian Institutions. Publications de l’Institut historique et archéologique néerlandais de Stamboul 98, Leiden.

Firth, R. & Nosch, M.-L.
2012     Spinning and Weaving Wool in Ur III Administrative Texts, Journal of Cuneiform Studies 64, 67-84.

Garelli, P.
1965     Tablettes cappadociennes de collections diverses (suite).  Revue d’Assyriologie 59, 19-48, 149-176.

Grayson, A. K.
1987     Assyrian Rulers of the Third and Second Millennia BC (to 1115 BC). The Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia Assyrian Periods 1, Toronto.

Günbattı, C.
1987     Ankara Anadolu Medeniyetleri Müzesi’nde Bulunan Üç Tablet, Cumhuriyetin 60. Yıldönümü armaanı, Ankara, 189-199.

Lassen, A. W.
2010     The Trade in Wool in Old Assyrian Anatolia, Jaarbericht van het Vooraziatisch-Egyptisch Genootschap Ex Oriente Lux 42, 159-179.
in press Wool in Anatolia in the Old Assyrian Period. In C. Breniquet & C. Michel (eds) Wool Economy in the Ancient Near East and the Aegean: From the Beginnings of Sheep Husbandry to Institutional Textile Industry, Ancient Textiles 17, Oxford – Oakville.

Michel, C.
1998     Les enfants des marchands de Kaniš. In B. Lion, C. Michel & P. Villard (eds), Enfance et éducation au Proche-Orient ancien, Actes de la table ronde, Nanterre, Décembre 1997, Ktèma 22, 1997, 91-108. (
2001     Correspondance des marchands de Kaniš au début du IIe millénaire avant J.-C. LAPO 19. Paris.
2006     Femmes et production textile à Aššur au début du IIe millénaire avant J.-C. Techniques et culture 46, 281-297. (
2013     Women and Economy in the Family’s Sphere According to the Old Assyrian Sources, First International Workshop of the French-Japanese ANR programme Chorus REFEMA (Rôle économique des femmes en Mésopotamie ancienne), Nanterre, November 2012, online publication (
in press      Wool Trade in Upper Mesopotamia and Syria According to Old Babylonian and Old Assyrian Texts. In C. Breniquet & C. Michel (eds) Wool Economy in the Ancient Near East and the Aegean: From the Beginnings of Sheep Husbandry to Institutional Textile Industry, Ancient Textiles 17, Oxford – Oakville.
to appear      Women in Aššur and Kaniš according to the private archives of the Assyrian merchants at beginning of the IInd millennium B.C., Writings from the Ancient World, SBL, Baltimore

Michel, C. & Veenhof, K. R.
2010     The Textiles Traded by the Assyrians in Anatolia (19th-18th centuries BC). In C. Michel & M.-L. Nosch (eds), Textile Terminologies in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean from the Third to the First Millennia BC, Ancient Textiles 8. Oxford – Oakville, 210-271.

Postgate, J. N.
in press    Wool, Hair and Textiles in Assyria. In C. Breniquet & C. Michel (eds) Wool Economy in the Ancient Near East and the Aegean: From the Beginnings of Sheep Husbandry to Institutional Textile Industry, Ancient Textiles 17, Oxford – Oakville.

Thomason, A. K.
2013     Her Share of the Profits: Women, Agency, and Textile Production at Kültepe/Kanesh in the Early Second Millennium BC. In M.-L. Nosch, H. Koefoed & E. Andersson Strand (eds.), Textile Production and Consumption in the Ancient Near East. Archaeology, Epigraphy, Iconography. 93-112. Ancient Textiles Series 12, Oxford – Oakville.

Veenhof, K.R.
1972     Aspects of Old Assyrian Trade and its Terminology. Studia et  Documenta 10. Leiden.
1977     Some social effects of the Old Assyrian Trade. Iraq 39, 109-118.
2011     Houses in the ancient city of Assur, in B. S. Düring, A. Wossink & P. M. M. G. Akkermans, Correlates of Complexity. Essays in Archaeology and Assyriology Dedicated to Diederik J. W. Meijer in Honour of his 65th Birthday, PIHANS 116, 211-231.

Waetzoldt, H.
1972     Untersuchungen zur neusumerischen Textilindustrie. Roma.
2010     The Colours and Variety of Fabrics from Mesopotamia during the Ur III Period (2050BC). In C. Michel & M.-L. Nosch (eds), Textile Terminologies in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean from the Third to the First Millennia BC, 210-271. Ancient Textiles 8. Oxford – Oakville, 201-209.


* CNRS, ArScAn-HAROC, Maison Archéologie et Ethnologie, Nanterre. I would like to thank very much Richard Firth for his revision of my text.

[1] Michel 2013.
[2] Michel 2006b, 290-293; Michel in press.
[3] TC 2, 7:25-26 = Michel 2001, no. 108: “There is no Šurbu-wool available”. ‘Tablet Rendell’ = Michel to appear, no. 167, to Pūšu-kēn by his wife Lamassī: “As for the textile (made of wool) from Šurbu about which you wrote me (…) I will send up to you by a later (caravan) the textile (made of wool) from Šurbu for you to wear”. For good quality textiles made of this type of wool, see TC 2, 14:6. The location of Šurbu is discussed by Dercksen 2004, 16, note 32; Michel & Veenhof 2010, 221.
[4] Michel in press.
[5] Charpin & Durand 1997, 377 and 387-391, No. 4 (A 2459):rev.3’-6’, ù bu-qú-um Su-hi-im, an-na-nu-um li-ib-ba-qí-im-ma, ù lú-meš Aš-šu-ru-úki li-il-li-ku-nim-ma, an-na-nu-um-ma síg li-il-qú-ú.
[6]Another letter mentions the Assyrians complaining about the Suhûm people who prevented access for their traders, sheep, and wool, see Charpin & Durand 1997, No. 5 (A 4535-bis).
[7] BIN 4, 9 = Michel to appear, no. 163; Garelli 1965, 158, No. 25 = Michel to appear no. 147; BIN 6, 7 = Michel to appear.
[8] BIN 4, 9 = Michel to appear, no. 163.
[9] Prag I 554:9-10 mentions a shipment of silver to Aššur that includes “3 minas of wool for Waqqurtum”. Michel & Veenhof 2010, 216; Lassen 2010. There were important wool markets southeast of Kaneš, Michel 2006b; Dercksen 2004, 273-274; Lassen 2010, 167-170; Lassen in press.
[10] See Michel in press. “One comb” 1 mu-uš-ṭum , CCT 3, 31 = Michel to appear, no. 221:29.
[11] Waetzoldt 1972, T. 32, rev. i6-14, and Waetzoldt 2010, 207.
[12] Veenhof 1972, Michel 2006b, Michel to appear, chapters 3 and 4.
[13] TC 3, 17 = Michel to appear no. 162.
[14] BIN 6, 11 = Michel to appear, no. 165.
[15] BIN 4, 10 = Michel to appear, no. 164.
[16] BIN 4, 9 = Michel to appear, no. 163.
[17] Rendell = Michel to appear, no. 167.
[18] CCT 3, 20 Michel to appear no. 166.
[19] BIN 6, 11 = Michel to appear, no. 165. See also: texts 163 (Lamassī): “Urani is bringing you 8 textiles. Those to which I am adding ½ mina (of wool) each, I will send you with Ia-šar”.
[20] CCT 6, 11a = Michel to appear, no. 168.
[21] CCT 4, 8a = Michel to appear, no. 227 from Abaya to her brother-in-law Innaya.
[22] BIN 4, 10 = Michel to appear, no. 164.
[23]BIN 4, 85 = Michel to appear, no. 222.
[24] However, Dercksen 2004, 16 suggested that centralized and institutional production did exist. For the Middle Assyrian sources, see Postgate in press. It is attested also during the Old Babylonian period at Mari.
[25] Günbattı 1987, 197, and TPAK 1, 143; see Dercksen 2004, 14-15.
[26] Veenhof 1977, 114, note 18
[27] AKT 5, 9 = Michel to appear, no. 133
[28] BIN 6, 11 = Michel to appear, no. 165.
[29] CCT 3, 23b = Michel to appear no. 207.
[30] Veenhof 1972, p. 103-123; Michel 1998, p. 101-102; Michel 2006b; Michel to appear.
[31] CCT 3, 20 = Michel to appear no. 166.
[32] BIN 4, 88 = Michel to appear 172. See also text no. 221 for various textiles sent to women in Anatolia.
[33] Veenhof 1972; Michel 2001 (chapter 7); Michel 2006b; Thomason 2013.
[34] TC 1 5 = Michel to appear.
[35] RA 59 159 = Michel to appear. See also CCT 4, 21b = Michel to appear no. 169 to Pūšu-kēn and Aššur-malik from Lamassī: “Concerning the heavy textile that I sent you with the caravan of Aššuriš-takil, son of Sukkallia, it has arrived, (but) Pūšu-kēn (said) as follows: ‘He did not give (it) to me!’ There, make him acknowledge it and send me silver or the (equivalent of the) merchandise that is (waiting) for years!”
[36] BIN 6, 11 = Michel to appear, no 165. See also TC 3, 17 = Michel to appear, no.162 from Puzur-Aššur to Waqqurtum: “1 mina of silver – its import tax added, its transport fee paid – Aššur-idī brings you under my seal.” Then, it mentions the receipt of textiles.
[37] CCT 6, 11a = Michel to appear, no. 168.
[38] CCT 4, 13b = Michel to appear, no. 218 : Ab-šalim received successively 5 shekels by Ištar-palil, 5 shekels by Ataya and 3 shekels of silver by Nūr-kī-ilī. KTS 1, 2a = Michel to appear, no. Text 201: the same lady received 10 shekels more. See also BIN 4, 88 = Michel to appear, no. 172 written by a woman: “Ennam-Aššur br[ought me] ½ mina 5 shekels of silver. Puzur-Ištar brought me 5 shekels of silver (and) 3 shekels of gol[d]. Ṭāb-ṣilli-Aššur brought me 5 shekels of silver (and) 5 minas of copper.”
[39] See for example CCT 6, 27b = Michel to appear, no. 174, in which Lamassī and her daughter Ahaha receive 13 shekels of siliver, Šūbultum, 1 ½ shekels, Tarīš-mātum and Bēlātum, 1 ½ shekels and Lamassātum, 1 ½ shekels; or KTS 1, 50a = Michel to appear, no. 224 where Ab-šalim and Ahaha receive some silver as well.
[40] CCT 3, 24 = Michel to appear, no. 128.
[41] Or 50, no. 2 = Michel to appear, no. 170.
[42] LB 1201 = Michel to appear, no. 171.
[43] Albayrak 2002, p. 1-10 = Michel to appear, no. 14.
[44] CCT 6, 11a = Michel to appear, no. 168.
[45] TC 3, 17 = Michel to appear, no. 162. Confirmed by AKT 2, 52 = Michel to appear, no. 173, letter to to Mannum-kī-Aššur: thus (says) Šīmat-Sîn: “I gave one fine kutānum-textile to Šū-Enlil asa tadmiqtum-interest-free loan. He promised me ½ mina of silver.
[46] Grayson 1987, A.0.39.1:59-72, i-nu-ma é dEn-líl, be-lí-ia, e-pu-šu, ki-lam a-li-ia A-šur4ki, a-na 1 gín kù-babbar, 2 gur še, a-na 1 gín kù-babbar, 15 ma-na síg, a-na 1 gín kù-babbar, 2 bán ì, i-na ki-lam a-li-ia, A-šur4ki, lu-ú iš-ša-am.
[47] Michel in press.
[48] Rendell = Michel to appear, no. 167, cited above.
[49] BIN 4, 9 = Michel to appear, no. 163; Veenhof 1972, 89.
[50] According to an Ur III tablet, when the raw wool was very durty, the losses in cleaning could go up to 50%, see Waetzoldt Waetzoldt 1972, T. 32, rev. i6-14.
[51]LB 1201 = Michel 2001, no. 363 = Michel to appear no. 171.
[52] Veenhof 1972, 89-90. For the variation of the quantity of wool per textile, see the following texts: TC 3, 17 = Michel to appear, no. 162, “Add per piece one mina more of wool than you used for the previous textile you sent me, but they must remain thin!”; LB 1201 = Michel to appear, no. 163, “Those to which I am adding ½ mina (of wool) each, I will send you with Ia-šar. Those that Urani is bringing you, (were made) earlier, before you wrote to me.”; BIN 4, 10 = Michel to appear, no. 164, “Process half a mina (of wool) more in each of your textiles.”
[53] This research is in progress. It is carried out within the framework of the Projet International de Cooperation Scientifique (PICS) CNRS – DNRF Textiles from Orient to the Mediterranean from the Third to the First millennia BC (2012-2014), coordinated by C. Michel (France) and M.-L. Nosch (Danemark). A more detailed study will be presented in the forthcoming workshop Traditional Textile Craft – an Intangible Cultural Heritage (Jordan, March 2014).
[54] Andersson 2012, 34.
[55] Waetzoldt 1972, T. 32:iii4-rev i14, and Waetzoldt 2010, 205.
[56] Andersson Strand 2012, 35.
[57]As a matter of comparison, Firth & Nosch 2012 have made an estimate for the production of an Ur III túgguz-za fabric, measuring 3.5 × 3.5 metres and weighing 2 kg,  with the data of the text Waetzoldt 1972, T. 32, rev. i6-14: it amounted to 130 days including cleaning and combing. If we scale up to the size of a kutānum-textile, supposing a textile of a similar density, then this would become 192 days. For a different interpretation of the same Ur III text, see Andersson Strand & Cybulska 2013.
[58] According to Breniquet 2008, it was more a seasonal activity.
[59] See for example the two lettres to Innaya from Abaya, BIN 4, 10 = Michel to appear, no. 164, “Ilī-bāni is bringing him 1 namašuhhum-textile from Ahaha for the servant, and later, I will send him 1 nibrārum-textile.” CCT 4, 8a = Michel to appear, no. 227, “. Abatananum is bringing you 3 kutānum-textiles. Šumī-abia is bringing you 1 heavy textile.”
[60] Text numbers are those of Michel to appear.
[61] Veenhof 2011, 226.
[62] Postgate in press.


Directrice de Recherche au CNRS ArScAn-HAROC Maison de l'Archéologie et de l'Ethnologie Nanterre - France

More Posts - Website

Laisser un commentaire

Votre adresse de messagerie ne sera pas publiée. Les champs obligatoires sont indiqués avec *