Archives par mot-clé : sister

Real Estate Dowries and Counter-Dowries in the Kingdom of Arrapḫe

Real Estate Dowries and Counter-Dowries
in the Kingdom of Arrapḫe

 J.J. Justel / B. Lion


Only a few texts from the Kingdom of Arrapḫe refer to dowries, for which the technical legal term seems to have been mulūgu (or mulūgūtu). According to some of these references, the bride could receive real property from her father or legal guardian. In return, she gave a gift (Sumerian NÍG.BA/Akkadian qīštu), labeled by modern historiography as “counter dowry,” consisting of textiles, livestock, and sometimes silver.

The present paper is an attempt to reconsider these legal phenomena. We will examine the status, function and nature of the real estate granted to the bride, as well as the nature of the goods a girl was able to provide her father or guardian before her wedding.

0. Introduction

Written sources from the Kingdom of Arraphe – also known commonly as “Nuzi texts” – date back to the Late Bronze Age, more precisely to the 14th century BC. Nuzi was a town of the Kingdom of Arrapḫe, a political entity submitted to the Mittani Empire. Some 5,000 tablets were found in Nuzi and almost 200 in the near town of Āl-ilāni/Arrapḫe (modern Kirkūk), homonym capital of the Kingdom. Some of these texts contain transfers of property on the occasion of marriages. This phenomenon presents the following main mechanisms:

  • Usually, the groom or his father gives a “bridewealth” to the bride’s father which is called terḫatu, just as in the Old Babylonian period.
  • The father of the bride, or her legal guardian (for example her brother), gives her a dowry, called in Nuzi mulūgu or mulūgūtu. Few texts mention dowries, and it has been suggested for a long time that most dowries consisted of movable property – such as clothes, livestock, domestic items – and were thus not recorded on tablets. On the contrary, when a tablet was written down, the dowries were supposed to be more substantial and actually some of them were  real property.
  • In some cases, when the bride receives real property within her dowry, she gives in return to her father (or her guardian) several goods which are known as NÍG.BA (Akkadian qīštu), “gift, present.” Historians have labeled this unfrequent phenomenon “counter-dowry.”

Texts mentioning real estate-dowries and counter-dowries are the subject of this paper.[1] We will examine, on one hand, the status and the function of real property granted to the bride and, on the other hand, the nature of the goods a woman was able to provide her father (or guardian) before her wedding.

1. The real estate given as dowry

1.1. Corpus

In her important study “Dowry and Brideprice in Nuzi,” G. Dosch provides a list of texts mentioning real estate given away as dowry, which is now to be completed (see table below).[2] Some other dowries, consisting of movable property (HSS 5 80 and HSS 13 93 = HSS 14 2[3]), are not taken into account.



Given by

Given to

Dowry items


Legal status of the dowry in next generations

HSS 5 76 ana mulūgi father daughter field ø HSS 5 11: given to the granddaughter, then to her children
HSS 19 71 ø father+ brother daughter / sister house brother ø
HSS 19 76 ø father daughter field ø ø
HSS 19 79 ana mulūgū[ti] father son-in-law house father given to children
HSS 19 108 + EN 9/1 139 kīma mulūgišu brother sister housesilver ø ø
Gadd 31 ana mulūgūti adoptive brother adopted sister unbuilt plot in Arrapḫe adoptive brother ø
SCCNH 7 6 [ana mul]ūgūti adoptive brother adopted sister house(s) adoptive brother ø

In five of these texts the word mulūgu ou mulūgūtu is used; in the other two real estate deliveries it is transferred to a girl, receiving no precise designation. In HSS 19 71 a brother gives her sister fArim-turi a house which has been previously appointed for her by their father. In HSS 19 76 a man transfers his daughter fAššuanašši “in status of wife” (ana aššūti) to another woman, who would be in charge of organizing the marriage between her brother and that girl, “with her tablet and with the field mentioned in the tablet”[4] – the field probably representing her dowry.

1.2. Giver and recipient

The dowry was usually given away by the father of the bride (HSS 5 76, HSS 19 76 and HSS 19 79) or alternatively by her brother (HSS 19 71 and HSS 19 108 + EN 9/1 139), probably because the father was dead. In Gadd 31 and SCCNH 7 6 the woman seems to have neither father nor brother, and is adopted as sister (ana ahātūti) by a man who provides for her a dowry;[5] the woman apparently acts on her own behalf and might even have already been married – she might be a widow or a divorced woman. The woman is the recipient of the dowry of every case except HSS 19 79: the tablet states that the father “has given these houses as a dowry to his daughter fAštaya to Akap-šenni,” this latter being his son-in-law.

1.3. Interpretations

According to J. Fincke, the two tablets of sistership adoption Gadd 31 and SCCNH 7 6 should rather be considered as sale-adoptions, “by which a legal title to real estate is transfered to the adopted woman in return for movable property.”[6] She refers to Speiser,[7] who was the first suggesting this idea concerning HSS 5 76, pointing that “the transaction resembles, then, a sale-adoption, except that instead calling the purchased land zittu, it is termed in this case mulūgu (…), the mulūgu being just as much a ficitious dowry as the zittu was an unreal inhertance protion.”[8] Gordon also favored this idea in his discussion on both tablets Gadd 31 and HSS 5 76.[9] So this hypothesis could be extended to every case in which a woman, receiving real estate as mulūgu (or mulūgūtu) from her father, brother or adoptive brother, gives in exchange a NÍG.BA (Akkadian qīštu) – this word beeing also used in the so-called sale adoptions; this is the case in HSS 5 76, HSS 19 71, Gadd 31 and SCCNH 7 6 (see below § 3). In fact in these four tablets, except from the presence of the term mulūgu/mulūgūtu, there is no reference to the marriage of the woman, the only purpose of the tablet being the record of the transfers of items.

The main problem arises when at least two texts recording transfers of real estate to women (HSS 19 76 and HSS 19 108 + EN 9/1 139) do not mention a NÍG.BA/qīštu. In HSS 19 76 a field (not designated as mulūgu) is transferred to the girl who is about to be married; in HSS 19 108 + EN 9/1 139 the mulūgu is mentioned in the context of a marriage. Should one distinguish between the “real” mulūgu transferred on the occasion of marriages, and the transfers of lands labeled as mulūgu, just like we have to distinguish between “real” adoptions and sale-adoptions?

Another problem is that one might wonder why a father would transfer movable property to his own daughter (HSS 5 76), or a brother to his sister (HSS 19 71), by a kind of “sale-adoption.” Sale-adoptions are numerous, but are neither concluded between father and son, nor between brothers. And in Gadd 31 and SCCNH 7 6, it is not clear why a man had to adopt a woman as his sister in order to transfer real estate to her: he could as well adopt her as his “child/son,” a mechanism well attested in Nuzi tablets.[10]

For these reasons, whatever the precise nature and function of the transaction might be, we prefer to focus on the content of these real estate transactions – i.e. land or houses received by women – and on the goods given away by these women.

2. The content of dowries: fields and houses

In HSS 5 76 and HSS 19 76 the daughter receives fields. HSS 19 76 provides no indication about the location of the field. However in HSS 5 76 the field is said to be located in the district (Akkadian dimtu) of Ar-Teššub; since it does bear the name of the girl’s paternal grandfather, it would be a family property. The subsequent fate of the field is known through another tablet, HSS 5 11,[11] by which fArim-turi gives her granddaughter fEluanza (her daughter’s daughter) to another woman, fMatkašar, her daughter-in-law; fMatkašar will provide for the marriage of fEluanza. fArim-turi gives also a field of one imēru, which she received from her own father as a dowry (ana mulūgi), to fMatkašar; and fMatkašar will bequeath this plot to fEluanza’s and her future husband’s children, it is explicitly forbidden to transfer it to a stranger. Therefore fArim-turi makes sure that the field stays within the family, since it would ultimately be inherited by her great-grandchildren. We are able to follow the story of this field, which has been mainly transmitted by the female line of the family, over six generations.

In other cases, the dowry is made up of houses (HSS 19, 71 79, HSS 19 108 + EN 9/1 139 and SCCNH 7 6) or even of an unbuilt plot in the town of Arrapḫe (Gadd 31). In HSS 19 108 + EN 9/1 139 the husband, Ar-Teya, gives house(s) as terḫatu to his brother-in-law Wunnukiya (a mechanism  quite unusual), and this latter gives his sister house(s) and silver as mulūgu. One could maybe formulate the hypothesis of an exchange of houses between both families; another possibility is to suppose that one and the same house has been given as terhatu and subsequently attributed to the bride, just as in the case of indirect dowries – f.ex. in HSS 5 80 some movable property, given as terhatu, is also given as mulūgu to the bride. In HSS 19 79 the expected fate of the house given away as dowry is established: it would belong to the children born by the couple.

When houses can be located, it is noteworthy that they are found in the immediate vicinity either of the father’s house (HSS 19 79) or of the brother’s house – which was most probably earlier the father’s (HSS 19 71). The unbuilt plot transferred in Gadd 31 is found next to the house of Šalap-urhe, the adoptive brother, who seems to give part of his estate; another neighbour is Šekaya, who is mentioned earlier in the tablet, in a broken context: he might be either the woman’s father[12] or that of her adoptive brother.


Recipient of the dowry




HSS 19 71 fUriaše, sister of Innatu house Innatu 40 m2
HSS 19 79 Akap-šenni, husband of fAštaya,daughter of Paikku house Paikku 53,125 m2
Gadd 31 fḪalaše, [daughter of (?)] Šekaya unbuilt plot Šekaya
Šalap-urḫe (adoptive brother)
max. 126 m2

These houses are not big and rather remind us of a few rooms than of an entire house, especially when compared to surfaces known from other Nuzi texts and also to the surfaces of the buildings excavated in Nuzi. The daughter would thus seem to receive as a dowry a part of her father’s house.

Textual data: surfaces of the houses[13]


Surface in m2


HSS 9 110 6,25 Room in a house, in Nuzi, in the fields
Gadd 5 8,75 Room in a house
JEN 239: 11-15 27 Part of a house
EN 9/1 126 31,50 or 36 House not yet built
Genava 15 32 In the town of Arrapḫe
JEN 737 38,25? In the town of [Nuz]i?
HSS 19 71 40 In a town
EN 9/2 10 40,50 In the citadel (kirḫu) of Nuzi
HSS 13 161 53,125 In the town of Arrapḫe. Part of a house
HSS 19 79 53,125 In a town
AASOR 16 58 56,25 In the citadel (kirḫu) of Nuzi
JEN 239: 5-8 75 House
IM 10856 82,5 In the town of Arrapḫe
HSS 9 115 93,75 In Nuzi
JEN 246 176 In Turša
JEN 588 450 In the town of Nuzi

Comparison with the archaeological data: surface of houses excavated in Nuzi, Level II[14]


(= “Group”)

Total surface at the ground level in square meters

Living space at the ground level in square meters

HSS 19 71: 40
HSS 19 79: 53,125 HSS 19 71: 40
20 95,14 49,9
HSS 19 79: 53,125
32 96 69,68
12 101,80 43,98
5 127,84 76,77
8 146,88 71,11
10 155,44 89,22
6 169 86,38
2 190,40 104,16
9 193,68 122,36
3 238 ?
19 300,60 194,01

There is no mention of an ilku duty on the fields. When the ilku is mentioned on the houses (or the unbuilt plot in Gadd 31), it is always the responsibility of the person giving away the dowry, be it her father or her adoptive brother. The exact nature of the ilku duty is still subject of debate,[15] and it raises the problem of the type of ownership held by the woman on this property. Adoptions involving the transfer of land plots would rather refer to transfers of the title of ownership, whereas the possession of the land would stay with the adopter – thus explaining why he would keep paying the ilku duty.[16] If this hypothesis applied also here, women would have a title of ownership on the land or house, whereas the possession of the property would stay with her father or adoptive brother; this would be coherent with J. Fincke’s interpretation of Gadd 31 and SCCNH 7 6 as “sale-adoptions.” But on the other hand, at least in HSS 19 71 and HSS 19 79, if the women only held a title of ownership on the house, what kind of practical benefit would they receive, beside the guarantee that their children would have rights on the house? In HSS 19 79 the house is clearly transferred on the occasion of the marriage, and this raises the question of the residence of the new couple. If the married woman and her husband do not dwell it, we would hardly understand the benefit, for them, to have rights on a few rooms of the father’s house at the precise moment when the bride leaves her family. However if the bride, or the couple, lives in the house, that would mean thas they do not only have a title of ownership, which contradicts the first hypothesis.

3. The counter-dowry

3.1. General remarks

In some of these texts the woman who receives the dowry (in one case her husband) gives some movable property in return to her father or legal guardian. This is not the case in HSS 19 76 nor in HSS 19 108+, which will not be dealt with here.


Counter dowry

Given by

Given to


Textiles, shoes


HSS 19 79 NÍG.BA son-in-law father 1 good male donkey, 4 years old 1 hullanu-garment ofordinary quality 10 mines of tin
HSS 5 76 NÍG.BA daughter father 1 sheep, 1 pig with its 10 piglets 1 pair of shoes,1 textile
HSS 19 71 NÍG.BA sister brother 20 sh. of silver hašahušennu
Gadd 31 NÍG.BA adopted sister adoptive brother [1] new, good šilannu-textile1 new, good hullanu-garment.Value: 15 sh. of silver
SCCNH 7 6 adopted sister adoptive brother 24 sh. of silver

In HSS 19 79 the counter-dowry is said to be paid by the husband, who receives the dowry; thus it does not constitute evidence of the possessions of the bride.[17] But in the remaining four documents the counter-dowry is given by the woman herself. Whatever the precise function of that counter-dowry may be, we would just focus here on its contents, since these texts mention the properties women owned;[18] and at least in HSS 5 76 and HSS 19 71 the girls still dwell the house of their father or brother, before getting married. These counter-dowries are made up of movable properties which can be classified in the different rubrics: livestock, textiles, and metals.

3.2. Livestock

Animals appear only in HSS 5 76; it happens to be a sheep, thus small livestock, as well as a pig or more probably a sow, since it is accompanied by ten piglets. Pig rearing is mainly a domestic activity, often entrusted to women. It would thus not be much of a surprise to find a girl owning a sow and her piglets.[19]

3.3. Textiles and shoes

Textiles of different kind appear in two cases. We are still lacking a study of textiles in Nuzi, but some general remarks are in order. Textile workers seem to be men, be it the craftsmen mentioned in the palace texts[20] or those working for private individuals who gave them wool to manufacture textiles (f.ex. HSS 5 95).

It is nonetheless very likely that domestic textile production mainly corresponded to women. Excavations in Nuzi have unearthed hundreds of spindlewhorls as well as loomweights;[21] it is sometimes difficult to attribute them to a specific archaeological level – f.ex. Stratum II (contemporary with the tablets), or the older Stratum III, or more recent levels. Among these objects, the rare examples that were published came from private houses.[22] In the house called Group 24 (Stratum II) two clay loomstands were recovered in room F 24, and another one in room F 14 which, according to Starr, was “the center of considerable domestic activity.”[23]

Some long inventories found in the Nuzi palace show that this building housed a great quantities of textiles. In some contracts concluded between private individuals we can also identify the circulation of textiles, often in small quantities and associated to other goods (wool, livestock, metals): they can thus be among the goods given to somebody as tidennūtu, a loan pledged by a field (HSS 5 87, HSS 9 98, HSS 9 115…) or a person (EN 9/3 51, HSS 5 82…). They can also be part of an inheritance, mainly for girls (EN 9/3 517). But in all these examples textiles are given by men: should one suppose that they disposed of the textile production of their daughters and wives? If this is the case, did the women get something for their work?

All this remaining at a general level, we can hypothesize that besides an institutional or professional textile production, a domestic sector also produced surpluses which could be exchanged between private individuals. For example for HSS 19 79 we might wonder where the husband got the textile he was giving to his father-in-law: it would have been woven by his wife, whose dowry he is managing.

This production might, in the case of counter-dowries, be considered as belonging to women, even to girls before their marriage. If most of the dowries were made up of movable property, we could think that they included the woman’s clothes, produced by herself while she lived at her father’s house.[24]

As to the shoes (HSS 5 76), we know nothing of their production and they might have been manufactured in a domestic context as well.

3.4. Metals

In HSS 19 71 fUriaše gives ḫašaḫušennu silver to her brother; G. Müller has suggested that the meaning of this term might be “in any kind of form.”[25] It is thus not certain that silver actually circulated: the value intended could be obtained by accumulating a variety of goods. The situation would be the same as in Gadd 31 where fHalaše gives away two textiles, the price of which is expressed in silver.

In SCCNH 7 6, the woman gives 24 shekels of silver (= ca. 192 g), which is the higher amount mentioned within this corpus. If she really gives away metal, we do not know how she was able to get such a sum. Was she able to benefit actually from textiles produced by herself (see above § 3.3)? She does not receive her dowry from her father, but from a man who adopted her as sister; thus she might have already left her father’s house and we do not know if she had already been married before, nor if she had some kind of economic autonomy.

The amounts given as counter-dowries, when expressed in silver, are quite high: 15, 20, and 24 shekels of silver. As a comparison, the amount of a terḫatu in Nuzi raises usually to 40 shekels of silver,[26] though other quantities are also attested: 10 shekels (JEN 434), 15 (HSS 19 144), 30 (JEN 186, RA 23 12), 35 (HSS 19 99), 45 (HSS 19 84), etc.

4. Conclusions

This article is a first attempt to deal with a subject rarely investigated, despite the number of studies devoted to the status of women, namely the involvement of women in economic life as well as the properties, movable or immovable, that they might possess. In our opinion, it might be further investigated following two research approaches:

  • On one hand, by focusing on the real estate properties of women: they can be adopted as sons by their own father and thus inherit land,[27] but also be adopted by other men who transfer a plot of land to them (the question remains open if Gadd 31 and SCCNH 7 6 belong to this category), or loan barley or other commodities and take a plot of land as pledge.
  • On the other hand, one should have a closer look at the movable properties women can inherit according to their father’s wills, as well as at those they can give away in adoption contracts, or even lend as a part of a loan arrangement[28].



Abrahami P. and Lion B., 2012, “L’archive de Tulpun-naya,” in P. Abrahami and B. Lion (eds.), The Nuzi Workshop at the 55th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, SCCNH 19, Bethesda, p. 3-86.

Assante J., 1988, “The kar.kid / ḫarimtu, Prostitute or Single Woman ? A Reconsideration of the Evidence,” UF 30, p. 5-96.

Ben-Barak Z., 1988, “The Legal Status of the Daughter as Heir in Nuzi and Emar,” in M. Heltzer and E. Lipinski (eds.), Society and Economy in the Eastern Mediterranean (c. 1500-1000 BC), OLA 23, Leuven, p. 87-97.

—     2006, Inheritance by Daughters in Israel and the Ancient near East. A Social, Legal and Ideological Revolution, Tel Aviv.

Breneman J. M., 1971, Nuzi Marriage Tablets, Ph.D., Brandeis University.

Cassin E., 1960, “Pouvoirs de la femme et structures familiales,” RA 63, p. 121-148.

Deller K., 1987, “Ḫanigalbatäische Personennamen,” NABU 1987/53.

Dosch G., 1976, Die Texte aus Room A 34 des Archivs von Nuzi, Heidelberg, Unpublished Magisterartbeit.

Fincke J., 1995, “Einige Joins von Nuzi-Texten des British Museums,” in D. I. Owen and G. Wilhelm (eds.), Edith Porada Memorial Volume, SCCNH 7, Bethesda, p. 23-36.

—     1999, “Nuzi Note 57. HSS 19, 108 Joined to EN 9/1, 139,” in D. I. Owen and G. Wilhelm (eds.), Nuzi at Seventy-Five, SCCNH 10, p. 428-429.

—     2010, “Zum Verkauf von Grundbesitz in Nuzi,” in J. Fincke (ed.), Festschrift für G. Wilhelm, Dresden, p. 125-141.

—     2012, “Adoption of Women at Nuzi,” in P. Abrahami and B. Lion (eds.), The Nuzi Workshop at the 55th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, SCCNH 19, Bethesda, p. 119-140.

Gordon C., 1936, “The Status of Women Reflected in the Nuzi Texts,” ZA 43, p. 146-169.

Grosz K., 1981, “Dowry and Brideprice at Nuzi,” in M. A. Morrison and D. I. Owen (eds.), Studies on the Civilization and Culture of Nuzi and the Hurrians in Honor of Ernest R. Lacheman, Winona Lake, p. 161-182.

—     1983, “Bridewealth and Dowry in Nuzi,” in A. Cameron and A. Kuhrt (eds.), Images of Women in Antiquity, London and Canberra, p. 193-206.

—     1987, “Daughters adopted as sons at Nuzi and Emar,” in J.-M. Durand (ed.), La femme dans le Proche-Orient antique, Actes de la XXXIII° R.A.I. (Paris, 1986), Paris, p. 81-86.

—     1988, The Archive of the Wullu Family, Copenhagen.

—     1989, “Some Aspects of the Position of Women in Nuzi,” in B. Lesko (ed.), Women’s Earliest Records From Ancient Egypt and Western Asia, Atlanta, p. 167-189.

Lacheman E. R., 1973, “Real Estate Adoption by Women in the Tablets from uru Nuzi», in H. A. Hoffner (ed.), Orient and Occident. Essays Presented to C. H. Gordon, AOAT 22, Neukirchen-Vluyn, p. 99-100.

Lion B., 2009a, “Les porcs à Nuzi,” in G. Wilhelm (ed.), General Studies and Excavations at Nuzi 11/2, SCCNH 18, Bethesda, p. 259-286.

—     2009b, “Sexe et genre (1). Des filles devenant fils dans les contrats de Nuzi et d’Emar,” in F. Briquel-Chatonnet, S. Farès, B. Lion and C. Michel (eds.), Femmes, cultures et sociétés dans les civilisations méditerranéennes et proche-orientales de l’Antiquité, Topoi Supplement 10, p. 9-25.

Maidman M. P., 2010, Nuzi Texts and Their Uses as Historical Evidence, Atlanta.

Mayer W., 1978, Nuzi-Studien I. Die Archive des Palastes und die Prosopographie der Berufe, Neukirchen-Vluyn.

Müller G. G. W., 1995, “Zur Bedeutung von hurro-akkadissch hašahušennu,” UF 27, p. 371-380.

Novak M., 1994, “Eine Typologie der Wohnhäuser von Nuzi,” Baghdader Mitteilungen 25, p. 341-446.

Paradise J. S., 1980, “ A Daugnter and her Father’s Property at Nuzi», JCS 32, p. 189-207.

—     1987, “Daughters as “Sons” at Nuzi,” in M. A. Morrison and D. I. Owen (eds), General Studies and Excavations at Nuzi 9/1, SCCNH 2, Winona Lake, p. 203-213.

Pfeifer N., 2009, “Das Eherecht in Nuzi: Einflüsse aus altbabylonischer Zeit,” in G. Wilhelm (ed.), General Studies and Excavations at Nuzi 11/2, SCCNH 18, Bethesda, p. 355-420.

Speiser E. A., 1928-1929, “New Kirkuk documents Relating to Family Laws,” AASOR 10, p. 1-73.

Starr, R. F. S., 1937, Nuzi, Volume 2, Plates and Plans, Cambridge (Mass.).

—     1939, Nuzi, Volume 1, Text, Cambridge (Mass.).

Westbrook R., 1993-1997, “Mitgift,” RlA 8, p. 273-283.

Wilhelm G., 1981, “Die Siegel des Königs Itḫi-teššup von Arrapḫa,” WO 12, p. 5-7.

Zaccagnini C., 1979, The Rural Landscape of the Land of Arrapḫe, Rome.

[1] See previous studies in Paradise 1980: 204-205; Grosz 1981, 1983, 1989; Westbrook 1993-1997: 278-279; Pfeifer 2009: 397-399.

[2] Grosz 1981: 170 provides a table with the texts mentioning dowry payments, which needs some corrections: the first text, described as “HSS 19 79,” is actually HSS 19 71, and HSS 19 79 should be added; in HSS 13 93 = HSS 14 2: 17-18, Apukka is designated as LÚ mu-lu-gi5 ša DAM-at Ihi-iš-mi-te-šub DUMU LUGAL (Wilhelm 1981: 4; Deller 1987), but this does not necessarily mean that the fields mentioned held the status of dowry. Several texts have been transliterated, translated and studied by Breneman 1971: 63-65 (HSS 19 76), 120-123 (HSS 5 11), 177-179 (Gadd 31), 190-195 (HSS 19 79 and HSS 5 76), and 267-268. “SCCNH 7 6” refers to BM 104822+BM 104835, joint made by Fincke 1995: 35-36, who also gives the transliteration and the translation; J. Fincke compares this tablet with Gadd 31 and the reading [ana mul]ūgūti l. 5, just like in Gadd 31, has been suggested by J.J. Justel, who collated the tablet. The join between HSS 19 108 and EN 9/1 139 was made by Fincke 1999, who provides a complete transliteration of the document.

[3] See n. 2.

[4] l. 5-6: it-ti ṭup-pí-šu-ma ù it-ti A.ŠÀ ša pí-i ṭup-pí.

[5] These two tablets have been found in Kirkūk (Arrapḫe) and, according to Grosz 1988: 128-141, they belong to the same family: fUntuya, adopted as sister in SCCNH 7 6, would be the grandmother of fHalaše, adopted as sister in Gadd 31.

[6] Fincke 2012: 122 n. 28.

[7] Fincke 1995: 36.

[8] Speiser 1928-1929: 26-27.

[9] Gordon 1936: 158.

[10] Lacheman 1973; for example fTulpun-naya acquires orchards, fields and houses in this way (Abrahami and Lion 2012: 20-24).

[11] HSS 5 76 and HSS 5 11 have been transliterated by Dosch 1976: 126-129 (nos. 85 and 86), and HSS 5 11 is studied by Assante 1988: 19-22.

[12] According to Grosz 1988: 140-141, fHalaše would be the daughter of Šekar-Tilla i.e. Šekaya (hypocoristic form). The adoptive brother, Šalap-urhe, and fHalaše might have been relative.

[13] Zaccagnini 1979: 42-43 (data have been completed). We assume here that the ammatu is about 50 cm.

[14] These data are provided by Novak 1994: 375-377. HSS 19 71 and HSS 19 79 are added to allow comparisons even if, of course, the houses mentionned in these texts have not been identified nor excavated.

[15] See especially Fincke 2010 and Maidman 2010: 163-227.

[16] See recently Fincke 2010.

[17] Cassin (1969: 129) notes that the bride’s father, Paikku, “a donné à sa fille en ‘dot’ des maisons qui lui sont payées par son gendre,” considering apparently the counter-dowry as the price of the houses.

[18] Grosz 1983: 202, 1989: 172-173.

[19] Lion 2009a.

[20] For example HSS 14 593, where 24 UŠ.BAR receive rations. A list of more than 100 textiles workers has been established by Mayer 1978: 169-175, all of them being men.

[21] Starr 1939: 412 and 1937: pl. 116, S-Y and 127, FF (whorls), pl. 117 C-E and G (weights).

[22] Starr 1937: pl. 127 FF (whorl) was found in B 7, group 2 (a house dated to stratum III); pl. 116 S (whorl) in K 436, a room which is not indicated on the plan, and belongs to group 18 (stratum III), cf. Starr 1939: 269-270; pl. 116 W (whorl) was found in G 10, a room belonging either to group 4 (stratum III) or to group 27 (stratum II); pl. 117 D (weight) in C 42, group 10 (stratum III); pl. 117 G (weight) in H 53, group 11 (stratum III); and pl. 117 C (weight) in C 29, group 33 (stratum II).

[23] Starr 1937: 218-219; Starr 1939: pl. 118 A and B (ancient loomstands) and 30 B (Arab loom). Starr compares these loomstands with those used by the inhabitants of region when he led the excavations.

[24] See this idea first in Grosz 1981: 174.

[25] Müller 1995: 380 (“in beliebiger Form bezahlbar”).

[26] See f.ex. Breneman 1971: 261, Pfeifer 2009: 381.

[27] See Paradise 1980, 1987; Grosz 1987; Ben-Barak 1988: 91-93, 2006: 144-148; Lion 2009b.

[28] This last subject will be deal with in the next REFEMA meeting.

Dowry management in the neo-Babylonian period: A case study

Dowry management in the neo-Babylonian period:  A case study

Laura Cousin (doctoral student, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne — UMR 7041-ArScAn)



Historians have been interested in the type and role of women in society since the 1960s, and Assyriology has not fallen behind with studies such as Images of Women in Antiquity by Averil Cameron and Amelie Kuhrt in 1983 which extended the question to women’s status in the Ancient Near East, and more recently Femmes, Droit et Justice dans l’Antiquité orientale by Sophie Lafont in 1999 and Women of Babylon by Zainab Bahrani in 2001. Women’s dowries have themselves been the subject of several studies, notably those of Martha Roth in a series of articles in JAOS 111/1, 1991 and AfO 42-43, 1989.

The term dowry, nudunnû in Akkadian, comes from the root NDN meaning to give. Dowry promises and receipts are at the heart of numerous administrative documents. This aspect was studied by K. Abraham in “The Dowry Clause in Marriage Documents”, RAI 38, 1992. Dowries are mentioned in the great majority of marriage contracts in the first millennium, between 635 and 203[1] BC. Dowry contracts are drawn up in the following manner: at the beginning of the period, the clause consists of two components, a list of items composing the dowry and its donation to the new couple by the bride’s agent (K. Abraham listed 14 deeds of this type, dated between 556 and 486 BC). We will study two dowry contracts that follow this model. In later texts, in addition we find a document summarising the items contained in the dowry, its receipt by the groom (mahir) and in some cases, the receipt (eṭir).

In this presentation, I would like to introduce several women whose personal trajectories are quite distinct from each other, thus explaining the different management of their dowries and the matrimonial strategies that surround this question:

– Ina-Esagil-ramât (IER), daughter of Balaṭu and Kaššaya and descendant of Egibi, married to Iddin-Nabû of the Nappahu family (not to be confused with the grand-mother of Marduk-naṣir-apli/Itti-Marduk-balaṭu//Egibi, who was also called IER and was married to a man bearing the name Iddin-Marduk of the Nur-Sîn family);

– Šikkuttu, daughter of royal judge Marduk-šakin-šumi, of the URÙ.DÙ-mansum family, married to Ea-šuma-uṣur of the Eṭiru family;

– Amat-Baba (AB), daughter of Kalbaya from the Nabaya family, who married the famous Marduk-naṣir-apli (MNA), son of Itti-Marduk-balaṭu of the Egibi family (see K. Abraham’s study dedicated to the archives of this individual linked to the state Business and Politics under the Persian Empire, Bethesda, 2004).    

Our questions will be the following: to which degree were women able to manage their dowry and make them fructify? And what are the limits of this management?

We should note beforehand that it will not be possible here to establish one model that will apply to all women encountered. We can only present specific cases.

  1. The composition of these women’s dowries: between recurring items and exceptional goods

M. Roth has studied in a most thorough manner the dowry composition in the neo-Babylonian period[2]. Items contained in dowries are divided into two categories: those a woman brings for herself, that is to say the udê biti (household items), either furniture, jewellery items, even female slaves who may be used as domestics or ladies-in-waiting, and those items destined for the settling in of the new couple and for their financial well-being, that is money, real estate, and slaves to sell. Dowry lists as a whole may appear disparate because the composition of a dowry depends on the specific and inherent circumstances of the marriage arranged between the protagonists’ two families: whether the bride comes from a wealthy family or not, whether she is coming to a house independent of her mother-in-law’s own or a house already existing and therefore already equipped.

But the sources we have must be studied with due circumspection. Indeed, we do not have marriage contracts at our disposal to complete our view point on the arrangements the two families would have made regarding the utilization of the dowry.

1.1. Attractive dowries: the cases of Ina-Esagil-ramât and Amat-Baba

1.1.1. Ina-Esagil-ramât’s dowry: the appeal of the land

Text BM 77600, studied by H. Baker in The Archive of the Nappahu Family, AfO Beih. 30, 2004, contains IER’s dowry:

“Balaṭu, son of Ibnaya, descendant of Egibi, voluntarily gave as a dowry with Ina-Esagil-ramât, his [daught]er, to [Iddi]n-Nabû, son of Nabû-ban-zeri, descendant of Nappahu, (the following) : 0.4 kur of land planted (with date palms) out of his land in Kār-Taš[mētu] which is next to (the property of) Marduk-naṣir, son of [FN descendant of AN, and n]ext to (the property of) Nabû-nadin-šumi and [Bēl-ēreš, sons of Mušezib]-Marduk, descendant of Gahal […(3 lines largely lost) … (the slave) Ni]nlil-Silim [… …], a foot[stool], a chair, […], a lamp, a bronze lamp stand and a bronze lantern, 2 cups, a bowl, a brazier and a g[ra]te. [Not including] the 0.1 kur of land planted (with date palms) which Iddin-Nabû purchased [fro]m [Bal]āṭu for the full price of [x minas x shek]els of silver. …Witnesses… [Babylon], 26th day of [Nisan]nu, [x year of RN, ki]ng of Babylon [(…)]”.

The marriage of these two individuals seems to have taken place at the end of Nabonidus’ reign, bordering on the beginning of Cyrus’ reign, around 537[3] BC. The composition of IER’s dowry is rather typical and after studying her sisters’ dowries, we notice that she is given more assets than her younger siblings, and this is also a common trait as the eldest daughter’s dowry is generally the most advantageous. Thus Ṣiraya’s dowry, one of IER’s younger sisters, is composed of slaves almost exclusively. Similarly, Amat-Ninlil’s dowry – also known under the name of Gigītu – is a little more consequential but not as important as her sister’s own (0.2.3. kur of a field, that is, what remains of Kār-Tašmetu’s estate and one female slave).

We thus see emerging the roles of each and the relationships that arise within the family unit. Further, the fact that IER is given a larger share than her younger sisters is not an isolated case. Indeed, IMB’s daughters, Tašmetu-tabni and Ina-Esagila-belet, are not given an equivalent dowry: it is a dowry worth double that of her younger sibling which is given to the eldest daughter. Thus when Tašmetu-tabni receives five slaves and two plots of land, her younger sister is given three slaves and one plot of land[4] (for the dowries of Tašmetu-tabni and Ina-Esagila-belet, see IMB’s will, dated Cyrus’ accession year).

We can also trace the origin of certain items in IER’s dowry from text BM 77600. Her parents are Kaššaya, daughter of Šuma-iddin, from the Kutimmu family, and Balāṭu, son of Ibnaya, descendant of Egibi – it does not seem that this Egibi family should be linked to the branch of the Egibi family that we know so well thanks to the studies of C. Wunsch and K. Abraham, and of which Amat-Baba, one of the other ladies in this study, is part. Kaššaya – whose real name seems to be Tašmetum-damqat[5] – bequeaths certain assets to her daughters, IER and to her sister Amat-Ninlil/Gigītu, assets which she herself had received in her dowry. For instance, this is the case of the bequest she makes in favour of IER in the form of her mulugu-slave’s son (a mulugu is a special term for a slave. Slaves said to be mulugu are included in certain dowries, but all slaves in a dowry are not necessarily mulugu-slaves. According to M. Roth, the difference between a mulugu-slave and a slave who does not bear this title, lies in the fact that the children of mulugu-slaves are susceptible to remain in the dowry’s legal and economic orbit). However, Kaššaya changes her mind later, and leaves her two daughters a field she had received from her husband as compensation for her 4 minas of silver, the gold value of her “box” (quppu). Briefly presented, the quppu according to M. Roth is “a cash sub-category” which in certain cases is associated with the nudunnû.  A husband can use his spouse’s quppu, but he must give her a pledge, and when it has been exhausted, he must convert it into other goods for his spouse. The land bequeathed by Kaššaya to her daughters is located at Nabatu, a locality probably situated near Nār-ša-aḫḫē-šullim and Bit-Ašani next to Babylon.

IER’s dowry can be completed by documents VS 3 94 et VS 3 95 which mention another field part of the young girl’s dowry: “8 kurru de dattes, la redevance-imittu du champ de Kār-Nabû au bord du Nār-ša-aḫḫē-šullim, appartenant à la dot de Saggil-ramât (sic)”. This field is not very far from Babylon on the Aḫḫē-šullim canal and most probably constitutes a personal donation given by her father. Among the numerous goods IER brings with her, the most precious in the eyes of the Nappahu family is undeniably land. The ownership of agricultural land is indeed lacking in the family’s estate. Iddin-Nabû’s mother, Zunnaya owned one kur of land next to the Šamaš gate in Babylon which she shared with a woman named Ramûa, who seems to be her sister. But this land left the economic orbit of the Nappahu family upon the marriage of Iddin-Nabû’s sister, Ṣiraya, who received it as part of her dowry around 540[6] BC. After examining IER’s dowry, it would seem that the fact IER is apparently a young girl from a wealthy family, and brings a valuable asset with her, is going to determine her status as a spouse and her future actions within the Nappahu family.

1.1.2.     The case of Amat-Baba: the appeal of a rich dowry

Amat-Baba appears for the first time in a contract for a land sale in Dar 26 (see C. Wunsch CM 20b, text 177). Her future husband, Marduk-naṣir-apli is the buyer and her father Kalbaya is the seller. The land mentioned in this contract is next to the one promised for AB’s dowry. This latter’s dowry is particularly important (BM 34241 and duplicate BM 35 492):

“Kalbaya, son Sillaya, descendant of Nabaya, voluntarily gave as a dowry with Amat-Baba, his daughter to Marduk-nasir-apli, son of Itti-Marduk-balatu of the Egibi family, son of the daughter of Iddin-Marduk and Ina-Esagil-ramât: 30 mina of silver, 2 kur of land planted out of his land, which is next the irrigation ditch of the Ilu-tillati family, situated in Litamu, 5 slaves and udê biti. Iddin-Marduk son of Iqišaya and descendant of Nur-Sîn received the 30 mina of silver from the hands of Kalbaya, son of Sillaya, descendant of Nabaya. They each took a document […] to Amat-Baba […] 5 slaves…[…] Marduk-nasir-apli”.[7].

In this dowry, we note that MNA is presented as a descendant of Iddin-Marduk and IER, who are in fact his paternal grand-parents. In addition, it is Iddin-Marduk, the grand-father, who receives the dowry. We can therefore conclude together with M. Roth that Itti-Marduk-balaṭu (IMB), MNA’s father, died suddenly and that the transfer of his estate has taken time to happen[8]. We indeed see that twelve years go by before IMB’s holding-company is divided between his three sons[9]. This situation surely explains in part MNA’s behaviour with regard to his wife’s dowry. Moreover, a dowry so considerable is rather surprising. Through this marriage, Amat-Baba is going to enter an influential family and one already wealthy. Thus the Egibis are most probably asking for colossal dowries for the young women to marry one of them, and inversely when a young Egibi woman marries into another family, dowries are less consequential as the Egibi family’s prestige reflects on them. Previously the Nupta family had to pay a considerable sum to marry their daughter to MNA’s father, IMB[10].

1.2.Šikkuttu’s marriage and dowry: a problematic reconstruction

The third woman in our study is Šikkuttu, the daughter of Royal Judge Marduk-šakin-šumi who practiced under the reigns of Neriglissar and Nabonidus. C. Wunsch assembled the documents relating to Šikkuttu in Urkunden zum Ehe-, Vermögens- und Erbrecht aus verschiedenen neubabylonischen Archiven, 2003. The deeds are found in the Babylonian archive of the Šangu-Ninurta family as one of Šikkuttu’s daughter, Amat-Ninlil, is married to Hariṣanu from the Bēl-apla-uṣur family, and this family line is itself linked to the Šangû-Ninurta family[11]. Šikkuttu has several types of documents to her name: a house purchase, two transfers of properties to her children, a debt note in which she is the creditor, two field rentals with imittupromissory notes and a lawsuit, which we will study later.

Already before her marriage, Šikkuttu was engaging in financial activities as text BM 46646 shows: Šikkuttu lent 10 and a ½ shekels to Kabtiya/Na’id-Marduk//Ṣahit-ginê in year 5 of Neriglissar, and she therefore has probably received an education orienting her towards this type of activity: 10 ½ shekels of silver belonging to Šikkuttu, daughter of Marduk-šakin-šumi, descendant of the URÙ.DÙ-mansum family, is the debt of Kabtiya, son of Na’id-Marduk, descendant of the Sahit-ginê family. In the 11th month (Šabattu), he will pay with his own silver […]. Witness. In Babylon, the 5e of Arahsamnu (8th month), the second year of  Neriglissar. The previous debt note of 5 ½ shekels of silver is cancelled”[12].

We have the rather broken marriage contract between Šikkuttu and her future husband, Ea-šuma-uṣur of the Eṭiru family (BM 48 562), which dates from Nabonidus’ reign. This text, from which only ten fragmentary lines are preserved, deals with an u’iltu promissory note and a nudunnu dowry[13]. Indeed, the name of Šikkuttu’s spouse is lost, only text BM 46581 enables us to reconstruct it: Ubartu, one of Šikkuttu’s children is called “daughter of Ea-šuma-uṣur”. As Ea-šuma-uṣur never appears in the documentation, C. Wunsch has proposed that Šikkuttu may have found herself widowed quite quickly with three children, two daughters Amat-Ninlil and Ubartu and one boy, Nabû-nadin-šumi, and she would thus have had to find the means to sustain her family. The fact that Šikkuttu has become widowed is never mentioned, but the documents we have suggest this. Further, the term widow, almattu, is only very seldom attested during the neo-Babylonian period, and according to M. Roth occurs only once in text Dar 43[14] .

  1. Women’s management and its limits

2.1.The dowry conversion phenomenon: the example of Amat-Baba

Amat-Baba’s dowry conversion is recorded in BOR 2 3, Babylon, 5-III-16 Darius I, in 506 BC: “Marduk-nasir-apli, son of Itti-Marduk-balatu and descendant of Egibi voluntarily gave to Amat-Baba, daughter of Kalbaya, descendant of Nabaya:  a planted field, which is in Bit-rab-kasir, on the Nar-Tupašu, his property, with his slaves Madanu-bēl-usur, Nannaya-bēl-usur, Zababa-iddin, Madanu-iddin, Bēl-gabbi-belumma, Nabû-rehti-usur, Ahušunu, Hašdayitu, her daughters and Ahassunu: instead of 30 mina of white silver, 2 mina of gold, 5 mina of refined silver and a ring; instead of Nabû-ittiya and Nana-killili-aha the slaves, the dowry of Amat-Baba. Witnesses. In Babylon, the 5th of Simanu, 16th year of de Darius”.

Dowry conversions were studied by M. Roth[15] also.  Converting a dowry means converting an asset into another, but the value must remain identical. Thus, when a husband or father-in-law wishes to use part of a young girl’s dowry, in particular silver or another precious object, he must substitute the item for something of equal value. The dowry conversion phenomenon regularly occurs. Indeed, IER’s mother, Kaššaya, saw part of her dowry property converted by her husband. She owned gold, estimated at four minas of silver, which was converted by her husband into a field and a slave, and this is rather typical for dowry conversions, according to M. Roth: “Real estate and slaves were the only property into which the original dowry components were converted, and silver was the most common original component to be converted”[16].

We may wonder if this dowry conversion was made to the advantage of Amat-Baba or of MNA, and it seems clear that MNA is the primary beneficiary. Indeed, he seizes part of his wife’s assets and the land he gives her in exchange seems to be largely under his control as revealed by numerous contracts in MNA’s archives which were drawn up at Bit-rab-kaṣir. AB takes no active part in the running of the estate.

2.2.Withholding a dowry and its consequences: the case of Šikkuttu

The documents concerning Šikkuttu show that this woman led a rather independent life. Indeed, as IER, she seems to manage an estate herself and especially, she is greatly concerned with ensuring her children’s situation, in particular her daughters. While we do not find any documents related to the activities of Šikkuttu’s husband, relations between Šikkuttu and her in-law family are abundant in our texts, particularly her interaction with her brother-in-law Bēl-ikṣur. Šikkuttu’s father-in-law, Ea-aḫḫē-iddin, has probably taken control of the dowry management, and upon the pater familias’ death, it is Šikkuttu’s brother-in-law, Bēl-ikṣur, who takes charge of the family’s affairs. A compensation for Šikkuttu’s dowry must therefore be found. Then follows a series of documents in which emerges the process for the dowry compensation. Text BM 46581 could be said to deal with the compensation that Šikkuttu receives for her dowry from her brother-in-law Bēl-ikṣur l.2: ahi zēri zittu [x-x]-tu4 mehrat abul dzababa that is: “a half field, the share of […], in front of the Zababa Gate”. This field is mentioned in no other documents and it could be the compensation Bēl-ikṣur found for Šikkuttu.

During the eighth year of Cyrus’ reign in 531 or 530 BC, Šikkuttu had a document drawn up concerning all the assets she received from her father (BM 46838): thus we find 11 slaves that Šikkuttu’s father, Marduk-šakin-šumi had given her and whom she bequeaths to her daughters in an official contract (taknuk-ma). Ten years later, around 521, at the beginning of Darius’ reign, she acquires from her nephew Bēl-nadin-apli, son of Bēl-ikṣur (see BM 47795+BM 48712) part of a land in Alu eššu in Babylon, with a reed hut, the total area measuring around 144 m². We do not know the price Šikkuttu paid. Then text BM 46581 mentions a transfer of assets between Šikkuttu and her daughters, she lets them have five slaves (but in BM 46 838 eleven were mentioned, therefore according to C. Wunsch, they were either hired or transferred). This land enables her to harvest dates like BM 46830 illustrates: “58 kur of dates, imittu of the harvest of the field owned to Šikkuttu, daughter of Marduk-šakin-šumi, descendant of the URÙ.DÙ-mansum family, by Ina-Esagil-Budiya and Dininni, her wife,  Šikkuttu’s slaves.”

Finally, Šikkuttu will attempt everything she can to secure the position of her daughters, no doubt in view of the hazards she herself has known. Indeed, this mother seems to rather favour her daughters, Amat-Ninlil and Ubartu, compared to her son Bēl-nadin-apli. For example in BM 46581 (asset transfers between Šikkuttu and her daughters), even though the house is divided into three parts, the land, slaves and money are shared only between the daughters. She also uses the formula taknuk-ma pani…tušadgil (she has sealed and transferred property to…) for this donation, thereby not strictly treating it as a dowry. Finally the daughters have the right to use and to dispose of these assets but not their husbands. Šikkuttu, an independent woman by the force of events or by her own will, wishes the same for her children.

2.3.Between personal involvement and being pushed aside          

2.3.1.     The involvement of Ina-Esagil-ramât in the management of her land and its consequences

The most interesting element in IER’s dowry is of course the land she obtains from her father at Kār-Tašmetu, in the environs of Borsippa and Babylon. The families of IER and IN are both going to find reciprocal benefits and advantages in this marriage. IER’s family owns real estate, seemingly rather consequent considering the land donations we know, and the Nappahu family, presented like a middle-class family by H. Baker[17], disposes of a certain prestige due to their numerous prebends in Babylon which keep them linked with the religious powers. In fact, a large part of the Nappahu archive studied by H. Baker shows the family’s activities linked to prebends. IER’s husband, IN, owns prebends for the temple of the gods Karibu and Išhara at Babylon, which he received as inheritance from his father, and another prebend which he acquired from his adoptive father, Gimillu, husband of Tappaššar.

But let us return to the land of Kār-Tašmetu. It is a palm grove measuring 0.4.0 kur, which had apparently previously produced very good quality dates (in text 139 of H. Baker’s edition/ VS 5 66, deals with Dilmun dates). In addition to this property there is also 0.1.0 kur of land which IN previously bought from her father-in-law, thus forming a field of 1 kur. In addition to this land, there is the field at Kār-Nabû. IER finally has at her disposal a third plot of land at Nabatu, but it does not form part of her dowry as such. IER wants to exploit the land at Kār-Tašmetu with her sister Amat-Ninlil/Gigītu: numerous imittu-deeds benefitting the sisters illustrate this. She also exploits the Kār-Nabû plot of land but this time with her brother Nabû-tabni-uṣur, who also owns a part of this land. We may deduce that due to these different exploitations IER obtains certain liquidities, and this may be confirmed by the fact she has acted as a money lender on several occasions.

IER’s activities therefore do not concentrate only around agriculture. Indeed, in VS 4 186, in 520, she lends 26 and a ½ shekels of silver to Iqiša-Marduk, of the Nappahu family. She lends him again 24 shekels a month later. Finally, she is the creditor of Nabû-aplu-iddin, Nidintu and Eribaya, of the Ir’āni family for a debt of one mina and 20 shekels and during the 8th year of Cyrus’ reign, she takes a house as an antichretic pledge for this money debt. According to H. Baker: “the document, though styled as a promissory note, contains some of the standard features of a house lease contract: the term for which the house was to be at her disposal is specified (2 years), and she was to bear responsibility for the repairs to the house” (p. 54). But no other additional information has come to us regarding the person who potentially occupies the house when IER was the owner, and if she has kept it for the family to use, or if she sublet it. Finally, in the 2nd year of Darius, she takes a field as guarantee for a debt she is owed by the sons of Nabû-balassu-iqbi, descendant of Nappahu.

2.3.2.     Pushed aside from the dowry management: the case of Amat-Baba

AB’s role in the Egibi family perfectly illustrates the matrimonial politics that govern lineage. Besides, as IMB is dead and the transfer of his estate delayed, MNA must find the funds to establish himself financially and socially. Dar. 26 is a good example of MNA’s will to build his own estate[18]. This text mentions the purchase of a field made by MNA from his father-in-law Kalbaya. This field is next to the one Kalbaya had given as dowry to AB (see the similar situation between Iddin-Nabû and IER’s father). According to a note, the field is to be considered as MNA’s specific property and therefore must not be linked to the family’s estate.

Over the years, MNA is also going to try to seize what is left of his spouse’s personal goods. Thus, after the conversion of her dowry, AB tries to regain control of her capital selling seven of the nine slaves that her husband had given her in exchange. Dar 429 highlights the difficulties present between husband and wife because of this dowry: AB wants to sell them to Marduk-belšunu, son of Arad-Marduk from the Šangû-Ea family for 24 minas of silver, maybe to redress the financial situation but the sale is later annulled and we do not know clearly who is at the source of this annulment.

Contract annulments were studied by C. Waerzeggers. All the documents relating to AB mention that she executes these deeds “by her own will” (ina hūd libbišu), but we cannot be duped.  We can compare Amat-Baba’s documents with those of Inṣabtu from the Naggāru family at Borsippa, studied by C. Waerzeggers in “The Records of Inṣabtu from the Naggāru Family”, AfO 46-47, 1999-2000. Inṣabtu is the daughter of Iddin-Nabû and lived at the beginning of 5th century BC. Among the twelve tablets that make up her archive, we count two annulments. Inṣabtu is married to Murānu, son of Nabû-šuma-šukun from the Malahu family. She appears in documents dated between the 20th year of Darius’ reign, until the first year of Xerxes’ reign. However the status of Inṣabtu remains unclear according to C. Waerzeggers. Indeed, even though she has had the opportunity to conclude contracts previously, Inṣabtu is only designated as being “the wife of Murānu” in document Dar. 36 and this date could be the year of her marriage to Murānu even though at this time she was already about thirty years-old: “The possibility that Dar. 36 was the year in which Inṣabtu and Murānu married, should therefore be considered. This would be, however, against the general assumption that Mesopotamian girls married in their teens […]. Maybe she was a widow or a divorcee who remarried in Dar. 36. Two cancellation documents from Dar. 36 offer more, though vague, evidence for a previous marriage” (p. 193).

Inṣabtu is involved in several cases, among which are slave sales subject to two annulments. The first transaction concerns the sale of a slave belonging to Inṣabtu, named Ninlil-silim and of this latter’s son, Ina-qātê-Nabû-šakin (see BM 79048 and BM 79122). In the sale contract, it is specified that it was drawn according to the wish (ana našê ṣibûti ša NP) of Inṣabtu with Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, son of Nabû-aha-iddina.  This latter bought the two slaves for the sum of 3 minas and 20 shekels of silver. However, Inṣabtu never received the money of her sale and neither did she recover her slaves. The annulment was then confirmed. The second case is similar and only concerns Ninlil-silim (BM 79122). The contract states that Inṣabtu wished to sell Ninlil-Silim for 2 and a ½ minas of silver to Bēl-iddina, son of Zababa-šuma-iddina, descendant of Zeriya. But as before, she does not receive the sale money nor does she recover her slave. The sale is thus annulled. According to C. Waerzeggers, in light of Inṣabtu’s matrimonial situation, it would in fact be Inṣabtu’s first husband, Nabû-aḫḫē-iddina, son of Šula, descendant of Imbu-iniya, who had decided to sell the slaves. This leads us to think that, in the cases of Amat-Baba and Inṣabtu, the initial contracts were not drawn up by the women themselves but by a person who acts for them, most probably their husband, who thereby seizes all or parts of their assets.

In the case of AB and of the annulled sale of the slave family, we can suppose that it is in fact MNA who wished to make this transaction and not his spouse. When she was made aware of this, she attempted to have it annulled. Following this when AB regains possession of her slave family, she gives them as a donation with a field to her three daughters (BM 33997). But this gift is also later annulled (DT 233), and we cannot clearly tell why nor by whom. As C. Waerzeggers writes: “the gift document was treated as a sale contract and the three girls were considered as substitute-buyers operating on behalf on their father MNA”. Thus MNA would have gained full control of his wife’s assets, most probably after her death.


After this presentation on dowry management, it would seem that it was often made at the expense of the wife, as the cases of Amat-Baba, and in part that of Šikkuttu clearly demonstrate. In this rather negative picture, the only positive light emanates from the person of Ina-Esagil-ramât, who, according to the documents we have, seemed to certainly have enjoyed prerogatives.

Dowry management cannot be subject to a stereotyped norm as so much is left at the discretion of the husbands and their families, with very little left to the women. These women can only take an active part in the management of their assets if they dispose of a real prestige before their marriage, as the bringing of numerous valuable assets illustrates.

[1] See K. Abraham, RAI 38, 1992, p.311

[2] See M. Roth, “The Material Composition of the Neo-Babylonian Dowry”, AfO 36/37, 1989-1990, p.1-55

[3] H. Baker, p. 20

[4] See C. Wunsch, “Die Frauen der Familie Egibi”, AfO 42/43, 1995-1996, p. 41-42

[5] See H. Baker, The Archive of the Nappahu Family, AfO Beih. 30, 2004, p. 28

[6] Besides, H. Baker adds at p. 63: “While it is true that the only documentation of Nabû-bān-zēri’s estate concerns his temple prebends, if Iddin-Nabû had inherited any agricultural holdings we would expect to find some evidence for its exploitation, in the form of rental contracts, promissory notes for imittu and the like. Nor did Iddin-Nabû give any land as part of the dowry of his daughter, Tabluṭu”.

[7] Copy and transliteration, C. Wunsch, AfO 42/43, p. 54

[8] M. Roth, JAOS 111/1

[9] M. Roth, “The dowries of the women of the Itti-Marduk-balaṭu family”, JAOS 111/1, 1991, p. 19

[10] See M. Roth, “The Dowries of the Women of the Itti-Marduk-balaṭu Family”, JAOS 111/1, 1991

[11] See the very useful family tree for this family in C. Wunsch, “The Šangû-Ninurta archive”, AOAT 330, 2005, p. 367

[12] For the transliteration and copy of the tablet: C. Wunsch, Urkunden zum Ehe, p. 93-94

[13] Copy and transliteration: C. Wunsch, “Und die Richter berieten… Streitfälle in Babylon aus der Zeit Neriglissars und Nabonids”, AfO 44/45, 1997-1998, text 28, p. 95

[14] See M. Roth, “The Neo-Babylonian Widow”, JCS 43-45, 1993, p. 3

[15] M. Roth, “The Material Composition of the Neo-Babylonian Dowry”, AfO 36-37, 1989-1990, p.5-6

[16] M. Roth, “The Material Composition of the Neo-Babylonian Dowry”, AfO 36-37, 1989-1990, p.5-6

[17] See RGTC 8, p. 198

[18] For a translation of this text, see C. Wunsch, Das Egibi-Archiv, I. Die Felder und Gärten, CM 20B, p.210-212, text n.177.