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Final Report / Rapport final pour la JSPS (Tokyo)

On trouvera ci-joint, au format PDF, le rapport final du programme REFEMA (janvier 2015) pour la Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). Avec des contributions (en anglais ou en japonais) de: Laura Cousin, Francis Joannès, Josué Justel, Brigitte Lion, Fumi Karahashi, Bertrand Lafont, Eiko Matsushima, Cécile Michel, Gauthier Tolini, Ichiro Nakata, Yoko Watai, Masamichi Yamada

Attached below is the final report (in PDF) of the REFEMA program (January 2015) for the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). With contributions (in English or Japanese) of: Laura Cousin, Francis Joannès, Josué Justel, Brigitte Lion, Fumi Karahashi, Bertrand Lafont, Eiko Matsushima, Cécile Michel, Gauthier Tolini, Ichiro Nakata, Yoko Watai, Masamichi Yamada



The Women Designated ‘Man and Woman’ in Emar and Ekalte

 Masamichi Yamada

(REFEMA 4th Workshop: June 26–27, 2014, Tokyo)


In a number of Akkadian legal texts from Emar and Ekalte, a woman is designated as ‘Man and Woman,’ i.e., “male and female” or “female and male,” as well as “male” or “son.” This paper extracts some general patterns and basic features of the designation, obligations and inheritance of such women by examining the relevant fifteen texts. In these texts, the designee is usually a daughter of a male family head who has no son. She is to inherit the family estate in place of a son, and her relatives are forbidden to lay claim on it. She owes the same obligations as the (eldest) son to take care of her parents and, after the death of her father, to invoke the family gods and ancestral spirits. Probably she is also given the right to transfer inherited property to another if necessary. Although if her father adopts a son as her husband, the latter can take over the status as heir, her substantial initiative in the family seems to be preserved. The existence of the status of ‘Man and Woman’ indicates that the continuation of one’s own birth descendants had priority over the principle of male centeredness in the society.

I. Introduction

In the Akkadian texts from Emar and Ekalte in its vicinity, we find two kinds of women given both genders. Some are designated as ‘Father and Mother,’ and others as what I shall call ‘Man and Woman.’ In this presentation I treat the latter type of women. In the term ‘Man and Woman,’ I include the designations “male and female” (once “son and daughter”) or “female and male,” as well as also simply “male” or “son.” Since a daughter’s being designated as son is known in the Nuzi texts, the comparable cases in Emar have attracted the attention of several scholars, and recently J. J. Justel and B. Lion have published special studies on the ‘Man and Woman.’ Although many points have already been pointed out by them, I hope that I can show a few new aspects of this issue.

II. Attestation

We have fifteen relevant texts in total, thirteen from Emar and two from Ekalte. Of these, nine are texts of the Syrian type, including the two from Ekalte, and six are of the Syro-Hittite type from Emar. The handout lists them by provenance and tablet type.

III. Designation

The ‘Man and Woman’ is designated variously in the texts, with several kinds of introductory formula, in nominal or verbal sentences. I have shown samples of the expressions and arranged basic data in the handout. In List 1, however, we can recognize some systematic features. Firstly, the terms for ‘Man and Woman’ are different according to the tablet type or, more accurately, the scribal tradition: the Syrian type uses “female and male,” while the Syro-Hittite type has “male and female.” Note also that the use of DUMU/māru is restricted to the latter type. Secondly, several formulas are used. In Emar, although the designation is most commonly expressed in verbal sentences, the verbs are different: in the Syrian type we see šakānu, but epēšu in the Syro-Hittite type. These two points show the contrast between the two contemporary scribal traditions in Emar. Thirdly, as for the texts of the Syrian type, in Ekalte nominal sentences are used, while verbal sentences are used in Emar, as noted above. This reflects a diachronic change within the same scribal tradition.

In these texts, the person who designates a woman as ‘Man and Woman’ is a male family head. To this point we will return later. In general, the designator is a man who has no son for heir, as is explicitly stated in AuOr 5-T 13, and the designee is usually his daughter or daughters. In two cases we see a sister is designated, probably because the designator has no child (and maybe no brother either). In three texts, RE 23 and Sem. 46-T 2 as well as Emar VI 184, the women are established as the contingent heirs in case the existing sons designated heirs should die without offspring. The only exception to the substitutive nature of ‘Man and Woman’ is seen in RA 77-T 1, where a daughter is designated, although her brothers are alive at home. On the other hand, in ASJ 13-T 30, the designator prescribes that if Iddi-ramu, most probably his lost son, later turns up, he will be the heir instead of the designated daughters. This shows that the designation of ‘Man and Woman’ could be tentative.

The designation of ‘Man and Woman’ is made in the presence of other people to be valid. This is particularly the case in the Syrian-type texts, in which the lú.mešaḫḫū, ‘Brothers,’ of the designator are frequently summoned for this legal matter, and witnesses are listed at the end of the texts. Here, it is worth noting that in all the Syrian-type Emar texts but one, those lú.mešaḫḫū are summoned and/or the king of Emar is referred to as the first witness, whereas in the Ekalte texts, the lú.mešaḫḫū are summond, but no king of Ekalte appears as a witness. Although we have only two ‘Man and Woman’ Ekalte texts, the same pattern can be observed in documents that designate ‘Father and Mother.’

The need to summon the lú.mešaḫḫū is understandable, as this term is known to denote one’s relatives in a broad sense. Most probably, since they were potential claimants to the designator’s estate, their agreement on his decision was required. The involvement of the king is also important, since the royal authority would have forced potential claimants to accept the decision of the designator. However, we find that Sem. 46-T 2 was made in the presence of the lú.meššībūtu, not the lú.mešaḫḫū, and the king is not referred to. How can we explain this?

In this respect, we need to look at the diachronic change in the political regime in the land of Aštata. In both Ekalte and Emar, we can recognize two official authorities, i.e., urban and royal. As I discussed elsewhere, in the period of the Ekalte texts, the urban authority was dominant in Ekalte. In Emar after the Hittite conquest, in the early phase both authorities were balanced or the urban authority was still dominant. However, from the reign of Zu-Aštarti on, the royal authority evidently became dominant. Taking account of this historical framework, I think, the lú.meššībūtu of Sem. 46-T 2 denotes the city elders representing the urban authority, since the scribe of this text is Alal-abu, who belonged to the urban authority in the early phase of the Emar texts. If this is correct, we may think that in the early phase, when an official authority intervened in family affairs, it was the urban, not royal, authority. This means that in Emar an official authority was always involved in the designation of ‘Man and Woman.’ Then, what about the Ekalte texts’ lack of reference to any official authority? It seems to me that in Ekalte official intervention had not yet occurred in such a family affair.

The situation is different for the texts of the Syro-Hittite type in Emar. We see no summoning of lú.mešaḫḫū here, and two royal documents of Carchemish, RE 85 and Emar VI 31, lack a witness list. Although TS 74 lacks one too, it has a sealer list. Were these documents enough to force the designator’s relatives to accept the legal decision? The answer must be positive. Probably, the fact that a Syro-Hittite-type document was drawn up was decisive enough for the Emarites, since it reflected the authority of the Hittites, the conquerors of the city.

If so, one may rather wonder why the involvement of the king of Carchemish himself in two of the texts was necessary. In this respect, it is interesting to note that the woman designated as ‘Man and Woman’ in RE 85 is a qadištu-woman. If she was a priestess, Ini-Tešub’s involvement may have been due to her religious importance. In Emar VI 31, although we see no special status for the daughters designated as “sons,” it should be noted that the text also designates as ‘Father and Mother’ another daughter, who is a ḫarimtu-woman, a term usually taken to mean prostitute or independent woman. In any case, since this woman was once cut off from her family, the authority of Šaḫurunuwa was probably required to incorporate her into it again. As for PdA 66 of Prince Ḫešmi-Tešub, unfortunately we have no clue for special status of the designated daughter in the text.

IV. Obligations

We can recognize two obligations which the women designated ‘Man and Woman’ were to perform. The first is the worship of the gods and ancestral spirits for the family after the death of the designator. As shown in List 2, this is attested relatively often, in nine texts of the fifteen. For example, in RA 77-T 1 the father states of his daughter: “She shall invoke my gods and my dead.” It is well known that this obligation was usually performed by the eldest son, who took as his share the main house, to which the family god (or gods) belonged.

In the light of this observation, the abbreviated sentence in TS 72: 10, “Šamaš-laʾi, the god of the main house,” can be understood to indicate (my daughter) “Šamaš-laʾi (shall be in charge of) the god of the main house,” as in the case of Emar VI 201. When plural daughters are designated as ‘Man and Woman,’ the one who inherits the main house will perform the obligation. So, if each nuclear family had its family cult of gods and ancestral spirits, the omission of reference to that obligation in other texts is understandable: because it was taken for granted that the main heiress was to perform it.

The second obligation to be noted is caring. The question is, who is to be cared for. As already pointed out by K. R. Veenhof, the act of ‘caring’ is expressed differently in the texts from Emar (and Ekalte): abālu Gtn is used in the Syrian type, whereas palāḫu is used in the Syro-Hittite type, with only a few exceptions. As shown in List 2, this obligation of ‘Man and Woman’ is attested relatively rarely, in a total of six texts. But in RA 77-T 1, the father orders his sons to take care of the designated daughter, calling her also their “mother” (ll. 12, 15, 17, 24). Actually, she is treated more like a woman designated as ‘Father and Mother,’ who is usually the designator’s wife. This leads us to think that as far as this obligation is concerned, the daughter in RA 77-T 1 is exceptional. Her designation as ‘Man and Woman’ was probably due to her age and the above obligation of worship. In other words, she is to be regarded as a mixture of both types of women given both genders.

In the above six texts, the persons to be cared for are parents, mother, or sister. Except for the first case, the women to be cared for are all designated as ‘Father and Mother.’ Thus, we may recognize here female predominance, and correlation with the designation of ‘Father and Mother.’ What do these features tell us? Did a ‘Man and Woman’ usually take care only of her mother? To clarify this point, it is necessary to examine other legal texts concerning caring for comparison.

Let us look firstly at seventeen adoption contracts of the ‘normal’ type, that is, in which the positions of the father and son before the adoption seem to have been equal, that is, neither subordinate nor dominant. Among these, TS 72 and AuOr 5-T 14 also concern ‘Man and Woman.’ In these, whom is the adopted son to care for? They are his adoptive parents or the like in twelve texts, his adoptive father in three texts, and his adoptive mother in two texts. Note that the last two texts are written by the adoptive mother, who is most probably a widow. Thus, these ‘normal’ adoption contracts show that the adopted son usually takes care of his adoptive parents, or, more accurately, of the adoptive parent or parents still alive at that time.

When looking at other non ‘Man and Woman’ texts in which it is a woman who owes an obligation of caring for a family member, we find only a woman as its object: her mother in three texts and her sister in one text. But there is one case where a female slave is assigned to take care of her master and his wife, with the provision that she will be released after their deaths. In three other texts, it is prescribed that if a man who has the obligation of caring should die, a woman will undertake it as his substitute. In one text we find his sister will take care of his parents, and in two texts, the wife of a debtor will do the same for the creditor and his wife. Here, we may note two points. Firstly, when a woman has this obligation, its object is usually a female member of the family, particularly her mother. But secondly, it is also possible for her to take care of also a male in some circumstances.

In view of the above observations, how should we think about the object of caring by a ‘Man and Woman’? Is it care of mother or sister only, or of both her parents? In other words, is it gender-oriented as women taking care of women, or not because she is a woman substituting for a son? In my opinion, the latter is preferable. Note that the designator has no son and apparently needs caring by someone, and that she, the substitute for a son, can perform this obligation. As seen above, the references to her mother or sister as its object are restricted to the texts in which those women are designated as ‘Father and Mother.’ It seems to me that it is due only to this other matter that the object of the caring is specified. Then, why are both parents referred to in BLMJE 3? Here, it should be noted that the designator was the adoptive father of the designees. Probably, because he was not their natural father, the reference to him was required.

Based on these considerations, I would conclude that it was usually taken for granted that the ‘Man and Woman’ would take care of the designator and his wife, so the obligation did not need to be always stated explicitly.

V. Inheritance

Although the notion of ‘all one’s estate’ is expressed variously in the texts from Emar and Ekalte, the basic expression seems to be bītu mimmû, “house (and) possessions.” This phrase, as well as its abbreviations, and the term used in PdA 66, ḪA.LA/zittu, “(inheritance) share,” are explicitly stated as the inheritance of the ‘Man and Woman’ in seven texts in total, as indicated in List 2.

Among the remaining eight texts, although the case of TS 72 is not clear, in the other seven texts also, it seems evident that they will inherit all the estate of the designator. Let us take RE 15 as an example here. In this text, Irʾib-dIM designates his wife as ‘Father and Mother’ and gives her all his estate. At the same time, he designates his two daughters as ‘Man and Woman.’ Then he states that if these daughters should die without offspring, his wife shall give (the estate) to an offspring of his own father. Now, what will happen if the daughters without offspring are still alive at the time of her death? It seems self-evident that they will inherit all the estate.

Here, it may be noted that there are three other texts, Emar VI 32, 128 and 213, in which it is prescribed that a daughter will inherit all the estate of her parent, although she is not called ‘Man and Woman.’ Why not? Let us note that here the parent who gives the estate is the mother, and she is referred to as the “wife of PN,” most probably his widow. This suggests that only a male family head had the right to designate a woman as ‘Man and Woman.’ Ordinary widows probably did not have this right.

Now let us turn to another aspect of inheritance. Although usually the woman designated as ‘Man and Woman’ is unmarried, several texts deal with her marriage. If the father adopts a son as her husband during his lifetime, does this affect her status as heiress?

In Emar VI 31 and RA 77-T 2 the answer is negative. For example, in the former text, although the father designates his two daughters as “sons,” and marries one of them to his adopted son, he prescribes that (only) those two daughters will inherit all his estate. TS 72 is problematic, however. Here, the adopted son is assigned the task of caring for his adoptive parents, while, as seen above, it seems that the designated daughter will undertake the obligation of worship. Although it is written that the father’s estate will be inherited by the sons born to this couple in the future, it is not clear who inherits it immediately after the death of the father. Since they both have obligations, one may speculate that both husband and wife will inherit it. AuOr 5-T 14 provides still another pattern. In this text, the father assigns all his estate to his adopted son, the husband of his daughter, changing his previous decision in AuOr 5-T 13 that she was the ‘Man and Woman’ who would inherit it.

Thus, we find three possible patterns of inheritance by a ‘Man and Woman’ who has been married to an adopted son. First, she inherits; second, they both inherit; third, he inherits. How are they to be evaluated? For this purpose, let us consult the patterns found in other texts of ‘normal’ adoption, with marriage between the adopted son and a daughter of the adoptive father. When checking the seven relevant texts, one sees that inheritance by the adopted son is normal in these cases; inheritance by daughter only is not attested at all, and inheritance by both is found only once. Therefore, it can be said that inheritance by daughter only is peculiar to the ‘Man and Woman.’ However, one cannot conclude that this was normal for this type of women. Let us note that many of them were unmarried at the time of designation, and their fathers no doubt expected to adopt sons as their husbands later. AuOr 5-T 14 provides a case where a father succeeded in doing so, and changed the inheritance provision to inheritance by the adopted son, which was normal in the ‘normal’ adoption with marriage.

In view of the above, although we do have cases where a daughter alone inherits, I am inclined to think that the fathers usually made the designation with the hope he could later adopt a husband for her who would inherit the estate. In other words, the designation of ‘Man and Woman’ could be usually a tentative measure, as is clear in ASJ 13-T 30.

Here, one may raise several questions. Firstly, if the designation of ‘Man and Woman’ was tentative, why was it necessary at all? I think, it was a precaution against claims to the designator’s estate by his relatives; since without that designation, they might demand that he marry off his daughter so that they might inherit it. Secondly, if the daughter did marry an adopted son, who would have the substantial initiative in the family after the death of the father: the adopted son as his legal heir, or the daughter as his natural offspring? Although it is difficult to clarify this point, the latter case may have been general in reality, as is today in Japan.

In any case, if the father dies without adopting a son as the husband of his ‘Man and Woman’ daughter, she is no doubt established as the sole heiress to his estate. She holds the initiative in her family. Such a woman holding the initiative is occasionally attested in Emar, as shown in the handout. It is interesting to note here that all of them are referred to as “daughter of PN” or by her own PN, but never as “wife of PN.” In view of their independent, socio-economic activities, it seems likely that they are women once designated as ‘Man and Woman.’ Here, it is interesting to note that those activities include the sale of the father’s house, as in Emar VI 113. Also noteworthy are Emar VI 124 and TS 28, which deal with their remarriage, for these texts provide possible, though not definite, support for the substantial initiative of ‘Man and Woman,’ especially if the first marriage of those women was to an adopted son during the lifetime of their fathers.

Finally, the estate which the ‘Man and Woman’ inherits from the designator is, of course, in principle to be inherited by the sons she bears, as is explicitly stated in TS 72.

VI. Closing Remarks

Generally speaking, the woman designated as ‘Man and Woman’ is a daughter of a man who has no son for heir, i.e., a substitute. Although she is expected to be the heiress and family head, the designation may usually have been tentative. Probably it was done as a precaution against claims to the designator’s estate by his relatives. But once that status is established, she has the same rights and obligations as a son. In this sense, we may recognize here gender conversion, as Lion argued. However, does this mean that she abandons her own female work, such as weaving and food preparation? This does not seem likely. If so, it may be better to regard the phenomenon as gender addition, as the full terms for ‘Man and Woman’ suggest. Unfortunately, however, we have few texts from Emar and Ekalte that shed light on women’s domestic activities.

The existence of the status of ‘Man and Woman’ indicates that the continuation of one’s own birth descendants had priority over the social principle of male centeredness, though being greatly restricted by it, as seen in its substitutive nature. As noted above, a major reason would have been the obsession that the estate be kept within the family. However, at the fundamental level, there seems to have been another motivation for the choice of his daughter. It was maintenance of the designator’s own family cult, again as pointed out by Lion. It is easy to speculate that he fears that, if he designates his brother as heir, the brother might neglect to worship his spirit properly. Probably, the only ones he could be certain would be loyal to him were his own blood offspring, in this case, his female offspring. 

< Handout >

I. Introduction

1. The legal texts from Emar (ca. 1275–1175 B.C.)     Syrian type and Syro-Hittite type

from Ekalte (ca. 1400–1325 B.C.)[1]                Syrian type only

2. ‘Man and Woman’ (= M&W): “male and female” or “female and male” (also “male,” “son”)

cf. ‘Father and Mother’ (= F&M); also daughter as “son” in Nuzi

II. Attestation

1. Emar texts

a) Syrian type (S): BLMJE 3: 22; RA 77-T 1 (= ASJ 13-T 25): 7; 2 (= ASJ 13-T 26): 10; RE 15: 11; 23: 14; Sem. 46-T 2: 19; also Emar VI 184: 17′ (NITA-ma ka-lu-šu!-[nu])

b) Syro-Hittite type (H): AuOr 5-T 13: 5; PdA 66: 5 (“son and daughter”); RE 85: 14; also Emar VI 31: 9; TS 72: 3; 74: 2

2. Ekalte texts: Ekalte II 65: 15; ASJ 13-T 30: 15

III. Designation

RA 77-T 1 (S): iš-tu UD-mi an-ni-im 2 mzi-ik-ri-dKUR DUMU ib-ni-dKUR i-na bu-ul-ṭì-šu LÚ.MEŠ. AḪ.ḪÁ-šu ú-še-ši-ib ki-ia-am iq-bi a-nu-um-ma 6 mfú-na-ra DUMU.MÍ-ia a-naù NITA aš-ku-un-ši

RE 85 (H): a-na p[a-ni m]i-ni-dU-u[b] … 5 mzu-aš-tar-[ti] DUMU m[…] ši-im-[ti É-šu] ù [DUMU.M]Í-šu i-ši-im10 a-kán-na iq-bi11 um-ma-a a-nu-um-ma 12 fa-ḫa-am-ma-du4 13 DUMU.MÍ-ia NU.GIG 14 a-na NITA ùe-te-pu-us-si-mi

PdA 66 (H): a-na pa-ni ḫi-iš-mi-dIM-ub DUMU LUGAL [Ø] [mq]í-bi-dKUR DUMU du-ú-da DUMU ia-si-na?-li [ri-i]k-sa ša É-šu ir-ku-uš [a-kán-n]a iq-bi ma-a a-nu-ma [fd30-k]i-mi DUMU.MÍ-ia a-na DUMU.NITA ù-ti [epu-u]š-ši

Ekalte II 65 (S): 1 mdIM-EN DUMU zu-an-na i-na bu-ul-ṭú-ti-šu LÚ.MEŠ.aḫ-ḫe-šu ú-še-ri-ib-ma ši-im-ti É-šu ù DUMU.MÍ-mia-ak-mu um-mi-šu i-ši-im ki-am iq-bi um-ma šu-ú-ma a-nu-um-ma14 fum-mi-na- aḫ-mi-il5 a-ḫa-ti-ia 15 ù NITA ši-i-ma

List 1. Legal Form of Designation of the ‘Man and Woman’

Abbreviations: d(s). = designator’s daughter(s), C = riksu-contract (riksa rakāsu), O = other type, St. = statement (qabû only), T = testament (šīmti bīti (etc.) šiāmu), W1 = the first witness (king/prince), * = F&M doc.

Kings/princes of Carchemish and Emar: CR2 = Šaḫurunuwa, CR3 = Ini-Tešub (son of CR2), CR3x = Hešmi-Tešub (ditto, prince); ER3a = Zū-Aštarti, ER3b = Pilsu-Dagan (brother of ER3a), ER4 = Elli (son of ER3b), ER4x = Yaṣi-Dagan (ditto, prince)

1a. Emar texts: Syrian type











4 ds.

MÍ-ti u NITA

RA 77-T 1






RA 77-T 2*





RE 15*




2 ds.


RE 23




sister (cont.)


Sem. 46-T 2*



ds. (cont.)


Emar VI 184




3 ds. (cont.)

NITA (in nom. sentence)

 1b. Emar texts: Syro-Hittite type







AuOr 5-T 13




PdA 66






RE 85



d. = qadištu


Emar VI 31*



2 ds.


TS 72


eldest d.


TS 74


d. (in retro.)


 2. Ekalte Texts (Syrian type)







Ekalte II 65*





ASJ 13-T 30*



4 ds.


 1. Formula


Syrian type

Syro-Hittite type

Ekalte X sinništu u zikaru šī-ma

Emar Y X ana sinništi u zikari šakānu Y X ana zikari u sinništi (or māri) epēšu

a) Contrasts between the two types: the term (general) and the verb (Emar)

b) Shift in the Syrian type: nominal sentence (Ekalte) → verbal sentence (Emar)

2. Designator: man (family head); see V.1 below

3. Designee (M&W): the designator’s daughter(s)

・In the absence of a male offspring as heir, she is the substitute.

e.g., “I (Aḫu-ṭab) have no son. (So) I have made Alnašuw[a], my daughter, as male and female” (AuOr 5-T 13: 4–6).

“If Abu-Dagan, my son, should die and have no offspring, now I have established my daughters as female and male” (Sem. 46-T 2: 16–20).

cf. (var.) sister (RE 23, Ekalte II 65): probably no child (or brother?)

special case: daughter, though sons are present (RA 77-T 1); see IV.2 below

ASJ 13-T 30: at present the son is lost, so designation of the M&Ws is tentative.

4. Attendee(s) and witnesses (esp. W1): for approval

a) Syrian type: lú.mešaḫḫū and/or the royal authority (Emar) vs. lú.mešaḫḫū only (Ekalte)

lú.mešaḫḫū (‘Brothers’) = relatives of the designator: potential claimants to the estate

・The royal authority: one of the two official authorities in the land of Aštata[2]

cf.               Ekalte                            Emar (early)                    Emar (ER3a on)

urban dominant  →  balanced or urban dominant  →  royal dominant

* lú.meššībūtu (Sem. 46-T 2) = “the (city) elders” (cf. the urban scribe Alal-abu)

* Lack of official authority in the two Ekalte texts

∴Official intervention: Ø (Ekalte) → urban authority → royal authority (Emar)

b) Syro-Hittite type: Ø or the royal authority of Carchemish

・Reflecting the authority of the conquerors

・The royal authority (esp. king) of Carchemish:

qadištu by CR3 (RE 85), ḫarimtu = F&M by CR2 (Emar VI 31), ? by CR3x (PdA 66)

IV. Obligations

List 2. Obligations and Inheritance of the ‘Man and Woman’

Abbreviations (additional): Ca. = caring, f. = M&W’s father, Inh. = inheritance, m. = M&W’s mother, Wo. = worship of the gods and ancestral spirits, @ = given all the estate of the designator

1a. Emar texts: Syrian type



Ca. for





f. & m.


The designator married a woman (widow), adopted her daughters and designated them as M&Ws.
RA 77-T 1




The M&W’s brothers must take care of her as their “mother” to inherit the estate.
RA 77-T 2*



If the M&W and her (future) husband die without offspring, 2 fPNs will inherit them. The mother is designated as F&M.
 RE 15* m. (all fr. m.) If the M&Ws die without offspring, the mother (F&M@) will give (the estate) to any relative of her husband (designator) who takes care of her.
RE 23



To be designated, if the designator’s son dies without offspring. If both the son and the M&W die, mPN will be the heir.
Sem. 46-T 2*




To be designated, if the designator’s son dies without offspring. The mother is designated as F&M.
Emar VI 184


To be designated, if the four sons of the designator die without offspring. The god belongs to the main house.

 1b. Emar texts: Syro-Hittite type



Ca. for



AuOr 5-T 13



Cf. also AuOr 5-T 14.
PdA 66


RE 85



The M&W shall give her estate to anyone who takes care of her. The old document on the designator’s ‘house’ is annulled.
Emar VI 31* sister


The sister (ḫarimtu) is designated as F&M.
TS 72




The father has adopted mPN, designated his daughter as M&W and married her to him. He shall take care of his (adoptive) parents. If she bears sons only after the death of her parents, they will divide the properties. She (and) the god (belong to) the main house.
TS 74


Designated in the past. The M&W’s brothers died, so the ‘house’ was left for her. Now she has adopted mPN, who had repaid her debt. He shall take care of her to take all her estate, but the female slave is given to the sons of her (dead) son.

 2. Ekalte Texts (Syrian type)



Ca. for



Ekalte II 65*



(all fr. m.)

Dictated document. If the M&W does not take care of her mother (F&M@), the latter shall give her estate to anyone who does.
 ASJ 13-T 30* m. (all) If mPN (the designator’s son) turns up, he shall marry his sisters (M&Ws) to receive their bridewealth, and shall take care of his mother (F&M) to take his inheritance share.

 1. Worship of the gods and ancestral spirits

・Relatively often: 8+1 texts

e.g., DINGIR.MEŠ-ya u mētēya lū tunabbi, “She shall invoke my gods and my dead” (RA 77-T 1: 8)[3]

・Obligation of the eldest son (main heir)

e.g., DINGIR-lì É GAL É GAL ḪA.LA mPN DUMU-ia GAL, “The god (belongs to [lit. of]) the main house. The main house is the share of Ḫinna-dIM, my eldest son” (TS 42: 13).

mPN DUMU-ia GAL DINGIR-lì É-ti GAL, “dIM-qarrad is my eldest son. The god (belongs to) the main house,” indicating “dIM-qarrad, my eldest son, (shall be in charge of) the god of the main house” (Emar VI 201: 50f. [H]).

cf. fPN DINGIR-lì É-ti GAL (TS 72: 10)

・Lack of the reference in M&W texts: because it was self-evident (cf. V.1)?

2. Caring: for the mother or parents?

・Vb.: abālu Gtn (Syrian type) vs. palāḫu G (Syro-Hittite type)

・Relatively rare: 5+1 texts

cf. (var.) M&W cared by the brothers as their “mother” (RA 77-T 1): cf. F&M

・Object: parents (1 text), mother = F&M (3+1 texts), sister = F&M (1 text)

note (1) female predominance; (2) correlation with F&M

♢ Comparison 1. Caring by ‘normally’ adopted sons:[4] for (living) adoptive parent(s)

* parents (10+2 texts): AuOr 5-T 14; PdA 67; RE 25, 28, 30, 41!, 87; TS 46!, 72; ZA 90-T 7; also Emar VI 69 (♀); RAI 47-T 1

* father (3 texts): Emar VI 5, Iraq 54-T 1, TS 73

* mother (2 texts): TS 48 (♀), 75! (♀)

♢ Comparison 2. Caring by other women: for woman

* woman (4 texts): mother (Emar VI 32 [♀], 176; TS 69), sister (TS 77 [♀])

cf. man and woman (1 text): master and his wife by his female slave (RE 27)

cf. parents (TS 42 [as the substitute of brother]), creditor and his wife (Emar VI 16 [of husband], TS 40 [of brother])

Q: Caring by M&W: Is it gender-oriented (as a woman), or not (as the substitute of a son)?

A.: The latter is preferable. No ref. to the designator was necessary, because it was self-evident.

* The designator having no son needs caring for, and she can do this!

* The ref. to the mother or sister is due to the topic of F&M in the documents.

* In BLMJE 3, since the daughters were adopted by the designator, a ref. to him is required.

V. Inheritance

1. Object: all the estate

・Direct references: 4+3 texts

e.g.,       The designator has given: É-ya gabba mimmûya, “my ’house’ (and) all the possessions” (AuOr 5-T 13: 7f.); É-ya mimmûya ḪA.LA-ya mala abuya iddinam-mi, “my ‘house’ (and) possessions, i.e., my share as much as my father gave me” (RE 85: 16–19).

・Indirect references: 7 texts

e.g.,       The designator has given his wife (F&M): É.ḪÁ A.ŠÀ.ḪÁ-ya būši bašīti, “my houses, fields (and) goods” (RE 15: 7f.). If the two daughters (M&Ws) die without offspring, the wife shall give (the estate) to anyone who takes care of her among the offspring of the designator’s father (ll. 15–18).

♢ Comparison 3. Other texts in which all the estate is given to a daughter (≠ M&W)

* by fPN wife of PN: Emar VI 32, 128, 213 (all ♀)

∴Designator of M&W: man (family head) only

2. Actual position of M&W

a) When the designator adopts a son as her husband

(1) sole heiress: Emar VI 31 (on one of the two M&Ws), RA 77-T 2

(2) co-heiress with her husband: TS 72?

(3) husband replacing the M&W as the sole heir: (AuOr 5-T 13 →) AuOr 5-T 14

Baṣṣu, the adopted son and the husband of Alnašuwa, shall take care of his adoptive parents. If he does, after their deaths, “whatever ‘house’ (and) everything (mim-ma!) of Aḫu-ṭab will remain with Baṣṣu” (ll. 11–13).

♢ Comparison 4. Other texts of ‘normal’ adoption + marriage with a daughter (≠ M&W)

* pattern (2): TS 75 only

* pattern (3): RAI 47-T 1; RE 25; TS 46, 73; ZA 90-T 7; also Emar VI 69

∴Pattern (1) is peculiar to M&W, but pattern (3) may usually have been desired.

→ designation of M&W could be a tentative measure (cf. ASJ 13-T 30 [III.3]).

* to avoid claims to the estate by the designator’s relatives

* substantial initiative: adopted son as legal heir or M&W as natural daughter?

b) When the designator dies without marrying her

∴Sole heiress and the family head

・The socio-economic activities of the women referred to as ‘daughter of PN’ (= M&W?)

e.g.,       TS 80: two women (2 DUMU.MÍ mPN) divide the house of their father.

                     Emar VI 113: a woman (fPN DUMU.MÍ PN) sells the house of her father.

Emar VI 124: a qadištu-woman (fPN DUMU.MÍ mPN) (re)marries a man.

cf.         TS 28: a woman (fPN only) divorces her husband as a result of (re)marriage.

3. Future inheritance: by the sons whom the M&W will bear (e.g., esp. TS 72)

VI. Closing Remarks

1. ‘Man and Woman’ = daughter as the substitute for a son (heir)

・Tentative nature: for the precaution against claims to the estate by the designator’s relatives

・Gender conversion: the same rights and obligations as son

or gender addition: cf. female works in the domestic sphere

2. Male centeredness vs. family centeredness

・Priority of the latter, though being greatly restricted by the former

・Maintenance of one’s own family cult

Abbreviations: Texts from Emar and Ekalte

ASJ 13-T = A. Tsukimoto, ASJ 13 (1991), 275–333; AuOr 5-T = D. Arnaud, AuOr 5 (1987), 211–241; BLMJE = J. Westenholz, CM 13 (2000); Ekalte II = W. Mayer, WVDOG 102 (2001); Emar VI = D. Arnaud, Recherches au pays d’Aštata: Emar VI.1–4 (Paris, 1985–87); Iraq 54-T = S. Dalley & B. Teissier, Iraq 54 (1992), 83–111, Pls. X–XIV; PdA = F. M. Fales, Prima dell’alfabeto (Venice, 1989); RA 77-T = J. Huehnergard, RA 77 (1983), 11–43; RAI 47-T = W. W. Hallo, in CRRAI 47 (Helsinki, 2002), 203–216; RE = G. Beckman, HANE/M II (1996); Sem. 46-T = D. Arnaud, Semitica 46 (1996), 7–16, Pl. 1.; TS = idem, AuOrS 1 (1991); ZA 90-T = M. P. Streck, ZA 90 (2000), 263–280, Pl. I.


Beckman, G. 1996: “Family Values on the Middle Euphrates in the Thirteenth Century B.C.E.,” in: M. Chavalas (ed.), Emar: The History, Religion and Culture of a Syrian Town in the Late Bronze Age, Bethesda, 57–79.

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

— 2006: Inheritance by Daughters in Israel and the Ancient Near East: A Social, Legal and Ideological Revolution, Jaffa.

Grosz, K. 1987: “Daughters Adopted as Sons at Nuzi and Emar,” in: J.-M. Durand (ed.), La femme dans le Proche-Orient antique (= CRRAI 33), Paris, 81–86.

Justel, J. J. 2008: La posición jurídica de la mujer en Siria durante el Bronce Final. Estudio de las estrategias familiares y de la mujer como sujeto y objeto de derecho, Zaragoza.

— forthcoming: “Women and Family in the Legal Documentation of Emar: With Additional Support
from Other Late Bronze Age Syrian Archives.”

Lion, B. 2009: “Sexe et genre (1):
Des filles devenant fils dans les contrats de Nuzi et d’Emar,” in: F. Briquel-Chatonnet et al. (eds.), Femmes, cultures et sociétés
dans les civilisations méditerranéennes et proche-orientales de l’Antiquité (Topoi Suppl. 10), 9–25.

Paradise, J. S. 1980: “A Daughter and Her Father’s Property at Nuzi,” JCS 32, 189–207.

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

Veenhof, K. R. 1998 “Old Assyrian and Ancient Anatolian Evidence for the Care of the Elderly,” in: M. Stol & S. P. Vleeming (eds.), The Care of the Elderly in the Ancient Near East (SHCANE 14), Leiden, 119–160.

Werner, P. 2004: Tall Munbāqa – Ekalte III. Die Glyptik (WVDOG 108), Saarbrücken.

Yamada, M. 2003: “More Ekalte Texts?” Bulletin of the Society for Near Eastern Studies in Japan (= BSNESJ) 46/2, 180–196 (in Japanese with English summary; see

— 2008: “Disinheritance in the Emar Texts: Notes on Its Symbolic Acts,” BSNESJ 51/1, 181–197 (in Japanese with English summary).

— 2012: “The Contracts of Caring by amīlūtus in Emar: In Comparison with Slaves, Adopted Sons and Creditors,” BSNESJ 55/1, 2–21 (in Japanese with English summary).

— 2013: “The Chronology of the Emar Texts Reassessed,” Orient: Reports of the Society for Near Eastern Studies in Japan 48, 125–156.

— 2014: “The Royal and Urban Authorities in Emar: A Diachronic Analysis of Their Relations,” al-Rāfidān 35, 73–108.

— forthcoming: “On Ekalte II 25,” BSNESJ 57 (in Japanese).


[1] Dating of these two text corpuses follows Yamada 2013 and Werner 2004: 23f., respectively. I suggest taking Sem. 46-T 2 as an Emar text (2008: 191 n. 1), and ASJ 13-T 30 as an Ekalte text (2003: 188–190).

[2] In my opinion, the land of Aštata before the Hittite conquest (ca. 1325 B.C.) was a confederation of city kingdoms (e.g., Šatappu, Ekalte) headed by Emar (Yamada 2003: 191f.; forthcoming).

[3] Syrian type: DINGIR.MEŠ mītī nubbû (cf. [var.] redû in Ekalte II 65: 17f.) vs. Syro-Hittite type: DINGIR.MEŠ-ya dIšt[ar.MEŠ-ya] lū tanabbi-mi (AuOr 5-T 13: 6f.); DINGIR.MEŠ-ya eṭemmēya liplaḫ-mi (RE 85: 15f.).

[4] I.e., in a broad sense, the sons whose positions before the adoption seem to have been equal, i.e., neither subordinate nor dominant to those of their adoptive parents due to debt, slavery, etc. See Yamada 2012: 7–10.

► Fourth REFEMA workshop (Tokyo, May 2014)

REFEMA Fourth Workshop

Women and Patrimony:
Constitution, conservation and inheritance of family assets

  Femmes et Patrimoine:
Constitution, conservation et transmission des biens familiaux


26-27 May 2014

TOKYO (Japon)




Chuo University, Tokyo
Building 2, Floor 4, Meeting Room 2 (多摩キャンパス2号館4階会議室2)


Monday 26th May

12h00 – 14h00         Lunch (Building 1 教職員食堂)

14h00 – 14h10         Opening Address
14h10 – 14h40         B. Lion, Women and Reak Estate Property in Nuzi
14h40 – 15h10         M. Yamada, The Women Designated ‘Man and Woman’ in Emar and Ekalte
15h10 – 15h40         Discussion

15h40 – 16h00         Coffee Break

16h00 – 16h30         C. Michel, Women and Real Estate in the Old Assyrian Texts
16h30 – 17h00         I. Nakata, Nadītum-Women in the Documents of Inheritance Published in MHET II
17h00 – 17h30         Discussion

17h30 – 19h30         Buffet (Building 2, Floor 4, Meeting Room 1)

Tuesday 27th May

10h00 – 10h30         E. Matsushima, Women in Elamite Royal Inscriptions: An Introduction
10h30 – 11h00         F. Joannès, Threats on the women’s Dowries during the Neo-Babylonian Period
11h00 – 11h30         Discussion

11h30 – 12h00    Coffee Break

12h00 – 12h30         L. Cousin, Transfer of Patrimony in the Šangu-Ninurta Archive
12h30 – 13h00         Y. Watai, Activities of Neo-Babylonian Women: An Analysis of their Active and Passive Aspects
13h00 – 13h30         Discussion

 13h30 – 15h30 Lunch (Building 1 教職員食堂)

15h30 – 16h00         B. Lafont, Sources, Control and Transmission of Women’s Property in the Ur III Period
15h30 – 16h00         F. Karahashi, Female Household Personnel in the ED Lagash E2-MI2
16h00 – 16h30         Discussion
16h30 – 17h30         Business Meeting + Coffee

18h00 –         Dinner

Contact à Paris: laura.cousin2(at)
Contact in Tokyo: wataiyoko(at)

► Third REFEMA workshop (Carqueiranne, September 2013)

REFEMA Third Workshop

The economic role of  women in the public sphere in Mesopotamia:
from the workshop to the marketplace (2)

Le rôle économique des femmes dans l’espace public en Mésopotamie:
de l’atelier au marché (2)

公共の場における女性の経済的役割:職人工房から市場まで (2)

3-5 septembre 2013




Tuesday 3rd September

10h30 – 10h40        Welcome address (F. Karahashi, F. Joannès, V. Sébillotte)

10h40 – 11h00        F. Karahashi, Felt-makers, Doorkeepers, and Cantors in the ED Lagash Texts

11h00 – 11h20         B. Lafont, New data on women at work in the Ur III archives of Garšana and


11h20                                                        Coffee Break

11h40 – 12h00         C. Michel, Women in Financial Operations According to the Old Assyrian Texts

12h00 – 12h20         I. Nakata, Activities of nadītu’s in the Economy of the City of Sippar

12h20 – 12h40         Discussion on data of the  IIIrd et IInd millenniums

12h45                                                         Lunch

15h00 – 15h20         M. Yamada, On amīltūtu in Emar

15h20 – 15h40         B. Lion, Palace Servants in the Kingdom of Arraphe

15h40                                                        Coffee Break

16h00 – 16h20        F. Joannès, Women and Palace during the neo-assyrian Period

16h20 – 16h45         Discussion on data of the  IInd et Ist millenniums

16h45 – 17h15         B. Lion, Compte-rendu du Workshop ‘Gender, Methodology and Assyriology’

                                   organisé par S. Svärd et A. Garcia -Ventura à la RAI 59 (Gand, 07-2013)

17h15 – 17h30         V. Sébillotte, Travaux concernant l’histoire des femmes dans l’Antiquité

[À 20h30, conférence publique de C. Michel: «Femmes de marchands au début du IIe millénaire av. J.-C.: femmes au foyer et femmes d’affaires»]


Wednesday 4th September

10h30 – 10h50        E. Matsushima, Women who played the role of interceder Part 2 :

                                   hīrtu and kallātu as titles of wife

10h50 – 11h10         L. Cousin, Neo-babylonian Women: Bibliographical Tools

11h10 – 11h30         Y. Watai, Women in the Neo-babylonian Period

11h30                                                            Coffee Break

11h45 – 12h05         Discussion on data of the  Ist millennium

12h15 – 12h45          V. Sébillotte, Éléments de discussion et de conclusion du workshop.

                                   General discussion on the REFEMA project, its next workshop (Tokyo spring 2014),

                                   its blog, and on the international scheduled colloqium (Nanterre, 5-7 Novembre 2014):

                                   The Role of Women in Work and Society / Travail et société : la part du féminin.

12h45                                                            Lunch


Contact à Paris: laura.cousin2(at)
Contact in Tokyo: wataiyoko(at)
Contact à Carqueiranne: evelyne.noguera(at)

► Second REFEMA workshop (Tokyo, June 2013)

REFEMA Second Workshop

The economic role of  women in the public sphere in Mesopotamia:
from the workshop to the marketplace (1)

Le rôle économique des femmes dans l’espace public en Mésopotamie:
de l’atelier au marché (1)

公共の場における女性の経済的役割:職人工房から市場まで (1)

June 2013 24 & 25

at Chuo University (Tokyo, Japan)



Monday 24th June

12h45 – 13h00    Welcome address (F. Karahashi)

13h00 – 13h30    F. Joannès, Women at work in Babylonian temples during the First Millenium B.C.

13h30 – 14h00    E. Matsushima, Women who played the role of interceder

14h00 – 14h30 Coffee Break

14h30 – 15h00    G. Tolini, Femmes, apprentissage, voyage

15h00 – 15h30    L. Cousin, The female perfume-makers in the Neo-Assyrian & Neo-Babylonian documentations

15h30 – 16h00    Y. Watai, Project of a Prospographical Study of Neo-Babylonian Women (2)

16h00 – 16h30    Discussion (First Millennium)

17h00 – 19h00 Buffet

 Tuesday 25th June

10h00 – 10h30    J. Justel, The Active Role of Nuzi Women in Loan Contracts

10h30 – 11h00    M. Yamada, Because She is a Daughter of Emar”

11h00 – 11h30    Discussion (Nuzi & Emar)

11h30 – 12h00 Coffee Break

12h00 – 12h30    C. Michel, Assyrian Women’s Contribution to International Trade with Anatolia

12h30 – 13h00    I. Nakata, A Preliminary Report on nadītu’s in the Old Babylonian Sippar Documents

13h00 – 13h30    Discussion (Second Millennium) 

13h30 – 15h30 Lunch

15h30 – 16h00    B. Lafont, Women at work and economic life during the Ur III period 

15h30 – 16h00    F. Karahashi, šu-í «barber» and šu-í-munus «female barber» in the Early Dynastic Lagash Texts

16h00 – 16h30    Discussion (Third Millennium)

16h30 – 17h00    General Discussion + Coffee

18h00 – Dinner


Contact in Paris: laura.cousin2(at)

Contact in Tokyo: wataiyoko(at)

(2) State employment of women during the Ur III period

(2) State employment of women during the Ur III period 

Second and third REFEMA workshops, Tokyo (June 2013) and Carqueiranne (September 2013)

Bertrand Lafont (CNRS, Nanterre)

As a huge part of the Ur III documentation concerns the administrative management of state-dependent laborers and the calculation of what was allotted to them, we have of course much more information on women at work in the public sphere and outside their family than inside (cf. previous workshop).


We will start with a brief general “status questionis” on our subject, before having a look at some new evidence on results generated by the recently published archives of Garšana and Irisagrig.

In the written documents concerning the management of state-dependent laborers sustained through the so-called “ration system”, men and women were very often recorded together: thousands of texts record a joint administrative management of guruš and geme2 side by side (in many administrative Ur III texts we can find for example accounts for n geme2 guruš u4 1-šè, “n female and male work-days” counted together). It seems therefore that women contributed in the same way as men to the economic life managed by the state and we can emphasize right away that phenomenon of mixed management of human resources.

Nevertheless, in this regard, we must challenge the usual view according to which men worked for the primary productive sector of the economy (outdoors in the fields and in animal husbandry), while women were mainly occupied in the secondary productive sector (indoor processing activities to produce flour, oil, clothing, etc.)[1]. This gender dimension of labor division does not precisely fit our documentation, as we find in the following:

  • male weavers (guruš-uš-bar) next to female weavers (geme2-uš-bar), as in the tablet Legrain, UET 3, 1449
  • male millers working alongside female millers (Watson, BCT 2, 49)
  • or, on the contrary, many women involved in agricultural activities (passim).

In fact, it seems that we can divide the economic contribution of the female part of the working population between two kinds of activities:

  • Outdoor activities: agriculture, hauling boats, making and carrying bricks, construction projects,  production and food processing. In these activities women contributed in the same way as men for the same kinds of collective work. They were employed in a large number of jobs, sometimes in unexpected sectors, as for example these female workers (geme2) “having built the house of Amar-Suen” (é damar-dsuen-ka dù-a, Sauren, NYPL 138). Perhaps these activities had something to do with the corvée-duty: according to P. Steinkeller[2], only heads of families owed such a service to the state but it is clear that women, needing more salaries and rations, were also involved in the same collective projects.
  • Indoor activities: in this case, the professional specialization of women was most often indicated and three of these were more specifically their own domain: weaving (geme2-uš-bar), milling flour (geme2-kikken2), and extracting oil (geme2-ì-sur).

Concerning these indoor processing activities, as has been thouroughly studied (thanks to the works of Waetzoldt[3], Maekawa[4], Grégoire[5], Englund[6], and others), the real feature that was quite unique to this time is that some of them were clearly organized on an industrial scale. All around the country, some large factories employing female workers were operated especially for producing garments, flour and oil. And it is even possible that in or around the major cities of the kingdom, some individual “industrial” centers combining these various activities did exist:

  • At Ur, female weavers, oil pressers and millers were allotted all together as can be seen in the tablet Legrain, UET 3, 1504, viii 28-29: níg-ba geme2-uš-bar geme2-ì-sur ù geme2-kikken2, “allotments for female weavers, oil pressers and millers”.
  • At Garšana they built a unique triple complex, in the form of a “brewery-kitchen-mill building”: é-lunga é-kikken2 ù é-muhaldim (index CUSAS 4, passim).
  • And at the same place they built another double complex in the form of a “textile mill and craftsmen’s building”: é-uš-bar ù é-gašam-e-ne (index CUSAS 4, passim)[7].

Therefore, these main “industrial” factories employing women were weaving mills (é-uš-bar), places for pressing oil (é-ì-sur-sur), mills producing various flours (é‑kikken2), kitchens (é‑muhaldim), and breweries (é-lunga). The following chart offers a summary.


The work of women in large textile factories (é-uš-bar) was intensively analyzed by Waetzoldt 40 years ago (UNT, p. 91-108) and that study remains the reference synthesis on this subject. As an illustration, let us consider a tablet kept in the British Musem (Maekawa, ASJ 20, 1998, 108 n°7). This enormous accounting text calculates the amount of barley distributed to personnel working in the various public weaving mills in the province of Lagash in the year Šulgi 48.


As analyzed by A. Uchitel[8], this text makes a clear distinction between 1) those receiving monthly rations because they were supposed to work only part-time in the workshop (note that some of them were receiving more than the usual average rations), and 2) those receiving yearly grain rations, likely as they did not belong to families holding allotment plots. In total, the text records more than 10,000 individuals working in the weaving mills of the province of Lagash in Šulgi 48. Almost ⅔ of them were female weavers but men, children and elders were also categorized, divided according to the quota of rations they received (from 100 liters to 10 liters per person and per month). Once again, these are amazing numbers.

And for an example of a mill producing flour and employing female workers, let us have a look at another text from the British Museum (King, CT 3, pl. 19-20, BM 18344). This is a comprehensive list of various workers receiving grain rations, and it can be completed based on other several similar large accounts from Girsu. The text provides a good example of how a millhouse was organized.


This “great millhouse” (é-kikken2 gu-la) of Girsu seems to have employed 658 people in total. Two thirds of them were female millers, counted with their children. But some others were employed as weavers and oil pressers. Those in 1), 2) and 3) represent the workers in charge of producing flour. But the text also records people belonging to the regular staff in charge of maintenance and supervision of the mill, especially craft workers, boat towers, gardeners and specialists in boat constructions: most of them were male, recorded in 4), 5) and 6). We see therefore that, besides female millers who constituted the core of the workshop, a variety of craftsmen supported their activity.

But who were these state-dependents women working in outdoor activities or in these various mills? And what do we know about them or about their origin?


To explore this question, let us start with an important royal inscription of king Šu-Suen, after his victorious military campaign against Šimanum in the Zagros mountains (Frayne, RIME 3/, 129’-145’). It is said there that:

« The king blinded the young men of those cities, whom he had overtaken. And the women of those cities, whom he had overtaken, he offered as a present to the weaving mills ».

As we can see, after this military campaign, male and female prisoners were separated. And whereas the male captives were blinded (probably to avoid any revolt without losing such a labor force), the female ones were not mutilated, but sent off to some textile mills of the inner kingdom. It is therefore clear that the labor force of Neo-Sumerian textile mills consisted in part of prisoners of war, a situation that is not without parallel, as for example at Mari in Old Babylonian time with its « ergasterions » (nepârâtum), that were large prison-workshops where mass productions were organized[9].

In brief, from all the documentation it appears that women working in these Ur III factories included:

  • war-captives (nam-ra-ak)[10],
  • purchased or indebted slaves (geme2 // arad2)
  • donated personnel (a-ru-a)[11],
  • women of the impoverished classes and outcasts of society.

Yet these categories of women certainly did not represent the entire workforce inside the state-run workshops. They would have been an insufficient number to meet the economic needs of the state. In all likelihood, many of the female workers employed in the mills were simply state-dependants, working part-time or full-time for rations and salaries, like their male counterparts.

M. Van de Mieroop[12] calculated that more than 13,000 female weavers were active at a single time in the workshops of Ur. Such a huge number is consistent with a text from Ur (Legrain, UET 3, 1504), where wool is distributed to female workers involved in the factories of that city for a total of 8,542 kg of wool. Waetzoldt calculated that at the rate of 1 mina of wool per capita (likely according to parallels), more than 17,000 female workers could have been concerned, employed as weavers, millers and oil pressers. In the same way Waetzoldt also calculated (UNT, p. 99) that, at Lagaš/Girsu, 15,000 personnel were employed in the weaving industries of the province.

Among them, 6,466 female weavers are explicitly recorded in two Girsu administrative texts dated to the year Amar-Suen 1 (Sigrist, SAT 1, 279 // Hussey, HSS 4, 3). These two tablets inform us that, among the three main urban centers of the province of Lagaš (Girsu, Kinunir and Gu-abba), the greatest weaving mills were situated in the third one, Gu-abba.

In total, thousands of women were therefore involved in every province of the kingdom and this must reflect a significant part of the population. However, it remains impossible to assess what percentage of the total female population was thus employed in these state-run workshops, or to estimate the importance of their contribution to the global economy, even if it may have been substantial. And it is also difficult to differentiate groups of women in terms of social hierarchy.

In several studies (and in a forthcoming article on “Corvée Labor in Ur III Times”)[13], P. Steinkeller has considered that two categories of workers must be distinguished in Ur III society: those belonging to the eren2 class, who received royal land and rations in exchange for part-time service, and those who were semi-free workers (ùg-ÍL, geme2), working all year round as unskilled laborers in exchange for rations. In all likelihood, men and women belonging to both of these categories were employed in the mills.

As for the unskilled workers, it is interesting to find (but not so frequently) in administrative texts some mentions of female menials (geme2 ùg-ÍL) parallel to male ùg-ÍL. Sometimes their occupations are given: geme2 ùg-ÍL mar-tu “menial Amorite women”, geme2 ùg-ÍL amar-e gub-ba, “menial women on duty for the calves”, geme2 ùg-ÍL é-gu4-niga-ka “menial women of the house of fattened cattle”.

Another point can be observed: I. J. Gelb noticed[14] that, in many Ur III administrative texts, women are recorded alone with their children, without any accompanying man. He called these lists of rations for women and their children the “geme2-dumu texts”, and he asked: “where are the husbands?”. We must confess that, 40 years later, this important question remains unanswered. We know almost nothing about the family life of these thousands of geme2 employed in these large weaving and milling factories and working there with their children. Were there dormitories or barracks for them around the factories? Or did they return home every evening to their families and villages nearby? We have no information regarding these questions. But we can consider that, depending on the status of these women, individual situations probably varied: prisoners and slaves were probably confined to barracks, while “free” workers had their own home and family life independently, and came to work every day with their younger children. In any case, general conditions in these factories were harsh and restrictive, as we can see by the need of porters/keepers (ì-du8) to control inputs and outputs, and the frequent mention of fugitives (zàh) that were pursued (the text Legrain, UET 3, 1018 records up to 134 of these geme2-zàh!), or dead (úš) people on many occasions.


For the management of full-year working women, the best and most frequently mentioned example is the one given by the tablet studied some twenty years ago by Robert Englund in his article “Hard Work” (see note 6). Instead of commenting for the umpteenth time on the content of this text, let us consider a parallel document from Umma: Genouillac, TCL 5, 5670. On the same model, it is a balance account written by a man named Ur-Šara, the foreman of a mill.


Over a period of one year, the state allocated to Ur-Šara various amounts of grain and a team of 36 female workers. This was his “debit” (meaning that “this was owed to the state”). The credit column describes all the work performed by these 36 female workers during the year: two thirds of their time was spent producing flour. Yet it is interesting to observe that the remainder of their time was occupied in agricultural work, in weaving, in loading and unloading boats, in producing earthworks, and so on. One sixth of the time was counted as days off (that is 5 days per month, 2 months per year). Finally, all of this was converted in the final balance into equivalents of workdays and of produced flour. Compared to what was expected, there was a deficit, to be reimbursed by these women in the following year.

Here, we can observe that these women were employed full-time, all year long in the mill. But it is noteworthy that they could easily be assigned to occupations besides producing flour, to suit the needs of the economic organization.

We just saw above that, in total, these female workers were counted in the thousands for each province. Consequently, with the Ur III accounting system and its “workdays” equivalencies, some summary administrative texts finally calculated women workforce in tens of thousands of female “workdays” (geme2 u4 1-šè). Below is a chart that shows the greatest numbers of workdays of female workers that can be found in Ur III texts. And one will not be surprised to see, once again, that milling and textile production are principally concerned.


How were these women paid? As it is well known, the “ration system” with its amounts of barley, oil and wool issued to dependents, was a hallmark of early Mesopotamian history and is especially well documented in the Ur III period: it is mainly because of such rations that we have such a huge written documentation. In this system, women were paid distinctly less than men, a phenomenon already attested in earlier periods (Ebla, Lagaš II): while the guruš received an average of 60 liters of grain per month, women usually received only 30 to 50 liters.

But as we just saw, only some people worked full time for the state and we can imagine that many of these women were married or related to members of the eren2 class: they belonged to families that held plots of subsistence land and they could have stayed at home or worked only part-time in public factories. And as a matter of fact, we do find texts in which women could, like men, be “hired” (hun-gá) for some periods of time (an example of a text with geme2 hun-gá, “hired women”, is Ozaki-Sigrist, BPOA 1, 564), and many texts record real “salaries for women” (á geme2) instead of rations.

A last observation will be made about positions of authority that these women could hold in such a context of “public” work. It is not infrequent to find forewomen at the head of teams of workers, as for example in the text Waetzoldt-Yıldız, MVN 16, 727, 11-12. Sometimes women could hold high administrative positions, at the same level as men and could seal tablets, as shown by several seal impressions and the attested title of munus-dub-sar (as in Forde, Nebraska 45). And this situation can now be best observed in the archive of Garšana, where the management of the estate which was located there was greatly between the hands of women.


This leads us finally to the two large new archives that have recently been recovered, gathered, studied and published by David Owen: those of Garšana (published 6 years ago)[15] and those of Irisagrig (just published in Nisaba 15)[16]. In spite of their lack of archaeological context, these archival texts give unique insights into the culture of Sumer in the late 3rd millenium. And they provide, for our REFEMA topic, unprecedented data on the role of women in the Neo-Sumerian economy and society.

Let us illustrate here this new wealth of information with a few brief examples. First, from the Garšana archive: this archive not only offers 1500 additional common Ur III administrative texts but it also provides the unique records of a huge and hitherto unknown private household: during the reigns of Šu-Suen and Ibbi-Suen, this household was the estate of a general (šagina) and physician (a-zu), named Šu-Kabta, and his wife, a princess named Simat Ištaran who was a sister of king Šu-Suen. This archive highlights espacially the role of women, both as heads of the household and in the capacity of supervisors, administrators (some of them have seals), and laborers in many sectors of the estate. And if one takes the point of view of the labor force available or used in this household, it is interesting to see that, in the all archive, working women topped in numbers working men. Finally, thanks to the new evidence of Garšana, we can see that women in Ur III society had more authority and influence than may have been previously recognized and sheds light on a hitherto undocumented aspect of society in the Ur III period.

After Šu-Kabta’s death, his wife, princess Simat-Ištaran, inherited and actively managed the Garšana estate herself. From that time on, several women of the household began to play an important role. As an illustration, let us consider the case of a woman named Aštaqqar who ended up managing the all textile industry at Garšana as supervisor of the weavers (ugula-uš-bar, a function usually occupied by men). She had her own seals, as shown below, with which she sealed tens of tablets (seals drawn by R. Mayr, CUSAS 3, p. 431).


Various other women also supervised construction gangs consisting of both men and women : such positions were until now unattested within the existing Ur III records[17].

As observed in my previous paper for the first REFEMA workshop at Nanterre, a quick look at the occupations attested in the household headed by Šu-Kabta and Simat-Ištaran presents at first the usual list for women : oil pressers, grain millers, or weavers. But it is noteworthy that these women were in fact often performing tasks far from their primary specialty. Consider for example the women who are qualified as weavers (geme2-uš-bar). Even if they were surely mainly employed in the textile mill (é-uš-bar) of Garšana, we can also see them in many other occupations; they are thus employed for :

– Harvesting (CUSAS 3, 262 : 19-22) :

  • 18 geme2 sag-dub 1 geme2 á-⅔ geme2-uš-bar-me-éš (…) u4 105-šè (…) še gur10-gur10-dè zàr tab-ba-dè ù geš ra-ra-dè a-šà Ṣe-ru-um gub-ba
    « 18 full-time female weavers (and) 1 female weaver at ⅔ wages for 105 days (…) employed at the Ṣerum field to harvest barley, stack (its) sheaves (for drying) and flail (them) »

– Demolishing a house (CUSAS 3, 273 : 1-6) :

  • 6 guruš ašgab 8 guruš lú-azlag2 24 geme2-uš-bar u4 1-šè al-tar é A-bí-a-ti gul-dè gub-ba
    « 6 leather workers, 8 fullers (and) 24 female weavers employed for 1 day of construction to demolish the house of Abiati »

– Transporting crops of barley (CUSAS 3, 290 : 1-4)

  • 16 ⅓ geme2-uš-bar u4 10-šè še Ù-dag-gaki-ta GAR-ša-an-naki-šè de6-a
    « 16 ⅓ female weavers for 10 days having brought barley from Udaga to Garšana »

– Lamenting after the death of their master Šu-Kabta (and they are paid for that, CUSAS 3, 252 : 1-7 et 257 : 1-6)

  • 97 geme2 sag-dub 15 geme2 á-⅓-ta geme2-uš-bar-me-éš [n] geme2 [u4] 9 ½-šè [gaba] sìg-dè gub-[ba u4 Šu]-kab-tá ba-úš-a
    « 97 full-time female weavers (and) 15 female weavers at ⅓ wages (and) [n] female spinner(s) employed for 9 ½ [days] to beat (their) [breasts when] Šu-Kabta died »

As we can see, these specialized women were finally employed for many tasks far beyonf their basic specialty and mostly at the same level as men.

But at Garšana, one point is particularly striking: the involvement of women in the construction works sector. This has been recently and extensively studied by W. Heimpel[18] who has gathered especially more than 200 tablets that are the daily records of an ambitious construction project during the three last years of the life of Šu-Kabta, at the end of the reign of Šu-Suen. It seems that this construction has mainly concerned the building of a “ringwall”, of several factories and of private residences. In this context, it appears that women of the household were primarily involved in these construction work and did, for example, almost all the carrying of bricks (such a task was hitherto unattested elsewhere). Note the scheme in the last lines of many of these texts that list female brick carriers by name in groups headed by a foreman or a forewoman (table borrowed from W. Heimpel [19]).


These texts, sometimes having more than 100 lines, give at the end the number of carried bricks, the distance over which they were carried, the work standard in the form of numbers of carried bricks that earned a day’s wage, the amount of the wage, the total of barley required for pay, and the name of the overseer. As an illustration, consider one of these tablets : Owen, CUSAS 3, 352.

7. šu+nigin2 10 ⅓ sar 2 ½ gín sig4 Total 10,…  plots of bricks
8. ús-bi 50 ninda The (transportation) distance is 50 rods
9. á geme2 1-a 216 sig4-ta Work for one female worker: 216 bricks each (day)
10. geme2-bi 34 ½ 5 gín The number of maids (for one day) is 34,5…
11. še 3 sila3-ta ba-hun They are hired at 3 liters of barley each
12. še-bi 0,1.4. 3 ⅔ sila3 5 gín The needed barley is 103,…  liters
13. á sig4 ÍL-gá é-šu-x-[…] Wages for carrying bricks at GN.
14. Me-é-a ugula lú hun-gá ME-ea supervisor of hired persons
15. giri3-bi [dIškur-illat] šabra Responsible : Adad-tillati the administrator
16. ù [Puzur4dnin-kar-kè dub-sar] and Puzur-Ninkarak the scribe.
17. šà [GAR-ša-an-naki] At Garšana
18. iti […] Date
19. (Year Šu-Sîn 8)

Only women were concerned in these texts. Yet finally, what can be learned from the Garšana archive as a whole is the involvement of the women of the estate in all kinds of works: they were employed in the same way as men and even more than them, and these texts show how great was the flexibility in the organization of their work, regulated by bureaucratic authorities. This observation perhaps addresses the question of the supposed scarcity of labor in the Ur III period (an idea put forward by Piotr Steinkeller[20]). We can even ask about the existence of a kind of “labor market”  because of so many people mentioned in this archive as having been “hired” (hun-gá).

But a new archive adds now to this picture: the Irisagrig archive recently published by David Owen in two new volumes of the series Nisaba (volume 15/1 and 15/2)[21]. The 1,200 tablets published and studied there represent another example of a unique archive, this time from a major city of the Ur III kingdom: Irisagrig, not far from Nippur[22], known to have been the seat of a governorship. These texts are part of a large, official archive (probably of the provincial governor, named Ur-mes), and concern the affairs of various officials, mainly during the reign of Šu-Suen.

The identification and recovery of this large body of new data add a significant dimension to our understanding of the historic, religious, political, and socio-economic dynamics of the Ur III state. Like the Garšana texts, they add especially to the picture we can sketch for the role played by women in Ur III society. The number of named women in this archive is substantial and includes many newly attested (mostly Akkadian) female personal names, newly documented princesses, and wives of prominent officials, along with women in positions that are rarely, if ever, attested in other sources.

A more comprehensive study of the data will surely come in the near future. But we can have a quick look at these occupations, which include:

– “Usual” female occupations in the documents of Irisagrig:

  • geme2-àr-ra / geme2-kikken2, “millers”
  • geme2-uš-bar, “weavers”
  • geme2-kar-kíd, “single women, prostitutes” (?)

– “Unusual” female occupations in the documents of Irisagrig (references to the texts in the indices of Nisaba 15/1):

  • geme2-azlag(usually male lú-azlag2, “fuller, washerman”)
  • munus-a-zu (usually male a-zu, “physician”)
  • munus-dub-sar  (usually male dub-sar, “scribe”)
  • munus-gudu(usually male gudu4, “purification priest”)
  • geme2-ì-du8, munus-ì-du(usually male ì-du8, “doorkeeper”)
  • geme2-muhaldim, munus-muhaldim (usually male muhaldim, “cooker”)
  • geme2-nar, munus-nar (usually male nar, “singer, musician”)
  • qadištum (written munusqá-dì-iš-tum)  nu-gig/qadištu, “midwife?”, was only attested until now in the recently published new parts of the Ur-Namma Code[23]

Such an amazing list surely deserves further study. But in the frame of this short paper, we will just examine, to conclude, an emerging Irisagrig batch of tablets that provides new data on the role of a new prominent woman at the head of a large household: this woman was named Ninsaga and was the daughter of the governor (ensi2) of Irisagrig, Ur-mes. She was at the head of a large estate in that city. Three texts deserve attention: the first (Owen, Nisaba 15, 953), is a complete inventory, on twelve columns, of hundreds of named male and female slaves (arad2 and geme2) belonging to the household of Ninsaga in year Ibbi-Sîn 3. Each of them received monthly between 10 and 75 liters of barley rations. At the end, we find recorded: 74 guruš, 48 geme2, 47 dumu-nita2, 56 dumu-munus (122 adults, 103 children, that is 225 men and women). All these dependents of this private household are clearly characterized as “slaves” (geme2-arad2) of Ninsaga.

One year before (Ibbi-Suen 2) another text (Owen, Nisaba 15, 797) shows that a general (šagina) had taken away 50 slaves who had been removed from this household of Ninsaga, probably to bring them to the king, since these slaves are characterized as being assigned to the throne (arad2-geme2 nam-gešgu-za). And it is interesting to find again this same information exactly quoted in another text (Owen, Nisaba 15, 1038), which summarized other withdrawals made over Ninsaga’s household staff.

Finally, it appears that, if 51 slaves were left (si-ì-tum) in the household of Ninsaga after the “removal” carried out by the military officer, the large census that we mentioned at the beginning shows that, one year after (in Ibbi-Suen 3), the staff of the household had increased to 122 slaves.

What we see in the end and for the first time with this small batch of tablets, is the great number of dependents, men and women, that could be found in a private household and how these dependents could be added or removed from the household to be posted elsewhere, according to the will of administrative authorities. And this could maybe makes us reconsider what could have been the exact status of these slaves and dependents in these “private” households during the Ur III period.


Some provisional main points can be summarized:

During the Ur III period, women were not confined to the spheres of family, marriage and household: they were employed along with men in all kinds of indoor or outdoor work and activities.

Milling, weaving and pressing oil were essentially state-run activities, organized on an “industrial” scale and performed by state-dependent women working in large production units to meet the huge needs of the State for its “ration allotment” system. Weavers, millers and oil pressers were often associated. Their installations, perhaps aggregated in unique places, seem to have been managed under the direct supervision of the royal power.

We should beware of ​​a depreciating vision according to which only poverty or enslavement could explain and justify the work of women. Texts show the same intensive use of male and female workers belonging to various categories of the society in the all kingdom.

The pressure put by the state administration and its strong will of control observable through the texts should probably be analyzed in the context of a scarcity of labor during the Ur III period, an idea previously suggested by P. Steinkeller.

Finally, one major gap characterizes our documentation: there is absolutely no information in any of our texts regarding the potential participation of women in market activities. Is it simply because, in this area, written documents were usually unnecessary or outside the administrative sphere?

[1] B. Lion kindly drew my attention to the fact that this is the classical envision developed notably in chapter VII of Xenophon’s Oeconomicus, where it is asserted that women should devote themselves to indoor activities and men to outdoor ones.

[2] Contribution of P. Steinkeller to the “Ur III colloquium” of Madrid in 2013, devoted to the Corvée Labor in Ur III Times. I thank the author for having sent me his forthcoming paper.

[3] Untersuchungen zur neusumerischen Textilindustrie, Rome 1972.

[4] In many articles, notably in the Acta Sumerologica Journal.

[5] “Les grandes unités de transformation des céréales: l’exemple des minoteries de la Mésopotamie du sud à la fin du IIIe millénaire avant notrère ère”, in P. Anderson (éd.), Préhistoire de l’agriculture: nouvelles approches expérimentales et ethnographiques, Paris, 1992, p. 321-339.

[6] “Hard Work, where will it get you? Labor management in Ur III Mesopotamia”, JNES 50, 1991, p. 255-280.

[7] See also for example Legrain, UET 3, 1422, 7-8, where geme2-uš-bar geme2-ì-nun ù geme2-kikken2 are clearly associated. Also Hallo, TLB 3, 71, rev. 1, where geme2-kikken2-na geme2-un-ÍL geme2gešì-sur-sur ù geme2-èš-didli are mentioned all together.

[8] Text studied by A. Uchitel, “Women at work: weavers of Lagash and spinners of San Luis Gonzaga”, in CRRAI 47, p. 621-632, Helsinki, 2002 (a text that can be completed by Waetzoldt, UNT 18).

[9] See J.-M. Durand, Documents épistolaires de Mari tome III, LAPO 18, 2000, p. 250; J. Cooper, “Blind Workmen, Weaving Women and Prostitutes in Third Millennium Babylonia”, CDLN 2010/5.

[10] For the prisoners of war sent to workshops (as to the nêparâtum of Mari), we do have several examples of geme2-nam-ra-ak (see CDLI and BDTNS databases). See also K. Maekawa, “Female weavers and their children”, ASJ 2, 1980, p. 125 n. 63, with the text Reisner, TuT 159, v 5. Three texts quoted by I. J. Gelb in his article “Prisoners of war in Early Mesopotamia”, JNES 32, 1973, p. 70-98, are crucial concerning female prisoners of war, and among them the important text Genouillac, TCL 5, 6039.

[11] I. J. Gelb, “The a-ru-a institution”, RA 66, 1972, p. 1-32.

[12] “Women in the Economy of Sumer”, in B. S. Lesko, Women’s Earliest Records from Ancient Egypt and Western Asia, Atlanta, 1989, p. 64.

[13] See note 2.

[14] In his article quoted above n. 11.

[15] D. I. Owen and R. Mayr, The Garšana Archive, CUSAS 3, 2007, with indices in CUSAS 4, 2009.

[16] D. I. Owen, Cuneiform Texts Primarily from Iri-Sagrig / Al-Šarraki and the History of the Ur III Period, 2 volumes, Nisaba 15, Bethesda, 2013.

[17] See W. Heimpel, Workers and Construction Work at Garšana, CUSAS 5, 2009.

[18] W. Heimpel, Workers and Construction Work at Garšana, CUSAS 5, 2009. The following presentation owes much to that work.

[19] See W. Heimpel, CUSAS 5, p. 31.

[20] P. Steinkeller, “Money Lending Practices in Ur III Babylonia: The Issue of Economic Motivation”, in M. Hudson and M. Van de Mieroop (eds.), Debt and Economic Renewal in the Ancient Near East, Bethesda, 2002, p. 109-137.

[21] See above note 16.

[22] A forthcoming article of M. Molina will suggest a precise localization for Irisagrig.

[23] M. Civil, “The Law Collection of Ur-Namma”, CUSAS 17, 2011, p. 221-286, and especially p. 281-284.

Vie du programme REFEMA (2012-2014)

En 2012-2014, 4 workshops et un colloque international sont organisés dans le cadre du programme de recherche REFEMA.

Workshop n° 1 (Nanterre, novembre 2012): Femmes et économie en Mésopotamie antique: le cadre domestique

Workshop n° 2 (Tokyo, juin 2013): Le rôle économique des femmes dans l’espace public en Mésopotamie: de l’atelier au marché (1)

Workshop n° 3 (Carqueiranne, septembre 2013): Le rôle économique des femmes dans l’espace public en Mésopotamie: de l’atelier au marché (2)

Workshop n° 4 (Tokyo, mai 2014): Femmes et Patrimoine: Constitution, conservation et transmission des biens familiaux

Colloque final (Nanterre, novembre 2014): Travail et société: la part du féminin

Contributions mises en ligne 2012-2014

Attention: les contributions mises en ligne sur ce carnet de recherche n’ont pas le statut “d’articles publiés”. Il ne s’agit que de premiers résultats provisoires obtenus lors des travaux, présentations et discussions menés au cours des ateliers préparatoires du programme REFEMA et que ce blog propose de mettre sans attendre à disposition. Ils sont donc susceptibles à ce titre d’être en permanence modifiés, remaniés ou supprimés.

À fin 2013, la liste des 21 contributions disponibles et mises en ligne en 2012-2014 est la suivante (par ordre alphabétique des 12 auteurs ayant participé aux quatre ateliers REFEMA réunis en 2012-2014 à Nanterre, Tokyo et Carqueiranne):

Cousin, Laura
– Dowry management in the neo-Babylonian period: A case study
– Female perfume-makers in neo-Assyrian and neo-Babylonian documents

Joannès, Francis
– La place des femmes dans l’économie domestique néo-babylonienne
– The economic role of women in neo-Babylonian temples

Justel, Josué
– The Economic Role of Women during the Crisis in Emar, Syria

Karahashi, Fumi
– The Laws of Ur-Namma and Women’s Property
– Felt-makers, Doorkeepers, and Cantors in the Early Dynastic Lagash É-MÍ Corpus: Some Observations
– šu-í “Barber” and šu-í-munus “Female Barber” in the Early Dynastic Lagash Texts*

Lafont, Bertrand
– Women economic activities at home and outside home during the Ur III period
– State employment of women during the Ur III period

Lion, Brigitte
– Real Estate Dowries and Counter-Dowries in the Kingdom of Arrapḫe

Matsushima, Eiko
– Women in a Cultic Context
Women who played the role of interceder: Part 1
Women who played the role of interceder: Part 2

Michel, Cécile
– Women and Economy in the Family Sphere According to the Old Assyrian Sources
– Assyrian Women’s Contribution to International Trade with Anatolia

Nakata, Ichiro
– The Woman in Marriage as Reflected in the Code of Hammurabi
– nadītum-women in the Field Lease Contracts from Sippar

Tolini, Gauthier
– Women and family solidarities in the Murašû Archive (Nippur – Fifth century B.C.)
– The economic activities of Isḫunnatu, a slave woman of the Egibi Family

Watai, Yoko
– Project of prosopographical study of Neo-Babylonian women (french version)
– Project of prosopographical study of Neo-Babylonian women (japanese version)

Yamada, Masumishi
– The almattu-azibtu Formula in the Emar Texts
– On amīltūtu in Emar
– Because She is a Daughter of Emar
– The Women Designated ‘Man and Woman’ in Emar and Ekalte

Final Conference of the REFEMA research program (Nanterre, 5-7 November 2014)

Travail et société: la part du féminin

The Role of Women in Work and Society



Final conference of the REFEMA research program

Nanterre, 5-7 November 2014

Scientific Committee of the Conference:
Francis Joannès (Université Paris-1, Paris),
Fumi Karahashi (Chûo University, Tokyo)
Brigitte Lion (Université Lille-III, Lille, organisatrice)
Eiko Matsushima (Hôsei University, Tokyo)
Cécile Michel (CNRS, Nanterre, organisatrice)
Ichiro Nakata (Chûo University, Tokyo)

French historians were concerned by women since more than twenty years with the publication of the five volumes under the direction of Georges Duby and Michèle Perrot, L’Histoire des femmes en Occident (History of Women in Occident). However, as the title suggests, this important work did not included the Ancient Near East. For this extremely large domain, there is now a great deal of limited studies on women and gender history, but few syntheses. Moreover, in these studies, the topic work has not been much addressed.

In Greek Antiquity, Xenophon (Oeconomicus) makes a gender division of labor: women are “adapted” to inside works, and men to outside works. Since the middle of the 19th century, work consists in having an activity and being paid for this activity. Census in France thus distinguishes active people from inactive people. Farmers’ wives, for example, were not, until very recently, recognized as wage earners. So, even if they do not get out of their home, women work, they have occupations that are not necessarily socially recognized and not paid for their work, as for example their domestic activities.

It seems indispensable to make a distinction between women at work and women’s jobs. It could be also interesting to see if women’s jobs are different from men’s jobs, and to study the gender-based division of work. Moreover, economic occupations depend on the status of people (slave or free, religious or lay persons), and on the milieu in which they are born and live (city or countryside, private household or institutional organization), so it is important to cross-check all these data.

The idea of the workshop is not to have a comprehensive approach of all the existing women economic occupations, but the choice must be representative enough to address issues depending on various domains: social, economic, religious, etc. from varied point of view: archaeological, historical, sociological, ethnological, etc. and if possible, with a gender perspective.

The various sessions could be arranged around several themes, for example with

  • Women’s jobs?
  • The activities of women at home
  • Women of power
  • Women in men’s milieu
  • Knowledgeable women
  • Seals and specific marks of women, etc.

This conference is the closure event of the French-Japanese (ANR & JSPS) research program the Economic Role of Women in the Ancient Mesopotamia (Rôle Economique des Femmes en Mésopotamie Ancienne: REFEMA, 2012-2014). The goal of this project is to use the ancient Mesopotamian written sources (IIIrd-Ist millennia BCE) to study the various aspects of women as economic agents, inside and outside of the family structure. Inside the family, women were essential for the preservation and transmission of wealth and heritage. They were also the main actors of the production of goods necessary for everyday life. In some instances, their activities exceeded the simple needs of the family unit and were integrated within the production of large organizations or commercial channels.

Why a French-Japanese program? We are not neutral in our study of the past: the manner in which a researcher produces the History, that is to say his/her reconstruction of ancient societies, of systems of production, of the organization of power, is a particularly important mechanism. It seemed all the more interesting to take advantage of possible alternative approaches depending on whether we consider the Ancient Mesopotamian situation from contemporary Japanese or French point of views. In this perspective, four workshops have been organized dealing with the economic role of women in the household, in the public sphere and in the process of constitution, conservation and inheritance of family assets.

B. Lion (Lille III) and C. Michel (CNRS, Nanterre)

Participation au colloque sur invitation. Les 29 participants prévus sont les suivants:

France (14 participants)

Catherine Breniquet (Professeur Université Clermont-Ferrand 2)
Philippe Clancier (Maître de Conférences, Université Paris 1)
Laura Cousin (Doctorante, Université Paris 1)
Sophie Démare (Professeur Université Paris 2)
Francis Joannès (Professeur Université Paris 1)
Bertrand Lafont (Directeur de Recherche au CNRS, ArScAn Nanterre)
Camille Lecompte (Chargé de Recherche au CNRS, ArScAn Nanterre)
Brigitte Lion (Professeur, Université Lille 3)
Cécile Michel (Directrice de Recherche au CNRS, ArScAn Nanterre)
Julien Monerie (Doctorant et ATER, Université Paris 1)
Virginie Muller (Doctorante, Université Lyon 2)
Violaine Sébillotte (Professeur Université Paris 1)
Nele Ziegler (Directrice de Recherche au CNRS, Proche-Orient et Caucase, Paris)

Japon (6 participants)

Fumi Karahashi (Professeur Chûo University, Tokyo)
Eiko Matsushima (Professeur Hôsei University, Tokyo)
Ichiro Nakata (Directeur du Musée d’Orient et Chûo University, Tokyo)
Daisuke Shibata (Assistant Professor Tsukuba University, Tokyo)
Yoko Wataï (Post-doctorante Chûo University, Tokyo, et ArScAn Nanterre)
Masamichi Yamada (Lecturer Chûo University, Tokyo)

Europe (7 participants)

Adelheid Otto (Professeur Université de Mayence)
Katrien de Graef (Assistant Professor Université de Gand)
Agnès Garcia-Ventura (Post-doctorante Université de Barcelone)
Josué Justel (Post-doctorant Université de Saragosse)
Saana Svärd Teppo (Post-doctorante Université d’Helsinki)
Maria-Giovanna Biga (Professeur Université La Sapienza, Rome)
Matteo Vigo (Post-doctorant, CTR, University de Copenhague)

Etats-Unis (2 participants)

Jerold Cooper (Professeur Johns Hopkins University)
Massimo Maiocchi (The Oriental Institute, The University of Chicago)



Vient de paraître

Vient de paraître (novembre 2013) l’ouvrage sous la direction de Mark Chavalas,

Women in the Ancient Near East.

Women in the Ancient Near East
Mark Chavalas (Editor)
Routledge Sourcebooks for the Ancient World
Routledge, London & New York, 2013
Paperback: 336 pages / Language: English / ISBN-10: 0415448565 / ISBN-13: 978-0415448567

Women in the Ancient Near East provides a collection of primary sources that further our understanding of women from Mesopotamian and Near Eastern civilizations, from the earliest historical and literary texts in the third millennium bc to the to the end of Mesopotamian political autonomy in the sixth century bc. This book is a valuable resource for historians of the Near East and for those studying women in the ancient world. It moves beyond simply identifying women in the Near East to attempting to place them in historical and literary context, following the latest research. A number of literary genres are represented, including myths and epics, proverbs, medical texts, law collections, letters, treaties, as well as building, dedicatory, and funerary inscriptions.

       Introduction, by Mark W. Chavalas

  1. An exploration of the world of women in third-millennium Mesopotamia, by Harriet Crawford
  2. The feminine in myths and epic, by Alhena Gadotti
  3. Sumerian wisdom literature, by Alhena Gadotti
  4. Akkadian wisdom literature, by Karen Nemet-Nejat
  5. Medecine and healing magic, by Joann Scurlock
  6. Women  and law, by Martha T. Roth
  7. The Epic of Gilgamesh, by Karen Nemet-Nejat
  8. The Descent of Ishtar to the Netherworld compared to Nergal and Ereshkigal, by Karen Nemet-Nejat
  9. Akkadian Texts – Women in letters : Old Assyrian Kaniš, by Cécile Michel
  10. Akkadian Texts – Women in letters : The Neo-Assyrian period, by Sarah C. Melville
  11. Women in Neo-Assyrian Texts, by Sarah C. Melville
  12. Women in Neo-Assyrian Inscriptions, by Karen Nemet-Nejat
  13. Women in Hittite ritual, by Billie Jean Collins
  14. Hurro-Hittite stories and Hittite pregnancy and birth rituals, by Mary Bachvarova



► First REFEMA workshop (Nanterre, November 2012)


REFEMA First Workshop

 Women and Economy in Ancient Mesopotamia : the household setting
Femmes et économie en Mésopotamie antique: le cadre domestique

2 et 3 novembre 2012

Maison de l’Archéologie et de l’Ethnologie René Ginouvès
21 allée de l’Université, 92023 Nanterre Cedex
Salle du Conseil (4ème étage)



Vendredi 2 Novembre: IIIe et IIe millénaires

09h30  Accueil des participants

09h50  F. Joannès, présentation générale du projet et des journées d’étude

10h00  F. Karahashi, Relecture d’une disposition du Code d’Ur-Nammu

10h20  B. Lafont, Quelques illustrations du rôle économique des femmes à l’époque d’Ur III

10h40  Discussion: Sumer

11h00  Pause

11h20  C. Michel, La propriété des femmes à travers les contrats paléo-assyriens

11h40  I. Nakata, Les femmes dans le Code de Hammurabi

12h00  Discussion: Assyrie et Babylonie

12h20  Pause déjeuner

14h00  B. Lion, Un contrat d’adoption par une femme à Nuzi

14h20  M. Yamada, La protection des droits des femmes en tant que citoyennes d’Emar

14h40  J. Justel, Le rôle économique des femmes en temps de crise à Emar

15h00  Discussion: Emar et Nuzi

15h20  Pause

15h40  Discussion générale sur le projet REFEMA et la mise en place de son site web

19h30  Rendez-vous au restaurant, repas des participants


Samedi 3 novembre: Ier millénaire

10h20  E. Matsushima, Les femmes en contexte cultuel

10h40  F. Joannès, Les femmes et l’économie domestique d’après les textes néo-babyloniens

11h00  Y. Watai, Projet de prosopographie féminine néo-babylonienne: présentation

11h20  Pause

11h40  G. Tolini, Femmes et solidarité familiale dans les archives des Murašu

12h00  L. Cousin, La gestion de la dot à l’époque néo-babylonienne: étude de cas

12h20  Discussion: Le premier millénaire

12h40  Déjeuner


Contact à Paris: laura.cousin2(at)

Contact in Tokyo: wataiyoko(at)