Archives de catégorie : Emar / Nuzi / Medio-Babyl.

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.

Because She is a Daughter of Emar

Because She is a Daughter of Emar

Masamichi Yamada

(REFEMA 2nd Workshop: Jun 24-25, 2013, Tokyo)


Among the Emar texts, RE 61, a marriage contract of the Syrian type, is noteworthy for two unique expressions concerning women. The first is kīma mārāt Emarki, “according to (the custom for) the daughters of Emar” (l. 11), which shows that there was customary law for female citizens in Emar and that it regulated their marriages. The second is kīma mārat ( šīt, “because she is a daughter of Emar” (ll. 17f., 21f.). An analysis of the text reveals that this clause is parallel to the almattu-azibtu formula attested in the texts of the Syro-Hittite type: its intention is to protect the legal status of free women who are in a socio-economically inferior position. In short, both forbid treating these women as slaves.

 I. Introduction

In several Late Bronze Age Akkadian texts from the great bend area of the Middle Euphrates, we find the phrase kīma āli, literally, “as the city.” This is a technical phrase meaning, “according to the indigenous, customary law of the city.” In the texts from Emar of the thirteenth and the early twelfth centuries B.C., this phrase is attested in a total of eleven texts, six of the Syrian type and five of the Syro-Hittite type. The phrase kīma āli is found also in a text from Ekalte of the fourteenth century B.C., and a variant, uruEkal[t]eki, “according to (the custom of) Ekalte,” is found in another text.

Kīma āli is probably an abbreviated form of kīma paraṣ āli, “according to the custom of the city,” as suggested by an Alalaḫ text from the fifteenth century B.C., AT 17. According to this text, a certain Šaduwe, a man of (the city of) Luba, asked for the daughter of Apra as his daughter-in-law. At that time Šaduwe brought a gift to Apra, kīma paraṣ uruḪalabki, “according to the custom of Aleppo.” We are not sure why there is a reference to Aleppo in a text from Alalaḫ, but perhaps Alalaḫ followed the customs of Aleppo, or perhaps Abra was a citizen of Aleppo living in Alalaḫ

Among the occurrences of kīma āli in the Emar and Ekalte texts, one occurs in a debt contract from Emar, ASJ 13-T 34. The text states that when Šamaš-abu borrows 20 shekels of silver from Ya’ṣi-belu, the interest will be added “according to (the custom of) the city,” without specifying the rate, most probably because the custom of the city was very clear about the rate. All the other cases are found in texts relating to inheritance, in which the sons divide their father’s estate among themselves “according to (the custom of) the city.” In my opinion, this means that the eldest son receives a larger portion than his brothers, probably a double portion. Although the phrase kīma āli is not attested elsewhere, there is no doubt that the customary law of Emar covered also other areas in the social life of the Emarites, such as marriage, as we saw in the above case of Alalaḫ.

Concerning marriages in Emar, at the previous REFEMA workshop, I took up the almattu-azibtu formula, which says that a certain woman “is a widow with widows, (and) a divorcée with divorcées.” I concluded as follows: “(This) formula is concerned with married, free women who are in a socio-economically inferior position. It prescribes directly that they are to be treated like other normal widows and divorcées when they become widows or divorcées. However, its intention is more general, to insure they are treated as free women, not as slaves. In short, it says, they cannot be enslaved.”

The almattu-azibtu formula is attested only in texts of the Syro-Hittite type. But how did the Syrian-type texts intend that those women should be treated? This is the problem I will discuss below, using the Emar text RE 61, a marriage contract.


II. Text: RE 61

In the handout, I provide the transliteration and translation of the main part of the document, omitting the list of witnesses. When reading this text, it should be noted that ll. 16f. are problematic. In view of his handcopy, parts of G. Beckman’s readings of ⸢e?-ru-ub in l. 16 and of u-ta!-ar-ši in l. 17 are difficult to accept, and they do not seem to make good sense in the context. Neither do J.-M. Durand’s recent proposals seem very satisfactory to me. Instead, I suggest reading a-na UGU-[ḫi-ši] 16 lík-ru-ub ú-ul ú⸣-[na]- 17 :ga-ar-ši, “he ought to bless [her] (and shall) not b[la]me her.”

As for the first verb likrub (karābu G prec., I admit that CVC signs are used only occasionally in the Syrian-type texts, and that the phonetic value lík for the ŠID sign, i.e., lak, is late and rare. However, when CVC signs are used, we sometimes find alteration of the central vowel, for example, tàm for tim in Emar VI 185, and ṣár for ṣur in Emar VI 138.

My reading of the second verb as unaggar (nagāru D pres. is more hypothetical. But in the support of this, I would note the following points. Firstly, we would hardly expect any word between the negation ul and the verb in l. 17. Secondly, the third person prefix of the D stem /u-/, is usually not written with u, but with ú. Thirdly, although a Glossenkeil usually consists of double oblique wedges, we find it as a single oblique wedge or Winkelhaken in Emar VI 156 and RE 20, though with an indent, unlike here.

Although the above proposals for the readings are admittedly tentative, it seems likely to me that these lines prescribe that the husband be kind to his wife. In other words, a tyrant was never regarded as the ideal husband, even in the male-centered society of Emar.


III. Discussion

The text RE 61 records two marriages, in which brides are exchanged between two families. Dagan-milki gives her daughter Aḫlamitu to Aḫi-ḫamiṣ as his wife, and in turn, Aḫi-ḫamiṣ gives his daughter Na’mi-šada to Dagan-milki as the future wife of her son Yaḫanni-ili. It is interesting to note that the phrase kīma mārāt Emarki, “according to (the custom for) the daughters of Emar,” is used in l. 11 in reference to the latter marriage, though it probably refers to both marriages in actuality. In any case, this phrase, a variant of kīma āli, indicates that in Emar there was customary law for female as well as male citizens, and that it regulated their marriages.

Although both Aḫlamitu and Na’mi-šada are called “daughters of Emar,” in this text there is found no reference to the “bridewealth” (terḫatu), usually paid by the groom’s side to the bride’s side in marriages between citizens. This is probably because the payment by one side was simply balanced by that of the other. So, it seems reasonable to think that the two families were more or less at the same economic level.

Of the two marriages, that of Na’mi-šada with Yaḫanni-ili is assumed to be in the future. At present, she is given into the hands of his mother Dagan-milki as (her) “daughter-in-law and daughter.” The pair of abstract nouns used here, kallūtu u mārtūtu, indicates that it was a matrimonial adoption. Probably either Yaḫanni-ili or Na’mi-šada or both were still too young for marriage at the time. In my opinion, the text states that when both become mature, if Yaḫanni-ili marries Na’mi-šada, he shall be gentle with her. Then one may ask, if he does not marry her? There is no doubt that Dagan-milki will marry her to someone else, as is usual in matrimonial adoptions. The omission of this stipulation here is probably because their parents thought their marriage was virtually certain.

As observed above, both Aḫlamitu and Na’mi-šada were female citizens of Emar. But if they were normal citizens, one may wonder why it was necessary to designate each one as a “daughter of Emar.” In this respect, it is worth noting that the families of daughters given in matrimonial adoptions were usually in an economically poor position, as it is well attested in the Nuzi texts, our main source of matrimonial adoption contracts. This seems to be true for the Emar texts, too, particularly when we compare Emar VI 216 and 217 as we did at the first workshop. If this is correct, then the family of Na’mi-šada was in a low economic position in society, and since the two families were on about the same economic level, the family of Aḫlamitu was probably in a low economic position as well.

This point may be further supported by the very PN of Aḫlamītu, which means “a female Aḫlamaean.” The Aḫlamaeans are well known as nomads or pastoralists who had a close connection with the Aramaeans, whether or not they were identical with them. So, it is obvious that “Aḫlamitu” is an inappropriate name for a normal, female citizen of Emar. However, her deceased father was undoubtedly an Emarite citizen, since she is designated as a “daughter of Emar.” Is she an adopted Aḫlamaean girl, or was her father from an Aḫlamaean family which had been living in Emar for long time? In any case, it does not seem strange that the family of Aḫlamitu was in a low socio-economic position in Emar.

Now, let us consider the meaning of the clause kīma mārat ( šīt, “because she is a daughter of Emar,” in ll. 17f. and 21f., in light of this understanding concerning the two families. In both cases, it can be understood that the clause is used to protect the legal status of a free woman in a low socio-economic position, when her husband marries or divorces her. The latter case is particularly noteworthy: if Aḫi-ḫamiṣ should divorce Aḫlamitu, he will divorce her, no doubt using due process according to (the custom for) the daughters of Emar. In other words, he has to treat her as other normal divorcées. This immediately reminds us of the meaning of the almattu-azibtu formula in the Syro-Hittite-type texts. If the meaning is the same, is not the intention also? The answer must be positive. In my opinion, the phrase means that she is to be treated as a free woman, not as a slave. This point is supported by a matrimonial adoption contract from Nuzi, AASOR XVI 42.

In this text, Ḫanate, a female slave of (the lady) Tulpun-naya, takes Ḫalb-abuša as her “daughter and daughter-in-law,” so that Ḫanate may marry Ḫalb-abuša to whomever she wishes. However, this contract adds the stipulations as cited in the handout, saying, positively, that Ḫanate will treat Ḫalb-abuša as a female citizen of Arrapḫa, and negatively, that she will not make her a slave. That is, even though Ḫalb-abuša is put under control of the slave Ḫanate, she cannot be enslaved, because she is “a daughter of (the land of) Arrapḫa.” That there was a clear distinction between a female citizen and a slave is evident here.


IV. Conclusion

On the basis of the above considerations, we may conclude that both the clause kīma mārat ( šīt and the parallel almattu-azibtu formula are meant to protect the legal status of free women who are in a low socio-economic position. In short, both forbid treating these women as slaves. Thus, although different expressions are used in texts of the Syrian type and of the Syro-Hittite type, the idea that such women should be protected was a general one in Emarite society.




I. Introduction

1. kīma āli, “according to (the custom of) the city”

a) Syrian type: Emar VI 184: 11’; ASJ 13-T 23: 23; 34: 3; RE 8: 38; 28: 33; 30: 22

Ekalte II 92 (= RE 69): 21; cf. also 25: 6 ( uruEkal[t]eki)

b) Syro-Hittite type: Emar VI 112: 10; 177: 27’; 201: 50; 203: 4’; TS 46: 9[1]

cf. ki-ma pa-ra-aṣ URU.Ḫa-la-ab.KI, “according to the custom of Aleppo” (AT 17: 5)

2. almattu-azibtu formula (Syro-Hittite type)

Protection of the legal status of free women in a socio-economically inferior position (vs. slaves)

→ Then, what about those women in the Syrian-type texts?


II. Text: RE 61 (Syrian type)

1 fdda-gan-mi-il-ki DUMU⸣.MÍ dKUR-ta-ri-iḫ ŠEŠ.ḪÁ ši-bu-titu-še-ši-iba-nu-um-mafa-ḫa(sic)-la-mi-t[a] DUMU.MÍ-ši a-naa-ḫi-ḫa-mi-iṣ DUMU EN-lu-ka a-na DAM-⸢ut-ti⸣ [Ø] ta-an-din a-nu-um-ma <m>a-ḫi-ḫa-mi-iṣ DUMU EN-lu-ka DUMU.MÍ-šu fna-aḫ-mi-KUR a-na dda-gan-mi-il-ki DUMU.MÍ dda-gan-ta-ri-iḫ 10 a-na É.GI.A u DUMU.MÍ-ti 11 ki-ma DUMU.MÍ.MEŠ e-mar.KI 12 id-di-in-ši šum-ma 13 mia-ḫa-ni-DINGIR DUMU ri-x x […][2] 14 fna-aḫ-mi-⸢KUR⸣ DUMU.MÍ [a-ḫi-ḫa-mi-iṣ] 15 i-ḫu-uz a-na UGU-[ḫi-ši] 16 lík-ru-ub ú-ul ú⸣-[na]- 17 :ga-ar-ši[3] ki-ma DUMU.MÍ [Ø] 18 URU.KI.e-mar.KI ši-it šum-m[a] 19 ma-ḫi-ḫa-mi-iṣ DUMU EN-l[u-ka] 20 faḫ-la-mi-ta DAM->šú<-š[u] 21 iz-zi-ib-ši ki-ma DUMU.MÍ e-mar.KI 22 ši-it iz-zi-ib-ši

Dagan-milki, daughter of Dagan-tari’, caused (her) ‘brothers’ to be seated as witnesses. Now she has given her daughter Aḫlamit[u] to Aḫi-ḫamiṣ, son of Belu-ka, as (his) wife. Now Aḫi-ḫamiṣ, son of Belu-ka, has given his daughter Na’mi-šada to Dagan-milki, daughter of Dagan-tari’, as (her) daughter-in-law and daughter according to (the custom for) the daughters of Emar. If Yaḫanni-ili, son of Ri…[…], marries Na’mi-šada, daughter of [Aḫi-ḫamiṣ], he ought to bless [her][4] (and shall) not b[la]me her, because she is a daughter of Emar. If Aḫi-ḫamiṣ, son of Bel[u-ka], should divorce hi[s] wife Aḫlamitu, he will divorce her (using due process), because she is a daughter of Emar.

Notes on ll. 16f.:

・⸢lík-ru-ub — ŠID (= lak) for lík: late (NA, NB, LB) and rare; but cf. ša-ni-tàm(DIM/tim)-ma (Emar VI 185: 22’); ṣár(ZUR/ṣur)-pí (e.g., Emar VI 138: 10)

・⸢ú⸣-[na]-:ga-ar — (1) ul X (not erasure) vb.?; (2) u- as a prefix of the D-stem (cf. ú-)?; (3) a single oblique wedge or Winkelhaken for a Glossenkeil with an indent (Emar VI 156: 8; RE 20: 5a, 19a)


III. Discussion

1. kīma mārāt Emarki (l. 11): customary law for the female citizens of Emar

2. The marriages

a) Two Emarite women are exchanged

・Aḫlamitu and Na’mi-šada: “daughter of Emar” (ll. 17f., 21f.)

cf. bridewealth (terḫatu)

b) Na’mi-šada: in the kallūtu u mārtūtu of Dagan-milki = matrimonial adoption

・If Yaḫanni-ili marries her → to be gentle with her

・(If he does not marry her → Dagan-milki will marry her to someone else!)

3. The two families

a) Emphasis on the “daughter of Emar” → Why?

b) Remarks

・Na’mi-šada: given in matrimonial adoption (cf., e.g., Emar VI 216-217)

・Aḫlamitu: Aḫlamītu, (lit.) “a female Aḫlamaean”

∴ Both families were in a low socio-economic position

4. kīma mārat ( šīt

esp. if Aḫi-ḫamiṣ should divorce Aḫlamitu (by due process)

cf. 1 almattu-azibtu formula

cf. 2 AASOR XVI 42 (Nuzi):      matrimonial adoption of Ḫalb-abuša by Ḫanate, a female slave of (the lady) Tulpun-naya

20 ù fḫa-na-te fḫal-bá-bu-ša 21 ša ki-i mārat [a]r-ra-áp-ḫe i-p[u]-ša-aš-ši 22 a-na amtiti la ú-ta-ar-ši

Ḫanate will tr[e]at Ḫalb-abuša as a daughter of (the land of) [A]rrapḫa. She shall not turn her into a slave.


IV. Conclusion

The intention of kīma mārat ( (Syrian type):

parallel to that of the almattu-azibtu formula (Syro-Hittite type)



Arnaud, D. 1985-86: Recherches au pays d’Aštata. Emar VI/1-3, Paris (= Emar VI).

— 1991: Textes syriens de l’âge du Bronze récent (AuOrS 1), Sabadell (= TS).

Beckman, G. 1996: Texts from the Vicinity of Emar in the Collection of Jonathan Rosen (HANE/M II), Padova (= RE).

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

Durand, J.-M. 2013: “Quelques textes sur le statut de la femme à Émar d’après des collations nouvelles,” Semitica 55, 25-60.

Grosz, K. 1987: “On Some Aspects of the Adoption of Women at Nuzi,” in: D. I. Owen & M. A. Morrison (eds.), General Studies and Excavations at Nuzi 9/1 (SCCNH 2), Winona Lake, Ind., 131-152.

Justel, J. J. 2008: “L’adoption matrimoniale à Emar (Syrie, XIIIe s. av. J.-C.),” RHD 86, 1-19.

Mayer, W. 2001: Tall Munbāqa – Ekalte II. Die Texte (WVDOG 102), Saarbrücken (= Ekalte II).

Pfeiffer, R. H., and E. A. Speiser 1936: One Hundred New Selected Nuzi Texts (AASOR XVI), New Haven (= AASOR XVI).

Sigrist, M. 1993: “Seven Emar Tablets,” in: A. F. Rainey (ed.), kinattūtu ša dārâti (= Gs. Kutscher), Tel Aviv, 165-187, Pls. II-VIII (= GsK-T).

Tsukimoto, A. 1991: “Akkadian Tablets in the Hirayama Collection (II),” ASJ 13, 275-333 (= ASJ 13-T).

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

Wiseman, D. J. 1953: The Alalakh Tablets, London (= AT).

Yamada, M. 1997: “Kīma āli: On the Customary Law of Emar,” Bulletin of the Society for Near Eastern Studies in Japan (= BSNESJ) 40/2, pp. 18-33 (in Japanese with English summary; see

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

— forthcoming: “Widows and Divorcées as Free Women in Emar: A Study of the almattu-azibtu Formula,” BSNESJ 56/2 (in Japanese with English summary).

        [1]   Not Emar VI 29: 9; GsK-T 2: 7 (ki-i-ma URU-lè-e is to be read as ki-i ma-ṣi-me-e, “as many as”).

        [2]   Probably the deceased husband of Dagan-milki (Beckman). Durand suggests reading: dumu hu-ta⸣-⸢ri.⸣

        [3]   Cf. Beckman: a-na ugu-[ḫi-ši] 16 e?-ru-ub ú-ul x [   ] 17 u-ta!-ar-ši …, (If Yaḫanni-ilī takes Na’mī-šada as his wife) “and goes in to [her], he will not […] (Rather), he will return her according to (the custom for) a daughter of the city of Emar”; also Durand: a-na muh-[hi-ši] 16 e-ru-ub ú-ul {X X} 17 u-ga-ar-ši …, (Si, Yahannel ayant épousé Na’mi-šada) “entre la retrouver, il ne la traitera plus en étrangère: elle est/sera assimilée à une citoyenne d’Émâr.”

        [4]   Otherwise, “to invoke blessings upon [her]” or “to pay homage to [her].”

On amīltūtu in Emar

On amīltūtu in Emar

Masamichi Yamada

(REFEMA 3rd Workshop: Sep. 3-4, 2013, Carqueiranne)


The recently published Emar text, Subartu 17-T, is significant for its attestation of the term amīltūtu, the female counterpart of amīlūtu. An analysis of the amīlūtu contracts, a kind of debt contract, shows that this term indicates a debtor owing silver who himself enters into the household of the creditor as possessory (antichretic) pledge; at the same time another security (hypothecary pledge) is set. Subartu 17-T, which deals with the renewal of an amīltūtu contract, confirms the features of amīlūtu contracts, but is a case in which a surety instead of a hypothecary pledge is set at the time of making that contract.


I. Introduction

In 1981 Prof. Daniel Arnaud described the Akkadian word amīlūtu attested in the Emar texts as a technical term meaning personal “antichretic pledge,” thus neither “mankind, status of (free) man” as is usual in Akkadian, nor “retainer, slave” as is well known in MB and NB, as well as rarely in Nuzi. However, I am of the opinion that its meaning is actually more restricted than just an antichretic pledge. It is interesting to note that its female counterpart amīltūtu is attested in a new Emar text published in Subartu 17, the Festschrift for Prof. Jean-Claude Margueron, the leading excavator of Emar (Meskene-Qadime). I will call this text Subartu 17-T below. Before analyzing the contents of this specific text, however, it is necessary to clarify who the people called amīlūtus in Emar were. So, let us start with making general remarks on the term amīlūtu, as well as on amīltūtu.

II. General Remarks

To my knowledge, the term amīlūtu is attested in ten Emar texts and probably can be restored also in another, ASJ 13-T 38. All of them are of the Syro-Hittite type. As shown in the handout, this term is always written using the unique logogram LÚ.Ú.LU with a phonetic complement; no use of the usual LÚ or LÚ.U18/19.LU for this term has been attested. As MEŠ is put between LÚ and Ú in the plural forms, LÚ seems to have been taken as the determinative. Subartu 17-T is also a text of the Syro-Hittite type, and the term amīltūtu is written using the logogram MÍ.Ú.LU, with MÍ instead of LÚ. The phonetic complement added to it, -tù-ut-ti, indicates that this term cannot be read as sinnišūtu, the abstract noun of sinništu.

Most of the above twelve texts fall into two groups. Firstly, three are amīlūtu contracts, which we will treat in the next section. Secondly, six are contracts of caring, in which an amīlūtu, usually in return for having all his debt remitted, accepts the obligation to take care of his creditor and a family member (mostly the wife) during their lives, to be released after their deaths. Of the other texts, Emar VI 279 is a ration list of barley in Temple M1, in which Abi-Šaggar, an amīlūtu of Awiru, receives 26 parīsus, and RE 39 is a testament of a certain Igmu-X, whose PN is partly broken. In my opinion, in this text, he gives a certain amount of silver, i.e., the right to the debt owed by three amīlūtus, to his wife. However, though Subartu 17-T concerns an amīltūtu contract, it cannot be exactly classified in the first group.

I would note here that, except for the amīlūtu in the ration list, all the amīlūtus are clearly stated to be debtors owing silver, who came under the control of their creditors as possessory pledges of the debts. Though the text does not specifically say so, the amīltūtu in Subartu 17-T seems to be no exception. The amounts of the debts are listed in the handout (§ II.4). Although the debts listed range from 25 to 140 shekels, it seems that around 40 shekels was the norm.

III. The amīlūtu Contracts

To clarify the essence of the amīlūtu in Emar, let us look at the three amīlūtu contracts. I would first take the well preserved RA 77-T 5. According to this text, Itur-Dagan, one of the creditors of Yašur-Dagan, paid off all his debts to other creditors and became his single creditor. As cited in the handout, he then took Yašur-Dagan as his amīlūtu. The fact that at this time Yašur-Dagan’s family and house are set as pledges, indicates that this is a kind of debt contract. The reason why he could avoid being taken as a debt slave as in Emar VI 215 must have been that the value of the pledges was estimated to be at least as much as the amount of his debt. Here, the following two points are noteworthy. Firstly, although the debt is stated to be 47 shekels of silver, there is no reference to the date of repayment or the rate of interest, which are essential elements in ordinary debt contracts. Secondly, actually, two kinds of pledges are set. Since Yašur-Dagan himself is no doubt a possessory pledge, as we shall see on ASJ 10-T A below, his family and house are to be understood as hypothecary pledges. In a contract which lacks concrete conditions for repayment, what does this exact setting of twofold pledges mean? One may well ask also, if the debtor himself is held by the creditor, how does he repay the debt? Keeping these questions in mind, let us look at the other amīlūtu contracts.

Similarly in Emar VI 77, Dagan-kabar became the single creditor of Muḫra-aḫi for 140 shekels of silver, and took him as his amīlūtu. As in the case of RA 77-T 5, no date of repayment and no rate of interest are given, and, besides the debtor himself, his house and son are set as hypothecary pledges. We learn some more about the conditions from ll. 4b-6. Firstly, this is a debt contract with indefinite term, as the text states simply, “on the day when he pays his silver.” Secondly, the “silver” in l. 5 which Muḫra-aḫi is to repay, apparently points to the above-mentioned “140 shekels,” i.e., the capital only.

These points are well confirmed in ASJ 10-T A. Accurately speaking, this document is the renewal of an amīlūtu contract. In the first contract, when Dudu borrowed 105 shekels and 40 grains of silver, he and his two sons entered into the household of the creditor Šei-Dagan as amīlūtus. Now, Dudu has paid 40 shekels and released himself, so he has to pay 65 shekels and 40 grains of silver some day in the future in order to release his sons. This clearly shows that the term is indefinite and that the debtor repays only the capital. No payment of interest is required, since in its stead the amīlūtus undertake to work (šiprī ṣabātu) in the household of the creditor, as ll. 18-20 indicate. Therefore, there is no doubt that these three were antichretic pledges.

As for the wife and daughters of the debtor Dudu mentioned in the defective sentence of ll. 10b-11, in view of RA 77-T 5 and Emar VI 77, it seems reasonable that they were hypothecary pledges in both the first and the second contracts. Although I would not exclude the possibility that they were possessory pledges, it seems less likely, since in that case no one could take care of Dudu’s house and field, though he may have been too poor to own property. Furthermore, it cannot be overlooked that there is no stipulation for the release of Dudu’s wife and daughters in this text.

If amīlūtus were antichretic pledges for paying interest, how did they repay their debts? If the basic means were sales of the surplus production of their fields, which their family members cultivated, it would not have been easy for them to repay, particularly when the debt was heavy. So I suspect that some, if not most, of the amīlūtus did not expect to repay the debt from the beginning. However, ASJ 10-T A provides us with a case in which an amīlūtu did succeed in repaying at least a part of his debt. This text seems to state that Dudu was allowed to work somewhere outside the creditor’s house for nine months and earned 40 shekels of silver. It is possible that the amīlūtu Abi-Šaggar, who was on the ration list of Temple M1 as referred to in Emar VI 279: 4, was on such a temporal work release, but such cases must have been rather exceptional. Because, if there was only one amīlūtu for a debt, it would be meaningless to hold him as a possessory pledge. In this respect, note that Dudu’s two sons remained in the creditor’s household.

To summarize the above analyses, we may recognize the following as features of an amīlūtu contract. It is a debt contract of silver of the Syro-Hittite type, in which the debtor himself enters into the household of the creditor as a possessory pledge. At the same time, another security, i.e., a hypothecary pledge, is set, always including a member of the debtor’s family. Although the above three contracts are all concerned with married men, it is not clear if this feature holds when the amīlūtu was a single man, as was the case in the caring contracts. To this point we will return later. In any case, in these three contracts, the debtor repays only the capital, but instead of paying interest, he is obliged to work for the creditor, probably like a slave of his household, until the debt is paid off. Finally, the term of the contract is indefinite.

If so, what was the merit of the amīlūtu contracts for the debtor? As the term itself indicates, each amīlūtu most probably kept his legal status as a free man, although his substantial position in the creditor’s household must have been more or less the same as a slave. In view of the indefinite term of the contract, however, it is difficult to find here any actual merit for the amīlūtu. On the other hand, we can easily point out the merit for the creditor, the presence of the second security attested as hypothecary pledges in the three amīlūtu contracts treated above. Unlike in a simple slave contract, the creditor was to be compensated for the loss when the amīlūtu died, fled, or became unable to work. The advantage to the protected creditor is obvious.

The above features indicate that amīlūtu does not mean an antichretic pledge in general, but a specific type. To clarify this point, for comparison let us look at other debt contracts of the Syro-Hittite type from Emar, which involve a personal pledge. Of the four such texts, TS 25 is a debt contract of barley — so may be fairly excluded — but the other three are those of silver. Although all of them can be regarded as contracts of indefinite term and with an antichretic pledge in lieu of interest, there is no reference to an amīlūtu. I think, this is because they lack the double securities involving the debtor that we find as in the amīlūtu contracts. To be sure, double securities appear in Emar VI 209, if my reading of the text is correct. But the līṭu, “hostage,” thus a possessory pledge, is a third person, not the debtor himself, and this man is responsible for the debtor’s surety. In TS 34, the debtor becomes a possessory pledge, replacing his family members held as such by the creditor. So, this is not the case of double securities. To be sure, in the second contract in the above ASJ 10-T A, the sons of Dudu are possessory pledges, while he himself is the debtor. However, it should be noted that his sons also were already recognized as amīlūtus in the first contract.

When compared with the well-known tidennūtu, the antichretic pledge in general in Nuzi, the restricted character of the amīlūtu as a personal, antichretic pledge is obvious. Even when we confine ourselves to personal tidennūtu contracts, the variety is astonishing. The objects of debt include silver and other metals, several kinds of livestock, barley and other agricultural products, and slaves. The tidennūtu assigned to the creditor can be the debtor himself, his son or other member of his family, or a slave in his household. As for the term of contract, we see both definite type, the terms for which range from the next harvest time to fifty years and to the lifetime of the tidennūtu, and indefinite type. If the above four comparative Emar texts were from Nuzi, there is no doubt that the pledges mentioned in them would be called tidennūtus.

On the basis of the above discussion, we may conclude that the amīlūtu in Emar is a specific type of antichretic pledge with the above-mentioned features, or conditions. Keeping this in mind, now let us turn to Subartu 17-T, in which the term amīltūtu is attested.

IV. amīltūtu in Subartu 17-T

When A. Cavigneaux and D. Beyer published Subartu 17-T, they read the term as munusú-lu-du-ut-ti for ulūduttu or ulluduttu, meaning “nubilité” rather than “grossesse.” However, it is obvious that their reading does not make sense here. S. Démare-Lafont and I pointed out that it must be taken as MÍ.Ú.LU-tù-ut-ti for amīltūtu, i.e., the female counterpart of amīlūtu. The main text is cited in the handout.

At first glance, one might take Matiya to be the debtor and Al-ummi to be the possessory, thus antichretic, pledge of his debt. However, this interpretation should be rejected in light of the above discussion on the amīlūtu. Rather, we have to regard Al-ummi as both the debtor and the possessory pledge. This is our starting point. Then, how can this text be rationally understood?

The creditor is Belu-malik. Although the amount of her debt is not specified, Al-ummi was taken as his amīltūtu. As observed above, an amīlūtu contract requires another security at the same time. As she was apparently a single woman in this case, this role was performed by a surety, ša qātātiši ilqû, literally “one who took her hands.” Here, the problem is the use of yānu, literally “there is/was not,” in l. 5. Since it seems that amīlūtu contracts required another security as we saw above, Al-ummi must have had a surety at the time she made her amīltūtu contract, but now he was gone because of his death, flight or some other reason.

When the terms of Al-ummi’s contract were not being completely fulfilled, the creditor Belu-malik took her into the presence of the men of authority. As shown in l. 21, Kapi-Dagan was a son of the well-known diviner Zu-Ba‘la. Although it is not certain that “the ‘great (men)’ of Emar” were the same as the city elders, they urged a certain Matiya to repay the debt of Al-ummi. Who was this Matiya? The use of the verb in the imperative tēr, “pay back!” in l. 10 seems to indicate that he was the debtor. However, if Al-ummi was an amīltūtu, it seems from the above discussion that the debt was hers. In this respect, Emar VI 205 is noteworthy.

If my reading of this text is correct, a certain Madi-Dagan borrowed 25 shekels of silver from Ibni-Dagan, another son of the above-mentioned Zu-Ba‘la, giving his two children to the creditor as possessory pledges. But thereafter he died without repaying the debt. Then Ibni-Dagan took the children left with him into the presence of the Hittite dignitary Mudri-Tešub and the city elders as well as the brothers of the debtor Madi-Dagan. The words of Ibni-Dagan to those brothers and the resultant situation are cited in the handout. The brothers are urged to “pay back” the debt of Madi-Dagan, although apparently they were not his co-debtors. This means that the verb turru can be used for other persons than the debtor himself, in this case his brothers, i.e., his closest relatives. Since they refused to pay the money and voluntarily agreed to assign the children to Ibni-Dagan as his slaves, it was legally established that “dead (or) alive, they are slaves of Ibni-[Dag]an.” Thus, Emar VI 205 provides us with a case in which the creditor gives relatives a chance to redeem personal pledges before their enslavement due to the default on a debt contract. After Madi-Dagan’s brothers formally abandoned their right of redemption, it is stipulated in ll. 17-23 that if they later want to redeem the children, they shall give two persons for each of them, i.e., pay double.

In my opinion, a similar situation is to be assumed in Subartu 17-T. Since the amīltūtu Al-ummi no longer had a surety, the men of authority urged Matiya, her closest relative, to pay back her debt and redeem her. But he refused and voluntarily, thus formally, agreed that she should become the slave of the creditor Belu-malik.

However, at this moment Lad-Dagan intervened in the affair by undertaking to be her new surety. He may have been a son of the above Kapi-Dagan, son of the diviner Zu-Ba‘la, although this cannot be proved. In any case, why would he do this? I think, because he was her private creditor. According to ll. 19f., Lad-Dagan once took care of her in the year of famine and war, no doubt out of good will, apparently without making a debt contract. One may say easily that his behavior was natural as a human, and all the more so if he was a man of sacred profession. He probably considered that he had spent 30 shekels on this charity, the amount of silver mentioned in l. 18. Probably, because Lad-Dagan’s expenditure was not legally recognized as a formal loan, he could not prevent her from becoming Belu-malik’s amīltūtu. But money is money, and 30 shekels is not small amount of silver. If Al-ummi were enslaved by Belu-malik, Lad-Dagan would lose any hope of recovering his ‘loan.’ This must be the reason why he stood surety for her so she could keep the amīltūtu contract. Although it is not written in the text, there is no doubt that in the future someone who wants to take her would have to pay the amount of her debt to the creditor Belu-malik. However, Lad-Dagan now adds one condition: such a person should also pay 30 shekels of silver to him. This extrapayment was probably made possible by the formal abandonment of the redemption right by Matiya.

On the basis of the above discussion, Subartu 17-T can reasonably be taken as the renewal of an amīltūtu contract with modification, issued for Lad-Dagan, the new surety. Also, the amīltūtu Al-ummi can well be understood as the female counterpart of an amīlūtu.


V. Final Remarks

Thus, Subartu 17-T confirms our understanding of the amīlūtu in Emar, providing a unique female case. Both the amīlūtu and the amīltūtu are to be regarded as at once debtors and possessory, thus antichretic, pledges. Furthermore, concerning the required additional security, Subartu 17-T provides us with a case of a surety, instead of the hypothecary pledges attested in the three amīlūtu contracts made by married men. This is reasonable, particularly since a single person cannot offer a wife or child as a hypothecary pledge. So, though above I stated that in amīlūtu contracts a hypothecary pledge had to be set, this text indicates that this condition (feature 3) should be modified to: at the same time, another security, either a hypothecary pledge or a surety, is set. Although it was probably as difficult to find a surety as it is today, the existence of one would enable a debtor without enough property for hypothecary pledge to make an amīlūtu contract, as in the case of Al-ummi.

Before closing this study, it may be worth considering the relationship of Al-ummi with her lost surety and Matiya, her closest living relative. The main point we have to consider is whether the woman Al-ummi was independent of or subordinate to a man in her family. In the former case, she would presumably be the single inheritress of her family estate. In Emar a daughter was frequently nominated as the inheritress when her father had no son, but such a woman could be seriously impoverished, as attested in Emar VI 213 and TS 74. If she was an impoverished inheritress, the first candidate for Matiya’s relationship would be her uncle or cousin, though we have no idea of who needed to stand surety for her.

On the other hand, if she was subordinate to a man in her family, it was likely to her father, her brother, or perhaps her husband. Let us take the father as the most likely candidate. If her father was still alive at the time of the first contract, he was most probably her surety. This would mean that he was the substantial debtor who had Al-ummi, his daughter, borrow silver as his substitute. Then the first candidate for Matiya would be her brother. Although this interpretation may be simple, the following problems remain to be answered. Firstly, why did Lad-Dagan, no doubt an outsider to her family, take care of Al-ummi alone? Note that Subartu 17-T does not refer to any other members of her family. Secondly, why did Belu-malik risk taking her as an amīltūtu? If he had lent silver to her father and taken her as possessory pledge, the result would have been the same for him. Then, does the fact that he did not take her father as amīlūtu indicate that for him female labor was more important than the male labor? Lastly and most basically, could a woman subordinate to her father, or other male member of her family, borrow money? To the best of my knowledge, no such case is clearly attested, at least in the Emar texts.

Although the arguments are admittedly indecisive, I would support the interpretation that she was independent, in view of the number of difficulties in the interpretation that she was not. In any case, in view of the above observations, one may reasonably conclude that amīltūtu contract(s), i.e., amīlūtu contracts involving women, must have been rare cases.



I. Introduction

amīlūtu in Emar: “antichretic pledge”[1] (Arnaud); cf. “retainer, slave” (MB, NB, also Nuzi)

amīltūtu: its female counterpart (Subartu 17-T)


II. General Remarks

 1. Tablet type: Syro-Hittite type only

2. Orthography

amīlūtu: <sg.> LÚ.Ú.LU-ti-ia (Emar VI 16: 2; 117: 3; TS 39: 3; 40: 2); LÚ.Ú.LU-tù (Emar VI 77: 2; 279: 4; QVO 5-T 2: 1); LÚ!.Ú.LU-ut-ti (RA 77-T 5: 4); broken (ASJ 13-T 38: 3);

<pl.> LÚ.MEŠ.Ú.LU-te-i[a] (RE 39: 13); LÚ.MEŠ.Ú.LU-ti4 (ASJ 10-T A: 2)

amīltūtu: <sg.> MÍ.Ú.LU-tù-ut-ti (Subartu 17-T: 3).

cf. LÚ.U18/19.LU = amīlu; freq. LÚ.MEŠ = amīlūtu (Borger, MesZL2, 357 [no. 514])

3. Document types

1) amīlūtu contracts: Emar VI 77, ASJ 10-T A, RA 77-T 5

2) Contracts of caring by an amīlūtu: Emar VI 16, 117; ASJ 13-T 38!; QVO 5-T 2; TS 39, 40

3) Others: Emar VI 279, RE 39, Subartu 17-T

4. Amount of debt (shekels of silver)

         Emar VI 16            41                                      QVO 5-T 2            40

         Emar VI 77            140                                    RA 77-T 5              47

         Emar VI 117          40                                      RE 39                     [?] (3 persons)!

         Emar VI 279          not stated                          Subartu 17-T         not stated

         ASJ 10-T A            105 2/9 (3 persons)           TS 39                     25

         ASJ 13-T 38           56                                      TS 40                     30


III. The amīlūtu Contracts

 1. Texts

1) RA 77-T 5 (= ASJ 13-T 35)

(As for) Yašur-Dagan, son of Bada, 2-4 I, Itur-Dagan, son of Iddilli, have taken him (altaqe-šu) as amīlūtu for 47 shekels of silver. 5-6 He has placed his wife Na’ittu with her son, and his house, as (hypothecary) pledges.

2) Emar VI 77

1-3a Muḫra-aḫi, son of Kutta, son of Zadamma, s[on of x]-za, is the amīlūtu for 140 shekels of silver of Dagan-kabar, son of Ḫima. 3b-4a His (hypothecary) pledges are his house and his s[on] Add[a]. 4b-6 On the day when he pays his silver to Dagan-kabar, son of Ḫima, he b[rea]ks his document.

3) ASJ 10-T A

1-4a Dudu, son of Mašru, (and) also (lit. “with”) his sons, Kiri-Dagan and Abdi-ili, were staying (ašbū) as amīlūtus of Še’i-Dagan for 105 shekels (and) 40 (grains) of silver. 4b-6 Now, Dudu has paid back to Še’i-Dagan [4]0 shekels of silver from that silver. 7-10a (Since) Dudu has made himself (able to) leave, Kiri-Dagan and Abdi-ili will stay in the house of Še’i-Dagan for 65 (shekels and) 40 (grains) of silver. 10b-11 Their mo[th]er Ṣariptu (and) their sisters <  >.[2] 12-14 On the day when Dudu pays their silver, he breaks their document.

15-17 When Dudu was staying in the house of Še’i-Dagan, he was released and went away (for) nine months. 18-20a So, on <the day> when Dud[u] pays his [s]ilver, he gives his one son [t]o Še’i-Dagan, 20b so that he (the son shall) take on work (for) nine months.

 2. Features

0)    Text is of the Syro-Hittite type.

1)    The debt contracted is of silver.

2)    The debtor himself enters into the household of the creditor as a possessory pledge.

3)    At the same time, a hypothecary pledge, always including a member of the debtor’s family, is set (but cf. § IV.2.3 below).

4)    The debtor repays only the capital.

5)    But instead of paying interest, he is obliged to work at the house of the creditor until the debt is paid.

6)    The term of the contract is indefinite.

 3. Comparison

1) Other debt contracts in Emar (Syro-Hittite type), involving a personal pledge



F. member



Emar VI 205

poss. pledge

Emar VI 209


līṭu for the surety
TS 25

poss. pledge

debt in barley
TS 34

poss. pledge

poss. pledge

・No case of setting double securities (pledges) involving the debtor himself

2) tidennūtu in Nuzi: antichretic pledge in general

∴ amīlūtu: a specific type of antichretic pledge = a debtor owing silver


IV. amīltūtu in Subartu 17-T

 1. Text

1 ⸢fal-um-mi DUMU.MÍ mzu-ba-la 2 DUMU ḪAR-da a-na le-et mEN-ma-lik DUMU NIR-dKUR a-na MÍ.Ú.LU-tù-ut-ti[3] aš-ba-at ù ša qa-ta-ti-ši il-qu i-ia-nu ù mEN– ma-lik fal-um-mi a-na pa-ni mka-pí-dKUR ù [G]AL.MEŠ URU.e-mar ul-te-li ù GAL.MEŠ URU.e-mar a-na mma-ti-ia i-dáb-bu-bu ma-a KÙ.BABBAR-šú! ša mEN– ma-lik 10 te-er-mi um-ma mma-ti-ia-ma 11 [ma-a] KÙ.BABBAR-šú la-a a-na-din-mi 12 [ma]amal-um-mi-ma li-iṣ-bat-mi 13 [ù] mla-ad-dKUR DUMU ka-pí-dKUR! 14 [(x)] qa- ta-ti-ši il-qè 15 i[n]a EGIR-ki u4-mi šum-ma mma-ti-ia 16 i-ia-nu-mi-eša-nu-um-ma il-la-ak 17 ù fal-um-mi i-la-aq-qè 18 30 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR.MEŠ a-na mla-ad-dKUR li-din 19 fal-um-mi lil-qè i-na MU.KAM dan-na-ti 20 ù i-na MU.KAM ša nu-ku-[r]a-ti ub-tal- <li>-iṭ-ši  /

Al-ummi, daughter of Zu-Ba‘la, son of ḪARda, was staying with Belu-malik, son of Matkali-Dagan, as (his) amīltūtu, but the one who had stood surety for her was gone.[4]

So, Belu-malik brought Al-ummi up into the presence of Kapi-Dagan and the ‘great (men)’ of Emar. The ‘great (men)’ of Emar said to Matiya: “Pay back the silver of Belu-malik!” (But) thus Matiya: “I will not pay his silver. Let him seize Al-ummi (as his slave).”

[Then] Lad-Dagan, son of Kapi-Dagan, stood surety for her. I[n] the future, if Matiya or someone else (should) come[5] and take Al-ummi, he shall pay 30 shekels of silver to Lad-Dagan, so that he may take Al-ummi. (For) he (Lad-Dagan) kept her provided with food in the year of distress (i.e., famine) and in the year of hostility (i.e., war).

 2. Discussion on the people in the text

1) Al-ummi: the amīltūtu

・The debtor and possessory pledge, who had lost her surety

not a case of Matiya = the debtor vs. Al-ummi = the possessory pledge

2) Belu-malik: the creditor, the amount of whose loan is unknown

3) The lost surety (ša qātātiši ilqû)

・The other required security: cf. the (hypothecary) pledges in the amīlūtu contracts

yānu (l. 5), “there (was, but now) is not”: double securities required

4) Matiya and tēr (l. 10)

・The closest relative of Al-ummi, probably not the debtor

cf. Emar VI 205: When Madi-Dagan (debtor) died and his children (possessory pledges) were left with Ibni-Dagan (creditor), Ibni-Dagan took them into the presence of the men of authority and said to the brothers of Madi-Dagan:

9b-11a “If [you would take] the two children of [your] br[other], pay back (terrā) my 25 shekels of silver! 11b-12 [Otherwise], give the[se] two children of your brother into my slavery of you[r own accord]!” 13-14a Then, the brother[s of their father did not a]gree to pay the 25 shekels of silver of Ibni-[Dagan], 14b-16a and (gave in a) sealed (document) the two children of their brother into the slavery [of] Ibni-Dagan of their [o]wn accord. 16b Dead (or) alive, they are slaves of Ibni-[Dag]an.

・He formally abandoned his right to redeem Al-ummi.

5) Lad-Dagan: Al-ummi’s private creditor → her new surety

・Son of Kapi-Dagan (l. 13): cf. Kapi-Dagan in ll. 6, 21 (son of Zu-Ba‘la, the diviner)

・30 shekels: expenditure for taking care of her in the year of famine and war

・No legal debt contract?: so debt ignored when Belu-malik took Al-ummi as his amīltūtu

→ no chance to recover his 30 shekels if Al-ummi is enslaved by Belu-malik

∴1 Subartu 17-T: renewal of the amīltūtu contract with modification, issued for Lad-Dagan

He stood surety for Al-ummi, adding one condition: the one who takes Al-ummi shall pay 30 shekels to Lad-Dagan (besides the amount of the debt to Belu-malik).

∴2 amīltūtu: can be well understood as the female counterpart of amīlūtu


V. Final Remarks

 1. amīlūtus and amīltūtu(s): debtors and possessory (= antichretic) pledges

・Additional security required (feature 3’): hypothecary pledge or surety

 2. Al-ummi

・If independent: single inheritress of her family estate (cf. Emar VI 213, TS 74)

→ surety = ?, Matiya = probably her uncle or cousin

・If subordinate: substitute for a dominant man (esp. father) in her family

→ surety = her father (= substantial debtor!), Matiya = most likely her brother

∴ amīltūtu contract(s): rare



Arnaud, D. 1981: “Humbles et superbes à Emar (Syrie) à la fin de l’âge du Bronze récent,” in: A. Caquot & M. Delcor (eds.), Mélanges bibliques et orientaux en l’honneur de M. Henri Cazelles (AOAT 212), Neukirchen-Vluyn, 1-14.

— 1985-86: Recherches au pays d’Aštata. Emar VI/1-3, Paris (= Emar VI).

— 1991: Textes syriens de l’âge du Bronze récent (AuOrS 1), Sabadell (= TS).

Beckman, G. 1996: Texts from the Vicinity of Emar in the Collection of Jonathan Rosen (HANE/M II), Padova (= RE).

Cavigneaux, A. & D. Beyer 2006: “Une orpheline d’Emar,” in: P. Butterlin, (eds.), Les espaces syro-mésopotamiens (Subartu 17 = Fs. Margueron), Turnhout, 497-503 (= Subartu 17-T).

Démare-Lafont, S. 2010: “Éléments pour une diplomatique juridique des textes d’Émar,” in: S. Démare-Lafont & A. Lemaire (eds.), Trois millénaires de formulaires juridiques (HEO 48), Paris, 43-84.

Di Filippo, F. 2010: “Two Tablets from the Vicinity of Emar,” in M. G. Biga & M. Liverani (eds.), ana turri gimilli (Quaderni di Vicino Oriente V = Fs. Mayer), Roma, 105-115 (= QVO 5-T).

Eichler, B. 1973: Indenture at Nuzi: The Personal Tidennūtu Contract and its Mesopotamian Analogues (YNER 5), New Haven.

Huehnergard, J. 1983 “Five Tablets from the Vicinity of Emar,” RA 77, 11-43 (= RA 77-T).

Tsukimoto, A. 1988: “Sieben spätbronzezeitliche Urkunden aus Syrien,” ASJ 10, 153-189 (= ASJ 10-T).

— 1991: “Akkadian Tablets in the Hirayama Collection (II),” ASJ 13, 275-333 (= ASJ 13-T).

Westbrook, R. 2001:”Introduction” and “Conclusions,” in: R. Westbrook & R. Jasnow (eds.), Security for Debt in Ancient Near Eastern Law, Leiden, 2001, 1-3, 327-339.

Yamada, M. 2010: “On amīlūtu in Emar: As a Type of Antichretic Pledge,” Bulletin of the Society for Near Eastern Studies in Japan (= BSNESJ) 53/2, 55-73 (in Japanese with English summary).

— 2011a: “Notes on amīltūtu and qātātu in Emar,” BSNESJ 54/1, 139-157 (in Japanese with English summary).

— 2011b: “On QVO 5-T 2, a Recently Published Emar Text,” BSNESJ 54/2, 119-122 (in Japanese).

— 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).

[1] Security: (1) pledge – property that the debtor gives or assigns to the creditor by way of security; 1a) possessory, if actually handed over; 1b) hypothecary, if only assigned; (2) surety (guarantor) – a person who assumed liability instead of the debtor in case of default. Possessory pledge was for the most part antichretic, i.e., the income from the pledge was taken by the creditor in lieu of interest, leaving the capital to be repaid in its entirety in order to redeem the pledge (Westbrook 2001, 3, 329).

[2] Probably, they are (hypothecary) pledges as in the first contract. Cf. “(So auch) Ṣāriptu, ihre Mutter, <und> ihre Schwestern” (Tsukimoto). If so, this would mean they are (possessory) pledges.

[3] Cf. munusú-lu-du-ut-ti, “(Mille Al-ummī … est désormais) nubile,” taken as ulūduttu/ulluduttu, “nubilité” (plutôt que “grossesse”), from *wld (Cavigneaux & Beyer).

[4] Lit. “there was no one who stood surety for her.”

[5] Cf. “if Matiya should disappear (and then) someone comes” (Yamada).

The almattu-azibtu Formula in the Emar Texts

The almattu-azibtu Formula in the Emar Texts

Masamichi YAMADA

This study deals with the almattu-azibtu formula, the enigmatic expression that a certain woman is almattu itti almanāti azibtu itti azbāti, « a widow with widows (and) a divorcée with divorcées, » which is attested in six Emar texts of Syro-Hittite type. Through an analysis of these texts, the following three features are particularly noteworthy: (1) the women concerned are free women; (2) but they are in a socio-economically inferior position; also (3) the above formula is stated in the context of the premise of (or, in five texts, at the time of) their marriage. From the last point, we may conclude that the meaning of the almattu-azibtu formula is that after the marriage ends, either by the death of the husband or divorce, the woman is to be treated like other normal widows or divorcées. Furthermore, we should note that this formula is used substantially to prescribe the release of a former slave in Emar VI 16. In another text, a free woman married to a slave (QVO 5-T 1) was, after his death, adopted by his owner, who presumably wanted to keep her under his control (QVO 5-T 2). From these points, we may understand the intention of the formula as prescribing that because they are free women, though in an inferior position, they shall not be treated as slaves.

I. Introduction
In the Emar texts from Late Bronze Age Syria, occasionally we find the enigmatic statement, that a certain woman is almattu itti almanāti azibtu itti azbāti, that is « a widow with widows, (and) a divorcée with divorcées. » We will call it the almattu-azibtu formula below. This formula is attested in the six texts of Syro-Hittite type listed in the handout. The texts marked with an asterisk use variant expressions: in QVO 5-T 1 the order of the two elements is reversed, and azibtu/azbāti is written in the Babylonian form as ezibtu/ezbēti; and in Semitica 46-T 1 and SMEA 30-T 13 the formula is partly omitted. This study seeks to clarify the meaning and intention of the formula.

II. Texts
Because of the limit of time, in this presentation I take three texts as samples for examination.

This is a short text stating that a certain Kuna’e marries a woman named Anna-kime to his slave Abi-SA-SI. The just-married Anna-kime is unhappily called a widow and divorcée. Although she herself seems to be a free woman, as she is referred to with her patronymic, she is made a wife of a slave. Probably she is a daughter handed over to Kuna’e by her father, who had failed to repay his debt. This point would be supported by the phraseology that Kuna’e « took » her.
From another text, QVO 5-T 2, it is known that Kuna’e later had Anna-kime marry Ḫizmiya, his amīlūtu, a specific type of debtor owing silver in Emar. This suggests that her first husband had died. It is interesting to note that this time she is called Kuna’e’s « daughter. » One may suppose some connection between this adoption and the almattu-azibtu formula. We will return to this point later.

2. Emar VI 216
This is a contract of the so-called matrimonial adoption (or marriage adoption). Here, the girl Ba‘la-bea is given to a woman named Anat-ummi as her daughter, (and also as her kallātu according to a related tablet). If Anat-ummi’s husband needs an heir, Anat-ummi will marry the girl to her husband, and she will be a widow with widows and a divorcée with divorcées. Else, Anat-ummi may marry her to someone in another family. The family of Ba‘la-bea is obviously in poverty, and this transaction seems to be actually her sale, as her bridewealth is called « the price of Ba‘la-bea » in the related tablet.
However, according to the related tablet, Emar VI 217, this matrimonial adoption was cancelled because Anat-ummi did not pay the promised price of 30 shekels of silver (ll. 13f.). It is interesting to note that in Emar VI 216 the amount of silver is not stated in l. 5, if my reading of the text on the basis of the handcopy is correct. In my opinion, Ku’e, the mother of Ba‘la-bea, received a part of the 30 shekels, so she could support her children in the year of famine, but not the full price. Emar VI 217 states that after canceling the adoption contract, Ba‘la-bea’s parents sold their sons and daughters, including Ba‘la-bea, as slaves to the diviner Adda-malik for 60 shekels of silver.
In view of the above texts, we can note the following common points about the almattu-azibtu formula: (1) the woman concerned is a member of a poor family; (2) the formula is stated on the occasion of her marriage. These points seem to be applicable also to RAI 47-T 2 and Semitica 46-T 1. Furthermore, SMEA 30-T 13, too, seems to be in a marriage context, although the woman concerned is a former slave as in the following text.

3. Emar VI 16
This is a care (palāḫu) contract, in which the creditor Ùaggar-abu cancels 20 out of 41 shekels of silver of the debt of his amīlūtu Bazila, and obliges Bazila to take care of himself and his wife as long as they live. Šaggar-abu also gives to Bazila as his wife, a certain Abi-qiri, who is probably his slave, as she is referred to without her patronymic. After finishing his obligation, Bazila may leave the house of Šaggar-abu together with his wife and sons, if he pays the rest of the debt, 21 shekels, to the sons of Šaggar-abu.
The part of the text cited in the handout is concerned with what happens if Bazila dies during the period of this obligation. Now, it is Abi-qiri, his wife, who accepts the obligation in his stead. Then, how is she treated after finishing it? She is a widow with widows and a divorcée with divorcées. (Here, it is interesting to note that even though she would clearly be a widow in this case, the formula mentions both widows and divorcées. This indicates that these two elements are considered as more or less equivalent).
Furthermore it is said, « the sons of Šaggar-abu shall not claim her. » The phrase, ana muḫḫi X lā iraggumū, « they shall not claim X, » is attested in three care contracts (Emar VI 177: 20′-22′; RE 27 [sg.], 66), in which a slave accepts the obligation to take care of family members of his or her owner until their deaths. For example, in Emar VI 177 the owner of Itti-beli, the slave, says that after finishing the obligation, « Itti-beli is released to the sun. My sons shall not claim him » (ll. 21′-22′). This means that Itti-beli is released from the status of slave, and those sons cannot claim the ownership of him; in other words, he may leave the house of his former owner as a freeman. Similarly, in the present text, the statement that the sons shall not claim her would confirm well the above identification of Abi-qiri as a female slave. Furthermore, we may take the almattu-azibtu formula as substantially the same as « Itti-beli is released to the sun, » indicating her release as a free woman.

III. Considerations

1. Features
On the basis of the above, the following common features are to be noted on all the women concerned:

  1. They are free women. The connection of the almattu-azibtu formula with this point is clearly shown in Emar VI 16.
  2. But they are in a socio-economically inferior position. Note that formerly they were either female slaves or members of poor families.
  3. They are married women. Particularly, in five out of the six texts, the almattu-azibtu formula is stated in the context of their marriage.

These points are significant when we consider the meaning and intention of the almattu-azibtu formula below.

2. Meaning of the formula
In the five texts in which the almattu-azibtu formula is stated in the context of marriage, its meaning is easily understood. Once a woman is married, in the future she will be either a wife, a widow, or a divorcée. The almattu-azibtu formula refers to « widows » and « divorcées » on the occasion of her marriage because it is concerned with her future. So, the formula can be understood as a general prescription that when she becomes a widow or divorcée, she will be treated like other (normal) widows and divorcées. Needless to say, the reference to « wife » is unnecessary here, since (it is taken for granted in the male centered society that) as long as the husband is alive, he will always treat his wife well and properly.
As for the remaining text, Emar VI 16, in which the formula is given not in the context of her marriage, but of her widowhood, the same meaning is applicable. To clarify this point, let us ask simply to where this former slave is going after her release. Since she is the widow of Bazila, it must be to his parents’ home. Then the formula is understood as prescribing that she will be treated like other widows there. Thus its close connection with marriage is obvious in this text.
In conclusion, we may take the almattu-azibtu formula as meaning that a certain free married woman in a socio-economically inferior position is to be treated like other normal widows and divorcées when her marriage ends.

3. Intention of the formula
However, widows and divorcées, as well as orphans, seem to have been the representatives of socially weak people. Then, does the almattu-azibtu formula indicate that they are to be treated as such? I do not think so. In my opinion, the point is that they are to be treated like other normal widows and divorcées, that is, as free women.
Now, let us recall Emar VI 16, in which the almattu-azibtu formula substantially prescribes the release of the former female slave Abi-qiri as a free woman. In this respect, it is worthy noting the destiny of Anna-kime, who was made to marry a slave in QVO 5-T 1. As noted above, QVO 5-T 2 shows that when she actually did become a widow, she was made an adopted daughter of Kuna’e, the owner of her dead husband. Why did Kuna’e adopt her? I think, because of the almattu-azibtu formula. He presumably wanted to keep her in his household, but because of this formula in the contract was obliged to treat her as a free woman. In this case, how could he secure his control over her? Threre was no way but to adopt her, since she was neither his slave nor his debtor. This case of Anna-kime shows how the almattu-azibtu formula was actually effective, involving the surrounding people.
Based on the above, we may conclude that the almattu-azibtu formula intends to insure that the women concerned are treated as free women, not as slaves, although they are socio-economically inferior.

IV. Final Remarks
The almattu-azibtu formula is concerned with married, free women who are in a socio-economically inferior position. It prescribes directly that they are to be treated like other normal widows and divorcées when they become widows or divorcées. However, its intention is more general, to insure they are treated as free women, not as slaves. In short, it says, they cannot be enslaved. Although widows and divorcées are socially weak, the formula means that at least they are free women. They are referred to as widows and divorcées only because they would have been formerly married.
In Emar, the barrier of social rank between freemen and slaves seems to have been relatively low, as we see frequently in the Emar texts that a debtor who cannot repay his debt becomes the slave of his creditor, while an owner sometimes releases a slave on his own initiative. However, the almattu-azibtu formula insists a clear distinction between them. Probably use of the formula reflects the mental threat of that fluidity of the social orders felt by the Emarites, particularly the freemen in an inferior position, who seriously tried to resist it.

The almattu-azibtu Formula in the Emar Texts

I. Introduction

  1. The formula: almattu itti almanāti azibtu itti azbāti
    Emar VI 16: 26f.; 216: 11f.; QVO 5-T 1: 5-7*; RAI 47-T 2: 5f.; Semitica 46-T 1: 6*; SMEA 30-T 13: 6f.* (all Syro-Hittite type)
  2. Problems: its meaning and intention

II. Texts (selected)

(1) mku-na-’-e DUMU ir-ri-g[e] (2) fan-na-ki-me DUMU.MÍ mx-ḫi-ir?-[x] (3) LÚ URU.ú-ri a-na DAM-ut-ti (4) ša ma-bi-SA-SI ÌR-šu (5) il-qe e-zi-ib-tu (6) it-ti ez-be-ti ù al-ma-tu (7) it-ti al-ma-na-ti /
Kuna’e, son of Irrig[e], took Anna-kime, daughter of X-ḫir(?)-x, man of Uru, as the wife of Abi-SA-SI, his slave. (She is) a divorcée with divorcées and a widow with widows.
Cf. daughter of Kuna’e (QVO 5-T 2: 3)

2. Emar VI 216
(1) fku-’-e DUMU.MÍ mzu-[…] (2) DAM mza-dam-ma [a-kán-na iq-bi] (3) ma-a LÚ.mu-ti4-ia il-t[a-bi-ir DUMU.MEŠ-ni] (4) ṣe-eḫ-ru ša ú-bal-la-aṭ-s[ú-nu NU.TUK] (5) ù fdNIN-be-a DUMU.MÍ-ia a-na KÙ.[BABBAR(.MEŠ)] [1] (6) a-na DUMU.MÍ-ša ša fa-nat-um-mi DAM mše-gal DUMU ik-ki (7) at-ta-din-ši DUMU.MEŠ ṣe-eḫ-ru-ti i-na MU dan-na-ti (8) ú-bal-li-iṭ šúm-ma fa-nat-um-mi DAM mše-gal (9) la! tu-la-ad fdNIN-be-a a-na DAM-šú ša <m>še-gal (10) LÚ.mu-ti4-ša ta-na-din-ši i-na EGIR u4-mi (11) fdNIN-be-a al-mat-tu4 it-ti al-ma-na-ti (12) ši-it a-zi-ib-tu it-ti az-ba-ti! ši-it (13) ù šúm-ma fa-nat-um-mi i-na mše-gal (14) LÚ.mu-ti4-ša tu-la-ad (15) mše-g[al] ù fa-nat-um-mi (16) [f]d[NIN-b]e-a DUMU.MÍ-šú-nu i-na É e-mi (17) li-d[in-nu]? KÙ.BABBAR.MEŠ NÌ.MÍ.ÚS.SÁ-ši (18) lil-[q]u?-ú
Ku’e, daughter of Zu-[…], wife of Zadamma, [said as follows]: « My husband has beco[me old (and) our children(!) are (still) young (but) [there is no] one who supports t[hem]. So, I gave Ba‘la-bea, my daughter, as a daughter of Anat-ummi, wife of Šegal, son of Ikki, for sil[ver]. (Then) I (could) support (our) young children(!) in the year of distress (i.e., famine). » If Anat-ummi, wife of Šegal, does not bear (a son), she will give Ba‘la-bea to Šegal, her husband, as his wife. Thereafter she is a widow with widows (and) she is a divorcée with divorcées. But if Anat-ummi bears (a son) for Šegal, her husband, Šeg[al] and Anat-ummi may m[arry] off [Ba‘la-b]ea, their daughter, to someone else and ta[k]e the silver of her bridewealth.

Cf. kallātu of Anat-ummi (Emar VI 217: 12); 30 shekels of silver (ll. 12, 13) Note: at the time of marriage (RAI 47-T 2, Semitica 46-T 1, also SMEA 30-T 13!)

[1] Cf. š[ám] (Arnaud); ma-ar-[tu-ti] (Durand & Marti); é.[gi.a ù] (Justel). Note KÙ.BABBAR in the handcopy: Emar VI 216: 5, 17, 20 (Msk. 731070 + 74333).

3. Emar VI 16
(22) šúm-ma i-na EGIR u4-mi mba-zi-la BA.ÚŠ fa-bi-qí-ri (23) DAM-šú u4-mi.MEŠ ša md30-a-bu ù DAM-šú bal-ṭu (24) i-pal-làḫ-šú-[n]u-ti ki-[i-me-e] i-p[al-là]ḫ-šú-nu-ti (25) EGIR ši-im-ti-šú-nu ub-bal-šú-nu-ti [a]-na EGIR u4-mi (26) fa-bi-qí-ri al-ma-tu4 it-ti a[l-m]a-[n]a-ti [a-zi]-ib-tu4 (27) it-ti az-ba-ti [D]UMU.MEŠ-šú š[a] md30-a-bi a-na muḫ-ḫi-ši (28) la-a i-ra-gu-mu š[ú]m-ma i-ra-gu-mu ṭup-pu an-nu-ú (29) i-la-’-e-šú-nu-ti /
If in the later days Bazila dies, Abi-qiri, his wife, shall serve Šaggar-abu and his wife as long as they live. When she serves them, she brings them after their destiny. Thereafter (she is) a widow with w[id]o[w]s (and) a [divo]rcée with divorcées. The sons o[f] Šaggar-abu shall not claim her. If they claim (her), this document overcomes them.
Cf. (e.g., PN [= slave] ana šamši muššur) ana muḫḫišu lā iraggumū (Emar VI 177: 22′; RE 66: 9f.; cf. also RE 27: 6f. [sg.])

III. Considerations
1. Features: the women concerned are

  • a) free women; esp. cf. Emar VI 16: release of a former slave
  • b) socio-economically inferior: former slaves or members of poor families c) married women: on the premise (or at the time) of marriage

2. Meaning of the formula
note: married woman –> wife, widow or divorcée
※ she will be treated like other (normal) widows and divorcées

3. Intention of the formula
note: the widows and divorcées = free women, not slaves (Emar VI 16, also QVO 5-T 2 [cf. no. 1])
※ she must be treated as a free woman, not as a slave

IV. Final Remarks

  1. Conclusions: meaning (III.2) and intention (III.3)
  2. Gap: interchangeability (freeman ⇄  slave) vs.distinction (freeman ⇔ slave)


  • Arnaud, D. 1985-86: Recherches au pays d’Aštata. Emar VI/1-3, Paris (= Emar VI).
  • —— 1992: « Tablettes de genres divers du moyen-Euphrate, » SMEA 30, pp. 195-245 (= SMEA 30-T).
  • —— 1996: « Mariage et remariage des femmes chez les Syriens du moyen-Euphrate, à l’âge du Bronze récent d’après deux nouveaux documents, » Semitica 46, pp. 7-16, Pl. 1 (= Semitica 46-T).
  • Di Filippo, F. 2010: « Two Tablets from the Vicinity of Emar, » in: M. G. Biga & M. Liverani (eds.), ana turri gimilli: studi dedicati al Padre Werner R. Mayer, S.J. da amici e allievi (Quaderni di Vicino Oriente V), Roma, pp. 105-115 (= QVO 5-T).
  • Durand, J.-M. & L. Marti 2003: « Chroniques du Moyen-Euphrate 2. Relecture de documents d’Ekalte, Émar et Tuttul, » RA 97, pp. 141-180.
  • Hallo, W. W. 2002: « Love and Marriage in Ashtata, » in: S. Parpola & R. M. Whiting (eds.), Sex and Gender in the Ancient Near East (RAI 47), Helsinki, pp. 203-216 (= RAI 47-T).
  • Justel, J. J. 2008: « L’adoption matrimoniale à Emar (Syrie, XIIIe s. av. J.-C.), » RHD 86, pp. 1-19.
  • Yamada, M. 2011: « On QVO 5-T 2, a Recently Published Emar Text, » Bulletin of the Society for Near Eastern Studies in Japan (= BSNESJ) 54/2, pp. 119-122 (in Japanese).
  • —— 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).
  • —— submitted: « Widows and Divorcées as Free Women in Emar: A Study of the almattu-azibtu Formula, » BSNESJ 56 (in Japanese with English summary).

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.

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

 The Economic Role of Women during the Crisis in Emar (Syria)

Josué J. JUSTEL[1] (Altorientalisches Institut, Universität Leipzig — UMR 7041 ArScAn)

1. Introduction


The existence of economic crises in the Ancient Near East is well known. One of the most investigated periods is the Late Bronze Age, which written sources attest the difficulties families experienced.[2] To this period belongs the documentation unearthed in the excavations of Tell Meskene, ancient Emar, by the Syrian Euphrates, when the city – as well as the near Ekalte, modern Tell Mumbāqa – was under the influence of the Hittite Empire.

It seems that Emar (or its territory) was attacked, by the middle of the thirteenth century BC, by the Hurrian army. This episode is documented in four texts (Emar VI 42, AulaOr. Suppl. 1 9, HANEM 2 77, ASJ 12 7) and, despite the exact date is unclear, the attack would have taken place ca. 1250 BC.[3] Another two texts (AulaOr. Suppl. 1 25, 44) attest additional raids, but they do not mention that they were undertaken by the Hurrian troops.[4] In any case, it is evident that Emar was attacked several times.[5]

These war episodes, and other circumstances as well, would have born one or more deep economic crises. This phenomenon is explicitly stated in some legal documents from Emar by the reference to the “year of famine (and) war” (a/ina šanat dannati nukurti), with slightly different formulations. Zaccagnini gathered 33 references;[6] 4 more have become noted since,[7] to which 5 additional attestations can be added here.[8] These 42 cases are distributed amongst the two scribal traditions present in the Emar archives: the so-called Syrian (= S, esp. for landed property sales) and the Syro-Hittite (= SH, for sale of persons).[9] In line with the above-mentioned episodes of war,[10] some economic crises would have taken place, in which the price of the food would have increased dramatically.[11] Only during the reign of Pilsu-Dagān, king of Emar, the episodes of sale of persons are attested.[12] The formula may be also attested in two additional documents discovered in the archive of Ekalte, some kilometers to the north.[13]

In essence, these references are found in legal documents attesting two different economic transactions: transferences of landed property and of persons. By the inclusion of this expression, it is therefore stated that the transaction took place in a difficult moment for at least one of the parties involved. However, the exact implications of that formula remain unclear. For example, Zaccagnini think that only in the case of sale of persons the actual cause would have been the economic difficulties of those families.[14] When landed property was involved, however, “these contracts do not seem to exhibit any distinctive feature that might be connected with war and famine.” In these cases he thinks that the reference to war and famine could be a “scribal mannerism.”[15] Adamthwaite has calculated the prices of these transactions and pointed out that only the cases of sale of persons correspond to real economic difficulties.[16]

It is unclear whether an economic crisis is to be posited only when the above-mentioned formula (ina šanat dannati nukurti) is employed. The formula probably does not reflect personal difficulties, but a generalized crisis in Emar.[17] Démare-Lafont points that “la clause paraît plutôt avoir une utilité juridique en ce qu’elle introduit une exception justifiant l’application de dispositions dérogatoires, qui diffèrent sensiblement selon qu’elles concernent la vente ou le prêt.”[18] In that case, it would be possible that the inclusion of the formula allowed the seller to buy this property again. Other references to difficulties of concrete families do not use this formula,[19] but they will be considered in the present exposition too.

This situation of war and economic crisis, with its terrible consequences on society, is attested again during the siege of Nippur by the Assyrian army in the 7th century BC.[20] A set of ten documents attests that a man named Ninurta-uballiṭ acquired different children – most of them, girls – from their parents, who went through a rough period. These documents were published by Oppenheim,[21] who proposed further parallels: one from the Old Assyrian period, five during the siege of Babylon by Assurbanipal, and three from other sieges in Uruk. Zaccagnini has provided 3 further Neo-Assyrian parallels.[22]

The purpose of this investigation is to study the active[23] role of women in these moments of generalized economic crisis, represented by the use of the aforementioned formula, or during concrete economic difficulties. In contrast to previous treatments,[24] I will present the evidence by dividing the examples according to concrete legal actions (selling/buying or debt transactions), and not according to the object (landed property/persons), but see an overview of the latter case in § 6.


2. Women in buying and selling


More than two hundred sale-contracts from Emar have been published up to now, the object of the transaction being landed or movable property, animals or persons.[25] A woman appears as seller in sixteen cases.[26] Among these sixteen occurrences, in four it is stated that the transaction took place during a generalized crisis by the use of the formula “in the year of famine (and) war” (ina šanat dannati nukurti). The cases are:

–    Emar VI 20 (S): Bāba buys from his step-mother/adoptive mother[27] fAbini a house for 170! shekels of silver[28] “[in the y]ear of famine and war” (l. 14: [a/i-na m]u-tu4 kala nu-kúr-ti). Later on (ll. 28-30) it is stated that fAbini’s children had abandoned her “because of the famine and the war” (a-na dan-na-ti nu-kúr-ti). It is explicitly indicated that Bāba bought the property “as a stranger” (kīma nikari ll. 13, 31).[29]

–    AulaOr. Suppl. 1 57 (S): Ipqi-Dagān buys from ʾIlī-iamūt and his mother fʾAḫa-mi a house for 200 shekels of silver “because of the famine” (l. 18: a-na dan!na-ti).[30]

–    AulaOr. Suppl. 1 65 (SH):[31] fAdamma-ilī and her four children (fDagān-niwārī, fʾImmī, Ḥabʾu and ʾAbiu) sell a house[32] to Bēlu-kabar and Dūdu (who were brothers) for 45 shekels of silver “in the years of famine” (l. 6: a-na mu-meš!ti dan-na-ti). It is explicitly stated (ll. 8-14) that fAdamma-ilī’s children could buy the property again by giving the buyers the double price – that is, 90 shekels of silver. fAdamma-ilī’s family had run into debt since the silver was finally received by Tūra-Dagān, who would have been the creditor (ll. 17-18).

–    ASJ 10 E (SH): fDagān-ilī sells her son Zū-Eia for […] shekels of silver to Dagān-bāni “[in the year] of famine, when three qa of barley stood [for one she]kel of silver” (ll. 1-2: [a/i-na mu] kala-ga ša 3 qa še / [a-na 1 gí]n kù-babbar iz-za-az).

Another example, Emar VI 82 (SH),[33] should be added. A woman named fAdda-naʿmī seems to sell some landed property to Dagān-taliʾ; it is mentioned that this man therefore “has le[t her] children live” (ll. 6-7: dumu-meš-[ši] / u[b]!te-li-iṭ).[34] Later on (ll. 7-14) a reference to the right of buying the property again seems to appear. Though there is no mention of the “famine and war” formula, it is evident that this woman experienced hardship.

Among these more than 200 sale-contracts from Emar, a woman was the buyer in 5 cases.[35] Only one of these contains the expression “in the year of famine (and) war,” Emar VI 111 (S). It is mentioned that a fAštar-abu had bought a house for 3 hundred shekels of silver. This price is really very high compared to the remaining transactions which took place during the period of crisis, and also compared to the normal price of houses in other moments as well.[36] Durand thinks that “la clause signifie que la terre n’entrera pas dans la définition du patrimoine de son mari lorsqu’il mourra,”[37] and therefore the high price was not related to the economic crisis. For his part, Viano thinks that the price was not modified by the buyer’s gender.[38] In this case the formula is found at the end of the document, referring to the future, and not to the moment in which the transaction had taken place, which is more usual: “(In) the years of war and famine, she shall give (the property to those) among her children she wishes, either female or male” (ll. 36-39: mu-ḫi-a nu!kúr-ti kala-ga / i-na dumu-meš-ši a-šar ta-ra-am / ta-na-din / i-na munus ú nitá).


3. Women in debt transactions


Along with their presence in sale contracts, women may be found in debt transactions. Different kinds of documents attest the processes of indebtedness, as the loan agreements, registers of annulment of debt, etc. In total, the number of these documents found in Emar is about thirty; another nine administrative records may be added to the corpus.[39] In this documentation, women might take an active part in the transaction:[40] we find 4 cases in which a woman was the creditor[41] and 5 in which she was the debtor.[42]

Only in one of these cases a variant of the mentioned “famine and war” formula is attested. It is ASJ 13 37 (SH), which starts with a formal declaration of a woman named fBaʿla-ʾilī: “In the year of famine, when three qa of barley stood for one shekel of silver, there was none who took care of me. Now Zū-Aštarti, son of Aḫī-mālik, son of Kutbu, has paid twenty five shekels of silver – my debt – and in the year of famine he has let me live of bread and water” (ll. 2-6: i-na mu kala-ga ki-i 3 qa še-meš a-na 1 gín kù-babbar / iz-za-az ša i-pal-la-ḫa-an-ni ia-nu i-na-an-na / Izu-aš-tar-ti dumu a-ḫi-ma-lik dumu kut-be 25 gín kù-babbar / ḫu-búl-li-ia ul-tal-lam ù mu kala-ga iš-tu ninda-meš / ù a-meš ub!tal-li-ṭa-an-ni). We find here that this woman was alone and going through a very bad economic situation, so a man named Zū-Aštarti settled her debts. The silver was received by the creditor, fEsertu (l. 10).

Other cases do not state explicitly that it was the case of a generalized crisis, but they refer to concrete economic difficulties. An example is ASJ 13 36 (SH), in which one learns that fBaʿla-simātī had run into debt for 40 shekels of silver. Zū-Aštarti – the same man mentioned in the previous example – settled her debt, so fBaʿla-simātī and her daughter fAštar-ummī enter Zū-Aštarti’s household as female slaves.

A last piece of evidence regarding debts is Emar VI 213 (SH).[43] fḪuti made her testament, granting all her possessions to her daughter. The testatrix declares that, after her husband’s death, she became poor and fell into debt (ll. 10-11: muš-kè-na-ku / ù uḫ-ta-bíl), and no relative helped her. For that reason, a man named Baʿl-mālik “honored me and paid my debts” (l. 13: ip-tal-ḫa-an-n ù ḫu-bu-la-ti-ia ul-tal-lim). Finally, fḪuti decided to adopt this man Baʿl-mālik (not explicitly stated, but see l. 20) and caused him to marry her daughter fBatta. This legal phenomenon, labeled by modern historiography as “adoption with marriage,” is quite common in the documentation from Emar,[44] but that is the only case in which somebody adopted his/her creditor.


4. Other attestations


Two further documents from Emar refer to the situation of women during the period of economic crisis. These texts do not correspond stricto sensu to sale contracts nor debt transactions; their characteristics are actually connected to family arrangements.

The first example, AulaOr. Suppl. 1 48 (S), is strictly speaking an adoption contract.[45] fWāʿi, probably a widow, adopts Iaḫṣi-Baʿl, and some usual clauses in this kind of legal documents are expressed; for example, the obligation for the adopted to support (wabālu Gtn) his mother in the future. It is also stated that “Iaḫṣi-Baʿl has supported her mother fWāʿi in the years of famine, and he has taken the house and the gods her husband gave to her” (ll. 31-37: ia-aḫ-ṣi-en / fwa-a-e ama-šu / i-na mu-ḫi-a-ti dan-na-ti / it-ta-na-bal-ši / ù é-ta u dingir-meš / ša mu-ti-ši id-dì-na-ši / il-qè).

The second example, Emar VI 216 (SH), is actually a marriage adoption contract.[46] A woman named fKuʾe stated that her husband was absent[47] but their children were very young, at least one still an unweaned baby. They were going though hard times, so this woman decided to give one of her daughters in matrimonial adoption to another woman (fʿAnat-ʾummī), in exchange for 30 shekels of silver (the amount is only stated in Emar VI 217: 12). In addition, fKuʾe declared: “she has made (my/our) young children live in the year of famine” (ll. 7-8: dumu-meš še-eḫ-ru-ti i-na mu dan-na-ti / ú-bal-li-iṭ).[48] This text belongs to a set of documents which allows us to follow the events of  fKuʾe’s family. In a later text (Emar VI 217) one learns that the transaction never took place, since fʿAnat-ʾummī did not pay the terḫatu of the girl given away in matrimonial adoption. Since her parents still needed the silver, they sold the girl, her unweaned sister and two brothers to Baʿal-mālik, who led a scribal school. Three clay lumps bear the imprints of feet and the names of three of these children, probably in order to record their size and age, and to avoid their being changed thereafter (Emar VI 218, 219, 220).[49] The end of the story is unknown.[50]

As stated before (§ 1), in this paper only the active role of women is taken into account. Note however that other documents record a woman – usually a young girl – being sold during periods of economic crisis. It is the case of Emar VI 83, AulaOr. Suppl.I 52,[51] ASJ 10 A, and perhaps Emar VI 256.[52] Sales of women are also known for periods when no crisis is explicitly mentioned.[53]

5. Women and crisis


Scholars have barely devoted a word on the role of women in these episodes of economic generalized crisis, or concrete personal difficulties.[54] I have shown the available evidence according to the type of legal deed (sale contracts, debt transactions, etc.). In the following table all this documentation, rearranged after the object of transaction (landed property or persons), is to be found.

Landed property


a/ina šanat dannati nukurti

Emar VI 20

Emar VI 111

AulaOr. Suppl. 1 57

AulaOr. Suppl. 1 65

Emar VI 216

AulaOr. Suppl. 1 48

ASJ 10 E

ASJ 13 37

No reference to crisis

Emar VI 82

Emar VI 213

ASJ 13 36


The general situations attested in the aforementioned documents share some common features. In general, the women which appear in those texts are alone. The husband is usually not mentioned. In some cases, we are told why these women are alone:

–    Emar VI 20: “Her children abandoned fAbini because of the famine and the war” (ll. 28-30: fAbini mārēši ana dannati nukurti īzibūši).

–    Emar VI 213: (fḪuti:) “After (the death of) my husband I became poor and ran into debt, but there was none among my husband’s brothers who took care of me” (ll. 10-12: arki mutiya muškēnāku u uḫtabbil u ina libbi aḫḫē mutiya ša ipallaḫanni yānu).

–    Emar VI 216: (fKuʾe:) “My husband is g[one, my/our children] are young (and) [there is non]e who makes (them) live” (ll. 3-4: mutiya itta[lak mārēya/ni] ṣeḫrū ša uballaṭ [ul īšu]).

–    AulaOr. Suppl. 1 48: “Iaḫṣi-Baʿl has supported her mother fWāʿi in the years of famine” (ll. 31-34: Iaḫṣi-Baʿl fWāʿi ummašu ina šanāt dannati ittanabbalši).

–    ASJ 13 37: “In the year of famine (…) there was none who took care of me” (ll. 2-3: ina šanat dannati … ša ipallaḫanni yānu).

According to this information, Zaccagnini reached the conclusion that “in most cases these women were either war widows or wives whose husbands had disappeared, thus leaving their families without any means of support.”[55] In these cases the man is absent because he is dead (Emar VI 213) or because he has left temporally (Emar VI 216[56]). It happens that, when the woman sells a property, one or more of her children are also mentioned (AulaOr. Suppl. 1 57, 65).  It is interesting that, when a man is in economic troubles, these circumstances are not stated.

Comparatively, women appear to have managed these periods of crisis more frequently than men. The sale contracts provide suitable example for this situation. A woman is attested as seller in 16 cases, of which 4 contain the formula “in the year of famine and war.” That represents 25% of the total. If we focus on the remaining sale contracts from Emar, about 200, in 25 the formula is mentioned, representing the 12,5% of the total. Despite the scarcity of sources, the difference between both circumstances is noticeable. It would seem to indicate that the necessity of selling properties during the periods of difficulty was higher among women than men. Recently Viano has reached this very same conclusion by analyzing the prices of landed property sold: “Women mostly appear in the house sale contracts when they are forced to sell their properties due to economic difficulties as the quite low prices recorded in these texts seem to lead.”[57]

For the other part, it should be stressed that the aforementioned evidence clearly shows that women were equal in rights to men in managing their resources during these periods. Numerous documents attest that a man was going through bad times (by using the “war and famine” formula), and another one helped him. In AulaOr. Suppl. 1 25, for example, a man pays off the debts of another, and therefore lets him live (l. 7: ub-tal-li-ṭá-an-ni-mi), as in other cases of women mentioned above.[58] These examples share the same main characteristics referring to the procedure undertaken.

In this sense, there is one expression, “to let someone live,” which is frequently found in this corpus related to economic crisis. In general we are told that one man has paid off the debts of a man or woman, so he has let him/her live. The formula always employs the Akkadian verb balāṭu in D-Stamm,[59] and takes place in 4/5 documents from Emar, all of them referring to a period of economic crisis.[60] All these 4/5 documents belong to the Syro-Hittite scribal tradition, a fact that seems to have received no notice in the secondary literature. In two of these documents (Emar VI 216 and ASJ 13 37) a woman participated actively in the transaction. In Emar VI 216 fKuʾe is supposed to receive 30 shekels of silver for her daughter – given away in matrimonial adoption – from fʿAnat-ʾummī, who let fKuʾe’s children live (l. 8: ú-bal-li-iṭ). The form uballiṭ could be understood as 1cs, and in that case fKuʾe would be the one who lets the children live.[61] However, in the remaining cases of use of balāṭu D, the subject of the verb corresponds to the one who has paid off the debts (in this concrete case fʿAnat-ʾummī), and therefore the verbal form in Emar VI 216 should be understood as 3cs.[62] For its part, from ASJ 13 37 we learn that fBaʿla-ʾilī had run into debt and Zū-Aštarti let her live (l. 6, ub!tal-li-ṭa-an-ni, see § 3). fBaʿla-ʾilī finally entered Zū-Aštarti’s household, but we do not know whether she was considered a female slave. Finally a further document, previously considered (§ 2), could be added to the corpus, despite it contains no reference to the period of economic crisis: Emar VI 82 (SH). fAdda-naʿmī sold some properties, so with this silver the buyer “made [her] children live” (ll. 6-7: dumu-meš-[ši] / u[b]!te-li-iṭ). In this case, as well as in the aforementioned examples, the verbal form is to be interpreted as 1cs.[63] Note that in another document, AulaOr. Suppl. 1 48 (§ 4), of Syrian scribal tradition, similar circumstances are to be found, but a form of the verb wabālu Gtn (l. 34) is employed. This verb is usually employed in order to express the obligations acquired by adopted children, as it is the case in AulaOr. Suppl. 1 48. Despite the scarcity of sources, the logical conclusion is that, when the technical term balāṭu D appears, it is usually a woman who is the object of the verb – and always it is a man who lets her live (note again that women are not mentioned as frequently as men in these economic transactions, so the odds favor this interpretation).

6. Conclusions


To sum up, women appear in the context of economic crisis in the documentation from Emar. The available sources are mentioned in the following table:



Sale contracts


Other attestations

a/ina šanat dannati nukurti

Woman selling

Emar VI 20

AulaOr. Suppl. 1 57

AulaOr. Suppl. 1 65

ASJ 10 E

ASJ 13 37

Emar VI 216

AulaOr. Suppl. 1 48

Woman buying

Emar VI 111

No reference to crisis

Emar VI 82

Emar VI 213

ASJ 13 36


These women had to manage these economic difficulties. They used to be alone, most of cases corresponding to widows. Sometimes, it is even stated that they had to care of their children and had no resources. For that these women had to sell properties or fell into debts, to solve this hard situation. In fact, comparatively, women appear to have managed these periods of crisis more frequently than men, as the analysis of the use of the verb balāṭu D shows. One can see that these women seem to have managed their properties and even their families at their will. The legal features exhibited in those documents are exactly the same which can be found in the case of men managing their properties during economic difficulties. For that very reason, it may be concluded that in these periods of crisis – as well as in other circumstances – the legal capacity of women was complete, at least when they were alone.


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[1] Member of the research group «Histoire et Archéologie de l’Orient Cunéiforme», UMR 7041-ArScAn, Maison de l’Archéologie et de l’Ethnologie René Ginouvès, Nanterre. This paper has been sponsored by the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (postdoc. ref. EX2009-0811) and the Alexander-von-Humboldt Stiftung (ref. 1134700). I thank Ch.W. Hess (Universität Leipzig) for his help in composing this paper in acceptable English. Abbreviations of specialized journals, texts, and series follow the Reallexikon der Assyriologie und vorderastiatischen Archäologie (Berlin/Leizpig).

[2] See Liverani 2004: 30-33, and a bibliographical introduction in Zaccagnini 1995: 923.

[3] See the overview in Vita 2002: 117-20, who dates the episode in 1230 BC; recently other authors have proposed the attack took place ca. 1270 BC (see comments of Divon 2008: 104 and Fales 2011: 28).

[4] Vita 2002: 121-23.

[5] Zaccagnini 1995: 100, Vita 2002: 122.

[6] Zaccagnini 1995: 96-98.

[7] Vita 2002: 116.

[8] According to Démare-Lafont 2010: 8070. Four of them had been published but not taken into account by the mentioned authors; the fifth document is Subartu 17 p. 498: 19-20, published by Cavigneaux/Beyer 2006 (cf. comments of Démare-Lafont 2010: 78-80).

[9] Vita 2002: 116, Démare-Lafont 2010: 82. These scribal traditions would have been employed in different moments; see esp. the papers included in D’Alfonso/Cohen/Sürenhagen 2008, or Di Filippo 2004, Fleming/Démare-Lafont 2009 and Cohen 2012: 34-35 (with previous bibliography).

[10] Divon 2008: 108 points: “All these texts [= containing the above mentioned formula] may be tentatively linked to the war against the Hurrians.”

[11] Adamthwaite 2001: 171 or Cavigneaux/Beyer 2006: 50326.

[12] See esp. Divon 2008: 105.

[13] WVDOG 102 54: 1’, 76: 16 (both very damaged).

[14] Zaccagnini 1995: 106.

[15] See Zaccagnini 1995: 99, and the discussion in Adamthwaite 2001: 137-38, who rejects this idea (p. 158).

[16] Adamthwaite 2001: 153, 168, 174.

[17] Zaccagnini 1995: 99, Adamthwaite 2001: 174.

[18] Démare-Lafont 2010: 81-82.

[19] Zaccagnini 1995: 99.

[20] Contemporary to the documentation from Emar are the Middle Assyrian Laws (MAL A 39), which refer to family economic difficulties as well.

[21] Oppenheim 1955.

[22] Zaccagnini 1995: 94-95.

[23] Therefore cases in which a woman was sold are not treated.

[24] For example Zaccagnini 1995 or Adamthwaite 2001: 133-75.

[25] See a list in Justel 2008b: 1866; for sale contracts of landed property see Beckman 1997, Viano 2011, 2012; for the formulary see Di Filippo 2008, Démare-Lafont 2010: 46-52.

[26] Emar VI 7, 20, 35, 80, 82, 89, 113, 114, 130, 217; AulaOr. Supp. 1 57, 65; HANEM 2 68; ASJ 13 17; AulaOr. 5 9; ASJ 10 E. The same circumstance is attested in other Syrian Late Bronze Age archives, as Ugarit (RS 16.156, 17.22+) and Alalaḫ (AlT 70); see Justel 2008b: 188-95.

[27] On the family circumstances expressed in this document see Zaccagnini 1995: 9921.

[28] The real price is unclear, see the comments of Durand 1989: 177; Viano (2012: 122) accepts the above-expressed reading.

[29] According to Westbrook (2003: 686), “the implication [of the formula kīma nikari] is that the sale was not at a discount, as between family members, but at the full market price, like an outsider. The clause may have been designed to protect the buyer’s title against future redemption by the seller or his heirs” (cf. also Zaccagnini 1992: 36). This proposal is not sure and new perspectives have been proposed; for example cf. Viano 2012: 123.

[30] See comments of Viano 2012: 122.

[31] On this document see Westbrook 2001: 24-26, as well as the comments of Zaccagnini 1995: 107 and Viano 2012: 122.

[32] It is unclear whether it was simply a house; see Viano 2012: 12232.

[33] See comments of Durand 1989: 190-91 and Zaccagnini 1995: 108.

[34] See § 5.

[35] Emar VI 111, 114; AulaOr. Supp. 1 81; HANEM 2 49; ASJ 12 3. 8 documents attesting similar circumstances come from Ugarit; see esp. Justel 2008b: 196-200 for an analysis of the evidence (p. 19660 for the concrete cases).

[36] See Adamthwaite 2001: 165 and Viano 2012: 122.

[37] Durand 1990: 53.

[38] Viano 2012: 122.

[39] See the formulary of these texts in Démare-Lafont 2010: 66-72.

[40] See Justel 2008b: 215-20.

[41] AulaOr. Supp. 1 27, 33; HANEM 2 67; ASJ 13 37.

[42] Emar VI 23, 24; AulaOr. Supp. 1 65; ASJ 13 36, 37. Another document with similar circumstances comes from Ekalte (WVDOG 102 93 = HANEM 2 89), and further 7 examples from Ugarit (RS 6.345, 15.12 = KTU2 4.135, 16.354, 17.37, 17.297 = KTU2 4.290, 18.111 = KTU2 4.386, 19.73 = KTU2 4.632).

[43] See esp. Zaccagnini 1994: 101-02, Viano 2012: 121, as well as the translation and comments of Tropper/Vita 2004: 155-56 and Bellotto 2009: 217-18.

[44] See esp. Beckman 1996: 63-65, Bellotto 2000: 190-91, 2004: 132-35, 2008: 189, 2009: 91-122, Justel 2008b: 91-93.

[45] On this legal genre see esp. Bellotto 2009 (this document in p. 232-33) and Démare-Lafont 2010: 58-63.

[46] On this legal phenomenon in Emar see esp. Justel 2008a (this document in p. 14). Cf. also the comments of Zaccagnini 1995: 101 and Adamthwaite 2001: 138, 141-42.

[47] See Durand 1990: 74.

[48] See § 5.

[49] See Leichty 1989: 356.

[50] Cohen (2005) proposed that they would have been scribes in Emar, but that does not seem to be correct (Cohen 2009: 17475). Cf. Zaccagnini 1994.

[51] Adamthwaite 2001: 136 thinks that the sellers were a man and his wife, but he states in p. 143 that they were two women. Actually the sellers were two brothers.

[52] See Zaccagnini 1995: 102-03

[53] See esp. Justel 2008b: 233-38.

[54] See for example Zaccagnini 1995: 100 or Justel 2008b: 190-191, 199-200.

[55] Zaccagnini 1995: 100.

[56] He reappears in Emar VI 217.

[57] Viano 2012: 122.

[58] See Zaccagnini 1995: 96, with n. 15 (p. 96-97).

[59] AHw 99b, sub D2c and CAD B 61, sub 7a.

[60] Emar VI 86: 4, 216: 8, AulaOr. Supp. 1 25: 6, ASJ 13 37: 6, and probably SMEA 30 9: 6 (restored). See Adamthwaite 2001: 148-50 and Démare-Lafont 2010: 81. For this expression in the Middle-Assyrian sources see Aynard/Durand 1980: 23, Démare-Lafont 2010: 83; during the Neo-Babylonian period see Oppenheim 1955: 71-75.

[61] As Zaccagnini 1995: 98, 101, thinks.

[62] As other authors think: Arnaud 1985/1987: III 231, Adamthwaite 2001: 149, and cf. Yaron 1959: 161-63.

[63] As Arnaud 1985/1987: III 91, contra Zaccagnini 1995: 108.