Archives de catégorie : Workshop-2 (Tokyo 06-2013)

► Second REFEMA workshop (Tokyo, June 2013)

REFEMA Second Workshop

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

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

公共の場における女性の経済的役割:職人工房から市場まで (1)

June 2013 24 & 25

at Chuo University (Tokyo, Japan)



Monday 24th June

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

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

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

14h00 – 14h30 Coffee Break

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

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

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

16h00 – 16h30    Discussion (First Millennium)

17h00 – 19h00 Buffet

 Tuesday 25th June

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

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

11h00 – 11h30    Discussion (Nuzi & Emar)

11h30 – 12h00 Coffee Break

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

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

13h00 – 13h30    Discussion (Second Millennium) 

13h30 – 15h30 Lunch

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

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

16h00 – 16h30    Discussion (Third Millennium)

16h30 – 17h00    General Discussion + Coffee

18h00 – Dinner


Contact in Paris: laura.cousin2(at)

Contact in Tokyo: wataiyoko(at)

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

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

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

Bertrand Lafont (CNRS, Nanterre)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

– Harvesting (CUSAS 3, 262 : 19-22) :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Some provisional main points can be summarized:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[3] Untersuchungen zur neusumerischen Textilindustrie, Rome 1972.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[13] See note 2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[21] See above note 16.

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

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

Women who played the role of interceder: Part 1

Women who played the role of interceder: Part 1

Eiko Matsushima

REFEMA 2nd workshop (June 22, 2013, Tokyo)

1.     Introduction

Today, I would like to talk about one aspect of the roles of women in ancient Mesopotamia, one that I am in fact very interested in.

I recently had occasion to review my previous study on the divine marriage ceremonies in Mesopotamia, which looked specifically at the Assyro-Babylonian world.[1] There exist several sources of written materials on the ceremonies and from them we can understand that the ceremonies were significant religious events. The leading figures of the ceremonies were the main god of a big city (or a country) and his spouse, for example Marduk, the chief god of Babylon and his spouse Zarpanītu, or Nabû, who had a big temple in the city of Kalhu in Assyria, and his spouse Tašmētu, etc. The king and the royal family took care of the ceremony, preparing the furnishings, sacrifices, and banquets. We do not know if the ceremony was held annually or on other occasions, but the fact that there are several mentions on it indicates that it was not a rare event. Many discussions have developed on the subject and some important publications have been generated.[2] I will not talk about the details of the rite, as it is discussed elsewhere, but rather investigate the fact that the goddess, the “bride” of the wedding ceremony, played an important role.

During the ceremony, the goddess stayed for couple of days in a “bedroom” with her husband. Some of the available documents explain that in the course of her stay on the wedding bed, the bride asked her husband for benevolence toward the king (and/or his family).[3] That is to say, she played an intermediary role between the human king and her divine husband, the great god of the country. As a matter of fact, in first century Assyria and Babylonia, the ritual was realized with divine statues, which were identified with the gods themselves understood to live in the temple, thus in a very symbolic way. Given the information, it seems significant that the spouse of the divine couple gives some important suggestions to her husband, and additionally the people expected her to be an interceder on their behalf. I infer from this that similar incidents might occur in human society.

By collecting some examples of “women who intercede” in Mesopotamian society from the written materials, I will analyze them in order to investigate whether my inference is sufficiently reasonable or not.

2.1        Examples of the intercession of the goddesses during the wedding ceremony

Looking first at the goddesses in divine marriage ceremonies in first century Assyria and Babylonia, we can find among the documents mentions of the followings:

1)     Tašmētu to Nabû

 [Taš]tu bēltu rabîtu hīrtu narāmta-ka şabitat abbūti ina mahri-ka ina majjāl taknê ūmišam naparkâ literriš-ka balāţi
“Tašmētu the great Lady, your beloved spouse, who intercedes (for me) [daily] before you in the sweet bed, who never ceases asking you to protect my life.”
H. Hunger, Babylonische und assyrische Kolophone (AOAT 2, Neukirchen-Vlyn, 1968) no.338

2)     Zarpanītu to Marduk

Zarpanītu ina urši bīt hammūti lemutta-šu litasqar
“May Zarpanītu pronounce evil (words) against him in the bedroom where (Marduk lives) as master (of the family)!”
K. 2411 (=J. A. Craig, ABRT I 76-79) col. I 28’

3)     Mulissu to Aššur

Mulissu šarrat Ešarra hīrat Aššur banīt ilāni rabûti ša Sîn-ahhê-eriba šar Aššur ūmišam amāt damiqti-šu ina muhhi Aššur liššakin šaptu-ša
“Mulissu, the queen of Ešarra, spouse of Aššur, creator(ess) of great gods, who daily pronounce favorable words on behalf of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, before Aššur.”
K. 2411 (=J. A. Craig, ABRT I 76-79), col. II 10-12[4]

4)    Aja to Šamaš

 a. [              hí]rtum ina bīt majjāli liqbi-ka
“May[Aya your spo]use say to you in the bedchamber, [“Be appeased”] ”
Lambert, BWL 138:200 (last line of a long hymn to Šamaš: a manuscript has an Ashurbanipal colophone.

b. Aja kallātu rabîti ašibat bīt majjāli kajjanāmma panû-ka lišnamir ūmišam damiqta-a liqbi-ku
“Aja, the great bride (/daughter in law) who stays in the bedroom and constantly brightens your face, may she say you favorite (words) for me!”
VAB 4, 258 ii 20 (Nabonidus)

We see here that Tašmētu intercedes with Nabû, Zarpanītu with Marduk, and Aya with Šamaš, etc, on behalf of each goddesse’s royal devotee. Thus, the goddesses play an intermediary role between a human, generally the king (and/or his family), and the great god of the country.

The intercession of goddesses, as well some gods, between great gods and human beings has already been discussed extensively.[5] Some try to find a common aspect in the role the of goddesses I mentioned here, with the role of the famous goddess Ištar. I am not convinced in this view, since Ištar, from the third to the first millennium, has retained a major position with overwhelming power in the pantheon. She protects the king by her own will, and even if she intercedes for the king, she is standing before the chief gods of the pantheon or before the supreme divine council, that is to say, in a public place.

Other goddesses do not act so publicly. Tašmētu, for example, intercedes with her husband in her bedroom, a very private space. The wedding bed, though entirely private, was the place of her intercession, and so the place of her activities. In Assyro-Babylonian divine marriage rites of the first millennium, gods such as Nabû, Marduk, Šamaš, etc. were the main heroes, whereas the goddess were ranked second, as merely the spouse of a great god. However, the goddess played a significant role in the private sphere.

In examples given here, the main title of the goddesses is either rtu (=spouse: 1) 3) 4)) or kallātu (=bride or daughter-in-law: 5)). In example 2), Zarpanītu is depicted to as ina urši bīt hammūti “in [the] bed of the family master’s house”. These Akkadian words are explained in the Chicago Assyrian Dictionaries (here abbreviated as CAD) as follows:

rtu : wife of equal status with the husband. […] In speaking of the wives of gods, hīrtu is preferred to aššatu/altu (CAD H: 200a-201b).

kallātu: daughter-in-law, wife of a son living in his father’s household, bride, sister-in-law […]The word denotes a young woman who was acquired by the master of a household as a wife for his son living in this household (CAD K: 79a-82b).

hammūtu: a status of head of the family (CAD H 69b-70a).

Using these explications, we can understand that each of these goddesses was considered to be the (main) wife in a big and divine household. Her status might not be exactly equal to that of her husband, but she had her own firm position in the household. Her status was appreciated to a certain degree in the household as well as in the society.

Ancient Mesopotamia, especially in the post-Sumer period, was a male-dominated world. The possibilities for women were limited both in society as well as in the family. However, as the second-ranking person, she was efficient in her private area, especially in the bedroom. A goddess, who was the first wife of a chief god, could offer suggestions to her husband and act as an intermediary between a god and a human being. In particular, she could request of the great god, her husband, much benevolence for the king, his land, and his people.

From this feature which can be seen in the religious sphere, we may imagine the actual roles of women in the mortal societies of Mesopotamia, especially upper classes in the society.

2.2 An episode in the Gilgamesh Epic: standard version, tablet XI.

I would like to add here one more example of a woman who got her husband to change his mind. In the Gilgamesh Epic, the hero, being shocked by the death of his friend Enkidu, went on a long journey in order to meet Uta-Napishti who had survived the Flood and remained alive in a distant place. When he finally found Uta-Napishti, Gilgamesh asked him how to obtain eternal life. However, failing to pass a test (he could not stay awake for six nights and seven days), Uta-Napishti tried to make him go back to his natal city. However, Uta-Napishti’s wife (marhītu), feeling pity for Gilgamesh asked her husband to help once more that unhappy young man. Following her intervention, Uta-Napishti decided to disclose a secret to Gilgamesh: a plant of life that can be found in the bottom of Apsu, i.e. the deep underground water (tab. XI 273 ff.). Gilgameš then went on to find the plant and take it back with him to his city, Uruk. As you well know, however, he lost it just before his arrival due to his own inattention.

 The central point of importance for this episode is that Uta-Napishti suddenly and easily changed his mind, just after his wife criticized his initial decision.

3.   Royal women in Sargonic Assyria

During the long history of Mesopotamia, there were some women whose activities are recorded in written materials. Recent studies on palace women in the Neo-Assyrian period have given us a new view of women in the royal court including queens.[6] For instance, eleven names of principal wives (MÍ.É.GAL/ MÍ/KUR=sēgallu) from the ninth to the seventh century BCE are known, including Sammuramat and Naquia/Zakutu as the most well known. Let us take a brief look at them.

Sammuramat was the wife of Šamši-Adad V (823-811 BCE) and mother of Adad-nerari III (810-783). We know of four public monuments on which the name Sammuramat is clearly inscribed: two statues found in the Nabû Temple at Kalhu, a boundary stone erected in southeastern Turkey, and a large limestone stele placed among the monuments at Assur. On the top of the limestone stele, a text is engraved in which she is called kallāt Šulmanu-šarru, “daughter-in-law” of Shalmaneser (858-824 BCE).[7] All of these four monuments date during the reign of Adad-nerari III.[8] The inscription on the boundary stone explains that Sammuramat accompanied her son on a military campaign, and documents indicate that she was an important and powerful person in the Assyrian government, at least during the reign of Adad-nerari III. It is highly probable that she acted as regent for her son at the beginning of his reign. However, we know almost nothing about her position and power during the reign of her husband. Perhaps she was already appreciated as kallātu of the father of Šamši-Adad V.

In later times myths and legends around her were invented, and Greek and Roman writers composed stories in which classical Semiramis was the heroine.

Another famous royal woman, Naquia/Zakutu, became a wife of Sennacherib (704-681 BCE), probably while he was still the crown prince. Nothing is known about her until 683 BCE when her son Esarhaddon was nominated as crown prince. It is well known that Esarhaddon was the youngest son of Sennacherib, and that there was a serious succession conflict before and after the death of Sennacherib between Esarhaddon and his brothers; we also know that Sennacherib was murdered by one or several of his sons certainly because of that conflict. It seems that during his reign, another palace lady, Tašmetum-šarrat, was the first queen whereas Naquia was just one of other wives.[9] Since the coronation of Esarhaddon (681-669 BCE), however, she became the ummi šarri (MÍ.AMA.MAN or AMA.LUGAL), “Queen Mother,” and was sometimes present in public places, especially during religious activities. The fact that some high-ranked officials sent letters directly to her indicates that she maintained great power and efficiency in the royal court, but we do not know exactly what kind of power she had. Her titles were sēgallu, ummi šarri as we have just seen above, and kallātu (MÍ.É.GI4.A) Šarru-ukin.[10] Naquia/Zakutu was an extraordinary queen, and a unique woman in the long history of Mesopotamia. S. C. Melville has suggested that it was Esarhaddon’s own idea to bring her to power. When Esarhaddon died, she forced all Assyrian high officials to take an oath of loyalty, the so-called Zakutu treaty (ABL 1239 + JCS 39, 189), on behalf of her grandson Ashurbanipal (668-631 BCE), the youngest among his brothers, on his coronation. A woman intervening thus in political affairs using her own name and will was a unique and unparalleled event.

In the cases of both Sammuramat and Naquia, the women obtained and maintained power as the mothers of kings, acting always as “Queen Mother.” One bronze relief shows Naquia depicted with his son Esarhaddon. Indeed, in analyzing her role we see her essentially as a mother loyal to her son, making her able to take advantage of her position.

Libbali-šarrat, the principal wife of Ashurbanipal, on the other hand, is a queen depicted with her husband in a bas-relief, and it is her position as wife and not mother that is of central importance. In the well-known garden scene from the North Palace Nineveh, she is seated facing the king who is reclining on a coach: both are drinking, beer or wine, in order to celebrate the victory over the Elamites. The depicted banquet certainly took place in the queen’s residence, thus in a private domain in the royal palace. In the depiction she is present as a partner of the king, even if the king is above her in the royal family’s hierarchy. It is worthy of notice that she behaves in the image as a spouse, not as a mother. In a letter written some years ago by a sister of Ashurbanipal, Šerua-eţerat, Libbali-šarrat is described: “You are a daughter-in-law (kallātu), the lady of the house of Assurbanipal, the crown prince of Esarhaddon.”[11]

4.   Temporary observations

Having thus seen some examples of the attributes of women in high classes, from goddesses to royal ladies in first millennium Mesopotamia, we can observe that in religious spheres, goddesses were expected to play the role of interceder with her divine husband on behalf of her devotees. This act always took place in a private space. We understand also that her efficiency depends on her position as hirtu and kallātu. In one legendry epic, Uta-Napishti’s wife –marhītu–got him to change his mind. Thus, in the religious or mythic domain, women could play an important role as adviser to her husband as well as interceder on behalf of her devotees.

Then we looked at examples of famous royal women in the Assyrian court of the first millennium: queens whose deeds or memories are recorded. From the available documents and other materials, we cannot construct a complete image of their activities, and cannot understand all of their roles in society. Nevertheless, we have seen that the system of the household has much to do with their status. We found one keyword: kallātu. This Akkadian term is, as we have seen above, understood as “a young woman who was acquired by the master of a household as a wife for his son living in this household.” So, I will turn to an analysis of the meaning(s) and function(s) of kallātu, in order to discern some further aspects of women’s role in the family as well as in the society of Mesopotamia.

[1]  I presented a paper titled ”Ištar and Other Goddesses in the So-called “Sacred Marriage” in Ancient Mesopotamia” at the International Conference on Ishtar/Astarte/Aphrodite: Transformation of a Goddess, at Keio-University, on 25-26 August, 2011. A book with all of the revised papers of this conference is forthcoming. As for my previous work, see 2.2 in this forthcoming article.

[2] A history of these discussions can be found in the recent book edited by M. Nissinen and R.Uro: Sacred Marriages, the Divine-Human Sexual Metaphor from Sumer to Early Christianity, Eisenbrauns, Indiana, 2008.

[3] Or, as we are going to see in section 2.2, asked to pronounce a malediction on the enemy of her devotee.

[4] We are not sure if this example can be related to the wedding rite, but it does depict a goddess who intercedes.

[5] See in particular the work of B. Pongratz-Leisten, in M.Nissinen and R.Uro, Sacred Marriages, 65-66.

[6] We refer for instance to only two books: Melville, S. C., The Role of Naqia/Zakutu in Sargonic Politics. SAAS IX, Helsinki, 1999 (Here abbreviated as Melville, 1999). Macgregor, S. L., Beyond the Hearth and Home: Women in the Public Sphere in Neo-Assyrian Society. SAAS XXI, Helsinki 2012 (Here abbreviated as Macgregor, 2012). There are many useful references in the bibliographies of these books.

[7] A.K. Grayson, Assyrian Rulers of the Early First Millennium BC II, RIM 3, Toronto, 1996, A.104.2001, 6.

[8] On the top of the stele found at Assur, a seven-line text with her name was inscribed. The text reads as follows: “Stele of Sammuramat, queen of Šamši-Adads, king of the universe, king of Assyria, mother of Adad-nerarti, king of the universe, king of Assyria, daughter-in-law of Shalmaneser, king of the four quarters (Macgregor, p. 84).

[9] There is an inscription of Sennacherib in which he expresses a feeling of affection for Tašmetum-šarrat: it is a unique phenomenon in Assyrian history that a king speaks of his personal feelings towards his wife in official inscriptions: ARRIM 4, 1986, p.32; see S. L. Macgregor, 2012, 85, note 173.

[10] Among the two examples of Naquia/Zakutu as kallāt Šarru-ukin, Borger, Asarh, 115-116 (revised in Melville, 1999, 39) and ADD 645, 3. The former is an inscription in which she declares that his son Esarhaddon was to be put on the throne of Assyria with the strong support of great gods. It is written and organized just like a royal building inscription.

[11] See SAA XVI 28 (=ABL 308). There are a few different interpretations of the letter. I prefer that of A. Livingstone, which seems simpler than the others: he understands that Šerua-eţerat was treating Libbali-šarrat with respect, addressing her royal titles: see ZA 97, 2007, 100-105. See also the translation of M. Luukko and G. Van Buylaere (SAA 16, Helsinki, 2002, no.28), which notices an opposite nuance. They understand that Šerua-eţerat blames Libbali-šarrat for not writing to her sister-in-law and finds out that there is a rivalry between two high ranked women in the royal family. From the letter, at least, we understand that royal women sometimes wrote to each other.

Assyrian Women’s Contribution to International Trade with Anatolia

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

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


1. Textile production

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

1.1. Purchase of wool

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

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

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

1.2. Manufacturing of textiles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.3. Transport of textiles to Anatolia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2. An activity paid by piecework

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

2.1. Textile production for exports

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.2. Payment for the exported textiles

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

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

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

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

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


3. Evaluation of their contribution to the international trade

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

3.1. Income per garment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.2. Estimated number of textiles produced by a household

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

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

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

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

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






 Setting of the loom(s)






 Total of working


[4 2/3 months]  


[5 months 1/2]  

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

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


Shipments of textiles by Lamassī and names of transporters

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

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

* * *

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

šu-í “Barber” and šu-í-munus “Female Barber” in the Early Dynastic Lagash Texts*

1.     Preliminary[1]

About 23 names of barbers, both male (šu-i2) and female (šu-i2-munus), occur in the Lagash E2-MI2 corpus of the Early Dynastic period,[2] from Enentarzi year 2 through Lugalanda to the end of Urukagina lugal-year 6.[3] The organization called E2-MI2 was in charge of the three wives of the Lagash rulers around the middle of the 24th century B.C.E. Nearly 1,800 clay tablets, which were unearthed at Girsu, record various different kinds of economic activities undertaken by this organization for about 20 years.[4]

Naturally the professional work of these barbers involved grooming—cutting, shaving, trimming, and coiffuring—of hair. The word for one of their tools, šu-i-gir2 “barber’s knife/razor,” is found in a lexical text from Abu Salabikh (OIP 99 33 vi 11′). Pictorial representations from around the mid-third millennium B.C.E. often depict elite men and especially women wearing elaborate hairstyles, and also men with clean-shaven heads and faces (Collon 1995:507).

What makes the ED Lagash texts remarkable is the occurrence of šu-i2-munus “female barbers.”[5] This contrasts with Ur III times (including the Garšana and Iri-Sagrig documents), in which no female barbers have been identified to date.[6] This paper collects references to male and female barbers in the ED Lagash E2-MI2 corpus, examines their status and functions, and argues that they can be placed in three groups under the E2-MI2 administration. One group consists of landed male barbers who belonged to high socio-economic strata. The other two groups are landless male and female barbers, one group working for the E2-MI2, and the other for the royal children’s households.

2.     Barbers in the Fara Texts

Before going into the Lagash material, it will be helpful to look briefly at barbers (šu-i) in the earlier Fara administrative texts.[7] A quick survey shows that female barbers do seem to occur there, and that the Fara šu-i had some administrative tasks as well as barbering proper, as we will see shortly.

2.1. Munusgeshtin the Barber

Munusgeshtin—the name is most likely female—is identified as a barber in WF 22[8] rev. i 8–9: munus-geštin šu-i; and in TSŠ 558[9] ii 1–3: munus-geštin šu-i sa12-du5 “Munusgeshtin, the barber of/under the chief administrator.”[10]

2.2. Administrative Roles of šu-i in Fara Texts

TSŠ 881[11] is a text concerning the allocation of barley and different types of goods, in which a barber named Lubarasi acted as deputy (x 5′–7′: lu2-bara2-si/ šu-i/ maškim), along with various officials. They seem to have been “responsible for the personnel involved in journeys to and from Šuruppak” (Pomponio and Visicato 1994:186).

It should be noted en passant that, in later texts from Ur (ED IIIb) and Nippur (Akkad period), barbers also acted as deputies (maškim): UET 2, Supp 35 3–4: lugal-dingir-mu šu-i2/ maškim-bi (from Ur); BIN 8 154 (= Edzard SR 91) iii 7–9: lugal-UN-e/ šu-i2/ maškim-bi (from Nippur); TMH 5 159 (= Edzard SR 99) iv 4–6: ur-e2-mah/ šu-i2/ maškim-bi and vi 7–9: šudx(KA׊U)-gal2-la/ šu-i2/ maškim-bi (from Nippur). The last text is a Sammentafel with 17 cases of river ordeals: a deputy/commissioner (maškim) was assigned to each case: in the sixth and the tenth cases, two barbers acted in this role.[12]

3.     References to Barbers in Lagash E2-MI2 texts

 3.1. Formulaic Expression

As has already been mentioned, male and female barbers occur in the ED Lagash texts regularly from the times of E2 through Lugalanda to UL6. In general, the male barber is identified as PN šu-i2[13] andthe female barber as PN šu-i2-munus.[14] However, female barbers are sometimes identified simply as šu-i2, without the gender-specifying sign MUNUS “womam/ female.”[15] In one case, the female barber Ninigigateshmu, which there is written as Ninigigateshbi,[16] is presented bearing no profession name and is simply labeled munus-me along with another woman: DP 119 rev. i 9-ii 3: 0.0.4 ga2-ka-nam-he2-ti/ e2-gal-la/ i3-ti/ 0.0.3 nin-igi-ga2-teš2-bi/ [U2-U2] agrig-da/ e-da-ti/ munus-me “24 sila for Gakanamheti, she lives in the palace; 18 sila for Ninigigateshbi, she lives with agrig-official [U2-U2]; they are women.”[17]

When a male and female pair of barbers is concerned, they are often described as NUM PN/ nita-am6/ NUM PN/ munus-am6/ šu-i2-me.[18] However, sometimes the plural marking -me is not specified, as in DP 115 Rev. i 1–5: 0.1.0 dingir-al-sa6/ nita-am6/ 0.0.3 geme2-du6/ munus-am6/ šu-i2. In some cases, the gender of neither barber is specified, as in DP 231 rev. vi 5′–7′: 0.1.0 dar-da/ 0.1.0 nin-al-sa6/ šu-i2-me “36 sila for Darda, 36 sila for Ninalsa; they are barbers.” This kind of abbreviated writing makes it difficult for us to determine the number and sex of the ED Lagash barbers.

3.2. List of ED Lagash Barbers

The following is a list of 23 names of barbers (by gender, in alphabetical order), attested in about 80 texts, which are mainly various types of ration distribution accounts, but also include records of field-allotment, lease-holding, and obligatory work assignments as part of the duty of the land-holders, as well as other documents dealing with miscellaneous administrative tasks.

Male Barbers

Igi-zi/ Igi-zi-bar-ra

Female Barbers

dInanna-menx-zi-pa4-pa4/ dInanna-menx
Nin-igi-ga2-teš2-bi/ Nin-igi-ga2-teš2-mu

4.     ED Lagash Barbers: Status, Functions, and Structure

4.1. Barbers of Higher Socio-Economical Status

At least seven male barbers, attested in documents dating from E2 to UL6.11b, form a distinctive group. They belonged to higher socio-economical strata, were allocated prebend land (classified as GAN2 šuku), and/or held leased land (classified as GAN2 apin-la2). They often received 72 sila of rations—the largest quantity in the standard ration system of the ED Lagash,[19] and carried out certain administrative functions. We will now briefly examine each of them in turn.

4.1.1. Lugaltemen

Lugaltemen was certainly one of the prominent barbers in the ED Lagash corpus. He is first mentioned in BIN 8 347 (E2), which is the record of barley-emmer rations (še-ba ziz2-ba) distributed to “the palace/E2-MI2 personnel and the core military and labor force” (lu2-igi-nigin2 šub-lugal-ke4-ne) (Maekawa 1973-74:110) for the occasion of the festival of the goddess Baba.[20] There, he was given 36 sila of barley and 36 sila of emmer: 72 sila in total. He is also found in DP 127,[21] recording “barley-emmer rations of the festival of Baba” (še-ba ziz2-ba ezem dba-ba6-ka) dispensed to the elite members of society, starting with the ereš-dingir-priestess of the goddess Baba (possibly the queen herself),[22] Geme’ubkuga (the queen’s mother),[23] and several sisters of the governor (nin ensi2-ka-me). Lugaltemen was listed among these dignitaries, again receiving 36 sila of barley and 36 sila of emmer-flour, or 72 sila in total.

Three documents, VS 25 61 (E3), VS 27 12 (L1), and VS 25 40 (L3), testify that Lugaltemen held parcels of apin-la2 (leased) land. Specifically, more than two and a half iku of taxable newly cultivated land (GAN2 su3-la-maš)[24] was measured out (gid2) for him (VS 25 61 iii 2–3); he paid two goats as tax on the field leased from the governor (VS 27 12 i 1–2)[25]; and also received three iku of ki-uzug5-field from Lugalanda’s land (šuku lugal-an-da) (VS 25 40 i 1–3).[26]

A certain Lugaltemen had a kind of living or working arrangement with some of the barbers of the households of Urukagina’s children for more than two years during the reign of Urukagina (UL2.?b–4.7b): NP1+n lugal-temen-da e-da-ti/se12 (the verb ti is used for the singular subject and se12 for the plural subject).[27] Although this Lugaltemen is not labeled by his profession, it is not unreasonable to identify him with the barber Lugaltemen, especially because those who were assigned to live/work with him were all barbers (see below 4.3.2 for details of living/working arrangements).

4.1.2. Ninmumadaag

A document (DP 199) dating from L4 reports that Ninmumadaag carried out an administrative task: he brought with him (e-da-DU) from the animal fattener (kurušda) two sheep that were meant to be Baranamtara’s offering at the festival of Ninmar.[28] The name Ninmumadaag could be understood to be a woman’s name.[29] Rosengarten (1960:244) translated nin-mu-da-ag2/ šu-i2 as “la coiffeuse N” (DP 199 ii 3-rev. i 1). However, we can deduce that Ninmumadaag was actually a male barber from DP 111, in which this person, first listed with 72 sila (iii 1–2), was counted in the sum section (šu-nigin2) as the only person (1 lu2) who received 72 sila of barley (rev. ii 4). On the other hand, the 17 women (DP 111 iii 5-rev. ii 1) and one woman from Umma (rev. ii 2–3) are counted as 18 female servants, each receiving only 18 sila (rev. ii 7: 20 la2 2 geme2 0.0.3).[30] Hence, the Ninmumadaag in question is most likely a man, although the term lu2 does not always refer to a male, as can be discerned from DP 176, in which a group of women, PNf1–PNf15, are counted as lu2; for the groups of women in DP 111 and DP 176, see 4.2.1 below.

4.1.3. Lugalmatum

RTC 60 (L3) records that three people brought with them various goods as “the offerings of the ruler to the kianag,[31] in the festival of Baba, for Enentarzi.”[32] Lugalmatum was listed as the first of these three people.[33]

4.1.4. Igizi(-bara)

Igizi is the best-attested barber of those discussed in this paper. On one occasion, in DP 624(L3), his name was listed in a longer form, Igizibara.[34] This document, dealing with the work of canal maintenance that was one of šuku-field holders’ duties (Maeda 1984), assigned to him the maintenance work of the length of 4 gi (= ca. 12 m).[35] That he was from higher socio-economical strata is made apparent further by his occurrence in VS 14 173 (L4), DP 226 (L4), and DP 132 (L5), which are documents classified as lu2 igi-nigin2 lu2 ga-ku3 munu4-ku3 ba-me.[36] In this—perhaps a ceremonial gift exchange (Selz 1995:73) or a transfer (Magid 2001:314, n. 6)—pure milk and malt was given from one person to another, and the majority of both givers and receivers seemed to belong to higher social strata.[37] Igizi the barber was listed as eighth among the givers. About the same time, in L5 (BIN 8 353 ii 7–8) and in L6 (VS 25 41 v 3–4), he carried out a crop-related task, another duty of šuku-holders, on behalf of the governor.

From UL3.12b to UL4.10b, Igizi the barber was listed as receiving the “barley rations of the personnel of the princes” (ša-ba lu2-di4-di4-la-ne), and repeatedly received 72 sila.[38] In UL4, he provided 620 sila of barley (DP 563 ii 2–3: 5.0.0 igi-zi/ šu-i2) for the purchase of low quality wool (še siki mug-a sa10-a-am6).

His status as a šuku-holder is again clearly shown by several texts dated to UL6. According to DP 584, a parcel of šuku-field was measured out (gid2) for him (rev. i 3–4: ½(iku) GAN2 igi-zi/ šu-i2).[39] In addition to this, the four texts recording the sixth, ninth, tenth,and eleventh “barley rations of šuku-holders” (še-ba lu2-šuku-dab5-ba) listed him as repeatedly receiving 72 sila.[40]

Although the classification is not preserved, Erm 14349 (rev. ii 5–6: 0.2.0 igi-zi/ šu-i2) and Erm 14346 (rev. ii 8–9: [0.2.0 igi]-zi/ [šu]-i2) may well pertain to the text group of še-ba lu2-šuku-dab5-ba.

4.1.5. Sheshkura

VS 14 72 (L4), whose classification reads GAN2 šuku še mu2-a gid2-da lu2 didli “barley planted šuku-field—measured—of various people” records that a large parcel of land was measured out for Sheshkura (rev. i 1–2: 1(eše3) 3(iku) šeš-kur-ra/ šu-i2).[41] He is found in DP 465 (L6) carrying out a certain administrative task, probably overseeing the transportation of ten beams that Eniggal, the chief administrator (of the E2-MI2), had taken out from the Mesandu-storehouse.[42]

4.1.6. Ursag

Erm 14371 reports that Ursag along with other officials played the role of deputy (maškim) in a business transaction involving barley (transfer of barley?): ii 4–6: 0.1.0(?) ur-sag/ šu-i2/ maškim-bi “36(?) sila (of barley)—Ursag the barber (is) its deputy.”

4.1.7. Enudana

DP 591 records that “Shubur the smith received a parcel of crop planted šuku-field[43] measuring 3½ iku, (previously) held by Enudana the barber” (ii 9–iii 3: 3(iku) ½(iku) GAN2/ GAN2 en-ud-da-na/ šu-i2-kam/ šubur/ simug/ e-dab5).

4.2. Barbers Working for the E2-MI2

4.2.1. Ninuma and Ninalmah

DP 176 (wool rations: siki-ba tur-mah-ba ar3-du2 u2-rum dim3-tur) and DP 110 and DP 111 (both barley rations: še-ba geme2-dumu) contain the lists of 15, 16, and 17 women, respectively.[44] The membership of the groups, over about two years, increases by two but otherwise stays the same. In DP 176 and DP 110, Ninuma is the last name on the list and the profession name šu-i2 “barber” follows immediately afterward, while in DP 111, Ninuma was joined by Ninalmah and their names were followed by šu-i2-me “barbers”:

PNf1–PNf14/ nin-u3-ma/ šu-i2 (DP 176; E3)
PNf1–PNf15/nin-u3-ma/ šu-i2 (DP 110; E3.12b)
PNf1–PNf15/nin-u3-ma/ nin-al-mah/ šu-i2-me (DP 111; E4.6b)

Now, it seems rather inconceivable that all of these women were barbers. Even in Urukagina’s reign, when the E2-MI2 organization has increased its size (Maekawa 1973–74:101), the attested number of male and female barbers is around ten (see below for more details). Therefore, DP 176, DP 110, and DP 111 should have included all female workers with various specializations including barbers. This is also implied by the rubric of DP 176, indicating the women were part of the bigger group labeled “servants/personnel, property of Dimtur.”[45] It is reasonable to think that, in DP 176 and DP 110, šu-i2 refers to Ninuma and, in DP 111, šu-i2-me refers to Ninuma and the newly employed Ninalmah. In this way, the use of the plural marking -me can be explained.

4.2.2. Darda and Ninalsa; Darda and Dingiralsa

A pair of a male and a female barber, Darda and Ninalsa, occurs in DP 231 rev. vi 5′–7′: 0.1.0 dar-da/ 0.1.0 nin-al-sa6/ šu-i2-me “36 sila (of barley) for Darda; 36 sila (of barley) for Ninalsa; (they are) barbers.” The text clearly indicates that they received the ninth ration, while the šuku-field holders (lu2-šuku-dab5-ba-me) received the first ration.[46] So, in contrast to the aforementioned high-ranking barbers, these two were not šuku-holders: in other words, they were landless. As for the date of this text (which is not preserved), Maekawa (1973–74:108) proposes the first half of Lugalanda’s reign, while CDLI, with reservations, proposes L1.

In DCS 8, dated to Lugalanda-nuhunga 1 (= L1), Darda and, rather than Ninalsa, Dingiralsa occur as barbers, both receiving a ration of 12 sila of emmer (rev. iv 9–11) at the festival of Baba, which was the last or penultimate month of a year (Cohen 1993:38).[47] This Dingiralsa is to be identified with the Dingiralsa who repeatedly appears as a barber in the service of the E2-MI2 after L6 (see 4.2.3 below). If we assume that Dingiralsa worked continuously, it would place Ninalsa ahead of him in time, and would thus mean that DP 231 precedes DCS 8.[48]

4.2.3. Dingiralsa and Inannamen(-zipapa)/ Meme/ Gemedu

From L6.9b to UL6.12b, there was a pair of male and female barbers who received 36 (or 48) sila and 24 (or 18, and once 36) sila of barley rations, respectively. The pair was usually registered on the “palace tablet” (ša3-dub-e2-gal) on the ration distribution accounts classified as še-ba igi-nu-du8 (il2) ša3-dub-didli (once, še-ba ša3-dub-e2-gal ša3-dub-didli: P387452 in CDLI).[49] The formula that expresses the entry is:

NUM PNm/ nita-am6/ NUM PNf/ munus-am6/ šu-i2-me

PNm is always Dingiralsa, while PNf changes from Inannamen(-zipapa)[50] (L6.9b–UL2.8b)[51] to Meme (UL3.6b–4.6b)[52] to Gemedu (UL5.3b–6.12b).[53] A document dating from UL3.10b (HSS 3 17) informs us that in addition to the amounts of rations given to Dingiralsa and Meme, some kind of living/working arrangement was made for them with U2-U2.[54]

4.3. Barbers Working for Royal Children’s Households

Barbers are included in the personnel of the households of royal children and their rations are recorded in the lists classified as še-ba lu2/geme2-dumu (lu2) di4-di4-la-ne.[55]

4.3.1 Barber of Munussaga: Lugalmutu

Lugalmutu was the barber belonging to the household of Munussaga, one of Lugalanda’s children. He received 24 sila of barley at the ninth(DP 157 rev. ii 9–10), the tenth(VS 25 37 rev. i 10–11), and the eleventh(VS 25 14 rev. i 7–8) expenditures, all dated to L6.

For the ninth and the tenth rations of L6 and for the seventh ration of UL4, both the ration lists of the personnel of the royal children’s households (še-ba geme2-dumu/lu2 di4-di4-la-ne) and those of the other workers (še-ba igi-nu-du8 il2 ša3-dub-didli) are preserved, thus clearly showing that there were two separate groups of barbers.

4.3.2. Barbers of Gemebaba, Gemetarsirsir, and Aenramugi/Aenekiag

Seven barbers in total are attested to the three households of Urukagina’s children, Gemebaba, Gemetarsirsir, and Aenramugi/Aenekiag,[56] from early UL2 to UL5.7b. There were three to five barbers working at a given time. Barbers of Gemebaba: Lugalenlile, Babadingirmu, and Ninsaggatuku

Lugalenlile repeatedly received 36 sila, which was the second largest ration out of the seven barbers, the largest being that of Igizi (see below). Judging from this quantity of rations (minimum but livable) and also from the lack of a record of a living/working arrangement with anyone else, Lugalenlile seems to have been independent. On the other hand, Babadingirmu received 18 (on one occasion 24 sila) and had a kind of living/working arrangement, at one point, with Lugaltemen,[57] and, the rest of the time, with U2-U2.[58] As I mentioned above, this Lugaltemen and the Lugaltemen the barber whom we have already discussed were most likely the same person; U2-U2 was once identified as an agrig-official. Sometime after UL3.9b and before UL4.10b, Babadingirmu was replaced by Ninsaggatuku, who was likewise given 18 (on one occasion 24) sila.[59] No living/working arrangement is reported for the latter, nor for the other barbers after UL4.10b. Barbers of Gemetarsirsir: Sagmuabtuku, Agilsa, and Igizi

Sagmuabtuku received 24 (on one occasion 30) sila throughout his career. His one-time female partner was Agilsa, who received the same amount of rations (24 sila), and at one point, both of them had a kind of living/working arrangement with Lugaltemen.[60] Sagmuabtuku kept this relationship with Lugaltemen for more than two years[61] (DP 116 [UL4.7b] being the last attestation of this) and continued working as a barber for another year until UL5.7b (Nik 1 20 vii 4–5). After Agilsa’s disappearance, Igizi entered into the service toward the end of UL3. This Igizi, who repeatedly received 72 sila of barley rations, should be identified with Igizi, the high-ranking and šuku-holding barber (see above 4.1.4). Barber of Aenramugi/Aenekiag: Ninigigateshbi/mu

This barber’s name is written either as nin-igi-ga2-teš2-bi or nin-igi-ga2-teš2-mu (see n. 16). She was the only barber of the household of Aenramugi/Aenekiag, received 18 or 24 sila, and presumably had a kind of living/working arrangement with Lugaltemen at one point[62] and, the rest of the time, with U2-U2[63] as the other female barbers did.[64]

5. Concluding Remarks

Although the ED Lagash E2-MI2 corpus does not reveal what the professional duties of the barbers were, we can draw a rough picture of how they might have been organized. At any given time, more than one high-ranking barbers would be at the top of the organization: they were among the elite of Lagash society, received parcels of šuku-field or of apin-la2 field, and in return fulfilled their obligations as land-holders and carried out miscellaneous administrative tasks. Under these, a pair of barbers, nomally a male and a female, was kept on the palace register, and worked for the E2-MI2. This pairing is attested until the end of UL6. Also under the E2-MI2’sadministration, male and female barbers worked among the personnel of the royal children’s households. The last attestation of these barbers is UL5.7b, somewhat earlier than that of the E2-MI2 barbers.


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Hallo, W. W., 1973. The Date of the Fara Period: A Case Study in the Historiography of Early Mesopotamia. OrNS 42: 228-238.

Kleinerman, A., 2013. The Barbers of Iri-Sagrig. In S. Garfinkle and M. Molina, eds., From the 21st Century B.C. to the 21st Century A.D. pp. **-**.

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–, 1987. Collective Labor Service in Girsu-Lagash: The Pre-Sargonic and Ur III Periods. In M. A. Powell, ed., Labor in the Ancient Near East. American Oriental Series, 68. New Haven, Connecticut: American Oriental Society, pp. 49–71.

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–, 1993a. Altsumerische Verwaltungstexte aus Lagaš, Teil 2: Altsumerische Wirtschaftsurkunden aus amerikanischen Sammlungen, 1. Abschnitt. FAOS 15/2-1.

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–, 1981. The lú-KUR6-dab5-ba People in Pre-Sargonic in the é-mí-e2dBa-Ú in Pre-Sargonic Lagash. ASJ 3:93–110.

* I thank Lluis Feliu, Frederick W. Knobloch, and Manuel Molina for their helpful discussion and comments. Gebhard J. Selz kindly provided me with his manuscripts of AWAB 71, 78, and 175.

[1] Abbreviations used: nb = the nth ration; En = Enentarzi year n; ED = Early Dynastic; Ln = Lugalanda year n; NUM = Number; ProfN = Profession Name; UE = Urukagina ensi-year; ULn = Urukagina lugal-year n; E, L, UL are placed in italic (E, L, and UL) when they are inferred.

[2] The texts write the word šu-i2 with the sign I2, which is the sign I turned some 45° clockwise. Cf. šu-i in Fara (e.g., TSŠ 1 v 17; TSŠ 558 ii 2; WF 5 ii 2 and others) and Abu Salabikh (OIP 99 60 iii 10; OIP 99 61 vii 5; OIP 99 74 vi 6; and OIP 99 33 vi 11′). Texts from ED Nippur either have šu-i (TMH 5 2 i 4; TMH 5 67 ii 10; TMH 5 123 2; and TMH 5 136 i 2) or šu-i2 (TMN 5 159 iv 5 and vi 8). Ur III texts mostly use šu-i, with sporadic use of šu-i2: for an example of the Ur III i2, see Molina 2008:130, No. 3, rev. 7 (here the sign I2 is the sign I turned almost 90° clockwise).

[3] Excluded from our discussion are two “barbers” listed among the witnesses in a sale document of a house sold by a woman (Hallo 1973:238, ll. 51-53: Ilugal-igi-tab/ Ie-da-hul/ šu-i2-me) from a slightly earlier period. The sign read by Hallo with an exclamation mark as šu-i(!)-me is the sign I2 according to the current method of transcription. The date of the composition was expressed as “at that time… Dudu was sanga-priest” (ll. 65 and 68: ud-ba… dudu sanga) and can be safely placed during the reign of Enmetena, as CDLI does; RIME1.9.5.27 reads “his (= Enmetena’s) servant Dudu, the temple administrator of the god Ningirsu” (iii 1-3: ir11-ra-ni/ du-du/ sanga dnin-gir2-su2-ka-ke4). See Maekawa 1973-74:137-38, with n. 82, for Dudu and the placing of his tenure as the sanga of Ningirsu just before Enentarzi.

[4] For the most recent update of the text information, see Voxvog 2011:59, n. 2.

[5] In the ED Lagash texts, in addition to the typical women’s jobs related to the textile industry, we find women working as gate-keepers (i3-du8), wailers/cantors (gala), rope makers and braiders (tug2-du8), and in other roles. I will address questions about these women in our September workshop.

[6] M. Molina, personal communication; for barbers of Iri-Sagrig, see Kleinerman 2013.

[7] For its date, see Krebernik 1998:257-259 and Krebernik 2002:5.

[8] Classified as “Registers of equids” in Pomponio and Visicato 1994:4 (18).

[9] Dealing with two strings of apples; classified as “Registers of fruit” in Pomponio and Visicato 1994:3 (6).

[10] The structure “PN ProfN1 ProfN2” can be considered a variation of the type PN1 ProfN PN2, meaning “PN1, the ProfN of PN2,” discussed by Pomponio (1986:64), since the office of sa12-du5 is a “very high office,” which “must have been held by a single person for the period to which the available Fara documentation refers and it would render the addition of his personal name superfluous” (Pomponio and Visicato 1994:208).

[11] Classified as “Registers of various goods” in Pomponio and Visicato 1994:3 (15).

[12] Other people who played the role of maškim were either cupbearers (sagi) (in the first, fourth, and ninth cases), or bore no profession name.

[13] E.g., BIN 8 347 rev. iii 13-14: NUM lugal-temen/ šu-i2.

[14] E.g., Nik 1 22 iv 1–2: NUM dba-ba6-dingir-mu/ šu-i2-munus-am6; HSS 3 25 rev. i 10–11: NUM nin-igi-ga2-teš2-mu/ šu-i2-munus-am6.

[15] E.g., TSA 18 iii 14–15: NUM dba-ba6-dingir-mu/ šu-i2-am6; BIN 8 359 rev. i 10–11: NUM nin-igi-ga2-teš2-mu/ šu-i2-am6; compare them with the examples of n. 14.

[16] Ninigigateshmu (five times); Ninigigateshbi (four times).

[17] Gakanamheti is a female servant (ar3-du2-munus) who lived in the palace together with other people, according to DP 116, rev. iii 2–5: (PN…) ga2-ka-nam-he2-ti/ ar3-du2-munus-am6 e2-gal-la/ i3-se12.

[18] E.g., Nik 1 9 vii 4–8: 0.1.0 dingir-al-sa6/ nita-am6/ 0.0.4 dinanna-menx-zi-pa4-pa4/ munus-am6/ šu-i2-me “36 sila for Dingiralsa, male; 24 sila for Inannamenzipapa, female; they are barbers.”

[19] Rations were issued to individuals; rations for children were recorded along with those of their mothers; for an overview of the ration system in the Ur III period, see Waetzoldt 1987.

[20] Cf. Selz, FAOS 15/2, p. 545: “Gerstzuteilungen (und) Emmerzuteilungen für die Leute (von) ‘Ansehen,’ (und zwar)? die Untergebenen des Königs.”

[21] This text is dated to Lugalandanuhunga (= Lugalanda) but no year number is given. According to Selz 1995:24, lugal-an-da is a short form for lugal-an-da-nu-hun-ga “der König, der sich für An nicht beruhigt.” For more discussion, see Selz FAOS 15/1, p. 544.

[22] Maekawa 1996:179.

[23] VS 27 81 i 3-4: geme2-ub5-ku3-ga/ ama munus.

[24] AWAB 71: “abgabepflichtiges Newbruchfeld”; also see Selz, FAOS 15/1, p. 192.

[25] AWAB 78.

[26] AWAB 71.

[27] Maekawa (1973-74:122, n. 74) translates ti as “work” or “work under the direction of someone (-da-)”; see also Magid 2001.

[28] For the festival of Ninmarki, see Cohen 1993:60 and Selz 1995:258-59, with n. 1243.

[29] According to Foxvog 2011:61-2, nin “lady, sister” is one of the gender-specific name incipits, and is borne by 189 females, 4 males, and 7 unknown people in the ED Lagash corpus of 121 names beginning with nin-. Gelb (1975:72) also observed that a great majority of the names composed with the element nin- are feminine.

[30] According to Ellison 1981:39–40, a monthly diet of 18 sila (= 0.6 sila = 0.50 liters daily) or even 24 (= 0.8 sila = 0.66 liters daily) is not an adequate energy intake for a person, male or female; for more discussion on small ration amounts, see my REFEMA 3 paper.

[31] ki-a-nag “mortuary chapel” (Jagersma 2007:296); the feast in honor of the dead (Brunke 2011:177).

[32] RTC 60 rev. i 5-ii 2: nig2-giš-tag ensi2-ka/ ki-a-nag!-še3/ ezem dba-ba6-ka/ en-en3-tar-zi-ra. Actually, the noun phrase nig2-giš-tag ensi2-ka “the offerings of the ruler” is the object of the predicate mu-na-DU (rev. ii 3).

[33] RTC 60 ii 4–iii 2: lugal-ma-tum2 šu-i2 e-da-DU “Lugalmatum the barber brought with him” (sheep, bread, roasted grain, dairy products, fruits, and beer).

[34] Inannamen(-zipapa) (see 4.3.2 below) is another example of name-shortening (Foxvog 2011:64).

[35] Regarding the šuku-field holders, Maekawa 1973-74:88 says, “[p]laying a central role in collective labor or war, the lu2-kur6-dab5-ba formed the backbone of the city.”

[36] “‘Leute von Ansehen,’ Leute, die (kultisch) reine Milch (und) reines Malz schenken, sind sie” (Selz 1995:74); “the malted-milk offering” dubbed in his class but “not too seriously” (Gelb 1975:72).

[37] Gelb (1975:72-3) schematically described this as offerings “by about 50 men to the wives of 50 other men.” However, neither the givers nor the receivers were exclusively of the same sex. The former included some of the female palace personnel (ar3-tu2-munus-me) such as Altush (um-me), Geme’edam (um-me-da), Gemeshu (nu-gig), and others, headed by Emete. For a recent discussion on um-me, um-me-da, and nu-gig, see Civil 2011:281–84.

[38] HSS 3 27 vi 11–12, Nik 1 16 vi 4–5, DP 116 vii 12–13, DP 117 vii 4–5, and DP 118 vii 11–12; as the date of DP 118, which is not preserved, CDLI suggests UL5(?).

[39] Cf. MLVS 8 rev. iii 7-8.

[40] 0.2.0 igi-zi/ šu-i2 in DP 121 rev. ii 10–11, BIN 8 354 rev. ii 5–6, HSS 3 13 rev. ii 7–8, and HSS 3 12 rev. ii 8–9.

[41] For še mu2-a, gid2, and other šuku-field-related terminology, see Yamamoto 1980.

[42] DP 465 i 1–ii 4: 10 giš-ur3 za3-gu2-la2/ en-ig-gal/ nu-banda3/ ganun dmes-an-du-ta/ e-ta-gar/ šeš-kur-ra/ šu-i2/ ba-DU.

[43] DP 591 iii 4-5: šu-nigin2…GAN2 šuku še mu2-a/ GAN2 šuku-am6.

[44] DP 176, DP 110, and DP 111 have been discussed by Maekawa (1973–74:101–109) in conjunction to the development of the E2-MI2.

[45] Maekawa (1973–74) discusses some of the women (Me-nigar-ta, Nin-al-sa6, Nin-e-an-su, Ama-bi-a-ra2-nu2, Šeš-e-a-na-ak, Nin-šer7-zi, and dBa-ba6-na-nam) on p. 102, n. 30; p. 107, n. 41; and pp. 128–29, with n. 70.

[46] The lu2-šuku-dab5-ba “were given barley for four or five successive months from the eighth or ninth month up to the end of the year” while others were given barley once a month throughout the year” (Maekawa 1987:51); however, during UL6, they were issued barley rations every month of the year (Prentice 2010:20 and 78 with n. 338).

[47] Its bookkeeping rubric reads ziz2-ba surx (ERIM)-ra ezem dba-ba6-ka; for the reading surx (ERIM), see Balke 2013:9 (sub Vs. I i).

[48] The name Ninalsa, which occurs in the lists of the female personnel in DP 176, DP 110, and DP 111, however, is not to be identified with Ninalsa the barber (following Maekawa 1973–74:102, n. 30). On the other hand, the Darda who is listed among eight men (bearing no profession name), receiving 36 sila in DP 110 iv 4 and DP 111 ii 3 might be the same individual as Darda the barber.

[49] Cf., še-ba geme2-dumu igi-nu-du8 il2 ša3-dub-didli dating from UL6.11b (HSS 3 24 iii 11–12) and UL6.12b (TSA 13 iii 15–16), where Dingiralsa occurs alone by himself on the miscellaneous register (ša3-dub-didli-am6).

[50] The name Inannamenzipapa is shortened to Inannamen (UL1–).

[51] VS 25 71 viii 6–10, VS 25 11 viii 2–6, RA 71 102 viii 12–rev. i 2, MVN 3 2 viii 11–rev. i 4, Nik 1 9 vii 4–8, HSS 3 15 vi 14–18, HSS 3 16 vii 1–5, DCS 4 vii 1–5, FAOS 15/2 123 vi 4–8, P387452 viii 2–6, and DP 113 ix 8–12. The pair also received wool rations in DP 171 (rev. v 9–12), a document classified as siki-ba lu2 u2-[rum] dba-ba6.

[52] CT 50 36 rev. i 4–10, HSS 3 17 viii 17–rev. i 6, FAOS 15/2 120 ix 2–6, TSA 14 viii 17–ix 2, and FAOS 15/1 2 ix 1–5.

[53] DP 114 ix 10–14, DP 115 rev. i 1–5, TSA 17 ix 9–13, FAOS 15/2 122 rev. i 2–6, TSA 16 viii 13–17, and HSS 3 18 vii 13–viii 3.

[54] HSS 3 17 viii 17–rev. i 6: 0.1.2 dingir-al-sa6/ nita-am6/ 0.0.4 me-me/ munus-am6/ šu-i2-me/ U2-U2/ e-da-se12.

[55] See Maekawa 1973-73:131–134, especially, n. 74, for the development of this type of ration list.

[56] Aenramugi apparently changed his name at some point to Aenekiag; so Beld 2002:17, but, in p. 78, he regards them as two different persons. In contrast to these three,  Shuburbaba, another child of Urukagina’s, has no barber listed among his personnel.

[57] Nik 1 22 iv 1–4: 0.0.3 dba-ba6-dingir-mu/ šu-i2-munus-am6/ lugal-temen-da/ e-da-ti.

[58] 0.0.3 dba-ba6-dingir-mu/ šu-i2-(munus)-am6/ U2-U2/ e-da-ti (BIN 8 359 iii 15–iv 3, HSS 3 25 iii 15–iv 2, TSA 18 iii 14–17 (0.0.4), HSS 3 26 iii 12–15, and FAOS 15/2 124 iii 12–15; for the name U2-U2, see Balke 2013:10 (sub Rs. I 9, II 2) and Foxvog 2011:61.

[59] DP 117 iv 6–7, CT 50 35 xx–iv 1′, DP 118 iv 12–13, and FAOS 15/1 20 iv 6–8.

[60] Nik 1 22 v 14–vi 6: [sag-mu-ab-tuku]/ nita-am6/ a-gil-sa/ munus-am6/ šu-i2-me/ lugal-temen-da/ e-da-se12.

[61] 0.0.4 sag-mu-ab-tuku/ šu-i2-(am6)/ lugal-temen-da/ e-da-ti in DP 119, BIN 8 359 v 13–vi 1, HSS 3 25, TSA 18, HSS 3 26, FAOS 15/2 124, Nik 1 16, and DP 116.

[62] Nik 1 22 rev. ii 1–4: [0.0.3 nin-igi-ga2-teš2-bi/ šu-i2-munus]-am6/ lugal-temen-da/ e-da-ti.

[63] DP 119 rev. i 9–ii 3: 0.0.4 ga2-ka-nam-he2-ti/ e2-gal-la/ i3-ti/ 0.0.3 nin-igi-ga2-teš2-bi/ [U2-U2] agrig-da/ e-da-ti/ munus-me (UL2.4b) (see above 3.1), NUM nin-igi-ga2-teš2-bi/mu/ šu-i2-munus-am6/ U2-U2/ e-da-ti in TSA 18 rev. iii 16–iv 3 (UL3) and DP 116 rev. iii 11-14 (UL4.7b).

[64] According to Magid (2001:325), when texts talk about, for example, a barber living with another barber, a servant living with another servant, or a miller living with another miller, we are dealing with overseer-subordinate pairings. This might be the case with Lugaltemen and the four barbers: we have seen that Lugaltemen himself was a barber. However, we face a problem with U2-U2 because he is not described anywhere as a barber, but is at one point identified as an agrig-official, provided that the restoration by CDLI is correct. Accordingly, the nature of their arrangement may not have been professional. I wonder whether Lugalanda and U2-U2 were somehow responsible for feeding or compensating for the nutritional shortage of the people who received a less than sufficient ration. This idea, however, is undermined by the fact that Dingiralsa, whose ration (48 sila) was enough to live on, also had an arrangement with U2-U2 (HSS 3 17 viii 17-rev. i 6). So, we are back to the starting point. In any case, this ti/se12 arrangement for the barbers seems to have come to an end sometime during the two months of UL4.7b–10b.

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].”

Female perfume-makers in neo-Assyrian and neo-Babylonian documents

In the epic of Gilgameš, Uta-napištim recounts the following after the Deluge has ended: “I brought out an offering and offered it to the four directions. I set up an incense offering on the summit of the mountain, I arranged seven and seven cult vessels, I heaped reeds, cedar, and myrtle in their perfume burners. The gods smelled the savor, the gods smelled the sweet savor, the gods crowded round the sacrificer like flies”[1].

 Since P. Faure’s work, Parfums et aromates de l’Antiquité, published in 1987, historians have been able to understand that perfume in the ancient world could cover multiple realities. All ancient people used perfume, the best known are the Egyptians who had workshops in Alexandria for perfumes based on cinnamon or kyphi (a solid perfume in the form of incense). In fact, we know two bas-reliefs dating from 4th centuryBC representing the work of perfume-makers, who only use canvas bags and recipients for their work. Perfume and its use are themes rather well-known in near-eastern documents, but relatively little research has been undertaken on this subject. We can nonetheless cite several studies such as those of F. Joannès for Mari[2] or E. Ebeling on perfume-recipes at Assur[3]. We also find a synthesis about perfume and make-up in the Dictionnaire de la Civilisation Mésopotamienne[4] as well as in l’Histoire Mondiale du Parfum, by B. André-Salvini[5]. If perfume ingredients have attracted the attention of historians, the individuals who made them have been neglected.

 The act of perfuming oneself is an ancient gesture. Perfumes, which were most often found in the form of oil, were kept in small gypsum, chlorite and ceramic vases. The most ancient containers come from Tell Buqras in Syria and date from 7,000 BC, that is Neolithic times[6]. Gypsum was used to make zoomorphic vases (hedgehog and hare). Recipients were discovered at Susa, they date from the 4th and 3rd millennia. Jars and bottles dating from the 3rd millennium were discovered at Ur, Tello and Mari, and contained perfumed oils. Finally, among the better known attestations, zoomorphic rhytons at Ugarit were found. We know several terms for perfume: eliu (MA[7]), narqītu (in Standard Babylonian)[8], riqītu (OB and MA)[9] and riqqu (OB)[10], the verb meaning “to make perfume” being ruqqû. Similarly, the word “perfume-maker” was written in several ways: luraqqû (at Mari)[11], muraqqû (MA, NA, NB)[12] or raqqû (Old Akk, OB, Mari, MB)[13]. If in the current western civilisation, to perfume oneself is an act more associated with one’s personal care, even to personal hygiene, we are well aware that in Mesopotamia perfume was more widely used. Thus, among the furniture of temples and palaces we find perfume-burners and incense-burners, and aromatic products were added to drinks, to give them more flavour. Perfume in the form of fumigation could also present a medical aspect. Throughout this presentation on female perfume-makers, we will attempt to determine in which manner these women appear in the texts studied. We must however point out that the documents we have related to them are rather limited, and this paper can only give a glimpse of the matter.

1.     A few reminders on perfume

1.1. Techniques used to make perfume

Perfume initially appears as a rough texture, that is, it is used as an aromatic substance without being transformed, as in the case of perfume-burners. The use of such substance continues in the first millennium, as two bas-reliefs illustrate. The first is the famous “Garden Party” – the oldest scene we know of a lounging banquet – showing Assurbanipal and his queen Libbali-šarrat after the royal campaign of the Assyrian king in Elam.  The fact that the queen is present is rather rare and therefore notable, and in this garden where the royal couple clearly take their refreshments, we observe two perfume-burners that seem to keep them at bay from the other human beings present[14].  Also, in another well-known bas-relief, the “scene of an audience with the great king” which was visible in the Apadana of Persepolis, we observe king Xerxes I and behind him crown prince Darius, also cut off from other mortals by two perfume-burners. As for perfume preparations, they are rather well attested. As early as the 3rd millennium we see that the essence of plants was extracted so as to make perfumed water, ointments and oils. Two technics were employed in order to proceed to this extraction: it had to either be done cold (rendered by the Akkadian verb rummuku), performed on four types of woods – cypress, cedar, myrtle and juniper – or the extraction had to be done hot (according to the technic called “oil pans”) notably used in Mari with cypress, myrtle, fragrant reed and boxwood. During the neo-Babylonian period, the variety of fragrant products used became wider through accessing resources from the Arabian Peninsula. We thus find lists of “woods”, that is plants whose stems, berries, gums and resins were used. We should remember that in Mesopotamia itself, trees or shrubs necessary to make these aromatic substances for perfumes were rare. They therefore had to be acquired from the West. This is why perfume appears essentially in royal inscriptions or the archives of sanctuaries.

1.2. A place to manufacture perfume: neo-Babylonian sanctuaries

In neo-Babylonian documents, temples constitute the best examples of perfume fabrication. We find for example data on this subject in a study by A.C.V.M. Bongenaar on the archives of the Ebabbar temple[15]. Perfume is added to certain oils that are employed on special occasions, even celebrations. Such oils are called hilu, kiru and siltu[16] and are used during very specific days and for particular female deities. According to A.C.V.M. Bongenaar, the term hilu can designate a perfume or incense, as well as the ceremony for which this oil is made. Furthermore, this substance is only associated to the deity Šarrat-Sippar, and particularly during the ceremony of her sacred marriage[17]. A recipe to make hilu is known from several texts. Thus 6 litres of sesame are needed to which are added aromatic herbs to make hilu[18]. In the prosopography of the sanctuary of Šarrat-Sippar’s prebend-owners, the E-edin-na, A.C.V.M. Bongenaar identified a woman, Kaššā, who bears the title rabītu ša bīt Šarrat-Sippar, and who could be the daughter of Nabuchodonosor[19].  In the texts where we find her, Kaššā receives wool to prepare a cultic objet for the female deity, a imitu ša pišannu [20] and sesame to prepare oil[21]. However, she does not appear in charge of the fabrication of perfumed oil, this seems to instead rest with Sîn-ili’s family, who is the son of Šamaš-iddina and descendant of Bel-ēṭēru, and who is one of the ērib bīti of the temple of Šarrat-Sippar. At Uruk in the Eanna temple, perfumes were made in a house called bit hili. One of the most famous texts concerning this house is UCP 9/2 27, dated to Nabuchodonosor’s reign and studied by F. Joannès[22]. This bit hili is a religious edifice, under the responsibility of the šangû bit hili[23] and associated to the goddesses Uṣur-amâssu and Urka’itu[24].  This document lists the details for the ingredients given to a person named Nabû-mušetiq-uddê for the “work for the bit hili”. He thus gets 22 different aromatic substances (cedar, cypress, myrtle, box wood, fragrant reed, myrtle for example), but also pees, wool and sesame[25].

2. Looking for female perfume-makers

While we know a few male perfume-makers, such as Nur-ili at Mari under Zimri-Lim[26] for example, the names of female perfume-makers in royal palaces during the first millennium remain unknown for now. In the texts I have studied to write this presentation, a female perfume-maker is referred to as a (mí)muraqqītu in Akkadian. We further find references to female perfume-makers during the middle-Assyrian period[27], and often in cultic contexts[28].

2.1.Female perfume-makers in neo-Assyrian documents

First, I would like to come back to female perfume-makers during the neo-Assyrian period with a text that comes from the administrative documents of Nineveh’s palace, SAA 7 24. This document, whose date is probably lost, presents a very detailed list of women officiating in the palace of Nineveh. It was previously studied by B. Landsberger[29], F. Fales and J.N. Postgate[30] and more recently by S. Parpola[31]:

 “36 Aram[ean women] ; 15 Kushite women […] ; 7 Assyrian women, m[aids of theirs] ; 4 replacement[s…]; [x+]3 Tyrian wom[en…]; [x] Kass[ite women]; (break) [x fem]ale Cory[bantes]; 3 women from Arpa[d]; 1 replace[ment…]; 1 woman from Ashd[od]; 2 Hittite women, …[…]. In all, 94 (women and) 46 maids of theirs: total, of the father of the crown prince; in all, 140. The woman Šiti-tabni, 2 maids, ditto; the woman Amat-Emuni, 3 ditto. 8 female chiefs musicians; 3 Aramean women; 11 Hittite women; 13 Tyrian wo[men]; 13 female Cory[bantes]; 4 women from Sah[…]; 9 Kassites women; in all, 61 female musicians. 6 temple stewardesses […]; 6 female …[…] scribes ; 1 woman-… ; 4 women from Dor ; 15 female smiths and seals-borers; 1 hairdresser, in all, 33.Grand total: 194 (women) and 52 maids; (also) 1 female perfume-maker; her 2 maids; in all, 156.”

In his recent article on the neo-Assyrian harem, S. Parpola went back on this unique text from the palace of Nineveh and which dates according to him to the reign of Esarhaddon. Among these women we find 94 court women, whose names we cannot identify, with their 46 servants. According to S. Parpola, these women must have been royal concubines (they are said to be linked to the father of the crown prince, in Akkadian ša abišú ša mār šarri). Among them, only 11 are Assyrians, the others are Arameans, Kushites, Tyrians, Kassites, people from Arpad, Ashdod, or Hittites. Indeed, we note that female musicians are the workers the most represented for the female population of the palace. In this text, only two women are named. The first among them, Šiti-tabni, bears an Akkadian name and appears next to two female servants, who are apparently hers. As for Amat-Emuni, her name is particularly interesting. It is indeed composed of an Egyptian theophorus, Emuni, the combination meaning “Servant of Amon”. She seems to be accompanied by three servants. Data on these two individuals are meagre, considering that they appear in only this one text. However, despite the scarcity of sources for them, given that they are cited by name and that they are accompanied by several servants we could deduce they enjoyed a high position. We also find 33 women who exercised professions other than within the arts, among them a hairdresser and a perfume-maker. The translation of these two professions seems problematic. S. Parpola chose to translate gallabtu as hairdresser, instead of “female-barber” chosen by F.M. Fales and J.N. Postgate. Also, the term mu-raq-qí-tú was translated by F.M. Fales and J.N. Postgate as “spice-bread baker”, not by “perfume-maker”. These women who worked in sectors other than catering, music or dance represented 15% of the Assyrian harem according to S. Parpola from among 249 women (39% are concubines, 21% servants, 25% musicians and dancers and 15% are skilled workers). It is therefore not surprising that these women are found in small numbers as beauty experts in this text. Other items also come to our help to understand these female perfume-makers. These are objects found in royal tombs of Assyrian queens[32], notably tomb II containing the body of Yabâ, queen of Tiglath-Phalazar III, as well as the remains of another woman, probably Atalia, queen of Sargon II. This tomb was discovered by Hussein in 1989, in room 49 of the north-west palace of Kalhu.  In the funerary chamber, a great wealth of objects was found, objects engraved with the names of these two queens, but also with Banitu’s name (meaning Beauty), the wife of Salmanazar V. Among the objects found inside the sarcophagus, we find bowls made of gold, jars made of crystal, a mirror made of electrum (an alloy of gold and silver) and a recipient for cosmetics made of electrum, also inscribed with the queens’ names. For example, we find on the engraved mirror: “Belonging to Atalia, queen of Sargon, king of Assyria”. On the floor of the funerary chamber, a box made of electrum destined for cosmetics was also found equipped with a mirror that served as lid. We easily imagine female perfume-makers employing these objects during the exercise of their work. The other objects (jewels, precious stones, precious dishes) were maybe used for these women’s beauty care and adornment after their death.

2.2.Female perfume-makers in neo-Babylonian documents

If documents that come from the royal Assyrian palace are relatively meagre, the ones that come from the palace of Babylon during the first millennium are perhaps even more so. Only one document gives us information on female perfume-makers, text Bab 28122, part of the lot N1 from the archives of the southern palace of Babylon. This lot of 303 texts was found in the palace part called by R. Koldewey Gewölbebau, or vaulted building, and which he had initially thought to be the emplacement of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. In the text studied by F. Weidner in Fs. Dussaud in 1939 and which it seems has not been utilized since, we find female perfume-makers mentioned twice:

– Firstly on the obverse line 9: “šá 6 mu-raq-qé-e-tú 2 SILA3 ÀM ina ŠU.2 IdNÀ.BÀD-ma-[ki?-i?][33]”.

– And then line 11 on the reverse: “6 mu-raq-qé-e-tú 2 SILA3 ÀM ina ŠU.2 IdNÀ.BÀD-ma-[ki?-i?]”.

This tablet could be dated year 13 of Nbk, that is 593/592[34], and lists the quantity of sesame oil allocated per month either to individuals or to a group of persons, as is the case here (month of Nisanu on the obverse and month of Ayyaru on the reverse). This oil can be used for food consumption, and perhaps also for anointment[35]. People who receive the oil, for example our female perfume-makers here, are placed under the responsibility of an individual bearing a Babylonian name. As for our study, despite my investigations, I have not found more information on Nabû-dur-makî. This text is remarkable on several points. On the one hand, it mentions Joiakin, the king of Juda deported to Babylon by Nabuchodonosor who seems to also receive a ration of oil (Obverse, line 29 : […] a-[n]a Iia-’-ú-DU LU[GAL šá KUR ia-ú-du, and repeated line 32 of the reverse [a-na Iia-’-ú-DU LUGAL šá KUR] ia-ú-du). In this text, princes are also cited and eight individuals that come from the kingdom of Juda like Ur-milki (reverse l. 13), Gadi-ilu (obverse l. 18), Šalamyama the gardener (reverse l.22) and Samakuyama (obverse l. 28). Concerning rations allocated to individuals that came from the land of Juda, the quantities are rather meagre, around half a sila (that is 0,421 l.).  Joiakin receives half a PI, that is 15,156 l. but he shares it with his family. Individuals from Tyr are also cited (obverse 32), as well as people from Parsu (obverse 12, reverse 15 and 18), Egyptians (obverse 17, 20, 23 and reverse 20, 23), Ionian craftsmen (obverse 15, 19 and reverse 12, 16, 21, 27), Lydians (obverse 22 and reverse 25). Among the professions present in these lists we find palace scribes, servants, gardeners, messengers, carpenters, guards.  It is of course interesting to note that the origin of our female perfume-makers for the palace of Babylon remains unknown, but that once more, they appear in a list which places them in contact with people of a foreign origin, and for some coming from the West. We can then ask the following question but which cannot be settled at present: in the same way as certain products destined for perfume-making come from the West, could we also reasonably propose that these women also come from this area? Further, is their coming to Babylon or Assyria due to the fact they are experts in their trade? The other question concerning this text, and which is not fully elucidated, is to know why do individuals on this list receive oil from the palace: do they reside at the palace? Or do they simply receive their rations there[36]? Yet, if they have taken the trouble to record these women and their activity, we could infer that they were sufficiently important because they were experts and as such should be listed and identified in the palatial sphere.


Perfume appears as an element linked to power and which concerns elites, palatial and cultic: the objects found in royal Assyrian tombs and the archives of temples testify to this. It is therefore not surprising that female perfume-makers appear in such contexts, at least according to the sources we have currently.

[1] J. Bottéro, L’Epopée de Gilgameš, Paris, 1992, p. 194.

[2] F. Joannès, “La culture matérielle à Mari (V) : les parfums”, MARI 7, 1993, p. 251-270.

[3] E. Ebeling, Parfümrezepte und kultische texte aus Assur, Rome, Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1950.

[4] Article “Parfums et maquillages” by F. Joannès.

[5] See M-C. Grasse (dir.), Histoire Mondiale du Parfum. Amériques, Afrique, Orient, Europe, Océanie. Des origines à nos jours, Paris, 2007.

[6] M. Casanova, “Les origines de la parfumerie de l’Asie centrale au Levant”, Dossiers d’Archéologie n°337, Janvier-Février 2010, p. 16.

[7] E. Ebeling, Parfümrezepte, p. 50.

[8] Nabonide, OECT 1, pl. 27, iii 29.

[9] For the OB period, see UCP 10 142, and for MA see E. Ebeling, Parfümrezepte, p. 39.

[10] For texts relating to it, see CAD R, p. 369b: notably E. Ebeling, Parfümrezepte, p. 28, 29 and 33.

[11] See for example ARM 2 136.

[12] We will study this term in this paper.

[13] See CAD R, p. 173b et 174a.

[14] A. Benoit, Art et archéologie : les civilisations du Proche-Orient ancien, Paris, 2003, p. 403.

[15] A.C.V.M. Bongenaar, The Neo-Babylonian Temple at Sippar: Its Administration and its Prosopography, PIHANS 80, 1997.

[16] Id., p. 267

[17] See texts Cyr 279 and Camb 152.

[18] See BM 74485 (= Bertin 1816): 14 herbs, for a total weight of 9.4 kg with 42 l. of sesame oil.

[19] A.C.V.M. Bongenaar, The Neo-Babylonian Temple at Sippar, p. 249 and see texts Camb 24 et Nbn 57.

[20] Camb 24.

[21] Nbn 57.

[22] F. Joannès, “Traitement des maladies et bit hilṣi en Babylonie récente” in. L. Battini et P. Villard (éds.), Médecine et médecins au Proche-Orient ancient, BAR International Series 1528, Oxford, 2006, p. 76.

[23] Id., p. 77.

[24] Id., p. 77.

[25] Id., p. 76-77.

[26] ARM 23 470-475.

[27] See KAV 194: l. 9 (= VAT 8862).

[28] As in KAR 220 iv 9.

[29] In “Akkadisch-Hebräische Wortgleichungen”, VT 16 (or Fs. Baumgartner), 1967, p. 198-204: B. Landsberger initially presented this document as a list of women sent by the king of Tyr to Assurbanipal alongside one of his daughters.

[30] In SAA 7 24

[31] S. Parpola, “The Neo-Assyrian Royal Harem”, in. G. Lanfranchi, D.M. Bonacossi, C. Pappi et S. Ponchia, Leggo! Studies Presented to Frederick Mario Fales on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday, Wiesbaden, 2012, p. 613-626.

[32] See M.S.B. Damerji, Gräber Assyrischer Königinnen aus Nimrud, Jahrbuch des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums 45, Mayence, 1999.

[33] This name Nabû-dūr-makî si a personal proposition, but relies on the existence of this patronym during the neo-Assyrian period (see PNA 2/2, p. 823), and would mean “Nabû is a fortress against want”.

[34] O. Pedersen, “Foreign Professionals in Babylon: Evidence from the Archive in the Palace of Nebuchadnezzar II”, in. W.H. Van Soldt (éd.), Ethnicity in Ancient Mesopotamia, CRRAI 48, Leyde, 2005, p. 268.

[35] See E.F. Weidner, Jojachin, König von Juda, in babylonischen Keilschrifttexten, Fs. Dussaud II, Paris, 1939, p. 927.

[36] See on this subject O. Pedersen, “Foreign Professionals in Babylon”, CRRAI 48, p. 271.

The economic activities of Isḫunnatu, a slave woman of the Egibi Family


Within the framework of this second meeting entitled “The Economic role of women in the public sphere in Mesopotamia:  from the workshop to the marketplace”, I tried to find examples of slave women involved in economic activities inside the public sphere, that is to say outside their master’s home. To have enough time to develop my subject, I chose today to present you only one single example: it is about Isḫunnatu, slave of the Egibi family from Babylon, who manages a drinking establishment in Kiš, a city located some 12 km east of Babylon. In the introduction, I would like to give some general information about the context in which slave women are quoted in private archives and especially in the Egibi’s.

 1) On one hand, we notice that in the great majority of cases, women slaves appear in a passive way in private archives:

a) They are mentioned in sale contracts when they are bought or sold. In this first example, Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, chief of the third generation of the Egibi family sold a slave woman named Mizatu at Opis :

Camb. 143 (Opis, 24/xii/Camb 2) [abstract]: (1-5)Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, son of Nabu-ahhe-iddin, descendant of Egibi, has voluntarily sold to Asalluhi-ah-uṣur, son of [Šila’], his slave woman fMizatu for the full price of 1 mina and 25 shekels of silver.

     b) Slave women are also mentioned in family documents such as dowry contracts or testaments. In this second example, Itti-Marduk-balaṭu gave 5 servants as dowry to her daughter Tašmetu-tabni :

 Cyr. 143 (Babylon, 26/xi/Cyr 3) [abstract]: (1-8)Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, son of Nabu-ahhe-iddin, descendant of Egibi, has voluntarily given 10 minas of silver, 5 slave women, household goods, dowry of fTašmetu-tabni, his daughter, to Itti-Nabu-balaṭu, son of Marduk-ban-zeri, descendant of Bel-eṭeru.

  c) They can be also mentioned in promissory notes among pledged properties. In this third example, Marduk-naṣir-apli, chief of the fourth generation of the Egibi family, secures a heavy debt by casting a real estate and a slave family including a mother and her daughters as pledge for the debtor:

 TCL 13, 193 (Susa, 10/xii-b/Dar. 16) [abstract]: (1-4)45 minas of nuhhutu-silver of one-eighth alloy belonging to Šarru-duri, royal officer, son of Edraia, is the debt of Širku, whose second name is Marduk-naṣir-apli, son of Iddinaia, descendant of Egibi. (6-14)Madanu-bel-uṣur, his wife, fNanaia-bel-uṣur, his sons, Zababa-iddin, Madanu-bel-uṣur, Bel-gabbi-Bel-ummu, Ahušunu, and his daughters, fHašdayitu and fAhassunu, a total of 8 slaves from the service of his home (…) are the pledge of Šarru-duri.

2) On the other hand, we notice that slave women do not appear in two types of activities which seem reserved to slave men:

a) First, women never act as agents contrary to some slave men who take care of a part of the economic activities of the Egibi family. For example, in this text, Nergal-reṣua, slave of Itti-Marduk-balaṭu receives the rent of a home belonging to the Egibi family following his master’s order :

Camb 253 (Babylon, 7/viii/Camb 4) [abstract]: (Concerning) 8 shekels of silver, half-yearly rent of a house belonging to Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, son of Nabu-ahhe-iddina, descendant of Egibi, which is the debt of Arad-Bel, son of Kalbaia : Nergal-reṣua, slave of Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, received them according to the instructions of Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, from Arad-Bel, son of Kalbaia, descendant of Šuma-libši.

 b) Second, women are not among slaves who receive a formation for a specific job through apprenticeship contracts. Slaves men could learn various very qualified jobs as weaver, cook, lapidary’s craftsman, potter, sack-maker, carpenter, etc[1]. These contracts were a way for the Egibis to diversify their income. For example, in this text, it is Nuptaia, wife of Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, who sends a man slave belonging to her husband to Bel-etir, the weaver master:

Cyr 64 (Babylon, 20/vii/Cyr 2): Nuptaia, daughter of Iddin-Marduk, descendant of  Nur-Sin, has given Atkal-ana-Marduk, slave belonging to Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, son of Nabu-ahhe-iddin, descendant Egibi, to Bel-eṭir, son of Aplaia, descendant of Bel-eṭir, for five years to (learn) the weaver’s craft (išparūtu).

The great majority of women are used in housework, activities which do not produce the writing of contracts. Beyond domestic activities, rare texts allow us to study the case of women slaves working outside the house. So, the story of Isḫunnatu is an exceptional example.

1. History of the business establishment entrusted to Isḫunnatu

1.1. The creation of the business establishment during Cambyses’ reign (530 – 522)

   The business establishment entrusted to Isḫunnatu is documented by two Babylonian texts belonging to the Egibi Archive found in Babylon : Camb 330 and Camb 331[2]. These texts were drafted the same day of the 6th year of Cambyses in Kiš and more precisely in Hursagkalamma. The name Kiš applies to a range of tells covering a large area. Hursagkalamma corresponds to Tell Ingharra, in the south-Eastern part of the Kiš area[3]. The Egibi texts allow us to study the creation of a business establishment at this place.

1) In Camb 330, a man named Marduk-iqišanni must deliver to Isḫunnatu, slave of Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, an important capital including furniture and dishes:

 Camb 330: (1-2)Equipment which Marduk-iqišanni will give to Isḫunnatu, slave woman of Itti-Marduk-balaṭu : (3-7)5 beds (gišná = eršu), 10 chairs (giš = kussû), 3 tables (gišbanšur = paššuru), 1 lamp stand (ingurēnu), 3 knifes (serpu), 1 iron hoe (marru), 1 axe (qulmû), 1 fermenting vat (namzītu), 1 vessel stand (kankannu), 1 kettle (mušahhinu), 1 vat?giššiddatu, 1 maššânu, 1 chest (arānu), 1 reed ušukullatu(7-8)They own nothing jointly. (8)They will not renew litigation against each other. (9-10)Equipment which belongs to Isḫunnatu, until the end of the month of šabāṭu (xi), Marduk-iqišanni will not make it out. (11-12)Isḫunnatu will pay the rent of the house by herself. (13-15)Witnesses : Remut, son of Aplaia, descendant of Arad-Nergal ; Bel-apla-iddin, son of Remut, descendant of Paharu ; Tukulti-Marduk, son of Iddin-Nabu, descendant of Šangu-Parakki (16-17)And the scribe : Kalbaia, son of Ṣillaia, descendant of Nabaia (17-19)Hursagkalamma, 11th day of kislīmu (ix), year 6th of Cambyses, king of Babylon, king of Lands. (19-21)The promissory note belonging to fLillikanu, Marduk-iqišanni will give it to Isḫunnatu.

 The contract contains three very allusive clauses. The first specifies that « Marduk-iqišanni will not make the equipment go out » from the business establishment during a period of two and half month (l.9-10). The second specifies that « Isḫunnatu will pay the rent of the house by herself » (l.11-12). The last one says that « The promissory note belonging to fLillikanu, Marduk-iqišanni will give it to Isḫunnatu » (l.19-21). We can wonder who is the owner of the house to whom Isḫunnatu now has to pay a rent ? Is it Marduk-iqišanni or Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, descendant of Egibi ? Most of the historians consider that the house belongs to the Egibi family, but we have to confess that there is no evidence in this text for this affirmation. Anyway, we understand that Marduk-iqišanni was the previous owner or the previous tenant of the business establishment simply qualified here as « house ». He managed it, maybe with Lillikanu, who is quoted at the end of the contract. He lends part of his capital including furniture and dishes to Isḫunnatu, the Egibi’s slave woman, during a period of two and half months. If Lillikanu’s share was sold to Isḫunnatu, this transaction would have produced the writing of a promissory note that is the debt of Isḫunnatu. Finally, Isḫunnatu has to give the rent of the house, probably to his owner. So, it seems that the creation of Isḫunnatu’s drinking establishment comes from the rental of an already existing establishment. With the expected profits, Isḫunnatu will be able to return or to buy the equipment belonging to Marduk-iqišanni.

  2) If part of the capital of the establishment comes from Marduk-iqišanni, a second part was supplied by Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, master of Isḫunnatu, as shown in text Camb 331. In this second text, the Egibi chief gives to Isḫunnatu a capital composed of food, furniture and dishes. This capital has a value of 2 minas and 2 shekels of silver. The contract specifies that Isḫunnatu will give to Itti-Marduk-balaṭu an interest during one and half month. If we consider an usual annual interest of 20%, Isḫunnatu will pay 3 shekels of silver for one month and a half. After this period, it is possible that Isḫunnatu will repay to her master a part of the profit of her business establishment.

 Camb 331: (1-8)1 mina of silver, price of 50 vats-dannu of fine beer with (their) haṣbattu ; 40 shekels of silver, price of 10 800 liters of dates, 22 shekels of silver, price of 2 bronze kettles (mušahhinu) weighing 7 minas 1/2, 7 bronze cups (gú.zi = kāsu) and 3 bronze bowl-baṭû as well as 720 liters of kasû which are stored in the house, a total of 2 minas and 2 shekels belonging to Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, son of Nabu-ahhe-iddin, descendant of Egibi, are at the disposal of Isḫunnatu, slave woman of Itti-Marduk-balaṭu. (9)Until the end of the month ṭebētu (x), she will pay an interest. (10-14)Not including : 5 beds (gišná = ešru), 10 chairs (giš = kussû), 1 kettle (mušahhinu), 1 vat-giššiddatu, 1 stand lamp (ingurēnu), 3 knifes (serpu), 1 iron hoe (marru), 1 axe (qulmû), 2 fermenting vats (namzītu), 1 stand for fermenting vat (kankannu ša namzītu), 1 vat of decantation (namhāru), 2 maššânu. (14-17) Witnesses: Remut, son of Aplaia, descendant of Arad-Nergal ; Bel-apla-iddin, son of Remut, descendant of Paharu ; Tukulti-Marduk, son of Iddin-Nabu, descendant of Šangu-Parakki (17-18)And the scribe : Kalbaia, son of Ṣillaia, descendant of Nabaia (18-20)Hursagkalamma, 11th day of kislīmu (ix), year 6th of Cambyses, king of Babylon, king of Lands.

The Isḫunnatu’s business establishment consists of the rent of capital goods belonging to Marduk-iqišanni and maybe to Lillikanu and of capital goods belonging to Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, her master.

3) Another text, OECT 10, 239 (Museum number : 1924/1280), would show that Isḫunnatu obtained goods from a third source[4] :

OECT 10, 239 / 1924.1280): (1)4 beds (gišná = ešru(2) 3 chairs (giš = kussû)  (3)1 table (gišpaššuru(4) 1 vat- giššiddatu for beer (5)1 (vat- giššiddatu) for water (6)1 rack(?)simmiltu (7)1 fermenting vat (namzītu(8-9)They were entrusted to Isḫunnatu. (10-14)In the presence of  : Belšunu, son of Zababa-eriba ; Nabu-ah-ittannu, son of Zababa-šum-ereš(?) ; Ṭabiya, son of Bel-iddin ; Zababa-ana-bitišu, son of [NP] ; [NP], son of [NP].

This text arises numerous problems: First, this text doesn’t belong to the Egibi archive, it was found in Kiš and was drafted in front of Kiš inhabitants if we consider the presence of the god-name Zababa among witnesses. Second, there is no date, this text was just a memento. Third, it quotes a woman, named Isḫunnatu who received furniture and dishes, same kind than texts Camb 330 and 331. So, it’s not clear if this Isḫunnatu is the Egibi’s slave and if this text is connected to the drinking establishment of the Egibis in Kiš. But, we have to admit that it will be an incredible coincidence that the city of Kiš shelters two establishments of the same kind both managed by women with the same name. More, the name Isḫunnatu (meaning “cluster of grapes”) is very rare[5]. This text would show that our Isḫunnatu has received furniture and dishes probably from people who live in Kiš. For Isḫunnatu, this capital from Kiš would have served to develop her business activity or to replace Marduk-iqišanni’s goods which were at her disposal during a limited time.

It is very exciting to imagine that this text was maybe discovered by the archaeologists directly inside Isḫunnatu’s establishment in Kiš. Unfortunately, we have to specify that we don’t have any information about the place of the excavation. Even the date of this discovery (ie 1924) seems to be wrong as McEwan notices: « Some texts in the 1924 series (1924.943 – 1786) are known to have been numbered in 1950 (…) Thus, these tablets may date from excavations seasons other that 1924 »[6]. So, it’s impossible to link this text with a precise archaeological expedition in Kiš and to determine from which tell he comes from.

1.2. Economic activities during Darius’reign (521 – 486)

The economic activities of Isḫunnatu in Kiš continue during the beginning of Darius’ reign as shown in two other texts drafted in Hursagkalamma but probably found in Babylon within the Egibi archive: CTMMA 3, 65 and BM 30948[7]. At this time, the slave woman belongs to a new master: Širku, nickname of Marduk-naṣir-apli, son of Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, descendant of Egibi, leader of the fourth generation of the family. So, Marduk-naṣir-apli inherited Isḫunnatu among his father’s possessions.

1) In CTMMA 3, 65 dated from the second year of Darius, Isḫunnatu receives 1800 liters of dates from Nabu-reu’šunu, son of Nabu-eṭir, descendant of Sin-tabni. This creditor probably comes from the city of Babylon, where his ancestor’s name is the most attested:

CTMMA 3, 65: (1-6)(Concerning) the full (payment of) 1 800 liters of dates, Isḫunnatu, slave woman of Širku, on the instructions of [PN], son of Nurea, has received them from Nabu-re’ušunu, son of Nabu-eṭir, descendant of Sin-tabni. (7-10)Witnesses : Bel-lumur, son of Iddin-Marduk, descendant of Šigua ; Nabu-ah-remanni, son of Remut, descendant of Rab-šušši. (10-11)Scribe : Bel-šakin-šumi, son of Iddin-Nabu, descendant of Eppeš-ili. (12-14)Hursagkalamma, 25th day of kislīmu (ix), year 2nd of Darius, king of Babylon, king of Lands. (15)They have taken one (copy) each. (16-17)Dates which for 1 reed vat for decantation (namhāru) … were given.

The contract specifies that the dates were used to buy a reed vat of decantation (namharu). We shall see later that this kind of dishes was necessary for the functioning of an establishment as Isḫunnatu’s one.

2) In the last text, Isḫunnatu borrows 10 800 liters of dates. She has to give them back in Babylon, on a canal and she has to pay the transportation costs (gimru). The use of the dates is not specified: to buy furniture or to make beer ?

BM 30948 / Bertin 2780): (1-5)10 800 liters of dates […]Hursagkalamma [belonging to?] Bel-apla-iddin, son of Remut, descendant of [NP], is the debt of Isḫunnatu, slave woman of Širku, descendant of Egibi. (6-8)The 20th day of kislīmu (ix), she will pay the 10 800 liters of dates on the canal // according to the mašīhu-measure of [PN] // and the transportation costs. (8-11)[Broken lines] (12)A previous promissory note of […] (13-17)Witnesses : Kalbaia, son of Nabu-ahhe-iddin, descendant of Egibi ; Balaṭu, son of Marduk-šum-iddin, descendant of Sippe ; Iqišaia, son of Zababa-iddin, descendant of lú-dugsila3.bur (18-19)Scribe : Tu[kulti]-Marduk, son of [PN], descendant of [PN]. (20-23)Hursagkalamma, 3rd day of [NM], year [xth of] Darius, king of [Babylon], king of lands.

These two last texts show that part of the capital including dates necessary for Isḫunnatu’s establishment in Kiš comes from Babylon, so we can suppose that Egibi’s family members were involved in those supplies. So, it seems that Isḫunnatu was still dependent on Babylon and on her master.


The various goods from Babylon or Kiš at the disposal of Isḫunnatu can be classified in two big categories and can help us to qualify the business establishment and the role of Isḫunnatu[8].

2.1. What are the characteristics of Isḫunnatu’s establishment ?

1) First, we notice that Isḫunnatu’s establishment is a place of consumption : Both texts from the Egibi archive quote various furniture including 3 tables, 10 chairs and lamp stands (Camb 330 & 331). Various dishes are quoted too: cups and bowl. At these tables, customers consumed especially beer. In Camb 331, Isḫunnatu receives a total of 50 vats-dannu of good quality beer. According to the different mentions, one vat-dannu could contain 1 kurru of beer or wine, that is to say 180 liters[9]. Isḫunnatu so has already 9 000 liters of liquids ready to be served.

A place of consumption

Furniture :– 3 tables (paššuru / gišbanšur)– 10 chairs (kussû / giš– 1 lamp stand (ingurēnu)
Dishes :– 7 bronze cups (kāsu / gú.zi)– 3 bronze bowls (baṭû)
Beer :– 50 vats-dannu of good quality beer

2) Second, the Isḫunnatu’s establishment is a place of production too. Indeed, Isḫunnatu also received 10 800 liters of dates and the material necessary for their transformation into alcohol: Fermenting vat as well as their wooden support and vat of decantation. 720 liters of kasû (mustard / cuscuta?) which enter the manufacturing of beer from dates, probably to perfume it. The presence of a hoe could be related to the exploitation of a kitchen garden near the business establishment. The various products of which could be prepared in a kettle[10].

A place of production

Beer :– 10 800 liters of dates– Fermenting vat (namzītu)– Stand for fermenting vat (kankannu)– Vat for decantation (namhāru)

– 720 liters of kasû (mustard or cuscuta)

Kitchen garden? :– Hoe (marru)– Kettle (mušahhinu)

3) Finally, the Isḫunnatu’s establishment is a place of accommodations, this being supported by the presence of 5 beds among the inventory.

A place of accommodation:

 – 5 beds (eršu / gišná)

So, the Isḫunnatu’s business establishment was a place of consumption of beer and also other food, a place of production and a place where people could sleep.

1.2. How to qualify this business establishment? What was the exact role of Isḫunnatu ?

There are at least two terms naming drinking establishments in Mesopotamia  : bīt sabi and bīt aštammi. The last term indicates more specifically an inn, a place where people can find accommodation as in the house of Isḫunnatu. These two sorts of drinking establishments are especially attested during the 2nd millenium BC[11]. Some historians consider them as places of prostitution. The house entrusted to Isḫunnatu does not escape this image. About the Isḫunnatu’s establishment, the presence of a woman, beds and alcoholic drinks – and the erotic images associated with – has probably excited the imagination of some scholars who connected these three elements automatically with prostitution. Indeed, in his article about “Prostitution in Ancient Mesopotamia”, J. Cooper gives only one example in the paragraph dedicated to brothels, madams and procurers: the case of Isḫunnatu. The question of her establishment as a place of prostitution is clearly asked : « Although beds can be used for lodgers as well as for prostitution, these texts at least show that sexual relations could easily be accommodated ». And the role of Isḫunnatu as procuress is evocated too: « Whether the proprietress was a madam, that is, whether she hired prostitutes or simply provided the venue, is unknown »[12].  These hypotheses about the nature of Isḫunnatu’s establishment and the woman’s role are not based on textual evidences but seem to be supported on a topos. Indeed, the link between drinking establishment and prostitution was strongly disputed by Julia Assante in various articles. She considers that « The tavern prostitute is a scholastic invention »[13] ; « These are just topoi, yet scholarship has been so sure of tavern prostitution that the tavern, éš-dam, bīt aštammi or bīt sabîm/sabîtim, has been all too often easily translated as bordello or brothel. Within this schema, the sabîtu(m), the female tavern keeper (…) becomes synonymous with the brothel madam »[14]. The author speaks about the scholarship’s misunderstanding of Mesopotamian texts and images. Now, I’m going to try to summarize three examples from Julia Assante’s studies :

1) First, Julia Assante considers that the link between drinking establishment and prostitution finds his main source inside the Inanna/Ishtar’s literature. In the Ancient literature, the goddess is a tavern-goer who is looking for sexual companionship. Assante remarks that “This common and spirited literary motif never once includes payment and it would be odd indeed if this powerful goddess of sex and love were financed by her favors”. The author also adds that “Furthermore, to base the brothel hypothesis on such texts ignores others versions of the tavern in which Inanna appears as a young bride or virginal sister”[15].

2) Second, about the following lines from the Code of Hammurabi : “If a nadītu or a ugbabtu, who does not reside within the gagû, should open (the door of) a tavern or enter a tavern for some beer, they shall burn that woman” (§ 110); some scholars have understood these lines as an attempt to prevent the nadītu from mixing with the tavern’s low life, especially prostitution, or from committing sexual offenses there. But, in this case, the prohibition seems to be more ritual than moral. These women were vulnerable of becoming impure because of contacts with elements in the tavern such as fermenting vats[16].

3) Third, the various explicit terracottas called “drinking scenes” were interpreted as realistic scenes of Tavern. Julia Assante considers that these objects representing the divine couple Inanna and Dummuzi bears a magic utility : “Since the constellation of Inanna’s erotic plaques and poems reverses the negative application of mating, marriage and seizure found in other magical literature, its potential as apotropaia seems to be more than a reasonable hypothesis. Plaques may be the physical remains of counteractive measures a householder might have taken to prevent the disastrous occurrence of « mating » with evil, in whatever form it might arrive”[17].

So, after taking into account contributions from the gender Studies, I’d rather attribute a neutral definition for Isḫunnatu’s establishment and I shall follow the definition given by Jacobsen and Kramer, more objective and less focused on supposed sexual aspects, who likened the éš-dam to a modern coffee-house or village-inn, a social center where people came to relax[18]. Indeed, I think that we have to consider the creation of Isḫunnatu’s inn as a part of a large plan managed by the Egibi to create new social relations in Kiš.


The main economic activities of the Egibi family take place in Babylon and in Borsippa. But, it seems that since the end of Nabonidus’ reign, members of the family tried to develop their business activities towards the city of Kiš. The family archive allows us to distinguish two periods.

1) First, during Nabonidus’ reign, the family possesses some properties in Kiš or in the area. For example, the dowry of Qibi-dumqi-ilat, sister of Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, contains a farmland located on the way from Babylon to Kiš (Nbn 760). The family owns a house in Hursagkalamma which belongs to Itti-Marduk-balaṭu. He rents it to his brother Kalbaia during the 16th year of Nabonidus (Nbn 967). Kalbaia seems to manage a part of the economic activities of the Egibis in Kiš through a harranu-partenership with the other members of the family : « Kalbaia was operating a harranu-enterprise in Hursagkalamma, with personnel hired from Itti-Marduk-balaṭu and on property rented from him, and with financing provided by Iddin-Marduk [= father-in-law of Itti-Marduk-balaṭu]”[19].

2) During Cambyses’ reign, Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, leader of the Egibi family managed himself a new business plan in Kiš. We notice an important activity of investment in Kiš during the 6th year of Cambyses :

a) First, Itti-Marduk-balaṭu opens a city-inn for Isḫunnatu, his slave, the 11th day of kislīmu (ix) (Camb 330 & 331).

b) Second, he buys a home near the home of the « Chariot-driver » (bīt mukīl appāti) the 28th day of addaru (xii) (Camb 349). As Yoko Wataï notices in her PhD dissertation : « The Chariot-driver » occupied an important position in the army but also in the civil administration in Assyria. However, we cannot determine his function in the babylonian administration[20]. So, if the Chariot-driver kept an important function in Babylonia, it would seem that Itti-Marduk-balaṭu tried to get closer to important persons of Kiš.  We notice that Itti-Marduk-balaṭu led the same building policy in Babylon in the TE.Eki district where we find members of the royal administration among its neighbors[21]. The appropriation of a city-inn in Kiš for one of his slaves and the acquisition of a house next to an officer could be part of the same plan. As a place for meetings, the city-inn can be a way for the Egibi to create or to strengthen links of sociability with the inhabitants of Kiš. The inn can be a manner of being in the heart of the city and to know all the rumors and the free speech which is ran in this kind of place. It is maybe a place to meet people and the members of the city elite. The plan to develop the family’s business activities and to be closer to the Kiš elite seems to have been a success :

1) First, in a contract drafted in the 6th year of Darius, an inhabitant of Kiš must go to Babylon to find an arrangement with Marduk-naṣir-apli about a tax on his bow-land (Abraham 2004 : n°17). So, it seems that the chief of the Egibi family became a tax collector from some tax-payers living in Kiš.

2) Secondly, Marduk-naṣir-apli bounded links with the governor of Kiš. Indeed, the chief of the Egibis lent to him an important quantity of silver in Susa during the 16th year of Darius (Abraham 2004 : n°78). So, the leaders of the Egibi Family managed to create business links with the authorities of Kiš.

In the same time, at a lower level, Kalbaia continues his own economic activities in Kiš. Kalbaia seems to live most of the time in Kiš where he owns various lands. His implication earned him the nickname of « Kalbaia of Kiš » (CTMMA 3, 73). Present in Kiš, he maintains relations with Isḫunnatu’s establishment. And indeed, appears as the first witness in text n°5.


Isḫunnatu enjoys a large part of freedom in managing her business, appearing as debtor in text CTMMA 3, 65 and BM 30948. In these contracts, she acts by herself and she is the only one responsible for the repayment of the loans. But two facts shows that the members of the Egibi family exercise an attentive control over her economic activities :

1) Except text OECT 10, 239, all the other texts belong to the Egibi Archive found in Babylon. The Egibis keep and control all the transactions contracted by Isḫunnatu.

2) The presence of Kalbaia among witnesses in BM 30948 shows that Egibis attends the transactions involving Isḫunnatu. Their presence can be used as guarantee for the creditor.




Assante, J.

1998        « The kar-kid / harimtu, Prostitute or Single Woman ? A Reconsideration of the Evidence », UF 30 : 66.

2002        “Sex, Magic and the Liminal Body in the Erotic Art and Texts of the Old Babylonian Period”, Sex and Gender in the Ancient Near East, Actes de la XLVIIe Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale (Helsinki, 2-6 July 2001), Simo Parpola and Robert M. Whiting, eds., Helsinki, 2002: 27-51.

 Cooper, J.

2006        « Prostitution », RlA 11 (1/2) : 12-21.

 Dandamaiev, M.

1984        Slavery in Babylonia. From Nabopolassar to Alexander the Great (626-331 B.C.). Northern Illinois University Press, Detroit.

 Gibson, McG.

1980        « Kiš », RlA : 613-620.

 Hackl, J.

2010        « Apprenticeship contracts », in : M. Jursa (dir.), Aspects of the Economic History of Babylonia in the First Millennium BC, AOAT 377, Münster : 700-715.

2011        « Neue spätbabylonische Lehrverträge aus dem British Museum und der Yale Babylonian Collection » (New Late Babylonian Apprenticeship Contracts from the British Museum and the Yale Babylonian Collection), AfO 52 : 77-97.

i. p.          « Frau Weintraube, Frau Heuschrecke und Frau Gut – Untersuchungen zu den babylonischen Namen von Sklavinnen in neubabylonischer und persischer Zeit », To be published in: Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes 101. Pre-paper available on

 Jacobsen, T. & Kramer, S. N.

1953        « The Myth of Inanna and Bilulu », JNES 12 : 160-188.

 Joannès, F.

1992a     « Inventaire d’un cabaret » NABU 1992/64.

1992b     « Inventaire d’un cabaret (suite) » NABU 1992/89.

 Jursa, M. (dir.)

2010        Aspects of the Economic History of Babylonia in the First Millennium BC. Economic geography, economic mentalities, agriculture,  the use of money and the problem of economic growth (with contributions by J. Hackl, B. Janković, K. Kleber, E.E. Payne, C. Waerzeggers and M. Weszeli) (AOAT 377), Münster.

 Lion, B.

i. p.          « Les cabarets à l’époque paléo-babylonienne », in : C. Michel (éd.) L’alimentation dans   l’Orient ancien, de la production à la consommation, actes du Séminaire d’Histoire et d’Archéologie des Mondes Orientaux (SHAMO).

 McEwan, G.

1984        Late Babylonian Texts in the Ashmolean Museum (OECT 10), Oxford.

 Spar, I. & von Dassow, E.

2000        Private Archive Texts from the First Millenium B.C. (CTMMA 3), New York.

Watai, Y.

2012        Les maisons néo-babyloniennes d’après la documentation textuelle, thèse de doctorat, Université de Paris 1.

 Wunsch, C.

2000        « Neubabylonische Geschäftsleute und ihre Beziehungen zu Palast- und Tempel- verwaltungen : das Beispiel der Familie Egibi », dans : A. C. Bongenaar (éd.), Interpendency of institutions and private Entrepreneurs (Mos Studies 2 ; PIHANS 87), Leiden : 95-118.

[1] About apprenticeship contracts, cf. Hackl 2010 & 2011.

[2] These two texts were published and discussed in Joannès 1992a. The unpublished text BM 35140 kept in the British Museum which mentions Isḫunnatu (quoted in Hackl in press) could give additionnal information about the economic activities of the Egibi’s slave woman.

[3] For a summary of the excavations of Kiš, cf. Gibson 1980 : 613-620.

[4] Text published and discussed in Joannès 1992b.

[5] Hackl in press.

[6] McEwan 1984 : 1.

[7] Copy Bertin 2780.

[8] See the comments of F. Joannès about these goods (Joannès 1992a. & b).

[9] CAD, D : 98b-99a.

[10] Joannès 1992a.

[11] Lion in press.

[12] Copper 2006 : 20.

[13] Assante 1998 : 65.

[14] Assante 1998 : 66.

[15] Assante 1998 : 66.

[16] Hypothesis of S. Maul followed and developed by J. Assante (Assante 1998 : 67-68).

[17] Assante 2002 : 43.

[18] « We have assumed that the éš-dam represents the social center of the estate or village, a place in which the inhabitants would typically gather for talk and recreation after the end of work as in a modern coffee-house or village-inn » (Jacobsen & Kramer 1953 : 185a). In this case, one can wonder if it is not in this kind of establishment that the travelers could stay in Kiš (About journeys of Babylonians in Kiš, cf. Jursa (dir.) 2010 : 213-124).

[19] Spar & von Dassow 2000 : 123.

[20] Wataï 2012 : 301-302.

[21] Itti-Marduk-balaṭu hold several houses in the TE.Eki district. One of them is nearby the house of the Crown-prince (bīt-mār-šarri) (Nbn 50), another near a house belonging to a slave of Neriglissar and then Balthazzar (Nbn 9 & Nbn 50) and a third probably near a sepīru of prince Cambyses. Indeed, text Dar 379 enumerates the real estate property of the Egibi family in Babylon and Borsippa. The text specifies that Marduk-naṣir-apli, the representative of the fourth generation of the Egibis, possesses, among others, « a house situated in the TE.Eki district and which is nearby of Hašdaia, son of Gabbi-ili-šar-uṣur » (l.7 ). He is probably the son of Gabbi-ili-šar-uṣur, the scribe on parchment of prince Cambyses evoked in text Cyr 177 (this identification was proposed by Wunsch 2000: n. 23 p. 103-104).