Archives de catégorie : Workshop-3 (Carqueiranne 09-2013)

► Third REFEMA workshop (Carqueiranne, September 2013)

REFEMA Third Workshop

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

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

公共の場における女性の経済的役割:職人工房から市場まで (2)

3-5 septembre 2013




Tuesday 3rd September

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

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

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


11h20                                                        Coffee Break

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

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

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

12h45                                                         Lunch

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

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

15h40                                                        Coffee Break

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday 4th September

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

                                   hīrtu and kallātu as titles of wife

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

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

11h30                                                            Coffee Break

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

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

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

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

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

12h45                                                            Lunch


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

nadītum-women in the Field Lease Contracts from Sippar

nadītum-women in the Field Lease Contracts from Sippar

Ichiro NAKATA (Chuo University, Tokyo)
REFEMA Workshop, 2013

932 Old Babylonian real estate texts from Sippar housed in the British Museum were published in transliteration by Luc Dekiere in his Old Babylonian Real Estate Documents from Sippar in the British Museum, Mesopotamian History and Environment, Texts, Vol. II (hereafter, MHET II), Ghent, 1994-1997 in six parts.[2] The texts published in MHET II/1-4 are arranged in chronological order, while those texts whose date is lost or not recorded have been published in MHET II/5. According to Dekiere, 179 texts (64%) of the 279 texts that are published in MHET II/5 could be dated relatively, and additional 28 texts (19%) with a broken year name or unknown year name could be dated after cleaning and collation.[3] The texts published in MHET II/6, on the other hand, are from the “Series” 1902-10-11 in the British Museum and are also arranged chronologically from Sabium to Ammi-Ṣaduqa.

A glance at the catalogues attached to Parts 1-6 of MHET II shows that the field lease contracts are the most numerous, followed by the field sales contracts, as shown in Chart I.[4] The only exception is the case of real estate texts dated to pre-Hammurabi period published in MHET II/1. Here, we find only 4 field lease contracts, as opposed to 35 field sales contracts according to my count. The ratio of the numbers of the two types of texts in MHET II/1 (4 vs. 35) is more or less in agreement with the corresponding ratio of the number of the field lease contracts (6 texts) vis-à-vis that of field sales contracts (40 texts) from pre-Hammurabi Sippar that were available to R. Harris at the time of the publication of her Ancient Sippar: A Demographic Study of an Old-Babylonian City (1894-1595 B.C.), Istanbul, 1975.[5]

In the field lease contracts and the field sales contracts published in MHET II/1-6, the majority of the lessors in the former except in MHET II/4 and II/6 and the majority of the purchasers in the latter except in MHET II/5 and 6 are women, as the figures in the bracket in Chart I show. Those women are quite likely to have been nadītum-women of Šamaš who lived in the “cloister (gagûm)” in Sippar even when they are not so specified.

Chart I  Numbers of Field Lease and Field Sale Contracts


Field Lease Contracts

Field Sale Contracts



35 (19)



15 (13)


46 (40)

9 (7)


63 (23)

9 (8)


137 (116)

25 (8)


22 (4)

4 (2)

Note: The figure in the bracket shows the number of the texts in which a woman leases or purchases a field (a.šà).

In this paper, I would like to examine those field lease contracts with a nadītum-woman as lessor, as published in MHET II/1-6.

1. The acreage of the field for leasing

There are two types of field lease contracts: one with an indication of the specific acreage of the field for leasing and one without (cf. a.šà mala maṣû[6] or a.šà mala qāssu ikaššadu[7]).

When the acreage is indicated, a field for leasing is 2 iku (approximately 0.72 ha) or larger with a few exceptions.[8] One popular size of fields for leasing on the lower end of this scale is 3 iku (for example, 15 field lease contracts[9] with a nadītum woman as lessor in MHET II/2 alone). 6 iku is another popular size of fields for leasing (14 contracts[10] again in MHET II/2 alone). However, the 18 iku (=1 bùr) or more is not rare among the sizes of fields leased on the higher end of the scale (3 field leasing contracts for 18 iku and 1 for 19 iku of field in MHET II/2[11]).

2. The minimum acreage needed for a nadītum-woman to subsist

In order to evaluate this data properly, it is necessary to know the minimum acreage of field required for the subsistence of an average individual.

J. Oates assumes that 6 ha (about 16.7 iku) of land constitute the minimum necessary to support an average family of 6 persons under conditions of plough agriculture on the basis of alternate fallow[12]. This means that the minimum acreage for one person to live on was 1 ha (about 2.8 iku), and, according to J. Oates, this is supported by the minimum allotment of a field of 1 bùr (18 iku, approximately 6.48 ha) to an ālik ilkim, a holder of ilkum-obligation and his family at the time of Hammurabi[13].

E. Stone and D.I. Owen compare the higher level of support (720 sìla or 540 KWE) per year for a male adopter by a male adoptee in OB adoption contracts from Nippur with the figure of 536 kg wheat equivalent (KWE) per year that C. Clark and M. Haswell calculated as the average subsistence level in Iraq during the 1950s.[14] 536 KWE would be equivalent to about 713 liters of barley.[15]

M. Stol made a survey of annual allowances for people “as long as they live” and came up with figures of 2 liters of barley per day or 720 liters per year per person.[16] Since he posits that the expected yield of barley from a field of 1 iku is 400 liters,[17] the subsistence level in terms of acreage of field for a person under conditions of plough agriculture on the basis of alternate fallow system would be about 3.6 iku (720 litres÷400 liters [the expected yield per iku per year]×2[18]) or approximately 1.3 ha.

Now, if we suppose that a nadītum-woman lives by herself[19] and solely on the rent(s) coming from the fields that she has, she must have at least a total of 5.4 iku (approximately 1.9ha) of fields under cultivation in any given year. A total of 5.4 iku of fields would theoretically produce an annual yield of 2160 liters of barley at the harvest time. Even under the less favorable “1/3 contract” she would then receive a rent of 720 liters of barley that would be enough to guarantee her subsistence. In the alternate fallow system, this would mean that she must have, at least, a total of 10.8 iku (5.4 iku x 2) of fields in two or more irrigation districts.

It is interesting to note in this connection that, in a late Old Babylonian text from Sippar-Amnānum,[20] 9 out of 10 bā’irum-soldiers are allotted a total of 12 iku of fields each as subsistence allotments (ṣibtum-fields) in two to four different irrigation districts (a.gàr’s/ugārū).[21] The bā’irum –soldiers appearing in this text could probably support themselves and their family of two or three persons with the yield from these ṣibtum-fields, even if they had to give a part of the yield to the landlord (the state in this case).

3. The rent of the field

The rent is paid in kind at the time of harvest and, according to my count, is fixed to a third of the yield in 33 (25.6%) of the 129 field lease contracts with a woman as lessor[22]published in MHET II/2 and 3. However, we find rents much more favorable to the landowner such as 50% of the yield in 12 field lease contracts (9.3%)[23] and 75% of the yield in 22 field lease contracts (17%)[24] published in MHET II/2 and 3; in the other cases, however, the rent varies[25]. We find such a low rates as 15% (MHET II/2, 198), but we also find such high rates as 87.5% (MHET II/3, 351) and 87.9% (MHET II/2, 280)[26].

Furthermore, tenants are required to give, in addition, one or two bán’s of flour (1 bán =about 10 liters) and a piece of meat to the landlady of the field (ipaqqissi) on the occasions of three to six festivals of Šamaš in a year. The rent, on the other hand, is usually required to be measured (ì.ág.e) at the gate of the cloister (gagûm) but in one instance (MHET II/2, 192) at the temple of Šamaš.[27]

4. Timing for concluding a field lease contract

Normally a lease contract of a field is for one year. However, one field lease contract (MHET II/2, 166), for example, is made for two years, while three (MHET II/2, 142, 148 and 156) are for three years.[28]

Perusing 40 leasing contracts in MHET II dated to the reigns of Hammurabi and Samsuiluna that contain not only a year name but also a month name, I have found all the month names except Month VII (September/ October) and Month X (December/January). However, 25 (62.5%)[29] of the 40 leasing contracts for the current season of cultivation are concluded during the period from Month I (March/April) to Month III (May/June), namely between the beginning of the annual inundation of the Euphrates River and its inundation peak. The rest of the leasing contracts are concluded in Month IV (MHET II/2, 289 and 306), Month V (MHET II/2, 174), VI (MHET II/2, 291 and II/5, 610), VIII (MHET II/2, 237, 253 and MHET II/3, 382), IX (MHET II/2, 235), XI (MHET II/2, 208, 231 and MHET II/3, 368) or XII (MHET II/2, 185, 223 and 249). The leasing contracts concluded in Months IV-VI may have been written rather late for the season, while those of Months VIII-XII may have been written early for the coming agricultural season.

5. Lessees of the field lease contracts

Here I would like to refer to R. Harris’ remark[30], because my prosopographical data and analysis of it is not yet sufficient.

 “The occupation of the lessee is not specified before the time of Ammi-ditana, but the occupations mentioned from this period onward indicate that those renting fields are often affluent individuals, who did so as investments. Fields are rented by such well-to-do people as a sanga of the Gula temple, scribes, a diviner, a judge, a general, a rabiānu official, the abi ṣābi officials , barbers, and the overseer of the barbers, a shepherd and a gardener. Among the perhaps less affluent lessees are a house-builder, fisherman, and Suteans.”

6. Some prominent (nadītum-)women in the field lease contracts

There are twenty-two women who appear as lessor in three or more field lease contracts published in MHET II/1-6. Six of them are not clearly stated as nadītum (lukur), but it is quite likely that they too were nadītum- women. What follows are the names of twenty-two women and their textual references together with the date of each field lease contract in abbreviation[31] as well as the acreage and the location of the field leased.

  • Amat-kallātim (nadītum), daughter of Šamaš -ilum: MHET II/2, 192 (H18, a field of 6 iku/ZA HA x num), 228 (H28, 12 iku/ša-Nuhanim), 247 (H32: 12 iku/ša-Nahanim), II/5, 730 (-, 3 iku/-)
  • Amat- Šamaš (nadītum), daughter of Mašum: MHET II/2, 288 (H40, 2 iku/-), 229 (H27, a field of 2 iku/Pahuṣum), 235 (H29, 2 iku/ Pahuṣum)
  • Amat- Šamaš (nadītum), daughter of Sîn-iddinam: MHET II/2, 150 (H09, 9 iku/ Iplahi), 151 (H09, 9 iku/Iplahi), II/5, 737 (-, 9 iku/-)
  • Amat- Šamaš, daughter of Warad- Šamaš: MHET II/3, 366 (Si02, 1 iku/Lugal.sag.ila), 376 (Si03, 3 iku/ša-Našuriš), 391 (Si05, 3 iku/ Pahuṣum)
  • Aya-tallik (nadītum), daughter of Ahulap-Šamaš: MHET II/5, 688 (H?, 3 iku/a.gàr GAL), 694 (H?, 3 iku/a.gàr, 830 (-, 9 iku/a.gàr GAL)
  • Bēlessunu (nadītum), daughter of Kazatum: MHET II/2, 296 (H41, 3 iku/Balala), 304 (H42, 3 iku/Balala), 309 (H43, 3 iku/Tawirātum), MHET II/3, 360 (Si02, 3 iku/Balala), MHET II/5, 759 (H?, 3 iku/Balala), 793 (H?, 5 1/2 iku/Nadiātum; 3 iku/Balala), 797 (H?, 4 1/2 iku/-)
  • Eli-erēssa (nadītum), daughter of Akiyatum: MHET II/2, 220 (H26, 5 iku/Ṭābum), 284 (H40, 5 iku 30 sar/Ṭābum), II/5, 801 (-, 5 iku/ Ṭābum), 809 (-, 5 iku/Ṭābum), 812 (-, 5 iku+20 sar/Ṭābum)
  • Eli-erēssa (nadītum), daughter of Sîn-abušu: MHET II/3, 346 (Si01, mala maṣû/ Ebirtum), 381 (Si03, 4 iku/ birīt nārim), 382 (Si03, 6 iku/Saškum), 403 (Si09, 4 iku/biīt nārim), 655 (-, 1 iku/birīt nārim)
  • Erišti(nin-ti)-Aya, daughter of Nabī-ilišu: MHET II/2, 178 (H15, 6 iku/Huba) : 196 (H17, 6 iku/erased), 201 (H18, 6 iku/Huba), 270 (H38, mala maṣû/a.gàr gal), 272 (H38, mala maṣû/-), 285 (H40, 4 iku/Huba), 305 (H42, 50 sar/-)[32], II/5, 751 (-, 3 iku/ša-Sîn), 756 (H?, 5 iku/a.gàr, 761 (H?, 3 iku/Huba), 783 (-, 40 sar/ -), 806 (-, mala maṣû/-), 820 (-, 6 iku/Huba)
  • Erišti-Aya, daughter of Bununum: MHET II/5, 722 (-, 5 iku/a.gàr, 728 (-, 5 iku/-), 767 (-, 1 iku+/a.gàr GAL), 782 (-, -/-)
  • Ḫuššutum (nadītum), daughter of Sîn-puṭram: MHET II/1, 113 (Sm06, 10 iku/Pahuṣum), II/2, 160 (H11, 18 iku/Pahuṣum), 187 (H16, 3 iku/ša- Našuriš), 249 (H32, 4 iku +/ša-Ninkarrak), II/5, 610 (H20?, 18 iku/Pahuṣum), 824 (-, -/Pahuṣum)
  • Ḫuzālatum nadītum), daughter of Sumuraḫ: MHET II/2, 179 (H15, 6 iku/Saškum), 193 (H17, 4 iku/Nagûm), 207 (H22, 6 iku/Saškum), 237? (H30, 4 iku/birit nārim), 260 (H35, 6 iku/ša-Amkanum), 261? (H35, 4 iku/Nagûm), 283 (H40, 4 iku/Nagûm), 287? (H40, mala maṣû/ Saškum), 295 (H41, 4 iku/Haṣārum), II/3, 428 (Si15, 4 iku/-), II/5, 749 (H?, 6 iku/ Saškum), 762 (-, mala mas:û/Saškum), 779 (-, 6 iku/ Saškum), 796 (-, 6 iku/a.gàr, 800 (-, 6 iku/Saškum), 813 (-, 4 iku/Ebirtum), 827 (-, 3 iku+/Biīt nārim)
  • Ina-libbi-eršet (nadītum), daughter of Warad-ilišu: MHET II/4, 506 (Aṣ04, 7 iku/a.gàr 0.1.3 iku.e), 514 (Aṣ08, 6 iku/še.gi6), 555 (Aṣ17+b, x iku/Bu[ … ]), II/5, 736 (-, -, -)
  • Kuzābatum, daughter of Nūr-Šamaš: [419] (Si11, 6 iku/Haganum), 719 (-, 6 iku/Haganum), 780 (-, 6 iku/Haganum)
  • Lamassi (nadītum), daughter of Iddin-Sîn: MHET II/2, 139(?)[33] (H01, x+2 iku/Gula), 262 (H35, mala maṣû/, II/3, 351 (Si01, 3 iku/ a.gàr Gula), 362 (Si02, 30 sar/-), 363 (Si02, mala mas:û/-), 371 (Si03, 1/2 šu.ši/-), 373 (Si03, 1 iku/-), 375 (Si09, 3 iku/a.gàr, 513 (Si01, 3 iku/a.gàr Gula)
  • Mannatum (nadītum), daughter of Yassi-El: MHET II/2, 175 (H14, 18 iku/a.gàr Martu), 208 (H22, mala mas:û/-), II/5, 583 (H?, 8 iku/?), 715 (H?, -/a.gàr Martu)
  • Masmaratum (nadītum), daughter of Ahušina: MHET II/2, 148 (H7, mala maṣû/Mahana), 174 (H14, 6 iku/Mahana), 177 (H15, mala maṣû/Mahana), 185 (H15, 6 iku/Mahana), II/3, 429? (Si15, 7 iku/-), II/5, 712 (-, 6 iku/Mahana), 741 (-, 6 iku/Mahana), 771 (-, ?-/Mahana), 804 (-, 3 iku/Piti[…]), 807 (-, 7 iku/Saškum), 811 (-, 6 iku/)
  • Narāmtum, daughter of Šamaš-tillassu: MHET II/2, 219 (H26, mala mas:û/-), 254 (H33, 3 iku/Šalim-bēlī), II/5, 687 (Sm03, mala mas:û/Huba)
  • Ruttum (nadītum), daughter of Hammurabi: MHET II/2, 204 (H21, 12 iku/a.gàr Sumuqan [dGIR]), 209 (H24, 14 iku/Gizanum), 212  (H24, a.šà umaškanum mala mas:û/gú ud.kib.nun(ki) (only in the case)), II/3, 441 (case) (Si25?, 18 iku/ Appaya)
  • Ruttum (nadītum), daughter of Iṣi-Qatar[34]: MHET II/2, 273 (H38, 19 iku/Pahuṣum), 274 (H38, 6 iku/ša-Amkanum), 302 (H42, 12 iku/Lugal.sag.íla), 306 (H42, 18 iku/Pahuṣum), 312 (H43, 9 iku/erased), II/3, 368 (Si2, 19 iku/ Pahuṣum), 397 (Si6, 15 iku/Gizanum), 443(Si26, 18 iku/Pa[huṣum]), II/5, 612 (H?, 18 iku/dAppaya), 744 (Si?, 15 iku/ Gizanum), 772 (H?, ? iku/Bura)
  • Šāt-Aya (nadītum), daughter of Ikūn-pî appearing:
    • as sole lessor: MHET II/2, 278 (H40, 7 iku/Buša), 279 (H40, 3 iku/-), 289 (H40, 3 iku/Buša)[35], II/5, 644 (H?, 3 iku?/Buša)
    • as co-lessor with Geme-Aya[36], another nadītum-woman and daughter of Nūr-ilišu[37]: 280 (H40, 7 iku/Buša). (Šāt -Aya and Geme-Aya in MHET II/2, 213, 259, 265, 269, 271, 291, 293, 310 are not included here, because it is not certain that they are identical with the two women in MHET II/2, 280.)
  • Šî-Lamassi, daughter of Enlil-Malik: MHET II/3, 406 (Si07, 9iku/Ašlatum), 399 (Si06, 9 iku/Ašlatum), 411 (Si08, 9iku/Ašlatum)

Of these twenty-two prominent (nadītum)women only five appear in Harris’ “Biographical Notes on the nadītum-women of Sippar”, JCS 16, 1962, 1-12, namely Amat-Šamaš, daughter of Sîn-iddinam, Ḫuššutum, daughter of Sîn-puṭram, Ina-libbi-eršet, daughter of Warad-ilišu, Mannatum, daughter of Yassi-El and Narāmtum, daughter of Šamaš -tillassu.[38]

Most of the names of the twenty-two prominent (nadītum-)women listed above were culled, thought not exclusively, from British Museum’s collection with the register number Bu 91-5-9, an overwhelming part of which is said to have come from Tell ed-Der (G. Kalla, ZA 89, 1999, p. 222). They are Amat-kallātum (nadītum), daughter of Šamaš-ilum, Amat-Šamaš (nadītum), daughter of Mašum, Amat-Šamaš (nadītum), daughter of Sîn-iddinam, Amat-Šamaš, daughter of Warad-Šamaš, Bēlessunu (nadītum), daughter of Kazatum (MHET II/ 2, 309 is from Bu 94-1-5), Eli-erēssa (nadītum), daughter of Akiyatum, Eli-erēssa (nadītum), daughter of Sîn-abušu, Erišti-Aya, daughter of Nabī-ilišu, Erišti-Aya, daughter of Bununum, Huššutum (nadītum), daughter of Sîn-puṭram (MHET II/ 2, 160 and MHET II/5, 610 are from Bu 94-1-5), Huzālatum (nadītum), daughter of Sumurah, Ina-libbi-eršet (nadītum), daughter of Warad-ilišu, Kuzābatum, daughter of Nūr-ilišu (MHET II/5, 780 is from Bu 81-5-9), Lamassi, daughter of Iddin-Sîn, Mannatum (nadītum), daughter of Yassi-El, Masmaratum (nadītum), daughter of Ahušina, Ruttum (nadītum), daughter of Īṣi-Qatar (MHET II/2, 302 II/3, 368, II/5, 612 are from Bu 94-1-15), and Šî-Lamassi, daughter of Enlil-Malik. Only Šāt -Aya (nadītum), daughter of Ikūn-pî is culled from the texts in AH 82-9-18 which are said to have come from Abu Ḥabba (G. Kalla, ZA 89, 1999, 219).  The rest of the names are culled from Bu 89-10-14 (Aya-tallik [nadītum], daughter of Ahulap-Šamaš and Narāmtum, daughter of Šamaš-tillassu) or Bu 92-5-16, 92-7-9, 94-1-15 (Ruttum [nadītum], daughter of Hammurabi) that contain tablets from Abu Ḥabba as well as Tell ed-Der.

Why did many of the records of contract of nadītum-women involving field leasing apparently come from Tell de-Der (Sippar-Amnanum) and not from Abu Ḥabba where the cloister (gagûm) is supposed to have been located? G. Kalla suggests that these records of contract were kept not in respective nadītum- women’s houses in the cloister (gagûm) but in the houses of their fathers, brothers or uncles[39]. This is yet to be proved, but the suggestion is worth taking seriously.

7. Comments on some individual nadītum-women

(1) We note that eight of these(nadītum-)women leased more than two fields as lessor on separate lease contracts in the same year[40] (Chart II).
Thus, Ḫuzālatum, daughter of Sumuraḫ, leased a field of 6 iku to Narām-ilišu (MHET II/2, 260) and another field of 4 iku to Šamaš-muballiṭ (MHE II/2, 261) in Hammurabi’s 35th year. She again leased a field of 4 iku to Sîn-iqīšam (MHET II/2, 283) and a field of mala maṣû to Elmēšum (MHET II/2, 287) in Hammurabi’s 40th year. MHET II/ 2, 261 and MHET II/2, 287 do not give the patronym of Ḫuzālatum, but it is possible that Ḫuzālatum referred to in both of these texts is the same nadītum- woman as in the other two texts. Furthermore, Ḫuzālatum had at least a total of four fields for leasing in four different irrigation districts (a.gàr/ugārum), namely ša-Amkānim (MHET II/ 2, 260), Saškum (MHE II/2, 179, 207 and 287), and Nagûm (MHE II/2, 193, 261 and 283) and Ḫaṣārru (MHET II/2, 295) and additional field in the “land between the canals” (MHET II/2, 237) during the period of Hammurabi’s 15th to 41st year.

Chart II

Name of lessor



Location of Field

Amat-Šamaš, d. of Sîn-iddinam


9 iku



9 iku


Eli-erēssa, d. of Sîn-abušu


4 iku

Birīt nārim


6 iku


Erišti-Aya, d. of Nabī-ilišu


mala maṣû

a.gàr GAL


mala maṣû

Huzālatum, d. of Sumurah


4 iku



6 iku



4 iku



mala maṣû


Masmarātum, d. of Ahušina


mala maṣû



6 iku


Ruttum, d. of Hammurabi


14 iku



mala maṣû

Ruttum, d. Īṣi-Qatar


19 iku



6 iku



12 iku



18 iku


Šāt -Aya, d. of Ikūn-pî


7 iku



3 iku


3 iku


(2) Three different nadītum-women, called Ruttum are attested in our texts. Of them, Ruttum, daughter of Hammurabi[41] appears at least in four field lease contracts. In Hammurabi’s 24th year, Ruttum, daughter of Hammurabi leased 14 iku of field in the irrigation district of Gizanum to Wardum[42], son of Šamaš-rabi (MHET II/2, 209), while leasing another field on the bank of Sippar (or Euphrates?) as well as a threshing site (mala maṣû) to Nirāḫ-bāni in the same year (MHET II/2, 212). She had four fields in four different irrigation districts, namely dGIR (Sumuqan) (MHET II/2, 204), Gizanum (MHET II/2, 209), the bank of Sippar (gú, MHET II/2, 212 [case]) and near the canal Appaya (MHET II/3, 441) during the period from Hammurabi 21st year to Samsuiluna 25th year(?).

(3) However, the most prominent is Ruttum, daughter of Īṣi-Qatar. She appears at least in 11 field lease contracts. This Ruttum also leased a field of 19 iku in the irrigation district of Paḫuṣum to Akšak-iddinam and 6 iku of field in the irrigation district of ša-Amkanim to Ibni-Martu both in Hammurabi’s 38th year. Four years later (Hammurabi’s 42nd year), she leased a field of 12 iku in the irrigation district of Lugal-sagila to Ilšu-bani, head of the merchants (PA dam.gar.meš) and a field of 18 iku in the irrigation district of Pahuṣum to Šamaš-tappê on two separate contracts. Ruttum, daughter of Īṣi -Qatar, is noted to have owned large tracts of field (18~19 iku) in the irrigation districts of Paḫuṣum (MHET II/2, 273, 306, II/3, 368 and 443) and near the canal Appaya (MHET II/5, 612).

(4) The last nadītum-woman I would like to comment on is Šāt-Aya. She concluded two separate field lease contracts with Damiq-Marduk (MHET II/2, 278 [7 iku]) and Aham-nirši (MHET II/2, 289 [3 iku]) respectively as sole lessor and another as co-lessor with Geme-Aya (280 [7 iku]) in Hammurabi’s 40th year with the same tenant, Damiq-Marduk. The field of 3 iku (MHET II/2, 289) and the fields of 7 iku each (MHET II/2, 278 and 280) are located in the same irrigation district (a.gàr Buša). If the acreage of two fields of 7 iku each in a.gàr Buša are indeed two different tracts of field in the same irrigation district, it means that Damiq- Marduk rented out three different fields, all of which were in the same irrigation district (a.gàr Buša), on three separate lease contracts in the same year from the same nadītum-woman except in MHET II/2, 280 where she appears as co-lessor with Geme-Aya. In some of the field lease contracts, more than one person are mentioned as lessees, but it is exceptional that a field lease contract mentions more than one lessor. The relationship of the two nadītum-women is not known.
The strangest thing with MHET II/2, 278 and 280 is the difference in the amount of rent for the fields of the same acreage (7 iku) in the same irrigation district. In MHET II/2, 278 it is stated that the rent is 2 gur (about 600 liters) of barley, while MHET II/2, 280 states that the rent is 8 gur (about 2400 liters) of barley, four times more than that of MHET II/2, 278, although the lessee, the date of the contract, and the terms of lease (“He rented out a field for cultivation at the time of opening of an irrigation ditch [eqlam ana errešūtim ina piti atappim ušēṣi]”) are the same. At the moment, I have no explanation for this difference.


Among the types of the Old Babylonian real estate texts from Sippar published in MHET II/1-6 that of the field lease contracts with a (nadītum-)woman as lessor is by far the most numerous. Of the total of 972 texts 276 belong to this type according to my count. On the basis of the examination of these texts the following observations are made.

            1. The two popular sizes of the fields for leasing are 3 iku and 6 iku, as far as MHET II/2 is concerned, although 18 iku or 19 iku are found in four contracts.

            2. The rent is fixed to one third of the yield in about 22% of the 108 field lease contracts dated to the reigns of Hammurabi and Samsuiluna, but in the other contracts the rent varies greatly. However, it may be noted that in about 28% of the contracts the rent is set higher to 50 to 75% of the yield.

            3. If a nadītum-woman has no income other than rent which is paid in kind and if 720 liters of barley is needed for a person to subsist for a year, as posited by M. Stol, she must have at least 5.4 iku of field under cultivation in any given year on the basis of the yield rate of 400 liters per iku. This would mean that in the alternate fallow system she must have, at least, a total of 10.8 iku (5.4 iku×2 ) of fields in two or more irrigation districts (See the observation No. 7 below).

            4. Normally a lease contract of a field is for one year. Based on the 40 lease contracts in MHET II/2-3 dated to the reigns of Hammurabi and Samsuiluna that contain not only a year name but also a month name, 62.5% (25 field lease contracts) of them are concluded during the period from Month I (March/ April) to Month III (May/June), and the remaining contracts are concluded rather late for the agricultural season in Months IV to VI or early presumably for the coming agricultural season in Months VIII to XII.

            5. Many of the lessees seem to be rather affluent individuals, as noted by R. Harris, Ancient Sippar, Leiden, 1975, p. 223.

            6. There are twenty-two nadītum-women who appear as lessor in three or more field lease contracts published in MHET II/1-6. Strangely only five of them appear in R. Harris’ “Biographical Notes on the nadītum women of Sippar” JCS 16, 1962, pp. 1-12.

            7. The nadītum-women are suspected to have had two or more fields for leasing in different irrigation districts or locations over a period of time, as the cases of Amat-kallātuim(?), Amat-Šamaš (d. of Warad-Šamaš), Aya-tallik(?), Bēlessunu, Eli-erēssa (d. of Sîn-abušu), Erišti-Aya (d. of Nabīi-ilišu), Erišti-Aya (d. of Bununum)(?), Ḫuššutum, Ḫuzālatum, Ina-libbi-eršt, Narāmtum, Ruttum (d. of Hammurabi), Ruttum (d. of Īṣi-Qatar) suggest. This pattern of ownership of fields must have been related with the alternate fallow system that was practiced in ancient Babylonia (See, however, our Excursus below).

            Šāt -Aya, on the other hand, is known to have owned independently or with another nadītum-woman at least three presumably different fields within the same irrigation district of a.gàr Buša and concluded three separate field lease contracts in Hammurabi’s 40th year regarding these fields. It is not known at the moment whether Šāt -Aya had a field or more elsewhere.

An Excursus
Irrigation Districts (a.gàr/ugārum) and the Alternate Fallow System

So far in my discussion I have assumed that the cereal cultivation system in Sippar area was under the alternate fallow system.[43] The fact that fields of a number of (nadītum-)woman were located in two or more irrigation districts, as we have just seen, can be better understood with the alternate fallow system in mind.

I also noted above that in a text from Sippar-Amnānum dated to Ammi-ditana’s year 34 (MHET II/6, 894), 9 out of 10 bā’irum-soldiers were allotted a total of 12 iku of fields each as subsistence allotments (ṣibtu-fields) located in two to four different irrigation districts. It would be easier to allot a total of 12 iku of ṣibtum-fields to each bā’irum-soldier in one batch in one or another irrigation district, but the fact is that the 12 iku of ṣibtum-fields allotted to each soldier were located in two to four different irrigation districts. The practice of alternate fallow must have been one of the reasons that necessitated such a way of allotting ṣibtum-fields,[44] because the alternate fallow system was practiced with an irrigation district as a unit. If one’s ṣibtum-field or fields are found only in one irrigation district, one would have to be idle and thus without harvest in the year following the harvest.

Let me quote Article 58 of the Code of Hammurabi (CH).

If, after the small cattle come up from the irrigation district (ugārum) when the pennants announcing the termination of pasturing have been wound around the main city-gate, the shepherd releases small cattle (ṣēnum) into a field and allows the small cattle to graze in the field—the shepherd shall guard the field in which he allowed them to graze and at the harvest he shall measure and deliver to the owner of the field 60 gur’s (=about 18.000 liters) of barley per 1 bùr (18 iku=about 6.48 ha)[45].

CH 58 and the preceding CH 57 have to be read in connection with the practice of allowing small cattle (sheep and goats) to graze young shoots of barley of 45-60 days old in the field.[46] In the case of CH 58, the shepherd allows his herd to graze “illegally” in a field of one particular field-owner. However, CH 58 seems to indicate that the practice to allow a herd to graze in a barley field or fields is done by the irrigation district (a.gàr/ugārum) as a unit. In other words, fields in this irrigation district are all sown with none in fallow. In my view, CH 53-54 also seem to suggest that farmers who have their fields in the same irrigation district, i.e. members of the irrigation district (mārū ugārim), cultivate their respective fields in the same cycle of cultivation and fallow.

However, some of our field lease contracts pose questions on our assumption. For example, three lease contracts were concluded for two (MHET II/2, 166) or three years (MHET II/2, 142, and 148). Does it follow that the lessees of these contracts cultivated the fields for two or three years continuously possibly because of the poor conditions of the fields they rented?[47]

There are other field lease contracts that pose a more serious question on our assumption of the alternate fallow system. Let us take up seven lease contracts of fields, all located in the irrigation district of Buša, and dated to various regnal years of Hammurabi: MHET II/2, 227 (Ha 27), 265 (Ha 37), 271 (Ha 38-I), 278 (Ha 40), 280 (Ha 40), 289 (Ha 40-IV), 291 (Ha 40-VI). (The Arabic figure in brackets indicates year, while the Roman numeral indicates month.) Of these seven lease contracts, five are dated to Hammurabi’s even regnal years, but two to odd regnal years. If the alternate fallow system was practiced in Sippar, the irrigation district of Buša should have been in cultivation only in even regnal years. However, MHET II/2, 227 and 265 are dated to Hammurabi’s odd regnal years. These contracts might have been written early for the coming year (i.e. Hammurabi’s even year) toward the end of the passing year (for examples, in Month XI or Month XII). However, the possibility cannot be excluded that the two field lease contracts (MHET II/2, 278 and 280) that are dated to Hammurabi’s even regnal years might have been written early for the coming year. So the question must remain unsolved.

Again, there are four lease contracts involving the irrigation district of Mahana, namely MHET II/2, 148 (H 7), 174 (H14-V), 177 (H15) and 185 (H15-XII). One of them is dated to Month V of Hammurabi’s 14th year, thus indicating that the irrigation district of Mahana was sown in Hammurabi’s even years, but the remaining 3 lease contracts involving the irrigation district of Mahana are dated to Hammurabi’s odd years. Thus, these 4 lease contracts do not seem to support the idea that the irrigation district constitutes a unit for the alternate fallow system. However, one lease contract (MHET II/2, 185) is dated to Ha 15-XII. This would mean that MHET II/2, 185 was written early toward the end of the passing year for the agricultural work in the coming year, namely Ha 16. Similarly, the remaining two lease contracts (MHET II/2, 148 and 177) may theoretically also have been written early for Hammurabi’s regnal years 8 and 16 respectively. In that case these 4 lease contracts do not necessarily refute our idea that an irrigation district constituted a unit for the alternate fallow system. To sum up, our data regarding a.gàr/ugārum (irrigation district) do not support nor refute the idea that it was a unit for the alternate fallow system. Unfortunately, I have to let this matter rest unsolved at this point.

[1] This paper is a combined and revised version of my two earlier papers read at the second (June 25, 2013) and third (September 3, 2013) REFEMA workshops.

[2] L. Dekiere, Old Babylonian Real Estate Documents from Sippar in the British Museum, Mesopotamian History and Environment, Texts, Vol. II, Ghent, 1994 (Parts 1-2), 1995 (Parts 3-4), 1996 (Part 5) and 1997 (Part 6). For a review of MHET II, see E. Woestenburg, AfO 44/45 (1997/98), 349-60. See also G. Kalla, “Die Geschichte der Entdeckung der altbabylonischen Sippar Archive,” ZA 89, 1999, 201-226.

[3] L. Dekiere, Introduction of MHET II/5, Ghent, 1996.

[4] The figure in the bracket shows the number of the texts published in each part of MHET II in which a woman leases or purchases a field (a.šà).

[5] R. Harris, Ancient Sippar: A Demographic Study of an Old-Babylonian City (1894-1595 B.C.), 217-220 and 229-233.

[6] “field as much as is found”.

[7] “field as much as his hand can reach”.

[8] MHET II/3, 366 is one exception. Here, Nanna-ibila-mansum apparently rented a field of 1 iku for cultivation from a woman named Amat-Šamaš for the rent of 1 gur (300 liters) of barley.

[9] For example, MHET II/2, 138, 144, $157$, 187, 194, 198, 213, 254, 259, 269, 279, 289, 296, 304, and 309.

[10] For example, MHET II/2, 156, 166, 174, 178, 179, 185, 192, 196, 201, 207, 260, 274, 293 and 310.

[11] MHET II/2, 160, 306, 323 (all 18 iku), and 273 (19 iku).

[12] Joan. Oates, “Land Use and Population in Prehistoric Mesopotamia,” L’archéologie de l’Iraq du début de l’époque néolithique à 333 avant notre ère, Paris, 1980, p. 307.

[13] J. Oates in L’archéologie de l’Iraq, Paris, 1980, p. 307.

[14] C. Clark and M. Haswell, Economics of Subsistence Agriculture, London, 1970, p. 81 (See E. C. Stone and D. I. Owen, Adoption in Old Babylonian Nippur and the Archive of Mannum-mešu-liṣṣur, Winona Lake, 1991, p. 9).

[15] 536 KWE is divided by a conversion rate of 1.33 (1 KWE = 1.33 sìla). This conversion rate is based on the data given in Table 3 in Stone-Owen, Adoption, p. 8 corrected by M. Stol and S. P. Vleeming (eds.), The Care of the Elderly in the Ancient Near East, Leiden, 1998, p. 67, n. 33.

[16] M. Stol in M. Stol and S. P. Vleeming (eds.), The Care of the Elderly in the Ancient Near East, Leiden, 1998, p. 64.

[17] M. Stol in The Care of the Elderly, p. 69, n. 39. However, K. Maekawa says that an expected yield of barley from a field of 1 b­ùr is 30 gur, in other words 500 liters per 1 iku of a field, based on his study of Ur III agricultural texts (see no. 21 below). I will use M. Stol’s figure for calculation, thinking that the yield per iku in the Old Babylonian period dropped slightly due to increased salinization.

[18] Please note that in the alternate fallow system a field produces a yield only every other year.

[19] Some nadītum-women seem to have lived with her slave-woman or women in the cloister (cf. MHET II/5 816).

[20] MHET II/6, 894.

[21] MHET II/6, 894. This text has been studied by K. De Graef. See De Graef, “An account of the redistribution of land to soldiers in late Old Babylonian Sippar-Amnānum,” JESHO 45, 2002, pp. 141-78.

[22] MHET II/2, 150, 151, 155, 177, 179, 185, 195, 207, 208, 228, 237, 262, 270, 272, 283, 285, 287, 295, 296, 304, 309; II/3, 346, 348, 350, 360, 361, 363, 364, 365, 385, 395, 403, 411.

[23] MHET II/2, 174, 192, 193, 194, 213, 247, 279, 289; II/3, 376, 377, 419, 441.

[24] MHET II/2, 157, 187, 196, 201, 229, 232, 235, 236, 244, 249, 259, 260, 269, 274, 288, 302, 307; II/3, 352, 366, 380, 428, 435.

[25] R. Harris says, “The ratio paid to the owner was usually 6 gur of barley per 18 gán (or 18 iku), though the ratio is often slightly higher—8 gur per 18 gán (or 1 bur), or even about 1 gur per gán.”. She adds further, “It appears that the owner was favored at the beginning of the reign of Hammu-rapi, and perhaps slightly before and after. After this the owner’s share became more standardized: one-third of the yield.” (R. Harris, Ancient Sippar, 1975, p. 225)

[26] We even find a field lease contract (MHET II/2, 305) according to which Erišti-Aya, the owner of the field, requires her tenant to give 4 gur (=about 1200 liters) of barley for a field of 50 sar (1/2 iku). This means an impossible rate of 600%!

[27] This requirement is probably related to the compulsory use of measures authorized by Šamaš temple. However, is it possible to conjecture that a parcentage of the rents of nadītum-women’s fields constituted a part of the revenue of Šamaš temple?

[28] I cannot reconcile these two- or three-year contracts with the alternate fallow system that I believe was in practice in Babylonia.

[29] Month I: MHET II/2, 144, 201, 263, 271, 271, 273, 302, 312, MHET II/3, 397 and 404. Month II: MHET II/2, 195, 247, 274, 288, 307, 313, MHET II/3, 350, 351 and MHET II/6, 857. Month III: MHET II/2, 173, 196, 204, 212, 222 and MHET II/3, 443.

[30] R. Harris, Ancient Sippar, 1975, 223.

[31] H27 stands for Hammurabi’s 27th regnal year. Likewise, Si for Samsuiluna, Sm for Sîn-muballiṭ.

[32] This text may be excluded here, because the field of 50 sar (0.5 iku) is leased out for planting vegetable (ana šiknim ušēṣi) and not barley.

[33] MHET II/2, 139 is included here in spite of the lack of her patronym, because the field is in the irrigation district of Gula as in the other two texts.

[34] L. Dekiere transcribes Izi-gatar (MHET II/2, p. 266).

[35] Šāt -Aya appears as co-lessor with another nadītum-woman, Nišī-īnišu in a field lease contract (MHET II/2, 198).

[36] The name of this woman is most often spelled as géme-(d)a-a (MHET II/2, 227, 265, 271, 280 and 291), but gémemeia (MHET II/2, 259 and 310), ge-me-(d)a-a (MHET II/2, 213 and 269) and ge-me-ia (MHET II/2, 293) also appear. It is proble that these variant spellings stand for the name of the same nadītum-woman and that the name was pronounced Geme-Aya rather than Amat-Aya (cf. MHET II/2, 265).

[37] See MHET II/2, 265. However, the name of the father of Geme-Aya is also spelled as nu-úr-ì-lí (MHET II/2, 280).

[38] In “Biographical Notes” of R. Harris, all the nadītum-women that appear in three or more Old Babylonian Sippar texts available at the time of publication of her article are listed.

[39] G. Kalla, “Die Geschichte der Entdeckung der altbabylonischen Sippar-Archive,” ZA 89, 1999, 213.

[40] Lamassi, daughter of Iddin-Sîn is not included in the chart, because one of the two fields she leased in Samsuiluna year 2 was for planting leek (eqlam ana šikni ušēṣi) and not for planting barley(MHET II/3, 362). She again leased two small plots to two different pairs of tenants in Samusuiluna year 3 for planting leek (eqlam ana šikin mušarī/ and šikni ušēṣû) (MHET II/3, 371 and 373).

[41] I presume that Hammurabi here is only a namesake of King Hammurabi.

[42] Wardum is called rá.gab (rakbû) (“messenger”) in this text.

[43] Sh. Yamamoto, “On the Establishment of the ‘Agricultural Year’ through Pre-Sargonic Texts of Lagash,” Shirin 62, pp. 165–214 (in Japanese); Sh. Yamamoto, “The ‘Agricultural Year’ in Pre-Sargonic Girsu-Lagash,” ASJ 1, 1979, pp. 85–97 and ASJ 2, 1980, pp. 169–87; P. J. LaPlaca and M. A. Powell, “The Agricultural Cycle and the Calendar at Pre-Sargonic Girsu,” BSA 5, 1990, pp. 75–82 for Pre-Sargonic period and M. Liverani, “The Shape of Neo-Sumerian Fields,” BSA 5, 1990, pp. 169. As for the alternate fallow system in mid-20th century Iraq, see P. Buringh, Soils and Soil Conditions in Iraq, Baghdad, 1960, p. 71 and p. 249; A. P. G. Poyck, Farm Studies in Iraq, Mededelingen van de landbouwhogeschool te Wageningen, 62 (1), Wageningen, 1962, p. 19 and p. 38; M. P. Charles, “Traditional Crop Husbandry in Southern Iraq 1900-1960,” BSA V, 1990, pp. 47–48 and pp. 60–61 and J. N. Postgate, “A Middle Tigris Village,” BSA 5, 1990, pp. 65–74.

[44] It is possible that there were good irrigation districts with a high yield and poor districts with a low yield. In such a situation, it may have been necessary to avoid unbalance of allotting all the ṣibtu-fields of one bā’irum-soldier either in a good irrigation district or in a poor one.

[45] This translation is based on that of M. T. Roth in her Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, SBL Writings from the Ancient World Series, Atlanta, 1995, pp. 92f.

[46] A. P. G. Poyck, Farm StudieSîn Iraq, Wageningen, 1962, p. 52; M. P. Charles, “Traditional Crop Husbandary in Southern Iraq,” BSA V, Cambridge, 1990, p. 61.

[47] Note the relatively low rates of the rent of the field of MHET II/2, 142 (18.8% of the yield in the first year and 37.5% in the second year) and that of the field of MHET II/2, 166 (only 12.5%). The possible existence of exceptions to the alternate fallow in the Pre-Sargonic period is suggested by Sh. Yamamoto (ASJ 2, 1980, pp. 176f.). For cases of continuous cultivation of the fields because of their poor yield in modern Iraq, see A. P. G. Poyck, Farm Studies in Iraq, Wageningen, 1962, pp. 38f.

(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 2

Women who played the role of interceder: Part 2

Eiko Matsushima

REFEMA 3rd workshop (September 4, 2013, Carqueiranne)

1.     Introduction

In my recent paper, read during the REFEMA Second Workshop on the 24th of June 2013 at Chuo University, Tokyo, I talked about women who played the role of interceder between her husband and other people. The main source of my idea was a number of references to the goddess, who was seen to ask her husband for the benevolence for the king (and/or his family) during the “Divine Marriage Ceremony” in first century Babylonia and Assyria.

It seems significant that the spouse of a divine couple sometimes gave important suggestions to her husband and that the people expected her to be an interceder on their behalf. As well, in the Gilgamesh Epic, the standard version tablet VII shows Uta-Napishti’s wife (marhītu) giving advice to her husband that made him change his mind and enabled Gilgamesh to find the plant of life. Thus, in the religious or mythic sphere, women sometimes played a significant role as adviser to their husbands as well as interceders.

Though this feature is found exclusively in religious and mythic texts, we may perhaps infer some actual roles of women in human societies in Mesopotamia, especially in high society. Looking at some famous royal women in the first millennium Assyrian court, we discover a few queens whose deeds or memories are recorded in written materials. While the documents give no information as to a complete picture of their activities, the following was observed:

In Assyria, from the ninth to the seventh century BCE, eleven names of principal wives (MÍ.É.GAL/ MÍ/KUR=sēgallu) appear in the available records.[1] The women are indicated at times using the title ummi šarri (MÍ.AMA.MAN or AMA.LUGAL), “Queen Mother,” which is always accompanied by the name of the woman’s son, i.e. the actual king, as well as kallātu, which is always accompanied by the name of the father of her husband. For example, Sammuramat, wife of Šamši-Adad V (823-811 BCE) and mother of Adad-nerari III (810-783), is called kallāt Šulmanu-šarru (Shalmaneser: 858-824 BCE), Naquia/Zakutu, wife of Sennacherib (704-681 BCE) and mother of Esarhaddon (681-669 BCE) used the titles sēgallu, ummi šarri and kallātu (MÍ.É.GI4.A) Šarru-ukin. In both cases, the women obtained and maintained power as mother of the king.

We know only a few queens depicted with their husband. In the well-known garden scene on the bas-reliefs from the North Palace of Nineveh, Libbali-šarrat, the principal wife of Ashurbanipal can be found sitting in front of the king as his partner. It is worthy of note that she behaves here as spouse, not as mother. A letter written by a sister of Ashurbanipal, Libbali-šarrat also describes her: “You are a daughter-in-law (kallātu), the lady of the house of Assurbanipal, the crown prince of Esarhaddon.”[2]

Given the available evidence, I observed in my last paper that the system of the household has much to do with women’s status in first millennium Mesopotamia. One keyword was kallātu, which is used not only by Neo-Assyrian queens but also by some goddesses as one of their important epithets. Goddesses use also hīrtu as their title. It seems that a woman’s efficiency to her husband depends on her position as hīrtu as well as kallātu. In the present paper, I try to collect references to both hīrtu and kallātu and build on the earlier research.

2.     Observations

Looking at the two of the main titles of the goddesses, rtu and kallātu, it is important to first define their meaning. These Akkadian words are explained in the Chicago Assyrian Dictionaries 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).

Let us list these titles with the names of the goddesses. I am going to underline some key words by color pens as rtu, kallātu, etc.


1)     As rtu

Aja hīrtu narāmta-ka
“Aja, your beloved first wife”  BMS 10:23 and duplis., see Ebeling Handerhebung 50:126 (N/I 343a)

ana Aja hīrtu narāmti-šú   BBR No.1-20:104 and 107

[              hī]rtum ina bīt majjāli liqbi-ka
“May [Aja 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.

2)     As kallātu

Gilgameš Epic, tabl.III
[š]ī ai idūr-ka dAja kallāt lihassis-ka[3]
“May she not fear you, may Aya the Bride remind you”  (III 56)
šī ai id[ūr-ka dAja kallāt lihassis-ka]
“May she not fear[ you, may Aya the Bride remind you”]  (III 74)
šī ai <i>dūr-ka dAja kallāt lihassis-ka]
“May she not fear you, may Aya the Bride remind you”]  (III 86)

(In the texts from Sippar or mentioning Sippar, we find the followings)
PN ana DN kallātim ana kisalluhhi iddin
“She dedicated (the girl) PN to Aja, the wife, to serve as court sweeper  VAS 8 55:12 (OB)
Šamaš u Aja ka-al-la-tum … liballiţuka  CT 6 27a :4,  wr. É.GI4.A  YOS 2 64 :4(both OB letters)
ana … Aja kallātimltija  CT 32 xi 12 and 32 (NB, Cruc. Mon. Maništušu)
Aja kallātim rabītum narāmmat Šamaš  VAB 4 232 ii 13 (Nbn),

(in other inscris.)
Aja kallātumltum rabītum    Syria 32 17 iv 25 (Jahdunlim)
dAja kallāt ina sissikti(TÚG.SÍG)meš -šú ebbeti pāni(IGI)-ka likpur
mūšab Šamaš bēlu rabû u Aja kallātim narāmti-šu   CT 34 28 i 58
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 brighten your face, may she say you favorite (words) for me!”
VAB 4, 258 ii 19-20 (Nabonidus)
[dAja lip]šur É.GI4.A GAL-tum  Iraq 31 176:13 (lipšur-lit)

As for Aja, she is always called only as kallātu, and has no attribution to this title: not kallātu of someone or some temple, but simple kallātu or kallātum rabītum. I wonder if the English translation of this term “daughter-in-law” is convenient or not.


1)     As hīrtu

 [dTaš]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

Tašmetum hiīrat Nabium ina pān Nabium hā‘iri-šá lemutta-šú littasqir
“May Tašmētu, the spouse of Nabû, speak unfavourably of him in the presence of her husband Nabû”
SAA XII no.97 (=NARGE 37:ND 6207) 11’-r.1,
also SAA XII no.96 (=Iraq 19 135:ND 5550), r 4-5.

(Tašmētum) [ša]nukkat É.ŠÁR.RA t kiššūti AN [x x x m]alli-tu hīrat Nabû narāmti d[  ]
“Princesse of Ešarra, temple of the universe … she who beseeches, wige of Nabû, the beloved of …”  SAA III no.6 5-6 (=KAR 122)
hiīrti-i narāmte atti …
“You are my beloved wife … ”   ibid. 15

2)     As kallātu

Taštu kallāt Marduk   Biggs Šaziga 76:21 (SB inc.)

Tašmētu kalātum rabītu   Šurpu II 156

Tašmētum kalāt É. SAG.ÍLA   Streck Asb. 286 r. 14

3)     As hīrtu and kallātu

Tašmētum kallāt[u rabī] ina pān Nabû hā’i[ri-šá] amat-su lū tu[lammin] šimtu la ţābtú lu [tašim-šú] lā ţūb libbi ţūb [šīri lutaqbi]
“May Tašmētum, [great] daughter-in-law, vi[lify] him before Nabû, her spouse, may [she decree] an unpleasant fate for him and [grant] him neither peace of mind nor [body].
SAA XII no.95 (= Iraq 19 133:ND 5463) r.2-5.(NAleg.)

Tašmētum hīrat]šarhi Mu’ati apil Tutu kalāt [É. S]AG.ÍLA
“chosen wife of proud Mu’ati (i.e., Nabû), the first-born son of Tutu (Marduk), the daughter-in-law of Esagila  BMS 33:7, see Ebeling Handerhebung 124, cf. Craig ABRT 1 31 r.16)

Tašmētum kalāt É. [SAG.ÍL] hīratr bēl ilī  KAR 362:1 (hymn to Tašmētu)

We find in CTN IV (=D.J. Wiseman and J. Black, Literary Texts from the Temple of Nabû, Oxford 1996) no. 168 the following phrases.

(Taštu) kallāt É.SAG.ÍL É tašilati narāmti É.ZI.DA hīrat Nabû paqíd kiššati bēl gimri  (ii 42-43)
Taštum (iii 25 ……. ) ana Nabû hā’iri-kiru reštî šá É.SAG.GÍL abbūti şab-ti lišme siqria (iii 28-29)
Taštum bēlet hi-[     (iv 19)   ]…. ana Nabû hame‘ri-ki bēlu ašarēdu reš šá É.SAG.GÍL abbūti şab-ti qi-bi ba-ni-tí? liš-me (iv 22-24)
(Nanaja) ana Nabû hā’ir-ki abbūti şabti  (iv 49)

also Nanâja

ana Nanaja….. hīrat DN ….. narāmti (var. narāmat) rubûti-šu
“For Nanaja, …. the spouse of DN, beloved by DN’s royal majesty”  Borger, Esarh. 77 § 49:3

ana Nanaja…..hiīrat dMuzibsâ…narāmti rubûti-šu
“For Nanaja, …. the eminent spouse of the god Muzibsâ ….beloved of his majesty ….
RIMB 2, B.6.31.17, 3

dNanaja …..jâti mAN.ŠÁR-ŠEŠ.SUM.NA…. ina mahar dAG hā’iri-ki tizqar banīti balāţ ū rūti šebē littūtu ţūbi šīri u hu-ud lìb-bi ši-i-mi ši-ma-ti
“Nanaja ….. I am Esarhaddon, the prince who reveres you….. before the god Nabû, your husband, speak well of me, determine as my fate a long life, fullness of old age, good health and happiness’  …  ibid., 16-18

kallat É. SAG.ÍL … hirāt’ati narāmti Bēl AD!-[šú]
“The daughter-in-law of Esagil …[…], the spouse of Mūati, the beloved of Bēl [his] father
SAA III no.4 (= ABRT 1 54) ii 2’-3’ (hymn to Nanâ), cf.  also SBH p. 129 No.84:14f.

[é.g]i4.a dumu.sag.dUraš.a [gašan.z]i.da gašan.ka.téš,a,sì.ga.kex [gašan.g] gaš kal-lat mārtu rēštītu ša Ni[nurta] rubāt rēštītu Tašmētu x [x] rubāt rabītu bēltu dMIN (=Nanâ)
SBH p.65 r.13 and dupl.


 1)    As hīrtu

(Zarpanītu) hīrtu narāmti Marduk  KAR 58 r.25, also ibid. 32,

2)     As kallātu

[] é.gi4.a engur.ra:[ Zarpanīt]u kallāt apsî Weissbach Misc. No. 13:39 f. cf. SBH p. 129 No. 84:6f.

kallāt dEN.AN.KI … hīrat bēl ilī  A.419:1 (unpubl. Asuur text in Istanbul)  (CAD K.82a)

zi nin Nibruki.kex  é  en.dNu.nam.nir. kex : nīšrtika šarrat Nippuri kallātu rabītu ša bēli Nunamnir
“By the life of your wife, queen of Nippur, great daughter-in-law of the lord Enlil   LKA 77 iv 16 (inc.)

3)     As hīrtu and kallātu

kabtat šarrat dannat hamma[t h]īrat ilat bēlat … narāmti dTU.TU
“She(=Zarpanītu) is noble, queen, bride, mistress, (ruing) first wife, goddess and lady
ZA 4 248:13 (=Craig, ABRT 1 31:16) = SAA III no. 2 r.16-17

Zarpanītu… bēltum rabītum(GAL)tumrat dEN.BI.LU.LU kallāt dNU.D [ÍM.MUD]
“The great lady, the spouse of Enbilulu, the daughter-in-law of Nudimmud”
Craig, ABRT I 31 r.22= SAA III no. 2 r.22
cf. (Zarpanītu)… bēltum rabītum(GAL)tunarāmti dAMAR.UD …] ibid. r. 25


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’)


1)    As hīrtu

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

dNIN.LÍL hī-ti nammadi dAššur   cf. hīrtu narāmta-šú  Wiseman, Treaties 417
“Mulissu, the beloved spouse of Ashur”
AKA 62 iv 35, Tigl. I

mahar Ninlil … hīrtu narāmti Aššur
“Before Ninlil, the beloved wife of Assur”
Streck Asb 82 x 27

Ninlil šarrat hīrtu narāmti dEN.LÍL  BE 8 150:5 (NB leg.)

We never find, for now, an example of title kallātu used by Mulissu/Ninlil. 


1) As hīrtu

rat rašbat (said of Gula)  LKA 18:12 and 5

2)     As kallātu

Ninurta … Gula kallāt É.ŠÁR.RA  BBSt. No. 6 ii 39 (Nbk. I) cf. MDP 2 p. 113 ii 13

[nin.É,šu].me.[ša4] kù.mah.kex é.gi4.a dEn.líl.lá.kex ág,gá dU.ux(GIŠGAL).lu.kex : bēl[et É].ŠU.ME.[ŠA4 el]let şīrtu kallāt Enlil narāmtu Ninurta
“Pure ladyof the Ešumeša, exalted daughter-in-law of Enlil, beloves (wife) of Ninurta  KAR 73 r.5f and dups

cf. … é  Nungal, his (Enlil’s) daughter-in-law  PBS 1/2 104:12

mušītu kallā kuttumtu //kallā kuttumtu Gula
Gula the night, the veiled daughter-in-law (is) Gula (because no one may look upon her even from afar)  KAR 94:6 and dulp.(comm. to Maqlu I 2), see AfO 12 240 no. 26,
cf.  mušītu kallāt Anim   KAR 38:13 and r. 23 (inc.).

 (Nininsina/Gula) é.gi4.a  en.dNu.nam.nir.ra : kallātli Nunamnir  BA 5 644 No. 11:5f.

3)    As hīrtu and kallātu

mārāku kallāku hīrāku u abrakkāku   Or. NS 36 120:65 (Gula hymn)


rtultu na-ram-tu (var. na-ra-am-tum) dNIN.ZÍL.LÁ kallāt dNIN.UGU.BÀN.DA be-let Eridu “(Ištar), first wife and lady, beloved of DN, daughter-in-law of Ea, lady of Eridu
AfK I 26 r.i 32 (hymn to Šarrat-Nippuri);

Other goddesses

ana hīrti-šu elletim
“to his (Ea’s) pure spouse”   VAS 1 32 i.9


rtum šinnatka
“the spouse, your (Anu’s) equal ”  TCL 6 51:20) (cf. above??)


šūsumat hīr[tu] rabītu šitruhtu Ištar
the proud Ishtar, the first wife, is beautiful   BBR No. 61:7 (incipit of a hymn)


dNIN.GAL hīrtú nāramta-ka epšēt[i!-ia x x x x x x x x ]
“May Nikkal, your beloved spouse, [ look upon] my deeds [ with favour].
SAA XII no.90 (=Bauer Asb pl.21) r.4 (Asb recovers a stolen village for Sin).

MUL.MAR.GÍD.DA mārat Anim rabītu kallāt É.KUR
“Ursa major, great daughter of Anu, daughter –in-law of the Ekur  STT 73:77


dBa’u kallātum  ZA 45 204 iii 5 (Bogh. rit.)l


hīrti narāmti  SAA III np.32 r.18

said of humans : CAD H 200 : (only OB and lit.)


Anti’kus LUGAL.KUR.KUR …Astarkanikku hīrat-su šarrat
“ Antiochus, the emperor…Statonike, his consort, the queen”   5R 66 No. 2 ii 27.

míTašmētum-šarrat MÍ.É.GAL hīrtu narāmti-ia
« Tašmētu-šarrat, the queen, my beloved wife” ARRIM 4 32:15 (inscription on a lion from the doorway of Room LXV of the South-West palace of Kuyunjik (by Sennacherib):

3.     Instead of a conclusion

Instead of a conclusion, I will offer up some observations.

1)      The title kallātu is generally used with an attribution: either the name of the father of a woman’s husband, or the shrine name of her “father-in-law.” However, as in the case of Aja where we always find kallātu, and not kallātu of someone or some temple. This seems to put into question whether the English translation of the term “daughter-in-law” is in fact accurate.

2)      A lot of goddesses use hīrtu as one of their main titles. The term is understood as “the first wife who has equal status with the husband,” and is sometimes followed by narāmtu as hīrtu narāmtu “beloved wife.” With this qualification, the woman is able to give significant suggestions to her husband or intercede with him on behalf of her devotees.

Given the information available, it seems that the status of women in Mesopotamia depended mainly on the system of the household. Once she got and kept a position as “the first wife” and “kallātu” by marriage, she could make use of her efficiencies in her family. In the religious sphere, we can see this wherein the goddesses, who had the title of hīrtu and/or kallātu were effective in swaying their husband’s opinions, and playing their role of interceder. Perhaps, then, in the human world, a parallel phenomenon could be seen. Unfortunately, no references have been uncovered to substantiate the supposition.

However, in our REFEMA project, a lot of studies about the economic roles and activities of women have been presented, and will be presented during the next two workshops. One day in the very near future, then, we may be able to complete each other’s studies and gain a new view about the status of women in ancient Mesopotamia.

[1] S. L. Macgregor, Beyond Hearth and Home: Women in the public Sphere in Neo -Assyrian Society, SAAS XXI, Helsinki 2012, pp. 71-13.

[2] SAA XVI 28 (=ABL 308). As for diverse interpretations about this letter, see my previous paper (part one of the same title), note 11, as well as the references included in that note.

[3] George,2003: Ninsun, Gilgamesh’a mother, begins her long monologue by blaming on Šamaš her son’s desire for adventure and hopes that Aya will intercede with him on Gilgamesh’s behalf (45-57). Ninsun repeats her plea that Aya remind Šamaš to command her son to the care of the night (74-9). Further,she asks for Šamaš about the Gilgamesh’s journey, seeking Aya’s wifely intercession a third time (80-6)

Felt-makers, Doorkeepers, and Cantors in the Early Dynastic Lagash É-MÍ Corpus: Some Observations

1.     Preliminary

This paper examines three occupations: tug2-du8 “felt-makers” or rather “rope makers and braiders” (Waetzoldt 2007), i3-du8 “doorkeepers,” and gala “cantors” in which a small number of women worked as well as men. It will be seen that each of these occupations, as in the case of šu-i2 “barbers,” included both a group of landed men on one hand, and a group of landless men and women, who were often poorly compensated, on the other.

In this and previous papers, I have categorized people with land as belonging to higher socio-economic strata. These people occur in Type I ration lists, “barley rations given to those who were allocated prebend-land,[1] records of the allocation of prebend land (GAN2 šuku) and of leased land (GAN2 apin-la2), and/or records of assignments of obligatory work such as canal construction and maintenance. Landless workers received monthly barley rations: their names and the amount of barley they received were recorded in Type II lists “barley rations given to blind persons, carriers, and those registered in various tablets,”[2] Type III lists “barley rations given to women and children,” or Type IV lists “barley rations given to those of the households of royal children.”[3] The table below shows in what type of ration lists male and female members of šu-i2 “barbers,” tug2-du8 “felt-makers,” i3-du8 “doorkeepers,” and gala “cantors” can be found.

Types of ration lists and occupations

 Type of ration lists





 Type I

 še-ba lu2-šuku-dab5-ba





 Type II

še-ba igi-nu-du8 il2 ša3-dub-didli







 Type III

 še-ba geme2-dumu


 Type IV

 še-ba lu2-di4-di4-la-ne


M = male; F = female

*gišgal-si/ gala is referred to as a supervisor of weavers: see below 4.3 (2).

2.     tug2-du8 “felt-makers”

2.1. A pair of a male and a female felt-makers: E-ta-e11 and Nam-šita-mu-bi2-dug4

These two people were repeatedly listed as a pair of felt-makers in Type II ration lists (L6.9—UL5.3b),[4] as follows:

36/48 (sila3) e-ta-e11
36/48 (sila3) nam-šita-mu-bi2-dug4

Although Nam-šita-mu-bi2-dug4 is certainly a female name, no expression such as tug2-du8-munus can be found.[5] In contrast with female barbers (šu-i3-munus) and female doorkeepers (i3-du8-munus), there was no feminine gender-marking for tug2-du8 but we should note that the MUNUS sign was not always written even in the former two cases. Both E-ta-e11 and Nam-šita-mu-bi2-dug4, regardless of their gender, received the same amount of barley rations, which was either 36 sila or 48 sila. At some point during UL6, Nam-šita-mu-bi2-dug4 disappeared from the ration list while E-ta-e11 kept his job.[6]

2.2. Felt-makers from higher socio-economical strata

In Type I ration lists, tug2-du8 professionals were not referred to by their individual names. Records just tell us “how many tug2-du8 received how much amount of rations”: for example, “72 sila of barley for a felt-maker”;[7] “four felt-makers with 72 sila of barley each”;[8] “48 sila of barley for a felt-maker, three felt-makers with 42 sila of barley each.”[9] This kind of recording convention is also seen in texts dealing with work assignments or field allotments: for example, “2.5 gi (of canal maintaining work assigned to) the felt-maker”;[10] “4 ¼ iku of prebend-land (allotted to) the felt-maker.”[11] Nevertheless we can collect over ten personal names of felt-makers. We will now take a closer look at one of them, named Al-la, who seems to be the most prominent,.

2.2.1. Al-la tug2-du8

DP 219, dated to L4, recorded that a ram was slaughtered for Bara2-ir-nun, wife of the felt-maker Al-la, in the kitchen when she gave birth to a child.[12] This draws our attention because it reminds us of another similar record: that of Bara2-nam-tara, wife of Lugalanda, who gave birth to a daughter (Munus-sa6-ga) in the same year (Nik 1 209 and DP 218). These are only two women for whom records of their giving birth have been preserved in the ED Lagash corpus. So who was this Bara2-ir-nun, who received as much attention as the queen?

We know that Bara2-ir-nun was already married to Al-la in L2. A document dating from that year listed her as the wife of Al-la and being among the mašdaria-gift-givers.[13] Her husband Al-la is most likely to be identified with Al-la the felt-maker.

In the documents dating from before her marriage, we can spot her among Lugalanda’s sisters,[14] who were also lukur-priestesses at the same time[15] (Steinkeller 1981:84-85, n. 47).

In the two documents where Bara2-ir-nun was referred to as a lukur, receiving 72 sila of barley and 72 sila of emmer (RTC 61 iii 8-9 and DP 134 iii 3-4), her future husband Al-la the felt-maker was also listed. One of these documents (DP 134 rev. ii after the break) recorded that he was given 36 sila of barley and 36 sila of emmer, half of her rations.[16] We know that he cultivated a leased land, and that 840 sila was his še-gub-ba “Gerstenabgabe.”[17] We can safely conclude that the felt-maker Al-la, who married a sister of the ruler, was himself belonged to the upper echelon of society.

3.     i3-du8 “doorkeepers”

3.1. Male and female doorkeepers

12 male and three female doorkeepers were mentioned by name in Type II and other ration lists, in which four to ten people—sometimes only men and sometimes a mixed group of men and women—worked at a given time.

3.1.1. Female doorkeepers

Three female doorkeepers, Nam-šita-mu-bi2-dug4, Nin-tigix-ni-dug3, and Nin-en-še3-nu-kar2-kar2 are attested.[18]

Nam-šita-mu-bi2-dug4 and her child daughter are referred to in:

(1) A barley ration list of “the personnel of prince-ship of the god Igalim” (lu2 nam-dumu dig-alim-ka) dating from UL1:[19] Nam-šita-mu-bi2-dug4, here abbreviated as Nam-šita, received 24 sila, and her daughter received 12 sila.

(2) A wool ration list dating from UL1[20]: Nam-šita received 3 mina and her daughter received ½ mina.

(3) Two emmer-flour ration lists of “the friends of royal children” (ušur3 nam-dumu) dating from UL2[21] and UL3:[22] she received 18 sila in both lists. These seem to indicate that Nam-šita-mu-bi2-dug4 and her work were at some point related to the household of royal children.[23]

(4) Type II barley ration lists dating from UL2.8b to UL6.4b[24]: she received either 18 or 24 sila, and her daughter received 12 sila.

Nam-šita-mu-bi2-dug4 was joined by Nin-tigix-ni-dug3 (the earliest attestation of this is UL3.6b) and these two women were listed side by side with the gender marking “(they are) women” (munus-me), immediately following their male counterparts (nita-me) (the latest attestation is UL5.3b).[25] Her ration was 18 sila.

The third female doorkeeper who joined the group was Nin-en-še3-nu-kar2-kar2. She was recorded, for a while (UL4.7b—UL6.8b), as an orphan living with the doorkeeper igi-dba-ba6-še3[26] and, lastly in the ration list dating from UL6.12b,[27] as female doorkeeper (i3-du8-munus-am6). Her ration was also 18 sila.

3.1.2. Male doorkeepers

Of 12 male doorkeepers attested in the Type II ration lists, I will discuss Amar-šuba3, Nam-mah(-ni), Nig2-gur11-kur-ra, and Ur-dinanna, in what follows.

(1) Amar-šuba3 was the only doorkeeper in the extant Type II lists who received 36 sila of barley,[28] and was placed first among this section of doorkeepers (L6.9b-L6.12b).[29]

(2) Nam-mah(-ni) and Nig2-gur11-kur-ra occupied the second and the third place respectively, while Amar-šuba3 seems to have been in charge. After Amar-šuba3 dropped out from the list, Nam-mah(-ni) in turn ascended to the head, and Nig2-gur11-kur-ra rose to the second place (UE2b—UE6b).[30] Later, the order of these two was reversed, with Nig2-gur11-kur-ra preceding Nam-mah(-ni) (UL2.8b—UL5.3b).[31] Both of them were given either 18 or 24 sila of barley rations.
Nig2-gur11-kur-ra and Nam-mah are also found in a Type I ration list dating from UE2b, both receiving 24 sila of barley.[32] This is surprising because, as we have seen above, they occur in the Type II list dating from the very same UE2b: there too their barley rations were 24 sila each. Was this double notation a scribal mistake? Before condemning this to an archival confusion, we should take a couple of documents into consideration.
One is DCS 8 dating from Lugal-an-da-nu-hun-ga2 1 (= L1). This is the record of emmer-flour rations distributed to the surx (ERIM) on the occasion of the festival of the goddess dBa-ba6 (ziz2-ba ERIM-ra ezem-dba-ba6-ka). Deimel (apud Prentice 2010:75, n. 323) equated the surx with those who hold the šuku-allotments (lu2-šuku-dab5-ba).[33] This document also mentions the doorkeeper Nam-mah-ni.[34]
Another relevant document is DP 623, dating from L3. This is a record of assignments of canal maintenance work.[35] In this document the doorkeepers Nig2-gur11-kur-ra and Ur-du6 are mentioned. Since this type of obligatory work was supposed to be carried out by šuku-holders, it is no surprise to find a person like Ur-du6, here specified as “palace doorkeeper” (see 3.2 (2) for more details), involved in it.[36] But what about Nig2-gur11-kur-ra? If he is to be counted as a šuku-holder, this and the aforementioned case of Nam-mah-ni might indicate changes that occurred in their socio-economical status.

(3) Ur-dinanna occurs in the Type II ration lists dating from L6[37] and from UL6.[38] During this period, he is mentioned in two documents, DP 133 (UL1) and TSA 5 (UL2), which recorded the givers and receivers of “pure milk and pure malt” (ga-ku3 munu4-ku3). He was listed as a giver following the elite doorkeeper Ur-du6, also a giver.[39] Again in UL2, Ur-dinanna was mentioned among those to whom Sasa, wife of Urukagina, sold sheep hide with fleece (kuš-udu-bar-gal2-la).[40]

3.2. Doorkeepers from higher socio-economic strata

(1) Doorkeepers with a specific title

Doorkeepers with a specific title, listed below, are found in the contexts of land allotment, leaseholds, work assignments, receiving special gifts, and Type I ration lists.[41]

Lu2-zi/ i3-du8 e2-PA(gidri)-ka[42]
Lugal-pirig/ i3-du8 nam-dumu[43]
Lugal-ušur3-ra/ i3-du8 dba-ba6[44]
Lum-ma-teš2-mu/ i3-du8 e2-gal[45]
Na-ni/ i3-du8 uru11ki[46]
Ur-du6/ i3-du8 e2-gal[47]
Ur-ddumu-zi/ i3-du8 bad3[48]
Ur-digi(-ama-še3)/ i3-du8 bad3[49]
Ur-dnin-gir2-su/ i3-du8 ti-ra-aš2ki[50]
Ur-šubur/ i3-du8 ganun-mah[51]

(2) Ur-du6 the Doorkeeper of the Palace

Ur-du6, sometimes called “doorkeeper of the palace” along with Lum-ma-teš2-mu,[52] is, without doubt, the most recurring/prominent figure among the elite doorkeepers. His earliest attestation can be found in E2, where is he listed among the witnesses in a purchase document of Dimtur (RTC 17; see Section 4 for more discussion). After this, he occurs in the records of wool distribution to “the supervisors and the igi-nigin2-people” (ugula-ne lu2 igi-nigin2-ne) dating from L2—UE[53] and in Type I (barley or emmer) ration lists dating from L6.2b—UL6.11b.[54] His barley ration was normally 36 sila (except for two occasions of 72 sila) and his emmer ration was 12 sila. Corresponding to his occurrence in Type I lists, he was allocated the šuku-land[55] and assigned obligatory work such as canal maintenance, harvesting the ruler’s fields, and so on.[56] He was also listed in one document (DP 130 vii 11-12) classified as lu2 ninda GAN2 maš-ba dba-ba6,[57] and in the other (CT 50 37 rev. ii 1-2) as še-gar ziz2-gar sa2-dug4 iti-da dba-ba6,[58] dating from UL3 and UL4, respectively. In the latter, he was one of the professionals who, though not a herdsman, took care of animals belonging to the E2-MI2 and received the grain to feed them with.[59] In the documents related to the “pure milk and pure malt” (ga-ku3 munu4-ku3) ceremony, Ur-du6 was listed as a giver.[60]

4.     Gala wailers and cantors

In the ED Lagash corpus, three groups of gala can be recognized: a large number of gala-wailers participating in the wailing activities such as funerals (4.1), male and female (regular) gala-cantors (4.2), and gala-cantors from higher socio-economic strata (4.3).

4.1. Gala-wailers

Two texts (TSA 9 and VS 14 137), both dating from UL2, recorded the food and drinks distributed to the participants of the two successive wailing ceremonies at Baranamtara’s funeral (lu2 ki-hul bara2-nam-tar-ra-(ka)/ er2-sig7-me) (Jagersma 2007:293). TSA 9, recording the first ceremony, listed 72 gala-wailers, 70 dam ab-ba,[61] 10 šeš-tu, and 148 (slave) women (geme2). VS 14 137, recording the second ceremony, listed 92 gala-wailers, 48 dam ab-ba, and 177 geme2. In the latter text, the chief gala-priest of Girsu (gala-mah gir2-suki) was mentioned,[62] indicating that he was in charge of these people.

Another text (DP 159), dating from UL5, is a similar document of food and drink distribution. However, here the rations were issued to “the women and children of gods” (geme2-dumu-dingir-ne) by Sasa, wife of Urukagina, in the E2-MI2, but with no specific information as to what occasion it was for.[63] There a total of 176 gala-wailers were listed, including two different types of wailers: 18 u18-di[64] and five um-ma-er2 (wailing women),[65] 174 women (geme2) serving various gods, and 68 babies (ša3-dug3). Gelb (1975:70-71) concluded that geme2 in this rubric (geme2-dumu-dingir-ne) corresponded to the geme2 plus the gala of the main text,[66] and noted that Deimel reached the same conclusion. We may deduce from this that some, if not all, of the gala-wailers performing at the Baranamtara’s funeral were also women. As for the question of who they were, Gelb (1975:67-68) wrote:

The very large numbers of… gala participating in the wailing activities at funerals in Pre-Sargonic times indicate a very low status of the gala. In fact, for may years I have often thought of these gala as “professional mourners” at the funerals, a class of people derived from beggars in modern times.[67]

4.2. Male and female (regular) gala-cantors

(1)  Nin-tigix-ni-dug3

DP 231 is a rather broken tablet: its first half deals with the first barley ration of the prebend (šuku)-land holders and its second half with the ninth ration of the non-land-holding professionals. Among the latter, a pair of gala-cantors was listed, Nin-tigix-ni-dug3 and Gu3-bi-dug3.[68] For Gu3-bi-dug3, see below (2). Apart from this tablet, Nin-tigix-ni-dug3 also occurs in Type III ration lists dating from L6 to UL6.12b,[69] where she was the only gala-cantor and received 18 sila of barley throughout her career. The sex of this person has been debated. For instance, Gelb (1975:71-74) assumed that Nin-tigix-ni-dug3, like some other gala-cantors,was a man with feminine inclinations, hence, “the gala who is listed among the women is not a woman” yet “he is still listed with women” (p. 72). But now scholars agree on Nin-tigix-ni-dug3’s female identity.[70]

(2) Gu3-bi-dug3

Nin-tigix-ni-dug3’s one-time partner Gu3-bi-dug3 is to be identified with the gala sold by his mother Gan-ki-ku3[71] to Dimtur, wife of Enentarzi, during the reign of her husband.[72] A barley-emmer ration list (BIN 8 347) dating from E2 listed a gala-cantor named Gu3-bi with 24 sila of emmer rations[73]: since this distribution was made to lu2-igi-nigin2 šub-lugal-ke4-ne, who later (during Lugalanda’s reign) found their way to Type I ration lists (Maekawa 1973-74:110), Gu3-bi should be seen as a prebend-land holder.

(3) Lugal-edin-ne2

A document (Nik 1 17) dating from L3 recorded that Lugal-edin-ne2 described as a “gala, young man”[74] was purchased by Baranamtara, wife of Lugalanda. He occurs Type II ration lists dating from L6.9b to UE2b.[75]

(4) Amar-dsamanx

Amar-dsamanx was another purchased gala (BIN 8 363): he was bought by a merchant from his father, Lugal-he2-gal2-su3, for Sasa, wife of Urukagina, in UL4.[76] He is attested in Type II ration lists dating from UL6.4b to UL6.12b.[77]

4.3. gala-cantors from higher socio-economic strata

(1)  Chief gala-cantors

In the “pure milk and pure malt” ceremony dating from L4 to UL2, the chief gala-cantors (gala-mah) of Lagaški, Gir2-suki, NINAki, and dNin-marki, or in their place, their wives were listed among the receivers.[78] The chief gala-cantor of Lagash was Ur-du6: he received a pair of two-year-old oxen from the governor;[79] in a record of the canal maintaining work he was called “gala of the Ebabbar temple,”[80] whereas in another list his title was abbreviated simply to gala.[81] The chief gala-cantor of Girsu was Ur-e2(-zi):[82] he was allocated prebend land (UL1),[83] and also leased land (UL4).[84] The unnamed chief gala-cantor of Nina (gala-mah NINAki) was recorded as receiving fleeces, cream,[85] and various other items.[86]

(2)  Other gala-cantors

Other gala-cantors, Lu2-zi,[87] Šubur-dba-ba6,[88] Na-ni,[89] Ur-sal,[90] En-ne2,[91] Gišgal-si,[92] and Lugal-nig2-ga2-ni[93] are mentioned in documents dealing with allocation of prebend-land, lease holding, assignment of obligatory work, and others. It should be noted that among the gala-cantors and the chief gala-cantors who were given land allotments and fulfilled their work obligations, only Gišgal-si seems to be found in the preserved Type I ration lists. In these he is described, as Maekawa (1973-74:106, n. 39) has already pointed out, as a supervisor of female textile workers.[94] We can be sure that this Gišgal-si was the gala-cantor is shown by a “lu2 ninda-ba” text from L1, where he was in charge of 12 weavers of wool and flax:[95] VS 25 8 v 1-3: 12 ki-siki ki-gu/ gišgal-si/ gala, and also in a document where he and the leader of the female personnel, E2-mete, were in charge of 14 weavers each: RTC 52 iii 6-10: 14 gišgal-si/ gala/ 14 e2-mete/ 4 gu-u9/ ki-siki-me.[96] Another record tells us of his shipment of ½ mina of white wool.[97] Selz (FAOS 15/1, p. 296, sub 4:5-6) states that “gišgal-si gala ist noch bezeugt in Nik 297 1:2-3 und RTC 52 3:6-7. Die letzte Kontext spricht dafür, daß gišgal-si zu den Frauen zu zählen ist” while interpreting either as “Gala-Priesterin(?)” (p. 295) or as “Gala-Priester” (p. 525). Unlike E2-mete, however, Gišgal-si is never unequivocally described as female, and therefore, I consider this person to be male (I will discuss E2-mete and her colleagues in our next meeting).

Lugal-nig2-ga2-ni was the gala-cantor who Baranamtara, wife of Lugalanda, bought and gave to her father Ne-sag in L6.[98] Two years earlier to this transaction, Lugal-nig2-ga2-ni had been assigned an obligatory work (see n. 93), which can be seen as an indication of his holding prebend land.

5.     Concluding Remarks

In each of the professions of tug2-du8 “felt-makers,” i3-du8 “doorkeepers,” and gala “wailers and cantors,” we can recognize two groups: one of (landed) men from higher socio-economic strata and the other of (landless) men and women, often living on a less than sufficient ration payment. This seems to have been the structural pattern for several professions, including these and barbers, in the ED Lagash.



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[1] Maekawa (1987:61) regards Type I rations as “food supplied at the time of collective projects such as canal construction” (see also note 46 in my paper on ED Lagash barbers).

[2] See Prentice 2010:40, n. 198 for various different interpretations of ša3-dub-didli that have been proposed by scholars.

[3] Igi-zi is an exception; see in my paper on ED Lagash barbers.

[4] The date of their first attestation is followed by that of their last attestation.

[5] Prentice (2010:41) does not specify Nam-šita-mu-bi2-dug4 as being female.

[6] TSA 17 rev. ii 10-11 (UL6.?b) and HSS 3 18 ix 10-11 (UL6.12b)—these are Type II; HSS 3 24 iv 2 (UL6.11b) and TSA 13 iv 10 (UL6.12b)—these are še-ba geme2-dumu igi-nu-du8 ša3-dub-didli.

[7] RTC 54 vi 11: 1 tug2-du8 0.2.0 (L6.2b).

[8] Erm14346 iv 6’-7’: 4 lu2 0.2.0/ tug2-du8-me (UL5?). Although the rubric is broken, it is certain that this is a Type I text.

[9] DP 121 iii 12-iv 1: 1 tug2-du8 0.1.2/ 3 tug2-du8 0.1.1 (UL6.6b).

[10] DP 622 rev. ii 5: 2 gi kuš3 3 tug2-du8 (L2)

[11] HSS 3 38 iii 7: 4(iku) ¼(iku) GAN2 tug2-du8.

[12] For the translation, see Rosengarten 1960:342, n. 2.

[13] VS 14 159 vi 8-11: 1 udu/ 2 sa2-dug4 kas/ bara2-ir-nun/ dam al-la.

[14] DP 127 ii 11: nin ensi2-ka-me; the text is dated to Lugal-an-da-nu-hun-ga, the longer form of Lugal-an-da, which seems to have been in use during the first couple of years of his reign; see note 21 in my paper on the ED Lagash barbers.

[15] Nik 53 ii 3-iii 7 (L1)//RTC 61 ii 9-iii 12 (L1)//DP 134 ii 7-iii7 (L?).

[16] Cf. RTC 61 rev. iv 15-v 4: 0.1.0 [ziz2]/ [  ]/ 2 nig2-du3-a gishašhur/ al-la/ 0.1.0 ziz2 nigar-mud/ tug2-du8-me.

[17] DP 554 i 1-3: 6.0.0 la2 0.0.4 še-gub-ba gur-sag-gal2/ al-la/ tug2-du8.

[18] In an earlier document, dating from L2, a female doorkeeper was given wool rations along with four male ones but they were unnamed (DP 175 iv 1-2).

[19] Nik 1 18 rev. iii 6-8: 0.0.4 nam-šita/ 0.0.2 dumu-munus/ i3-du8-am6.

[20] VS 27 21 iii 5-7: 1 3 nam-šita/ 1 ½ ša3-du10-munus/ i3-du8-am6. Note that in this text four male doorkeepers, who received 2 mina of wool each (i 7: 4 2 i3-du8), were counted among the men of Ur-tar (ii 1: lu2 ur-tar-me). It is quite possible to identify Ur-tar with Ur-tar-sir2-sir2-ra, one of Lugalanda’s sons: DP 175 rev. ii 2-5 lu2 u2-rum/ ur-tar-sir2-sir2-ra/ dumu/ lugal-an-da (L2) and DP 59 vi 11-12: ur-tar/ dumu ensi2-ka (L3); however, ur-tar-sir2-sir2-ra was also the name of a son of Enentarzi, as shown in DP 173 rev. ii 2-6: lu2 u2-rum/ ur-tar-sir2-sir2-ra/ dumu en-en3-tar-zi/ ensi2/ lagaški-ka (E3).

[21] DP 128 v 8-9: 0.0.3 nam-šita/ i3-du8.

[22] DP 129 rev. i 1-2: 0.0.3 nam-šita-mu-bi2-dug4/ i3-du8.

[23] Note also that Lugal-pirig was “doorkeeper of prince-ship” in Nik 1 63 rev. i 9: i3-du8 nam-dumu (UL3); according to Selz, FAOS15/1, p. 271 sub 8:8-9, i3-du8 nam-dumu is only attested here.

[24] DP 113 (UL2.8b), CT 50 36 (UL3.6b), FAOS 15/2 121 (UL[ ].8b), HSS 3 17 (UL3.10b), FAOS 15/2 120 (UL4.2b), TSA 14 (UL4.4b), Nik 1 2 (UL4.6b), TSA 15 (UL4.7b), DP 114 (UL5.3b), DP 115 (UL6), and FAOS 15/2 122 (UL6.4b),

[25] Also MVN 3 26, but the date is broken.

[26] nin-en-še3-nu-kar2-kar2/ nu-siki-munus-am6/ igi-dba-ba6-še3/ e-da-ti in Erm 14348 (UL 6.5b), TSA 16 (UL 6.8b), and TSA 17 (UL6.[ ]b); a slightly different expression, “a female orphan named Nin-en-še3-nu-kar2-kar2lives with him (said of igi-dba-ba6-še3),” was used in TSA 15 (UL4.7b), DP 114 (UL5.3b), DP 115 (UL6), and FAOS 15/2 122 (UL6.4b).

[27] HSS 3 18.

[28] Other male doorkeepers were given 18 or 24 sila. Regarding the low amount of rations, Prentice (2010:44, n. 218) comments that “[p]ossibly doorkeeping was not considered a very arduous or skilled occupation” and refers to the possibility that “the doorkeepers were old men.” However, low rations are not only found here. According to Maekawa (1980:89), female weavers were usually given 18 or 24 sila of barley per month in pre-Sargonic Lagaš; male and female barbers also often received 18 or 24 sila. According to Ellison’s dietary study (1981:39-40), a monthly diet of 18 sila or even 24 sila was not adequate energy intake for a person, male or female.

[29] VS 25 71 (L6.9b), VS 25 11 (L6.10b), and RA 71 102 (L6.12b).

[30] MVN 3 2 (UE2b), HSS 3 15 (UE5b), and HSS 3 16(UE6b).

[31] DP 113 (UL2.8b), CT 50 36 (UL3.6b), HSS 3 17 (UL3.10b), FAOS 15/2 120 (UL4.2b), TSA 14 (UL4.4b), TSA 15 (UL4.7b), and DP 114(UL5.3b).

[32] HSS 3 6 rev. iii 2-4: 0.0.4 nig2-gur11-kur-ra/ 0.0.4 nam-mah/ i3-du8-me.

[33] However, it may not have been limited to the šuku-holders because two landless barbers were also included in the surx in DCS 8 (see 4.2.2 in my paper on ED Lagash barbers). Tis requires further study.

[34] DCS 8 rev. v 2-3: 0.0.3 nam-mah-ni/ i3-du8.

[35] DP 623 rev. iv 10-v 1: 2 gi nig2-gur11-kur-ra/ i3-du8; cf., DP 624 v 3-4: 2 gi nig2-gur11-kur-ra/ i3-du; DP 624—the obverse seems to have been partially crossed out and on the reverse three right-hand columns were left uninscribed though the summing information (šu-nigin2…) was placed in two left-hand columns—was this tablet discarded in antiquity?

[36] DP 623 rev. iii 8: 2 gi ur-du6; cf. DP 624 iii 8: 4 gi ur-du6.

[37] VS 25 71 (L6.9b), VS 25 11 (L6.10b), and RA 71 102 (L6.12b).

[38] DP 115 (UL6), FAOS 15/2 122 (UL6.4b), Erm 14348 (UL6.5b), TSA 16 (UL6.8b), TSA 17 (UL6.[ ]b), and HSS 3 18 (UL6.12b).

[39] ur-du6/…/ ur-dinanna/…/ i3-du8-me in DP 133 rev. vi 6-10 and TSA 5 rev. iv 12-v 4.

[40] Nik 1 230; interpretation after Selz (FAOS 15/1, p. 457).

[41] In a document dealing with reed-cutting, CDLI restores: [ur-d]pa-[bil3-sag]/ i3-du8 e[š3] (DP 352 ii 1-2). If it is the case, this doorkeeper can be identified with the namesake of the Type II ration lists.

[42] VS 14 180 rev. iii 13-iv 3.

[43] Nik 1 63 rev. i 8-9.

[44] Nik 1 102 i 4-5.

[45] VS 14 181 v 6-7; DP 622 iv 5-6; DP 623 rev. iii 9-iv 1; DP 624 iv 1-2; Nik 1 79 iii 5-6.

[46] TSA 7 rev. vi 4-6.

[47] See 3.2. (2).

[48] VS 27 15 ii 3-4.

[49] VS 25 21 i 1-3; DP 587 iii 3-4.

[50] DP 92 rev. ii 3-4; DP 354 i 1-3; VS 25 89 rev. i 6-7; TIM 9 94 ii’ 3’-6’; Tirash was one of the four temples situated in the city of Lagash (Suter 2000:87).

[51] VS 25 61 ii 2-3.

[52] DP 623 rev. iii 8-iv 1 and DP 624 iii 8-iv 2.

[53] DP 192 (L2), VS14 181 (L4), DP 193 (L6), and DP 194 (UE); VS 27 34 is another record of wool given to Ur-du6.

[54] RTC 54 (L6.2b), HSS 3 5 (UE), HSS 3 6 (UE2b), HSS 3 7 (UL2.2b), Nik 1 13 (UL2), HSS 3 8 (UL3.1b), FAOS 15/2 118 (UL3.2b), HSS 3 9 (UL3.3b), HSS 3 10 (UL3.4b), HSS 3 11 (UL3.[ ]b), FAOS 15/2 68 (UL3), FAOS 15/2 67 (UL6.[ ]b), DP 121 (UL6.6b), BIN 8 354 (UL6.9b), HSS 3 13 (UL6.10b), HSS 3 12 (UL6.11b), Erm 14004 ([ ].3b), Erm 14346, and Erm 14349.

[55] VS 25 40 (L3), VS 25 70 (UL1), HSS 3 40 (UL1), Erm 15776, and HSS 3 38.

[56] DP 622 (L2), DP 623 (L3), DP 624 (L3), VS 25 20 (L6), VS 25 99 (L6), VS 25 41, DP 637 (UL1), TSA 23 (UL1), VS 25 74 (UL1), VS 25 79 (UL2), DP 638 (UL2), VS 27 96 (UL2), and DP 647 (UL4).

[57] “Leute der Baba, denen das ‘Brot’ der ‘Zinsfelder’ zugeteilt wird” (Selz 1995:72).

[58] “Gerstenlieferungen (und) Emmerlieferungen, regelmäßige Aufwendungen des Monats der Baba” (Bauer, AWL, p. 190).

[59] Two more doorkeepers, Lugal-sag and Lugal-pirig (i3-du8 nam-dumu), had a similar task: the former is mentioned in Nik 1 67 (E4), DP 145 (L1), BIN 8 372 (L1.6g), VS 14 77 (L1.10g), and Nik 1 62 (L1.12g); and the latter in Nik 1 63 (UL3.1g).

[60] VS 14 173 (L4), DP 132 (L5), DP 133 (UL1), and TSA 5 (UL2).

[61] Meaning unknown (Gelb 1975:65); “wives of elders” (Jagersma 2007:293).

[62] VS 14 137 ii 4-6.

[63] DP159 rev. iv 5-12.

[64] A man named Ur-dba-ba6 was u18-di and a leaseholder (DP 591 iv 3-5); another u18-di is found in CT 50 29 rev. ii 1-2: 0.2.0 lugal-lu2-zi/ u18-di.

[65] Corresponding to ama-er2 in Gudea St. B v 4 (Gelb 1975:65).

[66] Even if there were certain number of men among the gala-wailers, it would not affect the conclusion, as the case of še-ba geme2-dumu “barley rations given to women and children,” where recipients were almost entirely women and their children, although a small number of men was included.

[67] Cf., weaving women performing lamentation at the funerary in the Ur III Garšana, see Lafont’s paper (Carquiranne, September 2013).

[68] DP 231 rev. iv 4’-6’: 0.0.3 nin-tigix-ni-dug3/ 0.0.3 gu3-bi-dug3/ gala-me.

[69] TSA 10 (L6), CT 50 33 (UE1b), HSS 3 21 (UL2.9b), DP 112 (UL2.11b), Nik 1 1 (UL2.12b), TSA 11 (UL3), BIN 8 345 (UL3.6b), DP 229 (UL3.10b), CTNMC 4 (UL3), CT 50 34 (UL4.4b), Nik 1 6 (UL4.9b), TSA 12 (UL5), HSS 3 22 (UL5.4b), VS 25 69 (UL[ ].9b), and HSS 3 23 (UL6.12b).

[70] Although, somewhat later, two Old Akkadian letters published by Al-Rawi (1992) clearly show that the office of gala could be occupied either by a man or woman; a summarized discussion on the sex of gala at that time can be found in pp. 182-184. See further Cooper 2006, Michalowski 2006, and Gabbay 2011.

[71] Gan- is a female name incipit (Foxvog 2011:61-62).

[72] RTC 17 i 1-ii 3: dim3-tur/ dam en-en3-tar-zi/ ensi2/ lagaški-ka-ke4/ gan-ki-ku3-še3/ gu3-bi-dug3/ gala/ dumu-ni/ e-še3-sa10.

[73] Gu3-bi was a short name of the full form Gu3-bi-dug3 (Foxvog 2011:64).

[74] Nik 1 17 i i-3: lugal-edin-ne2/ gala/ guruš-am6.

[75] VS 25 71 (L6.9b), VS 25 11 (L6.10b), RA 71 102 (L6.12b), and MVN 3 2 (UE2b).

[76] BIN 8 363 i 5-ii 4: nig2-sa10 amar-dsamanx/ gala-še3/ lugal-he2-gal2-su3/ ab-ba-ni/ ba-DU. There is a gala named Lugal-he2 (Nik 1 111 i 1-4), who may or may not be linked with Lugal-he2-gal2-su3.

[77] FAOS 15/2 122 (UL6.4b), Erm 14348 (UL6.5b), TSA 16 (UL6.8b), HSS 3 18 (UL6.12b), DP 115 (UL6), and TSA 17 (UL6).

[78] VS 14 173 (L4), DP 132 (L5), DP 133 (UL1), and TSA 5 (UL2). In addition to these chief gala-cantors, two more named utu-mu-kuš2 and inim-ma-nizi occur as witnesses in a house-sale document dating from Enmetena (Hallo 1973:236).

[79] BIN 8 349 rev. ii 11-iii 2: 2 gud [mu] 2/ ur-du6/ gala-mah lagaški.

[80] VS 25 103 ii 8-9: ½ eš2 ur-du6/ gala e2-babbar2. Ebabbara was one of the four temples situated in the city of Lagash (Suter 2000:87).

[81] VS 25 105 i 1-3: 6 gi kin-du3-a/ [  ] x ur-du6/ gala; also in DP 32 iii 7-8 (a house sale document).

[82] TSA 2 rev. i 8-9: ur-e2/ gala-mah gir2-suki.

[83] VS 25 70 rev. iv 1: 1 bur3 gala-mah gir2-suki.

[84] TSA 7 rev. i 16-18: 2(eše3) 3 ¼(iku) GAN2 5-tuku/ ur-e2-zi/ gala-mah.

[85] VS 27 78 i 6-8.

[86] DP 220 i 1-8.

[87] VS 25 61 rev. i 1-2: 5 ½ iku of newly cultivated taxable land (GAN2 su3-la-maš) for lu2-zi/ gala (E3); for GAN2 su3-la-maš “abgabepflichtiges Newbruchfeld,” see Selz, FAOS 15/1, p. 192. Lu2-zi/ gala was also listed in another document dating from Lugalanda-nuhunga as someone who received barley and emmer rations (DP 127 vi 3-5).

[88] VS 14 72 iii 2-3: 1 bur3 of šuku-land for dšubur-ba-ba6/ gala (L4); he was listed in two documents (VS 25 19 ii 1-2 and VS 25 54 ii 1-2) of wool rations given to the royal family/acquaintances (lu2-su-a-ne); he was also given several items in DP 134 v 3-10.

[89] DP 592 rev. i 2-4: X iku of newly cultivated land ([GAN2] su3-la) for na-ni/ gala.

[90] DP 591 rev. iv 5-8: 4 iku of land with its harvest being 5 gur-sag-gal2 per iku (4 GAN2 5-tuku) and 5 iku of newly cultivated taxable land for ur-sal/ gala; Foxvog (2011:79) interprets the name Ur-sal as “delicate dog.”

[91] DP 637 rev. ii 6-7: 2 kuš3 of canal work assigned to en-ne2/ gala igi-gal2.

[92] VS 25 40 i 4-5: 4 iku of ki-uzug5-field for gišgal-si/ gala; 20 gur of barley (Nik 1 79 iv 5-6) and 35 gur of barley (VS 25 41 rev. ii 3-4) brought back by gišgal-si/ gala to the E2-MI2.

[93] VS 25 85 rev. i 3-4: 1 gi of orchard wall construction (kin im-du3-a kiri6) assigned to lugal-nig2-ga2-ni/ gala.

[94] 0.2.0 gišgal-si/ 0.2.0 dnanše-da-nu-me-a/ ugula ki-siki-ka-me in HSS 3 10 rev. i 3-5 (UL3.4b) and HSS 3 11 rev. iii 3-5 (UL3.[ ]b); note also that both Gišgal-si and dNanše-da-nu-me-a, designated as ugula ki-siki-ka-me, were allocated prebend land (DP 578 rev. iv 2-4 and HSS 3 40 ii 3-5).

[95] ki-gu: “spinning women” (Maekawa 1973-74:93, n. 23); “weavers…of flax” (Maekawa 1980:89); “Leinenweberin” (Selz, FAOS 15/1, p. 279).

[96] The two are also in VS 25 89 rev. iv 7-9.

[97] Nik 1 297 i 1-ii 1: ½ ma-na siki-u2-babbar2/ gišgal-si/ gala-e/… ba-gi4.

[98] VS 25 13 ii 5-iii 1: …/ nig2-sa10/ lugal-nig2-ga2-ni gala-kam/ bara2-nam-tar-ra/ dam lugal-an-da/ ensi2/ lagaški-ka-ke4/ ne-sag/ ab-ba-ni/ e2-gal-ta/ e-na-šum2.

On amīltūtu in Emar

On amīltūtu in Emar

Masamichi Yamada

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


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


I. Introduction

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

II. General Remarks

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

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

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

III. The amīlūtu Contracts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IV. amīltūtu in Subartu 17-T

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


V. Final Remarks

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

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

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

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



I. Introduction

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

amīltūtu: its female counterpart (Subartu 17-T)


II. General Remarks

 1. Tablet type: Syro-Hittite type only

2. Orthography

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

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

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

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

3. Document types

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

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

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

4. Amount of debt (shekels of silver)

         Emar VI 16            41                                      QVO 5-T 2            40

         Emar VI 77            140                                    RA 77-T 5              47

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

         Emar VI 279          not stated                          Subartu 17-T         not stated

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

         ASJ 13-T 38           56                                      TS 40                     30


III. The amīlūtu Contracts

 1. Texts

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

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

2) Emar VI 77

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

3) ASJ 10-T A

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

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

 2. Features

0)    Text is of the Syro-Hittite type.

1)    The debt contracted is of silver.

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

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

4)    The debtor repays only the capital.

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

6)    The term of the contract is indefinite.

 3. Comparison

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



F. member



Emar VI 205

poss. pledge

Emar VI 209


līṭu for the surety
TS 25

poss. pledge

debt in barley
TS 34

poss. pledge

poss. pledge

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

2) tidennūtu in Nuzi: antichretic pledge in general

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


IV. amīltūtu in Subartu 17-T

 1. Text

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

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

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

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

 2. Discussion on the people in the text

1) Al-ummi: the amīltūtu

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

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

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

3) The lost surety (ša qātātiši ilqû)

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

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

4) Matiya and tēr (l. 10)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


V. Final Remarks

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

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

 2. Al-ummi

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

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

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

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

∴ amīltūtu contract(s): rare



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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