Two Tablets from the Johns Hopkins University Collection

CDLB 2014:4

Cuneiform Digital Library Bulletin (ISSN: 1540-8760)

Published on 2014-11-30

© Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License except when noted otherwise and in the case of artifact images which follow the CDLI terms of use.

Zsombor J. Földi ORCID logo

LMU Munich

Cuneiform, administrative, Old Babylonian, neo-Babylonian

§1. Introduction
JHU T061 is an Old Babylonian receipt recording the payment of a barley debt.[1] The tablet was written at Larsa in the third year of Samsu-ilūna (1749–1712 BC). JHU T202 is a neo-Babylonian receipt from Uruk, dating from the eighth year of Nabonidus (556–539 BC) and records the disbursement of twenty pappardilû-stones. Both tablets come from the Johns Hopkins University Archaeological Museum cuneiform tablet collection, a catalogue of which is currently being prepared by the museum staff.[2]


§2. Text Apparatus
§2.1. JHU T061
(figure 1)
Receipt of barley, from Larsa
Date: Samsu-iluna 3 vi 22


figure 1


§2.1.1. Transliteration and Translation

1. ˹10˺ gur ˹še˺
2. ša dutu-ma-gir
3. i-na kar babila2ki
4. a-na še-ep-dsuen
5. id-di-nu
6. 1dutu-ma-gir
7. i-na kar larsaki
8. 10 gur šea-am
9. ˹ma˺-ḫi-ir
1. ka-ni-ik-šu
2. i-ma-ar-ma
3. i-ḫe-ep-pe2
4. igi d˹suen-u2˺-se2-li
5. igi ubar-rum˺ PA-PA dumu i3-˹li2˺-ma-li-ki
6. igi dutu-mu-ba-li2-iṭ
7. ˹iti˺ kin-dinanna u4 22-kam
8. mu sa-am-su2-i-lu-na lugal i7sa-am-su2-i-˹lu˺-[na]-na-ga-˹ab˺-[nu-uḫ-ši]
Figure 1: Hand copy of JHU T061  


  Seals (see figure 2)
1) dutu-˹ma˺-gir / dumu ma-ri-um-mi / ˹ARAD2˺ d˹iškur˺ / ˹u3˺ d˹nergal?˺
2) dsuen-˹u2˺-se2-el-li / ˹dumu˺ nu-ur2-dutu / ([ARAD2... ?])
3) u-bar-ru-[um] /˹dumu˺ i3-li2-ma-li-[ki] /˹ARAD2˺ d˹an-mar-tu˺
4) dingir-˹li-ṭu3˺-[ul] / ˹dumu˺ na-bi-i3-˹li2˺-[šu] / ˹ARAD2˺ d˹nin-si˺-an-[na]


figure 2

Figure 2: Seals impressed on JHU T061 and their positions on the tablet surface


(Regarding) the 10 gur of barley which was given by Šamaš-māgir to Šēp-Sîn at the quay of Babylon: Šamaš-māgir has received (those) 10 gur of barley at the quay of Larsa. Should he (i.e., Šamaš-māgir) see his sealed document, he will break it. Before Sîn-uselli; before Ubārrum, the colonel, son of Ilī-mālikī; before Šamaš-muballiṭ. (Month:) “Work-of-Ištar,” 22nd day; year: “Samsu-ilūna, the king, (dug the canal called) Samsu-ilūna-the-source-of-abundance-for-the-people” (= Si 03).


1) Šamaš-māgir, son of Māri-ummī, servant of Adad and Nergal?.
2) Sîn-uselli, son of Nūr-Šamaš, (servant of... ?).
3) Ubārrum, son of Ilī-mālikī, servant of An-Martu.
4) Ilī-liṭṭul, son of Nabi-ilišu, servant of Ninsianna.


§2.1.2. Commentary
JHU T061 is a rare example of the payment of a “debt” (a promissory note), to be understood here as describing a loan and its repayment in two different geographical places: Šēp-Sîn had received 10 gur (ca. 3000 liters) of barley from Šamaš-māgir in Babylon. He returned the barley amount in Larsa. The text thus acts as a receipt for Šēp-Sîn to guard against any fraudulent future claim: Šamaš-māgir agrees to break, and thus cancel, any remaining tablet which might record the original contract. A similar text is YOS 12, 8, in which the exact amount of barley received from PN1 is to be given back to him in another town; the transaction is designated as an exchange (ana puḫḫi) and presumably saved transportation costs.[3]


§2.1.3. Philological Notes
rev. 1-3. Examples of the cancellation clause (amāru + ḫepû) are rare in Old Babylonian documents. TS 54[4] (Kutalla, Ha 41) anticipates such a cancellation clause by requiring any sealed document (kunukku) that surfaces (elû) be broken. In CHJ HE 135, any kunukku and namḫartu appearing in the hands of the business partner must be broken.


rev. 2 The verb amāru (“to inspect”) is used usually with ṭuppu, but kanīku is also attested (cf. AHw amāru A5; CAD amāru A3). This clause is used primarily in tappûtu contracts.[5]


§2.1.4. Prosopographical Notes
Šamaš-māgir s. Māri-ummī (obv. 2, 6; seal 1): Since the father’s name is rarely attested in the Larsa material, this person is almost certainly identical with Šamaš-māgir s. Māri-ummī in Berens 102, an undated list.


Šēp-Sîn (obv. 4): The place and the period suggest that he must be identical with the well-known Šēp-Sîn s. Šamaš-muballiṭ, who was Overseer of Merchants of Larsa at least from Ha 34 until Ha 42.[6] As royal official, he was obliged to travel to Babylon several times (cf. AbB 2, 16 and 33), probably at regular intervals. However, under the reign of Samsu-ilūna he was no longer the Overseer of Merchants,[7] but his importance appears to have remained higher than those of the ordinary tamkārū.


Sîn-uselli s. Nūr-Šamaš (rev. 4; seal 2): His seal impression is the only one of which not only the inscription, but also part of the iconographic scene is preserved. The reason behind this, however, is that on the seal no space has been left free for the inscription; therefore, the seal-cutter cut it in the narrow spaces between the figures.


Ubārrum, colonel, s. Ilī-mālikī (rev. 5; seal 3): For the reading of the father’s name we are indebted to Gábor Kalla. It is somewhat surprising that a cylinder seal inspected by Archibald Henry Sayce at Jerusalem, bore the same inscription.[8] According to William W. Hallo, “no actual impression of a seal on an ancient tablet (or vessel) has yet been successfully identified with an extant ancient seal.”[#fnn99] Unfortunately, we were unable to find any information on the present whereabouts of the cylinder seal in question. Could the owner provide its exact measurements, it would be of great help to decide whether the same seal has been impressed on JHU T061 or not.


Šamaš-muballiṭ (rev. 6) and Ilī-liṭṭul s. Nabi-ilišu (seal 4): The fourth seal names an owner not mentioned by the text, therefore it must have been used by someone else, probably a descendant of the original owner.[10] This seal was originally used by a goldsmith called Ilī-liṭṭul s. Nabi-ilišu,[11] who was active in the second half of Rīm-Sîn I’s (1822–1763 BC) reign.[12] Another document, drawn up presumably some time later, refers to him as Overseer of Goldsmiths.[13] Considering that this seal cannot have been used by Šēp-Sîn (see above), it was probably Šamaš-muballiṭ—a son of Ilī-liṭṭul?—who used it. Unfortunately, to our knowledge, an individual called Šamaš-muballiṭ s. Ilī-liṭṭul is not yet attested in the legal-administrative text material from Larsa. For a parallel seal history, cf. the seal of Qulalum s. Šērum-ilī, which was used first by its original owner,[14] but later by his son Šamaš-māgir.[15]


§2.2. JHU T202 (figure 3)
Disbursement of pappardilû-stones, from Uruk
Date: Nabonidus 8 iii 2


figure 3

Figure 3: Hand copy of JHU T202


§2.2.1. Transliteration and Translation

1. 20 na4babbar-dili
2. ina igi 1dmarduk-mu-geš
3. u 1zalag2-d30
1. itisig4 u4 2-kam
2. mu 8-kam 1dag-ni2-tuku lugal babilax (|DIN.TIR|)ki


20 pappardilû-stones made available to Marduk-šumu-līšir and Nūr-Sîn; (month:) “Bricks,” 2nd day; 8th year of Nabonidus, king of Babylon.


§2.2.2. Commentary
pappardilû-stones were used as seals, in jewelry, as amulets, and as ingredients in magico-medical recipes.[16] Thought perhaps to be agate, pappardilû is described in STT 1, 108 obv. 17-18 as “the stone whose appearance is black... and is flecked with white” (abnu šikinšu ṣalimma... pūṣa ediḫ). Nbn 245: 12 records that two pappardilû-stones were valued at four shekels of silver. We are therefore dealing in JHU T202 with a relatively large disbursement, worth perhaps forty shekels of silver. For comparison, the average wage in the neo-Babylonian period was 1-4 shekels of silver per month.[17]


The stones are described as being ina pān (“at the disposal of”)[18] Marduk-šumu-līšir and Nūr-Sîn, two men who are elsewhere described as jewelers employed by the Eanna temple (see below). The lack of witnesses, filiations and seal impressions, suggests a relatively informal transaction related to the temple economy involving well-known temple tradesmen, for which such notes are common. They record the transfer of temple property to someone for the completion of a task, often for the production of an object for which the temple provides the raw materials.


Given the nature of the transfer—semi-precious stones— we might reasonably infer the production of some temple paraphernalia. We would then expect the craftsmen to return the goods to the temple, with the clause: finished goods PNs maḫir – “(finished goods) were received from PNs.” This is the way the temple kept track of who had responsibility for their resources.[19] An interesting case of the disappearance of such precious goods from the temple is discussed by Payne 2008; BM 114525 and YNER 1, 1, describe the temple authorities’ attempts to limit any illicit losses of material when contracting work to craftsmen in the reign of Cyrus.


Although our tablet does not give an indication of original provenience, the ina pān clause is common in the Eanna (Uruk) archive,[20] a location made secure by the appearance of Marduk-šumu-līšir and Nūr-Sîn, known Uruk craftsmen. Given the prevalence of Uruk tablets in the erstwhile Goucher College (near Baltimore) cuneiform collection (now at Yale), this may give a clue as to the modern source of the tablets at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. That pappardilû stones were handled by the Eanna temple is demonstrated in other tablets from the archive, including GCCI 2, 182.


§2.2.3. Prosopographical Notes[21]
Marduk-šumu-līšir [s. Balāssu // Nūr-Sîn] (obv. 2): He is attested as a jeweler in the Eanna archive from the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar to Cyrus and is mentioned in the “Craftsmen’s Charter” (BM 114525 and YNER 1, 1).


Nūr-Sîn [s. Nabû-tabni-uṣur // Nūr-Sîn] (obv. 3): He is also a jeweler (YNER 1, 1) and appears as a witness as well as a prebend holder (BIN 1, 137); attested from Nabonidus to Cyrus.


While the lack of filiations in our text make a definite identification impossible, the Eanna setting and the appearance of a Marduk-šumu-līšir and Nūr-Sîn in other texts together, where they are described as jewelers, makes it very likely.



1  For a preliminary translation and the broader context of this document see Földi 2012.

2  UAM curator Sanchita Balachandran graciously assisted us in our work. We are grateful to her, as well as to the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum for permission to publish these tablets and to colleagues at the Department of Near Eastern Studies for helping with collations.

3  On the different costs of transportation, see Breckwoldt 1995-1996: 71-75.

4  Editions: Schorr, VAB 5, 235; Charpin 1980: 121, 239.

5  On such documents see Eilers 1931 and Dole 1965.

6  Though Renger (2000: 167) dates Šēp-Sîn’s earliest occurrence in this office to Ha 36/09/21 (probably a mistake for Ha 36/11/21, which is the date of Stol 1982, no. 11), and in this he is followed by Stol (2004: 920-921), the text VS 18, 9, is dated two years earlier (Ha 34/08/18). The latest of such texts is CHJ HE 130 (Ha 42/09/09, already Renger ibid.). For a list of Šēp-Sîn’s occurrences, see Stol 1982: 190-191.

7  See Stol 1982: 129, in detail Földi 2012: §4.2.

8  See Sayce 1924, no. 6.

9  Apud Buchanan 1981: xii. For the possible candidates see Hallo 2001; the only known exception to this rule is the Bilalama seal from Ešnunna (see Reichel 2003).

10  For Sippar examples of seal borrowing see Teissier 1998: 116-117.

11  See VS 13, 72 (RS 33); for a similar restoration of its inscription see HG no. 1483.

12  Ilī-liṭṭul, ku3-dim2 : VS 13, 72 (RS 33); YOS 8, 110 (RS 49).

13  YOS 8, 125 (RS 30+); in line 33', read ugula! lu2 ku3!-˹dim2˺. The identification is supported by further prosopographical connections between the VS 13 and YOS 8 texts mentioned here. The leading person of the archive (mentioned above), Ubār-Šamaš purchases real estate in VS 13, 79, and YOS 8, 110. The scribe Dummuqum appears as witness in both documents (VS 13, 79: “scribe,” YOS 8, 110: last witness). In YOS 8, 125, one finds the innkeeper Ilšu-nāṣir s. Sîn-šemi acting as witness, as well as in VS 13, 79. VS 13, 72, is also prosopographically connected to other texts from the archive, cf. the innkeeper Iddin-Šamaš (also in VS 13, 68 and 71). It is perhaps not a mere coincidence that two of the five persons can be connected through their fathers to the circle of Ubār-Šamaš.

14  See VS 13, 79 (RS 39).

15  See Anbar 1975, no. 8 (Si 03); TCL 11, 197 (Si 03).

16  CAD s.v. pappardilû.

17  Jursa 2005: 56.

18  See Jursa 2005: 47-48.

19  See Payne 2007: 82-85; we are grateful to the author for her suggestions, and for providing us with a copy of her dissertation.

20  See Gehlken 2004.

21  See Payne 2007: 269-270, 272.



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Version: 31 October 2014  

Cite this Article
Földi, Zsombor J., and Ronan J. Head. 2014. “Two Tablets from the Johns Hopkins University Collection.” Cuneiform Digital Library Bulletin 2014 (4).
Földi, Z. J., & Head, Ronan J. (2014). Two Tablets from the Johns Hopkins University Collection. Cuneiform Digital Library Bulletin, 2014(4).
Földi, Z. J. and Head, Ronan J. (2014) “Two Tablets from the Johns Hopkins University Collection,” Cuneiform Digital Library Bulletin, 2014(4). Available at: (Accessed: April 13, 2024).
	note = {[Online; accessed 2024-04-13]},
	address = {Oxford; Berlin; Los Angeles},
	author = {F{\" o}ldi, Zsombor J. and Head,  Ronan J.},
	journal = {Cuneiform Digital Library Bulletin},
	issn = {1540-8760},
	number = {4},
	year = {2014},
	publisher = {Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative},
	title = {Two {Tablets} from the {Johns} {Hopkins} {University} {Collection}},
	url = {},
	volume = {2014},

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