Six Neo-Sumerian Texts in the Boston Public Library

CDLB 2021:1

Cuneiform Digital Library Bulletin (ISSN: 1540-8760)

Published on 2022-01-24

© The Authors

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.

Liu Changyu ORCID logo

Zhejiang Normal University

§0. Acknowledgements

I wish to express my gratitude to the Department of Near Eastern Studies of the Johns Hopkins University for a 2014 Summer Research Stipend for collating and photographing the tablets published here. My thanks go as well to Karen S. Cook and Elspeth Healey, Special Collections Librarians at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library of the University of Kansas, and to Kris Ercums, Curator of Global Contemporary and Asian Art at the Spencer Museum of Art of the University of Kansas. All of these people were wonderfully hospitable and kind, during both my visit to the University of Kansas in 2014 and the extended period in which these tablets were prepared for publication. I thank the Kenneth Spencer Research Library and the Spencer Museum of Art for permission to publish these tablets. Finally, I wish to thank Manuel Molina and the anonymous reviewers for reading and commenting on a draft of this paper. All errors are my own responsibility.

§1. Introduction

§1.1. The purpose of this paper is to publish twelve cuneiform texts which are kept in collections at the University of Kansas.[1] Ten are in the special collections of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library (KSRL) and two are in the collections of the Spencer Museum of Art (SMA).

§1.2. There is no known documentation of the provenance of the tablets in the SMA (Texts 4, 12). The artifacts in the KSRL are accompanied by a catalogue, which states that ten of them were “bought from Edgar J. Banks, ca. 1915” (including texts 1-3, 5-6, and 8-11), while the remaining artifact was “from the estate of Kate I. Hansen, received 1969” (Text 7).[2] The former group, therefore, was one of the many small lots of antiquities sold by Edgar J. Banks to colleges, seminaries, and universities across the United States in the early twentieth century.[3]

§1.3. The purchase of the KSRL tablets is further documented in a letter from Banks to Prof. E. M. Hopkins of the University of Kansas dated 21 June 1915, where Banks states,

I am not a merchant of Babylonian antiquities...but as I have been engaged in Babylonian excavation work for the University of Chicago, a European collector, now in the war, has asked me to sell his collection for him. Among the tablets are contracts from the last kings of Babylon, some bearing the name of Nebuchadnezzar, votive tablets from 2100 B.C., temple records from 2400 B.C., and a few records and letters of an earlier age.[4]

Banks goes on to ask to be allowed to send some tablets to the recipient, who may either keep them and send payment for them (“one to ten dollars each”) or return them.

§1.4. Another letter from Banks to Miss Carrie M. Watson dated 1 September 1924 similarly offers antiquities to her for sale and contains a list of Banks’ wares with sale prices. Samples of these antiquities include, “Case of envelope tablets. $10 to $20 each,” as well as “Greek vases from the 6th century B.C.”[5]

§1.5. Finally, an inventory of antiquities from Banks lists seventeen tablets and one cone with descriptions and prices, and it is clear that at least six of the tablets now in the KSRL are represented on this list.[6] Since the list contains statements about provenience, I refer to it throughout the paper, though it is probably often unreliable in this regard.

§1.6. Tom B. Jones of the University of Minnesota collated the cuneiform texts in the KSRL, creating the aforementioned catalogue, which contains some of Banks’ original descriptions of the tablets as well as Jones’ descriptions and editions (transliterations, translations, and, in two cases, hand copies) of most of them. Three of the texts have been published before, but they are published here again to make them more widely available and/or because better readings are now possible. Finally, I am grateful to Enrique Jiménez, who alerts me to some papers among the Nachlass of Earl Leichty which show that the latter transliterated and translated two of these tablets, namely Texts 10 and 11, and produced a copy of Text 10.

§1.7. As mentioned, Banks’ inventory of the KSRL texts gives proveniences for each, but these can only have been guesses. The exact archaeological contexts of these and the SMA tablets, like many thousands of the legal and administrative documents from Mesopotamia, are ultimately unknown. Nonetheless, it is now possible to locate many of the unprovenienced Mesopotamian legal and administrative texts in their archival contexts, since many of the archives and their prosopographies have been reconstructed and their tablets’ features studied.[7] Thus, wherever possible, I have attempted to clarify the archival contexts of the tablets published here, often in spite of the assertions of Banks about their provenience. Something of the administrative function of each document is indicated in the heading under which it is treated, along with the date (year/month/day).

§2. Ur III Documents from Umma

§2.1. Three of the Kansas tablets published here are probably from Umma, modern Tall Ǧūḫa, which was one of the core provinces of the Ur III state.[8] The administration of the Umma province is attested in over 30,000 Ur III documents from the site, almost all of which are from the antiquities market.[9] We may infer from a report on the excavations at Umma that these tablets might have come from a large mound in the center of the site. According to Nawala Al-Mutawalli and Hamza Al-Harbi, who excavated the site during 1999-2002, “The large hill located in the center of the ruins, measuring some 1000x500 meters, is called ‘Tell of Tablets’ by the local inhabitants, since it is full with cuneiform tablets of the Ur III period, as fragments left over by the looters and collected from the surface indicate.”[10] If I understand this report correctly, this tell is the mound just to the south of the Šara Temple.[11] According to Piotr Steinkeller,

Although nothing is known about the circumstances of their discovery, it appears certain that most, if not all, of the Umma tablets presently known were originally stored in a single location, which must have functioned as the central archive of the Umma government. This is indicated both by the internal organization of the documentation, which clearly forms an interconnected whole, and by the fact that the documents came to the antiquities market as a result of what had apparently been a single discovery.[12]

In the absence of archaeological provenience for the Umma tablets, it is possible to infer administrative sectors from the prevalent topics of the tablets. Three of these topics are dealt with below, including rationing messengers, repair of boats, and work-time calculations for agriculture.

§2.2. Text 1: Umma Messenger Text

Museum Number: KSRL Special Collections MS Q4:3
Dimensions: 3.2 (H) x 2.8 (W) x 1.4 (D) cm.
Date: Šū-Suen 5/vi/13

§2.2.1. Transliteration and Translation

obv. 1.      1(dis) kaš-dida 3(diš) sila3 kaš 1 (dug-vessel) of beer extract, 3 sila3 of beer,
  2. 1(ban2) ninda 2(diš) gin2 i3 2(diš) gin2 naga 1 ban2 of bread, 2 shekels of oil, 2 shekels of potash,
  3. 3(diš) sa sum 3 strings of onions:
  4. geš-kin2-na-i3-sa6 gaba-aš Geš-kina-isa, outbound journey.
  5. 1(diš) kaš-dida 3(diš) sila3 kaš 1 (dug-vessel) of beer extract, 3 sila3 of beer,
  6. 1(ban2) ninda 2(diš) gin2 i3 2(diš) gin2 naga 1 ban2 of bread, 2 shekels of oil, 2 shekels of potash,
  7. 3(diš) sa sum 3 strings of onions:
  8. šu-dUTU gaba-aš Šū-Šamaš, outbound journey.
  9. 1(diš) kaš-dida 3(diš) sila3 kaš 1 (dug-vessel) of beer extract, 3 sila3 of beer,
rev. 1. 1(ban2) ninda 2(diš) gin2 i3 2(diš) gin2 naga 1 ban2 of bread, 2 shekels of oil, 2 shekels of potash,
  2. 3(diš) sa sum 3 strings of onions:
  3. i3-li2-KAL gaba-aš Ilī-dan, outbound journey.
  4. šunigin 3(diš) ⸢kaš-dida⸣ gin 1(ban2) Total: 3 (dug-vessels) of ordinary quality beer extract, 1 ban2 (each).
  5. šunigin 1(ban2) la2 1(diš) sila3 kaš Total: 1 ban2 minus 1 sila3 of beer.
    šunigin 3(ban2) ninda Total: 3 ban2 of bread.
  6. šunigin 6(diš) gin2 i3 Total: 6 shekels of oil.
    šunigin 6(diš) gin2 naga Total: 6 shekels of potash.
  7. šunigin 1(u) la2 1(diš) sa sum Total: 9 strings of onions.
  8. u4 1(u) 3(diš)-kam iti šu-numun 13th day. Month: “Sowing” (sixth month, Umma).
  9. mu us2-⸢sa d⸣šu-dsuen lugal-e bad3 mar-tu mu-du3 Year after the year: “Šū-Suen, the king, built the Martu wall” (Šū-Suen 5).

§2.2.2. Banks states that this tablet was “found at Jokha,” and this corresponds well with the other features of the text: it is indeed a beautifully preserved Umma messenger text, presumably from the central archive of the provincial capital.[13]

§2.2.3. On kaš-dida, see Civil 1964, 76-77, 81; Stol 1971, 169; Such-Gutiérrez 2006; and Sallaberger 2012, 318-22, 325. On naga, see Waetzoldt 1972, 172; Butz 1984, esp. 283-85; Potts 1997, 119; Pappi 2009-2011; and CAD U-W s.v. uḫūlu. Mamoru Yoshikawa interprets gaba-aš as “(going) to the opposite countries, mostly Elam,” which is in complementary distribution with gaba-ta, to be interpreted as “(coming) from the opposite countries,” i.e., opposite the Tigris.[14] He suggests that these two terms from the Umma messenger texts correspond in function to the terms kaskal-še3 and ša3 uru, respectively, in the Girsu messenger texts, where these terms are also in complementary distribution.[15] In the Girsu messenger texts, the actual destinations are often given, and kaskal-še3 seems to be a way of referring more generically to the outbound journey, without specifying where the person was going.

§2.3. Text 2: List of Supplies for Caulking a Boat[16]

Museum Number: KSRL Special Collections MS Q4:4
Dimensions: 5.5 (H) x 4 (W) x 1.9 (D) cm.
Date: Šulgi 42/xii2/day unknown

§2.3.1. Transliteration and Translation

obv. 1.      3(geš2) 2(u) gu2 esir2 ḫad2 200 talents of dry bitumen,
  2. esir2 ma2 gul-la bitumen of a dismantled boat,
  3. ur-dbil3 (belonging to) Ur-Gil(gameš);
  4. 1(geš2) 1(u) gu2 ⸢esir2⸣ gul-gul 70 talents of crushed bitumen,
  5. e2-šu-tum gu2 i7-da ensi2-ka-ta from the storehouse on the bank of the Ensi canal,
  6. giri3 ur-am3-ma responsibility of Ur-ama
  7. u3 šeš-kal-la šu-i and Šeš-kala, the barber;
  8. ⸢3(u)⸣ gu2 esir2 ḫad2 30 talents of dry bitumen,
rev. 1. 5(ban2) sila3 i3 ku6 50 sila3 of fish-oil,
  2. 2(aš) 2(barig) 3(ban2) esir2 e2-a 2 gur 2 barig 3 ban2 of construction bitumen,
  3. ki lugal-nir-gal2-ta from Lugal-nirgal;
  4. 4(u) 2(dis) gešu3 ḫi-a 42 planks:
  5. ma2 du8-⸢a⸣ that which caulks a boat.
  6. iti diri Month: “Extra” (intercalary).
  7. mu ša-aš-ru-um ba-⸢ḫul⸣ Year: “Šašrum was destroyed” (Šulgi 42).

§2.3.2. This is an extremely well-preserved tablet, with the exception of a chip in the bottom left corner of the obverse, and records materials for repairing boats. There are several hundred texts dealing with the management (dismantling, construction, restoration) of boats and their materials among the Ur III documents. Some or all of these texts are associated with an organization called mar-sa, which oversaw these activities.[17] Our text is undoubtedly to be associated with this organization, though it does not record the final administrative movement of the materials listed, but only their origins, and that they are for caulking boats (rev. 5). I suggest that the text is from Umma, on the basis of the fact that an intercalary month for Šulgi 42 is well attested for Umma; for other cities, it is attested only once in a text which is supposed to be from Girsu.[18] The names in this text are well-attested at Umma and other places, but prosopography does not allow me to securely identify the persons.[19]

Obv. 1: For the types of bitumen in this text – esir2 ḫad2, esir2 e2-A, and esir2 gul-gul – Marten Stol has recently summarized the cuneiform evidence.[20] The translation of esir2 ḫad2 as “dry bitumen” comports well with the fact that this bitumen is from a dismantled boat (esir2 ma2 gul-la, obv. 2); such bitumen also appears in several other texts which record parts from dismantled boats.[21] Presumably these would have been chunks of dried bitumen which were chipped off of boats that were being scrapped for parts.[22]

Obv. 4: esir2 gul-gul presumably refers to a sub-type of dry bitumen (note the weight measure), which had been crushed into finer pieces.[23]

Obv. 5: The text means literally, “from the storehouse on the ensi’s canal-bank,” but I take this to be a reference to the Ensi canal, otherwise known from the Umma province.[24]

Rev. 1: Fish oil is regularly listed among the components used in the construction and maintenance of boats in the Ur III documents.[25] On the basis of anthropological parallels from the construction of Arabian watercraft, Magnus Widell suggests that fish oil was used “to protect the wood and/or any cordage inside the hull from rotting.”[26]

Rev. 2: Stol suggests reading the A element in esir2 e2-A as dur5 on the basis of the Early Dynastic term esir2 dur5.[27] He then translates “semi-liquid bitumen,” noting that it is measured with the capacity measure, as here.[28] It is not clear to me what the element e2 in esir2 e2-A would be in Stol’s proposal. Heimpel has suggested that either e2-a had reference to the relationship between the deity E2-a and bitumen wells or that it reflects the use of bitumen as sealing or mortar in houses.[29] Indeed, in the Ur III texts esir2 e2-a is used for all sorts of purposes, including being spread onto boats, or on containers and building materials as a sealant or mastic.[30] Thus, I suggest identifying esir2 e2-a, along with Civil, as “(refined) building asphalt” or, perhaps better, “(processed) construction bitumen.”[31]

§2.4. Text 3: Calculations of Work-Days for Plowing and Harrowing

Museum Number: KSRL Special Collections MS Q4:5
Dimensions: 5.8 (H) x 4.3 (W) x 1.9 (D) cm.
Date: Šū-Suen 4/month unknown/day unknown

§2.4.1. Transliteration and Translation

obv. 1.      1(eše3) gan2 tug2-⸢sagx(ŠE.KIN)⸣ 1 eše3 (which is worked with) a
  2. ½(iku) ¼(iku) GAN2 geš a-ra2 3(diš) 4(iku) ½(iku) GAN2-ta breaking-plow (at) ⅓ iku (per day, and) harrowed 3 times at 4½ iku per (day):
  3. a2 erin2-na-bi u4 4(u) 8(diš)-kam its laborers’ work is 48 days.
  4. 2(eše3) GAN2 geš a-ra2 2(diš) 4(iku) ½(iku) GAN2-ta 2 eše3 (which is) harrowed 2 times at 4½ iku per (day):
  5. a2 erin2-na-bi u4 2(u) 4(diš)-kam its laborers’ work is 24 days.
  6. a-ša3 gi-apin-ku5-⸢ra2! Field: Gi-apin-kudra
rev. 1. ugula lugal-⸢ku3-zu⸣ Overseer: Lugal-kuzu
  2. kisib3 nu-ur2-diškur Seal: Nūr-Adad.
  3. mu bad3 mar-tu ba-TU Year: “The Martu wall was built” (Šū-Suen 4).
Seal 1. nu-ur2-diškur Nūr-Adad,
  2. dub-sar scribe,
  3. dumu a-ḫu-du10 son of Aḫu-ṭāb.

§2.4.2. This is a well-preserved tablet, sealed all over its obverse and most of its reverse, over the signs. Prosopographical and geographical references in the tablet indicate that it is from Umma.[32] The tablet records calculations of work-days of erin2-laborers.[33] for plowing and harrowing a domain-land (provincial) field called Gi-apin-kudra, located in the district of Da-Umma in the northwest of the Umma province, where the provincial capital was also located.[34]

§2.4.3. Civil has summarized the typical components of this type of text and explained their calculations.[35] Minimally, such texts contain the following components:

a(iku) gan2 tug2-sag11
b(iku) gan2-ta
ges ur3-ra a-ra2 c
d(iku) gan2-ta
a2 erin2-na-bi u4 e-kam

The formula for the calculation of e (the number of worker-days) is presented by Civil as e = 3(a/b+ac/d).[36] The number of people in a team of workers is not given in these tablets, but this number can be inferred using the calculations in the tablets, which regularly assume teams of three people.[37] Moreover, these tablets often contain multiple calculations of work-days, often of plowing with harrowing, followed by calculations of only harrowing.[38] In these cases, Civil’s formula can be modified for calculations of only harrowing, i.e., e = 3(ac/d).

§2.4.4. When the formula is applied to Text 3, in which the numbers are well-preserved, it produces different figures from the ones given by the scribe. Using Civil’s formula (which works repeatedly for calculations on the Umma tablets of this type), the number of work-days in the first instance should be 36 days, not 48, and 16 days in the second instance, not 24. Thus, it would appear that either 1) there is a scribal error on the tablet, 2) the scribe made calculation mistakes,[39] or 3) we are wrong about there being three people in a team for this tablet. In the first calculation on our tablet, the scribe’s figures are correct if there were four workers in a team. In the second calculation, assuming there were three workers (the usual in such calculations) and that the area was harrowed three times (the number from the previous calculation), the number of work-days the scribe produced would be correct. In this case, the scribe made a mistake either in calculation or in the number of diš-wedges in obv. 4.

Rev. 3: The text clearly reads TU instead of du3 here, an unusual spelling of the year-name. An intentional phonetic orthography for du3 would seem to be unlikely given the fact that the year-name was probably well-known to the scribe and that “to build” is consistently written with GAG. It is noteworthy that the TU sign occurs just above this sign on the tablet, in Mar-tu, and this, along with the presumed phonetic similarity between TU (du2) and du3, may have caused the scribe to absent-mindedly write TU for the verb in the year-name, rather than GAG.

§3. Ur III Documents from Puzriš-Dagan (Drehem)

§3.1. Three of the Kansas tablets are from Puzriš-Dagan, modern Drehem, an administrative center of the Ur III state which managed, among other things, the redistribution of livestock.[40] Over 17,000 Ur III documents are extant from this site, the vast majority of which were acquired on the antiquities market in the early 20th century.[41] In the absence of known archaeological provenience, the reconstructed administration of the central livestock agency at Puzriš-Dagan has been synthesized recently by Christina Tsouparopoulou, building on the work of previous scholars.[42] The central livestock agency at Puzriš-Dagan received animals as taxes from various parts of the empire, as gifts from VIPs (the royal family, cultic functionaries, etc.), or as booty brought back from military campaigns.[43] The animals were then redistributed to the bureaus of the central livestock agency or directly to other destinations. There were various final destinations of the animals, including, among other places, the Ur III cults (not only at Nippur, but also, for example, at Ur and Uruk), high-status people, and even dogs associated with the army or the cult of Gula.[44] The central livestock agency of Puzriš-Dagan is divided into offices or bureaus, including the office of the chief official, the disbursal office, the shepherds’ office, and the office for dead animals.[45]

§3.2. Text 4: Receipt of a Regular Delivery for Gula in Ur and Dead Livestock for Her Dogs

Museum Number: SMA 1928.3889
Dimensions: 4 (H) x 3.3 (W) x 1.2 (D) cm.
Date: Šulgi 44/iv2/day unknown

§3.2.1. Transliteration and Translation

obv. 1.      3(u) udu sa2-⸢du11⸣ dgu-la 30 sheep, regular delivery of Gula,
  2. ša3 uri5ki-⸢ma⸣ in Ur,
  3. 1(u) 4(diš) udu 1(u) n(diš) ⸢u8 14 rams, 10+n ewes,
  4. 1(diš) maš2 n(diš) [ud5] 1 billy goat, n [nanny goats],
  5. ba-ug7 mu ur-⸢gir15⸣-[ra]-se3 dead, for the dogs,
  6. dingir-ba-ni sipa ur-⸢ra-ke4 Ilum-bāni, the dog-handler,
rev. 1. šu ba-ti received.
  2. ⸢zi-ga⸣ Expenditure
  3. ki ⸢na-sa6 From Nasag.
  4. iti ⸢ki-siki-d⸣[nin]-⸢a⸣-zu min Month: “Weaving of [Nin]azu, second” (fourth month, intercalary, Reichskalender).
  5. mu ⸢si-mu-ru-um⸣ki / lu-⸢lu-bum2⸣[ki] ⸢a-ra2 1(u)⸣ la2 1(diš)-⸢kam-as ba-ḫul⸣ Year: “Simurrum (and) Lullubum, for the ninth time, were destroyed” (Šulgi 44).

§3.2.2 This tablet is badly effaced, especially on the back, so that the text has to be reconstructed, when possible, on the basis of parallel documents. The tablet is undoubtedly from the Puzriš-Dagan administration, given its textual correspondences to other documents of its kind from that organization, as well as prosopography. The animals were issued by Nasag, the chief official of the Puzriš-Dagan central livestock agency from Šulgi 42 to Amar-Suen 2,[46] and were received by Ilum-bāni, a dog-handler (sipa ur-(gir15)-ra) associated with the Puzriš-Dagan administration from Šulgi 43 to Amar-Suen 3.[47] The tablet records the receipt of a regular delivery of small livestock to Gula in Ur, as well as dead livestock for dogs.[48] Like this text, numerous parallel documents typically present two separate entries for the animals: 30 sheep for Gula (here obv. 1) and a total of 30 of different types of dead sheep and goats of both sexes for the dogs (here obv. 3-4).[49] These sets of animals were monthly allotments, amounting, apparently, to two animals per day of the month: one (living) animal for Gula and one dead animal for her dogs.[50] The dog-handler Ilum-bāni may have been uniquely assigned to providing for the dogs associated with Gula in Ur.[51] The vast majority of references to him involve him receiving the regular delivery for Gula in Ur and the dead animals for the dogs from the Puzriš-Dagan livestock administration, as in our text.[52] Unfortunately, we do not know very much about the cult of Gula at Ur in the Ur III period.[53] The association of dogs with this healing goddess is well-known, though our most telling evidence is from the late second and first millennia.[54] Nonetheless, this association is to be inferred from the reference to the construction of an e2 ur-gir15-ra, “Dog-House/Temple,” for Ninisina by Enlil-bāni on some cones most likely from Isin.[55] The text published here, along with the numerous Ur III texts from Puzriš-Dagan which document similar transactions, extends our knowledge of the association between the healing goddess Gula and dogs back into the late third millennium.[56]

§3.3. Text 5: Receipt of a Dead Lamb

Museum Number: KSRL Special Collections MS Q4:1
Dimensions: 1.9 (H) x 1.7 (W) x 1.1 (D) cm.
Date: year unknown/v/17

§3.3.1. Transliteration and Translation

obv. 1.      1(diš) ⸢sila4 1 lamb,
  2. ba-uš2 ⸢u4 1(u) 7(diš)-kam⸣ dead, on the 17th day,
  3. ⸢ki en-dingir-mu-ta⸣ from En-dingirĝu,
rev. 1. dšul-gi-uru-mu⸣ Šulgi-uruĝu,
  2. ⸢šu ba-ti⸣ received.
  3. ⸢iti ezem-dnin-a-zu⸣ Month: “Festival of Ninazu” (fifth month, Reichskalender).

§3.3.2. While this tablet is generally well-preserved, the surface is worn, and most of the signs are more or less effaced and therefore difficult to read. Thus, the half-brackets used in the transliteration indicate the faintness of the signs, rather than that they are broken per se. The tablet was edited previously in Sidney B. Nelson’s 1972 University of Minnesota dissertation,[57] but it is edited here again to make it more widely available. Banks states that this tablet was “found at Jokha,”[58] but it is certainly from Puzriš-Dagan, given the type of document and prosopography. It is a receipt of a dead lamb by the office of dead animals from the Tummal branch of the disbursal office.[59] Many documents recording the receipt of a dead animal are known to have come from Puzriš-Dagan,[60] and Šulgi-uruĝu, who receives the dead lamb in this document, was the official in charge of the office for dead animals at Puzriš-Dagan from Amar-Suen 3 until Ibbi-Suen 2.[61] The tablet refers to the seventeenth day of the fifth month in the Reichskalender as the day of the transaction, but no year is given.[62] Since En-dingirĝu was the official in charge of the Tummal branch of the disbursal office from Šulgi 45 until Amar-Suen 9,[63] we may limit the span of time from which this document comes to the time between Amar-Suen 3 (the first year of Šulgi-uruĝu) and Amar-Suen 9.

§3.4. Text 6: Transfer of a Royal Delivery of Livestock

Museum Number: KSRL Special Collections MS Q4:2
Dimensions: 7.3 (H) x 4.4 (W) x 2.1 (D) cm.
Date: Šulgi 46/i/day unknown

§3.4.1. Transliteration and Translation

obv. 1.      1(u) 8(diš) gu4 ⸢niga⸣ 18 grain-fed bulls,
  2. 1(u) 1(diš) ⸢gu4 11 bulls,
  3. 1(diš) gu4 geš-⸢du3 1 breed-bull,
  4. 1(diš) gu4 ab2-[za-za?] 1 ze[bu]? bull,
  5. 6(diš) gu4 gun3-[a] 6 speckled bulls,
  6. 3(diš) gu4 geš-du3 gun3-[a] 3 speckled breed-bulls,
  7. 3(diš) ab2 3 cows,
  8. 1(diš) ab2 gun3-a 1 speckled cow,
  9. 1(diš) amar gu4 am mu n 1 n-year-old bull-calf (descended from) an aurochs,
  10. 1(diš) amar gu4 am ga 1 suckling bull-calf (descended from) an aurochs,
  11. 1(diš) udu niga ge6 ⸢šimašgi⸣ 1 grain-fed, black, Šim[aškian] ram,
  12. 1(u) 1(diš) udu [...] 11 [...] rams,
  13. 1(u) la2 1(diš) ⸢gukkal⸣ [...] 9 [...] fat-tailed rams,
  14. 1(diš) gukkal geš-⸢du3⸣ [...] 1 [...] fat-tailed breed-ram,
  15. 4(u) 1(diš) ⸢udu⸣ [...] 41 [...] rams,
  16. 4(u) udu šimašgi [...] 40 Šimaškian [...] rams,
  17. 1(u) 8(diš) [...] 18 [...],
rev. 1. 4(u) 5(diš) [...] 45 [...],
  2. 4(geš2) 5(u)? [...] 290? [...],
  3. 1(geš2) 5(diš)? [...] 65? [...],
  4. 4(diš) [...] 4 [...],
  5. 1(diš) sila4 bar-gal2! [...] 1 lamb with fleece [...],
  6. 2(diš) maš2 gal [...] 2 [...] billy-goats,
  7. 2(diš) maš2 gal [...] 2 [...] billy-goats,
  8. 2(diš) maš2 gun3-a 3(diš) [...] 2 speckled billy-goats, 3 [...],
  9. 1(diš) munus2-gar3 a-⸢dara4 1 female kid (descended from) a bezoar:
  10. mu-kux ⸢lugal⸣ [...] royal delivery,
  11. ki na-sa6-⸢ta⸣ from Nasag,
  12. lu2-dingir-ra dumu ⸢inim⸣-[dšara2] Lu-dingira, son of Inim-[Šara],
  13. i3-⸢dab5 transferred.
  14. iti maš-da3-gu7 Month: “Gazelle Feast” (1st month, Reichskalender).
  15. mu ki-maški u3 ⸢ḫu⸣-[ur5]-tiki ba-⸢ḫul⸣ Year: “Kimaš and [Ḫur]ti were destroyed” (Šulgi 46).

§3.4.2. This tablet is well-preserved, except that the right edge has broken off, along with a large portion of the upper right corner of the reverse. A modern attempt has been made to reconstruct the substance of the tablet’s right edge, without trying to reconstruct the text; according to Banks, it was “repaired by the Arabs who found it to make it appear perfect.”[64] While this text has been edited in Nelson’s dissertation,[65] I edit it here again to make it more widely available. Banks states that this tablet was “found at Drehem,”[66] and this corresponds well with the type of text and the prosopography. The document records the transfer of a royal delivery (mu-kux lugal) of livestock from Nasag, the chief official of the Puzriš-Dagan central livestock agency from Šulgi 42 to Amar-Suen 2,[67] to Lu-dingira son of Inim-Šara, the official in charge of (one of the departments of the) the nakabtum organization of the disbursal office from Šulgi 42 until Amar-Suen 3.[68]

Obv. 4: It is difficult to know how much text originally came after the ab2 sign here, since the right edge of the tablet is broken off. Judging by the lines in which the final sign is visible, e.g., obv. 1, where the final signs are justified right in spite of the larger-than-necessary space on the line, the ab2 sign here is situated before the place where the last sign should be. This suggests that something came after the ab2 sign in obv. 4. The collocation gu4 ab2-ba (another term for “breed-bull”) is unusual at Puzriš-Dagan,[69] and I have not been able to find another example of both gu4 ab2(-ba) and gu4 ges-du3 (see obv. 3) listed in the same document; rather, one or the other is used. The only other possible reconstruction known to me is ab2-za-za, perhaps “zebu.”[70]

Obv. 9-10: I assume that amar gu4 am here is a defective writing of amar gu4 a am, designating a calf that is descended from an aurochs.[71]

Obv. 11: It is also possible that the line should be read 1 udu niga ge6 LU2[.GISGAL.UM], “1 barley-fed, black, Lullubean ram,” but I do not believe that there is enough room for this on the tablet.[72]

Rev. 5: The signs read 1 sila4 BAR ḪI UD, and bear a graphic similarity with 1 sila4 mas2 babbar, but this would seem to be nonsense. One could read bar du10 babbar, but this would be an unusual phrase in Puzriš-Dagan administrative documents, not only because wool is not usually designated as du10, but also because it is not usually designated as babbar, since wool from native sheep was probably normally white.[73] I have therefore understood this as an error for bar-gal2, “with fleece.”[74]

Rev. 9: This female kid is probably a hybrid of a domesticated goat and a wild goat.[75]

4. Old Babylonian Royal Inscriptions

4.1. Text 7: Cone Inscription of Sumu-el (RIME

Museum Number: KSRL Special Collections MS Q4:11
Dimensions: 3 (H) x 5.4 (W) cm.
Date: undated, reign of Sumu-el, king of Larsa (ca. 1894-1866)

§4.1.1. Transliteration

1.      [dinanna]
2. [nin-a-ni-ir]
3. [dsu-mu-dingir]
4. [nita] ⸢kal-ga⸣
5. ⸢lugal⸣ uri5ki-⸢ma⸣
6. ⸢lugal⸣ ki-en-gi ⸢ki-uri⸣
7. e2 šutum2 [ku3]
8. e2 ki ag2-a-ni
9. ša3 uri5ki-ma
10. mu-na-du3

§4.1.2. This is a fragment of the shaft of a clay cone, with the right side of the inscription partially preserved. It records the construction of a storeroom for Inanna by Sumu-el, king of Larsa, in Ur.[76] These facts agree with a note, originally in the box containing this cone, which said that it was “from the excavations of Ur of the Chaldees.”[77] The inscription is one of over sixty-eight duplicates on such cones published as RIME[78] To judge from one of the duplicates,[79] the inscription would have been repeated on the head of the cone as well. Since the text is already treated in RIME 4, only a transliteration of the text is published here, including a reconstruction of the broken portions of the text on the basis of the duplicates.

4.2. Text 8: Foundation Tablet Inscription of Sîn-kāšid (RIME

Museum Number: KSRL Special Collections MS Q4:7
Dimensions: 9.7 (H) x 6.1 (W) x 3.7 (D) cm.
Date: undated, reign of Sîn-kāšid, king of Uruk (ca. mid-19th century BC)

§4.2.1. Transliteration

obv. 1.      dsuen-ka3-ši-id
  2. nita kal-ga
  3. lugal unuki-ga
  4. ⸢lugal⸣ am-na-nu-um
  5. ⸢u2⸣-a
  6. e2-an-na
rev. 1. e2-gal
  2. nam-lugal-la-ka-ni
  3. mu-du3

§4.2.2. This is a clay foundation tablet with its inscription well-preserved, with the exception of a bit of damage in the surface of the obverse at the beginnings of obv. 4 and 5. There is plenty of space on the tablet for the inscription, the rulings and signs of which are spaced wide-apart. The text on the tablet records the construction of a royal palace of Sîn-kāšid, king of Uruk, and is a duplicate of RIME, of which over one hundred forty are known on foundation tablets and cones.[80] The other exemplars are from the Sîn-kāšid palace in Uruk.[81] Given the previous publication of this text, only a transliteration is published here.

4.3. Text 9: Cone Inscription of Sîn-kāšid (RIME

Museum Number: KSRL Special Collections MS Q4:8
Dimensions: 5.5 (H) x 3 (W) x 3-3.5 (D) cm.
Date: undated, reign of Sîn-kāšid, king of Uruk (ca. mid-19th century BC)

§4.3.1. Transliteration

1.      dsuen-ka3-ši-id
2. nita kal-⸢ga⸣
3. lugal unu⸢ki-ga⸣
4. lugal am-na-nu-⸢um⸣
5. u2!-a e2-⸢an-na⸣
6. e2-⸢gal⸣
7. nam-lugal-la-⸢ka-ni⸣
8. mu-du3

§4.3.2. This is a clay cone of Sîn-kāšid with the same inscription as the one presented in §4.2, and therefore undoubtedly comes from Uruk.[82] The inscription on this cone is fairly well-preserved, with the exception of the right sides of the lines, which are somewhat effaced. The inscription is written along the long axis of the cone, with the lines ending where the cone comes to a point, so that the signs become crowded at the ends of the lines. Only a transliteration is published here.

§5. Neo- and Late Babylonian Documents

§5.1. Text 10: Promissory Note about Barley in Exchange for Dates from the Eanna Archive

Museum Number: KSRL Special Collections MS Q4:9
Dimensions: 3.5 (H) x 4.5 (W) x 1.7 (D) cm.
Date: Nbk 36/vi?/5 (569 BC)

§5.1.1. Transliteration and Translation

obv. 1.      9 GUR ŠE.BAR šu-pel-ti
  2. ša2 6 GUR ZU2.LUM.MA NIG2.GA
  3. dGAŠAN ša2 UNUki dna-na-a
  4. ina UGU mARAD-dIN.NIN A m!NIG2.DU-nu
  5. u md15-MU-DU3 A-šu2 ša2 mdEN-GI
  6. ina itiGU4 ina ma-ši-ḫu ša2 dGAŠAN ša2 UNUki
  7. ina E2.AN.NA i-nam-di-nu
  8. 1-en pu-ut ša2-ni!-i
  9. na-šu-u2
  10. e⸣-lat u2-il3-ti3 ina UGU mARAD-d⸢IN.NIN⸣
rev. 1. lu2mu-kin-nu mEN-šu2-nu
  2. A-šu2 ⸢ša2⸣ mdAK⸣-ŠEŠ.MEŠ-MU A me-gi3-bi
  3. mdAK-MU-MU A-šu2 ⸢ša2⸣ mdEN-ib-ni! A mdEN-e?-ṭir?
  4. mdAMAR.UTU-MU-URU3 ⸢A-šu2 ša2⸣ mKAL?-AŠ A md30-tab-ni
  5. lu2⸣UMBISAG mE2.AN.NA-MU-DU3
  6. A-šu2 ša2 m⸢ŠEŠ⸣.MEŠ-ša2-a UNUki
  7. iti⸢KIN?⸣ [...] U4.5.KAM MU.36.KAM
Obv. 1-5.                       9 gur of barley, exchange of 6 gur of dates, property of Lady-of-Uruk and Nanaya, are to the debit of Arad-Innin son of kudurrānu and Ištar-šuma-ibni son of Bēl-ušallim.
Obv. 6-7. They will give (what is owed) in Ayyāru, by the measure of Lady-of-Uruk, in the Eanna.
Obv. 8-9. One (debtor) is guarantor for the other.
Obv. 10. (This debt is) apart from the promissory note to the debit of Arad-Innin.
Rev. 1-4. Witnesses: Bēlšunu, son of Nabû-aḫḫē-iddin, descendant of Egibi;
  Nabû-šuma-iddin, son of Bēl-ibni, descendant of Bēl-ēṭir?;
  Marduk-šuma-uṣur, son of Aqar-apli?, descendant of Sîn-tabni.
Rev. 5-6. Scribe: Eanna-šuma-ibni, son of Aḫḫēšaya.
Rev. 7-8. Uruk. Ulūlu? 5, 36th year of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.

§5.1.2. This tablet is well-preserved on the obverse, but the reverse is somewhat effaced, though generally legible in all but a place in the bottom left. It is in landscape format, and is pillow-shaped, with tapered edges.[83] Banks states that this tablet was “found at Babylon,”[84] but this is not correct, since the text identifies Uruk as its place of writing. This corresponds to the prosopography, i.e., the names with Istar, Innin, and Eanna elements, as well as the fact that at least one of the people in the text is from a well-known Urukean family.[85] It is a promissory note from the Eanna archive which records a loan of dates from the Eanna in exchange for the future repayment of barley.[86]

Obv. 4: The names read mARAD-dIN.NIN A m!(ŠU2)-NIG2.DU-nu. I understand kudurrānu[87] to refer to Arad-Innin’s father, rather than as an ancestral name. In the two other instances of this name known to me this is the case as well,[88] and the parallel person in the next line is only given his father’s name.[89] The construction PN1 A PN2 in obv. 4 is likely a shortened form because the scribe was running out of room and already had to write onto the right edge of the tablet. I suggest that he wrote A-su2, but then decided to abbreviate, and simply left the ŠU2 sign without the Personenkeil.

§5.2. Text 11: Legal Document from the Eanna Archive Containing an Oath Taken as Preliminary to a Trial Involving Theft

Museum Number: KSRL Special Collections MS Q4:10
Dimensions: 4.8 (H) x 6.2 (W) x 2.2 (D) cm.
Date: Cyr unknown/viii/day unknown

§5.2.1. Transliteration and Translation

obv. 1.      mba-ni-ia A-šu2 sa2 mkab-ti-⸢ia A m⸣[...]
  2. md15-ŠEŠ-MU A-šu2 ša2 mdIN.NIN-NUMUN-BA-ša2 A lu2SIPA-⸢SA2⸣.[DU11]
  3. mzu-um-bu A-šu2 ša2 mba-ni-ia A md30-TI-ER2
  4. mgu-za-nu A-šu2 ša2 mdAK-DU3-ŠEŠ A mku-ri-i
  5. mdna-na-a-ŠEŠ-MU A-šu2 ša2 mla-qi2-pi
  6. mMU-GI.NA A-šu2 ša2 mdAK-SIG5-iq
  7. lu2DUMU-DU3-i.MES ša2 ina pa-ni-šu2-nu {erasure}
  8. mdAK-ŠEŠ-MU lu2SAG.LUGAL lu2EN pi-qit-tu4 E2.AN.NA
  9. a-na mšul-lu-mu A-šu2 ša2
  10. mdAK-GUB-IBILA iq-bi um-ma
  11. i-na mku-ra-aš2 LUGAL TIN.TIRki
rev. 1. LUGAL KUR.KUR ti-me ki-i DUMU-u2-a
  2. ša2 ta-bal i-ta-ba-lu a-mu-ru
  3. mšul-lu-mu iq-bi um-ma DUMU-u2-a
  4. u4-mu-us-su ina su-u-qu ⸢am-mar
  5. lu2UMBISAG mgi-mil-⸢lu A-šu2⸣ [...] x
  6. UNUki iti⸢APIN⸣ [...]
  7. mku-ra-aš2 ⸢LUGAL⸣ [TIN.TIRki]
Obv. 1-6 Banīya, son of Kabtīya, descendant of [...];
  Ištar-aḫa-iddin, son of Innin-zēra-iqīša, descendant of Rē’i-sa[ttukki];
  Zumbu, son of Banīya, descendant of Sîn-leqe-unninnī;
  Guzānu, son of Nabû-bāni-aḫi, descendant of Kurû;
  Nanaya-aḫa-iddin, son of Lāqīpu;
  Šuma-ukīn, son of Nabû-mudammiq:
Obv. 7 - rev. 2 notables before whom Nabû-aḫa-iddin, the ša rēš šarri bēl piqitti of Eanna, said to Šullumu, son of Nabû-mukīn-apli, “Swear by Cyrus, king of Babylon, king of the lands: ‘(May I be cursed) if I have seen my son, who commits theft.”’
Rev. 3-4 Šullumu said, “I see my son daily in the street.”
Rev. 5 Scribe: Gimillu, son of [...]
Rev. 6-7 Uruk. Araḫsamnu [...] Cyrus, king of [Babylon].

§5.2.2. This tablet is generally well-preserved, with the exception of the lower right quadrant of the reverse, where the surface of the tablet has broken away. This break has also damaged the upper edge of the tablet on the right side of the obverse, which is partly broken off, obscuring the first line. This text was previously edited with hand copy, transliteration, translation, and commentary in an essay by Ira Spar in the Tom B. Jones Festschrift, and Francis Joannès, Shalom Holtz, and Magorzata Sandowicz have quoted from this text in their works, improving upon Spar’s treatment.[90] Banks states that this tablet was “found at Babylon.”[91] However, the tablet indicates that it was composed in Uruk, and this comports well with the prosopography. The text is a trial record, more specifically, a preliminary protocol regarding a thief. The document records “the preliminary stages of the trial.”[92] Such a text would have been one among others which, together, would have documented the entire proceedings of the case.[93] Unfortunately, to my knowledge, no other documents from this case are extant, and we are therefore limited in our understanding of the case to the window afforded by this text.[94] The son of Šullumu has apparently been accused of theft of temple property,[95] and, before the case is tried, Šullumu is commanded to give testimony under oath that he has not seen his son. This would be used as evidence in the adjudication of the case. However, Šullumu, states that he sees his son daily in the street, implicitly refusing to take the oath, because it would be untrue. Thus, this is an example of a case in which a person takes seriously the implicit curse which he would be calling upon himself if he took the oath falsely.[96]

Rev. 2: For the collocation tabla tabālu, “to commit theft,” cf. CAD T s.v. tabālu mng. 2a-6’ and s.v. tablu. The form tabal here is the result of the loss of the case vowel, with the final consonant cluster resolved by means of the reproduction of the vowel from the first syllable in the second.[97]

§5.3. Text 12: Administrative Document Recording Disbursals from a Delivery of Wool to Babylon

Museum Number: SMA 1928.3877
Dimensions: 3.8 (H) x 5.7 (W) x 2 (D) cm.
Date: Nbk? 25/ix/22 (580 BC)

§5.3.1. Transliteration and Translation

obv. 1.      22 GU2.UN SIKI.ḪI.A
  2. ša2 5 MA.NA KU3.BABBAR ša2 ina TIN.TIRki
  3. a-na lu2ŠA3.TAM id-di-nu-ma
  4. a-na dul-lu ša2 E2.GAL? id-di-nu
  5. mdAK-SUR-ZI.MEŠ A-šu2 ša2! mša2-dAK-šu2-u
  6. 5 GU2.UN ša2 30 lu2ENGAR.MEŠ ša2 ina UGU dul-lu ša2?
  7. mdAK-ŠEŠ.ME-MU A mMU-MU IGI?-ir?
  8. 9 GIN2 KU3.BABBAR ŠAM2 4 GUR 1 BAN2 3 ⸢SILA3?
  9. ⸢ZU2?.LUM?.MA?⸣ x x x x x
  10. {erasure}
  11. {erasure}
rev. 1. iti⸣GAN U4.22.KAM [MU].25.KAM
  2. {erasure}
Obv. 1-4 22 talents of wool worth 5 minas of silver which Nabû-ēṭir-napšāti son of Ša-Nabû-šū delivered to the šatammu in Babylon, and which he delivered for the work of the palace?:
Obv. 5-7 5 talents (of wool-rations) of 30 farmers who were in charge of work of Nabû-aḫḫē-iddin son of Šuma-iddin were received?;
Obv. 8-11 9 shekels of silver, price of 4 gur 1 ban2 3 sila3 of dates? [...] ...
Rev. 1-2 Kislīmu 22, 25th year of (Nebuchadnezzar?)

§5.3.2. The tablet is in landscape format and is pillow-shaped, with tapered edges. The obverse is well-preserved, but the reverse is largely destroyed, with the exception of some of the left side of the tablet, which is anepigraphic. The bottom of the reverse still has most of the first line of the date preserved, but the entire second line of the date appears to have been rubbed out. Thus, the month, day, and year are written, but we do not know of which king. The text runs down the obverse and onto the bottom edge, but the final two lines of text have also apparently been systematically rubbed out. This is an administrative document recording the delivery of wool to Babylon (obv. 1-4), followed by entries which seem to have recorded withdrawals from that income.[98] Unfortunately, the end of the document is not preserved, and much remains unclear to me.

Obv. 4-5: The sign which I have rendered as GAL in obv. 4 is badly written. If I have correctly read it, the tablet refers to wool that was delivered to Babylon for dullu ša ekalli, a phrase which may refer to the construction of the North Palace in Babylon, a project in which Babylonian temple organizations played a part. Paul-Alain Beaulieu has discussed a collection of tablets from the Eanna archive (though some were written in Babylon) which attest to the role of the Eanna in the construction of the North Palace.[99] Unfortunately, several of these tablets remain unpublished.[100] The only feature of our tablet which, to my knowledge, may connect it with Eanna is the name Nabû-ēṭir-napšāti son of Ša-Nabû-šū, who appears both as a scribe and as a judge in Uruk texts of the same general period.[101] It is worth noting, however, that the tablets which attest to the role of Eanna in the construction of the North Palace in Babylon date between the 19th and 29th years of Nebuchadnezzar (586-576 BC);[102] our tablet, if Nebuchadnezzar be the king who was written in the erased final line, falls in year 25 (580 BC).




Dahl, Jacob L, 2007, ”The Ruling Family of Ur III Umma: A Prosopographical Analysis of an Elite Family in Southern Iraq 4000 Years Ago”, Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten.
Englund, Robert K, 1990, ”Organisation und Verwaltung der Ur III-Fischerei”, Dietrich Reimer Verlag.
Hilgert, Markus, 2003, ”Drehem Administrative Documents from the Reign of Amar-Suena”, The Oriental Institute of Chicago.
Liu, Changyu, 2017, ”Organization, Administrative Practices and Written Documentation in Mesopotamia during the Ur III Period (c. 2112-2004 BC): A Case Study of Puzris-Dagan in the Reign of Amar-Suen.”, Ugarit-Verlag.
Owen, David I, 2013, ”Of Dogs and (Kennel) Men”.
Powell, Marvin A, 1984, ”Sumerian Cereal Crops”, pp. 48-72 .
Sallaberger, Walther, 1993, ”Der kultische Kalender der Ur III-Zeit”, Walter de Gruyter.
Such-Gutierrez, Marcos, 2003, ”Beitrage zum Pantheon von Nippur im 3. Jahrtausend”, Universita degli Studi di Roma LaSapienza.
Waetzoldt, Harmut, 1982, ”Das Amt des utullu, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientficas, pp. 386-97 .



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Plate 2


Plate 3


Plate 4


Plate 5


Plate 6


Cite this Article
Liu, Changyu. 2022. “Six Neo-Sumerian Texts in the Boston Public Library.” Cuneiform Digital Library Bulletin 2021 (1).
Liu, C. (2022). Six Neo-Sumerian Texts in the Boston Public Library. Cuneiform Digital Library Bulletin, 2021(1).
Liu, C. (2022) “Six Neo-Sumerian Texts in the Boston Public Library,” Cuneiform Digital Library Bulletin, 2021(1). Available at: (Accessed: September 23, 2023).
	note = {[Online; accessed 2023-09-23]},
	address = {Oxford; Berlin; Los Angeles},
	author = {Liu, Changyu},
	journal = {Cuneiform Digital Library Bulletin},
	number = {1},
	year = {2022},
	month = {jan 24},
	publisher = {Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative},
	title = {Six {Neo}-{Sumerian} {Texts} in the {Boston} {Public} {Library}},
	volume = {2021},

AU  - Liu, Changyu
DA  - 2022/1/24/
ID  - temp_id_697184981757
IS  - 1
J2  - CDLB
SN  - 1540-8760
T2  - Cuneiform Digital Library Bulletin
TI  - Six Neo-Sumerian Texts in the Boston Public Library
UR  -
VL  - 2021
Y2  - 2023/9/23/
ER  - 

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