The Year: "Nissen returns joyous from a distant island"

CDLJ 2003:1

Cuneiform Digital Library Journal (ISSN: 1540-8779)

Published on 2003-02-15

© 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.

Robert K. Englund

University of California Los Angeles

account, labor, Ur III, Nissen
This material is based upon work supported by the
National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0000629.

In 1988, Hans Nissen carried a Babylonian tablet from London
to Berlin; the short edition of that text offered here is dedicated
to him, whose support, advice, and friendship during 14 years
of work at the Free University I should have valued, more.



§1.  At the urging of the collaborators of the research project “Archaic Texts from Uruk”, the Berlin Senate purchased in 1988 a large portion of the former Erlenmeyer collection, consisting primarily of the then largest privately held group of proto-cuneiform tablets,[1] but also including a number of attractive Ur III tablets. Six documents of that group of texts have been dealt with in two earlier publications.[2] The text treated here was sold during the 1988 Christie’s of London auction as lot no. 92 at a price of £ 14,000 (see figure 1).[3] This large Umma account of guruš workmen belongs to a select published group of at most two dozen large texts from the Ur III period, with a particular affinity to MVN 15, 94, MVN 21, 199, and TCL 5, 5674.


figure 1

General observations

§2.  The text Erlenmeyer 152 dates from the second regnal year of Šu-Sin (ca. 2036 B.C. following the now less reliable middle chronology). It contains a year account of a 33-man workforce under a foreman named Lu-Šara. As with any planned economy, the production numbers posted in this account represent a mix of the artificial production norms that were attached to the workmen assigned the foreman by the agents of the household for which he worked, and the real production of the same workmen as confirmed in a large number of receipts. In both cases, the production was converted into “worker days” (guruš u4 1-še3) by multiplying the number of workmen by the number of days they either worked, or were expected to work to complete a set task. The document has the characteristic structure (figure 2) of yearly accounts of the Ur III period, consisting of sections conveniently designated “debits”, “credits”, and “balance


Figure 1: Hans Nissen and Peter Damerow arrive in Berlin with the Christie's tablets of the Erlenmeyer Collection (above); the exhibition Frühe Schrift in the Charlottenburg Palace, Berlin, in the summer of 1990 (below; photos courtesy of Margret Nissen).


§3.  We may imagine the composition of this account in the following way. At the end of Šu-Sin 2 or the beginning of Šu-Sin 3, a bookkeeper from the accounting bureau within the temple household of Šara gathers in his office

a)   the full account of Lu-Šara from the previous year (year one of the reign of Šu-Sin);
b)   the accounting record of the number and categories of workmen assigned to the foreman for the now completed year;
c)   records of any further laborers assigned for some period to the work crew of the foreman;
d)   and all records of the work done by this crew over the twelve months of the completed year.

The accountant must proceed to order these perhaps dozens of tablets, presumably in the same sequence as that found in the account Erlenmeyer 152, with those primary records and the previous account of a-c) strictly distinguished from those primary records of d), for the most part sealed receipts probably gathered by the foreman in the course of the year, that represent the real and documented production of his workmen.


§4.  With the access to larger numbers of Ur III documents made possible by the continuing publication of administrative text collections and by the networked distribution of the text content within these publications, specialists have been able to identify more and more of the primary documents on which Babylonian scribes based their mid- and long-term accounts.[4] In the present case, twelve such primary texts have been located in collections that range from Istanbul to Barcelona, from New Haven to Ft. Myers, representing the most substantial coverage of a large Umma account heretofore achieved.[5] And yet if it were not for the fortuitous appearance of a receipt from a private collection in Florida (the text Hand 1, see below), this study would contain nothing entirely new. For this one text is to my knowledge the first known example of a receipt that documents the movement of real goods or services within the “debits” section of an Umma account.


§5.  All these records in hand, our scribe must have performed some preliminary calculations to judge the size of tablet he would need for this account, and he then proceeded to enter all the information before him, following a strict bookkeeping template that dictated the means by which data was standardized and “compressed” to form a meaningful yearly record. We expect to soon have the tools to fairly reconstruct the involved instruction that complex Ur III accounting presupposes. Certainly the concrete texts themselves are our primary sources for this reconstruction, but the growing numbers of exercise accounts, and of account duplicates, triplicates and so on, can be brought to bear on the question of how large running accounts were kept. The most involved examples of such documents from the Ur III period seem to derive not from Umma, but rather from the agricultural bureaus of Girsu, of which numerous examples have been offered in the work of K. Maekawa.[6]


§6.  Once entered in running accounts, the primary documents were, as is clear from the archaeological and textual record, stored in baskets from which stringed identifying bullae were hung. These bullae, so-called pisan-dub-ba, or “tablet-basket” texts, were of a standardized format that described in concise fashion the nature of the tablets thus archived:[7]


§7.  TRU 1[8]

1)   pisan dub-ba Tablet-basket:
2)   gu4 udu ba-uš2 large and small cattle, slaughtered,
3)   zi-ga  booked (out of the accounts of)
4)   sipa unu3-e-ne  the shepherds and cowherds;
5)   kišib na-ra-am-i3-li3 sealed (tablets of) Naram-ilī.
6)   mu a-ra2 2-kam-aš si-mu-ru-umki ba-hul-ta From the year: “Simurrum was destroyed for the second time”  (=Šulgi 26),
1)   mu us2-sa bad3 ma-da ba-du3-še3 to the year following: “The wall of the land was erected” (=Šulgi 38),
2)   mu 13-[kam] [it is (a period) of] 13 years.


Account structure (see figure 2)

§8.  The first section of the account, the debits (obv. i 1 to iii 4, described by the Sumerian term sag-nig2-gur11-ak-am, “it is the head of the goods”), consists of three subsections. In the first place, the scribe posted a record of arrears accruing to the foreman Lu-Šara from his previous running account. The notation obv. i 1 corresponding to 456 1/6 workdays is not substantial relative to deficits posted in the accounts of comparably sized troops of workmen, and it will in the course of this account balloon to a total of over 1700 workdays recorded in rev. v 3. It is difficult to overstate the seriousness of these deficit workdays for the foremen involved, since a capricious central administration at the level of the province governors, or the crown in Ur, views them as effective loan debts that can be called in at will. In practice, their threatening nature is most obvious when the involved foremen go missing, either as a result of flight from service, or of death. In such cases, the households of the individuals are claimed by the state, including, dependent on the level of arrears, property, moveable goods, chattel slaves and family members.[9]


figure 2

Figure 2: The structure and accounting flow of the document Erlenmeyer 152


§9.  The second subsection of the account debits lists the workmen in the charge of Lu-Šara, in this case individually named, but in like accounts often simply recorded as a number. Such long-standing “crew workers” are qualified in Sumerian as giri3-se3-ga, literally “laid to the foot”. Twenty-four of these workers were qualified with the Sumerian designation “dumu-gi7” and the numerical notation meaning “one half”, that is, they were qualified as workers from whom only one half of a norm production was anticipated.[10] The remaining workmen were qualified as “porters” (ug3-ga6, often abbreviated to ug3, in the literature usually transliterated un-il2) from whom the foreman expected full production. One of the porters was included in the workforce for just 4 of the twelve-month period of this account. Since the debits sections of Ur III labor accounts list ideal and therefore artificial work performance of a planned household, the calculations of the workdays assigned to foremen is straightforward, in this case (obv. ii 23-24):


24 dumugi × 1/2 × 12 months × 30 days (per month[11]) = 4320 workdays

8 1/3 ugga[12] × 12 × 30 = 3000 workdays


§10.  The three workmen listed in obv. ii 10-14 of this subsection were received by the foreman Lu-Šara from two named individuals. The first of these two entries was copied from a primary text now in the private collection of C. Hand in Ft. Myers, Florida (see figure 3).[13] Although the name of the foreman Lu-dingira, from whose crew the dumugi workman was transferred to Lu-Šara, is not preserved, there can be little doubt that this text was the source for the Erlenmeyer entry. The name and work-norm qualification of the laborer is the same; it is dated to the precise moment (beginning of the first month of Šu-Sin 2) of the beginning of this man's work under Lu-Šara; the laborer was booked as having been received from another ugula, consistent with the format and seal of Lu-Šara on Hand 1. Indeed, this latter consistency in format and sealing was a central search criteria in identifying all other primary documents used by the scribe of Erlenmeyer 152, but, as sources for the credits section of the account, flipped to name another official as receiving and therefore also sealing agent, and Lu-Šara as agent of delivery (usually noted as “Foreman: Lu-Šara”, so that Hand 1 rev. 1 might be reconstructed with [ugula] ˹lu2˺-[dingir]-˹ra˺).


figure 3 Hand 1 (private collection)   translation:
1)   1/2 un-da-ga 1/2 (work norm): Undaga
2)   iti  ŠE.KIN-ku5-ta from the month “Harvest” (on)
3)   lu2-dšara2 i3-˹dab5˺ Lu-Šara seized (administratively).
4)   [                 ] [                 ]
1)   [ugula] ˹lu2˺-[dingir]-˹ra˺(?)   [ foreman: ] ˹Lu-dingira˺(?)
2)   mu ˹ma2 d˺en-ki ba-ab-du8 Year: “The boat of Enki was caulked”.
  Seal legend  
1)   lu2-dšara2 Lu-Šara,
2)   dub-sar scribe,
3)   dumu lugal-inim-gi-na son of Lugal-inim-gina
Erlenmeyer 152 obv. ii 10-11:
  1/2 un-da-ga dumu u-bar 1/2 (work norm): Undaga, son of Ubar,
  ki lu2-dingir-ra ugula-ta from Lu-dingira, the foreman


Figure 3: A comparison of a section from Erlenmeyer 152 with its corresponding source text Hand 1 (click on copy for enlargement)


§11.  The third subsection of debits contains two numerical entries. The second of these, 420 workdays described as “the production of 'dumugi apprentices' in bala service,” seems to represent a sort of tax assessed against the foreman, since no compensatory allowance of laborers is evident in the text.[14] The first entry of 24 workdays is qualified as a2 u4 du8-a ug3-ga6 sag-ba zi-ga, “the production of free days of the porter already booked out of the debits[15]”. 24 days correspond to 1/10 of the work period of 8 months recorded in the debits section of the account as sick-leave time of the porter Ea-lubi (obv. i 21 and obv. v 27-31). The period in which this worker was missing due to illness, that is, the final eight months of the fiscal year covered by this account, were qualified as work performance and this labor time was “received” by the official Ur-E’e. This accounting procedure presumes a certain social quality within the organization of the household that ultimately acted as slave master to such laborers, for their rations were distributed entirely independent of their specific production. Nonetheless the Ur III social state remained punctilious; those 24 days which had, for accounting technical purposes, been deducted from the debits in rev. iv 2-3, were here retrieved for the state, in exact parallel to other cases in Ur III accounts of the retrieval of free time accorded, again for technical reasons, sick or dead workers.[16]


§12.  We thus have the following entries subsumed in the debits total obv. iii 2:


obv. i 1 (si-i3-tum)   7.36  1/6 (10 gin2)  
obv. ii 23 (ug3-ga6)   50.00  
obv. ii 24 (dumu-gi7)   1.12.00  
obv. ii 25 (u4-du8-a)   24  
obv. ii 27 (bala-a gub-ba)   7.00  
  2.17.00  1/6


§13.  The following “credits” section of the account (obv. iii 5 to rev. v 2, Sumerian ša3-bi-ta——zi-ga-am3, “therefrom (viz., from the debits) deducted”) demonstrates that the crew under Lu-Šara performed above all agricultural jobs, including, however, the transportation of products and the maintenance of the irrigation system.[17] We must again imagine that the Sumerian bookkeeper drawing up this account had before him all sealed receipts gathered in the course of the year by the foreman Lu-Šara, and that these primary documents were ordered roughly according to the type of work they confirmed. Thus the first documents entered in the account dealt with what was likely the primary assignment of this work crew, namely, the field tasks of harvesting grain and maintaining the system of canals upon which Babylonian agriculture depended, including the labor-intensive dredging of established, and the excavation of new canals. A second set of tasks consisted of the assistance of his crews in the transportation of various commodities by barge along the canals of lower Mesopotamia: reeds, leather bags, processed and unprocessed cereals, fish, dairy products and even oxen.[18]


§14.  A wide variety of officials from within the household economy of the province of Umma act as receiving agents of the labor performed by the workmen of Lu-Šara. Upon the completion of tasks assigned the work crews, a sealed tablet confirming the work was issued, of which twelve have been located in the published record of Ur III texts (those reference texts below in parentheses are merely close parallels to the account passage cited; see figure 4):


obv. iii 6-16 SACT 2, 31
obv. iv 6-v 1 MVN 18, 397
obv. v 2-5 MVN 16, 1359
obv. v 6-9 NBC 2689
obv. v 10-12 (UTI 3, 1966)  
obv. v 13-17 MVN 16, 1567
obv. v 21-23 UTI 3, 1630*
obv. v 24-26 UTI 3, 1692, (MVN 16, 1390)
obv. v 32-35  (UTI 4, 2862, UTI 5, 3147, MVN 14, 310)  
rev. i 1-3 MVN 16, 865
rev. i 7-16 MVN 15, 20 [ll. 9-11], UTI 4, 2608 [ll. 12-15]**
rev. ii 3-5 Princeton 1, 380?[19]
rev. ii 6-8, 17, iii 11 MVN 16, 1071, (UTI 5, 3521)  
rev. iii 8-11 UTI 4, 2919
*=one of two sealed tablets **=two of three sealed tablets


figure 4MVN 16, 865 MVN 15, 20 UTI 4, 2608 Princeton 1, 380 UTI 3, 1692 UTI 3, 1630 MVN 16, 1567 NBC 2689 MVN 16, 1359 MVN 18, 397 SACT 2, 31 Hand 1 UTI 4, 2919 MVN 16, 1071

Figure 4: All found primary documents of the account Erlenmeyer 152


§15.  These primary documents follow a strictly standardized format: so-and-so many work days; description of the task completed; foreman of the crew involved; notice of the seal of the receiving agent (kišib PN); the physical impression of the cylinder seal; date formula.[20]


  MVN 16, 1567 

Erl. 152 obv. v 13-17[21]:

1)   3.15 guruš u4 1-še3       3.15 guruš u4 1-še3
2)   kab2-ku5 dšul-pa-e3 -ta sahar zi-ga kab2-ku5 dšul-pa-e3-ta sahar zi-ga
3)   a-da gub-ba a-ša3 dšul-pa-e3 a-da gub-ba a-ša3 dšul-pa-e3
4) kab2-ku5 a-u2-da-tur ku5-ra2 kab2-ku5 a-u2-da-tur ku5-ra2
1) u3 šu2-luh-ak u3 šu2-luh-ak
2) ugula lu2-dšara2  
3) kišib lugal-he2-gal2 kišib lugal-he2-gal2
4) mu ma2 den-ki ba-ab-du8  
Seal legend    
1) lugal-he2-gal2  
2) dub-sar  
3) mu ma2 den-ki ba-ab-du8  


Both of the pieces of information corresponding to MVN 16, 1567, rev. 2 and 4, are supplied in the colophon of the account Erlenmeyer 152: the year formula, and the general qualification rev. v 5-6: nig2-ka9-ak a2 erin2-na-ka / lu2-dšara2 ugula dumu lugal-inim-gi-na, “account of the production of the erin workers. Lu-Šara is the foreman, son of Lugal-inim-gina”.


§16.  The very common practice in neo-Sumerian account-writing of combining the associated information of two or more receipts into one entry is evident also in our text with its two explicit and several implied references to multiple sealed tablets (kišib 2+ PN), and the nature of this combination made clear in the two passages obv. v 21-23 and rev. i 9-11. In the former case, we have the correspondence (one of two sealed tablets):


  UTI 3, 1630

Erl. 152 obv. v 21-23

1)   2.15 guruš u4 1-še3 2.57 guruš u4 1-še3
2)   a-ša3-ge a du11-ga a-ša3-ge a du11-ga
3)   a-ša3 dšara2-gu2-gal a-ša3 dšara2-gu2-gal
4)   ugula lu2-dšara2  
5) kišib a-gu-gu[22] kišib 2 a-gu-gu
6) mu ma2 den-ki ba-ab-du8  
Seal legend    
1) ur-e2-mah  
2) dub-sar  
3) dumu da-da  


It is safe to assume that the second sealed tablet is a copy of this one, exchanging 42 for 2.15 in the first line.


§17.  Similarly, in the latter case:

  MVN 15, 20

Erl. 152 rev. i 9-11

1)   15 guruš u4 2-še3  30 guruš u4 1-še3
2)   ga2-nun du6-ku3-ge-ta ga2-nun du6-ku3-ge-ta
3)   guru7 a-pi4-sal4ki-še3 guru7 a-pi4-sal4ki-še3
4)   gi ma2-a gar ma2 ba-al-la gi ma2-a ga2-ra ma2 gid2-da u3 ma2 ba-al-la[23]
5) ugula lu2-dšara2  
6) kišib lu2-du10-ga kišib 2 lu2-du10-ga
7) mu [ma2 d]en-ki ba-ab-du8  
Seal legend    
1) lu2-du10-ga  
2) dub-sar  
3) dumu ur-dutu  


§18.  The accountant responsible for Erlenmeyer 152 employed a standard method of calculation of the credits section of the text, consisting as it did of a large list of numerical notations (see the transliteration, and figure 2 above). Partial sums inscribed at the bottom of each column were evident tools to simplify the final summations, and to serve as a second control of the accuracy of entries. Despite the difficulties introduced into the calculation flow by the various modern “improvements” in the damaged surface of the tablet (see the notes below in the transliteration), it has been possible to reconstruct the entire account with little likelihood of error. This reconstruction demonstrates that the scribe calculated with untiring precision, and raises anew the question of the calculation tools he must have employed to achieve this result. We unfortunately cannot state with confidence what these tools were, whether for instance the scribes had a set of counting tables or abacuses, and whether preliminary tablets were first written and then copied onto a master text. It would seem unlikely given the high number of erasures evident in this text that it should have represented the final of two or more drafts. Moreover, the traces of numerical notations in obv. iii 1, giving the impression of an ancient “scratch pad”, are suggestive of the use of ad hoc calculation aids, including these but doubtless other simple techniques.[24]


§19.  The last section of Erlenmeyer 152 (rev. v 3-10) includes global qualifications of the account (i.e., that it involved the work crew of Lu-Šara and covered the twelve months of Šu-Sin 2) and the balance of the total of the debits section minus the total of the credits section. This balance is negative (debit greater than credit) and therefore qualified with the technical term la2-ia3, “deficit” (not preserved, but certain in rev. v 3). This means that insofar as we have a full accounting of the work performed by the foreman's crew for the year, the total of their real production fell well below the production expected in the debits section of the account, so that the deficit compared to that of the preceding year increased nearly four-fold. We can hope that, with renewed Iraqi excavations of Umma/Djokha and its surroundings, more accounts will surface that inform us of the ultimate fate of this foreman.


figure 5a
figure 5b

Figure 5a-b: Copy of the text Erlenmeyer 152 (75% of original size [click on copy for enlargement])


§20.  Transliteration of Erlenmeyer 152[25] §21.  Translation
obv. i     obv. i    
1)   7.36 10 gin2 guruš u4 1-še3     7.36 10 shekels (456 1/6) workdays,
2)   si-i3-tum mu dšu-dsuen lugal     deficit of year “Šu-Sin is king” (Šu-Sin 1).
3)   1/2 ša3-ku3-ge     1/2 (workman): Ša-kuge,
4)   gab2-us2 gišapin-du10     herding apprentice[27] of Apin-du.
5)   1/2 lu2-dšara2     1/2 (workman): Lu-Šara.
6)   1 ug3 dnin-šubur-an-dul3     1 (workman) porter: Ninšubur-andul,
7)   ša3-gu4 ur-gišgigir lugal-ku3-ga-ni i3-dab5     oxen driver of Ur-gigir, Lugal-kugani took responsibility for him.
8)   1/2 ur-dšul-pa-e3     1/2(workman): Ur-Šulpa'e.
9)   1/2 lu2-dšara2     1/2 (workman): Lugal-urani,
10)   1/2 lugal-ur2-ra-ni     1/2 (workman): Lugal-urani
11)   gab2-ra gišapin-du10 mu ku3-ga-ni-še3     gabra(herder) of Apin-du, instead of Kugani.
12)   1/2 ur-pa4-u2-e     1/2 (workman): Ur-Papu'e.
13)   1/2 ur-dma-mi     1/2 (workman): Ur-Mami.
14)   1/2 ur-dšul-pa-e3 simug     1/2 (workman): Ur-Šulpa'e, smith.
15)   1/2 X X-gi*[26]     1/2 (workman): X (falsified by repair of tablet)  
16)   1/2 ur-d˹bil4˺-ga-mes     1/2 (workman): Ur-Gilgameš.
17)   1 ug3 ur-ki-mah     1 (workman) porter: Ur-kimah
18)   1 ug3 ur-dutu     1 (workman) porter: Ur-Utu.
19)   1/2 šeš-a-ni     1/2 (workman): Šeš-ani.
20)   1 ug3 lu2-ga-mu     1 (workman) porter: Lu-gamu.
21)   1 ug3 e2-a-lu-bi     1 (workman) porter: Ea-lubi.
22)   1 ug3 ˹he2˺-gi-na     1 (workman) porter: Hegina.
23)   1 ˹ug3˺ lu2-giri17-zal     1 (workman) porter: Lu-girizal,
24)   gab2-ra a-kal-la     gabra(herder) of Akala,
25)   ama lugal?-gu4-e[28]     “mother” of Lugal-gue (?).
26)   1/2 na-ba-sa6     1/2 (workman): Nabasa
27)   1/2 šeš-kal-la     1/2 (workman): Šeškala.
28)   1/2 mu-zu-da     1/2 (workman): Muzuda.
29)   1/2 inim-dinanna     1/2 (workman): Inim-Inanna,
30)   ša3-gu4 lugal-nesag2-e     oxen driver of Lugal-nesage,
31)   gab2-us2 nig2-du7-pa-e3     herding apprentice of Nigdu-pa'e.
32)   1/2 ur-dšul-pa--e3     1/2 (workman): Ur-Šulpa'e.
obv. ii     obv. ii    
1)   1/2 lu2-ma2-gan-na     1/2 (workman): Lu-Magana.
2)   1/2 ur-e2-mah     1/2 (workman): Ur-emah.
3)   1/2 du11-ga-dšara2     1/2 (workman): Duga-Šara.
4)   1/2 IR11-mu     1/2 (workman): IR-mu,
5)   libir-am3     they are of the previous (workforce).
6)   1/2 lu2-uš-gi-na     1/2 (workman): Lu-uš-gina.
7)   1/2 IR11-mu     1/2 (workman): IR-mu;
8)   dumu lugal-igi-huš-me     they are sons of Lugal-igihuš,
9)   im!-e tag4-a-ta     remainder from the previous year (?).
10)   1/2 un-da-ga dumu u-bar     1/2 (workman): Undaga, son of Ubar,
11)   ki lu2-dingir-ra ugula-ta     from the foreman Lu-dingira.
12)   1/2 ur-den-lil2-la2 tir     1/2 (workman): Ur-Enlila, forester.
13)   1 ug3 ur-ddumu-zi dumu IR11-x     1 (workman) porter: Ur-Dumuzi, son of IR-x,
14)   ki IR11 ugula-˹ta˺     from the foreman IR.
15)   (blank)        
16)   iti 12-*še3[29]     It is (a period of) twelve months:
17)   iti ŠE.KIN-ku5-*ta!     from month “Harvest” (1st month, Umma calendar)  
18)   iti ddumu-zi-še3     until the month “Dumuzi” (12th month).
19)   1 ug3 lu2-d˹šul˺-gi-ra dumu lugal-˹bad3˺ dumu-diri-ta     1 (workman) porter: Lu-Šulgira, son of Lugal-bad, from the “excess children”,
20)   iti 4-še3 iti ˹d˺li9-si4-ta     for 4 months, from month “Lisi” (9th month)  
21)   ˹iti*˺ d˹dumu*˺-zi-še3     until the month “Dumuzi” (12th month).
22)   (blank, erasures)        
23)   a2 ug3-ga6-bi u4 50.00     The corresponding production of the porters: 50.00 (3,000) days.
24)   a2 dumu-gi7 -bi u4 1.12!.00*     The corresponding production of “dumugi”[30]: 1.12.00 (4,320) days.
25)   24 guruš u4 1-˹še3˺     24 workdays,
26)   a2 u4 du8-a ˹ug3˺-ga6 sag-ba zi-ga     the production of free days of (the sick) porter already booked out of the debits.
27)   7.00 guruš u4 1-še3     7.00 (420) workdays,
28)   a2 dumu-gi7 šeš-tab-ba bala-a gub-˹ba˺     the production of “dumugi apprentices” in bala service.
29)   (blank)        
obv. iii     obv. iii    
1)   (blank, erasures, traces of numerical notations[31])       (scratch pad calculations)  
2)   ˹ŠU+NIGIN2˺ 2.17.00 10 gin2 guruš u4 1-še3     Together: 2.17.00 10 shekels (8,220 1/6) workdays
3)   (blank)        
4)   sag-nig2-gur11-ra-kam     are the debits.
5)   ša3-bi-ta     Therefrom:
6)   5.45 guruš u4 1-še3     5.45 (345) workdays,
7)   ŠE.KIN-a zar3-tab-ba a-ša3 a-u2-da-gu-la a-ša3 a-u2-da-tur u3 a-ša3 ensi2-ka     harvested and sheaves piled up in the Audagula field, in the Audatur field and in the Governor field.
8)   3.15 guruš u4 1-še3     3.15 (195) workdays,
9)   ŠE.KIN-a zar3-tab-ba a-ša3 nun-na a-ša3 nam-ha-ni u3 a-ša3 išib-e-ne     harvested and sheaves piled up in the Prince field, in the Namhani field and in the Incantation priests field.
10)   2.30 guruš u4 1-še3     2.30 (150) workdays,
11)   ŠE.KIN-a zar3-tab-ba a-ša3 gu4-suhub2 a-ša3 bad3-du3-a [a]-ša3 u2-du-dnin-a-ra-li u3 gaba a-ša3 gibil     harvested and sheaves piled up in the Oxen boot field, in the field Constructed wall, in the field Cattle herder of Nin-Arali and (in the field) across from the new field.
12)   4.55 guruš u4 1-še3     4.55 (295) workdays,
13)   a*-da gub-ba a-ša3 dšara2-˹he2*˺-gal2 a-ša3 APIN-ba-zi ˹u3*˺ a-ša3 a-u2-da-gu-la     irrigation work in the field Šara is abundance, in the field Plough of Bazi and in the Audagula field.
14)   ˹1*.˺25 guruš u4 1-še3     1.25 (85) workdays,
15)   ˹kab2*-ku5* a*˺-ša3 nun-na-ta sahar zi-˹*ga *a-*ša3˺-ge a du11-ga a-ša3 nun-na u3 a-ša3 ˹nam˺-ha-ni     water installation in the Prince field, earth excavated, irrigation in the Prince field and in the Namhani field.
16)   kišib da-a-ga     Sealed tablet of Da'aga.
17)   17.50     (partial sum:) 17.50 (1,070)  
obv. iv     obv. iv    
1)   3.15 guruš u4 1-še3     3.15 (195) workdays,
2)   E.KIN-a zar3-tab-ba a-ša3 igi-e2-mah-še3 u3 a-ša3 dnin-ur4-ra[32]     harvested and sheaves piled up in the field Before Emah and in the field Ninura.
3)   2.10 guruš u4 1-še3     2.10 (130) workdays,
4)   a-da gub-ba a-ša3 igi-e2-mah-še3 u3 a-ša3 dnin-ur4-ra     irrigation work in the field Before Emah and in the field Ninura.
5)   kišib a-kal-la     Sealed tablet of Akala.
6)   5.51 1/2 guruš u4 1-še3     5.51 (351) 1/2 workdays,
7)   ŠE.KIN-a zar3-tab-ba a-ša3 GAN2-mah a-ša3 nin10-nu-du3 u3 a-ša3 APIN-ba-zi     harvested and sheaves piled up in the field GANmah, in the field Ninnudu and in the field Plough of Bazi.
8)   2.45 guruš u4 1-še3     2.45 (165) workdays,
9)   kab2-ku5 GAN2-mah-ta sahar zi-ga u3 u2 na-ga-ab-tum-ma ga2!-ra     from the water installation of GANmah earth excavated and green plants placed in the pen.
10)   1.48 guruš u4 1-še3     1.48 (108) workdays,
11)   kab2-ku5 gu4-suhub2-ka ka e2-DUN-da(?)[33] si-ga     the water installation of the Oxen boot (field) at the intake of the EDUN (canal) filled in.
12)   1.47 guruš u4 1-še3     1.47 (107) workdays,
13)   kab2-ku5 a-ša3 nun-na-ta sahar zi-ga     from the water installation of the Prince field earth excavated.
14)   2.45 guruš u4 1-še3     2.45 (165) workdays,
15)   a-da gub-ba a-ša3 APIN-ba-zi     irrigation work in the field Plough of Bazi.
16)   1.32 guruš u4 1-še3     1.32 (92) workdays,
17)   u3-lugal ki-sur-ra-ka gub-ba     stationed at the King's bridge (?) of Kisurra.
18)   (blank, erasures)        
19)   ˹10˺ guruš u4 1-še3 kuša-ga2-la2 ˹keš2˺-ra2 ma2-da-ga ma2-a gar [a]-˹pi4˺-sal4ki -ta ka gir13-giz-še3 ˹ma2˺ gid2-da u3 ma2 gur-ra[34]     10 workdays, agala leather bags bound, in Madaga loaded into a barge, from Apisal to the fork from Girgiz punted and the barge returned.
20)   22.03 1/2     (partial sum:) 22.03 (1,323) 1/2.
obv. v     obv. v    
1)   kišib lu2-gi-na[35]     Sealed tablet of Lu-gina.
2)   3.30 guruš u4 1-še3     3.30 (210) workdays,
3)   a-ša3-ge a du11-ga a-ša3 dnin-ur4-ra-du6-na     field irrigation work performed in the field Ninura-duna,
4)   ka i7-da puzur4-ma-ma-še3 u2HAR.AN ga6-ga2     to the fork of the canal Puzur-Mama HARAN plants carried.
5)   kišib ša3-ku3-ge     Sealed tablet of Ša-kuge.
6)   4.45 guruš u4 1-še3     4.45 (285) workdays,
7)   kun-zi-da u3-dag-ga-ka gub-ba     stationed at the reservoir of the Daga bridge
8)   30 guruš u4 1-še3 gi na-ga-ab-tum u3-dag-ga-da tuš-a[36]     30 workdays, staying at the “reed nagabtum-pen” with the Daga bridge.
9)   kišib lu2-dšara2 dumu uru-bar-re     Sealed tablet of Lu-Šara, son of Uru-bare.
10)   5.15 guruš u4 1-še3     5.15 (315) workdays,
11)   kun-zi-da e2-dlamma-ka gub-ba     at the reservoir of the Lamma temple in service.
12)   kišib lugal-inim-gi-na[37]     Sealed tablet of Lugal-inim-gina.
13)   3.15 guruš u4 1-še3     3.15 (195) workdays,
14)   kab2-ku5 dšul-pa-e3-ta sahar zi-ga     from the water installation at the Šulpa'e( field) earth excavated,
15)   a-da gub-ba a-ša3 dšul-pa-e3     irrigation work in the Šulpa'e field,
16)   kab2-ku5 a-u2-da-tur ku5-ra2 u3 šu2-luh-ak     water installation of the Audatur (field) cut off (?) and cleaned.
17)   kišib lugal-he2-gal2     Sealed tablet of Lugal-hegal.
18)   3.15 guruš u4 1-še3     3.15 (195) workdays,
19)   a-da gub-ba a-ša3 bad3-du3-a a-ša3 išib-e-ne u3 a-ša3 u2-du-lu2-sag10[38]     irrigation work in the field Constructed wall, in the Incantation priests field and in the field Herders of Lusag.
20)   kišib na-ba-sa6     Sealed tablet of Nabasa.
21)   2.57 guruš u4 1-še3     2.57 (177) workdays,
22)   a-ša3-ge a du11-ga a-ša3 dšara2-gu2-gal     field irrigation work performed in the field Šara-gugal.
23)   kišib 2 a-gu-gu     Two sealed tablets of Agugu.
24)   30 la2-1 guruš u4 1-še3     30 less 1 (29) workdays,
25)   mar-sa-a gub-ba ugu2 ur-e11-e ba-a-gar     stationed in the boathouse, booked into the debits section of Ur-e'e('s account).
26)   kišib ur-dnun-gal     Sealed tablet of Ur-Nungal.
27)   tu-ra e2-a-lu-bi     Sick: Ea-lubi,
28)   iti dal-ta     from the month “Flight” (5th month)  
29)   iti ddumu-zi-še3     until the month “Dumuzi” (12th month),
30)   a2-bi u4 4.00-kam     the corresponding production: 4.00 (240) days.
31)   kišib ur-e11-e     Sealed tablet of Ur-e'e.
32)   3 guruš u4 1.10-še3     3 workers, 1.10 (70) workdays each,
33)   a2-bi u4 3.30-kam     the corresponding production: 3.30 (210) days,
34)   ma2-da-ga-aš gen-na      having gone to Madga.
35)   kišib lugal-iti-da     Sealed tablet of Lugal-itida.
36)   31.26     (partial sum:) 31.26 (1,886)  
rev. i     rev. i    
1)   15 guruš u4 1-še3     15 workdays,
2)   e2 bahar3-a gub-ba     stationed in the pottery factory.
3)   kišib inim-dšara2[39]     Sealed tablet of Inim-Šara.
4)   15 guruš u4 1-še3     15 workdays,
5)   guru7 GAN2-mah im ur3-ra     silo of GANmah plastered with clay.
6)   kišib gu-du-du     Sealed tablet of Gududu.
7)   2.00 guruš u4 1-še3     2.00 (120) workdays,
8)   ki-su7 nin10-nu-du3-a-ta a-pi4-sal4ki -še3 in-u im-la2     from the threshing floor of the (field) Ninnudu to Apisal straw hung out.
9)   30 guruš u4 1-še3     30 workdays,
10)   ga2-nun du6-ku3-ge-ta guru7 a-pi4-sal4ki-še3 gi ma2-a ga2-ra ma2 gid2-da u3 ma2 ba-al-la     reed loaded into the barge, barge from the Dukuge storage house to the silo of Apisal punted and barge unloaded.
11)   kišib 2 lu2-du10-ga     Two sealed tablets of Lu-duga.
12)   18 guruš u4 1-še3     18 workdays,
13)   kun-zi-da e2-dlamma-ka-še3 nig2 gu2-na bala-a ga6-ga2     transport of the bala load to the reservoir of the Lamma temple.
14)   42 guruš u4 1-še3     42 workdays,
15)   a-pi4-sal4ki-ta nibruki-še3 ma2 nig2-ar3-ra u3 še mu-ša gid2-da     from Apisal to Nippur barge with rough ground flour and muša grain punted.
16)   kišib šeš-sag10     Sealed tablet of Šeš-sag.
17)   24 guruš u4 1-še3     24 workdays,
18)   ki-su7 dšara2-gu2-gal-ka[40] še bala-a     from the threshing floor of Šara-gugal barley transferred.
19)   24 guruš u4 1-še3     24 workdays,
20)   e2-amar-ra dabin bala-a še ma2-a si-ga     in E-amara flour transferred, barley loaded in the barge.
21)   24 guruš u4 1-še3     24 workdays,
22)   a-pi4-sal4ki-še3 ma2 še gid2-da ma2 ba-al-la u3 še bala-a     barge with barley to Apisal punted, barge unloaded and barley transferred.
23)   2.18 guruš u4 1-še3     2.18 (138) workdays,
24)   ki-su7 nin10-nu-du3-a-ta e2-duru5-a-bu3-ka-še3 še zi-ga     from the threshing floor of Ninnudu for the Abu village barley winnowed.
25)   26 guruš u4 1-še3     26 workdays,
26)   kun-zi-da a-gi-ze2-a-ka gub-ba     stationed at the reservoir of Agizea.
27)   1.00 guruš u4 1-še3     1.00 (60) workdays,
28)   kun-zi-da e2-dlamma-ka-še3 zi3 ga6-ga2     to the Lamma temple reservoir flour carried .
29)   8.56     (partial sum:) 8.56 (536).
rev. ii     rev. ii    
1)   2.01 guruš u4 1-še3     2.01 (121) workdays,
2)   a-pi4-sal4ki-ta nibruki-še3 ma2 zi3-da gid2-da [zi3] bala-a u3 ma2 su3 a-pi4-sal4ki-še3 gur-ra     from the Apisal to Nippur barge with flour punted, flour transferred and empty barge returned to Apisal.
3)   2.˹08 guruš u4 1-še3˺     2.08 (128) workdays,
4)   ummaki-še3 gu4 niga-da gen-na     walked with fattening oxen to Umma.
5)   giri3 lu2-dsuen gurušda[41]     Responsible: Lu-Suen, the fattener.
6)   45 guruš u4 ˹1˺-še3     45 workdays,
7)   a-pi4-sal4ki-ta nibruki-še3 ma2 i3 ga ku6 gid2-da     from Apisal to Nippur barge with oil, cheese and fish punted;
8)   a-ra2 1-kam     first time.
10)   (blank, erasures)        
11)   50! guruš u4 1-še3     50 workdays,
12)   a-pi4-sal4ki-ta nibruki-še3 ma2 i3 ga gid2-da i3 ga e2-gal-la ku4-ra u3 ma2 gur-ra     from the Apisal to Nippur barge with oil and cheese punted, oil and cheese brought into the royal estate and barge returned;
13)   a-ra2 2-kam     second time.
14)   1.00 guruš u4 1-še3     1.00 (60) workdays,
15)   a-pi4-sal4ki-ta nibruki-še3 ma2 i3 ga gid2-da i3 ga e2-gal-la ku4-ra u3 ma2 gur-ra     from Apisal to Nippur barge with oil and cheese punted, oil and cheese brought into the royal estate and barge returned;
16)   a-ra2 3-kam     third time.
17)   giri3 a-kal-la ra-gaba     Responsible: Akala, the “ragaba”.
18)   45 guruš u4 1-še3     45 workdays,
19)   a-pi4-sal4ki-ta nibruki-še3 ma2 i3 ga ku6 šar gid2-da u3 ma2 gur-ra     from Apisal to Nippur barge with oil, cheese, fish and vegetables punted and barge returned.
20)   giri3 tur-am3-i3-li2     Responsible: Tūram-ilī.
21)   48 guruš u4 1-še3     48 workdays,
22)   a-pi4-sal4ki-ta nibruki-še3 ma2 ku6 gid2-da u3 ma2 gur-ra     from Apisal to Nippur barge with fish punted and barge returned.
23)   giri3 nig2-lagar-e     Responsible: Nig-lagare.
24)   8.17     (partial sum:) 8.17 (497).
rev. iii     rev. iii    
1)   48 guruš u4 ˹1˺-še3     48 workdays,
2)   e2-duru5 damar-dsuen-ta ma2 gid2-da min     from the Amar-Suen village barge punted, ditto[43],
3)   ki-su7 a-u2-da še bala-a še zi-ga u3 guru7 a-pi4-sal4ki im ur3-ra     at the threshing floor of Auda (field) barley transferred, barley winnowed, and silo of Apisal plastered with clay.
4)   48 sar 15 1/3 gin2 kin u2 sahar-ba     48 (volume) sar, 15 1/3 (volume) shekels, grass and earth worked;
5)   guruš-e 10 gin2-ta     per workday 10 (volume) shekels,
6)   a2-bi u4 4.49 1/2 2 gin2     the corresponding production: 4.49 1/2 2 shekels (289 32/60) days;
7)   ugu2 ur-e11-e-ka ba-a-gar     booked into the debit account of Ur-e'e.
8)   3.18 guruš u4 1-še3     3.18 (198) workdays,
9)   gi zi ša3-gal udu niga sa2-du11 dšara2-ka ze2-a a-ša3 dna-ra-am-dsuen e2 udu a-pi4-sal4ki-še3 ga6-ga2     good reed, fodder for the fattening sheep, the regular offerings of Šara, torn out in the field of Narām-Sin, to the sheep fold in Apisal carried.
10)   (blank)        
11)   kišib lu2-dha-ia3[42]     Sealed tablet of Lu-Haja.
12)   5.00 guruš u4 1-še3     5.00 (300) workdays,
13)   ki-su7 nin10-nu-du3-a-ta e2-amar-ra-še3 in-u ga6-ga2     from the threshing floor of Ninnudu to E-amara straw carried.
14)   kišib a-tu šuš3     Sealed tablet of Atu, chief cattle administrator.
15)   (blank)        
16)   13.55 1/2 2 gin2     (partial sum:) 13.55 1/2 2 shekels (835 32/60).
rev. iv     rev. iv    
1)   (blank)        
2)   [5.00 guruš u4 1-še3][44]     [5.00 (300) workdays],
3)   a2 u4 du8-a ˹ug3-ga6˺     production of free days of the porters.
4)   2 guruš u4 35-še3     2 workers, each 35 days;
5)   a2-bi u4 1.10!     the corresponding production is 1.10 (70) days.
6)   bala-a gub-ba ˹bala-še3˺ gen-na u3 bala-[ta] gur-ra     stationed in the bala, gone to bala, returned from the bala.
7)   (blank)        
8)   6.10     (partial sum:) 6.10 (370).
rev. v     rev. v    
1)   [ŠU+NIGIN2] ˹1.48.38 2˺ gin2 guruš [u4 1-še3]     [Together] 1.48.38 2 shekels (6,518 2/60) workdays
2)   [zi-ga]-˹am3˺     booked out.
3)   [la2-ia3] ˹28.22 8˺ [gin2 u4 1-še3]     [deficit:] 28.22 8 shekels (1,702 8/60) [workdays].
4)   (blank space)        
5)   nig2-ka9-ak a2 erin2-na-ka     Account of the production of the erin workers.
6)   lu2-dšara2 ugula dumu lugal-inim-gi-na     Lu-Šara is the foreman, son of Lugal-inim-gina.
7)   iti 12-kam     It is (a period of) 12 months:
8)   iti ŠE.KIN-ku5-ta     from the month “Harvest” (1st month)  
9)   iti ddumu-zi-še3     until the month “Dumuzi” (12th month);
10)   mu ma2 den-ki ba-ab-du8     Year: “the boat of Enki was caulked”.



1     H. Nissen offers in H. J. Nissen, P. Damerow and R. K. Englund, Frühe Schrift und Techniken der Wirtschaftsverwaltung im alten Vordern Orient (2nd edition, Bad Salzdetfurth 1991) 11-12, a short sketch of the history of the December 1988 auction in London.  

2     Erlenmeyer no. 155 in R. Englund, “Hard Work: Where Will it Get You?,” JNES 50 (1991) 255-280; nos. 93, 94, 112, 118 and 158 in id., “Ur III Sundries,” ASJ 14 (1992) 77-102.  

3     The tablet measures 161×166×36mm. It was a part of a Charlottenburg Palace exhibit organized by H. and M. Nissen, P. Damerow and myself in 1990, and appeared in the catalogue Frühe Schrift in chap. 11, figures 92-93, 11a. The entire Erlenmeyer holdings of the Land of Berlin were put on permanent loan to the Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin, on 1 July 1999. We have been unable to ascertain whether the tablet was fired in antiquity, or in the course of its conservation by the Erlenmeyers. The text is well preserved; however, a previous owner repaired a damaged lower left corner, and in so doing filled several small gaps with clay and, apparently following optical criteria, impressed a number of cuneiform-similar, but meaningless signs on the fresh surface. These fabrications are noted in the transliteration and translation. Thanks are due to Director B. Salje and Curator J. Marzahn of the VAM for their continued support in keeping the entire Erlenmeyer collection accessible for further inspection and imaging by CDLI staff.

4     The catalogue of the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative counts currently over 60,000 tablets, of which ca. 49,000 are published. When Struve proclaimed in the 1948 that he had at his “disposal the primary documentation which served as immediate sources in the compilation of the two reports of Lugalgude ...” (I. Diakonoff, ed., Ancient Mesopotamia, 156), he had access to ca. 12,000 published Ur III texts. In 1960, that total had climbed to 14,000, in 1980 to 23,000 and in 2000 to 41,000. Specialists, and through the internet increasingly non-specialists can today search electronic files of nearly twice as many texts, with text annotations and standardized transliterations that allow targeted searches across the full data set. It is therefore not surprising that we are seeing greater numbers of fits between secondary accounts and the primary records from which they were written, including in the present case a primary coverage of more than half of the entries  within the credit section of the account.

5     M. van de Mieroop, “An Accountant's Nightmare: the Drafting of a Year's Summary,” AfO 46-47 (1999-2000) 111-129, has diagrammed the unparalleled case of UET 3, 1498. Such an account is not likely to ever be rivaled in the number of primary document hits it contains, yet the highly monotonous accounting structure of the Ibbi-Sin text from Ur makes it of limited interest beyond the confirmation it gives us of the concrete way that Ur III accounts were compiled. Somewhat more complex in their bookkeeping structure are the accounts from Drehem; M. Hilgert in OIP 121 (forthcoming), pp. 57-60, presents the compelling case of a text (no. 248) linked to 41 receipts, documenting just over a third of the total of the animals mentioned in the account.

6     See, for instance, his treatment of OBTR 254 and corresponding BM fragments in ASJ 10 (1988) 37-94, esp. 53-55. The Sumerian phrase ugu2 PN ba-a-gar indicates the booking into an account debit of goods or services transferred  from the credits sections of other accounts.

7     The number of tablets within a tagged basket were never recorded, probably because accounting in the Ur III period was fluid, with old or incorrect tablets removed, and missing tablets added to the group. Unfortunately, early regular excavations of Ur III settlements were conducted with a level of attention paid to find locus that makes it fairly impossible to reconstruct the position of groups of tablets within the presumed archive rooms of central households. Obviously, irregular excavations have eliminated all hope of such archaeologically justified reconstructions.

8     M. Fitzgerald has remarked upon the technique of tagging such baskets in CDLB 2003:2.

9     See JNES 50, 267-268 + n. 15.

10    Based on the attestations of these qualifications in administrative texts, it is simply not possible to judge the social status of these workers (since F. Kraus, Sumerer und Akkader, 58, and C. Wilcke, Le palais, 230, most have considered this is a privileged class of “native” workers [“freie Bürger”, etc.] distinguished from foreign slaves). While one might imagine that the complex system of work-norm categories mirrored in some way methods of compensation for dependent laborers of varying levels, for instance requiring  of some dependents less real labor than of others, still it is important to remember that they did remain charges of central households assigned the most difficult of unskilled labor tasks.

11    R. Englund, “Administrative Timekeeping in Ancient Mesopotamia,” JESHO 31 (1988) 121-185. 

12    The fraction 1/3 represents the porter assigned to the crew for just four of the twelve months.

13    Mr. Hand first contacted me by email in August 1999 with information about this text, that he reported to have been in his family more than sixty years (and thus possibly one of the “Banks” tablets; see my contribution to the Pettinato Festschrift, forthcoming).

14    The only other mention of the bala service in this account occurs immediately before the summation in rev. iv 4-6. Cp. MVN 21, 199, with rev. v 3-6: 10 guruš ug3-ga6  6 guruš dumu-gi7 a2 šeš-tab-ba bala-a gub-ba ib2-ta-zi / u4-35-še3 / bala-a gub-ba bala-še3 gen-na u3 bala-ta gur-ra / a2-bi u9.20 (and thus  with 35 days the same period of service as noted rev. iv 3).

15    sag = sag-nig2-gur11-ra-kam.

16    R. Englund, JESHO 31 (1988) 172-173 n. 46 and JNES 50 (1991) 277 n. 34. To Ea-lubi (variant -lu2-bi) as agricultural hand, cp. for instance Princeton 1, 440, SANTAG 6, 380 (?; both texts date to the reign of Amar-Suen and describe this person as ugula, “foreman”), MVN 2, 178, UTI 5, 3271, etc.

17    Compare the translation below, and the more detailed treatment of the production entries of this text in N. Vanderroost's dissertation on the administrative organization of Umma agriculture, forthcoming.

18    The location of many of the toponyms in this text, above all those describing field names and irrigation installations, is unknown. In an article treating the likely course of the ancient Tigris, P. Steinkeller, “New Light on the Hydrology and Topography of Southern Babylonia in the Third Millennium,” ZA 91 (2001) 22-84, presents a comprehensive review of waterways and their settlements in the province of Umma based on these sorts of texts that record water transportation between two settlements, qualifying the trip according to the number of days required and the direction the barges took (upstream or downstream, assuming a general waterflow in southern Mesopotamia of northwest to southeast).

19    Although this receipt is otherwise a perfect fit for this passage of Erlenmeyer 152 (received from Lu-Šara by Lu-Haya [Erl. 152 rev. iii 11] via Lu-Suen the fattener), its numerical notation is 3 guruš u4-6-še3 and thus well off the 128 workdays recorded in our text. It is therefore likely that the scribe of Erl. 152 had one or more additional receipts from Lu-Haya that had moved through the office of Lu-Suen, multiple receipts that he had forgotten, or for some reason chosen not to register in rev. iii 11 (altogether at least nine receipts).

20    As a rule, the date will consist of only the year name; there is an occasional inclusion of the month during which the work was done, for instance in the case of Erlenmeyer 152 the primary documents  MVN 16, 865 (=rev. i 1-3; iti šu-numun), and MVN 16, 1071 (=rev. ii 6-8, 16, iii 11; iti ddumu-zi).

21    Translation:  “195 workdays, from the water installation at the Šulpa'e (field) earth excavated, irrigation work in the Šulpa'e field, water installation of the Audatur (field) cut off (?) and cleaned. Sealed tablet of Lugal-hegal.”

22    The administrative role of this person is unclear to me. Although an important Umma šabra official (explicitly in Princeton 2, 421 [M. Sigrist, forthcoming]), Agugu seems never to have used a personal seal, but rather seals of other officials, including that of Ur-emah (UTI 3, 1630, and for instance MCS 3, 87 BM 105514, MVN 14, 351, and UTI 3, 2299) and of Ur-emah's brother Lugal-ezim (passim, but note the pisan-dub-ba text SAT 3, 2167, that records sealed tablets of Agugu and Lugal-ezim together in rev. 4).

23    Note the variant additional information in Erlenmeyer 152 that must result from either the existence of a fuller duplicate text of MVN 15, 20, or the lively memory of a young scribe. MVN 15, 20, records the reality of a group of 15 workmen occupied over two days, simplified in Erlenmeyer 152 to 30 guruš u4-1-še3, “30 workdays”. The second of the two tablets mentioned contained a receipt corresponding to the preceding entry in Erlenmeyer 152: 2.00 guruš u4-1-še3 / ki-sura2 nin12-nu-du3-a-ta  a-pi4-sal4ki-še3 in-u im-la2.

24    For a review of the lexical evidence, see S. Liebermann, “Of Clay Pebbles, Hollow Clay Balls, and Writing: A Sumerian View,” AJA 84 (1980) 339-358.

25    An asterisk (*) indicates sign disturbed by recent repair work.

 26    The remains of some of the original signs are visible. When the tablet was repaired in recent times, the break along this case was filled with clay, and some cuneiform impressions were made on the fresh surface. See the text copy in figure 1 and its CDLI page for an overview of the damaged and repaired sections of the text.

27    G. Selz, RA 87 (1993) 29-45, has demonstrated the widespread and productive use of singular cohortatives in Sumerian nominalization; thus gab2-us2 (our “herding apprentice”) means literally “I will follow it”, gab2-ra literally “I will drive it along”.

28    The initial horizontal wedges of lugal were erased by the scribe, suggesting a correction to lu2. The sign ama/dagal is unclear.

29    It appears that this and the sign immediately below it in the following case were reconstructed over  a filled-in gap in the tablet. If so, then the substantially correct sign forms would point to its reconstruction by a specialist, although we would expect rather iti 12-kam in l. 16, consistent with the majority of Ur III accounts, and with rev. v 7 of this text. The reconstructive work done on the lines obv. iii 11-13, however, is of a decidedly amateurish quality.

30    That is, of the workmen qualified as “halftime”.

31    The case presumably served as a sexagesimal “scratch pad”. Top row 12,30, bottom row 7,17,30.

32    The two fields Igi-emah-še3 and Nin-ura (full name Nin-ura-an-ne2-ga2-ra, see Umma Ist. 4, 2962, obv. 2) were often attested together in our Ur III accounts, for instance in Umma Ist. 4, 2546 (SS 1), Umma Ist. 4, 2598 (SS 1), Umma Ist. 4, 2665 (SS 1), Umma Ist. 4, 2850 (AS 8), Umma Ist. 4, 2861(AS 8), Umma Ist. 4, 2911 rev., Umma Ist. 5, 3019, MVN 21, 80 (SS 3).

33    The final sign -da here and in other contexts suggests the sign DUN requires a reading of final /d/. Possibly /zehda/, “young pig (sty)”, is meant. Cp. CTNMC 27, Princeton 1, 498 (=Princeton 2, 144; in en-du8-du), etc.

34    It is not evident where the scribe might have found this line; it is not included in the receipt MVN18, 397, from which this subsection was copied.

35    The seal impression of the receipt which formed the basis of this entry found on MVN 18, 397, suggests that this is the son of the following sealing official Šakuge.

36    sic, cp. MVN 14, 312, obv. 5-6.

37    Is this the father of Lu-Šara, and the son of Lugal-nesage (s. Princeton 1, 518)?

38    The field is described with sketch in the text Or 47-49, 509 (there called a-ša3 u2-du-lu2-sa6-ga). Compare UTI 4, 2400, rev. 1.

39    The receipt MVN 16, 865, implies that this is the son of the preceding, sealing official Lugal-iti-da, and is therefore together with the remarks above to obv. v 1 to be added to the list of possible organizing principles of posting receipts into larger accounts.

40    Full name of the field is Šara-gugal-an-ne2-ga2-ra, see Nik 2, 142 obv. 3, SAT 3, 1546, rev. 1, and above, n. 32.

41    This passage probably partially corresponds to the receipt Princeton 1, 380.

42    The entire passage rev. i 17 - iii 11 is evidently sealed by Lu-Haya.

43    This assumes that the min sign in text is not another “repair”. “Ditto” would refer to the returning of the barge.

44    There are some possibly recent traces of signs at the beginning of this case. The reconstruction derives both from the partial total at the bottom of this column (6.10 - 1.10 = 5.00) and from the calculated work norm of the porters from the debits section of the text above, obv. ii 21, based on a “free time” allowance of 1/10. The work of the dumugi is not similarly rewarded in this account.

Version: 15 February 2003

Cite this Article
Englund, Robert K. 2003. “The Year: ‘Nissen Returns Joyous from a Distant Island.’” Cuneiform Digital Library Journal 2003 (1).
Englund, R. K. (2003). The Year: “Nissen returns joyous from a distant island.” Cuneiform Digital Library Journal, 2003(1).
Englund, R. K. (2003) “The Year: ‘Nissen returns joyous from a distant island,’” Cuneiform Digital Library Journal, 2003(1). Available at: (Accessed: April 23, 2024).
	note = {[Online; accessed 2024-04-23]},
	address = {Oxford; Berlin; Los Angeles},
	author = {Englund, Robert K.},
	journal = {Cuneiform Digital Library Journal},
	issn = {1540-8779},
	number = {1},
	year = {2003},
	publisher = {Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative},
	title = {The {Year}: "{Nissen} returns joyous from a distant island"},
	url = {},
	volume = {2003},

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IS  - 1
J2  - CDLJ
SN  - 1540-8779
T2  - Cuneiform Digital Library Journal
TI  - The Year: "Nissen returns joyous from a distant island"
UR  -
VL  - 2003
Y2  - 2024/4/23/
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