The Ur III Tablets in the Valdosta State University Archives

CDLJ 2006:2

Cuneiform Digital Library Journal (ISSN: 1540-8779)

Published on 2006-04-24

© 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.

Keywords : Ur III, administrative, bala


§0. The Valdosta State University Archives, part of the Odum Library at Valdosta State University (located in Valdosta, Georgia, on the Florida border) holds eight cuneiform tablets dating to the Ur III period (ca. 2112-2004 BC according to the middle chronology). These tablets were brought to my attention by Ms. Deborah Davis, Archives Librarian at Odum Library, who was also kind enough to provide the images of the tablets on which the following edition is based. These tablets, like many small collections found in libraries throughout the United States, were sold to Valdosta State in the early 1920’s by Edgar J. Banks. Several letters preserved in the archives along with the tablets indicate that they were offered to a Professor R. H. Powell in April of 1920 by Banks (writing from Alpine, New Jersey, in this case). All ten tablets described in the original letter remain in the archives, but two tablets (nos. 9 and 10) have, in the intervening years, disintegrated, and no longer seem to preserve any cuneiform writing. In the correspondence from Banks kept with the tablets in the archives, he suggests that tablet 9 dated to the time of Hammurapi, while tablet 10 was Neo-Babylonian in date. I should emphasize that I have not inspected the tablets themselves, but have worked entirely from images of them. A preliminary edition of the preserved eight tablets is offered here pending future examination of the tablets themselves.


§1. Valdosta 1 (Umma, Amar-Suen year 1)

  1. 1/3(diš) ma-na ša3-gu sig? 1/3 mina of ... šagu
  2. ki a-DU-ta from ADU
  3. la-ni-mu šu ba-ti Lanimu received.
  (1 line blank)
  (blank space)
  1. mu damar-dsuen lugal Year: “Amar-Suen (is) king” (Amar-Suen, year 1)


§1.1. This is an account of the transfer of one-third of a mina (ca. 170 grams) of a commodity associated with flax and the production of linen from ADU to Lanimu.


§1.2. The meaning of ša3-gu remains uncertain. It seems fairly clear that it is associated with flax and the production of linen (see Potts 1997: 117-119 for a brief overview of flax and linen production in Mesopotamia). Waetzoldt (1983: 585-586), in the context of a much more extensive discussion of linen in Mesopotamia, also notes that a secure translation of ša3-gu is still a desideratum. In SET 274, rev. col. i, line 19, ša3-gu occurs in a large garment production account in which it is found among a list of slightly unusual raw materials such as gada sag10 ‘high-quality linen’ and siki kur-ra ‘foreign wool’.


§1.3. Lanimu is found in other texts that deal with the transportation of flax/linen to the linen garment workshops in Ur (see, for instance, BIN 5, 168, in which Lanimu receives a shipment of ša3-gu bound for Ur from Dadaga, the governor of Umma, and MVN 20, 202, in which Lanimu receives ša3-gu from Dingira [dingir-ra] in Ur). Linen production seems to have been centered in Ur, capital of the Ur III empire, as we might expect due to the association of linen garments with social elites in other societies, but I do not know of any study of such an association in Mesopotamia. Although the word bala “transfer; term of office” occurs in several texts that also mention Lanimu, it remains unclear whether or not Lanimu was participating in the well-known but poorly understood bala-system. At least upon initial inspection, there is a substantial possibility that Lanimu is involved in the bala-system if only because the person from whom he receives the ša3-gu, namely ADU, occurs in a number of records bearing the designation ša3 bala-a that Sharlach (2004) lists in the appendix to her volume on the bala (Chart 2.14, pp. 289-311): SAT 2, 599 (labor), Princeton 1, 234 (reeds), UTI 3, 1603 (reeds), SANTAG 6, 278 [Koslova 278 in Sharlach] (baskets), BCT 2, 16 (sheep), and MVN 14, 289 (reeds).


§1.4. With one important exception, Lanimu never occurs in a text designated ša3 bala-a. A brief review of tablets that mention Lanimu may provide some degree of clarity however. The tablets that mention Lanimu cluster on the basis of a series of administrative terms that make mention of the city of Ur (uri5ki): six tablets dating from the 45th year of Šulgi to the first year of Amar-Suen include the phrase uri5ki-še3, “to Ur” (MVN 20, 162; Orient 16, 62 70; CTNMC 40; BIN 5, 168; SACT 2, 154; Valdosta 1); six tablets dating to roughly the same period of time include the phrase ša3 uri5ki-ma, “inside of Ur” (AR RIM 4, 2; BIN 5, 154; MVN 20, 1; SANTAG 6, 83; Ontario 2, 139; SAT 2, 654). Seven tablets that also mention Lanimu and date to roughly the same period of time include the characteristic phrase zi-ga uri5ki-ma, “expended in Ur” (CST 659a; MVN 20, 202; SNAT 297; SACT 1, 69; SACT 2, 253; Syracuse 389; TCNU 451).


§1.5. Lastly, a small number of tablets include the word bala in accounts that also mention Lanimu (bala-a uri5ki-ma [MVN 15, 35 obv. 2]; [zi]-ga bala-a ša3 nibruki u3 ša3 uri5ki-ma [BIN 5, 4 obv. 13]; bala ša3 uri5ki-ma [MVN 21, 6 obv. 3]). SANTAG 6, 38 rev. 9, seems to include the telltale phrase ša3 bala-a, “inside of the bala-system,” which can be interpreted as a designation of the bala-system with some confidence, but I would like to raise the possibility that this is an error for a phrase such as the one in BIN 5, 4, above (zi-ga ša3 bala-a / uri5ki-ma for an expected zi-ga bala-a ša3 uri5ki-ma, “booked out (and) transferred in Ur”). Other than this single occurrence, the phrase ša3 bala-a seems to have been studiously avoided in Lanimu’s accounts. In my view, the proper interpretation of phrases such as zi-ga bala-a remains an open question in spite of Sharlach’s confidence that bala-a is to be interpreted as a noun in the genitive case (“of the bala-system”) rather than a nominalized verb (“that which has been transferred”). See Sharlach 2004, 115-121 for evidence in favor of interpreting these texts as part of the bala-system.


§2. Valdosta 2 (Drehem, Šulgi, year 43)

  1. 1(diš) sila4 denlil2 One lamb (for) Enlil,
  2. 1(diš) sila4 dnin-lil2 one lamb (for) Ninlil,
  3. mu-DU zabar-dab5 delivery of the zabardab.
  4. 1(diš) sila4 dnin-hur-sag One lamb (for) Ninhursag,
  5. 1(diš) sila4 dšul-pa-e3 one lamb (for) Šulpa’e,
  6. mu-DU kur-giri3-ni-< < ni > >-še3 delivery of Kur-giriniše.
  7. zabar-dab5 maškim The zabardab was the responsible official.
  8. 1(diš) maš-da3 e2 uz-ga One antelope (for) the E’uzga,
  7. u4 3(diš)-kam
       1. mu-DU a?-tu delivery of Atu.
  2. ur-dšul-gi-ra maškim Ur-Šulgira was the responsible official.
  3. 1(diš) sila4 denlil2 One lamb (for) Enlil.
  4. mu-DU lugal-nir-gal2 delivery of Lugal-nirgal.
  5. i-sa3-ri2-ik maškim Issarik was the responsible official.
  6. 1(diš) udu 1(diš) ud5 ba x ˹E2˺ One sheep and one nanny goat ...
  7. u4 3(diš)-kam on the third day. (double rule)
  8. mu en dnanna maš-e i3-pa3 Year: “The en priestess of Nanna was chosen via extispicy”
Šulgi year 43).


§2.1. This text consists of a list of animals that were taken from the central stock-yards in Drehem for offerings to several deities.


§2.2. The zabar-dab5 was an official whose name originally meant “the one who holds the mirror, lit. the bronze” (Foxvog 1980: 74; Steinkeller 1987). The zabar-dab5 played an important role in the texts that document deliveries of animals to the cults of the various deities that the state maintained in Nippur (Lafont 1983) and it has been suggested that the zabar-dab5 was the highest cultic official in the Ur III state (see Sallaberger 1999: 186-188 for details).


§2.3. The personal name i-sa3-ri2-ik is interesting in that it is a sandhi writing of a fairly common Semitic personal name issu-arik meaning ‘his arm is long’ (Hilgert 2002: 74; see p. 571 for a list of texts in which this orthography occurs).


§3. Valdosta 3 (Drehem, Amar-Suen, year 4, month 4)

  1. 3(diš) sila4 (For) three lambs and
  2. 1(u) 7(diš) ˹maš2˺ 17 male goats
  3. ša3 uri5ki-ma in Ur,
  4. u4 3(u) la2 1(dištenû)-kam on the 29th day,
  5. ki ab-ba-sa6-ga-ta from Abba-saga
  1. na-lu5 i3-dab5 Nalu assumed administrative responsibility.
  (1 line blank)
  2. iti ki-siki-dnin-a-zu Month: “The ... of Ninazu” (4th month).
  3. mu en dnanna ba-hun Year: “The en priestess of Nanna was appointed” (Amar-Suen, year 4).
left edge
  1. 2(u) 20 (animals in total).


§3.1. Here we have a receipt for a group of lambs and goats originally from Ur that were transferred from the account of Abbasaga, the head of the Drehem administration, to the bureau of Nalu, one of his deputies. Another document would have recorded the transfer of these to animals to one or more cultic centers in either Nippur or perhaps in this case Ur (see Johnson 2004 [CDLB 2004:2] for an example of such a transfer).


§3.2. Because of the somewhat unusual composition of the herd in this text and the precise dating of the tablet, this herd can be identified in another document: RA 10, 210 (BM 103413). RA 10, 210 records the deliveries of animals made to Abbasaga from the household of the divinized king Šulgi over the course of one year (Amar-Suen 4). One of the deliveries mentioned in RA 10, 210, is as follows (RA 10, 210, obv. i, lines 6-10)

  6. 3(diš) sila4 Three lambs,
  7. 1(u) 7(diš) maš2 17 male goats,
  8. giri3 dnanna-lu2-du10 via Nanna-ludu,
  9. u4 3(u) la2 1(dištenû)-kam on the 29th day,
  10. ša3 uri5ki-ma in Ur.


§3.4. The fact that the date and the rather unusual composition of the herd coincide guarantees that the two documents are related. Clearly, Abbasaga received the herd from Ur or perhaps was responsible for accounting for them even through they remained in Ur—the terminology (ša3 uri3ki-ma, “in Ur”) would seem to favor the latter interpretation. Once the herd had been “received” by Abbasaga, he turned them over to Nalu, and when Nalu assumed control of the group of animals he generated Valdosta 3 to reflect the transfer of responsibility. Hilgert has dealt with Nalu’s role in the administrative of Drehem to a limited extent in several publications (Hilgert 1998: 15-16; 2003: 64-65).


§4. Valdosta 4 (Amar-Suen, year 5, month 10)

  1. 2(diš) anše edin-na Two onagers and
  2. 2(diš) ud5 šimaški2 two Šimaškian nanny goats
  3. ba-ug7 slaughtered;
  4. u4 2(u) 6(diš)-kam on the 26th day,
  1. ki lugal-he2-gal2-ta from Lugalhegal
  2. dšul-gi-iri-gu10 Šulgi’irigu
  3. šu ba-ti received.
  4. iti ezem-an-na Month: “Festival of An” (month 10, Ur/Drehem).
  5. mu en-unu6-gal dinanna ba-hun Year: “Enunugal was appointed as (the en priest of) Inanna” (Amar-Suen, year 5).


§4.1. This document records Šulgi-irigu’s receipt of the carcasses of four animals from Lugal-hegal. The Lugal-hegal attested here falls within the known career of a Lugal-hegal who was a “member of the ruling family of Umma” (Dahl 2003: 259) and seemed to have been involved in the care and feeding of working animals such as the onagers mentioned in this text (see Stepien 1996: 38 and 142-143). Although it is plausible that the Lugal-hegal in this text is the lugal-he2-gal2 dumu ur-nigargar mentioned by Dahl and Stepien, I have not yet been able to demonstrate this conclusively.


§5. Valdosta 5 (Umma, šu-Suen, year 3, month 2, day 7)

  1. 1(diš) dug dida 5(diš) sila2 kaš sag10 One pot (ca. 20 liters) of dida beer, five sila (ca. 5 liters) of high-quality beer,
  2. 1(ban2) ninda 2(diš) gin2 i3 2(diš) gin2 naga one ban (ca. 10 liters) of bread, two shekels (ca. 30cc) of oil and two shekels of alkali,
  3. 3(diš) ku6 3(diš) sa sum three fish and three bunches of onions,
  4. a-gu-˹a sukkal?˺ gaba-˹˺ Agu’a, the messenger, (sent) to Persia.
  5. 1(diš) dug ˹dida 6(diš)? sila3?˺ [i3] One pot of dida beer, six shekels of oil,
  6. 1(ban2) [ninda] 2(diš) ˹gin2˺ [i3 2(diš) gin2 naga] one ban of bread, two shekels of oil, two shekels of alkali,
  7. ˹3(diš) ku6˺ [3(diš) sa sum] three fish and three bunches of onions,
  1. i3-kal-˹la sukkal˺ [...] Ikala, the messenger, ... .
  2. 3(diš) sila3 kaš 2(diš) sila3 [ninda] Three sila of beer, two sila of bread,
  3. 2(diš) gin2 i3 2(diš) gin2 ˹naga˺ two shekels of oil, two shekels of alkali,
  4. ˹1(diš)˺ ku6 1(diš) sa sum one fish, one bunch of onions,
  5. du10-ga-mu ka-us2-sa2 Dugamu the ... .
  6. ŠU+LAGAB 2(diš) dug dida du 1(ban2) Total: two pots of average-quality dida beer (made with) one ban (of barley);
  7. ŠU+LAGAB 5(diš) sila3 kaš sag10 ŠU+LAGAB 6(diš) gin2 i3? total: five liters of high-quality beer; total: 6 shekels of oil;
  8. ŠU+LAGAB 2(ban2) 2(diš) sila3 ninda ŠU+LAGAB 6(diš) gin2 i3 total: 2 ban 2 sila of bread; total: six shekels of oil;
  9. ŠU+LAGAB 6(diš) gin2 naga total: six shekels of alkali;
  10. ŠU+LAGAB 7(diš) ku6 ŠU+LAGAB 7(diš) sa sum total: seven fish; total: seven bunches of onions.
  11. u4 7(diš)-kam iti sig4-geši3-šub-ba-gar On the 7th day, month: “Bricks are placed in the moulds” (Month 2)
left edge
  1. mu us2-sa ma2 denki ba-ab-du8 The year after: “The boat of Enki was caulked” (Šu-Suen, year 3)


§5.1. This is a record of distributions to sukkals, ‘court messengers/officials’ and a ka-us2-sa2. sukkals regularly traveled far and wide, carrying out the business of the royal court, and in this text they receive the types of food that were the standard fare: beer and bread, fish and oil. The term naga, which is conventionally translated as ‘alkali’, has been dealt with by Butz (1984: 283-286), where he suggests several possible interpretations, including its use as soap or as a softening agent for the dried fish that often occur in messenger texts. Or, alternatively, naga may be a cover term for a variety of plant derivatives. Yoshikawa has explained gaba-aš “to the chest” as a shorthand that was used in Umma for trips to Elam, east of Mesopotamia (Yoshikawa 1988).


§6. Valdosta 6 (Umma, Ibbi-Suen, year 2, month 8)

  1. 1(diš) tug2 gu2-na One “neck” garment
  2. ki i3-kal-la-ta from Ikala
  3. mu a-gu-še3 for/in place of Agu,
  4. kišib3 a-a-kal-la the sealed tablet of Ayakala.
    (1 line blank)  
  1.  iti e2-iti-6(diš) Month: “The six-month house” (8th month).
  2. mu en dinanna unuki maš2-e i3-pa3 Year: “the en priest of Inanna of Uruk was chosen by extispicy” (Ibbi-Suen, year 2).
  1. a-a-kal-la Ayakala,
  2. dub-sar scribe,
  3. dumu er2-dingir son of Er-dingir.


§6.1. This document records the transfer of a garment from Ikala, presumably the well-known administrator in charge of textile production in Umma (Waetzoldt 1972: 101; Dahl 2003: 184), to a person named Ayakala on behalf of Agu (mu a-gu-še3). Although the date on this tablet falls within the tenure of Ayakala, the equally well-known governor of Umma, the Ayakala mentioned in this text is not the governor of Umma: the seal impression on the tablet clearly indicates that the Ayakala in our text is a-a-kal-la dumu er2-dingir, “Ayakala, the son of Er-dingir,” whereas the governor of Umma was the son of Ur-nigar (a-a-kal-la dumu ur-nigargar).


§6.2. While the Ayakala mentioned in this text is not otherwise attested in the textual record, the Er-dingir who is mentioned as his father is probably a gudu priest whose name appears in a number of documents, presumably er2-dingir dumu lugal-sa6-ga (see, for example, the seal impression of MVN 13, 190)—only one person with the name Er-dingir seems to be active in Umma at the time when this tablet was written, but further proof would be needed for a positive identification. Er-dingir is also mentioned in OLP 8, 24, 21, a list of the staff members and religious specialists at a number of institutions in Umma: Er-dingir is the last entry in a list of two dozen individuals who are described as gudu4 dšara2 ummaki, “gudu priests of the god Šara of Umma” (rev., col. iv, lines 33-34). Note as well that the seal impression mentioned above (see MVN 13, 190) describes Er-dingir’s “occupation” as “servant of the god Šara” (ARAD2 dšara2), a fitting title for a member of her priesthood.


§7. Valdosta 7 (Drehem, Šu-Suen, year 2, month 8)

  1. 1(diš) gu4 PI-li nu-banda3 One ox (for) PIli, the overseer,
  2. 1(diš) gu4 KA? i3-kal-la one ox ... Ikala,
  3. gu4? a2-pi5-lum oxen from Apilum,
  4. ki-ba ba-na-a-ga2-ar? put in its place on his behalf
  5. giri3 lu2-denki by means of Lu-Enki,
  6. x x x ...
  1. x ab2 5(diš) udu x ... cows and five ... sheep,
  2. 2(u) 8(diš) udu 3(diš) ud5 x 28 sheep and 3 goats ... ,
  3. ba-ug7 e2 muhaldim-še3? have been slaughtered for the kitchen,
  4. mu aga3-us2-e-ne-še3? for the soldiers,
  5. u4 2(diš)-kam on the second day;
  6. ki du11-ga-ta ba-zi booked out of (account of) Duga,
  7. giri3 nu-ur2-diškur dub-sar by means of Nur-Adad, the scribe.
  8. iti šu-eš5-ša Month: šu’ešša (8th month, Drehem).
  9. mu ma2 dara4-abzu ba-ab-du8 Year: “The boat (named) ‘the ibex of the Abzu’ was caulked” (Šu-Suen year 2).
left edge
  1. 3(diš)? [gu4 ab2] 3(u)!? 6(diš)? udu Three [oxen and cows] and 36 small cattle (in total).


§7.1. This text is heavily sealed and will need to be re-edited once it is baked and cleaned. Nonetheless, I offer a transliteration on the basis of the available image if only so as to encourage further work on the tablet. The name in the first line on the obverse is particularly rare, having only one other occurrence in the CDLI corpus, namely PDT 2, 959, rev., col. iii, line 20. Note that the total on the left edge is quite badly damaged, so the reconstruction I offer here is somewhat tentative. I would also like to thank the anonymous referee for several improvements to the provisional transliteration offered here. The referee also notes that the seal-cap impressions on Valdosta 7 may suggest that the seal is that of Ur-Shulpa’e (cf. Hilgert 2003, 605ff.).


§8. Valdosta 8 (Amar-Suen, year 2)

  1. 6(diš) tug2 uš-bar tur sumun Six old small “weaver” garments,
  2. 2(diš) tug2 ša3-ga-du3 sumun two old šagadu garments,
  3. mu uš-bar x ... (for) the weavers.
  4. 2(diš) tug2 uš-bar tur Two small “weaver” garments,
  5. 1(diš) tug2 uš-bar zu2 uh one moth-eaten “weaver” garment.
  1. mu damar-dsuen lugal-e ur-bi2-lum mu-hul Year: “Amar-Suen, the king, destroyed Urbilum” (Amar-Suen, year 2).
  2. ki ensi2-ka-ta From the governor,
  3. kišib3 i3-kal-la sealed tablet of Ikala,
  4. ur-dšara2-ke4 ba-an-dabx(U8) Ur-Šara assumed administrative responsibility for (them).
  1. [ur-dšara2] [Ur-Šara],
  2. dub-sar scribe,
  3. dumu lugal-[ušur4] son of Lugal-[ušur].


§8.1. This document is a receipt for a small group of low-quality garments that are being transferred from the office of the governor (ki ensi2-ka-ta) to Ikala, the chief administrator of textile production in Umma. Since the maintenance of the laborers at the textile mill managed by Ikala was often the responsibility of ur-dšara2 dumu lugal-ušur3/4, a well-known chief administrator or archivist (ša13-dub-ba) in this period, and since Ur-šara assumes responsibility for the garments, the simplest explanation is that these were old garments that the governor returned to Ikala for the use of the weavers themselves. A number of accounts document Ur-Šara’s role in distributing and maintaining labor forces for institutions such as Ikala’s weaving mill (see, for example, MCS 3, 54 (BM 113005), an account of labor transferred to the account of Ikala). One aspect of managing these laborers would have been to provide garments for them as in this text, but also seen elsewhere (TCNU 607, an account that mentions 891 tug2 uš-bar garments that where debited to Ikala’s account by Ur-Šara). See also SANTAG 6, 67, in which Ur-šara seals a tablet that documents the repayment of a debt (la2-ia3 su-ga) by Ikala on behalf of Ur-Iškur, a fuller (azlag2), who was presumably attached to Ikala’s textile production center.



Butz, Kilian
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Dahl, Jacob L.
  2003 The Ruling Family of Ur III Umma: A Prosopographical Analysis of a Provincial Elite Family in Southern Iraq ca. 2100-2000 BC. Unpublished dissertation, UCLA.
Foxvog, Daniel A.
  1980 “Funerary Furnishings in an Early Sumerian Text from Adab,” in B. Alster, ed., Death in Mesopotamia: Papers read at the XXVIe Rencontre assyriologique internationale. Copenhagen: Akademisk Forlag, pp. 67-75.
Hilgert, Markus
  1998 Cuneiform Texts from the Ur III Period in the Oriental Institute, volume 1: Drehem Administrative Documents from the Reign of Šulgi. OIP 115. Chicago: Oriental Institute Publications.
  2002 Akkadisch in der Ur III-Zeit. Imgula 5. Münster: Rhema.
  2003 Cuneiform Texts from the Ur III Period in the Oriental Institute, volume 2: Drehem Administrative Documents from the Reign of Amar-Suena. OIP 121. Chicago: Oriental Institute Publications.
Lafont, Bertrand
  1983 “zabar.dab5 et le culte d’après les textes de Drehem,” RA 77, 97-117.
Potts, Daniel
  1997 Mesopotamian Civilization: The Material Foundations. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.
Sallaberger, Walther
  1999 “Ur III-Zeit,” in W. Sallaberger & A. Westenholz, Mesopotamien: Akkade-Zeit und Ur III-Zeit. OBO 160/3. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, pp. 121-390.
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  1996 Animal Husbandry in the Ancient Near East: A Prosopographic Study of Third-Millennium Umma. Bethesda, Maryland: CDL Press.
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Version: 24 April 2006

Cite this Article
Johnson, J. Cale. 2006. “The Ur III Tablets in the Valdosta State University Archives.” Cuneiform Digital Library Journal 2006 (2).
Johnson, J. Cale. (2006). The Ur III Tablets in the Valdosta State University Archives. Cuneiform Digital Library Journal, 2006(2).
Johnson, J. Cale (2006) “The Ur III Tablets in the Valdosta State University Archives,” Cuneiform Digital Library Journal, 2006(2). Available at: (Accessed: December 6, 2023).
	note = {[Online; accessed 2023-12-06]},
	address = {Oxford; Berlin; Los Angeles},
	author = {Johnson,  J. Cale},
	journal = {Cuneiform Digital Library Journal},
	number = {2},
	year = {2006},
	publisher = {Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative},
	title = {The {Ur} {III} {Tablets} in the {Valdosta} {State} {University} {Archives}},
	volume = {2006},

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T2  - Cuneiform Digital Library Journal
TI  - The Ur III Tablets in the Valdosta State University Archives
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