gu-nigin₂, “bale”

CDLN 2003:3

Cuneiform Digital Library Notes (ISSN: 1546-6566)

Published on 2003-11-26

© Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative

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Wolfgang Heimpel

University of California, Berkeley

Reed and twigs were bundled into bundles (sa) and bound into bales (gu-nigin2) of various numbers of bundles for transport. I adopt the translation “bale” from A. Sallaberger (“Zum Schilfrohr als Rohstoff in Babylonien,” in B. Scholz, ed., Der orientalische Mensch und seine Beziehungen zur Umwelt: Beiträge zum 2. Grazer morgenländischen Symposion [Graz 1989] 326, note 63). It is current convention to posit two words for bale, gu-nigin2 and gu-kilib. E. Sollberger, in his glossary to Business and Administrative Correspondence under the Kings of Ur (=TCS 1; Locust Valley, New York, 1966) 122, sub voce “gu” states: “These two words are not only synonyms but homographs and it is only when they are followed by a suffix that the actual reading can be ascertained: the context does not help.” This view has been generally accepted. H. Waetzoldt, “Rohr und dessen Verwendungsweisen,” BSA 6 (1992) 126, observed “Den Ausdruck gu-kilib(-ba) benutzte man in Umma, während in den anderen Provinzen eher gu-nigin2(-na) üblich war.”

In M. Sigrist, SAT 2, 506 and 586, is found the form gu-NIGIN2-bi. The suffix -bi must be the possessive suffix. This shows that the suffix -ba in gu-NIGIN2-ba could be a locative added to the possessive suffix. The contrast between gu-NIGIN2-na and gu-NIGIN2-ba could accordingly consist of a form with and a form without the possessive suffix. That would allow positing a single word, gu-nigin2, “bale.”

This solution is confirmed by the fact that the reading kilib of the sign LAGAB is not attested. It is missing among the entries 27-33 in Proto-Ea (MSL 14, 31) and makes only a half-hearted appearance in the form of ke-el = LAGAB = napharu in Ea I, 42 (MSL 14, 178) and ki-li = [LAGAB] = napharu in Aa 2 (MSL 14, 211).

The formula n sa gi gu-nigin2-na n sa-ta (i3-gal2) means “n bundles reed. (Contained) in a bale (are) n bundles each” and the formula n sa gi gu-nigin2-ba a sa-ta (i3-gal2) “n bundles reed. (Contained) in its bale (are) n bundles each.”

Cite this Article
Heimpel, Wolfgang. 2003. “Gu-Nigin₂, ‘Bale.’” Cuneiform Digital Library Notes 2003 (3).
Heimpel, Wolfgang. (2003). gu-nigin₂, “bale.” Cuneiform Digital Library Notes, 2003(3).
Heimpel, Wolfgang (2003) “gu-nigin₂, ‘bale,’” Cuneiform Digital Library Notes, 2003(3). Available at: (Accessed: April 13, 2024).
	note = {[Online; accessed 2024-04-13]},
	address = {Oxford; Berlin; Los Angeles},
	author = {Heimpel,  Wolfgang},
	journal = {Cuneiform Digital Library Notes},
	issn = {1546-6566},
	number = {3},
	year = {2003},
	publisher = {Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative},
	title = {gu-nigin2, ``bale''},
	url = {},
	volume = {2003},

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DA  - 2003///
PY  - 2003
ET  - 2003/11/26/
ID  - cdln-2003-3
IS  - 3
J2  - CDLN
SN  - 1546-6566
T2  - Cuneiform Digital Library Notes
TI  - gu-nigin₂, “bale”
UR  -
VL  - 2003
Y2  - 2024/4/13/
ER  - 
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