Two Early Dynastic Capacity Standards

CDLN 2011:5

Cuneiform Digital Library Notes (ISSN: 1546-6566)

Published on 2011-10-15

© Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This tablet comes from a small, private collection of the Rev. David Alderfer of Downers Grove, Illinois. The remainder of this collection will be published by Lance Allred.

Its shape (76mm x 61mm x 20mm) and the general palaeography of the ŠU, DA and KA signs are consistent with Early Dynastic IIIb and pre-Classical Sargonic forms (Gelb 1977: 6-7; Biggs 1973: 45). Additionally, the use of Sumerian personal names also supports this suggested date range. However, the phrase še zi-ga is more prevalent in the Old Akkadian period, known from Girsu, Umma and Adab, than during the ED III period. Therefore, a date range of ED IIIb – early Old Akkadian seems likely. The provenience is uncertain, but could possibly be Adab based on the rare personal names Ur-Urimaš (see CUSAS 13, 65) and Pirig-nam (Banca d'Italia 1, 154).

This is a ration account recording the disbursement of large quantities of barley to individuals. The most interesting feature of this account are the two distinct standards used to qualify ration measurements.


                    Alderfer 11

transliteration   translation
 col. i  
  1. [n] 3(uc) [...] še gur   n+30 gur of barley
  2. ur-duri3-maš   for Ur-Urimaš
  3. 2(geš2c) mu-ni-da   120 (gur of barley) for Munida;
  4. 2(geš2c) lugal-ša3   120 (gur of barley) for Lugal-ša;
  5. 1(geš2c) ur-dinanna?   60 (gur of barley) for Ur-Inanna;
  6. 1(geš2c) 1(ašc) ur-den-lil2   61 (gur of barley) for Ur-Enlil;
  7. 2(uc) 2(ašc) ur-kal-ga   22 (gur of barley) for Ur-kalga;
  8. 2(uc) ur-dingir   20 (gur of barley) for Ur-dingir;
  9. 4(geš2c) 3(uc) numun
        GAN2 geš? mu11
  270 (gur) ...
 col. ii    
  1. lugal-ša3   for Lugal-ša3
  2. 1(uc) ur-dutu   10 (gur of barley) for Ur-Utu;
  3. sila3 zabar!(KA.BAR)-ta-am3   each being the bronze standard.
  4. 1(uc) ur2-bi-še3   10 (gur of barley) for Urbiše;
  5. 2(geš2c) 1(uc) 5(ašc) e2-u4   135 (gur of barley) for E'u;
  6. 1(geš2c) ur-pisan   60 (gur of barley) for Ur-pisan;
  7. 3(uc) ur-dnirah   30 (gur of barley) for Ur-Nirah;
  8. 3(geš2c) 3(uc) su-bappir-a   210 (gur of barley) for Su-bappira;
 9. 2(geš2c) 1(uc) 6(ašc) lugal-[ša3]   136 (gur of barley) for Lugal-[ša];
 col. i    
  1. 4(uc) pirig-nam   40 (gur of barley) for Pirig-nam;
  2. 1(geš2c) 3(uc) bar-us2   90 (gur of barley) for Bar-us;
 3. 3(uc) 1(ašc) 2(barigc) ur-x-mu   31 (gur of barley) and 120 sila for Ur-x;
  4. 1(ašc) a? ziz2 maš2   1 (gur) ... emmer for Maš;
  5. 4(uc) la2 3(ašc) ur-dnin-pirig   37 (gur of barley) for Ur-Nin-pirig;
  6. sa2-du11-ta-am3   each being the sattukkum standard.
 col. ii    
  1. šu-nigin2 2(geš'uc) 5(gesz2c)
        2(uc) 6(ašc) 3(barigc) še gur
  Total: 1526 gur and 180 silas of barley
  2. sila3 zabar-ta   according to the bronze standard;
  3. še zi-ga   credited barley
  4. 1(ikuc) GAN2 geš
  1 iku ...


The first entry is broken, but given the total at the end of the account and the preserved numbers, 33 gur and 60 sila must be reconstructed in the lacunae. With 30 gur already extant in this first line, the addition of another 30 would make an odd notation for 60. The calculations are problematic and I cannot offer a coherent reconstruction of the first entry at present.

The first nine entries, but subsequently the entire account, are described as being measured according to the bronze standard (sila3 zabar). There are only a few contemporary texts that utilize the bronze standard: an ED IIIb text from Adab (CUSAS 11, 42) and an ED IIIb text from Nippur (OSP 1, 64). There are two addition examples in CUSAS 13, 71 and 76. Moreover, there is an unpublished Old Akkadian text of unknown provenience; however, the surface damage to the text does not allow for a clear reading of the account.

OSP 1, 64 records an entry for 3(u) 1(barig) še lid2-ga sila3 zabar-ta ("7,260 true/standard liters of barley measured according to the bronze standard"). The lidga measurement, widely attested during the Fara period, corresponds to a 240-liter gur (Powell 1989: 495-96). An association between the use of the bronze standard and the 240-liter gur is also seen in CUSAS 11, 42. The calculations work perfectly if we assume a 240-liter gur:

 col. i
  1. 1(geš'uc) 5(geš2c) 8(ašc) la2 3(ban2c) ziz2 gur 907 gur and 210 sila of emmer,
  2. gur zabar-ta from the bronze standard;
  3. x x mah ...
  4. 6(geš2c) 3(uc) 1(ašc) 1(barigc) lugal-ša3
391 gur and 60 sila of emmer for Lugal-ša, the nubanda;
 col. ii
  1. 6(geš2c) 2(uc) la2 2(ašc) giri3-ne2 šuš3 378 gur of emmer for Girine, the cattle administrator;
  2. 7(geš2c) 4(uc) 8(ašc) 1(barigc) 3(ban2c) ur-pisan 468 gur and 90 sila of emmer for Ur-pisan;
  3. 1(geš'uc) 4(uc) 2(ašc) 3(ban2c) ur-UD-BU 642 gur and 30 sila of emmer for Ur-UD-BU.
 col. i
  1. GAN2-IŠ Field: IŠ
 col. ii
  1. šu-nigin2 4(geš'uc) 6(geš2c) 2(uc) 7(ašc)
        2(barigc) 3(ban2c) sze ziz2 gur
Total: 2787 gur and 150 sila of barley and emmer.
  2. giri3-gen-na It was for the trip
  3. lugal-x-kam of Lugal-x.

The second standard recorded in Alderfer 11 is the sa2-du11 (Akkadian: sattukku) describing the preceding eleven entries. This standard is known in ED IIIb Girsu for liquid capacity (Powell 1989: 506-7). Clearer correlations in grain metrology come from Old Akkadian Adab, where it is used interchangeably with the gur-mah suggesting a capacity of 240 liters (Zhi 1989: 64-5). However, given the qualification of the bronze standard on the total for the account, it is likely that the sattukku is subsumed under the bronze standard. It is also possible that in this text the notation is not metrological, but rather descriptive.

It appears that in the ED IIIb – Old Akkadian periods at Adab, Nippur and possibly the surrounding areas, the sattukku standard and the bronze standard were based on the 240-liter gur. These standards survive into the Ur III period and become based on the 300-liter gur and demonstrate more distinct spheres of application (e.g. CDLB 2007/2 6).

Based on general observations of the Ur III standards, the sattukku standard appears most frequently with offerings for the temple (e.g. UCP 9-2-1, 53; SAT 2, 1015; BPOA 7, 2212)—as the name implies. Conversely, the bronze standard is closely associated with the royal gur (e.g. ASJ 3, 162 131; BCT 2, 172; CST 649; CST 712; MVN 6, 482). The exact correlation between these standards is still unclear; however, it seems certain that both the bronze and sattukku standards were 240-liter units in the ED IIIb-Old Akkadian period, while in the subsequent Ur III period, they both became based on the 300-liter gur. The precise nature of their transition from one system to the next is not yet understood.





Biggs, Robert
  1973 "On Regional Cuneiform Handwritings in Third Millennium Mesopotamia.” OrNS 42, 39-46.
Gelb, Ignace J.
  1977 "Thoughts About Ibla: A Preliminary Evaluation, March 1977.” Syro-Mesopotamian Studies 1/1, 3-30.
Powell, Marvin
  1989 "Masse und Gewichte.” RlA 7, 457-530.
Visicato, Giuseppe and Aage Westenholz
  2010 Early Dynastic and Early Sargonic Tablets from Adab in the Cornell University Collections. CUSAS 11. CDL Press: Bethesda, MD.
Zhi, Yang
  1989 Sargonic Inscriptions from Adab. Changchun: IHAC.