On the “Joys of Cooking in Ur III Babylonia”

CDLN 2015:14

Cuneiform Digital Library Notes (ISSN: 1546-6566)

Published on 2015-10-15

© Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative

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This note adds a number of spice, salt & fuel tablets to the sequence of Umma bala tablets that were discussed by Piotr Steinkeller in his paper, “Joys of cooking in Ur III Babylonia” (Steinkeller 2008).

Steinkeller brings together five texts which describe the daily contributions of spices, salt and fuel from Umma during its bala month, 8th month of Amar-Suen 8: MVN 13, 762; SAKF 111; MVN 13, 131, MVN 13, 132, MVN 13, 130 (for days 18, 20, 23, 24, 30, respectively). He also notes MVN 9, 187 (undated) which is a summary of similar contributions for the first ten days of the month.

To the daily tablets we can now add CUSAS 16, 306 for day 21. KM 89507 clearly deals with spices, salt and fuel, however, its format is sufficiently different that it probably is not part of the same sequence of tablets.

There are also two additional (undated) summary tablets: SAKF 127 summarises days 11-20 and CUSAS 16, 273 summarises days 21-30. Thus, taken together MVN 9 187, SAKF 127 and CUSAS 16 273 might have formed the complete listing for a month. However, it remains possible that these form parts of separate lists and that it is fortuitous that they appear to form a continuous list without gaps or overlaps.

days šim
sa gi gešasal2 gi-ru-uš
1-10 ? 24 1260 155? 370 MVN 9, 187
11-20 96 31.5 1010 247 326 SAKF 127
21-30 108 29 1060 234 338 CUSAS 16, 273
Daily Average 10 3 110 21 34  

Table 1a

The daily averages have been rounded to the nearest integer, except for sa gi, which is given to two significant figures. The average for šim is based on the two totals available, averaged over 20 days. The totals also include gikaskal and gikid but these are listed for isolated days and so it is not appropriate to give a daily average.

Although there are disagreements in detail between the summaries (shown in Table 1) and daily accounts (shown in Table 2), there is agreement, in broad terms in the quantities of spices, salt and fuel being provided. One notable difference is that daily accounts generally do not include gešasal2 (wood from poplar trees) but instead appears to compensate for this with additional quantities of gi-ru-uš reeds.

days šim
sa gi gešasal2 gi-ru-uš
18 20 7 90   54 MVN 13, 762
20 13 3 95   62 SAKF 111
21 15 4 70   48 CUSAS 16, 306
23 12 3 80   42 MVN 13, 131
24 10 3 90   72 MVN 13, 132
30 ? ? ?+21 13 40 MVN 13, 130

Table 2a

The quantities of reeds given in this table are the totals, including reeds specifically for cooking fish and sheep tripe (see Steinkeller 2008: 189).

Steinkeller (2008: 189, n. 8) suggests that the sequence of daily tablets and summary tablets served a different purpose. However, in view of the broad similarity between the quantities in these two sets of texts it is possible that the “summary” lists served as planning targets whilst the daily tablets record the amounts actually delivered. Certainly, the broad level of agreement demonstrates that the two sets of lists were closely related.

Steinkeller suggests that the sequence of tablets were from Umma and recorded part of Umma's bala obligation, because of the use of the Reichskalender month-name. He supports this further by noting the involvement of the official, Mu-ni, “who is known to have participated in the collection and transfer of Umma's bala contribution”.

He also goes on to suggest that the spices, salt and fuel were used to prepare the regular daily meal of the personnel of Puzriš-Dagan and that other provinces would have provided these things during their bala months. However, there is some difficulty on this latter point, because it would tend to imply that there were would be large numbers of such tablets from other administrative centres, whereas the examples given by Steinkeller are all from the same location and for the same month. Based on current evidence, it seems more likely that these tablets record the provision of spices, salt and fuel for a special event during the 8th month of Amar-Suen 8 and that this was not an everyday occurrence.



Steinkeller, Piotr
  2008 “Joys of Cooking in Ur III Babylonia”. In: P. Michalowski (ed.) On the Third Dynasty of Ur. Studies in Honor of Marcel Sigrist (JCS Supplemental Series 1; ):185-192.
Cite this Article
Firth, Richard. 2015. “On the ‘Joys of Cooking in Ur III Babylonia.’” Cuneiform Digital Library Notes 2015 (14). https://cdli.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/articles/cdln/2015-14.
Firth, Richard. (2015). On the “Joys of Cooking in Ur III Babylonia.” Cuneiform Digital Library Notes, 2015(14). https://cdli.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/articles/cdln/2015-14
Firth, Richard (2015) “On the ‘Joys of Cooking in Ur III Babylonia,’” Cuneiform Digital Library Notes, 2015(14). Available at: https://cdli.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/articles/cdln/2015-14 (Accessed: April 13, 2024).
	note = {[Online; accessed 2024-04-13]},
	address = {Oxford; Berlin; Los Angeles},
	author = {Firth,  Richard},
	journal = {Cuneiform Digital Library Notes},
	issn = {1546-6566},
	number = {14},
	year = {2015},
	publisher = {Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative},
	title = {On the ``{Joys} of {Cooking} in {Ur} {III} {Babylonia}''},
	url = {https://cdli.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/articles/cdln/2015-14},
	volume = {2015},

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ET  - 2015/10/15/
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J2  - CDLN
SN  - 1546-6566
T2  - Cuneiform Digital Library Notes
TI  - On the “Joys of Cooking in Ur III Babylonia”
UR  - https://cdli.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/articles/cdln/2015-14
VL  - 2015
Y2  - 2024/4/13/
ER  - 
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