An Ur III Tablet in the Archives and Special Collections of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries

CDLN 2015:15

Cuneiform Digital Library Notes (ISSN: 1546-6566)

Published on 2015-10-15

© 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.

1. Introduction

MS/301 is an Ur III administrative text from Umma, housed in the Archives and Special Collections of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries. The tablet, written in the first year of the reign of Šu-Suen (ca. 2037 B.C.), records the disbursement of wool garments.

The tablet is unique as it is the only cuneiform text at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that is not part of the anthropology collections of the University of Nebraska State Museum (UNSM). The UNSM collection consists of several published and unpublished tablets and house cones (Pickering 1964; Forde 1967; Arp 2001). This collection includes Nebraska 01-09, Amorites 18 (pl.7), and JCS 17, 021 Nebraska. The acquisition history of the tablet is unclear, but it seems most likely that it was acquired either directly by the university or someone associated with the university from Edgar James Banks. The tablets in the UNSM collection were acquired from Banks, either by the university directly or by faculty members who later donated their artifacts to the collection.

MS/301 was initially studied by Dr. Nels Forde several years ago, but was left unpublished. Dr. Forde recently passed away. At a formative time, Dr. Forde was supportive of my efforts to study cuneiform texts. As a tribute, I have updated the transliteration and conducted the analysis of the text contained in this article.

2. Text

Contents: Receipt for disbursement of garments
Measurements: 35 × 46 × 17 mm
Provenience: Umma
Date: Šu-Suen 1 ix
2.1. Transliteration and Translation
  Transliteration Translation
1. 1(diš) tug2 šeš-a-ni 1 garment, Šešani
2. 1(diš) tug2 inim-dšara2 1 garment, Inim-Šara
3. ugula lu2-du10-ga  
4. 1(diš) [...] sipa 1 ... the shepherd
5. 1(diš) [...] ma-an-šum2 sipa 1 ... Manšum the shepherd
6. 2(diš) lu2-dšubur? 2, Lu-Šubur the shepherd
7. 1(diš) lu2-maš-ba 1, Lu-Mašba
1. 1(diš) lu2-zabala3ki [...] 1, Lu-Zabala ...
2. ugula kas4 foreman: Kas
3. 1(diš) a-kal [...]-e 1, Akal [...]-e
4. 2(diš) bi2-du11-ga  
5. ugula bi2-du11-ga foreman: Biduga
6. tug2 mu-kux(DU) garments of delivery
7. iti dli9-si4 month: “Lisi”
8. mu dšu-dsuen lugal year: “Šu-Suen is king.”
2.2. Commentary

The tablet is an accounting of the dispersal of garments to various persons. The tablet has damage in various places; most significant is a crack that appears at some point to have separated the tablet into two pieces. The pieces were glued together with a brownish clear mastic. This damage affects lines four and five on the obverse, and line three on the reverse. The impact is most significant on line three of the reverse, functionally removing the beginning signs of what is assumed to have been a personal name (see more below).

The tablet dates from the ninth month of the first year of the reign of Šu-Suen. The divine name of the ninth month, dli9-si4, is associated only with Umma, thus authenticating the provenience of the tablet (Miglio 2004: ¶ The ninth month corresponds to December/January of the Gregorian calendar (Sallaberger 1989: 314).

The tablet lists several names, many of which appear often in a search of CDLI texts. As Metcalf (2010) points out, “One can never be sure how many individuals lurk behind a name” (¶2.2a), so it is uncertain how many of these appearances are records of the same individual. The names Šešani (šeš-a-ni), Inim-Šara (inim-dšara2), Luduga (lu2-du10-ga), and Beduga (bi2-du11-ga) appear on hundreds of Ur III tablets. Manšum (ma-an-šum2) also appears on hundreds of tablets, but is denoted as a shepherd on a single, undated Ur III tablet (UTI 6, 3790). Lu-Zabala (lu2-zabala3ki) appears on around 50 tablets. Kas (kas4) appears as a foreman on around 30 tablets. Lumashba (lu2-maš-ba) does not appear anywhere else in CDLI texts.

One other name presents some issues. The tablet denotes Lushubur (lu2-dšubur) as a shepherd receiving a garment. The name lu2-dšubur appears in three CDLI texts: MVN 06, 544 (Šu-Suen, year 1); TCS 1, 118 (date unknown); and UET 9, 0568 (Ibbi-Suen, year 16). A much more common rendering of the name is Luninshubur (lu2-dnin-šubur) and appears on hundreds of texts in CDLI. Are Lushubur and Luninshubur the same person? There are five texts in CDLI that denoted Luninshubur but are missing the sign for nin: BIN 03, 341 (Amar-Suen, year 9); MVN 10, 199 (Shulgi, year 34), Nisaba 24, 28 (Amar-Suen, year 5); PDT 1, 0563 (Šu-Suen, year 9); and TUT 142 (Amar-Suen, year 5). There is no clear resolution possible, and it is entirely possible that even if the omission of nin is an error, there could be several people with the name.

A brief note needs to be made regarding reverse line three. The breakage of the tablet has functionally removed most of the signs forming the name in this transaction. Dr. Forde, in his initial work on the tablet, denoted the area was damaged, but transliterated anše-e11-e for the name. In my examination of the tablet, I cannot find any support for this finding. Clearly, e appears at the end of the name, but there is little left of the tablet in this area to substantiate that anše-e11 forms the first part of the name. It is possible that when Dr. Forde studied the tablet several decades ago, there was more of the tablet remaining in this area that has since been lost. Further, signs that he did not attribute to the name appearing in the same line immediately before the damage, a-kal, are associated with the name, which at this point is best translated as Akal [...]-e.

Arp, Don, Jr.
  2001 “Signs of the Times: The University of Nebraska Cuneiform Tablets”. Museum Notes 108.
Forde, Nels W.
  1967 Nebraska Cuneiform Texts of the Sumerian Ur III Dynasty. Lawrence, KS: Coronado Press.
Miglio, Adam E.
  2014 “Ur III Tablets in the Wheaton College Archaeology Museum”. CDLB 2014:5.
Metcalf, Christopher
  2010 “Six Ur III Tablets from the Hulin Collection in Oxford”. CDLB 2010:1.
Pickering, Alan
  1964 “Hentracks from Antiquity”. Museum Notes 23.
Sallaberger, Walther
  1989 “Zum Schilfrohr als Rohstoff in Babylonien”. In: B. Scholz (ed.) Der Orientalische Mensch und seine Beziehungen zur Umwelt. Beiträge zum 2. Grazer Morgenländischen Symposion (2.-5. März 1989) (Grazer Morgenländische Studien 2; Graz: RM Druck- und Verlagsgesellschaft):311-330.
* I would like to thank the staff at the Archives and Special Collections of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries for granting access to the tablet and assisting in my research. Additionally, I would like to thank Dr. Robert Englund for providing me with helpful suggestions regarding the personal names appearing in this text. Any remaining mistakes or errors, however, are my sole responsibility.
Cite this Article
Arp, Don. 2015. “An Ur III Tablet in the Archives and Special Collections of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries.” Cuneiform Digital Library Notes 2015 (15).
Arp, Don. (2015). An Ur III Tablet in the Archives and Special Collections of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries. Cuneiform Digital Library Notes, 2015(15).
Arp, Don (2015) “An Ur III Tablet in the Archives and Special Collections of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries,” Cuneiform Digital Library Notes, 2015(15). Available at: (Accessed: April 16, 2024).
	note = {[Online; accessed 2024-04-16]},
	address = {Oxford; Berlin; Los Angeles},
	author = {Arp,  Don},
	journal = {Cuneiform Digital Library Notes},
	issn = {1546-6566},
	number = {15},
	year = {2015},
	publisher = {Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative},
	title = {An {Ur} {III} {Tablet} in the {Archives} and {Special} {Collections} of the {University} of {Nebraska}-{Lincoln} {Libraries}},
	url = {},
	volume = {2015},

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