Inscribed Bricks Recorded In-Situ during Site Reconnaissance in Southern Iraq

CDLN 2016:6

Cuneiform Digital Library Notes (ISSN: 1546-6566)

Published on 2018-01-01

© Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative

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

From 15–19 September 2010, while conducting initial reconnaissance of major archaeological sites in southern Iraq (reported in Iraq 74) to assess suitability for long-term geoarchaological research, the author photographed stamped and inscribed bricks incidentally noted in situ. Pournelle photographed two additional examples during subsequent visits to Ur and Eridu, during filming by the National Geographic Society (2011)1 and Blink Films UK (2014).2 Our aim was not systematic documentation (for which we did not have permits); rather opportunistic recording of intra-site locations and context for inscriptions which are widely known, but often with no (or poorly recorded) provenance or contextual record.

All photography was conducted at the highest resolution possible with whatever apparatus was available and allowed, with permission from and supervision by accompanying representatives from the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage. Routes taken within sites, as well as other sites visited, but where no inscriptions were observed, are indicated on Figure 1. In total, images of fifteen bricks from five sites (Babylon, Nippur, Lagash, Ur, and Eridu) were identified, recorded, assigned publication IDs, and uploaded to CDLI (Table 1). Full listing is here.

Because of the century-long history of casual visitors and tourists displacing or randomly transporting and dropping bricks while visiting these sites, only those still embedded in architectural elements, or remaining in the context of apparently related debris, were photographed. Other inscriptions, presented for inspection by site docents and guards, but reported as recovered from locations within the sites that we did not visit, were not recorded.

Of the fifteen bricks imaged, nine were of late third millennium BCE origin, and the remaining six of mid-first millennium BCE. Four were at Babylon (Neo-Babylonian: Nebuchadnezzar, e.g., CDLI Pno. P498533), two at Nippur (one Neo-Assyrian: Assurbanipal, CDLI Composite No. Q003814; one Early Old Babylonian: Ur-Ninurta, CDLI Composite No. Q001971), three at Lagash (Tell Al-Hiba) (Lagash II: Gudea, CDLI composite No. Q000908), four at Eridu (Ur III: Amar Suen, CDLI composite No. Q000988), and two at Ur (one Neo-Babylonian: Nabonidus, CDLI Pno. P498499; one Ur III: Amar Suen, CDLI Composite No. Q000981). Exact locations, dimensions, material, and condition (whole or fragmented; unbaked, baked, or fired; and whether apparently inscribed or stamped) for all are reported in Table 1.

While all of these bricks are previously known (no doubt having been manufactured in their millions), the Gudea bricks are the first recorded in the CDLI from Lagash (Tell Al-Hiba) itself,3 rather than from Girsu (Tello) (23 examples), or of uncertain provenance (22 examples). As compared to the composite and complete inscriptions catalogued under CDLI No. Q000908), our fragments (from three separate bricks) appear to match CDLI P232761 from Girsu, comprising the top and bottom of column 1, and the top of column 2.

It is our hope that these images may prove useful to scholars who wish to compare them to counterparts with no or poor provenance.

  Location Royal Inscription Text (cm) Object (cm)
CDLI Imaged Site Context Period Dates BCE Attestation X Y X Y Material and Condition Photo Credit a
P498533 15-Sep-10 Babylon b Northern Fortress Neobabylonian 626-539 Nebuchadnezzer 9 4 14 18 clay fired fragment inscribed A
P498487 15-Sep-10 Babylon Northern Fortress Neobabylonian 626-539 Nebuchadnezzer 17 3.8 17 13 clay baked fragment inscribed A
P498488 15-Sep-10 Babylon Northern Fortress Neobabylonian 626-539 Nebuchadnezzer         clay fired whole inscribed B,A
P498489 15-Sep-10 Babylon Northern Fortress Neobabylonian 626-539 Nebuchadnezzer         clay fired fragment inscribed A
P498497 18-Sep-10 Nippur c NE of Ekur Neo-Assyrian 911-612 Assurbanipal         clay baked fragment stamped A
P498498 18-Sep-10 Nippur NE of Ekur Old Babylonian 2000-1900 Ur-Ninurta         clay baked fragment stamped B
P498493 27-Sep-10 Lagash d Area B Lagash II 2200-2100 Gudea 5.2 7.8 8 9 clay baked fragment inscribed B,A
P498494 27-Sep-10 Lagash Area B Lagash II 2200-2100 Gudea         clay baked fragment inscribed B
P498495 27-Sep-10 Lagash Area B Lagash II 2200-2100 Gudea         clay baked fragment inscribed A
P498532 23-Apr-11 Eridu e Top of Ziggurat Ur III 2200-2100 Amar-Suen         clay unbaked fragment inscribed A
P498490 19-Sep-10 Eridu Temple debris Ur III 2200-2100 Amar-Suen 6.5 21 8.5 22 clay baked fragment stamped A
P498491 19-Sep-10 Eridu Temple debris Ur III 2200-2100 Amar-Suen         clay fired fragment inscribed A
P498492 19-Sep-10 Eridu Temple debris Ur III 2200-2100 Amar-Suen 1.4 7.2 4.3 8.7 clay unbaked fragment stamped B
P498499 19-Sep-10 Ur f Ziggurat top Neobabylonian 626-539 Nabonidus 6.7 7.9 13.5 20.5 clay fired fragment inscribed A,B
P498531 8-Jan-14 Ur Royal Tombs Ur III 2200-2100 Amar-Suen 13 5.5 27 6.5 clay fired whole stamped A
Table 1: Inscribed Bricks Recorded in Situ
a A = Jennifer R. Pournelle; B = Carrie A. Hritz.
b Unger 1931: 3, Abb. 2 (“Stadtplan von Babylon mit Umgebung”).
c Knudstad & Sanders 1989.
d Pittman 2016.
e Safar & Lloyd 1981.
f Woolley 2009 (1965): 124, Fig. 6 (“Plan of the City of Ur, showing the principal sites excavated”).

Fig. 1: Routes travelled and sites visited; insets: Brick locations by CDLI number (Images: ©2016 Digital Globe/Google)



Biggs, Robert D.
  1992 Inscriptions from Al-Hiba-Lagash, the First and Second Seasons (reprinted with addenda). Udena.
Carter, E.
  1989-1990 “A surface survey of Lagash, al-Hiba, 1984”. Sumer 46/1-2:60-63.
Crawford, Vaughn E.
  1974 “Lagash”. Iraq 36:29-35.
  1977 “Inscriptions from Lagash, Season Four, 1975-76”. JCS 29:189-222.
Hritz, C., J. R. Pournelle & J. Smith
  2012 “Mid-Holocene Dates for Organic-Rich Sediment, Palustrine Shell, and Charcoal, Southern Iraq.”. Radiocarbon 54(1):65-79.
  2013 “Revisiting the Sealands: Report of Preliminary Ground Reconnaissance in the Hammar District, Dhi Qar and Basra Governorates”. Iraq 74:37-50.
Knudstad, J. & J. Sanders
  1989 Nippur Topographic Map. Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.
Pittman, Holly
  2016 Contour Map of Al-Hiba. The Al Hiba Publication Project. Price Lab for Digital Humanities. University of Pennsylvania.
Safar, Fuad & Seton Lloyd
  1981 Eridu. Republic of Iraq, Ministry of Culture and Information, State Organization of Antiquities and Heritage, Baghdad.
Unger, Eckhard
  1931 Babylon die heilige Stadt nach der Beschreibung der Babylonier. W. de Gruyter: Berlin.
Woolley, Leonard
  2009 (1965) Excavations at Ur. Routledge: London.
* My profound thanks to Robert Englund for making initial identification of the bricks and assigning them to the CDLI register. This note and accompanying CDLI entries are based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grants Number 1045974 & # 1227784, with permission from the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH), and the Iraq Ministries of Culture, Interior, and Tourism. We are especially grateful to: SBAH Director Quais Hussein Rasheed and SBAH representatives from Dhi Qar and Nasiriya for their support; Sheikh ‘Ali ibn Muhammed al-Ghizi and Dhaif Muhsen Al-Ghizi, Site Curator of Ur, for their hospitality, support, and guidance; and to the Iraq Ministry of the Interior for providing police escorts within each governorate and city district. Additional funding was provided by National Geographic Television and Blink Films UK. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or other funders.
1 Degraw, Scott (producer) and Erin Harvey (cinamatographer). 2011. Diving into Noah's Flood. National Geographic Television, premiered April 2011.
2 Young, Nic. 2014. The Real Noah's Ark: Secret History. Produced by Blink Films. U.K. Channel 4, premiered 14 September 2014.
Young, Nic. 2016. Secrets of Noah's Ark. Produced by Blink Films. PBS/NOVA, premiered 16 October 2016.
3 For published inscriptions from Al-Hiba, see Biggs 1992: No. 63, pp. 12-13; Carter 1989-1990: 60-63; Crawford 1974; Crawford 1977. Crawford 1977: 189-190 and Crawford 1974: 30-33 with fig. 5 discussed and published baked, inscribed Gudea “Bagara” bricks (item 3H T11) from Al-Hiba Area B, as follows:
  dnin-gir2-su (To) Ningirsu
  ur-sag kala-ga the mighty hero
  den-lil2-la2 of Enlil,
  lugal ba-gara2 king of Bagara,
  lugal-a-ni his king
  gu3-de2-a Gudea,
  ensi2 Governor
  lagašaki-ke4 of Lagash
  e2 ba-gara2-ka-ni his temple of Bagara
  mu-na-du3 has built for him.
These have only six lines (column 1: 1-3, 6-8) in common with the fragments reported herein.