Two Old Akkadian administrative tablets from Danish auctioneer Bruun Rasmussen

CDLN 2018:2

Cuneiform Digital Library Notes (ISSN: 1546-6566)

Published on 2022-06-17

© The Authors

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Troels Pank Arbøll

Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen

Rune Rattenborg ORCID logo

Department of Linguistics and Philology, Uppsala University


The texts presented in the following were edited as part of a student workshop held at the former Carsten Niebuhr Section of the University of Copenhagen in 2010-11 and supervised by Gojko Barjamovic. This small group of texts consists of two Old Akkadian administrative tablets presented for sale by the Danish auction house Bruun Rasmussen Kunstauktioner A/S in February 2011 (lot no. 1102-1623).

Not much can be said about their origin. According to information provided by the auctioneer, the owner purchased the tablets on the German antiquities market in the 1960s. The identity of the owner was not disclosed to the present authors, and information received from the auctioneer subsequent to our inspection of the tablets suggested that a satisfactory bid for the tablets could not be obtained. To our knowledge, the tablets were withdrawn from sale and remain with their owner.

Although generally in a more or less complete state of preservation, both tablets were poorly baked upon excavation and were slightly flaking in some places. Furthermore, neither of the tablets had been soaked in water to remove the salts. The first tablet had a sizeable fracture in the centre and right side of the obverse. Both tablets furthermore appeared to have internal cracks of a more recent date. While not clearly interrelated in terms of subject matter, the type of clay and colour of the two tablets was not markedly different, and they may stem from the same site.

In the following, we present compiled photographs along with a transliteration and commentary for each text, although the amount of historical information that can be derived from the tablets is fairly minute. Given the restricted access, it has not been possible to collate the tablets further.


Bruun Rasmussen 1 (P530975)

Single column tablet made from buff, slightly greyish brown clay. Sizeable fracture, c. 40x20 mm on upper right quarter of obverse, with occasional flaking elsewhere on this face. Reverse well preserved. Inscription recording barley rent paid by 11 individuals related to a field plot

Length: 86 mm
Width: 49 mm
Thickness: 19 mm


1. 1(gur) 4(ban2) [še gur] sag-g[al2] 340 litres [of barley in the gur] sag-gal2 measure
2. den-lil2-la2 (from) Enlila(k),
3. 1(gur) 1(barig) še gur [sa]g-[g]a[l2] 360 litres of barley in the gur sag-[gal2] measure
4. lugal-x-(x)-x (from) Lugal-[…],
5. 1(gur) 2(barig) 4(ban2) x [(x)] x IM? 460 litres [(from) PN],
6. 1(barig) x [x x] 60 litres [(from) PN],
7. 4(ban2) lugal-[x-x] 40 litres (from) Lugal-[…],
8. 1(barig) lugal-[x]-x 60 litres (from) Lugal-[…],
9. 2(barig) lugal-[x-x] 120 litres (from) Lugal-[…],
10. 2(barig) 4(ban2) lugal-[LU]Ḫ? 160 litres (from) Lugal-[LU]Ḫ?,
11. 1(barig) ur-p[isan?] den!-zu 60 litres (from) Ur-p[isan?] (belonging to) Suen,
12. 2(gur) lugal-x 600 litres (from) Lugal-[…],
13. 3(gur) den-lil2-la2 900 litres (from) Enlila(k).
  (Double ruling)  
14. šu-nigin 10(gur) [2 (barig)] 4(ban2) še gur sag-ga[l2] Total: 3000+[120]+40 litres of barley in the gur sag-gal2 measure.
15. a-ša3 me-a-x-[ta?] From Mea’s field,
16. maš2! še-gub-ba-[bi] (as) the še-gub-ba part of the rent,
17. i3-li2 Ilī
18. im-ta-e3 paid (the above).



Every line is ruled off with a horizontal line, except after obv. 13, where there is a double horizontal line to mark the total added up in obv. 14.

obv. 10: The reconstructed name is based on examples found in, e.g., DPA no. 46 obv. 6 and UET 2 supp. 48 col. i 6’. Andersson (2012, 152, 223, 360) reads these signs as lugal-LUḪ “the lugal (is) pure (or purifies?)” and we follow this reading here. The low frequency of attestations suggests that we should perhaps read the line differently. The break could contain two broken signs and an alternative reading of the line could include two personal names: lugal-[x x]-⸢x⸣.

obv. 11: For the reading of the partly visible ligature den, see the den in obv. 13. The relationship between the first name, Ur-pisan, and the divine name, den-zu, is unclear, although the text may designate that Ur-pisan belonged to either the deity or his temple.

obv. 14: Preserved entries add up to a total of 8 gur, 10 barig, and 16 ban2. This number is compatible with the damaged total in obv. 14, when assuming the text employ the Akkad gur, which is equivalent to 5 barig (Powell 1990, 497-498). The total could therefore be recalculated into 10 gur, 2 barig, and 4 ban2, assuming 6 ban2 makes 1 barig. Thus, the broken number must have tallied 2 barig.

rev. 15: A personal name me-a is attested in several Old Akkadian tablets, e.g., FT 2 pl. 55 rev. 9 and MVN 3 no. 113 col. i 17. We cannot determine if the broken sign after me-a produces a longer, unknown name. We assume the final sign was an ablative-instrumental -ta repeated in the verbal form in rev. 18.

rev. 16: The first sign must be read maš2 as this fits the context. However, the sign does not display a “Winkelhagen” in the third stroke but a vertical wedge. Thus, the sign looks like MAŠ-DU3. This form is not attested in Maiocchi (2009, 261), Labat (1988) or Gelb (1961, 218ff).

For the interpretations of maš2 še-gub-ba, see Steinkeller (1981) and Selz (1995, 42 note 160 with further references). The še-gub-ba appears to have been a specific part of a field rent paid in barley by the tenant(s) as a portion of the yield after the harvest. Additionally, there must have been a final sign that is now broken. We reconstruct -bi in accordance with examples cited in the above studies.

rev. 17: The Akkadian personal name i3-li2 seems normally to be written with an additional element. We have, however, observed the name written similarly in, e.g., HSS 10 no. 120 rev. 3, no. 142 obv. 2, and MDP 14 no. 19 rev. 4.

Further notes

The reading of maš2 še-gub-ba-[bi] in rev. 16 identifies the text as an account of field rents or yield portions due at the time of the harvest, and suggests that the text is a product of the management of a large institution, as is also hinted at by the amount of grain mentioned. For the litre measurements in the translation we use the general approximation of 1 sila to 1 litre (Westenholz 1987, 7). Using a barley volume-to-weight ratio of 1:0.65 (Paulette 2015, 45-46 with further references), the reconstructed total of 3,160 litres then translates into a little more than two tonnes of grain. If constituting only part of the yield, some of the tenants listed in the text must have been working relatively significant land plots, well above the nucleated household subsistence minimum of 2.4 ha calculated by, e.g., Hunt (1987, 166; also Liverani 1996, 17 and Fig. 19). Metrology and stylistic characteristics suggest a dating to the late 23th century BCE. The predominance of Sumerian names may point to an origin in the southern Iraqi alluvium.

Bruun Rasmussen 2 (P530976)

Double column tablet made from buff, slightly greyish brown clay. Obverse upper centre with brittle and damaged surface, also seen on reverse along edges. Noticeable crack along the entire vertical column dividing line on obverse, also visible on reverse. Inscription concerning issues or receipt of beer and flour involving around forty individuals (see below, Further notes).

Length: 88 mm
Width: 62 mm
Thickness: 24 mm


column i
1. 1(diš) kaš 1/2(diš) zi3 1 (measure) of beer, ½ (measure of) flour,
2. nam-tar-r[e] Namtare
3. 1(diš) kaš 1/2(diš) z[i3] 1 (measure of) beer, ½ (measure of) flour,
4. den-lil2-la2 Enlila(k)
5. 1(diš) [kaš 1/2(d]i[š) zi3] 1 (measure of) [beer, ½ (measure of) flour],
6. nimgir?-[x (x)] [PN]
7. 1(diš) kaš 1/2(diš) [zi3] 1 (measure of) beer, ½ (measure of) [flour],
8. ur-dKA-[DI?] Ur-Išta[ran?]
9. 1(diš) kaš 1/2(diš) [zi3] 1 (measure of) beer, ½ (measure of) [flour],
10. ur-den-ki Ur-Enki
11. 1(diš) kaš 1/2(diš) zi3 1 (measure of) beer, ½ (measure of) flour,
12. lugal-šeš Lugal-šeš
13. 1(diš) kaš 1/2(diš) zi3 1 (measure of) beer, ½ (measure of) flour,
14. lu2-ban3-da Lu-banda
15. 1(diš) kaš 1/2(diš) zi3 1 (measure of) beer, ½ (measure of) flour,
16. na[m-ma]ḫ-ni Na[mma]ḫni
17. 1(diš) kaš 1/2(diš) [zi3] 1 (measure of) beer, ½ (measure of) [flour],
18. ur2-ra-ni Urani
column ii
19. 1(diš) [k]aš 1/2(diš) zi3 1 (measure of) beer, ½ (measure of) flour,
20. [x]x[x]-E2? [PN]
21. [x ka]š 1/2(diš) zi3 [x (measure of) bee]r, ½ (measure of) flour,
22. [še]š-šeš? [Še]š-šeš?
23. [x kaš x] zi3 [x (measure of) beer, x (measure of)] flour,
24. [x x x] [PN]
25. [x ka]š 1/2(diš) zi3 [x (measure of) be]er, ½ (measure of) flour,
26. [x x x] x [PN]
27. [x kaš x z]i3 [x (measure of) beer, x (measure of) flo]ur,
28. [x] x [(x) ur?]-sag [PN(?) (and) Ur?]-sag
29. 1(diš) kaš 1/2(diš) zi3 1 (measure of) beer, ½ (measure of) flour,
30. inim-ma Inima
31. 1(diš) kaš 1/2(diš) zi3 1 (measure of) beer, ½ (measure of) flour,
32. amar-eš3 Amar-eš
33. 1(diš) kaš 1/2(diš) zi3 1 (measure of) beer, ½ (measure of) flour,
34. lugal-inim Lugal-inim
35. 1(diš) kaš 1/2(diš) zi3 1 (measure of) beer, ½ (measure of) flour,
36. lugal-inim Lugal-inim
lower edge
37. 1(diš) kaš 1/2(diš) zi3 1 (measure of) beer, ½ (measure of) flour,
col. iii
38. ur?-pa Urpa
39. 1(diš) [kaš] 1/2(diš) zi3 [1 (measure of) beer], ½ (measure of) flour,
40. x (x) x-IM [PN]
41. 1(diš) kaš 1/2(diš) zi3 1 (measure of) beer, ½ (measure of) flour,
42. [x]-bi2 [PN]
43. 1(diš) kaš 1/2(diš) [zi3] 1 (measure of) beer, ½ (measure of) [flour],
44. [x]-a ù? [x-G]U? [PN] and [PN]
45. 1(diš) kaš 1/2(diš) [z]i3 1 (measure of) beer, ½ (measure of) [flo]ur,
46. [lu]gal-an-na-tum2 Lugal-annatum
47. u3 u2-a and Ua
48. 1(diš) kaš 1/2(diš) zi3 1 (measure of) beer, ½ (measure of) flour,
49. bar?-ra-[A]N Baran
50. u3 lugal-x [and] Lugal-[…]
51. 1(diš) kaš 1/2(diš) zi3 1 (measure of) beer, ½ (measure of) flour,
52. x-(x)-x-NI [PN]
53. u3 den-lil2-la2 and Enlila(k)
54. 1(diš) kaš 1/2(diš) zi3 1 (measure of) beer, ½ (measure of) flour,
55. x-ZA? [PN]
56. 1(diš) kaš 1/2(diš) zi3 1 (measure of) beer, ½ (measure of) flour,
57. x-x-x [PN]
58. 1(diš) kaš [1/2(diš)] zi3 1 (measure of) beer, [½ (measure of) flour
59. ur?-maš Ur-maš
60. 1(diš) kaš 1/2(diš) z[i3] 1 (measure of) beer, ½ (measure of) fl[our],
61. x-x-x-x [PN]
62. u3 x-x-x and [PN]
63. 1 (diš) [kaš] 1/2(diš) z[i3] 1 (measure of) [beer], ½ (measure of) fl[our],
64. x-x-x [PN]
65. 1(diš) kaš 1/2(diš) zi3 1 (measure of) beer, ½ (measure of) flour
66. lugal-nig2-[z]u Lugal-nigzu
67. u3 ur-dutu and Ur-Utu
68. 1(diš) kaš 1/2(diš) z[i3] 1 (measure of) beer, ½ (measure of) fl[our],
69. za3-mu Zamu
70. u3 ur-DINGIR-x and Ur-[x]



col. i 6: The first sign could be MIR read nimgir or aga3. Possible reconstructions include nimgir-ki-ag2, but we cannot determine what was once there.

col. ii 22: Although the signs are almost completely broken away, the last sign could have a shape similar to šeš.

col. ii 36: A personal name similar to the one in col. ii 34 appears to be repeated here.

col. iii 40: It is difficult to see if there are two or three broken signs before the partly visible -im. The sign before may be a -ki-. Perhaps the name should be read ama-ki-im or nin-ki-im as in MVN 2 no. 298 col. ii 13-14.

col. iii 42: We cannot reconstruct the first sign properly, but we would expect a single small sign ending in a vertical wedge. The name could therefore be, e.g., a-bi2, ra-bi2 and ba-bi2 (cf. MVN 2 no. 298 col. ii 18: šu-bi2).

col. iii 44: The final sign could be a gu, mu, ig, or ušum. However, the sign does not quite resemble the -mu in col. iv 69. If the sign is a -gu, one could reconstruct, e.g., [ur-g]u.

col. iii 49: The first sign appears to be square in format, but must be a partly visible bar. This enables a reconstruction of the common name bar-ra-an or bar-ra-dingir. As transliterations differ between -an and -dingir, we leave the interpretation open by transliterating -AN.

col. iii 50: The final sign could look like a -ni, but there are no good parallels to a name lugal-ni. Instead, we could perhaps read the final sign as -tar!, seeing as the name lugal-tar is well attested. However, this is uncertain.

col. iv 57: Only the first sign seems half visible, and has the square shape of a box. The second sign may be an igi, but this is far from certain. No plausible reconstruction is offered.

col. iv 59: We suggest the reading ur-maš based on the visible wedges. However, this name is only attested in a handful of Old Akkadian texts (e.g., CUSAS 19 no. 72 obv. 2; PBS 9 no. 43 col. i 9).

col. iv 70: The final sign is unfortunately quite broken, but may be reconstructed with, e.g., šara2 or simply a -ra (cf. MVN 2 no. 298 col. iii 2: ur-dingir-ra). The name ur-dingir-ra is fairly common. We have left the interpretation of dingir open, as we cannot determine if it was a determinative.

Further notes

The standard amount of beer and flour given in the individual entries can, strictly speaking, be read in two ways with diverging implications for our understanding of their social context. Assuming the text is a disbursement record, a reading “1 (jar of) beer, 10 litres of flour” is not impossible, but we find it odd, then, that the scribe did not mention the measure used for beer while consistently noting the measure used for flour (ban2). Furthermore, 10 litres of flour to an individual exceeds daily needs, and although flour can easily be issued for longer timespans, beer is habitually issued on a daily basis. A simpler reading is “1 (measure of) beer, ½ (measure of) flour”. This ratio is common in disbursement records of later ages, e.g., from the 18th century BCE Jazīrah, where common minimum daily rates are 1 litre of beer and 1/3-2/3 litres of flour (Rattenborg 2016). As such, the implied measure used in our text would be sila3, which agrees with the orthography employed both in the case of beer and flour.

Alternatively, if we interpret the text as an account of beer and flour payment from a group of individuals, the contribution of flour from each individual becomes either surprisingly small (a day’s meal) or quite large (a day’s worth of grinding flour per individual, cf. Englund 1991, 270-273) depending on whether we understand the measure as ½ (sila3) or 1(ban2). While neither of the above options are certain, we prefer to interpret the text as an account of foodstuffs, namely individual allotments of a daily meal of beer and flour, issued to a group of individuals by an institution. Assuming each entry accounts for one litre of beer and half a litre of flour, amounts in preserved entries add up to 28 litres of beer and 14 litres of flour.

The text contains no summary total or information on issuing authority or location. As discussed by Steinkeller, such texts were frequently placed in tablet containers (pisan-dub-ba) whereon a label described the nature of all the texts therein, thus negotiating the lack of circumstantial information in individual texts (Steinkeller 2003, 48). The addition of contextual information, e.g., on the date and issuing entity, could have been added later in a compiled account.

These considerations aside, the lack of further information makes it difficult to say anything about the origins or precise dating of the text. It should be noted that around ten of the personal names in this text also appear in MVN 2 no. 298 (CDLI no. P113597), an unprovenanced Old Akkadian text issuing small amounts of silver to 58 individuals. However, on present evidence this is little more than an interesting coincidence. Like Bruun Rasmussen 1, the predominantly Sumerian names in Bruun Rasmussen 2 point to an origin in southern Iraq, and so the texts may stem from the same site.


We would like to thank Bruun Rasmussen and the anonymous owner for permitting us to study and publish these two tablets. We are furthermore indebted to Gojko Barjamovic and Aage Westenholz for their assistance and comments on various aspects of this note. Of course, all remaining errors or mistakes rest with the authors.


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Cite this Article
Arbøll, Troels Pank, and Rune Rattenborg. 2018. “Two Old Akkadian Administrative Tablets from Danish Auctioneer Bruun Rasmussen.” Cuneiform Digital Library Notes 2018 (2).
Arbøll, Troels Pank, & Rattenborg, R. (2018). Two Old Akkadian administrative tablets from Danish auctioneer Bruun Rasmussen. Cuneiform Digital Library Notes, 2018(2).
Arbøll, Troels Pank and Rattenborg, R. (2018) “Two Old Akkadian administrative tablets from Danish auctioneer Bruun Rasmussen,” Cuneiform Digital Library Notes, 2018(2). Available at: (Accessed: April 25, 2024).
	note = {[Online; accessed 2024-04-25]},
	address = {Oxford; Berlin; Los Angeles},
	author = {Arb\o{}ll,  Troels Pank and Rattenborg, Rune},
	journal = {Cuneiform Digital Library Notes},
	issn = {1546-6566},
	number = {2},
	year = {2018},
	publisher = {Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative},
	title = {Two {Old} {Akkadian} administrative tablets from {Danish} auctioneer {Bruun} {Rasmussen}},
	url = {},
	volume = {2018},

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