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ISBN 978-88-8303-460-2
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Via Weiss, 21 34127 Trieste
Legal Documents in Ancient Societies
Steering Committee: Sophie Dmare-Lafont, Mark Depauw,
Michele Faraguna, va Jakab, Dennis P. Kehoe, Uri Yiftach-Firanko
Con il contributo di:
Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Universit e della Ricerca
PRIN 2008 La burocrazia greca: denizione e funzionamento
dei procedimenti amministrativi nel mondo antico
Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici Universit degli Studi di Trieste
Legal Documents in Ancient Societies IV
Archives and
Archival Documents
in Ancient Societies
30 September-1 October 2011
edited by
Michele Faraguna
Michele Faraguna (Trieste)
7 Foreword
Dennis Kehoe (New Orleans)
11 Archives and Archival Documents
in Ancient Societies: Introduction
Ancient Near East
Sophie Dmare-Lafont (Paris)
23 Zero and Innity: the Archives
in Mesopotamia
Klaas R. Veenhof (Leiden)
27 The Archives of Old Assyrian Traders:
their Nature, Functions and Use
Antoine Jacquet (Paris)
63 Family Archives in Mesopotamia
during the Old Babylonian Period
Susanne Paulus (Mnster)
87 The Limits of Middle Babylonian
Classical Greece
Christophe Pbarthe (Bordeaux)
107 Les archives de la cit de raison.
Dmocratie athnienne et pratiques
documentaires lpoque classique
Shimon Epstein (Tel-Aviv /Freiburg)
127 Attic Building Accounts from
Euthynae to Stelae
Edward M. Harris (Durham)
143 The Plaint in Athenian Law
and Legal Procedure
Michele Faraguna (Trieste)
163 Archives in Classical Greece:
Some Observations
The Persian Tradition
and the Hellenistic World
Ingo Kottsieper (Gttingen)
175 Aramische Archive aus
achmenidischer Zeit und ihre
Laura Boffo (Trieste)
201 La presenza dei re negli archivi
delle poleis ellenistiche
Lucia Criscuolo (Bologna)
245 Copie, malacopie, copie d'ufcio
e il problema della titolarit
di un archivio nellEgitto tolemaico
Mark Depauw (Leuven)
259 Reections on Reconstructing
Private and Ofcial Archives
The Roman Empire
va Jakab (Szeged)
269 Introduction: Archives in the Roman
Kaja Harter-Uibopuu (Wien)
273 Epigraphische Quellen zum
Archivwesen in den griechischen
Poleis des ausgehenden Hellenismus
und der Kaiserzeit
Thomas Kruse (Wien)
307 Bevlkerungskontrolle,
Statuszugang und Archivpraxis
im rmischen gypten
Rudolf Haensch (Mnchen)
333 Die Statthalterarchive
der Sptantike
Uri Yiftach-Firanko (Jerusalem)
351 Conclusions
363 Index locorum
To Lisetta Brunner
The research group Legal Documents in Ancient Societies aims to investigate the
legal and administrative systems in a variety of societies of the ancient world
through a document-based approach, crossing traditional disciplinary bounda-
ries and providing a locus for scholars who work in different but contiguous
elds to discuss and compare the results of their individual research. The fourth
meeting of the group was held at the University of Trieste on 30 September-1

October 2011 and focused on the study of archives and archival records and the
different ways they interlocked with, and were functional to, the workings of the
ancient administrative, and political, systems.
Twelve papers were delivered at the meeting and are published in this book
in a revised form. The papers are arranged in four sections dealing respectively
with the Ancient Near East, Classical Greece, the Persian Tradition and the Hel-
lenistic World, and the Roman Empire. Given that the themes touched upon by
the contributors chronologically span from the astoundingly extensive records
of the Old Assyrian traders in the early second millennium B.C. to the archives
kept by provincial governors in the late Roman Empire and range geographi-
cally from Mesopotamia to the Western Mediterranean, including Asia Minor,
Egypt and Aegean Greece, considerable effort has been made, rst, to contextu-
alise the signicance of each essay within the scholarly debate of each discipline
and, secondly, to bridge the gaps and highlight similarities and differences in the
archival practices and concepts of the societies examined. Each section is thus
enriched by introductory comments or afterthoughts on the three papers, while
the Introduction and Conclusions tie up the common threads and bring together
the general methodological and conceptual concerns emerging from the case-
studies analysed in the essays.
In order to avoid modern anachronistic projections on ancient documenta-
tion, the working denition underlying the essays has been that an archive in
line with the Encyclopaedia Britannica is the organised body of records produced
or received by a public, or private, entity in the transaction of affairs and pre-
served by it for its specic needs and purposes. In other words, archives, whether
public or private, are no doubt the physical spaces, the repositories where records
are kept, but they are also the organised active memory of the society produc-
ing them, thus reecting the practical needs and administrative practices as well
as the ideological models of that society, whose world order they mirror and
perpetuate to a signicant extent. In the essays by I. Kottsieper and L. Criscuolo
archives, conceived as collections of documents deliberately made for public or
private purposes in antiquity, have been set apart from dossiers, assemblages
of texts not originally kept in the same repository but successively brought to-
gether as a result of different circumstances. Only the former, archives in the
technical sense, are hence studied in this volume.
The archives dealt with in the essays are especially conspicuous for their va-
riety, both in terms of quality and of quantity. The rst element distinguishing
them is whether they were of public or private nature, although such distinction
is not always necessarily clear-cut and, as shown by K. Veenhof and A. Jacquet, it
can hardly be applied to the Old Assyrian and Old Babylonian source material.
Records were, moreover, written on a variety of materials, including clay tablets,
papyrus, wooden tablets, but also on leather as well as bronze and lead plates, so
that when they were kept on perishable materials and are now lost, as is normal-
ly the case for the Graeco-Roman world, their existence must be inferred from
literary texts and epigraphic documents, which were copies of (or extracts from)
archival records and, as shown by K. Harter-Uibopuu, sometimes established
regulations regarding their upkeep and organisation.
Other variables concern the life-time of archives and records. Documents
were generally preserved and stored not for the sake of keeping a memory of
the past but for their concrete signicance for the present. At the public level, as
illustrated by Th. Kruse, written texts testifying to the privileged legal and scal
status of individuals in Roman Egypt could be consulted and quoted even 200
years later, while boundary disputes between Greek poleis in Hellenistic and
Roman Asia Minor and the ofcial correspondence between Greek cities and
Hellenistic kings, once more often concerning the renewal of tax privileges, not
rarely reveal, as highlighted by L. Boffo, that the relevant documents could be
produced decades, if not centuries after the original settlement or award. Like-
wise, following E. M. Harris argument, written plaints in Classical Athens played
an important role in enforcing the principle of res iudicata, whereas the archivi-
zation of ofcial manumission documents in Hellenistic and Roman Delphi was
meant to provide permanent evidence of free status. Other detailed documents,
as emphasized by S. Epstein in his contribution on Athenian fth and fourth
century building accounts, were, on the other hand, discarded when they were
no longer of use and only shortened, recapitulative records were likely to have a
longer life. At a private level, K. Veenhof, A. Jacquet and I. Kottsieper make a simi-
lar distinction between documents of unlimited and those of limited validity.
Documents proving title of ownership, donations or inheritance rights were, as
a rule, preserved for a long time, for several generations, while short-term con-
tracts were generally discarded as soon as the obligation had been fullled. The
keeping of loan contracts in an Old Babylonian archive beyond the expiry date
can, as a consequence, be explained by assuming that the debts had not been paid
and, in actual fact, remained outstanding.
Notwithstanding such variety of individual cases, a number of common pat-
terns also emerge in respect to the organization and the physical aspect of the
storerooms where the documents were preserved, the classication of texts, the
function of record-keeping and the role of seals. One further constant pattern is
that archives, especially public ones, were rarely centralised and ofcial informa-
tion was stored in multiple repositories kept by different magistrates interacting
with one another. This is the case, at a private level, with the archives of the Old
Assyrian traders and, at a public level, with the local archives of Classical Athens
and Hellenistic and Roman Egypt. Such a pattern furthermore entails, as shown
by L. Criscuolo, that documents often had to be available in more than one copy.
Leaving aside the complex and intractable question of whether these shared
habits were the result of independent developments or represent a common
trait to the entire Near Eastern and Mediterranean area, which far exceeds the
scope of this volume, we are entitled to speak of a recurring archival behaviour.
It appears that in the best documented areas and periods, such as Mesopotamia
in the second millennium B.C. and in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, the produc-
tion of written records was impressively abundant and administrative and le-
gal practices had reached a remarkable degree of complexity and sophistication.
Each individual administrative act entailed the drawing of multiple documents
and thus produced a true documentary chain. On this basis, it seems reasonable
to assume that also where archival documents, with some important exceptions,
have not been preserved but where sophisticated uses of writing were developed,
as is the case of the Greek world, the functioning of the political, institutional, le-
gal and economic system was largely dependant on the plentiful production of
written documents and on extensive record-keeping.
This book would not have seen the light without the help and support of
many. I would like to acknowledge my sincere gratitude to Professor Roger S.
Bagnall and to the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University
for their generous nancial contribution towards the organization of the meet-
ing in Trieste. Warmest thanks are also due to the Dipartimento di Storia e Cul-
ture dallAntichit al Mondo Contemporaneo (now renamed as Dipartimento di
Studi Umanistici) of the University of Trieste and to its Head Professor Claudio
Zaccaria for providing further substantial funding. I am grateful for her help and
collaboration before and after the meeting to my colleague Professor Laura Boffo
with whom I share a long-term project on Public archives in the Greek cities
from the archaic to the early Roman age. This volume was funded by the Ital-
ian Ministry of Education and Scientic Research (MIUR) as a part of that pro-
ject (PRIN 2008 La burocrazia greca: denizione e funzionamento dei procedimenti
amministrativi nel mondo antico; Coordinatore nazionale: Prof. Lucia Criscuolo).
I would also like to thank the participants for the stimulating discussion at the
meeting and for the speedy revision of the texts for publication. The members of
the steering committee of the group Legal Documents in Ancient Societies, Sophie
Dmare-Lafont, Mark Depauw, va Jakab, Dennis P. Kehoe, Uri Yiftach-Firanko,
provided vital assistance with scientic and practical advice and with their re-
sponses to the papers at the end of each session. Special thanks are moreover
due to Dr. Mauro Rossi and Mrs. Gabriella Clabot at EUT for their competent and
efcient handling of the production of the book. I would like to nally thank my
dear wife Joanna and my family for their moral and emotional support over the
This book is dedicated to my mother, Lisetta Brunner, without whom I would
have never been what I am.
Michele Faraguna
Trieste, February 2013
archives and archival documents
The importance of archives, whether they consist of documents written on in-
scriptions, papyri, or cuneiform tablets, can hardly be overstated for the study
of many questions in ancient history, including, among other things, law, espe-
cially as it affected family relationships, the ancient economy, and the adminis-
tration of empires. The study of archives has long been a basic feature of ancient
history, but in recent years, scholars have approached archives employing new
methodologies adapted from other elds, particularly in the social sciences. This
is certainly so in papyrology, the eld represented in this volume with which I
am most familiar, but it is also the case with epigraphy and cuneiform studies.
This increasingly sophisticated use of archival material helps us to ask new ques-
tions in many elds in ancient history, and the sharing of methodologies across
disciplines makes it possible for scholars in diverse elds to learn from one an-
other, even though they often have little regular contact because of the special-
ized nature of their work. This was certainly the case at the Legal Documents in
Ancient Societies meeting in which I participated, the conference in Washing-
ton in 2009 on transaction costs in ancient economies, which brought together
Egyptologists, legal scholars, and ancient historians. The papers at the conference
in Trieste now collected in this volume remind all of us how much scholars can
learn from colleagues working in very different disciplines. In what follows, I
would like to sketch out what I understand to be some important developments
Archives and Archival
Documents in Ancient
Societies: Introduction
dennis kehoe
in the use of archival material, and then, on that basis, to try to place the papers
collected in the present volume in a broader perspective.
To begin with papyrology, collections of documents, perhaps, on occasion, in-
accurately termed archives, have provided a basis for investigating many issues,
from administrative and economic history in Ptolemaic, Roman, and Byzantine
Egypt, to private family law and legal history. In the eld of economic history, the
Zenon papyri, the Heroninos archive, and the Apion papyri represent the most
important sources of evidence for analyzing the development of estates and the
political economy of Egypt in the Ptolemaic, Roman, and Byzantine periods.
However, our understanding of the rural economy has been enhanced by other
less heralded archives. Two important examples are the Soterichos archive (OMAR
1979), which documents the affairs of a small-scale tenant farmer in the Fayum
in the late rst century CE, and the archive of Aurelius Isidorus (BOAK & YOUTIE
1960), which allows us to trace the challenges affecting landowners and liturgists
in Karanis in the Fayum at the turn of the fourth century CE.
The chief advantage of private papyrological archives like these for studying
the rural economy of Greco-Roman Egypt is that they allow us to trace in detail
the individual situations of farmers, both tenants and landowners, particularly
in terms of their relationships with landlords, laborers, and other landowners, as
well as the state. Since archival material by its very nature concerns the affairs of
discrete individuals, we cannot automatically generalize from patterns revealed
in them. However, what we can do is trace basic economic relationships, which
can add depth to or alter more overarching models of the ancient economy. The
study of archives is especially valuable when their evidence can be placed in a
broader historical context, one that is properly based on models developed from
other ancient evidence and from comparative material from better documented
pre-industrial economies. At the very least, comparative evidence allows us to
appreciate what kind of economic relationships were likely to have occurred in
antiquity, what levels of production might be feasible in an ancient economy,
and how later societies confronted similar legal issues resulting from economic
activity and familial relationships.
We can see how our understanding of economic relationships can be changed
by archival material by considering the Heroninos archive, a collection of some
450 letters, orders, and accounts that document in great detail the management
of a large estate in third-century CE Roman Egypt. Dominic Rathbone, in his
ground-breaking 1991 book, undertakes a detailed investigation of this material.
Rathbones study traces to the degree possible the development of large estates
belonging to Aurelius Appianus, an equestrian and councilor at Alexandria, thus
a member of Egypts provincial elite, and other persons of his circle. But more im-
portant, the Heroninos archive allows us to trace the management of an estate to
a degree of detail unparalleled elsewhere in the Roman Empire. Rathbones study
shows that at least some landowners employed wage labor on a scale not hereto-
fore recognized, and it also provides evidence for how such workers were deployed
archives and archival documents
and paid. In addition, the detailed accounts that Heroninos and other administra-
tors submitted to the estates central administration suggest that the owners of
this and comparable estates could calculate the protability of the various crops
they cultivated. However, when interpreted against a broader model of an agrar-
ian economy with little annual growth and limited opportunities for investing
large amounts of wealth, the evidence from the Heroninos archive provides ev-
idence for how a landowner sought to prot under such constraints by, among
other things, developing a rigorous management system to control the costs of
producing basic staples such as wine and wheat, and thereby gaining economies
of scale that gave them competitive advantages over smaller-scale farmers.
Since Rathbones work on the Heroninos archive, a number of scholars
have engaged in the intensive study of a comparable body of material from late
antiquity, the documentary papyri concerned with the organization and manage-
ment of the estates of the Flavii Apions in sixth-century Oxyrhynchus. Although
the material connected with the Apions does not constitute a coherent archive
in the way that many contributors to the present volume would dene one, the
fth-century and sixth-century papyri do provide a coherent body of material
that allows us to study in some detail the organization of a large estate belonging
to a member of the Byzantine imperial aristocracy. We can also trace both how
this estate grew over time and how its growth affected the agrarian economy in
the surrounding Oxyrhynchite villages. Among the scholars who have studied
this material in recent years are Jairus Banaji (2001), who has traced how aris-
tocratic landowners took advantage of their role in tax collection to accumulate
wealth, Roberta Mazza (2001), Peter Sarris (2006), and Todd Hickey (2012).
The numerous papyri associated with the estate of the Apions make it pos-
sible to study not only the organization and management of the estate, but also
the estates relationship with the surrounding agricultural communities, the vil-
lages in the Oxyrhynchite nome in which the Apions owned property. This is
a subject that Giovanni Rufni (2008) has taken up in his recent book, a work
that suggests the possibilities of examining now familiar documentary material
from a new theoretical perspective. In his study, Rufni seeks to come to a bet-
ter understanding of the economic and social role that the Apion estate played
in the Oxyrhynchite nome, and on that basis to draw broader conclusions about
the role of large estates in the Byzantine Empire. He does this by drawing on an
emerging eld in the social sciences, social network theory, to map the connec-
tions and relationships among individual persons associated with the Apion es-
tate. This material allows Rufni to test the hypothesis that the estate stood at
the top of a centralized hierarchy in Oxyrhynchus, which would mean that the
estate occupied a dominating position in the region. In an alternative model, as-
sociated with the Egyptian village of Aphrodito, contemporary with sixth-centu-
ry Oxyrhynchus, which Rufni also examines, small farmers and tenants seem
to have established relationships directly among themselves, without having a
large estate or an economically dominant house serve as the point of contact.
Rufni is one of several young scholars to use network theory to make sense
of a vast array of data in order to ask new questions about an ancient society.
Another scholar using this methodology is Caroline Waerzeggers (Leiden), who
has applied social network analysis to neo-Babylonian cuneiform archives so as
to map the relationships among elite in Babylon (Waerzeggers, forthcoming).
In a very different eld, my own colleague at Tulane University Margaret Butler
is applying social network theory to an archaeological data base of burials from
Macedon and other locations in ancient Greece. Butler uses changes in burial
customs as proxy evidence for changing social institutions in fourth-century
Macedon, and network theory allows her to determine how certain artifacts
found in graves might cluster.
Testing the strength of links between various bur-
ial practices enables Butler to trace changing burial customs in a rigorous rather
than largely impressionistic fashion. It is interesting to see that a similar meth-
odology can be applied both to interpreting material culture and to documentary
evidence. To return to Caroline Waerzeggers, she presented a paper on network
theory at a conference in 2008 organized by Michael Jursa of Vienna as part of his
project on the Economic History of Babylonia in the First Millennium BC.
this conference Jursa sought out scholars working on various periods in Babylo-
nian history as well as ones working in the Hellenistic and Roman economies.
The Babylonian scholars, in my understanding, are confronted with masses of
documents in numerous cuneiform archives, and so Jursa sought to establish a
scholarly dialogue with Greek and Roman historians to offer both sides a broader
perspective as they pursue their individual topics. The scholars presenting pa-
pers on the Babylonian world at the Vienna conference demonstrated a great deal
of ingenuity in applying new methodologies to their evidence and in drawing
compelling conclusions about the nature of ancient Near Eastern economies.
The papers in this volume approach archives from a somewhat different per-
spective, with a focus on understanding them as coherent bodies of evidence and
on that basis drawing historical conclusions, for example, about the governmen-
tal policies in ancient city states or empires, about economic relationships in the
ancient Near East, or about the role of law in the administration of justice.
Several of the papers are concerned directly with establishing criteria for de-
ning an archive and on this basis interpreting one. Thus Klaas Veenhof, The
Archives of Old Assyrian Traders: their Nature, Functions and Use, examines a
collection of some 23,000 clay tablets kept by Old Assyrian traders in the city of
Kanesh in southern Anatolia from about 1900 BCE until the city was destroyed
in 1835 BCE. Many of the traders kept archives of documents in their houses in
Kanesh, and they apparently had advance warning about the impending doom

1 In a book project titled The Kings Canvas: The Transformation of Ancient Macedon.
2 The conference Too much data? Generalizations and model-building in ancient economic history
on the basis of large corpora of documentary evidence was held July 16-17, 2008 at the University of
archives and archival documents
of their city, since they were able to take some documents, presumably ones
concerning still outstanding obligations, with them when they abandoned their
houses. The surviving archives are thus far from complete, but they do offer a
great deal of information about the economic activities of merchants engaging
in commerce far from the capital of the empire, in one of as many as forty trading
stations in Anatolia. These archives seem to offer a great deal of evidence for how
such merchants were able to enforce obligations and resolve disputes, which
would have been absolutely vital to their being able to conduct business. Of par-
ticular interest is the governing body that loomed over the traders, the karum,
a hierarchical organization that served to regulate relationships among traders.
Did it also play a role in enforcing contracts into which the Assyrian traders en-
tered with local people from whom they acquired gold and silver? The paper of
Antoine Jacquet, Family Archives in Mesopotamia during the Old Babylonian
Period, is part of a broad project to consider archives from the rst dynasty of
Bablyon, in the 20
to the 17
centuries BCE, in their context as they are discov-
ered archaeologically, to learn what one can from the ensemble of documents
rather than from documents considered individually. Jacquets paper describes
the variety of people who kept archives, including many women. One of his im-
portant points is that one should distinguish between documents kept for the
long term, often concerned with real estate sales, juridical decisions, marriage,
inheritance, adoptions, and manumissions, and documents recording short-
term obligations, such as debt contracts, which would be destroyed when the
obligation was completed or at least be eventually purged. Short-term arrange-
ments, which might offer an insight into the scale of commerce in which traders
would be involved, are likely to be under-represented in the archives. Moreover,
both Veenhof and Jacquet raise the troubling point that it is difcult to see how
ancient people navigated among their archives to retrieve important informa-
tion in a timely fashion.
To turn to papyri and Ptolemaic Egypt, Lucia Criscuolo, Copie, malacopie,
copie dufcio e il problema della titolarit di un archivio nellEgitto tolemaico,
distinguishes between archives proper, that is, collections of documents delib-
erately collected and maintained and kept by an individual for a specic pur-
pose, and other dossiers of documents, sometimes assembled in antiquity, but
without the direct purpose of an archive. In her paper, Criscuolo emphasizes the
importance of understanding the conditions under which documents were pro-
duced, especially copies of ofcial documents, which may not display a profes-
sional appearance. Clearly the phenomenon of copying documents produced for
ofcial purposes was widespread, since it could be important for an individual to
be able to have available the information from ofcial enactments. From another
perspective, in his paper on Aramaic archives from the Persian period in Egypt,
Ingo Kottsieper explores the reasons why individuals maintained archives. In
the case of Nakhthor, an ofcial of the Persian satrap Arsames, the preserved pa-
pers concern Nakhthors duties and those of his predecessor, and their collection
of documents served to establish Nakhthors political authority. Other archives
that Kottsieper examines might serve to establish peoples personal legal status
or rights, as is the case with the archives of Jedaniah and Anani.
To return to the ancient Near East, Susanne Paulus, The Limits of Middle
Babylonian Archives, examines archival material concerning the Kassite dy-
nasty to reconstruct landownership patterns, important both for the economic
history of the period and for understanding the power of the king, which to a
large extent derived from his capacity to bestow land on loyal or favored subjects.
The archival material, however, does not permit drawing a complete picture of
changes in landownership, and many documents remain unpublished. Howev-
er, Paulus nds a promising way forward by examining stone inscriptions, or ku-
durrus. These stones, which invoked divine protection against anyone who might
disturb the rights of the temple or individual who erected them, included texts
recording land donations. So they help to ll in gaps in the incomplete archival
material. For example, the king, as the highest judge, would adjudicate property
disputes, but there is no royal archive documenting such decisions, since it fell
to the individuals involved in the dispute to preserve their documents. The ku-
durrus provide an important source of information to reconstruct the economic
history of this period.
Preserving documents in public archives was a common activity for Greek
city states, and Christophe Pbarthe, Les archives de la cit de raison: dmocratie
athnienne et pratiques documentaires lpoque classique, examines the role
of local and centrally maintained written records and the relationship between
them to address the broader issues about the nature of Athenian democracy. One
issue concerns the degree to which rationality rather than traditional social ties
characterized the organization of Greek city states. In addition, Pbarthes study
raises questions concerning the degree to which writing (as opposed to orality)
was central to classical Greek democracy. If, as Pbarthe argues, the use of writ-
ing was an integral part of a broadly rational organization of the city state, it is
still not always clear precisely what purpose the publication of a document on
stone served, or the relationship between an inscription that could be publicly
viewed and the original documents maintained by the city. Shimon Epstein ad-
dresses this issue in his paper, Attic Building Accounts from Euthynae to Stelae,
concerned with the inscriptions recording the public building accounts from the
Periclean building program in fth-century BCE Athens, the later construction
of the Erechtheion, and fourth-century building accounts from Eleusis. By ana-
lyzing the information that was in all likelihood presented when the ofcials in
charge of these building programs underwent their auditing process, but did not
appear on the inscriptions, Epstein makes a convincing argument about the po-
litical purposes of the inscriptions. For Greek cities in the Hellenistic and Roman
periods, Laura Boffo, La presenza dei re negli archivi delle poleis ellenistiche,
and Kaja Harter-Uibopuu, Epigraphische Quellen zum Archivwesen in den
griechischen Poleis des ausgehenden Hellenismus und der Kaiserzeit, investi-
archives and archival documents
gate the preservation of documents concerned with both the administration of
the cities and with private legal arrangements. Boffo examines the epigraphic
archives kept by cities as a way of understanding the evolving relationship be-
tween city and king in the Hellenistic world. Her thesis is that the preservation
of archives involving royal enactments was a sign of the kings power. The kings
exercised their power not only through imposing taxes on the cities and reward-
ing favored individuals with honors, but also through acts of generosity toward a
city, such as funding cults or even the education of children.
Harter-Uibopuu considers the well-known manumission documents from
Delphi as well as grave regulations from Roman Asia Minor to address how cit-
ies changed their practices in preserving documents from Hellenistic times. This
paper raises important questions for how people in Roman provinces sought to
enforce private legal arrangements. Arranging the manumission of a slave as a
sale to the god at Delphi carried with it a kind of protection that the owners of the
slaves involved apparently did not expect to gain from the more conventional le-
gal institutions of their cities. The publication on the temple wall, in abbreviated
form, of the manumission document preserved in the archive was surely meant
to emphasize both the validity of the manumissions and the authority of the god
in enforcing them. In Asia Minor, by contrast, the grave regulations show that
private individuals were condent of being able to call upon public authorities
to enforce their wishes about the ways in which their tombs would be used over
generations long after they were deceased. The prescription that a violator of the
tomb would be compelled to pay a public ne is paralleled in Greek wills from
Roman Egypt, in which the testators also include public nes for people who vio-
late the terms of the will.
Archives could play a much more basic role in resolving legal disputes, as em-
phasized by Edward Harris paper on the The Plaint in Athenian Law and Legal
Procedure. Harris challenges the widely held belief that decisions in Athenian
courts were reached more by rhetoric or social considerations than by following
the strict requirements of the law. Roman civil procedure tried to limit the scope
for going outside of the strict requirements of the law through the formulary sys-
tem. Athenian law did this by requiring public and private actions to be drawn
up specically in accordance with existing statutes (Roman law did not require
this, but instead required a remedy to exist), and the plaint carefully outlined the
statute violated, the precise nature of the violations of the laws, and the amount
of damages caused and sought. Harris focus on the plaint as a feature of Athenian
law that brought order and predictability to the adjudication of disputes raises
some broader questions. One is whether other Greek city states applied a simi-
lar requirement to court cases, or whether the Athenian court system applied a
unique reform that made legal business qualitatively different from other Greek
cities. A more fundamental issue concerns the difference between ways in which
Greek law developed in the classical period, closely tied as it was with the legisla-
tion and thus the political processes of Greek democracy. In contemporary Rome,
by contrast, as Aldo Schiavone (2012) emphasizes, the development and interpre-
tation of Roman law remained largely in the hands of aristocratic legal experts,
who struggled to remain independent from immediate political pressures. To re-
turn to Athenian law, a further incentive for trials to be conducted in accordance
with the law consisted in the penalties that might be imposed on magistrates
who allowed cases in violation of these prescriptions. That the administration of
Athenian law, then, might be more predictable than other scholars, most nota-
bly Adriann Lanni (2006), would suggest, has important implications for under-
standing the Athenian economy in the fourth century, a period for which we also
have substantial evidence for the development of commercial banking.
Publicly maintained archives could play a crucial role in deciding legal issues
that had wider implications for the administration of cities, as Thomas Kruse
emphasizes in his paper Bevlkerungskontrolle, Statuszugang und Archiv-
praxis im rmischen gypten. If Roman rule in Egypt to a large extent involved
dening the population in terms of various legal statuses with corresponding
privileges, it could be crucial both for the state and private individuals to have
access to records that could prove status. In many areas of classical Roman law,
it was not necessary to have written documentation to prove a case or enforce a
contract, although written evidence would obviously be helpful. In the case of
marriage, for example, the absence of documentation was not a hindrance to as-
serting that a marriage was legitimate, as the emperor Probus, in a constitution
preserved in the Code of Justinian, responded in a third-century rescript, as long
as there were witness who could verify that a marriage existed (C. 5.4.9). In the
later empire, a series of constitutions by the emperor Justinian makes clear a
growing preference for written documentation. In Roman Egypt, proof of status
was greatly facilitated by the ability of cities to maintain public archives with
epikrisis documents and other indications of status, such as the house-by-house
census declarations. Rudolf Haensch offers a very different perspective in his
paper on the types of archives kept by provincial governors in the later Roman
Empire, Die Statthalterarchive der Sptantike. Haensch takes the view that, in
the earlier empire, when it is generally assumed that provincial governors main-
tained extensive archives, the types of documentation to which governors could
have recourse were limited. But the situation changed in late antiquity, as gover-
nors maintained for decades court protocols and other important records. These
might be available in the provincial capital, as well as in a central store of archives
in Constantinople. The best evidence for the long duration of extensive archives
is the ability of Augustine to quote decisions made in the early fourth century
when he discusses the relations between Catholics and Donatists. Haenschs in-
vestigation has important implications for the administration of justice both un-
der the principate and in late antiquity; an important question concerns whether
the administration of justice in the Roman Empire was enhanced by the access
on the part of provincial governors and other judges to relevant legal decisions,
archives and archival documents
or whether it was largely incumbent upon the litigants to produce the relevant
documentation to support their cases.
To conclude, the papers in this volume use comparable methodologies to ad-
dress common questions in the eld of ancient history writ large. The focus on
the exact nature of archival material and the uses to which it might be put pro-
vide new perspectives to make more precise the types of conclusions that can be
drawn in future work on this type of evidence. The papers in this volume point
the way to new ways in which archives from the ancient world can be studied,
as well as to the benets of bringing together scholars working in diverse elds
with common interests and methodologies.
Bibliography Banaji 2001
J. Banaji, Agrarian Change in
Late Antiquity: Gold, Labour and
Aristocratic Dominance, Oxford.
Boak & Youtie 1960
A. E. R. Boak & H. C. Youtie, The
Archive of Aurelius Isidorus in the
Egyptian Museum, Cairo, and the
University of Michigan (P. Cair.
Isidor.), Ann Arbor.
Hickey 2012
T. M. Hickey, Wine, Wealth, and
the State in Late Antique Egypt,
Ann Arbor.
Lanni 2006
A. Lanni, Law and Justice in
the Courts of Classical Athens,
Mazza 2001
R. Mazza, LArchivio degli Apioni.
Terra, lavoro e propriet senatoria
nellEgitto tardoantico. Bari.
Omar 1979
S. Omar, Das Archiv des Soterichos,
Pap.Colon. VIII, Opladen.
Rathbone 1991
D. Rathbone, Economic
Rationalism and Rural Society
in Third-Century A.D. Egypt:
the Heroninos Archive and the
Appianus Estate, Cambridge.
Ruffini 2008
G. Ruffini, Social Networks in
Byzantine Egypt, Cambridge.
Sarris 2006
P. Sarris, Economy and Society in
the Age of Justinian, Cambridge.
Schiavone 2012
A. Schiavone, The Invention of
Law in the West, trans. Jeremy
Carden and Antony Shugaar,
Cambridge (Mass.) and London.
Waerzeggers, forthcoming
C. Waerzeggers, Marduk-
rmanni. Local Networks and
Imperial Politics in Achaemenid
Babylonia, Orientalia
Lovaniensia Analecta, Leuven.
Ancient Near East
archives in the ancient near east: response
Glory (or shame) to the brick ! wrote Prof. G. Cardascia in an article introduc-
ing legal assyriology to beginners
. Indeed, Assyriologists are better off with the
numerous tablets found in the deserts of the Near East, but this documentary
wealth is not fully available nor completely usable, for many reasons.
One of them is the dispersion of the archives
By itself, a tablet gives a great amount of information, deriving from its con-
tent but also from its external aspect, the shape of its writing and the mention or
the printing of seal(s). But a complete interpretation also requires knowledge of
the archaeological context of its origin, and its possible connection to an archive.
Whether this tablet was kept with others or not, how it was stored, in which
room or part of a building, all this enhances and enlightens the historical
comment. What to do for instance with a list of people receiving various amounts
of grain or silver? A. Jacquet shows here how the archivistic point of view helps
to rule out some hypotheses and suggest others. Such an approach implies

1 Cardascia 1954 = 1995, 15: Gloire (ou opprobre) la brique !.
2 On the notion of archive in Mesopotamia, and the scientic and methodological questions
it raises, see Veenhof 1986, and especially his brillant introduction to the volume (1-36).
Zero and Innity:
the Archives in Mesopotamia
sophie dmare-lafont
awareness of the Mesopotamian practices of conservation and utilization of the
The administrative services of palaces or temples on the one hand and those
of the large households owning huge estates on the other hand worked in the
same manner, though on a different scale: incomes and expenses were registered
on notes, which were regularly copied on monthly or annual tablets; distribu-
tions of rations to employees and members of the family were carefully listed;
some legal documents were kept, as well as letters dealing with political or ad-
ministrative matters, or with current litigations in court.
Taken on their own, these texts may look very disparate and the link between
them does not appear at rst sight. For instance, we know that royal or religious
ofcers in Babylonia
or in Syria
used to put together at home documents con-
cerning their ofcial functions along with their own family archives or those
belonging to other citizens. Had we ignored their common provenience, the idea
of bringing these texts together would have not occurred to us. Taking into con-
sideration their material unity changes the way we look at the criteria of classi-
cation and internal organization of an archive, and leads us also to reconsider the
relevance or the distinction between ofcial and private sectors.
These pieces of information, which we consider crucial nowadays, were ig-
nored or neglected for a long time. In the middle of the 19
century, during the
relentless competition between European cultural diplomacies in the Near East,
the excavators usually diplomats themselves were basically concerned with
the quantity of ndings: they wanted to send to their museums as many artifacts
and texts as possible, even if this meant damaging the sites, scattering the ar-
chives and destroying small pieces considered ordinary or uninteresting. Many
precious indications have been lost during the harsh diggings of the archaeologi-
cal pioneers. For instance, no one would pay attention to the sherds sometimes
found along with the tablets because they were seen as common fragments of
pottery; but they could have been the remains of storage jars, and could have
given information about the archival methods of the Mesopotamians
. In the
same vein, the precise locus where the texts were found and their disposition on
the ground were sometimes omitted, when in fact these data inform us about
the classication practices and the activities of a building. Finally, the political
circumstances, the increasing number of illicit diggings and the setting up of
the museum collections have often led to the dispersion of archives which origi-
nally formed a coherent set. The case of the family of Ea-ilta-bni, in the 7

3 See for instance the texts from Dr-Abieuh, published by Van Lerberghe & Voet 2009,
and the comments of D. Charpin, Annuaire de lEcole Pratique des Hautes Etudes 142, 2011,
17-21, esp. 21.
4 See the archives of the diviner Z-Bala and his family at Emar (Dmare-Lafont 2008, 213-14)
and the archives from the house of Urtenu at Ugarit (Bordreuil & Malbran-Labat 1995).
5 Veenhof 1986, 13.
archives in the ancient near east: response
centuries B.C., is a good example thereof: their activities are reported during six
generations in tablets kept in Jena, Istanbul, Oxford, Paris and at Yale University.
A patient work aiming at regrouping the whole le was necessary in order to al-
low a global study of the matrimonial and economic strategies of this powerful
family from Borsippa (modern Birs Nimrud, close to Babylon)
Mesopotamian families themselves sometimes had to face the scattering of
their own archives, because of marriages, commercial activities or uprootings
after wars or economic crises. The Assyrian merchants, for instance, often had
two homes and carried their archives from one house to the other, as K. Veenhof
explains here. In Old-Babylonian times, exiled people from Uruk, in Southern
Mesopotamia, moved to the North and settled in Kish, bringing with them their
Finally, it sometimes happened that the tablets were destroyed, when they
preluded to the drafting of ofcial and monumental documents. Such is the case
of the Medio-Babylonian kudurrus studied by S. Paulus in this volume: paradoxi-
cally, they testify to the existence of these invisible documents and raise the
question of the purpose of such inscriptions engraved in the stone.
Be they available or virtual, archives are the frame within which most of the
Mesopotamian sources have to be interpreted and, in this respect, the three fol-
lowing contributions illustrate several aspects among the numerous avenues to
be further explored.

6 Joanns 1989.
7 Charpin 1986, 402-18.
Bibliography Bordreuil & Malbran-Labat
P. Bordreuil & Fl. Malbran-
Labat, Les archives de la maison
dOurtenou, CRAI 139/2,
Cardascia 1954
G. Cardascia, Splendeur et
misre de lassyriologie juridique,
Annales Universitatis
Saraviensis 3, 156-62
(reprinted in Hommage
Guillaume Cardascia,
Mditerranes 3, 1995, 15-23).
Charpin 1986
D. Charpin, Le clerg dUr au
sicle dHammurabi (XIX

sicles av. J.-C.), Hautes Etudes
Orientales 22, Paris.
Dmare-Lafont 2008
S. Dmare-Lafont, The King
and the Diviner at Emar, in L.
dAlfonso, Y. Cohen & D.
Srenhagen (eds.), The City
of Emar among the Late Bronze
Age Empires History, Landscape
and Society, Proceedings of the
Konstanz Emar Conference
25-26.04. 2006, AOAT 349,
Mnster, 207-17.
Joanns 1989
F. Joanns, Archives de Borsippa:
la famille Ea-ilta-bni. Etude
dun lot darchives familiales en
Babylonie du VIII
au V
sicle av.
J.-C., Hautes Etudes Orientales
25, Paris-Genve.
Van Lerberghe & Voet 2009
K. Van Lerberghe & G. Voet, A
Late Old Baylonian Temple Archive
from Dr-Abieu, CUSAS 8,
Veenhof 1986
K. R. Veenhof (ed.), Cuneiform
Archives and Libraries. Papers
read at the XXX
Assyriologique Internationale,
Leiden 1983, PIHANS 57, Leyde.
the archives of old assyrian traders
klaas r. veenhof
The Archives of Old
Assyrian Traders:
their Nature, Functions
and Use

The Old Assyrian archives are private archives. They were found in the houses of
traders who in the early centuries of the second millennium BC lived in Kanesh,
an ancient city in Central Anatolia, not far from modern Kayseri. The houses are
situated in the commercial district of the lower town, called krum Kanesh, which
ourished for more than a century during the period of level II, which came to
an end by destruction around 1835 BC (middle chronology). The Assyrian settle-
ment in Kanesh is not only nearly the only source of our documentation, thanks
to more than fty years of excavations, it was also the administrative capital of
an Assyrian colonial network that comprised ca. 30 commercial settlements and
small trading stations, spread over the whole of Central Anatolia. The archives
were kept in what they called the sealed room (maknukum) or guarded room
(maartum), where also valuables were stored. They vary considerably in size and
range from few hundred to a few times ca. 2000 cuneiform documents, varia-
tions that must reect the importance and status of a trader, the history of the

1 See for general information on the excavation at Kanesh and on the Old Assyrian trade
Larsen 1976; zg 2003, and Veenhof 2008a, mentioned below in the bibliography, and see
also C. Michel, Old Assyrian Bibliography (OAAS 1), Leiden 2003. In the following text I have
simplied the rendering of the Assyrian names, not indicating long vowels and typical Semitic
consonants, writing Ishtar instead of Itar, Assur, etc.
house and presumably also the administrative habits of the owner. The archives
consist of the written documents accumulated drawn up, received, acquired,
accepted for safe-keeping, or deposited there for other reasons during the pe-
riod of activity of a trader, which usually covered many, occasionally up to thirty
years. In several cases the house had been taken over or inherited by his son, who
added his own records to those left behind by his father and there are also a few
examples of archives with records of three generations of traders. The archives
brought to light by the excavations, rst by the villagers and after 1948 by Turk-
ish archeologists, reect what they contained when the houses were destroyed.
1. Traders, archives and records
Some general information on the traders, their archives and the types of records
they contain is necessary before I can focus on the subject of this paper. This is
not easy, because the archives of Kanesh have yielded more than 23.000 cunei-
form documents (half of which are more or less known or accessible) of an at
times bewildering variety, which reect an extensive and very sophisticated
overland trade, carried out by perhaps ca. 60 trading families. Moreover, most
of the texts available were unearthed and sold by the local villagers, so that their
archival background and coherence is unclear. Only the publication of ofcially
excavated archives, in TPAK 1 and the volumes of the series AKT, offers better in-
sights, but much work still remains to be done.
Status, wealth and family situation of the traders vary considerably and their
archives, all of which contain the usual variety of business documents, reect
these differences in the nature and numbers of commercial records and corre-
spondence and to some extent also in the presence of certain types of legal docu-
ments. And most traders also had a family house in Assur, with an archive, but we
know little from Assur, because the layers of this period in the lower town were
not reached by the German excavators.
In general, archives of traders whose family had stayed behind in Assur con-
tain more letters of their wives and more correspondence with relatives, busi-
ness associates and representatives, who took care of their legal and economic
interests in Assur. Archives of traders living in Assur, whose grown-up sons lived
and worked in Anatolia, include letters exchanged between them, while those
of traders settled in Kanesh with their family comprise letters exchanged with
their wives when they were traveling around. Important family documents
marriage contracts, testaments, title deeds, last wills, and joint-stock contracts
that supplied the trader with his capital were usually kept in the archive in As-
sur, but may turn up in Kanesh when a whole family lived there. Many of the
older traders focused on the import of tin and textiles from Assur and their sale
for silver and gold in Anatolia, so that their archives contain many letters and
records relating to the caravan trade. Others were more involved in the internal
the archives of old assyrian traders
trade in copper and wool inside Anatolia, and we also meet traders who traveled
a lot in Anatolia and were engaged in commission sale and agency for colleagues
in Assur and Kanesh.
For a good appraisal of the archives several facts have to be taken into account.
The rst is that several traders also had houses apparently with archives in
other trading settlements in Anatolia, where they stayed temporarily and even
could move. This can only be discovered by a comprehensive analysis of an ar-
chive and as an example I mention some features of the large archive of Shallim-
Assur and his family (more than 1100 texts), which has been analyzed in an ex-
emplary way by Larsen. In the rst volume of its edition (AKT 6a) he writes: It
seems clear that his main archive must have been stored in the city of Durhumit,

where he stayed during the last years of his life and where eventually he died and
was buried. () The texts from the Kanesh archive, relating to his work and his ac-
tions are probably to be understood as a scattered sample that happened to end up
here, presumably because he was staying in this house occasionally and received
letters and engaged in other activities that led to the writing of texts (AKT 6a,
8-9). His house also contained many documents of his elder brother Iddin-abum,
although he must have had his own house with a separate archive. The dates and
subject matter of these documents made Larsen conclude that when he was a
very young man he may have shared a house and archive with his brother (from
where his texts were never removed) and that, much later, after his death, col-
lected documents relating to his affairs were brought to the house of his brother,
who was the executioner of his estate. Shallim-Assurs eldest son, Ennam-Assur,
probably was the main inhabitant of the house, but he was murdered only a few
years after his fathers death, in ca. 1865 BC.
Next we have ca. 200 texts associated
with the affairs of the latters younger brother, Ali-ahum, who must have been
the last person to use this house and to deposit texts here, several of which deal
with attempts to obtain blood money for his murdered brother. But since none of
them is later than ca. three years after this murder, while he must have lived con-
siderably longer, the later texts were not stored in this house, where he prob-
ably did not live, so that the documentation for his last years is no longer extant.
In fact no dated records from the last 25 years, before Kanesh was destroyed in ca.
1835 BC, have been found and Larsen considers it likely that the house was in fact
not lived in during this period and may have been used exclusively for storage.
Fortunately, the texts it contained were not removed (AKT 6a, 11-13).

2 An important city and colony, ca. 250 km north of Kanesh, the center of the Anatolian cop-
per trade.
3 The texts are dated, according to the Assyrian custom, by means of the name of an impor-
tant eponymous ofcial in the City of Assur, head and manager of the City Hall, who was
elected annually. This institution was created during the rst year of king Erishum I, according
to the Middle Chronology ca. 1870 BC.
4 Concerning the archive excavated in 1993 in grid LVII/127-128, with texts from three
A second feature is that, as mentioned in some records, groups of texts for a
variety of reasons could be taken out of an archive and brought elsewhere, fre-
quently to Assur. A trader could move to Assur in old age and take records along,
as shown by the witnessed record EL 141:1-10, The containers with tablets of
Enlil-bani and the containers with copies we entrusted to Iddin-Kubum and he
brought them to Enlil-bani. When a lawsuit, by appeal, was transferred from
krum Kanesh to the court of the City of Assur, records to be used as evidence were
shipped there. EL 298:9ff. describes how in a conict about a debt the authorities
of krum Kanesh entrusted to an attorney of the plaintiff a sealed box with ten
sealed documents, including four formal letters (napertum, missive) of krum
Kanesh, four missives of a trader sealed by the krum and two records dealing
with the debt in question, which (lines 35-36) he will submit to the City and our
Lord (the ruler). When a trader died and his business had to be liquidated and
his inheritance divided on the basis of his last will which was always kept in
Assur this had to take place after heirs and relevant records had been brought
together in Assur, as a ruling of the City stated (Veenhof 1995, 1725-7). And we
have seen in the previous paragraph how a large le on the affairs of a dead trader
was brought to the house of his brother, who was the executor of his estate.
In some cases, after a trader had died, particular records in his archive could
be required to prevent unnished transactions from being frozen and to pay or
collect debts. In such a case formal authorization could be given to open his safe
and take out assets and tablets. Two records inform us about what happened in
this way with the archive of Elamma. CCT 5, 3 reports that after his death the sons
of his partner had opened the strong-room and taken out a sealed debt-note for
12 pounds of silver, declaring: We act at the order and under the responsibility
of his investors. They were, as usual in such situations, accompanied by a com-
mittee of impartial outsiders (ahitum), who looked on and afterwards sealed the
door of the strong-room together with those who had entered. And in Kt m/k 145
people declare: On the basis of a verdict of the plenary krum the scribe seized us
and we entered Elammas house and broke the seals of the strong-room, which
we left there. Agua took two coffers with tablets. In the deposition (BIN 6, 220+)
that is part of a large le, studied by Matou 1969, about what happened when
the trader Puzur-Assur died, his sons state: When our father Puzur-Assur had
died the investors and creditors of our father, having entered his sealed strong-
room, took 12 boxes with tablets and entrusted these to you.
The destruction of the houses in krum Kanesh in ca. 1835 BC did not come as a
complete surprise, no unburied skeletons were found, nor valuables (silver, gold,
items of bronze) in the strong-rooms. This suggests that the inhabitants man-
aged to ee in time and it is reasonable to assume that they took along a num-

generations of traders, Michel 2008b, 58 observes that the number of texts of the second own-
er, Ali-ahum, son of Iddin-Suen, is not substantial (ca. 50 letters, 11 loan contracts), presumably
because he also had a house in Burushhattum, and one in Assur.
the archives of old assyrian traders
ber of records, in particular those recording valid debt-claims and investment
contracts, perhaps also title deeds. This situation helps to explain why in general
records of the last twenty years of krum Kanesh level II are fairly rare. But there
must have been other reasons too, perhaps the move of traders from Kanesh, the
administrative centre of the trade, to cities and colonies in the north and west,
which were the centers of economic activity. Larsen, in the introduction to AKT
6b points to the apparent collapse in the commercial activities of the Assyrian
businessmen [that] probably had its roots in legal and economic problems asso-
ciated with the death of a whole generation of important merchants.
was the case, there is no evidence that, when a number of years after 1835 BC the
rebuilding of what became krum Kanesh level Ib started, Assyrians tried to re-
trieve records from the earlier ruins.
Finally, we have to assume that the enormous number of written records ac-
cumulating in the archives made traders from time to time decide to remove
texts that were no longer valid or necessary. Most commercial transactions were
nished in a few years
and their records did not have to be preserved, as hap-
pened with title deeds or marriage contracts. Only in particular cases, such as
with a joint-stock company that would run for ten years, did records have to be
preserved for longer periods. This explains why records from the oldest period,
when the scope of the trade was also more limited, are relatively rare,
but we
know almost nothing about the removal of records, apart from returning debt-
notes when they were paid. We occasionally meet references to records we
would expect to nd, but which are missing, but we do not know why. The ar-
chive of Kuliya (AKT 5) contained eight, in part overlapping lists (texts nos. 62-
69) that enumerated in all 50 tablets of various kinds, apparently present there;
the biggest one lists 27 tablets placed in a big box. Since none of these tablets
was found in the archive, the list may have been drawn up to select and identify
documents that were removed, but we do not know why and where. In general
one gets the impression that outdated records were not systematically discarded
and that much depended on the habits and zeal of the archive owner, who usu-
ally had room enough to store them, while reading and selecting them may have
been a cumbersome task. Some old documents, such as large memoranda enu-
merating all outstanding claims, may have been preserved for their informative
value, letters from relatives and wives for emotional reasons. The archaeological
record unfortunately is not clear enough to show whether old, outdated records

5 The issue is studied in the framework of a monograph by Barjamovic-Hertel-Larsen 2012.
6 The terms of commercial loans, actually the consignment of merchandise given on credit to
traveling agents, usually did not exceed one year. Also the notes and accounts of expenses paid
en route by the leader of a caravan lost the value after the accounts had been settled.
7 The absence of early dated records (the oldest one preserved is from eponymy year 47) is
not surprising, since nearly all are debt-notes and they were returned or destroyed when the
debt was paid (see also below note 34).
may not have been stored in separate containers or even rooms. No hoards of
discarded tablets were found outside the archival rooms and houses, used as ll
or for paving a oor, as happened in Babylonia.
Every archive also contains groups of records that cannot be linked with its
owner or related to his business, which I have called elsewhere (Veenhof 2003,
115, 5. 2) strange records. Various explanations for their presence are possible.
There were people without a house in the krum, e.g. caravan personnel, trave-
ling agents and relatives who stayed in Kanesh for some time. They may have
deposited their records in the archive of their boss, as is clear for an employee of
the trader Imdilum. Traders traveled a lot and might temporarily move to other
places and in such cases they might give valuable records in safe-deposit (ana
nabm ezbum) to a friend or colleague. The most impressive piece of evidence is
a large tablet in New York (CTMMA I, 84), where a trader, whose strong-room had
been emptied out by a partner, enumerates and describes 25 records of all kinds,
including tablets of others, which they had left in deposit with me (l. 40),... all
contained in two sealed containers (lines 60f.).
In several cases such deposited
records were apparently never retrieved by their owners, who may have died or
disappeared. As already mentioned above in connection with the archive of Shal-
lim-Assur, traders did move and could live only temporarily in a house, judging
from the presence of groups of records belonging to them alongside the more
substantial archive of the owner or main inhabitant of the house. Ccile Michel
observed that the archive edited in TPAK 1, basically that of Shumi-abiya, also con-
tained 25 letters of a certain Assur-mutappil, some still in unopened envelopes,
but not a single debt-note of his. She assumes that he deposited his letters with
Shumi-abiya when he left Kanesh, but did not return; some letters addressed to
him that had arrived after his departure were never opened and read (33-4).
2. Traders in different situations and contexts
The circumstances under which traders lived and worked in Kanesh could be dif-
ferent and this had a bearing on their archives. We may distinguish the following
a) A trader as the head of a family who had moved to Kanesh, while leaving his
family, that means his wife and young children, behind in Assur. All impor-
tant family records are in Assur and this situation generates a correspond-
ence between husband and wife. The lively business correspondence is with
the traders male relatives, investors and especially his representatives in As-

8 That the victim could give a long, detailed description of all these tablets implies that he had
kept a list of them.
the archives of old assyrian traders
sur, who take care of his interests, receive his silver, buy merchandise for ex-
port and equip his caravans. His sons in due time might join him, assist him
in the business and when they are grown up develop their own commercial
activities, to be continued after his death.
A good example is Pushuken, father of four sons, who was active in Kanesh
for more than 20 years and died there. His business was continued mainly
by his son Buzazu, who lived in his house, where his fathers archive was left
in place,
to which he added his own records. It contained i. a. letters sent to
Pushuken by his wife in Assur and also many texts dealing with the division
of Pushukens inheritance among his children, in which his eldest daughter, a
priestess in Assur, played a prominent role.
b) A variant to this type is the successful trader who after many years returns to
Assur and leaves the business in Kanesh in the hands of his by now experi-
enced son, whom he assists and advises in letters sent from Assur, while also
carrying on some business of his own. The son took over his fathers house
and archive, apart from the records his father had taken along when he re-
turned to Assur, presumably records of affairs that still had not been nished,
although this is not easy to prove, for we have no texts from Assur.
The best example is the prominent trader Imdilum, whose father Shu-Laban
was already active in Anatolia, who led the business there at least 17 years,
returned to Assur around 1880 BC and was succeeded by his son Puzur-Ishtar.
The latter is attested for fteen years, the last seven after his father had died.
The father in Assur kept writing letters to his son, which we have to distin-
guish from copies of letters written by him when he still lived in Kanesh.

c) A young man who moved to krum Kanesh to trade there in the service of or
in cooperation with his father who remained in Assur. The latter, the boss of
the family business, conducts a lively correspondence with him and also sup-
plies him with merchandise, money, advice and information and in return
receives the silver sent back from Anatolia, which he uses to pay debts and
taxes and to equip a new caravan.
A good example is Assur-nada, son of Assur-idi, whose archive was published
in Larsen 2002. It shows us a father much concerned about what his son does,
such as the latters failure to meet promises (of votive gifts) made to the gods,
and also burdened with the task of caring for his sons children, after the lat-
ters wife, who had stayed in Assur, had died. Another example is Ennum-
Assur, the oldest son of Shalim-ahum, a merchant and capitalist living in As-
sur and the main business associate of Pushuken (mentioned under a). He

9 All texts dealing with Pushuken were unearthed and sold by the local villagers early in the
century and there exists no general description of his (reconstructed) archive, although we
can now identify almost 350 letters and dozens of legal documents that belonged to it.
lived, temporarily perhaps together with his brother Dan-Assur, in a house
in Kanesh, whose archive was excavated in 1970 and partially published
(without the tablets still in sealed envelopes) as AKT 3. The archive, not sur-
prisingly, contained letters of the father to his son(s) and letters written by
Ennum-Assur when he traveled and worked elsewhere in Anatolia, to his wife
Nuhshatum. She had to take care of and guard his house and the archive
and was occasionally instructed to retrieve documents from the archive for
particular purposes.
d) A grown-up son who had moved to Kanesh with his wife, when he had become
independent or his father in Assur had died and he had inherited his share
in his fortune. He started a business and family life there and his sons in due
time would work with him and get married. In his archive we may also nd
contracts and records relating to their family life and the business correspond-
ence is with male relatives, his representatives and his investors in Assur.
A good example is Elamma, the younger son of Iddin-Suen, an energetic im-
porter of merchandise from Assur (which he occasionally visited), whose ar-
chive, excavated in 1991 and 1992, I am publishing. He lived in Kanesh for
more than thirty years (opposite the house of his elder brother Ali-ahum)
and had a lively correspondence with his representatives in Assur. His busi-
ness was carried on after his death by some sons and his energetic widow, La-
massatum, who continued to live in the house for several years and conducted
some business of her own. The archive also contains records dealing with the
division of his fathers, his own and his wifes inheritance and records about
and letters from various family members living in Kanesh or Assur, such as
a le about the death, funeral and inheritance of a twice married daughter,

and letters of his favorite daughter, who was priestess in Assur.
e) In some cases an archive contains a number of records of the father of the trad-
er, but this depended on his age and where he lived, in Assur or Anatolia. We
have e.g. no records of Pushukens father Suejja, who lived in Assur, and only
a few of Imdilums father Shu-Laban, of whom it is not certain that he lived
in or visited Kanesh.
In Ali-ahums house in Kanesh, excavated in 1993, with
an archive of more than 900 texts, a few dozen letters addressed to his father
Iddin-Suen were found, but no debt-notes. Ccile Michel
assumes that these
letters, which all have low excavation numbers, had been stored separately af-
ter his death, when his son Ali-ahum (active there since ca. 1895 BC) became

10 I studied this le in Veenhof 2008b.
11 Larsen 1982, 224 assumed that the father, who appears already in ca. 1910 BC (ICK 2, 104),
died early and that Imdilums uncle Assur-imitti, who lived in Assur, took care of the interests
of the family, before Imdilum himself is attested in the sources, 18 years later.
12 Michel 2008b, 58, footnote 1.
the archives of old assyrian traders
the owner of the house and the archive. This contrasts with the archive of Id-
din-Suens second son, Elamma (who lived across the street in Kanesh), whose
house, which he must have acquired or built when he became an independent
did not contain documents of his father. The archive of Shallim-Assur,
son of Issu-arik contained a few letters to and records of his father, but no let-
ters written by him after he had returned to Assur, presumably because he
died there soon (AKT 6a, 6). After the death of a pater familias his inheritance
was apparently divided and his rm liquidated, whereupon his sons could
start their own business.
In most cases one of the sons acquired the house in
Kanesh, where his mother might continue to live, with his fathers archive left
in place, to which his own and his mothers records would be added.
3. The krum organization
The archives excavated, while clearly those of private entrepreneurs and their
families, also reect the fact that the Old Assyrian traders belonged to a commu-
nity and organization of traders. They all originated from the same city, Assur, and
had all settled abroad, far from home, in a completely different environment and
society, without military protection. This stimulated forms of cooperation (mu-
tual aid, business partnerships, representation, etc.), but it also took a more struc-
tural form. The totality of the Assyrian traders in Kanesh formed a kind of corpo-
ration, called krum. This term originally meant the quay, harbor district that
every Mesopotamian city had, where bulk goods arrived by boat, and then also
the commercial quarter where traders met and nally its inhabitants as a group. A
krum could comprise foreign traders, who might organize themselves as a group,
at times with a leader (called its head), to cooperate and to be better equipped
to deal with the local powers. Krum Kanesh was a well-organized, hierarchical
organization, which comprised a plenary assembly, the krum great and small
that met as an assembly (puhrum), and knew a committee, designated as the big
men, who ran the daily affairs. The plenary krum appears frequently as court-of-
law to solve the many, mostly commercial conicts between its members.
The krum as organization had a building, the krum house, where meetings
were held and its secretary worked, which housed a cella with the statue of the
god Assur (by whose dagger members would swear), and had storage facilities
and an archive. The krum arranged and supervised the presumably semi-annual
general accounting of krum Kanesh (nikkass a krim Kane), which involved
both individual traders and the krum as such. They were necessary because of

13 The oldest dated text in which he occurs, as creditor, is from ca. 1905 BC, much earlier than
his elder brother, but the latter apparently rst operated from Assur, before coming to Kanesh,
perhaps after the death of their father.
14 See Larsen 2007 for this development.
the many credit operations and book transfers between members, for account-
ing the results of collective commercial transactions organized by the krum to
which its members could subscribe, and for settling accounts (on taxes and cred-
it sales) with the local palace, whereby payments and transfers were regularly
channeled via the krum organization.
Krum Kanesh was also the administrative head of the colonial network that
consisted of at least 25 other krums and trading stations (wabartum), spread over
central Anatolia. As such it functioned as an extension of the government of the
City of Assur, to which it was responsible and whose directives it had to apply. It
maintained the diplomatic relations with the many city-states and rulers in Ana-
tolia, with whom treaties had been concluded, and stepped in when problems
arose. It could also issue orders and rulings, and traders in other colonies could
appeal to the authorities of krum Kanesh for justice.
The archive of the krum probably contained records (or their copies) ema-
nating from these activities, such as ofcial letters and verdicts, and we have
references to tablets of/in the krum-house on which traders were booked/
registered for certain amounts, which they owed the organization or it owed to
Since the krum-house has not been found, we do not have the archives
of krum Kanesh, but many texts it produced and also received (letters from other
colonies and from the City of Assur and its ruler) are known and give us a wel-
come insight into its workings. They are frequently referred to or quoted in the
business correspondence and several (copies) of them were found in the archives
of the traders. As a self-governing institution the krum had its members per-
form various administrative, commercial and judicial tasks and in doing so they
produced or were given records and letters, some of which (in part duplicates)
ended up in their archives. The orders and verdicts of the krum were sealed by
members who administered them and acted as its court-of-law and special mem-
bers (called lm) could represent the krum in nancial transactions. Messengers
in temporary service of the krum, sent out to other colonies with ofcial letters
and orders, might take their copy of such texts home when they returned.
traders in whose cases the krum intervened by letters, orders and verdicts appar-
ently could acquire duplicates of these records. And this was also the case with
ofcial letters of the City, addressed to the krum, which dealt with an issue that
involved a particular trader. The texts of three treaties concluded between the As-
syrians and some Anatolian rulers were all found in private archives, presumably

15 See Veenhof 2003, 1.1. There is e.g. mention of a big tablet of the krum-house and of
a traders deposits [booked] on the third and sixth tablet of the krum-house, but we do not
know the system.
16 The role of the messengers of the krum is described in Veenhof 2008c, 224-46, and there
one nds samples of ofcial letters carried by messengers. A large selection of ofcial letters of
the Assyrian authorities is offered by Michel 2001, Ch.1.
the archives of old assyrian traders
because their owners had represented the krum when they were negotiated and
concluded and had retained a copy of the text.
4. A classification of the texts
The records in the archives can be classied in several broad categories:
a) Letters, which comprise usually ca. 30-50% of the texts of an archive. The main
types are letters related to the caravan system, letters that report on a variety
of commercial and legal problems (frequently small les around a particu-
lar incident), letters from and to family members, and ofcial letters, by the
authorities in Assur or in Kanesh and their agents. An overview is offered by
Michel 2001, who presents 400 of them in translation, divided into seven
chapters, each with its introduction, dealing with the Assyrian and the Anato-
lian authorities, the caravan trade, smuggling, commercial partnerships and
joint-stock companies, family rms (three samples), and the correspondence
of women.
b) Legal documents, usually ca. 30% to 40% of the texts, an important older sample
of which (340 records) was published long ago in EL in a careful classication.
They can be distinguished in two types. The rst consists of contracts of vari-
ous types, of which debt-notes, service contracts with personnel, transport
contracts, contracts on settling accounts, and quittances are most numerous.
Next there is a limited number of contracts concerning family life (marriage,
divorce especially when a trader married an Anatolian bride and inherit-
ance) and a large variety of other contracts, e.g. concerning securities, joint-
stock companies, partnerships, and contracts that served as title deeds, about
the purchase of houses and slaves in Anatolia (frequently from defaulting
debtors, whose pledges were forfeited)
. The second comprises a great variety
of records that emanate from and reect the administration of justice, such
as protocols of private summonses, testimonies, oaths sworn, interrogations,
agreements, records of arbitration, mediation and adjudication, together
with protocols of lawsuits and of verdicts by the various colonial authorities.
In addition verdicts by the City Assembly of Assur, which issued also strong
letters of the City (Assur), written to help a plaintiff whose case has been con-
sidered valid by the legal authorities.

17 Other collections of published letters are those related to the caravan system, studied in
Larsen 1967, the letters in Prague, published in Prag I, those in the Assur-nada archive edited in
Larsen 2002, and translations of letters in the recent volumes in the AKT-series.
18 See for such contracts B. Kienast, Das altassyrische Kaufsvertragsrecht, FAOS Beiheft 1, Stutt-
gart 1984.
c) Lists, memorandums and notes, usually ca. 20-30% of the texts, ca. 600 of which,
mostly unearthed before the ofcial excavations by the local villagers and
therefore devoid of their archival context, were edited in Ulshfer 1995.
Alongside a variety of short notes about expenses, distributions of bread and
meat, small payments, settlements, deposits, etc., the more important catego-
ries are:
lists of packets of silver and gold, the yield of the trade, but also gifts for
various persons, entrusted for shipment to Assur;
large memorandums (tahsistum) that register all a traders transactions
that had resulted in debt-claims that still had to be paid;
lists of records present in his archive at a particular moment, probably
drawn up as inventory or because they were transferred.
5. The functions of the texts
Old Assyrian documents are not only very numerous, but there is also no body of
cuneiform texts that contains so many references to the writing, reading, send-
ing, transfer, use and storage of written documents. That is because the success of
the OA trade depended on them and they were indispensable for three reasons:
a) In the system of overland trade based on a colonial network there was a con-
stant need of communication, of passing on information between traders liv-
ing or working at home (in Assur), traveling in the caravans (six weeks from
Assur to Kanesh), living in Kanesh or in one of the many commercial settle-
ments spread over Anatolia. Oral communication did take place, but the trade
would have been very difcult and much less successful without this written
b) The trade was so sophisticated and dense that is there were so many simul-
taneous transactions of an at times complex nature that the human mem-
ory was unable to remember all the data. They had to be written down to aid
the memory, to prevent problems and in the interest of good accountability.
c) The nature of the trade and the value of the goods traded on many levels and
in many situations required valid records (uppum harmum), that is records
whose contents are certied by the seals of parties and witnesses impressed
on its envelope. By issuing valid records traders could obtain and use capital
of investors and money-lenders, buy on credit from the City Hall in Assur, and
they used them to contract caravan personnel, employ commission agents,
sell on credit, and provide and obtain securities. They not only informed
them on transactions, but also provided evidence to be used if problems arose
that had to be solved by private summons, arbitration or formal lawsuits.
the archives of old assyrian traders
Written documents therefore had three partly overlapping functions, as means
of communication, as aid to memory and as evidence. These functions must also
have determined the preservation of the records, but here many things are un-
certain. Many letters may have been preserved because they contained impor-
tant business or other information, but others, such as letters from wives and
family, presumably often for emotional reasons. Most letters of both categories
must have lost their informative or evidentiary value after a few years and were
or could have been thrown away, but we cannot establish to what extent that
happened. The preservation of records with a lot of valuable data (e.g. the large
memorandums) and records with evidentiary value (e.g. of contracts, invest-
ments, etc.) is understandable, but most of the commercial records too lost their
value after the transactions recorded had been completed and accounts had been
settled, for they are different from marriage contracts, title deeds, or records of
the division of an inheritance. Such texts, including judicial records conrming
rights that had been contested, had a lasting value, as OB archives show, which
occasionally contain records more than a century old. Most OA loans and cred-
its were for a year or less and only investment loans (ebuum) and contracts for
joint-stock companies (in which traders used capital made available by inves-
tors) could have a longer duration, up to 10 years in some cases. And even though
we nd some very old debt-notes, possibly never paid and therefore preserved,
and we meet a few references to credit not paid back for a very long period, this
does not change the fact that the great majority of the records in the archives no
longer had any practical or legal value. We have to assume that once deposited
in an archive, as long as there was space available to store them, records had a
good chance of remaining there. Sifting, which required reading and classifying
them, presumably did not have priority. When a son succeeded his father and in-
herited his house or when a trader moved elsewhere, to Assur or another colony,
their records (or at least part of them) would be left behind. It seems rather likely
that groups of older records that were no longer needed and were not thrown
away were stored in separate containers. Some of the inscribed (but not sealed)
bullae may have identied them, such as AKT 6a, 16, Tablets concerning our
Iddin-abums debts, which could be related to groups of records of Shallim-Assurs
elder brother, found in his archive (see above 1). Unfortunately the excavation
reports never identify the tablets that were found together in a particular con-
tainer or as a group, nor where exactly such bullae were found.
The three functions mentioned of course obtain whenever texts are written,
but they apply in particular in the framework of the OA overland trade and its
colonial system.

19 More such bullae were found in Shallim-Assurs archive, e.g. Kt 94/k 879, Memorandums
concerning agents, and Kt 94/k 1062, Validated records of my witnesses concerning the sons
of Iddin-abum, see zg-Tunca 2001, 347-9.
5.1. Communication
The colonial system meant that members of the same family and rm were regu-
larly and at times for long periods separated by considerable distances, not only
between Assur and Kanesh, but also between the nearly forty colonies and trad-
ing stations spread out over the whole of Central Anatolia and Northern Mesopo-
tamia. In this situation letters were of vital importance. We can distinguish busi-
ness letters, private letters especially those exchanged with wives and other
relatives and ofcial letters, written by the Assyrian authorities, both in Kanesh
and in Assur.
Among the business letters an important category are those required by the
system of overland trade by donkey caravans. They were called notifying mes-
sages and caravan reports by Larsen 1967. The rst type sent from Kanesh
and from Assur reports that a caravan with silver and gold or one with tin and
textiles had left Kanesh or Assur and summarily mentions its load, the persons
involved, also with instructions about what to do with the goods. Those dealing
with caravans with silver and gold leaving for Assur must be archive copies kept
in Kanesh. The second type reports on the arrival of the caravan at its destination.
Those sent from Assur, Larsens caravan accounts, mention the arrival of the
money and describe in detail how it was used to make various payments and in
particular for equipping a new caravan: the purchase of merchandise and don-
keys (with numbers and price) and the hiring of personnel; the Assyrians them-
selves called them letter of purchases. Those written in Kanesh, again archive
copies, report on the safe arrival of the merchandise from Assur, its clearance in
the palace (payment of taxes, etc.), the expenses incurred en route and the rst
sales made. Such letters may well have been sent ahead of the caravans they de-
scribe, to inform their recipients in time about what was coming. Known dupli-
cates may indicate that a second copy was given along with the caravan. These
letters must be used in combination with the transport contracts drawn up for
these caravans and the detailed accounts of the expenses made by the leader of the
caravan. The few cases where we have all four texts for one caravan are informa-
tive in showing to what extent requests and orders were or could be followed up.
Such letters were also used to check whether the goods arriving matched the data
of the caravan accounts. A nice example is TC 3, 36:16-23, We opened the packet
(with silver) in the presence of ve traders and broke your seals. One took out of
it the excise and checked the remainder of the packet: it contained 14 pounds and
37 shekels, which is 1 pound less than your letter mentioned. They must have
erred when weighing it there (in Kanesh).
The bulk of the letters was written in a large variety of situations, usually
to inform about business matters, to make requests or give orders, or to report
on a variety of problems political, economic, social, personal that interfered
with the trade. Many were exchanged between traders and their sons, agents or
partners who traveled around in Anatolia or were based in another colony. They
the archives of old assyrian traders
could contain warnings for war, unrest, blockades, difcult customers, or prob-
lems with the market, stating that no silver was available, that textiles were in
demand, or that there was too much supply of tin (which affected the price). It al-
lowed the recipient to redirect a caravan or to keep merchandise for some time in
store. Other letters, at times of a more personal kind, but always also with busi-
ness information, were exchanged between a trader traveling in Anatolia and his
wife staying in Kanesh. Many such letters received elsewhere or en route were
apparently taken along when the trader returned to his base in Kanesh and end-
ed up in his archive.
A remarkable sample of communication via various channels is provided by
the letter edited in Larsen 2002 as no. 18. On his journey in Northern Mesopota-
mia, heading for Hahhum, where caravans would normally cross the Euphrates,
Assur-nada receives a letter from his father in Assur, who writes:
If you are afraid to go to Hahhum, go to Urshu (more to the southwest, across the
Euphrates) instead. Please, travel alone. Do not enter Mamma (across the Euphrates,
northwest of Hahhum) together with the caravan. And in accordance with the orders
of the City Assembly your brothers caravan must be split into three. Then let the rst
leave Mamma and as soon as it has reached Kanesh, the second can leave Urshu, and
then the third can leave in the same way.
This letter implies that information on the problems in the area of Hahhum-
Mamma had reached Assur, either directly from there or from Kanesh, where
incoming caravans had told about it. This information then had made the City
Assembly issue an order on the behavior of the caravans and when Assur-nadas
father learned about it he wrote a letter to his son, who must have received it en
route and have taken it along to Kanesh, where it ended up in his archive.
Interesting information on letters is found in CCT 2, 6:6-15, written when Im-
dilum is accused by an angry partner of constantly writing him heated, incendi-
ary letters (himtum), which from now on he will no longer read. Imdilum reacts
by writing: If I have written you any incendiary letter of mine and you have pre-
served it, send it under your seals to your representatives to show it to me and
put me to shame. Or show it to my representatives there so that they can put me
to shame. I have copies of all letters I have sent you over time! We know copies
or duplicates, also of letters, but this statement is surprising and if Imdilum was
not an exception or exaggerating, we may assume that most copies were in due
time discarded, for few were found.
While letters were indispensable, the long distances (it took at least ve
weeks to travel from Assur to Kanesh) and the time it took to receive a reply, let
alone when the addressee was lax in answering, were at times felt as frustrating.
One trader wrote in an unpublished letter What? Must we be hurling big words
at each other over a distance of many miles (as) with a sling? Several traders
complain of having written many letters without getting an answer and some
even protest that they have used up all the clay in the town for their letters
without getting an answer, or ask Is there no clay in GN that you do not keep me
informed? (see Veenhof 2009, 195, with Kt 94/k 497:15).
Ofcial letters played an important role in the administrative and juridical
sphere. Ofcial letters, at times circular letters of the krum organization (to
each colony and trading station) and of the City of Assur could impose regu-
lations and order or forbid certain transactions. Krum Kanesh could also order
other colonies to take or abstain from certain actions. Ofcial letters of standard-
ized types served the administration of justice by ordering the transfer of a party
or witnesses in a trial (Larsen 1976, 255-8; Veenhof 2008c, 230-4). So-called
strong tablets of the City, sent from Assur, could grant rights to plaintiffs, e.g.
to summon or interrogate an opponent, to engage an attorney, to get access to
certain tablets in an archival room, etc. Ofcial letters of the krum were also in-
strumental in establishing or renewing agreements or treaties (sworn oaths)
with local rulers or in solving problems, when caravans were detained, goods got
lost, traders were apprehended or killed, or palaces delayed payment for mer-
chandise bought.
We know these ofcial letters only because they were found in private ar-
chives, presumably because, as mentioned, people serving the krum organiza-
tion apparently did take such letters home after they had accomplished their
job. This was e.g. done by Kuliya, messenger of the krum, whose archive was
published in AKT 5. It contained several such letters, some clearly circular letters,
whose address not only mentioned the colonies and persons to whom it was ad-
dressed, but also Kuliya himself as our messenger, which turned such a letter
into his credential, which he apparently took home. The address of AKT 5, 2:1-6
reads: Thus krum Kanesh, to the dtum-payers, our messenger Kuliya and the
krums of Durhumit, Hattush, Tamniya and Tuhpiya, all the way until Nenassa,
and 5:1-6 begins with: Thus krum Kanesh, to Kuliya, our messenger, the krum
Tegarama and wherever I. son of K. is staying.
Letters with decisions of the City Assembly in Assur, addressed to krum
Kanesh, must also have arrived in more copies, meant for the krum and for the
person with whom it dealt, usually a plaintiff whose case had been considered
strong. Some were even found in unopened envelopes and since not opening
such an important letter is unthinkable, it must have been a duplicate of a let-
ter used by the krum organization in the relevant lawsuit, meant for the party
involved. ICK 1, 182 is a letter addressed to krum Kanesh by the ruler of Assur,
which communicated the decision reached by the City to grant Imdilum the
right to hire an attorney and to send him to Kanesh to gain his case. The copy we
know was found in the archive of Imdilum, whom it concerned, but there must
have been another copy in the archives of the krum.
the archives of old assyrian traders
5.2. Aid to Memory
The importance of written records as aid to memory is obvious. Traders were usu-
ally involved in many simultaneous transactions, for their own family or rm,
for investors, for friends and partners for whom they sold merchandise in Anato-
lia. They worked with representatives and agents, who were given merchandise
in commission or sold on credit, and many were also involved in transactions
with or via the krum organization. It must have been difcult to keep track of
all activities, to remember the size of debts, claims, and investments, due dates,
rates of interest, names of debtors and witnesses. There was, moreover, a concern
about whether agents would pay in time or had to be summoned and charged
default interest. The best aid was drawing up a memorandum
whose Assyrian
name, tahsistum, from the verb to remind, has exactly that meaning, especial-
ly one that listed all a traders outstanding claims by excerpting his debt-notes.
Since the claims were often on agents who had received merchandise on credit,
one could also call them memorandums of outstanding claims (a baabtim,
CCT 3, 19b:3-4) or memorandums concerning agents (a tamkaruttim), the term
used on the bulla Kt 94/k 879. They were valuable as a means to collect outstand-
ing debts, even in the absence of the original debt-notes, because they provided
the essential data, including the due date and the witnesses, so that the debtor,
confronted with them, would not normally refuse payment. In CCT 3, 19b:3-10,
Pushukens wife complains, your representatives have taken away and keep in
their possession the memorandum with the outstanding claims that you have
left behind in your house (in Assur, when leaving for Anatolia). I cannot get at
anything and do not know at all whether they have paid your creditors or not.
It is up to you! The biggest such memorandum I know is a tablet with 113 long
lines that registers in abbreviated form 62 different transactions from a period
of 18 years.
Such memos were drawn up from time to time or updated and the
fact that in most cases the original debt-notes excerpted in them are not present
in the archive shows that the debts had been paid; only the contracts of a few bad
debts remained.
Memorandums could be kept in a strong room in a box (tamalakkum), as
mentioned in BIN 6, 19:18, and some bullae attached to containers mention
memorandums among their contents, e.g. Kt 84/k 878, My tablets in sealed
envelopes, my copies, and memorandums.
While in general memorandums

20 The expression tahsistam nadum means to draw up a memorandum, or more simply to
note down. Memorandums are frequently mentioned in surveys of available documents (see
for references CAD T s.v.) and BIN 6, 18:18-20 asks: Bring the boxes (tamalakk) with memoran-
dums along.
21 See Veenhof 1985.
22 See zg-tunca 2001, 347; note also Kt n/k 1460:24-26, ilinu-containers made of rush
in which memos have been placed.
as private records were not sealed one calls them open memorandum (t. pat-
tum; AKT 6b, 375:11; 446:19-20), we occasionally also meet a memo with seals.
In Kt n/k 176:4-10, I. asks B. Does this memo not carry your seals? B. answers:
They are my seals. They opened the memo and 45 shekels of silver proved to be
written in the memo. And BIN 4, 32:34-36 asks: Encase a memo in an envelope
(harmum) and write in it . Though not a valid legal record a memo might con-
tain important or condential data, that had to be protected by a sealed envelope
and therefore Ka 24b:31-33 asks to send a memorandum of witnesses under seal.
Because most transactions concerned valuable goods or money and entailed
liabilities it was customary to carry them out in the presence of witnesses and to
record them in writing. But in some situations no witnessed record was drawn
up, but a private note or memo in the rst person singular (I gave, entrusted,
paid), where the mention of the witnesses in whose presence the action had
taken place did sufce, since one could summon them when necessary. An ex-
ample of how this worked is found in the letter Kt 94/k 769 (courtesy of M. T.
I left (as credit) 32 shekels of silver in city B. with E. When we met on the road I said
to him: Give me the silver I gave you!. He answered: I have sent it to you with A. I
then seized A. and said: The silver E. gave you, give that to me! A. answered: E. did
not give me any silver! If E. can produce witnesses that he gave it to me, I will pay you.
Now seize E. and let him give you the 32 shekels of silver. If he refuses to pay confront
him with strong conditions.
If E. says: I really gave it to A., then let him give you the
name of his witnesses, assist him to get a tablet with (the testimony of) his witnesses
in the gate of the god and let him bring it to me.
Memorandums were drawn up in many situations, dealt with a variety of issues
and could vary greatly in size and complexity. Archives usually contain groups of
small tablets with up to a dozen lines of script (often only partially inscribed),
that register one or a few transactions, usually payments (to be) made and trans-
fers of goods, which were probably drawn up during a business trip, as aid to
memory, presumably by the traders themselves, many of which were able to read
and write; some of them exhibit a non-professional hand. The few groups I found
in the archive of Elamma, judging from their excavation numbers probably were
kept together and perhaps still had to be digested or submitted for accounting. A
very small tablet, with only four lines of script (Kt 91/k 338) reads, 3 shekels of
silver due from the man of Ebla, who took the wool. That such texts were called
tahsistum, memo, is shown by Kt 91/k 339 (an oblong tablet of only 1 by 2 cm
and with seven small lines of script): 1 mina 2 shekels of tin S. borrowed from
me; this tahsistum is a later one (warkiat), perhaps an addition to a previous lot.
A particular type of memo is of the following type: I am entitled to a share of 1

23 They usually were that if the person refusing payment was proved wrong he would pay the
double or triple of the disputed sum.
the archives of old assyrian traders
mina of silver in the holding (and) and of 45 shekels in the one-thirds-fund of
the caravan of A and B. (Kt 91/k 323, and variations). They state a traders share
in the proceeds from a particular caravan (ellutum) and were no doubt submit-
ted when the accounts were settled.
Why and when memos were drawn up is
shown e.g. by the letter ATHE 30:17-23, written by a transporter: 22 shekels of
silver, the price of 2 kutnu-textiles of D., which you charged to me, you have
(already) deducted from the transport fee due to me. Do not forget it over there,
draw up a memo about it.
The writer of TC 3, 100 had promised to do so, saying
when the two textiles I gave you have been converted into silver, I will draw up
your memo, but has to confess I forgot it when the caravan was leaving.
Apart from the big memorandums of outstanding claims, there were mem-
orandums of witnesses, to all appearances a list of witnesses that had been
involved in a particular case. Those concerning the payment for the wool of
Ushinalam, mentioned in the bulla Kt 94/k 1664, must have been attached to a
container that held the memos published as AKT 6a, nos. 91-103. Larsen describes
them as small, square tablets, ca. 3,5 to 4 cms in size () which give an amount
of silver which has been received from the proceeds of Ushinalams wool and
conclude with a list of witnesses (AKT 6a, 17).
The use of a memo of witnesses
is shown by CCT 5, 17a: We gave our testimony before Assurs dagger and I now
send you a copy of the valid tablet drawn up in the Gate of the God. Read it and
make up your mind and then submit a notication
to the gentleman, which
he has to conrm or to deny and also draw up a memo of your witnesses. The
testimony under oath, rendered by the writers, is sent to the addressee, who
has to use it to force his opponents to accept or deny the claim. This is done in
a formal confrontation, in the presence of (court) witnesses and the writers ask
the addressee to send them a note on who they were (so that they could be sum-
moned later, if the problem was not solved). Another example is in the letter
CCT 4, 14b:15-18, where the creditor A. has to be paid: He (Hanaya) still owes me
[x] minas 15 shekels of silver. And when I departed on my trip I left you a memo
with my witnesses, saying: Draw up a valid record (of their testimony), then in-
tervene and take (it) from the silver of Hanaya and satisfy A.

24 See for the system and the terminology used, Dercksen 2004, Ch. 9.
25 In Assyrian: ina libbika e i tahsistaka idi (correct the editio princeps).
26 These memorandums mention in all ca. 2 talents 18 pounds of silver, the proceeds from the
sale of ca. 25 tons of wool, received by 13 different traders, which shows the size and complexity
of this commercial operation.
27 The expression is nuduam nadum, perhaps to make a note, to serve somebody a notice
(one also nds to give somebody a n.). The noun, from the verb nadum that is used for to put
down, draw up (e.g. a memorandum), occurs a few times in the combination ina tahsistim u
nudutim, among (a persons) memorandums and notications (see CAD N/II 312 s.v. nuduu),
as the place where one has to look for a particular tablet, but we are as yet unable to differentiate
the two types.
5.3. Evidentiary Value
Most transactions, which frequently concern valuable merchandise or substan-
tial sums of money, took place before witnesses and were recorded in writing,
usually on a valid tablet (uppum harmum). This term qualies a tablet by the
verbal adjective harmum, lit. covered (by a clay envelope), which has the mean-
ing valid(ated), because the envelope carries the seal impressions of parties, wit-
nesses, etc., that gives a record its legal, evidentiary power.
The inscriptions on
the bullae, attached to various containers with tablets, mention among their con-
tents valid tablets,
which were carefully preserved so that, if problems arose,
they could be produced, shown or submitted. Valid tablets could record a
variety of contracts concluded before witnesses, ranging from simple debt-notes
to contracts about a joint-stock company (naruqqum), with many investors and a
large capital. Others are settlements of accounts, agreements, records of deposit,
acquisition of securities, sale of houses and slaves, etc. They were used during
private summonses and lawsuits and could settle conicts, unless it was claimed
and proved that a record was no longer valid.
The awareness of their existence
and warning statements such as I have in possession a valid tablet (uppam har-
mam ukl), scil. as proof of my claim, must have induced people to meet their
obligations. The importance of such a valid record is also clear from Kt n/k 470
(courtesy of C.Gnbatt), drawn up to revive, to replace a lost quittance as proof
of the payment of a debt. Lines 1-9 presumably repeat the original text, stating
that the debt has been paid, and they are followed by the phrase that the krum
organization summoned those who had sealed that record, who then revived
(l. 15, balluum) the tablet before Assurs dagger by their testimony under oath.

Various types of valid records were generated by granting credit and ex-
tending loans, due to complications met in collecting or paying them, in forcing

28 The verb is also used in abbreviated expressions, such witnesses harrumum, short for
drawing up a valid record of a testimony sealed by the witnesses.
29 Ten occurrences in zg-Tunca 2001, 319-50. Note Kt m/k 100, with the text Copies of
valid tablets of the debt of A. and I., whose originals are in the strong room of ., and Kt 93/k 273,
Valid tablet with the verdict of the krum concerning S. In AKT 3, 106:11-13, a trader asks his
wife to send him the boxes (tamalakk) with valid records which A. left behind with you.
30 OA expresses this by the stative of the factitive stem of the verb akum, ukku, not yet rec-
ognized in CAD A/I s.v., meaning 3, which mentions only one occurrence and translates mis-
laid. The now more than a dozen references leave no uncertainty about its meaning, e.g. in
POAT 2:24-26, where as a result of a comprehensive settlement of accounts all the earlier valid
tablets of the debt of I. are (now) cancelled (-ku!-u), and such a fact can also be the conse-
quence of a verdict (CCT 5, 18d:3-5). In Kt r/k 17:5-6 a man is accused of having given invalid
tablets as pledges. In younger variants of the clause in quittances, that if the missing debt-note
still turns up it is invalid (see below under b), ukku may replace sar, e.g. in Ugarit-Forschungen
7 (1975) 318, no. 4:15 (read: a
31 Reviving lost legal records is attested in other periods too, see Veenhof 1987, 49-50 for
some Old Babylonian examples.
the archives of old assyrian traders
defaulting debtors to pay or provide a security. They were meant to safeguard the
interests of the creditor, as is shown by some cases where in the objectively styled
contracts in the third person singular clauses in the rst person singular were
inserted, (as) spoken by the creditor during the transaction and by which he had
claimed (additional) security.
They occur in various types and situations and the
most important types are the following.
a) A debtor denying or disputing a claim, promising a (delayed) payment and in
some other situations could be forced to accept a binding agreement (tarkis-
tum) in which he promised to pay a ne (frequently the double or triple) if he
was subsequently proved wrong or did not live up to his promise. A similar
contract could be imposed upon a person who shifted a debt claim to some-
body else and therefore had to conrm (ka unum) this presumed debtor on
penalty of a ne. The result in such cases was a witnessed valid tablet of his
binding agreement, on which he impressed his seal.
b) If a debtor paid his creditor or his creditors representative and they did not
have the original debt-note available to return it, the debtor received a tablet
of satisfaction, a quittance (uppum a ab). It recorded the payment in the
presence of witnesses and invariably stated that if later the debt-note should
turn up it was invalid (sar; examples in EL nos. 191ff., and see above note 30).
Letters mention that such a quittance could be exchanged for the original
debt-note, whereupon both records could die (mutum) or be killed. This is
usually interpreted as be cancelled, which was done by breaking the sealed
envelope, which deprived the tablet inside of legal force
(but allowed its
preservation for administrative purposes, see below 6 on splitting a tab-
let). That several quittances have turned up in archives suggests that the ex-
change and perhaps the return of the original debt-note did not always take
place or perhaps at times was impossible. While it is true that a debt-note
became harmless if its envelope was removed and the existence of a quittance

32 E.g. clauses where the creditor states item/person x is my pledge (Veenhof 2001, 127-8),
or where he grants himself the right, if the debtor defaults, to borrow the amount owed at the
latters expense with a money-lender (see below type c).
33 See for the procedure Kt 91/k 242:3-11, "They drew up a valid tablet of his contract(ual ob-
ligation), that he promised to conrm PN. If he does no conrm PN, he will pay in accordance
with the contract of his valid tablet to the creditor [] (remainder missing). An example of
such a contract is TC 3, 262, dealing with a man who denied the accusation of not having paid
his share in the purchase price of a slave. The envelope, after mentioning the seals, begins with
Contract (tarkistum) of S. , that he will pay 12 shekels of silver for 6 shekels of silver, hence a
conditional penalty of 100%.
34 See for dying tablets, Veenhof 1987, 46-50, where some occurrences are discussed. In
Prag I 446, an arrangement between the sons of debtor and creditor, states that if the former
produces a sealed quittance, the latter will release the debt-note, whereupon the one tablet will
smash the other. The exceptional use of this verb (mahum) indicates physical destruction.
neutralized its validity, the debtor must have wanted his debt-note back to
destroy it.
c) A loan contract with the creditor as debtor, because, as he had stipulated in
the debt-note, he was authorized to borrow the debt owed by a defaulting
debtor at the latters expense with a moneylender and to charge the debtor
compound interest (Veenhof 1999, 66-9).
d) Debt-notes, usually for smaller debts, which are stated to be owed to the
tamkrum, that is an unnamed creditor. This allowed cession of the claim and
we have letters where somebody writes in such a case: I have a record stating
that I am the tamkrum. In about a dozen cases we meet the clause stating
that the bearer [twice the holder] of the tablet is the creditor (wbil uppim
ut tamkrum). It turned debt-notes into bearers cheques the earliest occur-
rence of this device and this made it possible to cede and perhaps to sell
debts (see Veenhof 1997, 351-64).
The procedure described under d) explains the existence of a particular type of
debt-note and means that it may turn up in an archive without a (for us) obvious
connection with its owner, and there are more OA devices that have such con-
sequences. One is that debt-notes and similar records had a monetary value and
could function as a kind of (clay) money. They could be handed over as pledges,
alongside valuable property,
and at the division of a traders inheritance his
widow and children could be assigned bonds, which they could exchange or con-
vert into silver. Shares in a joint-stock company (formulated as a debt owed to
the investor) could be inherited and sold, and I even found a case where a man
was ready to draw up a (in my opinion ctive) contract whereby he owed to his
brothers creditor exactly the same amount of silver as his brother and so provid-
ed him a security. It is only in ofcially excavated archives that one can identify
such strange tablets and search for an explanation of their presence.
Alongside witnessed contracts also testimonies (ibuttum) play an impor-
tant role in the OA commercial society as evidentiary records, for several reasons.
One is that commercial transactions inside Anatolia could be cash, that in the
trade promises and oral agreements were used, and that in general in trade not
all payments, expenses and losses could be recorded in writing before witness-
Therefore they had to be accounted for by statements, oral declarations, not
infrequently under oath. In OB commercial partnerships too the nal settle-
ment of accounts about yields, losses, and prot frequently took place by clear-

35 See for this feature, Veenhof 2001, 132-3.
36 Not necessarily because no writer was available, for there are indications that traders could
read and write, as shown by less professionally written texts and the information that a son of
a trader was learning the scribal craft in Assur.
the archives of old assyrian traders
ance (tbibtum, ubbubum) in the temple of the Sun god, apparently under oath.
Testimonies could become necessary if a trader died and not all his assets and
debts could be proved, records turned up whose status was uncertain and if his
sons and heirs had to declare We are sons of the dead, we do not know In
such situations oral witnesses are produced and testify and we have two verdicts
of the City Assembly in Assur that refer to an existing procedural law, written on
a stele, that states that a debt-claim on a dead trader will only be honored if it is
conrmed by witnesses.

Most testimonies appear in the course of the administration of justice and
this was a consequence of the judicial practice, because it was often not easy to
recover the facts due to the complications of the trade and because parties, wit-
nesses and evidence could be in different places.
One usually tried to solve con-
icts, especially on the payment of debts and similar claims, rst on a private
level by summoning a debtor or opponent before witnesses or mediators. The
latter were seized (at times by mutual agreement of the parties) in order to n-
ish, settle the affair (awtim gamrum). Letters frequently mention these mat-
ters and ask to set witnesses against (b aknum ana) a person who refuses
to meet his liabilities. When such a private attempt failed or when the opponent
did not stick to what he had promised, the plaintiff could appeal to the krum
court to obtain satisfaction. In such a case this court rst made the witnesses and
mediators who had been present at the earlier confrontations render testimony
of what had happened and had been said. Occasionally the testimony of these
witnesses and mediators had already been recorded in writing, in which case we
read, We gave our tablet. In most cases they gave an oral testimony before the
dagger of Assur or in the gate of the god, which was then recorded in writing
in the form of a deposition in the rst person, which the witnesses signed (by
impressing their seals) and which was given to the court.
To do so certain complications might have to be surmounted, because the
usually two or three witnesses were expected to deliver a single testimony, one
of witnesses in agreement (b etamdtum; BIN 4, 70:17-18, until I obtain a
tablet of two witnesses in agreement so that we do not come to shame). And
this nal testimony, recorded in writing, was at times apparently preceded by
and based on drafts, which we nd in the archives, alongside (provisional) copies

37 See Veenhof 1995, 1729, on the use of the verb kunum, to be conrmed, as used in
Kt a/k 394:17 and Kt n/k 1925:16f. This is not a general law applying in all situations, for the
verb as such can be used of both oral and written evidence, as shown by another verdict of the
City Assembly, quoted in AKT 6a, 294:16-17, which demands that a disputed debt, contracted in
Anatolia, shall be conrmed by his tablets or his witnesses. There was no difference between
the value and power of oral and written evidence, their use was conditioned by their availability
and the situation.
38 See for the details and the variation in the procedures and testimonies the dissertation of
Thomas Hertel, Old Assyrian Legal Practices, defended in Copenhagen in 2007 and to be pub-
lished soon.
of testimonies, probably prepared for the benet of the plaintiff or of those who
had rendered it. The unique judicial record POAT 9, drawn up because one party
contested a testimony given, describes how it had been drafted. In a formal ap-
peal D. said to M.:
I did not arrange to let you give testimony. Why have you given a tablet with your tes-
timony? M. answered: I did not give the tablet at my own initiative. The gentleman
(who needed the testimony) appealed for us with krum Tawiniya and the krum made
us testify, whereupon we, I and my companion, gave the tablet (with our testimony).
M. added: When we drew up the tablet in the gate of the god my companion remind-
ed me of a few things (words) that I did not know. And after I had made him swear
an oath (made him raise his hands) we added them. D. repeated: I did not arrange
to let you give testimony!
The administration of justice by formal courts also gave rise to a variety of re-
cords. The krum authorities and the City Assembly could both issue strong tab-
lets that granted plaintiffs whose case had been considered strong, the right to
hire an attorney, who had powers that enabled him to search for the truth. Parties
could be forced to swear an oath in which they had to conrm or deny a variety
of facts. Such formal, substantive oaths were apparently carefully formulated and
written down in advance by the court. They started with a formal invocation, Lis-
ten, god/goddess of the oath, followed by verbal forms in the mode (subjunctive)
of the oath (e.g. EL 284, and CCT 5, 14b). Such formal oaths were sworn while
holding the dagger of the god Assur, in the gate of the god, and in such cases the
court could appoint special witnesses to attend the swearing of these oaths. The
tablet with the text of the oath sworn was put in an envelope, with the seals of the
persons who heard his oral statement (a pi/au ime) to conrm its authentic-
ity. It usually ended up in the archive of the party that had won the case.
The complexity of the issues and the fact that persons and evidence could be
located in Assur, Kanesh or elsewhere, frequently prevented a quick solution and
verdict. It resulted in various so-called procedural verdicts, that prescribe steps
to be taken to collect the evidence and nd the truth, such as gaining access to
tablets, summoning witnesses, interrogating people, making statements, and
they can be conditional (if then). The nal verdict, frequently passed many
months later, is usually rather short and restricted to the main issue. OA did not
produce verdicts of the Old Babylonian type, which present a short history of
the case, describe the various steps taken to nd the truth and even occasionally
mention the reason for the verdict. Difcult cases, in particular those concerning
the liquidation of a business after a traders death and the division of his inherit-
ance, could generate large les of, at times, dozens of texts of different type, most
of which are undated. The challenge to reconstruct such cases can only be met if
such a le can be reconstructed or is found in an excavated archive.
the archives of old assyrian traders
6. Functional overlap
The three functions of written records overlap. Information in letters, in particu-
lar in the long caravan accounts, is a valuable aid to memory and it can be used to
claim that a caravan upon arrival proves to contain less that had been mentioned
in the letter that also functioned as a kind of bill of lading. Long memorandums
listing outstanding claims can be more than an aid to memory. CCT 2, 8-9, a let-
ter of 75 lines written by Imdilum to his brother, his son and an agent, consists
mainly of a long list of his outstanding claims, which quotes two memorandums
we have (CCT 6, 9a and KTS 2, 42), but it ends with the request: Please, make all
these agents (tamkr) pay!. The data from the memorandum transmitted in the
letter apparently enabled the addressees to dun the debtors, even without the
original debt-notes at hand, because they must have been aware of their liabili-
ties and knew that with the data available the witnesses could always be sum-
moned to buttress the claims.
Letters can also have evidentiary value, especially those called napertum,
missive. The word is very common, but refers especially to letters that are not
simply communications, but in which orders and authorizations are given, facts
are stated or acknowledged, or claims established. They have a kind of legal force
and are sent under seal to the person (a partner, agent, representative) who can
use them to realize something in the name of the sender. A napertum can bring
about the release of a tablet held as security for a debt and they play a role when
more persons are involved in a transaction, e.g. when debts, claims, securities or
merchandise have been transferred and an authorized missive is required to
be able to proceed. In ICK 2, 150, where E. had probably ceded his debt-claim or
entrusted its collection to his partner, we read: If E. says: I. owes ten pounds of
copper to P. and if P. indeed brings a napertum with E.s seal stating that I. does
owe 10 minas of copper to P., then I. will pay the copper to P. The text adds that if
the napertum is supplied I. shall not make E. swear an oath, i.e. is not entitled to
request further proof. Kt 91/k 368:20-25 states that if A. (to whom E. had entrust-
ed merchandise for transport) protests against releasing it to P. (the addressee of
the letter), then let him hear the napertum of E. that he must entrust the textiles
in their sealed bags to you.
Because of their evidentiary value such missives were preserved in their
sealed envelopes or in a packet. Archives have yielded more than forty inscribed
bullae with the text napertum of PN, apparently a label attached to such a tablet
or a packet containing it, stored in the archive. They remind me of OB letters in
which superiors give instructions, which at the end may state: Keep/guard this
letter of mine as testimony / proof of me /my word. It is not by accident that
these words occur especially on a rare category of sealed Old Babylonian letters,
called zepum, which may be compared to the equally sealed Sumerian letter or-
ders, kept by administrators as proof of the discharge of an order, of the deliv-
ery of goods.
I also mention here that when the ruler of Assur wrote a letter to
Pushuken to ask him for a favor (POAT 18) and promises that he will take action
for him in a undisclosed matter, he adds in lines 17-21: Now look, one brings you
two tablets. Read one of them and keep the other with you. The second must be
POAT 18, found in its sealed envelope and I assume that it was preserved as proof
of the promises made by the ruler.
Legal documents, both contracts and judicial records, with a primary eviden-
tiary function, of course at the same time can be valuable sources of information
and this may have been a reason to preserve them, also when their legal value
no longer mattered. This is particularly true of debt-notes, occasionally true
loans, but more frequently recording the amount of silver an agent has to pay for
merchandise received in commission. Upon payment of the debt they had to be
given back to the debtor they are called his tablet to annihilate this proof of
a discharged liability (see above, 5.3, b). But for a trader, creditor or debtor, the
information provided by a debt-note could be valuable for his administration, in
particular if he had to render account of his business to investors or partners. I
have suggested that, upon payment, one could break the sealed envelope (which
gave it its legal force) and preserve the tablet inside, now devoid of any legal val-
ue. This would explain why so many debt-notes without envelopes are found in
archives, not all of which we can simply consider proof of unpaid debts. This is
now conrmed by a few occurrences of the verb laum, to split, with a tablet
as object, e.g. AKT 6c, 561:7-15, Pay this silver to E. and obtain the release of my
tablet (debt-note) and split it and deposit it with A., among my tablets (cf. AKT
6c, 671:14-16 and Larsens note on these lines). It means separating envelope and
tablet, destroying the former, which carries the seal impression of the debtor and
gives it its legal force, and keeping the tablet inside.
7. Copies and duplicates of records
The preceding pages have made clear for which purposes written records were
used, but some additional data must be added. Insight into the use of tablets
is also provided by the many references to copies or duplicates (mehrum or me-
hertum). The inscription on the sealed bulla Kt 94/k 878 identies the contents
of the container it was attached to as my valid records, my copies and memoran-
dums, and TTC 21:1-7 states we entrusted the boxes with tablets of E. (and) the
boxes with copies (tamalakk mehr) for transport. Inbi-Ishtar in CCT 2, 17b:3-6

39 The OB letters write upp anniam ana ibtia (variants bt awtia and qp awtia) kil(lam)
or uur, cf. Veenhof 1986, 33 note 125; see for zepum, F. R. Kraus, in: J.-M. Durand - J.-R. Kup-
per (eds.), Miscellanea Babylonica. Mlanges offerts Maurice Birot, Paris 1985, 141f., 7. An unpub-
lished Old Babylonian letter order writes preserve my tablet as (if it were) a sealed document
(kma kankim).
the archives of old assyrian traders
asks his correspondent to take along both valid records and copies and memo-
randums that you have in your possession and KTS 40:33 mentions tablets of
my witnesses and their copies. We also read requests to make and send copies
for which one used a specic term, mehram ubalkutum, as discovered
by Larsen. It is used in AKT 6a, 231:8-17, On the day my father left Assur he made
his testament in your presence. Please, my fathers and lords, have a copy of my
fathers will made, what he decided for us. Give this tablet, as it has been cleared
(?), to A. and send him here with the rst caravan.
We have to distinguish between copies and duplicates, although Old Assyrian
does not have separate terms for them. A duplicate is a document that was imme-
diately produced in more copies, an example of which is the letter of the ruler of
Assur sent to Pushuken (POAT 18, see 6), both copies of which apparently were
in an envelope sealed by the ruler and hence valid. With valid deeds we can
easily identify copies made later, because they can only reproduce the text on the
envelope, which begins by listing the persons who had sealed it, while on the tab-
let inside they are mentioned at the very end, as those in whose presence (ma-
har) the contract had been concluded. An example is AKT 6a, 123, a copy of the text
on the envelope of an original debt-note, referred to in other texts, but not pre-
served in the archive. Such copies of debt-notes (also of quittances and service
contracts) make sense, because the sealed envelope usually reproduces the text of
the contract inside, occasionally with minor differences, also due to limitations
of space alongside the seal impressions. Of many valid tablets, notably deposi-
tions, the text on the envelope is usually short and limited to mentioning the
witnesses and the so-called procedural formula, for this affair the krum gave
us and we gave our testimony before Assurs dagger. Copies of such envelopes
are useless, since they do not contain the substance of the testimony or agree-
ment. If copies of such texts are needed they have to be made before the tablet is
encased in the sealed envelope and this is indeed what we can observe. I mention
some examples of copies of depositions from the archive of Shallim-Assur, now
accessible in AKT 6a. First copies made from (indicated by =) tablets before they
were encased in envelopes: 10 = 10a inside envelope 10b; 56 = 58 inside 57; 77 = 79
inside 78; 84 = 83 inside 82; 191 = 191a inside 191b; 194 = 195b inside 195a. Other
tablets, on the basis of the identity of the witnesses and the procedural formula
must be copies of tablets still inside their unopened envelopes: 46 and 47 = 48,
53 = 54, 104 = 105, 106 and 107 = 108, 118 and 119 = 117, 195 = 196a. And we also
have copies of depositions whose sealed original is not preserved in the archive:
63 = 64 (settling accounts), 221 = 222 (summons), 227 = 228 (interrogation), 257 = 258
(interrogation), 270 = 271 (answer to an attorney, called witnessed statement).

40 See references in CAD M/II, s.v. mihru, 1, a, 2, a-b. Cf. TC 3, 9:14-16, send overland to me a
copy of the record stating that my affair is terminated; TC 3, 44:14-19, they have removed the
copy (of the caravan account), there is no copy of the textiles they have been depositing here.
We have made and sent copies of the valid records and they are under seal in the house.
The same applies to verdicts of a krum, where the text on the envelope starts
with Seal of krum GN, while the (copy of the) tablet inside begins with The
krum passed the following verdict: This applies to AKT 6a, 66 (copy) and 67
(unopened envelope), cf. the tablet 80 from the opened envelope 81.
Shallim-Assurs archive also contained three virtually identical copies of a
contract for the transport of a large amount of silver to Assur, AKT6b, 478-480,
whose purpose is not clear, but the background might have been a conict. This
is suggested by texts 495-497, three identical copies that start with the text of
such a transport contract, but presented as testimony by the persons who had
witnessed the transfer of the silver, given because, as the procedural formula
shows, the krum had made them testify.
I am not able to offer a general picture of the making and use of copies, which
requires much more research and has to take into account the numerous refer-
ences in letters. But I note that the edition of an excavated archive shows that
copies, especially of depositions and at times several of the same record, were
fairly numerous and apparently considered useful. Their presence in Shallim-As-
surs archive probably has to do with the long and at times bitter ghts between
members of the family, which generated and required a lot of written evidence,
in addition to the presence of a large le concerning a dead brother, whose execu-
tioner Shallim-Assur was (see above 1). All copies mentioned above were found
in this archive and therefore had been kept in store. Copies certainly will also
have been sent out to provide others, members and associates of the family/rm
living elsewhere (including Assur), with records of evidentiary and informative
value. Many letters do indeed mention the making and dispatching of copies and
we have information on their uses during summonses and lawsuits.
For the existence of copies of letters various explanations are possible and
some reasons have already been mentioned in 5.1. Copies or duplicates are also
likely for important letters addressed to more than one person, if they did not live
in the same place. While most copies we know are of legal documents, we cannot
assume that every person who sealed a contract or deposition as witness received
a copy of it. Copies of debt-notes are fairly rare, but they were occasionally made
to allow a partner or representative to collect a debt. In CCT 2, 38:3-9, Puzur-Assur
writes to Pushuken: I told you that I wished to stay here one month longer in
order to collect all my outstanding claims. But you said: Leave me your copy, then
I will collect the silver and send it after you. Such a copy therefore is comparable
to a memorandum with excerpts of debt-notes. Some of the latter state why they
were made, e.g. EL 225:47-48, Copy of valid records (made because) they went
overland, similarly EL 224:37-38, ICK 1, 187:63, TC 3, 13:45-47, each time at the
end of a long memorandum. It is understandable that this was done for reasons
of security, considering the value of the original debt-notes. Security is also sug-
gested as a reason for making a copy in CCT 3, 14-19, whose writer orders to bring
all his belongings into a new house, lock it up and give a copy (listing) all you left
behind to the maid and leave a second one behind in the main dwelling. Some
the archives of old assyrian traders
of the copies of testimonies or depositions must be due, as mentioned above (
5.3), to the fact that several witnesses together had to give one single testimony,
which generated drafts and copies to be checked and approved. But they also ap-
pear in connection with important legal cases, apparently to provide witnesses
with written evidence of what they had testied and for which they might be
held responsible. An interesting example are the two copies of a long deposition
in connection with a conict between the krum organization and an Anatolian
ruler, who had accused and jailed an Assyrian trader for conspiring with a rival
ruler. The deposition reports how the krum negotiated with the ruler to obtain
the release of its member, but we do not know how the affair ended. The depo-
sition is given by ve traders, apparently appointed to negotiate for the krum
organization, and they testify before the krum of what had happened. That this
was done in accordance with a tablet of the City (of Assur), shows that the mat-
ter was important enough to get the City involved. One copy of this long text was
found in the archive of the family of the victim, Assur-taklaku, excavated in 1993
(see Michel 2008b), apparently supplied in order to inform his relatives. The
second turned up in that of Usur-sha-Ishtar, excavated in 1962, who was one of
the traders who had negotiated and testied.
One might expect other copies of
this deposition, made for the other members of the delegation, for the archive of
the krum and one to be sent to Assur. This is a rare example, because we know
the origin of the two copies, but it suggests that there were more such cases, also
in less serious affairs, where copies of a deposition may have been made and dis-
tributed, but they are difcult to identify if we are dealing with records from il-
licit excavations, scattered by the antiques trade.
8. Finding ones way in a large archive
The use of a large archive with more than a thousand cuneiform tablets is only
possible to somebody who knows what it contains, where particular texts are to
be found and is able to read them. This was obviously in the rst place the owner
of the archive and we know that many traders could read. But others too had to
be able to do it, e.g. if in the absence of the trader a debt-note had to be retrieved
(uum) to be returned to a debtor who had paid or to be shown to a reluctant
one, when a tablet handed over as pledge or given in safe deposit was asked back,
or when a trader had died and particular records needed to be inspected or used.
The use of an archive by its owner is taken for granted and we regularly read
that he inspects, selects, takes, removes and adds documents, which are placed
among his tablets (ina libbi uppu aknum). More information is occasionally

41 See for the copy excavated in 1962, C. Gnbatti, The River Ordeal in Ancient Anatolia, in: W. H.
van Soldt (ed.), Veenhof Anniversary Volume, Leiden 2001, 151-60, where one also nds the data
on the other copy, Kt 93/k 145.
given when an absent owner asks others, such as his wife, employee or partner,
to do so and he gives some details, or when he shows his concern about the safety
of his records. The writer of AKT 3, 112, hearing about A.s departure writes: I
had entrusted to him the boxes with tablets under my seal and he was to guard
my seals (....) Ask his representatives there whether he has left the tablets some-
where(?) or has taken them out personally. Good examples of requests to wives
are in the letters addressed by Ennam-Assur to his wife Nuhshatum, who is in
charge of his house in Kanesh and has to guard it and its archive. Do not give
any tablet to anybody until you see me, he writes to her in Kt 91/k 563:10-14. It
is probably not by accident that in the address of his letters she usually gures
alongside what must be his representatives, friends or agents, presumably be-
cause she has to allow them to nd and identify the tablets he asks for, since she
could not read them. He asks her and a certain Alaku in AKT 3, 84:4-23, Look
(plural) for the tablet in which I certied (the testimony of) my witnesses A. and
E. in the gate of the god, which is placed in the container with the tablets of the
gate of the god. Take it out of it, pack it, solidly, in leather, seal it and entrust it to
H. or S. to bring it to me. In AKT 3, 82:4-13 he asks her and her husbands repre-
sentatives: In the hulu-container
a memorandum without envelope, listing
the witnesses on behalf of P., has been deposited among the tablets. Inspect it
and if the witnesses in question are staying there, lead them down to the gate of
the god and validate the tablet with their testimony and inform me about it. In
AKT 3, 106:11-13 she is asked to send him immediately the boxes with valid re-
cords that A. left behind for you.
These letters and many other texts show the existence of various containers,
the most frequent one called tamalakkum/tamalkum, a word only attested in OA,
whose meaning is unknown, perhaps a kind of wooden box, usually protected by
Such a box can be identied by its position in the archive (the upper t.,
of a stack or on the shelve? Kt 93/k 69:18), by its size (we meet a small one with six
tablets and a big one with more than twenty tablets; cf. also AKT 3, 104:17), and by
its cover or encasing. Kt 93/k 69:18-27 (courtesy of C. Michel) states: We opened
the upper tamalakkus that were covered by (or: encased in) leather (ina makim
harm) and removed the tablet
. But one also identies boxes by their specic

42 Attested only in OA, also in Kt 91/k 446:18, which mentions the sealing of a hulum.
43 See AKT 5 p. 174 and CAD T s.v. Other frequently mentioned containers used for tablets (and
other items) are ilinum and hurinum, both only attested in OA, exact meanings unknown,
see AKT 5, 175. BIN 4, 90:14-16 mentions three t.s with tablets put under seal in a ilinum,
and according to Kt k/k 53:12-15, a hurinum is to be taken out of a t. Both t. and h. are also
used for transporting tablets. Note a . made of rushes (a altim) in Kt n/k 1460:26, which sug-
gests a basket-like container. Kt f/k 11:5-6 mentions small .s containing sealed records, and
BIN 6, 218:5-6, 13 t.s with tablets alongside a pouch (zurzum) with tablets. See for the rare
hulum footnote 42.
44 Kt f/k 11:23 (courtesy of L. Umur) mentions a ilinu-container with a leather cover/casing
(makam harim), containing tablets.
the archives of old assyrian traders
contents and we meet a t. with tablets with certied testimonies (a ib), t.s with
memorandums, t.s with valid records, a t. with copies (a mehr, TTC 21:1f.),
a t. with big tablets of the caravan(s) (a upp rabtim a harrnim, AKT 3, 77:7), 7
t.s with tablets of agents (a tamkrim, TPAK 1, 77:3), etc. Note also Kt 91/k 147:29-32,
In all 12 tablets, placed in a t. with new tablets, not in envelopes.
If tablets in an archive were stored and arranged in groups of various type,
in different containers, one would expect the excavations to have revealed their
material traces. This is true and in addition the archives have produced a large
number of inscribed, frequently sealed bullae, originally attached to packets or
containers with tablets, whose contents or nature they mention.
Most numer-
ous is the designation napertum, missive (already mentioned above), followed
by the name of the person who had sent it or for whom it was meant. Some in-
scriptions start with the word tablet(s) followed by qualications, such as of
PN, of the debt of PN; other mention valid tablets (in sealed envelopes) or
quittances. Fuller descriptions are: copies of tablets by which I sent silver to
PN, my encased tablets, my duplicates and my memorandums, certied tab-
lets of my witnesses, tablets of the city, tablets of the testament of A., tablets
of native Anatolians, testimony of A. and B., tablet of the gate of the god con-
cerning A., and memorandums of witnesses of the price of wool of A. It would
be too much to describe this as a classication system, but it is clear that groups
of tablets, often les or tablets of similar type, were kept together, stored and
labeled so that they could be found more easily.
The excavator, Tahsin zg, in several publications has described how he
found the tablets and the bullae. On the archive found in 1994 (in the house in
grid LXIV/LXV-130/131, now being published as AKT 6) he writes (zg 2001,
370): In the conagration the thin partition wall between rooms nos. 5-6 fell
down to its foundations and the tablets kept in the two rooms were mixed up. An
archive of 947 tablets and unopened envelopes and pottery were found in these
two small rooms. They were evidently kept on wooden shelves against the walls
and the tablets found along the walls are those that fell off the shelves in the re.
The tablets that had been packed in bags, in straw wrappings and sacks were dis-
covered in piles in the middle of the rooms. A group of tablets, as usual, were kept
in pots. The pottery was set along the base of the walls. On the archive excavated
in 1991/2 (in the house in grid LVI-LVII/128-129, the archive of Elamma, which
I am publishing) he wrote: The archive of the merchant was found along the
base of the east wall of room 3 and in rooms 4-5 in groups once packed in boxes,
bags, sacks and straw mats. On top of each group lay one or two bullae. Unopened
envelopes were placed at the bottom, tablets on top. In contrast to other archives

45 The inscribed bullae were edited by O. Tunca, Inscriptions on the Bullae, in: zg-Tunca
2001, 319-50.
here we did not nd tablets stored in jars.
Elsewhere he mentions the discov-
ery in a room of two groups of 50 unopened envelopes, lying side by side and
observes that the shape of a rectangular pile of tablets and fragments of carbon-
ized wood suggests that they were kept in some kind of wooden box.
Unfortunately, these observations are rather general, with few photos of the
tablets in situ (but see zg 2003, 71-5, ills. 13-18) and the ground plans of the
houses do not show the exact positions of the hoard of tablets. Moreover, we al-
most never learn the excavation numbers of the tablets found in such groups or
in jars, so that it is impossible to identify them. The bullae attached to or belong-
ing to containers or packets with tablets in most cases were numbered and pub-
lished separately, so that it is extremely difcult to establish in the few cases
when the archive in question is published to which groups of tablets or packet
they belonged. It is regrettable that the unique opportunity to discover more
about archival classication and storage is lost, also due to the absence of an epig-
raphist at the dig where every year so many written documents were found.
One would expect that tablets in current use were stored on the shelves along
the walls (on which the tamalakku-containers could have been placed) or on bench-
es covered with reed mats, perhaps in open bowls, to be easily accessible. Since
retrieving and selecting tablets stored in jars is rather difcult, jars may have con-
tained older tablets, preserved but rarely used, but we cannot prove it. The excava-
tor has suggested for the archive excavated in 1990, in the Avant-propos (p. 8) of
TPAK 1, that the position in which tablets were found in the ruined archival room
might indicate that some groups were kept on a second oor. One part, whose ex-
cavation numbers he mentions, was found on the oor, the rest mixed with the de-
bris that lled the room. But the distinction is not very convincing, for I have found
that the envelope of text 10 was found in the debris, but the tablet it contained on
the oor. That certain groups of tablets were kept on a second oor, where the liv-
ing quarters were, is not impossible, but would be surprising, since the strong
room on the ground oor, closed with a heavy, sealed door was better and safer.
These last observations show that there are still many questions, but the po-
tential of the material is huge. Because the textual data are so rich and diversied
and their philological analysis already yields important insights, a good correla-
tion between epigraphic and archeological data will yield more. Moreover, publi-
cation of the many still unpublished archives (with more than 12.000 texts) will
help to solve some of the remaining epigraphic and lexical problems, including
the precise nature of the various containers. This will throw more light on the
customs of the remarkable Old Assyrian traders, energetic and creative business-
men and at the same time industrious writers of records and careful keepers and
users of their archives.

46 T. zg, A Boat-shaped Cult-vessel from the Karum of Kanish, in: H. Gasche et al. (eds.), Cin-
quante-deux rflexions sur le Proche-Orient ancien offertes en hommage Lon De Meyer, Leuven 1994,
the archives of old assyrian traders
Abbreviated titles of text editions and assyriological journals are those used in
the CAD. But note:
AKT 3 Bilgi, E. & Gnbatti, C., Ankaraner Kultepe-Texte III: Texte der
Grabungskampagne 1970. FAOS Beiheft 5, Stuttgart 1995.
AKT 4 Albayrak, I., Kltepe Tabletleri IV (Kt. o/k), TTKY VI/33b, Ankara
AKT 5 Veenhof, K. R., The Archive of Kuliya, son of Ali-abum (Kt. 92/k 188-
263), Kltepe Tabletleri V, TTKY VI/33c, Ankara 2010.
AKT 6a Larsen, M. T., The Archive of the alim-Aur Family. Vol. 1. The First
Two Generations. Kltepe Tabletleri VIa, TTKY VI/33d-a, Ankara
CAD The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of
Chicago. Chicago, 1956ff.
CTMMA Larsen, M. T., Old Assyrian Texts, in: I. Starr (ed.), Cuneiform Texts
in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vol. 1. Tablets, Cones and Bricks of
the Third and Second Millennia. New York 1998, 92-142, nos. 71-98.
EL Eisser, G. & Lewy, j., Altassyrische Rechtsurkunden vom Kltepe, I-II.
MVAeG 33, 35/3, Leipzig 1930-1935. Quoted by text number.
Kt a .../k Sigla of texts from Kltepe (Kt) found in krum Kanesh (/k) from
1948 (=a) until 1972 (=z).
Kt 73 .../k Sigla of texts from Kltepe found in krum Kanesh since 1973.
OAA(S) Old Assyrian Archives (Studies), Leiden 2002ff.
POAT Gwaltney, W.C., The Pennsylvania Old Assyrian Texts, Hebrew
Union College Supplements, 3, Cincinnati 1983.
Prag I + no.
Texts edited in K. Hecker G. Kryszat L. Matou,
Kappadokische Keilschrifttafeln aus den Sammlungen der
Karlsuniversitt Prag, Praha 1988.
TPAK 1 Michel, C. & Garelli, P., Tablettes palo-assyriennes de Kltepe, 1
(Kt 90/k). Paris 1990.
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Barjamovic, G. - Hertel, Th.
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Dercksen, J.G., Old Assyrian
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Kryszat 2004
Kryszat, G., Zur Chronologie
der Kaufmannsarchive aus der
Schicht 2 des Krum Kane, OAAS
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Larsen, M. T., Old Assyrian
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Larsen 2002
Larsen, M. T., The Aur-nd
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Larsen, M. T., Archives and Filing
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Larsen, M. T., The Archive of the
alim-Aur F amily. Vol. 1: The
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zg 2001
zg, T., Observations on the
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family archives in mesopotamia
Family Archives in
Mesopotamia during the
Old Babylonian Period
The leadership exerted by the kingdom of Babylon under the rule of kings Ham-
mu-rabi and Samsu-iluna, especially between 1764 and 1712 B.C., led scholars to
call Old Babylonian the period spanning from the 20
to the 17
century. Except-
ed this short period, the whole four centuries are however rather characterized
by a political parcelling out and Mesopotamia was most of the time divided into
several kingdoms dominating larger or smaller areas (Isin, Larsa, Enunna, Mari,
Ekallatum, Babylon, etc.).
The unity of this period has to be looked for on a cul-
tural level. Semitic populations called Amorites had settled in the whole Meso-
potamian plain as early as the end of the 3
During the rst cen-

1 This study was written within the framework of the project Archibab: Archives babyloni-
ennes (XX
sicles) directed by Dominique Charpin and supported by the Agence Natio-
nale de la Recherche. D. Charpin read the present manuscript carefully and addressed me valuable
remarks. I also benetted from very fruitful discussions with S. Dmare-Lafont. Unpublished
texts from the Nies Babylonian Collection (NBC) are quoted here with the kind permission of
B. R. Foster, Laffan Professor of Assyriology and curator of the Yale Babylonian Collection. It is
my pleasant duty to thank all of them sincerely.
2 See in general Charpin 2004.
3 The early diffusion of Amorite traditions through Mesopotamia has been pointed out by
specialists; see Sallaberger 2007, and, for another point of view, Michalowski 2011, especially
Chapter 5: The Amorites in Ur III Times, p. 82-121.
antoine jacquet
turies of the 2
millennium, they formed a real koin characterized by common
references and practices in many domains such as religion and cults or social
and political organization.
One of these common practices denitely was the
use of writing in a lot of activities and situations of everyday life, maybe after the
model constituted for a long time by some great bodies present in every part of
every kingdom (palace and temple administrations) and certainly related to the
development of new institutions.
The documentation of the Amorite period is actually characterized by a huge
increase of archival texts, in number as much as in variety.
By studying political
structures of ancient Mesopotamia, we are rapidly led to admit that we never
have to deal with States or Cities ruled by formal constitutions comparable to
Greek Cities. We often have to deal, on the contrary, with individuals and groups
of people organized according to different coexisting local or tribal traditions,
kingship being only one gure of authority among others.
The question of the
relations between archival and institutional practices can hardly nd an answer
as for the Amorite period. However the obvious importance of writing implies a
very protable reection on the use of producing, keeping, gathering and trans-
mitting written records regarding authority.
After a general presentation of the Old Babylonian archival documentation,
this paper will come to the interesting problem of the function and motivation
of family archives and archival documents. This will be an occasion to present
some unpublished examples from the archives of Marduk-muballi, resident of
the city of Lagaba, now essentially kept in the Yale Babylonian Collection.
1. An Inventory of Old Babylonian Archives
In this general presentation, the reader will be provided at rst with some quan-
titative data about archival documents, then with some elements about who pos-
sessed archives in the Mesopotamia of the beginning of the 2
millennium and
nally with a tentative typology of archival documents and the question of utility
of such an enterprise.
The ARCHIBAB project is directed by Prof. Dominique Charpin and supported
by the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche. Its purpose is to gather every Old
Babylonian archival document presently published into a digital data base which

4 The idea of a widespread Amorite culture in Mesopotamia during the rst centuries of the
millennium was rst brilliantly developed in Durand 1992. For political matters, see Char-
pin 2004, especially Chapter 8, La vie politique au Proche-Orient vers 1765, p. 232-316.
5 See in general Charpin 2008a, Chapitre 3: Les documents darchives, p. 97-129 (English
version: Charpin 2010, Chapter two: The Archival Documents, p. 68-114).
6 See Durand 2004; Charpin 2007.
family archives in mesopotamia
can be freely browsed online.
We rst had to count precisely how many texts we
had to deal with, whose number eventually appeared to be much underestimat-
ed: there are 32092 archival documents currently published.
Among them, only
19585 texts have a well established origin thanks to regular excavations which
provide us with, at least, the name of the modern site and, when it is known,
the name of the ancient city, or, at most, a precise locus, a building and a room,
a detailed archaeological context. These documents come from about 40 sites all
over Mesopotamia, from the Mediterranean coastal area to the West to Iran to
the East and from the Taurus to the North to the Gulf and Arabic Desert to the
South. This undoubtedly represents a unique documentary situation regarding
the whole Mesopotamian Ancient History.
Table 1:
Distribution of published archival documents throughout Old Babylonian Mesopotamia
1. Southern Babylonia 1.1 Ur (tell Muqqayair) 1250
1. 2 Uruk (Warka) 793
1.3 Larsa (tell Senkereh) 972
1.4 Laga (al Hibar) and Girsu (Tello) 27
1.5 Kutalla (tell Sifr) 106
Total: 3148
2. Central Babylonia 2.1 Nippur (Nuffar) 1172
2. 2 Isin (In Baryat) 1040
2.3 Kisurra (Abu Hatab) 477
2.4 Adab (Bismaya) 57
Total: 2746
3. Northern Babylonia 3.1 Babylon 113
3. 2 Sippar Yahrurum (Abu Habbah) 246
3.3 Sippar Amnnum (Tell ed-Dr) 445
Total: 804

7 For a general presentation of the project, see the PDF document Prsentation ARCHIBAB
to be downloaded at <>, which gives two more references
to presentations by D. Charpin also downloadable at
8 Data provided by the Archibab data-base (2012/5/7).
9 Table rst drawn by D. Charpin (see Charpin in press a) with updated data according to the
Archibab data-base (2012/5/7).
4. Diyala Basin 4.1 Enunna (Tell Asmar) 61
4. 2 Nrebtum (Ischali) 133
4.3 Tutub (Khafajah) 111
4.4 aduppum (tell Harmal) 194
4.5 Uzarlulu (Dhibai) 5
4.6 Tulul Khattab 37
4.7 M-Turan (Tell addad and Tell es-Sib) 170
4.8 Tell Yelkhi? 28
Total: 739
5. Susa and Elam 5.1 Susa (Shush) 950
Total: 950
6. Middle Euphrates 6.1 Yabliya-al-kapim (tell Shishin) 8
6. 2 Harrdum (Khirbet ed-Diniye) 116
6.3 Mari (tell Hariri) 8813
6.4 Terqa (tell Ashara) 106
6.5 Tuttul (tell Bia) 377
Total: 9420
7. Northern Mesopotamia 7.1 Ninive 3
7. 2 uarra (Shemshra) 243
7.3 Nuzi (Yorghan Tepe) 1(?)
7.4 Qaar (tell Rimah) 342
7.5 Zamiyatum(?) (tell Taya) 2
7.6 Razam of Yussn(?) (tell Hawa) 1(?)
7.7 ehn / ubat-Enlil (tell Leilan) 559
7.8 Anakkum (Chagar Bazar) 351
7.9 abatum (tell Tabn) 1
Total: 1503
8. Western Syria 8.1 Alalah (tell Atchana) 278
8. 2 Ebla (tell Mardikh) 2
Total: 270
9. Palestine 9.1 Haor 4
9. 2 Hebron 1
Total: 5
family archives in mesopotamia








As for the 12507 remaining documents, they unfortunately come from irregu-
lar or ancient and non-scientic excavations in which diggers did not take pain
to record the place where they discovered the tablets. The combined action of
the looter and of the antique dealer caused not only to separate irremediably the
documents from their archaeological context, but also to dismantle the archives
which are then scattered all over the world in different public or private collec-
tions. Scholars often deal with isolated texts and rst have to reconstruct the ar-
chives to which they belong. Computer-aided analysis is fortunately now very
helpful and the precise origin of the tablets can often be deduced by crossing dif-
ferent pieces of internal evidence such as philological or epigraphical details, the
typological or thematical situation of the document, chronological, topological
or prosopographical data, etc.
2. Who Possessed Archives in the Old Babylonian Mesopotamian Society?
The question of literacy is one of the great issues of recent historiography about
the Ancient Near East. The idea that reading and writing were not only a matter
of specialists or professional scribes but an ability shared by a rather large part
of the elite, at least from the beginning of the 2
millennium on, now seems to
be broadly accepted.
But archive keeping is another matter: on the one hand,
obviously not everyone who wrote personally kept documents and, on the other
hand, not everyone who kept personal archives at home did necessarily read and
write cuneiform Akkadian: the production of archive documents and their con-
servation aimed at particular goals.
2.1. Great Organisms and Private Houses
Archaeologists like to distinguish among their discoveries between palaces and
temples, which have an aura of prestige, and simple houses, supposed to be less
noble subjects of study; in the same way, epigraphists are used to oppose ofcial

10 This is the category in which we are unfortunately forced to sort the texts supposedly com-
ing from Damrum (68 documents), Dur-Abi-Euh (89), Marad (3), Dilbat (73), Makan-apir (1),
Sippar (1835 documents, without any indication of the very place of nding), Ki (177), upur-
ubula (44), Tigunanum (2); some documents are assumed to come from an area, without be-
ing linked to a city: so are the 453 texts coming from the vicinity of Nerebtum, in the Diyala
Valley, or those from the vicinity of Nusaybin. These data must be taken as a coarse evaluation
of the documentary situation and are supposed to be rened progressively as the Archibab data-
base catalogue will get completed.
11 See Charpin 2008a, especially Chapitre 1: Une affaire de spcialistes?, p. 31-60, quoting
Vanstiphout 1995, p. 2188, and Postgate 1992, and developing his own argumentation; Eng-
lish version now published as Reading and Writing in Mesopotamia: The Business of Special-
ists? in Charpin 2011, p. 7-24.
family archives in mesopotamia
archives, the ones produced and kept by great organisms (palaces and temples)
on the one hand and so called private archives on the other hand, with often
the same distinction in terms of prestige.
As a matter of fact archives of great
organisms are the mere consequence of the attention to economic bookkeeping.
They appeared early during the 3
millennium and kept on existing until the end
of Mesopotamian Antiquity. They are no State archives but only the accumula-
tion of personal and administrative archives: the archives of the King, especially
his correspondence, are kept together with the records produced by the differ-
ent administrative services of the Palace. The latter, private archives, increased in
number during the OB period, although they already existed during the 3
lennium. They range from small groups of tablets to huge collections of records
of a nally larger typological richness than archives of great organisms.
In the
following pages, attention will be especially paid to these private archives.
2.2. The mark of the elites
We have to consider that accumulation and transmission of archival documents
is generally a fact of members of the social and economic elite, private entrepre-
neurs or servants of the palace, merchants, farmers, priests, etc. These people
owned houses and lands, slaves, silver or grain that they could lend at interest,
and every kind of precious things. This also explains why the distinction be-
tween ofcial and private archives is not as signicant as this modern terminol-
ogy might suggest.
The very reason for the existence of archival documents is
the existence of valuable goods that could be owned, acquired, sold, shared or
claimed before a jurisdiction. The redaction of these documents is the result of
acts that transfer or conrm authority on a good or a person.
2.3. Archives of men, archives of women?
The use of written records is not only the fact of men but also of some women,
either singles or widows or even married ones managing their goods without
needing any mans consent.
Some special categories of women such as conse-

12 Ofcial excavations actually often concentrated particularly on palaces and temples, as in
the great sites of Nineve, Mari, or Ebla, and left apart whole districts of private houses and the
private archives they must have contained.
13 For an example of the intense activity of scribes in some families, see Tanret 2004.
14 See Veenhof 1986, p. 9-11.
15 On women in Ancient Near East, see in general the papers read at the 33
Rencontre As-
syriologique Internationale (Durand 1987); sex and gender were at stake at the 47
Rencontre (see
Parpola & Whiting 2002); see also Briquel-Chatonnet et al. 2009, especially the third part
of the book Femmes lettres, archives de femmes dans le Proche-Orient ancien, p. 215-332. A
good presentation of the Old Babylonian problematics is in Barberon 2003.
crated women called nadtum, who were vowed to the male deity of their city
or of a renowned sanctuary of the kingdom (at rst, the temple of the Sun God,
ama, in Sippar) were also free from any mans control and could write, use and
keep archival documents:
these women received precious dowries and were
in some cases even elevated to the status of heir. They were able to buy some
real estate properties. They could lend silver. They were exposed to every kind
of litigation. Then, they used written records just like the men of their family
and neighborhood did. They had their own seal, which was extremely rare as
for women. However, the existence of archives of women is discussed. Contrary
to what was thought formerly, we are now aware that the main part of archival
documents concerning the goods of nadtum-women of ama living in Sippar
were not found in their own houses, in the cloister of Abu Habbah, but in vari-
ous houses in tell Abu Habbah and the neighboring tell ed-Dr. The archives of
nadtum actually were a part of the archives of their family, kept in the house of
the family chief (the father, a brother or uncle).
3. A Typology of Archival Documents and their Function
Regarding Authority
Scholars often distinguish three types of archival documents: letters, legal doc-
uments and administrative documents (which are rather to be considered as
bookkeeping documents, because they are not necessarily produced by an ad-
ministration in the modern sense of that word). This typology used to be a guide
for the publication of texts. As a result, students often have to look for documents
belonging to one same archive and kept in one museum but published in differ-
ent volumes because letters, legal and administrative documents were published
Although this typology is helpful to understand the sense of each
text taken apart, it is an obstacle to the understanding of the meaning of the ar-
chives themselves, where documents of different nature were kept together in a
same le because they only made sense (and can be now understood) together.
This is the direction that scholars have to follow now, trying to reconstruct the

16 See Barberon 2009.
17 A large number of projects used to exist in the rst half of the 20
century but are no longer
living projects: see for example M. Schorr, Urkunden des Altbabylonischen Zivil- und Prozessrechts,
VAB 5, Leipzig, 1913 or A. Ungnad, Babylonische Briefe aus der Zeit der ammurapi-Dynastie, VAB 6,
Leipzig, 1914, both aiming at publishing the entire corpus of legal documents (VAB 5) and let-
ters (VAB 6) then known; cf. also the 6 volumes of the Hammurabis Gesetz series (Leipzig, 1904-
1923), devoted to Old Babylonian legal documents. The Altbabylonische Briefe series founded by
F. R. Kraus at the University of Leyden in 1964 now comprises 14 volumes providing editions
of Old Babylonian letters; each volume is devoted to one collection or museum so that archives
are dismantled and the lack of indexes prevents scholars from searching all letters sent by or to
family archives in mesopotamia
original les and asking for each and every text why it was written, why it was
kept, why in this archive, by this person, a.s.o.
For this reason another typology may be more helpful, according to the sta-
tus of the document whithin the archive where it was kept; two main categories
have to be distinguished: rst, documents that normally had a limited validity
in time, and which should have been destroyed or at least discarded when they
were no longer valid; second, documents with unlimited validity, which were
supposed to be kept forever and came to constitute what is to be called family
I will add a third type to this distinction: archives containing a lot of
texts written and kept only as aids to keep archives in order, by summing up the
content of texts that are present in the tablet room, or gathered in a tablet box or,
on the contrary, absent from the archives because they were momentarily useful
out of the le they belonged to
When we are lucky enough to deal with private archives found during regular
and scientic excavations, we can almost always note that the nal point of the
accumulation of documents coincides with the abandonment of the house by the
family, after a catastrophe such as the destruction of the house by re or by invad-
ers. Putting the whole archive in order, it is possible to note that the typology
of texts is much more varied for the last generation than for the previous ones,
which can be explained by the fact that a sort was regularly operated within the
archive and discarded documents were destroyed or put aside.
3.1. Documents of Limited Validity Establishing Responsibility
Documents that we are used to distinguish as administrative documents, legal
documents or letters in our modern terminology were actually all preserved by
the ancient Mesopotamians in their archives for the same reason: because they
established and kept a trace of an individual responsibility before an authority.
As will be seen below, limits separating types of texts are tight and we should
rather distinguish, as the Ancients did, between documents without sealing and
sealed documents. Ancient Mesopotamians indeed called documents by the ge-
neric name uppum tablet, or kankum sealed document when the cylindar seal
of the person whose responsibility was engaged was unrolled on it. For practical

18 For a good example of this approach, see Charpin 2000a, p. 77-78, dealing with a family
archive of the Old Babylonian city of Isin: two brothers opposed each other in a trial. The nal
text, that was produced at the end of the case, can only be understood in the light of their exile,
which is only shown by the rest of the archive.
19 See Charpin in press a.
20 See Tanret 2008.
21 See in general the papers of the round table Les phnomnes de n darchives en Msopo-
tamie edited by F. Joanns in the Revue dAssyriologie 89 (1995), p. 1-147.
reasons, three types of documents of limited validity will be described in what
follows: bookkeeping documents, legal documents and letters.
Bookkeeping archives are usually considered as a useful tool to control and
anticipate economic activities or to manage a material or human resource.
are also a way of controlling individuals who work in any administrative service
and have to justify before their superiors the management of the resource that
they are responsible for. For example, a quittance, which can be used as a book-
keeping record by the one who is responsible for the disbursement, also serves
as legal text as it is sealed by the recipient and can be presented as proof for a
payment before an administrative hierarchy or a jurisdiction. This is true in large
administrative services such as the palace of Mari, as it is in private houses where
an intendant is supposed to manage goods (silver, barley, dates, etc) for the bene-
t of his master. The utility of bookkeeping texts rarely lasted more than one
year and often expired after the annual submitting of accounts and tax collect-
ing, usually xed at harvest time or at the time of a religious festival; the text was
normally erased and the tablet regularly recycled by the ofce that produced it.

In administrative services of the Palace of Mari for instance, some ofces used
to discard daily records as soon as their content was written on a recapitulatory
tablet, unless they are sealed documents, supposed to be kept as legal or admin-
istrative proof of a payment: in that case, they used to mark them with a red ink
line, so that they are not counted twice but not recycled either.

Short term contracts often contained the mention of their own expiry (loan
contracts, hiring contracts, leasing contracts, etc.). They are by nature part of this
rst category of documents of limited validity. They were thus regularly taken
out of the archives and either destroyed, when their validity had expired, or can-
celled and marked with a cross scratched on the surface, when the dispositions
changed whereas the expiry had not passed.
The utility of letters, nally, normally expired as soon as the message was
delivered and most of them must have been rapidly destroyed or recycled after
their reception. According to their content however, they could have been kept as
memories of an act of communication. As the envelope was printed with the seal
of the sender, a letter could be used as legal proof of a declaration of the sender or
for an order given to the recipient: for example, a letter in which the master of a
house orders his intendant to pay silver to a creditor will be kept by the intendant
as evidence to justify an expense when he shall present his accounts. There even

22 Wilcke 1970, p. 166 and, on the Mari archives especially, Ziegler 2001.
23 Some of these tablets, discarded as superuous, however survived as dead archives, in sec-
ondary contexts when they were used to ll benches or oors, such as in the well known Room
116 of the palace of Mari.
24 Charpin 1984, p. 258-259.
25 That was commented by Veenhof 1995, p. 320; three examples now in Archibab: BDHP 30,
YOS 13 354, CBS 1153 [Stol Ml. Renger 1].
family archives in mesopotamia
exist some letters containing this advice by the sender to the recipient: Keep
this letter of mine as a testimony of my words.
The very reason to write and keep archival documents resides in the necessity
for everyone to be in possession of every title establishing ones rights or pro-
tecting oneself against a possible future claim. In every case, such a document is
written in favour of the one whose rights might be contested, and kept by him.
It is sealed by the one who abandons his right or whose responsibility might be
engaged before an authority, should it be a jurisdiction or an administration. The
writing of the tablet is not of much value in itself. The document has to be sealed
to be valid before an administrative or legal authority. A document sealed in due
form cannot be contested before a court.
Everyone who contracts and commits
oneself to do or not to do something had to unroll ones seal on a written docu-
ment which was kept as a proof by the beneciary of this commitment. In loan
contracts, for example, as long as the responsibility of a debtor is involved, the
creditor keeps the document as written evidence that could be produced before a
court as an argument supporting a claim. Each time that the responsibility of the
debtor is modied, a new sealed document is written in his favor. As soon as the
responsibility is completely removed, the original sealed document is broken so
that it cannot be produced anymore before any jurisdiction.
These principles
help understand a lot of very allusive, albeit interesting, short notes that com-
pose the major part of the Old Babylonian archival documentation.
The following examples are taken out of the unpublished archives of Marduk-
nair, resident of Lagaba. NBC 8831 is a receipt of silver without any apparent
interest; it reads:

26 See the list of references established by Veenhof 1986, p. 33 n. 125, now to be completed
with Charpin in press b, especially p. 52-54.
27 In the letter AbB 3 82, Ibbi-Sumuqan tries to dissuade Yahgunum from claiming a eld that
he had sold three years before, using the following argument: he (= the actual owner of the
eld) brought me a tablet according to which he purchased the eld from you. I saw it and it is
without any ambiguity: your seal and (the name of) 5 witnesses are written on it. If he shows
this tablet to judges, could they transgress the law in your favor?. French translation and com-
mentary in Charpin 2000a, p. 77. On the attention paid to the legal status of a text, and the rich-
ness of related vocabulary, whether a tablet is sealed or not sealed, whether it comprises a date
or not, etc., see Charpin 2008b, p. 9 sq.
28 For that reason, we always have to wonder why a text was conserved, and thus discovered:
every loan contract that has come to us corresponds to a debt that actually was not reimbursed,
either because a catastrophe put an end to the activities of the creditor (and sometimes to the
archive itself), or because a general remission was proclamed by the king. It is now clearly at-
tested that kings of the Old Babylonian period could choose to cancel every debt in the country
by proclaming an edict of justice (marum) every time that the kingdom was confronted to a
major economic crisis, and especially during the rst year of their reign; in the latter case, loan
contracts often were conserved by the creditor, even though the debts had been remitted and
the tablet had no validity anymore; see Charpin 2000b.
29 NBC 8831: 1/2 GN K. BABBAR, U. TI. A -tl-(d)da-gan, KI (d)AMAR.UTU-mu-ba-l-i, ITI
1/2 shekel of silver: receipt of Utul-Dagan, from Marduk-muballi. 10/viii/Samsu-
iluna 5.
This text should have been sealed by the recipient, Utul-Dagan, as receipts usu-
ally are, but it is not. This receipt was certainly not kept by Marduk-muballi for
bookkeeping purposes only. Other documents in the archive, especially receipts
of barley or wool, allow to imagine that this text actually records the partial reim-
bursement of a debt by Marduk-muballi to his creditor, Utul-Dagan. The origi-
nal contract, normally kept by the creditor, was not broken since the debt was not
completely reimbursed. This is why it is important for Marduk-muballi to keep
this receipt safely as written evidence of his partial reimbursement of the silver,
which could be presented before a court in case of a claim over that silver.
A slightly different case can be imagined according to NBC 8908, which sim-
ply records a quantity of our, written here without any key-word. In spite of the
lack of explicit elements of description, this six-line record is extremely helpful
to understand who is supposed to keep a document in his archives and for what
purpose. The text reads:
40 liters of our. (If) the sealed document (kankum) of Marduk-muballi (re)appears,
it will be broken. 1+/vii/Samsu-iluna 7.
The seal of one Gimil-Gula is unrolled on the tablet.
This is certainly the sign that
this record is a receipt and Gimil-Gula is the recipient, although his name is not
written in the text and neither the verb to receive (akkadian mahrum) nor the
noun receipt (akkadian namhartum or sumerian U. TI. A) frequently used in the
standard phraseology of Old Babylonian receipts are written. The short sentence l.
2-4, although very laconic, allows us to understand why this document was written,
sealed by Gimil-Gula and kept by Marduk-muballi: the our was owed to Gimil-
Gula by Marduk-muballi, which was recorded in an original loan contract, desig-
nated here by the expression kank Marduk-muballi, literally Marduk-muballis
sealed document, to be understood as the document sealed by Marduk-muballi
(and kept by Gimil-Gula). When Gimil-Gula came to recover his loan, he could not
nd the original loan contract, sealed by Marduk-muballi, which he must have
kept in his own archives as evidence of the loan. Marduk-muballi accepted to re-
imburse him, certainly because they knew each other very well and were used to
have business together.
In a normal procedure of reimbursement of a debt, the
original loan contract should have been broken and no more text written. In this

30 NBC 8908 (Lagaba, 1+vii/Si 7): 0,0.4 Z. DA, ka-ni-ik (d)AMAR.UTU-mu-ba-l-i, i-il-li-a-am,
ih-he-ep-pi, ITI DU.[K] U 1+x. KAM, MU (gi)TUKUL U. NIR.
31 Gimil-Gula, son of umum-libi, servant of Amurrum and Ninsianna gi-mil-(d)GU. L[A]
/ DUMU u-mu-um-li-ib-[i] / R (d)MAR. T[U] / (d)NIN. SI.AN. NA.
32 This Gimil-Gula is well known in other documents as a relative of Marduk-muballi, the
owner of the archive.
family archives in mesopotamia
special case, the present receipt was written in favor of Marduk-muballi and kept
by him in his archives as evidence that he did reimburse the our and that the
original contract has been discarded even though the tablet could not be broken
3.2. Documents of Unlimited Validity and the Constitution of the Family Archives
A second type of archival documents is composed of texts that have an unlim-
ited validity. In this category can be classied legal documents establishing the
status of goods and persons, such as titles of property, purchase or exchange con-
tracts, donations, dowries, marriage contracts, adoptions, inheritance contracts
describing parts of inheritance that were shared between heirs, etc.
This category is hardly represented in the archives of great organisms, palace
or temples, as if they did not have to justify their ownership, whereas they are a
large part of the archival documents found in private houses. The use of written
records of such legal acts seems to have largely increased during the Old Babylo-
nian period, which may be related to the emergence of a professional justice in
Mesopotamia during the Old Babylonian period, and maybe because, for the rst
time, it was felt necessary to make up for the mortality of the witnesses or loss of
individual or collective memory, especially in legal procedures.

It is now clearly established that written titles of property were supposed to
follow the goods every time they were sold, exchanged or shared. The texts were
transmitted by the former owner to the new one along with the goods them-
selves and were accumulated to form family archives.
And then, the history of
a private property can often be reconstructed on a large span of time, sometimes
on about six generations and more than 200 years, as is the case with the amaz-
ing Ur-Utu archive. The archives of this religious dignitary of the city of Sippar-
Amnnum (tell ed-Der), north of Babylon, were discovered during regular exca-
vations by the Belgian team led by L. De Meyer. They had been abandonned there
by the last inhabitant of the house after a violent re during which he obviously
tried to rescue them from destruction. Studying this wonderful archive (com-
posed of almost 2000 texts), M. Tanret and C. Janssen were able to highlight what
they called the chains of transmission of the property documents.

33 This practice has been pointed out for a long time as for purchase contracts of land or
houses ; see Charpin 1996. What is interesting here is that this procedure is about a very cheap
object (40 liters of our), which is proof for a wide generalization of the use of writing in legal
matters in the late Old Babylonian period.
34 See in general Charpin 2008a, Chapitre 4: Le geste, la parole et lcrit dans la vie juridique,
p. 131-158 (English version: Charpin 2011, Chapter 3. Old Babylonian Law: Gesture, Speech, and
Writing, p. 43-52; see below for further developments and examples.
35 See especially Chapin 1986 (updated English version in Charpin 2010b, Chapter 4. The
Transfer of Property Deeds and the Constitution of Family Archives, p. 53-69) as a starting
point to a long series of studies.
36 The idea was elaborated and developped by the Belgian team of Ghent in charge of the
At the sale of a real estate property, the seller was supposed to give to the buy-
er every document justifying his ownership of the property, i.e. every former title
of ownership. Generation after generation, because of the possibility for elds or
houses to be gathered or shared, put into pieces or sold as a whole, the property
documents accumulated in les called uppi ummatim u uppt urd (the mother
tablet and the following tablets). Following the chains of transmission, it is then
possible to go up to the original transaction that caused the property to be, for
the rst time, as it is sold in the present time, whether it was formed by gather-
ing some different plots of land or one eld was divided into different plots.

The mother tablet records the original acquisition of the good as it exists and
the following tablets record each intermediary transaction between that rst
acquisition and the present time. Sometimes, one of these tablets is missing and
the seller is asked to write a certicate establishing his own responsibility in case
of a claim against the buyer about this missing document.
The importance attached to the keeping and transmitting of these titles of
property is a sign of how written evidence became important in trials about a
Complementarity of oral and written evidence is obvious in a lot of
trial records. As a matter of fact, Akkadian language uses the same words to de-
scribe the one and the other and speaks of the testimony of a tablet (btum); it
also speaks of the mouth of the tablet (p uppim) or of the talking of the tablet
(awt uppim) to designate its content.
During the Old Babylonian period, oral
testimony only was no more felt sufcient as proof in a legal case and the collec-
tion of written elements was necessary. Judges can ask in the same case to hear
witnesses and to have tablets read, so that it was felt dodgy to go to trial without
any written evidence of ones rights, as is shown by the lettre AbB 11 55:
a nad-
tum of ama called Narmtani who lived in Sippar chose to postpone a litigation
about inheritance because she was not in possession of her tablets, which were
kept by a male member of her family, and she knew that she could not defend her
rights without being able to produce them:
Speak to amiya: Thus says Narmtani, daughter of Ipqatum. May my Lord and my
Mistress (= the gods ama and Aya) keep you in good health for my sake! The inheri-
tance of my paternal uncles daughter has been taken, and she gave me her tablets; but

publication of the Ur-Utu archives: see especially Janssen 1992 ; Janssen, Gasche, Tanret 1994,
and Janssen 1996.
37 See Van Lerberghe & Voet 1991 for denitions of what Babylonians called uppi ummatim
and uppt urd, and the very clear schematical view of chains of transmission published in
Janssen 1996, p. 243, expecting the forthcoming M. Tanret, C. Janssen, L. Dekiere, Chains of
Transmission: a search through Ur-Utus property titles, MHEM 2, Ghent.
38 See Charpin 2008a, p. 145-151 (English version: Charpin 2011, p. 48-52), with bibliography.
39 Charpin 2008a, p. 148 (English: Charpin 2011, p. 50) and the forthcoming Charpin in press b.
40 AbB 11 55: translation by M. Stol, revised according to the French translation and commen-
tary in Charpin 2000a, p. 73-74.
family archives in mesopotamia
as for Nratum, who had taken her inheritance before me, who had acted against her,
whose expenses had been paid back, and who also had drawn up a tablet renouncing
(any further) claim, today the warkm-ofcial, interceding for him, is harassing me.
Aliyatum, her sister, released one-half mina of silver from the lap of my paternal
uncles daughter and I seized her, but, as I had nobody, she then escaped from me. So
thus I said (to myself): My tablets are in the hand of my father. As long as my father
does not come here, I will not litigate. Now, do not neglect me!
Another example of this new attention paid to written evidence is the case record
CT 47 63 dated to the 14
year of Samsu-ilunas reign in favour of the nadtum
Amat-Mamu: Amat-Mamu, nadtum of ama had been adopted by an older na-
dtum called Belessunu; when Belessunu died, Amat-Mamu received the mother
tablets (uppt ummtim) of the properties of Belessunu which proved, along
with her adoption contract, that she was the legitimate owner of the proper-
ties. Thanks to these tablets, she could defend herself against her cousins who
claimed her properties and were obliged to leave her a tablet renouncing any fur-
ther claim. The whole le was kept, as usual, in the house of a man of her family,
in that case, an uncle of hers. But then, the tablets were lost and Amat-Mamu had
to come before the local court so that judges reconstitute the lost documents (Ak-
kadian language says that they made the tablet live again). I quote here only an
extract from this long text:
By order of Sn-imeanni and the assembly of the merchants (krum) of Sippar, one
has made this tablet live again. The tablet of inheritance (tuppi apltim), the tablets
of former possessions (tuppi ummtim) and the tablet renouncing any claim (tuppi la
ragmim) that Amat-Mamu, daughter of Sn-il, received from Blessunu, in the house
of Ikn-p-Sn or wherever they will be seen, they belong to Amat-Mamu, daughter of
Sn-il. In the future, according to the content of this tablet, Ikn-p-Sn, his sons, and
the parents of Blessunu, whether men or women, as many as they are, shall not lay
any claim against Amat-Mamu, daughter of Sn-il. They swore by ama, Marduk and
Samsu-iluna the king.
We do not know where and by whom this new record was eventually kept, but
this example of resurrection of a lost tablet shows how important it was for
Amat-Mamu to be in possession of a written title establishing her rights over her
goods and protecting her against any further claim
. Things assuredly went the
same way for anybody during the Old Babylonian period.

41 See Charpin 1986, p. 133-135 (revised English version now published as The Transfer of
Property Deeds and the Constitution of Family Archives, Charpin 2010, p. 53-69), and, for a
new translation, Charpin 2000a, p. 74-76.
42 See also Charpin in press b, p. 53.
3.3. The Organization of Private Archives and the Memory
The last point of this brief survey of Old Babylonian archival documents is about
a particular kind of texts without any sealing, witness nor date (and then assur-
edly invalid before a court) which people however used to keep in their archives.
Most of them are lists and memoranda, often devoid of any key-word. Their mo-
tivation is difcult to understand when they are taken separately. They make
sense only when they can be put back together with the archives to which they
belonged. Their use actually was often to help organize the archives themselves.
The ling of documents within an archive sometimes was the reason to write
other documents.
The archives of Marduk-muballi in Lagaba provide us with good examples
of this common practice: NBC 8632 is a table listing diverse quantities of barley
(measured in GUR) and silver (measured in GN [= shekels]) associated with 19
personal names, 9 of which are unfortunately missing, being lost in a large la-
cuna. It does not display any explicit formula, neither date nor validation mark
(seal impressions, etc.). This text certainly has no legal value and it is difcult to
give it some meaning at the rst reading. The data are in Table 2.
In absence of any context, this text could be interpreted either as a list of dis-
bursements of barley and/or silver attributed to 19 persons or as a list of receipts
of barley and/or silver brought by 19 persons. The absence of totals, normally
calculated at the end of this kind of list, speaks against the identication of this
tablet as an accounting document. Once put back within the archives to which it
belongs and compared to another series of data, this recapitulatory list however
sheds light on an interesting archival practice of the Old Babylonian period: 12
loan contracts have indeed been identied in Marduk-muballis archive. They
record loans of barley and/or silver by Marduk-muballi to different people and
were supposed to be kept by Marduk-muballi until his debtors reimbursed the
whole amount. They are quite regular legal documents, dated and sealed, men-
tioning the name of the creditor, that of the debtor, and those of the witnesses,
the interest rate and the expiry date. Table 3 recapitulates the whole data sorted
in chronological order.

43 On the methods of ling of archival texts in Mesopotamia and the various containers used
for conservation of tablets, see the synthesis drawn by K. Veenhof as an introduction to the
30e Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale (Leiden, 1983): Veenhof 1986, especially p. 11-18, with
44 The content of these documents, rst studied by O. Tammuz in his unpublished Ph. D.
Dissertation (Tammuz 1993), was used as material for a study by D. Charpin on the inuence
of marum-edicts on the archives of private entrepreneurs in the Old Babylonian period; see
Charpin 2000b, especially p. 194 sq. The present table 2 however adds the data of two more do-
cuments: NBC 8533 and NBC 8534 and have been corrected according to collations of the texts:
the date of NBC 8571 is 26/iv/Si 8; the name of the debtor on NBC 6798 is Imdi-Enlil.
family archives in mesopotamia
Table 2: Data recapitulated in NBC 8632
Line Nr. Barley Silver Personal name
2 7 GUR 2 GN Imdi-Enlil
3 4 GUR Huzalum
4 1 GUR 1/2 GN Ubarum son of Irra-nair
5 1 GUR []
6 1/2 GN []-tim
7 0,3.0 GUR [] the mayor (rabinum)
8 1 GUR [] the intendant (atammum)
9 1/3 GN 11+ E [-mu]allim the gentleman (awlum)
10 1/2 GN [] []-lum
11 3 GUR []
12 2 GUR 3 GN []
13 0, 2.0 GUR []
14 0, 2.0 GUR Ipqu-Itar
15 0, 2.0 GUR Addu-tayyar
16 0, 2.0 GUR Ui-ina-puqi
17 0, 2.0 GUR Sin-imguranni
18 0, 2.0 GUR Ubarum
19-20 1 1/2 GN Sin-iddinam son of []
21 1 GN Addu-ilum
Table 3: Catalogue of the loan contracts of barley and silver in the archives of Marduk-
muballi of Lagaba (sorted by chronological order)
Text Barley Silver Debtor Date
NBC 8570 3 GUR ab-waabu 1/xi/Si 5
NBC 8874 1/2 GN Ili-u-ama 13/xi/Si 5
NBC 8564 2 GUR Ea-tukulti 23/ii/Si 6
NBC 8744 1 GUR 1/2 GN Ubarum son of Irra-nair 17/v/Si 7
NBC 8568 3 GUR ama-nur-matim son of ama-nair 11/vi/Si 7
NBC 6798 7 GUR 2 GN Imdi-Enlil 5/xi/Si 7
NBC 6752 2 GUR 3 GN erum-ili son of Nur-Kabta 1/xii/Si 7
NBC 8768 1/4 GN Huzalum 20/xii/Si 7
NBC 8571 1 GUR Ubarum 26/iv/Si 8
NBC 8533 0,3. 2 GUR Girni-isa 10/vi/Si 8
NBC 6827 2 GUR 1 GN Huzalum 1/vii/Si 8
NBC 8534 1 GUR 1 1/4 GN Gimil-Gula -/i/Si 9
Comparing both series of data, several points can be underlined (highlighted in
the tables above):
line 2 of NBC 8632 is an exact parallel to the data of the loan contract NBC
6798, recording the loan of 7 GUR of barley and 2 shekels of silver by Marduk-
muballi to Imdi-Enlil dated to 5/xi/Samsu-iluna 7.
the name of Huzalum recorded in line 3 of NBC 8632 appears as debtors
name in two loan contracts of the same series, NBC 8768 (20/xii/Samsu-iluna
7) and NBC 6827 (1/vii/Samsu-iluna 8) with different quantities.
line 4 of NBC 8632 is exactly parallel to NBC 8744, recording the loan of 1 GUR
of barley and 1/2 shekel of silver by Marduk-muballi to Ubarum, son of Irra-
nair dated to 17/v/Samsu-iluna 7.
in line 12 of NBC 8632, the personal name is missing but the quantities are
the same as in NBC 6752, a loan contract of barley and silver to erum-ili, son
of Nur-Kabta (1/xii/Samsu-iluna 7).
other names lost in the lacunae of NBC 8632 might also have corresponded to
people known as debtors in other loan contracts.
These few parallels do sufce to state that we are dealing with a recapitulatory
list of debts to be recovered by Marduk-muballi.
It does not aim at substituting
for the sealed documents, which were kept beside it. It must have corresponded
to another purpose and may have helped Marduk-muballi know in a glance the
content of a coffer or basket of tablets in which he kept those texts. It remains to
be seen why these texts were led together and recapitulated once for all on that
record without any indication of the nature of the recorded documents. It has to
be noticed that the only loan contracts that have been identied with certainty as
parallels to NBC 8632 were dated to the 7
year of Samsu-iluna (months v, xi and
maybe xii). The loans they record are likely to have been cancelled by the edict of
marum of iii/Samsu-iluna 8.
NBC 8632 may thus be a recapitulatory list of the
arrears of cancelled loan contracts that Marduk-muballi knew he would never
recover because of the royal edict.
He of course did not need to write down the
nature of the texts: he knew too well what the basket or coffer contained, if, as

45 This is not the only known example of this practice in Old Babylonian archives; see for in-
stance AUCT 5 99, a recapitulatory list of loans made by Ibni-Amurrum which D. Charpin man-
aged to link with 5 original contracts (AUCT 5 41 and 43; BBVOT 1 38, 40 and 48); see Charpin
2005, p. 417 and 2008b, p. 11.
46 Charpin 2000b, p. 195.
47 Some of the loan contracts had apparently not been reimbursed at all, as it is clear for
NBC 6798, 8744 and maybe 6752; some lines of NBC 8632 may however record total amounts
of several contracts or arrears of loans already partially recovered, which would explain the dif-
ferences in quantities, for instance, as for known loans by Huzalum.
family archives in mesopotamia
I assume, he had lost 22 GUR of barley (maybe about 6600 liters) and about 10
shekel of silver (about 80 grams)!
For the sake of completeness, a letter belonging to the archives of Marduk-
muballi has to be quoted. It was sent from Babylon by Sagil-mansum to Marduk-
muballi and mentions the existence of another recapitulatory list of loan con-
tracts, probably to be also linked with the edict of mirum of Samsu-iluna 8:
(1-3) Speak to Marduk-muballi: Thus says Sagil-mansum. (4) May ama and Marduk
grant you good health! (5-6) The basket of tablets for which I am responsible, open it
before Apil-Ea and (7-11) the sealed tablet (that says): 1 mina and 1 1/2 shekel of silver,
[] of gold, dated to the year of the images of suppliants (= Samsu-iluna 6), the year of
the powerful weapon (= Samsu-iluna 7) and the year of the royal stall (= Samsu-iluna
8), that is of 3 years, received by So-and-So, (12-15) that have been given to be recovered
by Munawwirum, the chair-carrier that is how it is inscribed (16-18) that sealed
tablet, have it brought to me to Babylon.
A series of loan contracts have been accumulated by Sagil-mansum during years
6, 7 and 8 of Samsu-iluna. They were then entrusted by Sagil-mansum to Munaw-
wirum to be recovered.
This agreement led to write a sealed tablet, the one that
Sagil-mansum speaks about in his letter, which was kept in a basket along with
other business papers of Sagil-mansum and deposited at Marduk-muballis as
Sagil-mansum left Lagaba to reside, at least temporarily, in Babylon. One can im-
agine that, when Samsu-iluna proclaimed his edict in month iii of his 3
year of
reign, Sagil-mansum may have intended to get paid by Munawwirum who, as a
recoverer (muaddinum), had become responsible for the reimbursement of the
loans. This is why Sagil-mansum may have asked that Marduk-muballi had the
sealed tablet brought to him to Babylon.

48 Another question is about the status of loan contracts dated sometimes long after the proc-
lamation of the marum edict and whether they were not supposed to compensate the loss of
former amounts, cancelled by the edict ; both dossiers (Marduk-muballi around NBC 8632 and
Ibni-Amurrum around AUCT 5 99) indeed contain texts dated to several months following the
marum of iii/Si 8, and in the case of Marduk-muballi, even 10 months later (NBC 8534 dated
to -/i/Si 9); the fact that these texts were found together with the discarded contracts would
rather indicate that they were never recovered and were cancelled too; see the discussion in
Charpin 2000b, p. 197, with other references.
49 YOS 15 38 (NBC 6290); see Charpin 2000b, p. 195 and n. 36.
50 Mari provides us with a nice parallel of such a recapitulatory list: M.15119+M.15287 is a list
of unrecovered loan contracts found in the house of the princess Inibina, that were entrusted
to ubnalu to be recovered. The list itself is not sealed, but it was established in presence of the
king and it ends with these words (l. 58-60): ubnalu received 2 sealed tablets, copy of the pre-
sent tablet, to be recovered; see Charpin 2008b.
51 D. Charpin gives another explanation (Charpin 2000b, p.195): Bien que la lettre ne le dise
pas explicitement, il est vident que suite la marum du mois iii de lan 8 de Samsu-iluna,
laffaire est annule; do la demande de Sagil-mansum que le contrat avec Munawwirum lui
parvienne Babylone. I do not understand why, in case of a cancellation of the agreement
with the muaddinum, he would have needed to have his sealed document at hand: he could
Both examples show how ling and manipulation of archival documents caused
to write other documents describing their content and containers. Letters them-
selves, at least in private context, could have been preserved as memoranda in
order to give sense to a le of documents and keep a trace of a decision or of an
order that led to write or preserve other texts. Both examples also help measure
once again the gap that exists between the number of loans that were actually
written and the number of those which have come to us: among 19 texts recorded
in NBC 8632, 2 texts were identied with certainty and a third one according
to an hypothetical restoration. As for the loan contracts of silver mentioned in
Sagil-mansums letter, they never came to us.
Other loan contracts recorded
or mentioned in both texts may either have been broken in antiquity after the
debt had eventually been reimbursed, or destroyed in the ground waiting to
be discovered, forgotten by the digger or scattered on the antique market. The
representativeness of the samples we deal with always has to be questioned be-
fore using them as material for quantitative studies.
This paper has tried to demonstrate that, however important it is to rene typo-
logical distinctions in order to get a better understanding of archival documents
taken separately, the major progress in assyriological studies will come from
analysing private archives as a whole, when they have been luckily unearthed
during regular excavations, or from gathering and (re)constructing them, le
after le, by confronting and trying to make sense with documents of different
natures. This is how the Archibab project intends to get a better understanding
of phenomena that led to an increasing production, conservation, and use of pri-
vate archives at the beginning of the 2
millennium B.C. in Mesopotamia.

have simply let it sleep as a discarded document in his archives in Lagaba. The claim would
anyway only be legal if the recovery had already been processed before the proclamation of the
marum for someone intending to recover a debt after the marum would incur death penalty.
52 NBC 8723 dated to the 5
year of Samsu-iluna was surely not recapitulated in the tablet
mentionned in YOS 15 38: by this contract, Sagil-mansum lent silver to illi-ama so that he
could buy him a female donkey within 10 days (18/vi-bis/Si 5).
53 It is also possible that not every loan recorded on NBC 8632 led to a written contract; small
loans of barley recorded at ll. 13-18 may have for instance led only to an oral agreement beween
people who knew each other. Studying AUCT 5 99 mentioned above, D. Charpin indeed notes
(Charpin 2008b, p. 11): Il convient de souligner quaucune des 13 crances en nature () nu-
mres dans la deuxime partie de AUCT 5 99 na t retrouve; vu la modestie des montants
en jeu (aux alentours de 1 qa), elles nont sans doute pas fait lobjet dun contrat crit. La conclu-
sion est trs importante; tant ce texte de AUCT 5 que le texte de Mari montrent que les prts
pouvaient trs bien ne pas faire lobjet de la rdaction dune crance. Cela limite encore plus les
conclusions quantitatives quon peut tirer dun point de vue conomique des crances qui ont
t retrouves ().
83 family archives in mesopotamia
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Wilcke 2001
N. Wilcke, Gestion et contrle
daprs les archives du palais
de Mari (XVIII
sicle av. J.-C.),
Ktma 26, p. 63-72.
the limits of middle babylonian archives
The Limits of Middle
Babylonian Archives
Middle Babylonian Archives
Archives and archival records are one of the most important sources for the un-
derstanding of the Babylonian culture.
The denition of archive used for this
article is the one proposed by Pedersn: The term archive here, as in some
other studies, refers to a collection of texts, each text documenting a message or a
statement, for example, letters, legal, economic, and administrative documents.
In an archive there is usually just one copy of each text, although occasionally a
few copies may exist.
The aim of this article is to provide an overview of the
archives of the Middle Babylonian Period (ca. 1500-1000 BC),
which are often

1 All kudurrus are quoted according to Paulus 2012a. For a quick reference on the texts see
the list of kudurrus in table 1.
2 For an introduction into Babylonian archives see Veenhof 1986b; for an overview of differ-
ent archives of different periods see Veenhof 1986a and Brosius 2003a.
3 Pedersn 1998; problems connected to this denition are shown by Brosius 2003b, 4-13.
4 This includes the time of the Kassite dynasty (ca. 1499-1150) and the following Isin-II-pe-
riod (ca. 1157-1026). All following dates are BC, the chronology follows willingly ignoring all
linked problems Gasche et. al. 1998.
susanne paulus
left out in general studies,
highlighting changes in respect to the preceding Old
Babylonian period and problems linked with the material. Finally, it will be
shown that it is possible to reconstruct lost archival records with the help of ma-
terial from outside the archives.
There is a complete break between the Old Babylonian and the Middle Baby-
lonian archives caused by the downfall of the First Dynasty of Babylon. The end
of the Old Babylonian Period came gradually. Starting in the 11
year of Samsu-
ilna (1653-1613), Hammu-rpis successor, parts of the Southern kingdom broke
away, including major cities such as Ur, Uruk and Larsa. This also marks the end
of the archives in these places during his 12
year, while documentation in the
cities of Isin, Nippur and Lagaba did not fall silent until the 30
year of Samsu-
While the North stayed under Babylonian control, the South fell under
the inuence of the so called First Sealand Dynasty, with only a few, recently
published texts documenting this period.
At the same time the Kassites,
a peo-
ple possibly originating from the Zagros region, started to move into Northern
Babylonia, settling down in the region around Sippar. Some of them were quick-
ly integrated into Babylonian society, others fought against the Babylonian army.
These encounters are mentioned in the late Old Babylonian year names.
during the reign of Samsu-ditna, the Hittite king Murili I. raided Babylon, put-
ting an end to Hammu-rpis dynasty.
From recently published material it has
been conrmed that the Kassites were directly involved in these nal ghts as
It was also the Kassites who proted most from the situation, taking over
the throne to rule Babylonia for the next 400 years.
Information concerning the rst Kassite kings ruling over Babylonia is
sparse. Only a few royal inscriptions survived, often in the form of copies dating
to later periods.
With one exception the archive of Tell Muammad which
dates to the transitional period
the archival records
do not resume until the
reign of Kurigalzu I. about 1370, who founded a new capital in the North of Bab-

5 The Middle Babylonian archives are e.g. missing in Veenhof 1986a and Brosius 2003a.
6 Charpin 2004, 335-6.
7 Dalley 2009 and van Koppen 2010, 456-7.
8 On the Kassites, their history and culture see Sommerfeld 2000 and Zadok 2005.
9 Paulus 2011 with further references; add van Koppen 2010.
10 Charpin 2004, 382-3.
11 See Paulus 2011, 4 note 31.
12 Bartelmus 2010, 143-6.
13 Alubaid 1983; for recent proposals for the chronological classication of the material see
Boese 2008 and van Koppen 2010, 457-62.
14 For an overview of the Kassite archives see Pedersn 1998, 103-19; Brinkman 1976, 35-49,
and Sassmannshausen 2001, 3-4.
the limits of middle babylonian archives
ylonia: Dr-Kurigalzu.
Sadly, only about 100 tablets
of the ofcial,
palatial ar-
chives survived, most of them being administrative records that deal with the
distribution of precious metals for building purposes and the redistribution of
Only a fragment of a royal letter hints that an archive of international
correspondence may have existed in Dr-Kurigalzu, similar to the contemporary
archives of Hattua in Anatolia or Tell el-Amarna in Egypt.
Most of the texts
from Dr-Kurigalzu are still unpublished.
The situation is even worse for the old capital Babylon: due to the high level of
groundwater in the area it has only been possible to excavate the Middle Babylo-
nian levels once, and only for a very limited amount of time. In the private houses
of the Merkes quarter about 570 tablets were found: nearly all of them remain un-
published to-date. Pedersn was able to identify ve private archives containing
lists and legal documents, often sale and loan contracts. Sometimes the original
storage places of the tablets large clay pots were discovered as well.
Such an archive-in-a-pot has also been found in the small settlement of Tell
Imlihiye, located in the north-east at the river Diyala, from where 45 tablets have
been published. Most of them contain rural administrative lists, but among
them a slave sale and a letter have been identied.
There are also some archival
rests from the nearby villages.
An important archive belonging to the brewers of the main deity Sn has been
unveiled in Ur. Most of the 75 texts, all of them published, are legal documents:
mostly sale contracts, but also disputes and court records.
Nevertheless, 90% of all Kassite tablets, totaling at over 12000 pieces, came
from the city of Nippur, provincial capital and seat of the highest Babylonian God
of the Kassite period, Enlil. About 20% of the material has been published so far.

15 Modern Aqr Quf. For the recent excavations and new data from Dr-Kurigalzu see
Clayden 2012.
16 These gures are based on Clayden 2012, where a full list of all known tablets is given.
Brinkman 1976, 43 speaks of ca. 250 inscribed objects from Dr-Kurigalzu, but this includes
building, votive inscriptions, etc.
17 For the distinction between ofcial and private archives see Veenhof 1968b, 10-11.
18 See Baqir 1944; Baqir 1945, 1946; Gurney 1949 and 1953.
19 For the letter fragment see Brinkman 1976 no. J. 2.18. For the international correspondence
found in Tell el-Amarna Moran 1992; for Hatti see Beckman 1999.
20 See the list by Clayden 2012.
21 See Pedrsen 2005, 72 g. 28 and 101 g. 49.
22 The total of texts from Tell Imlihiye is listed 84, see Sassmannshausen 2001, 4. For the texts
see Kessler 1982, 51-116.
23 Kessler 1985, 18 and 74-9; 1995, 281-8.
24 See Brinkman 1976, 44. For the texts see Gurney 1983.
25 Brinkman 1976, 41-2; add the material now published by Sassmannshausen 2001. For an
overview see Pedersn 1998, 112-6 and Sassmannshausen 2001, 186-8.
Most of the administrative documents belong to the archive of the governor of
Nippur, the andabakku:
but his archive also contained letters and legal docu-
ments that show the activity of the governor in slave sales.
Part of this nd was
the archive of the granary, covering specically the income and redistribution of
natural produce.
While most material from Nippur is from ofcial archives, in
later excavations two small private archives with about 35 tablets were discov-
With these archives being an exception, only a few texts are known from
famous cities like Uruk, Larsa, Isin, K and Adab
together with the so called
Peiser archive of unknown origin.
Not only the geographical, but also the chronological distribution is highly
Over 90% of the records originate from the time between Burna-
Buria II., i.e. middle of the 14
century, and Katilia IV., at the end of the 13
With only a few texts from the Nippur archives being dated earlier, most of
them document the period between the 14
and 13
century, just as the archives
of Tell Imlihiye and Dr-Kurigalzu.
The reason for the break of the archives
in the 13
century was the conquest of Babylonia by the Assyrian king Tukult-
Ninurta I. in 1220. Some scholars even stated that Nippur was deurbanized after
this period, but texts from outside the archives prove the contrary.
Only the ar-
chives of Ur and the unpublished material from Babylon cover the whole later
Kassite period, with just the Babylonian tablets dating to the very end.
Due to the state of publication it is impossible to draw a complete picture
of the legal matters covered by the Middle Babylonian archives. This article will

26 For an overview of the published Nippur material see Sassmannshausen 2001, 3 note 6.
For the role of the andabakku in Nippur see Sassmannshausen 2001, 16-21; cf. also the com-
ments by Brinkman 2004.
27 For the letters see Radau 1908; for slave sales see Petschow 1983. For legal texts from Nip-
pur cf. Petschow 1974.
28 Sassmannshausen 2001, 187-94.
29 For these archives see Pedersn 1998, 116 with further references.
30 Brinkman 1976, 40-9 and Sassmannshausen 2001, 3-4.
31 Brinkman 1976, 46; Sassmannshausen 2001, 4.
32 See Brinkman 1976, 35-40 and the graphical overview by Stiehler Alegria-Delgado 1996,
229. The material from Babylon must be corrected following Pedersn 2005, the dates for Dr-
Kurigalzu following Clayden 2012.
33 Brinkman 1976, 36-7.
34 Nevertheless some tablets from Dr-Kurigalzu date to Marduk-apla-iddina I., see Clayden
35 For example Gasche et al. 1998, 31: Towards the end of the thirteenth century, most of
Nippur was abandoned, and no early twelfth-century contexts have been identied at the site,
while the kudurru M 4 proves the contrary.
36 Especially the archive M8 has material dating to Zababa-uma-iddina and Enlil-ndin-ai,
the last Kassite kings; cf. Pedersn 2005, 94.
the limits of middle babylonian archives
therefore focus on one topic: real estate sale contracts. So far only one of these
contracts has been published, concerning a house plot in Nippur.
A few nearly
identical documents are known, especially from the unpublished Babylon texts,

but surprisingly, as far as I know, none of them deal with larger estates or elds.

This is completely different from the situation in the preceding Old Babylo-
nian period, where land sales were common, especially in Middle and Northern
Babylonia, for example in Nippur.
Perhaps, one may assume, this is due to a
coincidence, but at the same time sales of movable property, especially of slaves,
are known from all Middle Babylonian archives.
Another explanation might be
that there were restrictions to prevent and/or control real estate sales, as it was
proposed for the end of the 3
millennium in Babylonia.
Or, nally, could it be
possible that private property on real estate did not exist at all because the king
owned all the land?
Material from outside the archives The kudurrus
To answer these questions we have the unique opportunity to use juridical mate-
rial dealing with real estates from outside the archives: the kudurrus.
in older literature often labelled boundary stones by mistake, are typical for
the Kassite period. These 40 to 90 cm tall objects, made of dark limestone, were
usually decorated with gods symbols and bore long inscriptions. They were set
up in temples before the Gods with the purpose of securing real estate property
from encroachment by the highest authorities of the state, such as the king and

37 Sassmannshausen 2001, no. 10; for comments on this text see Paulus 2008.
38 See Paulus 2008, 318 note 2 and Pedersn 2005, especially the archives M 1 and M 8. Parts
of another real estate sale from Babylon have been published by Paulus 2009, 19-22.
39 Normally only qaqqaru kiubb (in the city) empty lot for building a house, see Paulus
2008, 318-9 note 4, or bttu (eptu) (build) houses: see the examples in Pedersn 2005, ar-
chives M1 and M8.
40 See for example Renger 1987 or Stol 2004, 844-7.
41 Sassmannshausen 2001, 202-8.
42 See Neumann 1987, 33-7.
43 Cf. Schloen 2001, 297: that the king had rights over all of the land, so that in theory, at
least, all landholdings were royal grants.
44 kudurru is a Mesopotamian word used for these objects. Nevertheless, they were more of-
ten labeled as nar stele by the Babylonians. For the problematic terminology see Brinkman
2006, 6-8 and Paulus 2012a. The term kudurru is used as a science historical term in this article.
Following the denition proposed in Paulus 2012a a kudurru is a stela made of stone or clay
or a stone tablet, on which a juridical act concerning sale, donation, conrmation of rights and/
or exemptions of real estate property and/or prepends for a kings subject is both recorded and
protected against violation with the help of the gods (curses and symbols).
the provincial government. In other words, by means of the kudurru, the estate
owner asked the gods for assistance to protect his property.
Interestingly, the geographical and chronological distribution of the kudur-
rus is not congruent with the archival material, but shows a lot of differences.
Focussing only on the objects datable to the Kassite period more than 60 ob-
jects date to the later Isin-II-dynasty and the Early Neo-Babylonian period
chronological distribution for the Middle Kassite period is relatively even, show-
ing no peak in the main period of the archives, while most kudurrus date to the
reigns of the late Kassite kings Meli-ipak and Marduk-apla-iddina I. during the
This is due to a coincidence: When the Elamites conquered Baby-
lonia they looted the temples, taking away precious objects including many of
the newer kudurrus that still were in place. This is also the reason why a lot of
kudurrus were not discovered in Babylonia but rather in the Elamite capital, Su-
Apart from the more than 54, often badly damaged, kudurrus found in Susa,
there are also Kassite kudurrus from Babylon, Ur, Dr-Kurigalzu and Nippur, as
well as from cities without Middle Babylonian archives like Sarol-e-Zohab in the
upper Diyala-region, the important cities of Sippar and Ki or the southern cities
like Larsa.
The information from the kudurrus can thus be used complemen-
tary to the archival records to reconstruct parts of the legal system of the Kassite
period. The aim of this article is to use the material from these objects and the
archival records to answer the following questions:
Can restrictions on the sale of real estate property be reconstructed with the
help of the kudurrus?
Can the legal information of the kudurrus be used to reconstruct documents
that must have existed in the archives?
Restrictions on real estate sales
Although all Kassite kudurrus deal with real estate property, the role of the sale

45 For the art historical aspects see Seidl 1987; for the inscriptions see Paulus 2012a with a
full edition of all known kudurrus. An English synopsis is in Paulus 2012b.
46 Cf. Paulus 2012b, g. 1.
47 Cf. Paulus 2012a. There are only three kudurrus from the Early Kassite Period (ca. 1500-
1328), while ve kudurrus can be dated to the main period of the archives.
48 For the historical background see Potts 1999, 232-9.
49 Examples for Kudurrus datable in the Kassite Period: Babylon: M 4; Ur: U19; Dr-Kuri-
galzu: NM 3; Nippur: U4; Sarpol-e-Zohab: MAI I 4, Sippar: KaE I 1; M 2; Ki: Kassite fragments
(see Clayden 1992, 149-51), Larsa: NM 1, KuE 1.
50 The denition for sale used is: Sale is the exchange for an amount of money or its equiva-
lent. It is important to understand, that this does not always correspond with the Babylonian
terminology; see above.
the limits of middle babylonian archives
itself is minor. The king buys some land from the provincial governor and his
This proves that he was not the owner of all land in his state, nev-
ertheless no sales of larger estates between private parties exist until long after
the end of the Kassite period. The usual way property was transferred was the
royal donation.
To fully understand the donation system, we must rst take a closer look at
the system of landownership during this period. The rural landscape of Babylo-
nia was dominated by small settlements alongside rivers and canals surrounded
by elds. These elds could be private property often owned and cultivated by a
family. Towns owed duties and taxes to the provincial government and, as head
of all provinces, to the king. The king was able to give the complete income from
one town to one of his loyal subjects, like a high ofcial or a priest, in the form of
a royal donation. This meant that the affected town was exempted from taxes and
other duties owed to the province, with this income going directly into the cof-
fers of the new owner, making the whole town effectively his private property.
It is hard to nd traces of this system in provincial archives, as for example in
the governors archive in Nippur, because these towns are neither listed in the
income list of taxes nor were the inhabitants subscribed for public labor. Never-
theless, some information can be found: some private structures were included
on a sketchy map of the surroundings of Nippur;
donations and problems con-
cerning irrigation are mentioned in the letters, and disputes over the exemption
from taxes can be found in court records.
But the fact that the donated towns
were no longer part of the provincial administration meant that the provincial
archives did no longer record matters concerning them, especially since the
separation from the provinces included an exemption that no ofcial was al-
lowed to enter a private town.
Due to the fact that whole towns, including their hinterland, could become
private property, the king necessarily had to control who exactly possessed land,
since he would lose control of large parts of his empire otherwise.
As a solution,

51 See M 3: The king buys a garden and other estates and gifts them to his daughter; and MAI
I 1: The governor is labelled as ndinn eqli seller of the eld and MAI I 5: the governor receives
a payment for an estate.
52 For the legal institute of donation see Neumann, Paulus 2009, esp. 143.
53 For the reconstruction of this system see Paulus 2012a and 2012b; for land owned by the
gods see also Paulus 2010.
54 CBS 13865, see Finkelstein 1962, 80 and pl. X, edition Paulus 2012a.
55 For example the letters CBS 19793 (Radau 1908, no. 24), CBS 4753 (Lutz 1919, no. 52), CBS
4663 (Lutz 1919, no. 23) and the court record CBS 12914 (Clay 1906, no. 39), all from the gover-
nors archive in Nippur.
56 The interdiction to enter the private towns was usually expressed in the exemption clauses
or as part of possible violation listed in the curses at the end of the inscriptions.
57 So Charpin 2008, 77 : On a donc affaire une amputation du domaine royale.
transfer of property was only allowed by inheritance in the male family line.

Only in case of a subjects severe misconduct the king was allowed to expropri-
ate him. If there was no legitimate heir, it was the kings duty to give the land
to somebody else, usually someone sharing the deceased ones profession.
the same time the sale or donation of the land to a third party was denitely re-
stricted and it is not by coincidence that no larger real estate sales, neither on
kudurrus nor in the archival records, are known from the Kassite period. Like
provincial governors,
the king was allowed to sell land, but even in this case the
terminology of sale is avoided, as shown by the following example:
NKU I 4:
[X hors]es
gave (iddinma)
[son of Ad]ad-ra,
[t]o the king,
Marduk-apla-iddina (I.) and
81 ha land
in (the prov-
ince) Bt-Sn-eme,
81 ha land
in (the province) Bt-Sn-aard ()
they sur-
veyed (imu) and
established it permanently (ukinn)
the merchant.
While this is clearly a sale horses are given in exchange for land the Babylo-
nian sale terminology is avoided
and instead terms like give (nadnu), sur-
vey (mau) and establish permanently (kunnu), all known from the royal
donations, are used. Although this is clearly no royal donation, the act is verbally
disguised to better t into the system of landownership, where a strong restric-
tion on real property sale existed and only small estates like private elds around
the towns, gardens or houses and building plots could be freely sold.
This restriction continued in following times: clay tablets from the archives,
kudurrus and also stone tablets
hybrids between a kudurru and a clay tablet
prove this fact. The situation only slowly changed under Marduk-ndin-a
(1099-1082) during the Isin-II-period (1157-1026). An interesting example high-
lights that there were still restrictions:
the text describes a transfer of property

58 The right of inheritance was secure, because the land was always donated forever (ana m
59 See M 4 and its discussion in Paulus 2007, 8-15.
60 See note 51.
61 NKU I 4, I1-20: (I1) [X ANE. KUR]. RA. ME (2) [
IKUR. NUMUN]-ub-i (3) [DUMU
I]KUR-ri- (4)
DAM.GR (5) [a]-[n]a LUGAL (6)
(7) []M-ma (8)
[10];0.0 GUR NUMUN (9) [10];0.0 GUR NUMUN (10) i-na - (11)
XXX-e-me (12) 10;0.0 GUR NU-
MUN (13) i-na - (14)
XXX. SAG. KAL () (16) im-u-u-ma (17) a-na (18)
ub-i (19)
DAM.GR (20) u-kin-nu. The restoration of the word horses ([X ANE. KUR].
RA. ME) in the rst line is very likely.
62 See Sassmannshausen 2001, 203-10 for an overview of the terminology. Typical are terms
like M price and mu to buy.
63 See note 39.
64 For example IMB 1, a very early Isin-II-period stone tablet, with a small estate sale, or ENAp
3, also a stone tablet.
65 See MNA 4.
the limits of middle babylonian archives
from Bltnu, who sells part of his paternal estate (about 56 ha), to one Urkt-
Bura, thus concluding a normal private sale.
But when the king learns of this,
he decides to return (turru) the land to Bltnu, while any refund of the silver
to Urkt-Bura is not mentioned in the text.
Bltnu appeals to the king, who
nally agrees to hand over administration of the land to Urkat-Bura in form of
a donation.
But it is clearly understandable that this transaction was not a real
royal donation but rather a private sale, now approved by the king. In other simi-
lar situations the land sold or privately donated was always given the approving
label of a royal donation.
Even in the following Early Neo-Babylonian period (1026-625),
when due to
internal problems and the weakening of royal power it was no longer possible for
the king to control the transfer of real estate, a phrase is written at the beginning
of every real estate sale contract: Together with the seller the buyer proclaimed
to buy for the price X.
With this standardized formula still a proclamation was
made to the king asking for his permission for the transaction.
In reality, most
properties were transferred without the control or even knowledge of the king
proving that the restrictions on sale here reconstructed for the Middle Babylo-
nian period did no longer exist.
The reconstruction of archival documents
While the kudurrus explain the lack of real estate sale documents in the archives,
at the same time they also point out that more types of documents must have
existed than we actually know of from the archives.
Part of the kudurru inscription was copied from a legal document: the pro-
perty, usually large real estates, the parties involved and the transaction. Later
in the Kassite period, a list of witnesses was added. Other important parts of the
kudurru inscriptions are the narrative introduction, where reasons for the land
transfer are given, and, even more fundamental, the protective part, where a list
of possible aggressors and actions against the real estate is combined with curses
from the gods against the malefactor. Both, introduction and protective part, are
not part of normal legal documents, making the kudurru itself more than a mere

66 MNA 4: I1-19, sale terminoloy (M) is used.
67 MNA 4: I20-23.
68 MNA 4: II2-5. Donation terminology is used: to hand over administration (pni udgulu)
and to gift (rmu).
69 niditti arri donation of the king, see for example MNA 2: II7 in a private sale.
70 For an overview of kings, history and texts from this period see Frame 1995, 70-270.
71 itti seller buyer k price mara imbma, see Petschow 1939, 9.
72 On this interpretation of the Neo-Babylonian sale form see Paulus 2012a.
copy of a legal tablet. Nevertheless, we can use the information extracted from
the legal part to reconstruct the documents behind it.
Sometimes it is even mentioned in the inscription that this part of the kudur-
ru was copied from a special clay tablet. There are three important types of tablets
mentioned. First of all the donation or, in Akkadian, the kunuk arri a iprti, the
the kings sealed document of instructions. With this act the land was given to
the ofcial, but real assignment occurred locally in the province and was docu-
mented in another sealed tablet, the ammatu or the tablet of the land survey. Fi-
nally, when the new land owners property rights were contested, the king judged
the matter and his verdicts were recorded in form of kank dni, the sealed docu-
ments of the judgment. In one example all three documents were listed:
MAI I 1:
The tablet of the land survey and the tablet of the eld, the sealed docu-
ment of the judgment
he (= the king) sealed ().
In this case the tablet of the donation and the tablet of conrmation during the
law suit is one, because no original document of donation was issued by the for-
mer king leading to the contestation of ownership.
Normally only one or two
different types of documents are recorded on one kudurru. Focusing on the ex-
amples from the Kassite period, an attempt will be made to restore content and
context in the archives:
Starting with the donation, these tablets contain a description of the land and
the act of the donation itself which was witnessed by the highest ofcials of the
empire, since the entitlement took place in the kings palace and was sealed with
the kings own royal seal leading to its specially name: kunuk arri a iprti, the
the kings sealed document of instructions.
This term is only rarely used in
Kassite times,
but it is often noted that the king sealed the donation tablet him-
Sometimes this was not possible and led to further litigation.
While no
real donation tablet has been found, we do know of similar tablets found in the
contemporary royal archives of Ugarit on the Levantine coast and Hattua, capital
of the Hittite State in Anatolia.
From these examples we also can learn, where

73 Paulus 2012a and 2012b.
74 MAI I 1: (III11) 1. K up-pi A. ka-nik di-ni (III12) ik-nu-uk-ma.
75 See MAI I 1: II13 with commentary by Paulus 2007, 5-7.
76 For a complete discussion of the term kunuk arri a iprti see Paulus 2012c, for older inter-
pretations see Kienast 1987.
77 U7 II1. It becomes common in the later Isin-II-period. See Paulus 2012d.
78 See KuE 1: III22ff. and III42, M 3: (text 4) 21ff. and (text 8) II9; M 4: IV5 and U3: II1ff.
79 See MAI I 1: II12 (cf. note 75) and MAI I 6: I22. The fact that the king did not seal the donation
is often quoted verbatim as possible violation in the curses, cf. MAI I 7: IV2.
80 For the Hittites see Riemschneider 1958 and Wilhelm 2005; for Ugarit see Mrquez
Rowe 2006.
the limits of middle babylonian archives
we can expect to nd donation documents within the archival structures of Baby-
lonia. Being the most important proof of land ownership, these documents were
kept in the private archives of the beneciary for generations.
In case of doubts
they could be presented in court.
From the kudurrus we know that the beni-
ciaries of the land donation were high ofcials, like viziers, high priests etc.
while the archives we have come from average townsmen, like temple brewers,
merchants and others. So the chances to nd information on land donations in
these archives are minor.
Copies of the documents should also have existed in
the royal archives, similar to Ugarit or Hattua, but as presented in the overview
at the beginning of this article, no corresponding archives have been discovered
so far.
Regarding land surveys, the situation is almost the same. This act took place in
the local provinces, where the land was nally given to the beneciary. The act of
the land survey was at the same time an act of publication, making the new own-
ership known.
Involved were a eld surveyor, a royal envoy and provincial of-
All of them witnessed the act and could be questioned on it in a later law
The tablets, named ammatu,
were given to the new owner, so we should
be able to nd them in private archives.
An analogue procedure in the contem-
porary Middle Assyrian texts makes it very likely that copies were also stored in
the royal and provincial archives
. As for the private and royal records, we lack
any traces, for the same reason as mentioned for the donation tablets. Concern-
ing provincial archives, which only have been discovered in Nippur, we lack the

81 For the practice of storage of real estate tablets in old Babylonian Period see Charpin 1986.
A good Kassite example for the storage of real estate tablets is M1, see Pedersn 2005, 72-3.
82 The king asked for the tablet stored in the house of the proprietary (M 4: III9ff.); the tablets
are shown to the king (KaE II 1: II4ff. and Ka IV 2: II22ff.), the tablet is contested ( 1: I11ff.), the
land is given according to the tablet (KaE II 1: II7).
83 A list of all beneciaries is to be found in Paulus 2012a.
84 See above.
85 Sometimes it is noted that the king sealed this tablets by his royal seal (for example M 3:
text 8 I17), but the king is never listed as witness for the land survey.
86 For the procedure of the land survey see Robson 2008, 166-76; Baker 2011, 293-307, and
Paulus 2012a (study of the sons of Arad-Ea).
87 MAI I 1: II21ff.
88 Written 1. K; my interpretation follows Sommerfeld 1984, 304-5. Charpin 2002, 178-9
puts it in context with the old Babylonian uppi ummatim mother tablet issued for the rst
owner (see Charpin 1986, 135-49), but in Middle Babylonian it was always issued in connec-
tion with the land survey to the actual owner. In addition the etymology of ummatum = AMA
mother and ammatum = 1. K one cubit is completely different. For a complete discussion
see Paulus 2012a.
89 ammatu-tablets are mentioned in M 3: text 8 I17; MAI I 1: III11, MAI I 3: I 21, MAI I 7: IV20
and U3: II1ff.
90 MAL B6, cf. Roth 1995, 177-8; see also Jakob 2003, 70-2.
land register tablets and concerning matters. Nevertheless, we nd traces of the
involved ofcials in ration lists.
Finally, for the court records it is more complicated to reconstruct a uniform
document typology. The kings role was that of the highest judge and he there-
fore treated all matters concerning real estates of high ofcials,
including bor-
der conicts with neighbors or matters about hereditary succession. The tablets
issued not only contain the nal verdicts but also documents written during the
trial, for example the uppi ana urn, the tablets for the water ordeal
were required to send the parties to the evidence procedure, which took place in
front of the gods. These sorts of tablet are also known from the private archives of
the brewers in Ur as well as the archive in Nippur, where the king is mentioned,
but that deals with animal theft, not questions of landownership.
we thus have a direct correlation between the kudurrus and archival records. As
for the nal verdicts, none have yet been found for the same reasons mentioned
before, because they usually are stored within the private archives of the bene-
ciaries with copies being kept in the royal archives.
To conclude, the rich but badly published material from the Middle Babylo-
nian archives does not always correlate with the material from outside of the ar-
chives, thus showing important gaps in written records. But the situation is not
as hopeless as it may appear. Especially one unpublished archive from Babylon is
very promising.
It belonged to one Itti-Ezida-lummir, an ipu exorcist or evo-
cator, a title that is also known from the beneciaries in the kudurrus.
100 tablets were discovered, a lot of them real estate sales concerning houses and
house plots. Along with them a kudurru was unearthed. Sadly, it was highly dam-
aged, with no inscription being left.
This situation makes it possible, that the

91 For the occurance of a r arri-ofcials, typical royal envoys see Sassmannshausen 2001, 45.
92 See Paulus 2007; Kassite examples are NM 3, M 4, MAI I 1, perhaps also KaE II 1 and 1.
93 M 4: IV38ff. and V14ff.
94 See Paulus 2007, 15-6 with further references. A detailed study is in preparation by the
95 At the end of M 4: VI26ff. it is noted that the kudurru inscription is a copy (gabar) of three
verdict issued by the kings Adad-uma-iddina, Adad-uma-uur and Meli-ipak. Because some
time passed between the different verdicts, it is certain that there were copies in private hands.
96 M 8, see Pedersn 2005, 93-101.
97 An ipu is the beneciary in AAI 4, while brs are known from the Kassite kudurrus
K I 1 and M 4.
98 For a beautiful photograph of this object see Marzahn, Schauerte 2008, 176. While kudur-
rus were kept usually in the temple and not in private archives (see Seidl 1989, 72-3), there are
two possible explanations for this exemption: due to the state of preservation it is not possible
to say, if the kudurru was already inscribed. So perhaps it was purchased by the family and wait-
ing to be inscribed with the donation. Another more probable reason is found in the date of the
archive to the absolute end (see note 36) of the Kassite period. So perhaps in these insecure days
the family took the kudurru from the temple to avoid that the Elamite could loot it, like lots of
other objects.
the limits of middle babylonian archives
family of Itti-Ezida-lummir owned some houses in Babylon, as well as a land do-
nation of a larger estate in this province or another. So it is my hope that this ar-
chive may help to understand how the system of landownership worked for the
beneciary himself. In order to overcome the limits of the Middle Babylonian
archives, we have to further publish the known material and, at the same time,
combine it with all the information from outside the archives.
Table 1 List of kudurrus
Kudurru Seidls number
museums number publication
AAI 4 private collection Paulus 2012a
ENAp 3 YBC 13522 Paulus 2012a
IMB 1 T1 BM 91015 King 1912 (BBSt no. 30)
Ka IV 2 3 Sb 30 Scheil 1900 (MDP 2, 92 ff.)
KaE I 1
BM 91036
BM 135743
King 1912 (BBSt no. 1)
KaE II 1 p. 229 Land of the Bible Museum Grayson 1981
K I 1 YBC 2242 Paulus 2012a
KuE 1 p. 225 L 7076 Arnaud 1972
MAI I 1 61 Sb 26 Scheil 1905 (MDP 6, 31 ff.)
MAI I 4 p. 222 Teheran? Borger 1970
MAI I 5 59 Sb 33 Scheil 1905 (MDP 6, 39 ff.)
MAI I 6 G3 Sb 169 Scheil 1905 (MDP 6, 42 ff.)
MAI I 7 p. 222 NBC 9502 Paulus 2012a
MNA 2 79 BM 90841 King 1912 (BBSt no. 7)
MNA 4 p. 223 IM 90585 Al-Adami 1982
M 2 12 BM 90829 King 1912 (BBSt no. 4)
M 3 23 Sb 23 Scheil 1908 (MDP 10, 87 ff.)
M 4 25 BM 90827 King 1912 (BBSt no. 3)
NKU I 4 private collection Paulus 2012a
NM 1 p. 221 L 7072 Arnaud 1972
NM 3 2 IM 49991 Baqir 1944
1 57 AS 1335 (+) Sb 6430 Paulus 2012a
U3 9 IM 5527 Sommerfeld 1984
U4 8 VA 213 Hilprecht 1896 (BE 1/2 no. 150)
U7 18+19 Sb 6432 (+) Sb 791 Paulus 2012a
U19 84 IM 934 Gadd, Legrain 1928 (UET no. 165)
* Seidl 1989. Supplementary kudurrus added in 1989 are listed with the page no. in Seidl 1989.
** Usually the publication of the cuneiform text, sometimes an important edition.
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