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Inscriptions from Tell Brak 1984

  • Irving L. Finkel


The 1984 season of excavations at Tell Brak numbered among its discoveries the eight inscriptions that form the subject of the present note. Prior to the 1984 season a small group of mostly fragmentary Old Akkadian inscriptions was recovered during the course of the three pre-war seasons conducted at the site by M. E. L. Mallowan, while an inscribed seal impression dating to the same period and a Late Uruk numerical tablet were found during the 1978 season. The group now presented contains material of considerable importance, and consists of two pictographic tablets, two stamped bricks, three cuneiform tablets, and a fragment of an amulet. This material, which falls into the Uruk, Old Akkadian and Middle Babylonian periods, is presented in chronological order.



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1 The tablets from Mallowan's excavations at Tell Brak were first briefly treated by Gadd, C. J. in Iraq 7 (1940), 6061 and Plate V, while most of those subsequently housed in the British Museum were given in copy by Loretz, O. in AOAT 3/1, nos. 69-82. For further details and some previously unpublished Mallowan fragments see below, Appendix.

2 The seal impression (Reg. No. 257) will appear in the forthcoming study of the seals from Tell Brak. For the Uruk period numerical tablet see Oates, D., Iraq 44 (1982) 191 and Plate XV c., and in Curtis, J. E. (ed.), Fifty Years of Mesopotamian Discovery (London, 1982), 6465 and Fig. 51.

3 The local District Commisioner, it may be recorded, on being shown the tablets when freshly excavated, dubbed them instantly a sheep and a goat, on the grounds of their characteristic stance.

4 The first publication of the Uruk tablets was by A. Falkenstein in ATU. For the Berlin project and some results of the new study see, for example, Green, M. W. in Visible Language 15 (1981), 345372.

5 The numeral is probably to be read as 10.

6 See Schmandt-Besserat, D. in Syro-Mesopotamian Studies 1 (1977), 3170; Scientific American vol. 238 no. 6 (06 1978), 5059; Archaeology 32: 3 (05/June, 1979), 2231 and Visible Language 15 (1981), 321344. A lucid critique of this theory as developed by Schmandt-Besserat, D. has been given by Lieberman, S. J. in AJA 84 (1980), 339358; see also Brandes, M. A. in Akkadica 18 (1980), 130. Tokens of this kind are found in some abundance in later contexts at Brak. No attempt is made in the present article to harmonize the pictographic Brak tablets with this token theory.

7 See M. W. Green, op. cit., 346; S.J. Lieberman, op. cit., 358.

8 The argument adduced by M. A. Powell (to support his view that a citizen of Uruk was the inventor of writing) that Uruk was the “only major urban centre in Mesopotamia” at the time of the appearance of the pictorial script (Visible Language 15 (1981), 422, point 1) is weakened by the existence of such sites as Habuba Kabira, or Tell Brak itself, where the area of Uruk occupation is, quite simply, vast; see Oates, D. in Fifty Yrars, 6264 and Iraq 44 (1982), 196. It will take further discoveries of this period at Brak before the relationship between these pictographic tablets from the FS site and the numerical tablet from the CH site referred to in n. 2 above can be determined.

9 For the location of the wall see the plan in Iraq 9 (1947), Plate LIX. The wall face in question appears directly below the drawing of “SHAFT 2” at the extreme right-hand edge of the plan, to the left of the encircled “A”.

10 Thanks are due to Dr. Julian Reade for drawing the Institute pieces to my attention.

11 One of the earlier tablets published by Gadd, , Iraq 7 (1940), Plate V (F. 1153) (= Loretz, O., AOAT 3/1, no. 69) is a list of guruš workers from different localities. For the Old Akkadian sukkal in such a context see, e.g., the refs. quoted by Foster, B., Umma in the Sargonic Period (Connecticut, 1982), 112, and for refs. as to guruš, ibid., 22.

12 See conveniently Neugebauer, O., Sachs, A. J., AOS 29, 6 (Old Babylonian value).

13 The tablet thus conforms to the so-called “Syro-Hittite” variety; see Arnaud, D., AAAS 25 (1975), 8788, Huehnegard, J., RA 77 (1983), 12, and Snell, D. C., Abr-Nahrain 22 (19831984), 159170. No. 7 below, by contrast, falls into the “Syrian” type.

14 See the edition of the Amarna letter in Knudtzon, J. A., EA I, 130135. The historical setting to these events is outlined by Drower, M. S., CAH II/i, 483493, and Goetze, A., CAH II/2, 18. See also Kitchen, K. A., Suppiluliuma and the Amarna Pharaohs (Liverpool, 1962), chapter V, especially p. 25. A possible second mention of Artaššumara's name together with that of Hanigalbat occurs in EA 18: 89, on which, however, see most recently Dobel, A., van Liere, W. J., and Mahmud, A. in AfO 25 (1974/1977), 259.

An Artaššumara is mentioned in an unidentified royal letter concerned with asses belonging to Niqmepa found at Alalaḫ; see Wiseman, D. J., AT 108, 9 (now BM 131497). The seal inscription on this tablet, mentioned by Landsberger, B., JCS 8 (1954), 54 n. 95 (see Collon, D., AOAT 27, 128 sub no. 227) has not been successfully read, but it is clearly not that of a Mitanni king (although see AfO 25, 259). Any attempt to identify this Alalaḫ Artaššumara with the Mitanni ruler will require a considerable lowering of the present dates of the kings of Aleppo; see Klengel, H., Geschichte Syriens I, 243.

15 This was the old interpretation, as espoused by H. Winckler and O. Weber; see Gelb, I. J., SAOC 22, 77, where it is however opined that there was no real evidence to assume that Artaššumara did in fact rule.

16 If this text is a will, its format differs considerably from, e.g., the Emar type examples edited by J. Huehnergard, op. cit., 11–43.

17 The original sketch of this seal impression published in Fig. 4 was prepared in the field. The more precise drawing of the glyptic given as Fig. 5 has been prepared from the excavation photographs by Jenny Finkel.

18 This identification of the seal on TB 6002 was proposed by D. Collon, to whom every credit is due.

19 See Nougayrol, J., PRU III, xlxliii. The practice of copying seals is also attested at Meskeneh; I am informed by D. Collon of a seal design in use by the temple administration of which at least two copies exist.

20 Also found were several fragments from inside the tablet, some uninscribed surface fragments, and the uninscribed strip from the right edge, none of which could be joined.

21 Through the courtesy of Messrs. Wahid Hayatta and Nazem Jabri a search in the likely places was instituted in the Aleppo Museum for these Brak pieces but to no avail (June 1985). It is considered possible that they may have perished due to flooding some years ago.

22 In AOAT 3/1, Plate XXXVI, the lower copy of no. 72 is the obverse.

23 See the list in Westenholz, A., AfO 25 (1974/1977), 105.

24 To be added to the list mentioned in the previous footnote.

25 Note that in Hh XXIV the Ì section (14-ca. 66) precedes the NAGA section (286–90); this apparently applies also to the Forerunners; see at any rate Nippur Forerunner source B (MSL 11, 121 17.1 and 128.2), or the Old Babylonian Forerunners (ibid. 134–5, etc.).


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