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Old Babylonian Tablets from Dilbat in the Ashmolean Museum

  • S. G. Koshurnikov and N. Yoffee


In the course of studying Old Babylonian tablets in Oxford, and particularly the Kish collection conserved in the Ashmolean Museum, N. Yoffee copied six tablets that had been presented in 1951 by St. John's College, Oxford, to the Ashmolean. Although the circumstances by which the texts were acquired are unknown, the documents themselves could easily be judged to have come from Dilbat (modern Dulaihim) on the strength of prosopographic comparisons with tablets known to have come from that site. Since S. G. Koshurnikov was preparing a comprehensive monograph on Dilbat in the Old Babylonian period, it was decided to present a brief co-operative exposition of the copies. More detailed remarks will be found in Koshurnikov's forthcoming monograph.

The history of Dilbat, on the Arahtum canal about 25 km S. of Babylon, is not surprisingly to be correlated with events occurring around its larger and more famous neighbours. Thus Dilbat was one of the towns caught up in the contest of power before the time of Sumu-la-’El in the early OB period. Although Sumu-abum claimed to control Dilbat, Alumbiumu, ruler of Marad-Kazallu, effected his own hegemony over the town in the early years of Sumu-la-’El (see notes to texts AM 1951: 2 and 6 below). In his establishment of a northern OB “core,” however, Sumu-la-’El brought Dilbat under his sway, not later than his twelfth year. Tablets from Dilbat that date to these early years are entirely those of family archives, yet these affairs reflect the political circumstances of the time. In the best attested group of documents, Ili-amranni (perhaps originally from Marad, see below) and his son Iddin-Lagamal gradually accumulate land in the time of uncertain political control.



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1 See Old Babylonian texts from Kish: a first report,” in Ancient Near Eastern Essays in Memory of J. J. Finkehtein (1977), 219–23.

2 Permission to publish these texts is by courtesy of the Visitors of the Ashmolean Museum. We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Prof. Oliver Gurney and Dr. P. R. S. Moorey for making these materials available to us.

3 Reading of name follows that in Groneberg, B., Die Orts- und Gewässernamen der altbabylonischen Zeit (Wiesbaden, 1980).

4 The major collections of Dilbat texts are found in Gautier, , Archives d'une famille de Dilbat (1908) and in Ungnad, , VS 7 (1909), but also in many other scattered publications. Major studies of Dilbat in the OB period include Ungnad, , “Urkunden aus Dilbat,” BA 6/5 (1909); Unger, , “Topographie der Stadt Dilbat”, ArOr 3 (1931), 2148 ; Unger, , “Dilbat,” in RIA (1938); Jones, T., “By the waters of Babylon sat we down,” Agricultural History 25 (1951), 19 ; Klengel, H., “Untersuchungen zu den sozialen Verhältnissen im altbabylonischen Dilbat,” AOF 4 (1976), 63110 ; Charpin, D., “L'onomastique hurrite à Dilbat et ses implications historiques,” in Problèmes concernant les Hurrites (1977), 5170 ; and Desrochers, M., Aspects of the Structure of Dilbat during the Old Babylonian period, unpublished PhD (UCLA 1978).

5 The authors met in Leningrad in September 1983 in the course of the “Second USA-USSR symposium on the archaeology of the ancient Near East and Central Asia,” sponsored by the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and the International Research and Exchanges Board, USA.

6 S. G. Koshurnikov, “Life in Old Babylonian Dilbat”, report to the XXXI RAI, Leningrad, July 9–13, 1984; VDI (1984), no. 2, 123–41. (Russian version of the present article already published.)

7 Sumu-abum 2 = Gautier, Dilbat no. 1; in Sumu-abum's 9th year date is recorded the building of the wall of Dilbat.

8 For capsule histories of this time see Donbaz, V. and Yoffee, N., Old Babylonian texts from Kish conserved in the Istanbul Archaeological Museums, ch. 1, Bibliotheca Mesopotamia 17 (1986); Renger, J., “Zur Lokalisierung von Karkar,” AfO 23 (1970), 73–8.

9 For archives in general, see N. Yoffee, “Administrative archives in early Mesopotamian history,” forthcoming in Tom B. Jones FS.

10 From Sabium 5 (G 10) to Sin-muballiṭ 14 (AM 1951:2) is 42 years. If Iddin-Lagamal is 20+ years old in Sumu-abum 2 (when he first is mentioned) and has three children (of whom Nahilum is the eldest), we might assume that Nahilum was born about the beginning of Sumu-la-'El's reign (the time when Iddin-Lagamal was acquiring his first land in Dilbat). We may reckon on at least 30 years elapsing between the early years of Sumu-la-'El and Sabium 5. Thus, Nahilum was well over 70 years old in Sin-muballiṭ 14.

11 The issues are variously discussed in Yoffee, , The economic role of the crown in the Old Babylonian period (1977), and Charpin, D., “Marchands du palais et marchands du temple à la fin de la lre dynastie de Babylone,” Journal Asiatique 270 (1982), 2565 ; Stol, M., “State and private business in the land of Larsa,” JCS 34 (1982), 127230 .

11a A document from Sippar, , CT 8, 446: 2122 , records an Ili-amranni son of Sin-abušu; the date is mu bàd dal-batki su-mu-la-èl ba-dù.

12 Leemans, W. F., “King Alumbiumu, JCS 20 (1966), 48–9.

13 Stone, E., Iraq 43 (1981), 20 , é -dù -a = “roofed floor space.”

14 See Edzard, D. O., “Die bukānum-Formel der altbabylonischen Kaufverträge und ihre sumerische Entsprechung,” ZA 60 (1970), 853 .

Old Babylonian Tablets from Dilbat in the Ashmolean Museum

  • S. G. Koshurnikov and N. Yoffee


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