Landschenkungsurkunden hethitischer Konige. By Christel Ruster and Gernot Wilhelm. Studien zu den Bogazkoy-Texten, Beiheft 4. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2012. Pp. 271, 75 plts. 94 [euro].
This volume replaces and massively augments the long-standard work of the late K. K. Riemschneider, "Die hethitischen Landschenkungsurkunden," MIO 6 (1958): 321-81. The purpose of the tablets transliterated and translated in this volume is to document the king's conveyance of plots of land from one owner to another. Generally the recipient is a man, but one grant (Text 16) is given to the wet-nurse of another female.
The plots are described as a type of land (farmland, A.SA), meadow/pasture (U.SAL), orchard (GISTIR = tiessar), vineyard (GISKIRI6.GESTIN), garden (GISMU.SAR), or threshing floor (KISLAH). Following the meadow/pasture, and sometimes lumped together with it, is a type of land described by the term alalesser, a clearly Hittite word for which the scribe knew no Sumerian or Akkadian equivalent. It is most plausibly "meadow/pasture on which alil-flowers grow" (pp. 83-84, following Rieken, StBoT 44, 491). Rarely we also hear of "summer pasture" (rit disi GUD/UDU) or "winter pasture" (rit kusi), in one text for cattle and in another for sheep. This reminds us that the geography of portions of Anatolia requires transhumance, something seldom mentioned in our texts.
Several estates also include among the types of land GISSIHU. This shrub, which is used in Mesopotamian medicine, is probably wormwood. In Hath, it was so rare and valuable that it was not considered as part of an orchard, but was counted individually on an estate in quantities of fewer than ten (p. 100). The granted lands are said to be located in a particular place or by a landmark, and of a particular size. This size ranges from less than a hectare to thousands of hectares. One small plot is defined as a house-plot in Hattusa-city.
Unlike Mesopotamian field sales, exact dimensions are seldom given, and even much of the description is often omitted. Presumably this information was already on a previous tablet or was known to all in question on the spot. The texts describe the land as being taken from one (deceased?) official and given to another or added to what is presumed to be the demesne of a royal palace in a provincial city (e.g., "the house of Hattusa in Samuha") or taken from this demesne and given to an official. This sounds like a distant ancestor of the Seljuq iqta system. In other words, these are not grants of land as such but grants of revenues drawn from land and used to pay the salaries of government employees, from the lowliest GISTUKUL-man to the highest official. This would certainly explain the lack of specificity of...