'The crowns of their babtum': on wives, wards, and witnesses.

Author:Richardson, Seth

BM 80989 is a late Old Babylonian tablet that documents the receipt of silver weighing less than a teaspoon of salt, for the performance of ilku-work contracted out to an extended family; the receipt was "witnessed" by the crowns of two gods. Both contracts for hired labor and the use of divine emblems in legal contexts are well known from Old Babylonian sources, and our text differs little from parallel texts in these broad contours. But the tablet introduces variations on practice which prompt new questions about the relationships between wives and families, households and neighborhoods, temples and wards, and between gods, their symbols, and men. Two features in particular complicate the basic subject matter: one, the position of wives as lessors for brothers-in-law; two, the appearance of divine emblems (in this case, crowns of Samas and Marduk) in the company of other gods as witnesses. Let us first look at the text:


BM 80989 (Bu. 91-5-9, 1127) Date: Sd 04/09/01 Size: 48 x 47 x 23mm Receipt of silver for the performance of ilku-work; witnesses include Samas, Aya, and divine emblems of "their babtum." KEY: [degrees] = erasure [much less than] = supru-marks

obv. [[.sup.d]AMAR.UTU-m]u-sa-lim pa-le-[is.sub.8]. tar

U DUMU-[.sup.d]a-am-ma-a

[degrees] DUMU.MES [.sup.d]SES.KI-MA.AN.SUM

KI [.sup.mi]be-el-ta-ni

5. DAM a-wi-il-[.sup.d]EN.ZU

U [sup.mi]be-el-ta-ni MAN

DAM [degrees] [KA]-[sup.d]a-am-ma-a


sa i-li-ik-su i-il-la-ka

10. [.sup.m]i-lu-ni UM.MI.A

1.e. a-na KA.KESDA a-na MU 1.KAM




15. ma-ah-ra

IGI [.sup.d]UTU IGI [.sup.d]a-a

IGI [s]u-hu-um-tim

IGI 2 AGA sa [.sup.d]UTU U [.sup.d]AMAR.UTU

__sa DAG.G[I.sub.4].A-si-na! __

20. ITI GAN.GAN.E [U.sub.4] 1.KAM

u.e. [M]U sa-am-su-di-ta-na LUGAL.E

[sup.[d]]UTU [sup.d]ISKUR.BI


left edge: (1) [much less than] KISIB be-el-ta-ni

(2) [much less than] KISIB be-el-ta-ni


Marduk-musallim, Pale-Istar, and Mar-Ajamma, the sons of Nanna-mansum, were hired out to Iluni the ummanu, for the contractual price of one year, by Beltani, the wife of Awil-Sin, and Beltani--a second one--the wife of Awat-Ajamma, (both) sons of Nanna-mansum, who are responsible (i.e., the women: illaka) for the performance of his (i.e., Nanna-mansum's) ilku-service. They (fem.) received the contractual price of one year, 2/3 sekels, 15 se silver. Before Samas, before Aya, before Suhumtim, before the two crowns of Samas and Marduk of their (fem., i.e., the sisters') babtum. Month 9, Day 1. Samsuditana Year 4.




The text is not a house rental, contra Leichty et al. 1988: 247.

The kisib epigraphs on the left edge appear directly next to double supru-marks.

1.6: MAN = sanu, "another one, a second one," obviously to clarify to any disbelieving reader that there were indeed two women named Beltani involved.

1.7: The partial erasure before the KA sign leaves traces suggesting the scribe began to write either the DAM sign again, or a conflation of DAM and KA. The DN Ajamma otherwise occurs in OB onomastica in the PN Mar-Ajamma; Awat-Ajamma is, to my knowledge, a unique personal name.

11. 8-9: DUMU.MES PN here refers to the husbands, and not to the wives (i.e., as "daughters-in-law"). However, the 2.f.pl. durative illaka specifies that the obligation of Nanna-mansum's ilku-duty lies on the wives--whether originally, or by force of this new arrangement--and not their husbands. On syntactic and contextual grounds, we can rule out Iluni as the referent of -su in iliksu.

1.15: It is also possible to read ma-hi-ra, but mahra seems the more likely form; note that /ah/ and /hi/ are sometimes poorly distinguished from each other in this period.

1.17: The onomastic form Suhumtim is unattested. A less likely option, but not impossible is [[la.sup.?]]-hu-um-tim. Cf. CAD L s.v. lahmu s., '(hairy) monster' or the like; such beings were associated with Marduk and thus might belong in a list with other witnessing deities. Lahumtim, however, is also unattested, and the line lacks space for a preceding DINGIR sign.

1.18: Two crowns for two deities rather than a single "double-crown" is the most likely interpretation; see n. 49 below.

1.19: This abbreviated paleography of the /na/sign is normal for Late OB texts; it should not be confused with /an/, the writing of which is emphasized with very long, extended horizontal strokes; compare /an/ signs in 11. 2, 3, 7, 8, 16, 18, and 22.


The writing is perfectly legible, and in its main purpose the text is quite straightforward: two women--who are not nadiatu--receive silver in payment for the hired labor of three men, all of them related to the lessors as brothers-in-law, to perform the ilku-service of their father, presumably deceased; the text is witnessed by two divinities, one unidentified agent, and two divine emblems. Yet these briefly stated conditions are peculiar in their own right, in two different respects: first, in the appearance of the women as lessors for the labor of brothers-in law; second, in the appearance of divine emblems, the crowns of Samas and Marduk, in three distinct senses: 1) in the crowns' situation as witnesses stricto sensu, rather than as objects upon which oaths were sworn or testimony delivered; 2) in the apparent legal and theological redundance of Samas and his crown appearing simultaneously; 3) in that the crowns are said to belong to the ward (babtum)--and specifically to the ward of the wives (babtisina). I'll address these peculiarities in three imperfectly bounded senses: the functional-situational, the legal, and the theological.


Three practical details warrant brief recognition before we get to the larger issues presented by the text. First, two pairs of fingernail impressions on the left edge appear next to the names of the Beltani's. Second, the scribe of the text was kind enough to take the trouble to clarify that there are indeed two different Beltani's in the text by adding kun'i in 1. 6. Third, we have two previously unattested personal name forms here, Awat-Ajamma (1.7) and Suhumtim (1) (1.17).

No archival setting for the text can be established at this time. Only one of the actors in this text can be even possibly identified in other texts. (2) The Awil-Sin to whom the first Beltani is married may be the same man known from two substantially earlier documents, both also from Sippar. In both of these texts, he appears as a purchaser in credit sales: (3) the first of these texts is BM 81239 (Ad 26), in which Awil-Sin receives palace wool from the well-known UGULA DAM.GAR Ilsuibni; (4) the second text is VS 29 55 (As 05), drafted eighteen years before our present text, in which Awil-Sin receives silver as capital for the purchase of grain. (5) Assuming that the Awil-Sin of the earlier (Ad 26) text was at least eighteen years old, and that he was the same person. he would have reached age fifty or more by the time our text was drafted in Sd 04. (6) But even this would not tell us much more than that the principals were in middle age; we really cannot say more about any of these people on present evidence, not even to explain the unusual homonymity of the Beltani's.

An archival approach to the text thus leads to a dead end. Perhaps a generic approach can help. The text discusses subjects common to the period--ilku-payments and labor hires--but their co-occurrence is actually unique. Can we find comparanda? (7) In terms of text types, we could look at the text as essentially either a receipt for ilku-silver (as it technically is), or as the satisfaction of a contract of hire (which it suggests). Let us begin with the first document type: no other receipt for ilku-silver from this period--twenty-six have been published (see Table 1) (8)--establishes labor as the medium of exchange occasioning the delivery of that silver. (9) The performance of ilku by a substitute was theoretically prohibited where military service was concerned (CH [section]26), but this contract more likely refers to corvee work, for which the alienation of a service obligation was permitted. 10

Table 1. Late Old Babylonian Ilku-silver Receipts Text Prov Date Witnesses Ami. Hire? Other Silver Provisiun BE 6/1 Sippar Ae none 1.5 no none 71 gin BE 6/1 Sippar Ae 2PNs 3 gin no none 73 Biroi Sippar As none 2/3 gin no ana sudmmim RA 62. 15 Se nadnu 25 BM Sippar As 2PNs 2 gin no SA KU.BABBAR 16598 ilik PN BM Sippar As none 1-2/3 no SA KU.BABBAR 16665A gin ilkisu BM Sippar As none 12 gin no SA KU.BABBAR 17147 ilkisu BM Sippar As none 112 no SA KU.babbar 17257 gin ilkisu BM Sippar Ad 2PNs 2 gin no SA KU.BABBAR 80814 ilkim BM Sippar Ad none 9 gin no (BTA[G.sub.4] 81276 KU.BABBAR BM Sippar As none 1/2 no SA KU.BABBAR 81476 gin ilkisu CT4 Sippar Ad none 1 5/6 no ana sudunnim 15a gin nadnu KD5 Haradum Ae 3PNs 2 gin no Sa ilik GN/sa mehrim sa PN OECT 13 uncertain As none 1/3 no none 131 gin OLA 21 Kis As none 6 gin no for 6 months' 50 worth of ilku TJDB Dilbat As 2 PNs. GIR 112 no none 145 PN gin VS 22 Babylon As none; GIR 1 gin no SA ilik 65 PN P[N.sub.1] U P[N.sub.2]/GIR P[N.sub.3] VS 7 Dilbat As 2PNs 2 gin no none 115 VS 7 Dilbat As NOB 1/2 no none 116 gin VS 7 Dilbat As none 3gin no GIR diki 121 Walker Sippar Ae igi (d)UTU 3 gin no none AfO /igi 24.124 (d)a-a/ igi PN DUB.SAR YOS 13 Dilbat Ad 2PNs 3 gin no [sa] qati 290 YOS 13 Dilbat As none 3 gin

The text is also unique among these silver receipts in presenting an ilku-payment as a family affair. The ilku-obligation of BM 80989 is said to rest on the women (1. 9, illaka against illiku), presumably transferred from the deceased (or so I assume) Nanna-mansum (Sa iliksa). But in no other ilku-receipt does a woman (or, indeed, any family member) act on behalf of or in concert with another family member. Yet, if here we have a case in which the transference of a service obligation between family members is...

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