Old Assyrian verdict; National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh; NMS A.1909.585.
The houses of the merchants at the Central Anatolian site of Kanesh yielded a great number of cuneiform tablets. This phase in the early centuries of the 2nd millennium BC is called Old Assyrian period (ca. 1950-1850 BC). The traders’ houses are located in the commercial district of the lower town, which is called kârum
Kanesh. The private archives of the merchants ended with the destruction of the settlement around 1835 BC. This important commercial center is now known as the administrative capital of a colonial network that consisted of some thirty settlements (see Veenhof, “The Archives of Old Assyrian Traiders: their Nature, Functions and Use,” in: Faraguna, ed., Archives and Archival Documents in Ancient Societies
, Triest , 27ff.). The archives in Kanesh alone yielded more than 23,000 documents, most of which were unearthed by the local villagers and sold, before official excavations had been conducted.
The available documentation can be classified in letters, legal documents and lists, such as memoranda and notes. This tablet with its envelope in the National Museums Scotland
belong to the second group, which itself contains many subtypes of documents. It starts with the well-attested expression âlum dînam idînma
, “the City (i.e., Assur) rendered a verdict.” Verdicts must not be issued by the central power, in this case Assur’s city assembly, which is referred to as the “City.” We have also plenty of cases, where the kârum
itself rendered the verdict. In such cases the envelope carries the seal of the respective commercial settlement.
Our text continues with the statement that a certain Kukulanum is entitled to engage an attorney (râbisam ehhaz
) in order to clear an individual named Aguza, who is the trading agent of his father, from claims. The kârum
will be the executive arm of the attorney (emûq râbisi
The verdict was enclosed in a clay envelope. Luckily we still have the envelope completely preserved. As indicated in the first line, it bears the seal of the waklum
, the Assyrian ruler (see Eppihimer, JNES
72 ). Such texts give clues about the ruler’s involvement in Anatolian matters. A common and rather convenient feature of legal documents is the fact that their contents were repeated on the envelope. Had there been any suspicion of tampering with the contents of the document, the envelope could have been opened and its contents checked.
The text on the envelope does show variants. Noteworthy is the variant in the first sentence of the verdict. Instead of the above-mentioned statement that Kukulanum is entitled to engage an attorney, the envelope states that he is entitled to “send” (išappar
The seal used was the seal of the Old Assyrian ruler Sargon, not to be confused with the first ruler of the Old Akkadian period (see Eppihimer, op.cit.
, 37, fig. 3 and 38, fig. 5). The Old Assyrian ruler’s seal shows an introduction scene and bears a legend. This legend includes the ruler’s name, his title (iššiak Aššur
) and a patronym, which links the respective ruler to his predecessor. As has been shown recently, the introduction scene and the way the inscription is presented reflect earlier models of the end of the 3rd millennium BC.
CDLI entry: P390710
credit: Wagensonner, Klaus