Cuneiform Digital Library Notes
2015:5        «              »
A curious Ur III Tablet at the University of Copenhagen: Notes on the History of Pinches’ Collection
and an Official named Abbagina

Troels Pank Arbøll
University of Copenhagen

While cataloguing the 38 cuneiform tablets and fragments currently held in the former Carsten Niebuhr Collection of the University of Copenhagen, I came across an Ur III tablet, which had been in the collection for years and whose origins could not be established. After researching this tablet’s origin, I was able to identify the tablet as CDLI no. P114285, originally published by Edmond Sollberger in Materiali per il vocabulario neosumerico (MVN) 5 as no. 65. How this tablet ended up in Copenhagen is currently unclear. The present article will present some thoughts on how the tablet MVN 5, 65 may have ended up in Copenhagen, as well as provide a copy of the tablet with its sealing and an improved transliteration and translation. A few notes on the seal and its owner will be added at the end.

The tablet was originally part of Theophilus G. Pinches’s wife’s collection and was to be published by Pinches himself (Sollberger 1978: 3). Unfortunately, he never accomplished this before his death in 1934 (Anonymous 1934; Thompson 1934; Weißbach 1936), and his manuscript circulated among scholars until E. Weidner handed it over to Sollberger in 1958 (Sollberger 1978: 3). It is, however, unclear what happened to Pinches’ collection(s) following his death due to a lack of information. The tablets were probably auctioned off, most likely individually or in small groups, but it is currently not known exactly where or when this happened (see, for example, CDLI no. P114293, which is currently held in the Schøyen collection, while the fate of other tablets is completely unknown; R. Englund, personal communication). While we can only guess at how the tablet ended up in Copenhagen, it has been suggested that one of the first Danish Assyriologists, O. E. Ravn, may have acquired the tablet at some point when it was auctioned off, to ensure that the University of Copenhagen owned a cuneiform tablet for teaching purposes (Aa. Westenholz, personal communication). This seems likely, since Ravn was hired as a lecturer at the University of Copenhagen in 1923, was promoted to professor in 1937, and retired in 1951. Hence, the period in between would fit well with the likely years for Pinches’s collection to have been auctioned off. The following presents a new edition of the tablet, including a brief commentary and a discussion of the seal and the seal’s owner.

MVN 5, 65
Provenience: Umma
Length: 43 mm
Width: 45 mm
Thickness: 15 mm
Colour: Dark Brown
Fig. 1: Drawing of MVN 5, 65
1. 55 guruš u4 1-še355 workers for 1 day,
2. ki-su7 mA-gu gub-bastationed at Agu(’s field at) the threshing floor;
3. 56 guruš u4 1-še356 workers for 1 day,
4. ki-su7 mA-gu-ta(coming) from Agu(’s field at) the threshing floor:
5. še! ma2-a si-ga(to) load barley onto a boat,
6. x x x ki-sur-AŠ[...] the border (territory) [...]
7. u4? [x-še3] ma2 ba-al[on the xth day] the boat was unloaded;
8. ugula lugal-muru2-eSupervisor: Lugalmurue;
9. kišib3 ab-ba-gi-naSeal: Abbagina.
[Seal impression]
10. mu ḫu-ḫu-nu-riki ba-ḫulYear: Huhnuri was destroyed (Amar-Suen 7).


(5) The first sign was previously interpreted as the number 60, but I believe this to be a /še/. For this relatively common Ur III phrase see Widell 2002.

(6) The first signs are broken and cannot be completely restored. The traces at the beginning of the line do not add up to the previous transliteration, and cannot be correctly interpreted presently. The end of the line may read ki-sur-AŠ, but it is uncertain what the last horizontal wedge represents. The word “border” is normally written ki-sur-ra(-ki), but a few examples exist with it written ki-sur and a suffix (e.g. Princeton 1, 512: ki-sur-ka).

(7) The traces do not correspond to the previous transliteration by Sollberger, and I have transliterated what can be seen in accordance with duplicate passages from similar texts (e.g., Ashm. 1924-682).

(10) The year name is an abbreviated form of Amar-Suen 7: mu damar-dsuen lugal-e bi2-tum-ra-bi2-umki i3-ab-ruki ma-da ma-da-bi u3 ḫu-uḫ2-nu-riki mu-ḫul. These abbreviated forms are often encountered in administrative Ur III tablets (Sallaberger 1999: 232).

General comments

The tablet was transliterated along with its sealing in MVN 5, even though Sollberger never actually saw the tablet (Sollberger 1978: 3). The tablet surface is covered with multiple seal impressions of the same seal, as was customary in the Ur III period with short administrative tablets from Umma (Sallaberger 1999: 328; Steinkeller 1977: 42-43). The many seal impressions were probably impressed after the tablet was written, and these have smudged several signs in the actual text (e.g. l. 2, sign 2). The tablet also shows the imprint of what was perhaps a piece of cloth or a basket (?), particularly on the reverse, which could stem from the tablet having been kept in a container at some point before it dried (see Steinkeller 2003: 44, 48; on the nature of clay for tablets see Taylor 2011). The text generally fits the established pattern of Ur III administrative texts as illustrated by P. Steinkeller (2004: 74; for an overview of Ur III labour management see Englund 1991). Steinkeller has also recently suggested that tablets such as this may not have been written on the spot, but as part of a bureaucratic apparatus some time after the actual transaction took place (Steinkeller 2004: 74; for a discussion see Widell 2009: 3-4).

The seal

The seal is rolled over most of the tablet as well as on a fixed spot on the back. Unfortunately, none of the impressions are easily read, and I have therefore drawn a composite version of the seal’s inscription. The seal may contain the outline of a figure beside the text in a frame, which was not mentioned in the publication due to Sollberger not having seen the tablet. Three of the signs can only be partially read:

Fig. 2: Composite drawing of the seal impression

Adding to Sollberger’s transliteration, the three visible lines on the seal read as follows:

lu2 dŠara2
dumu ur-sa6-[ga]

I believe the final GA in l. 3 was there due to several attestations of this text on various seals from Umma (see below). Line 9 reads: kišib3 ab-ba-gi-na while the seal itself reads lu2-dŠara2 as the name of the owner. There is no mention that the seal was used on behalf of a Lu-Šara, so this indicates that in our case Abbagina used Lu-Šara’s seal, though the reasons for this are not entirely clear. Dahl 2007: 95 and note 333 mentions other people named Abbagina (e.g., AUCT 3, 319; BCT 2, 5; Aleppo 215 and 216). Rudolf Mayr counted up to five different seals belonging to a person named Abbagina in his unpublished PhD dissertation on seals from Ur III Umma (Mayr 1997: 331-32). He further suggested that this Abbagina used Lu-Šara as a pseudonym (Ibid.: 144, 147). In addition to the texts mentioned in Mayr’s PhD, several new ones from Umma can now be added (see Table 1). In this list I have omitted a few of the texts taken to be Lu-Šara/Abbagina seals by Mayr, mainly due to them not mentioning Abbagina as kišib3. There are other seals on CDLI that may also belong to this list that has been omitted for the same reason. Some tablets appear with additional persons as “receivers” (kišib3) alongside Abbagina (even though these rarely seal them, e.g. MVN 21 no. 37), and the majority have a wide variety of “overseers” (ugula). One text (MCS 3 no. 93) gives Ur-sa6-ga as Abbagina’s patronym. (Please also note the patronym Ur-Sig5 in NBC 4331 for a RI Abbagina. Whether this is an alternative form of Ur-sa6-ga is unclear.) If this is indeed the same Abbagina as ours, this may explain his genealogy, but not the pseudonym. The first tablets relating to Abbagina are from the last year of Šulgi’s reign (48), namely MVN 21 no. 37 and ViOr 8-1 no. 13. The other tablets appear continuously up until Šu-Suen’s sixth year as king. The text AnOr 7, 367 (Šu-Suen 4) mentions an Abbagina with the title ensi2. If this is the same Abbagina, it could indicate that he may have risen to power throughout his career, but this remains speculation (Widell 2009: 9; Dahl 2007: 81).

Mayr further proposed that Abbagina may have owned various seals due to his official position (Mayr 1997: 147). A recent article by M. Widell concludes that the use of multiple seals for no apparent reason, with variations, by the same official, was a normal occurrence during the Ur III period (Widell 2004: 290), and Dahl has similarly suggested that in connection to Ur III families, seals may have been borrowed and used by various individuals (Dahl 2007: 80). It is therefore likely that Lu-Šara was a relative of Abbagina, but we simply lack evidence for this suggestion.

List of texts from Umma with kišib3 Abbagina
and a seal mentioning Lu-Šara

TextNotes to sealkišib3Year-Month-DayNotes to tablet
Aleppo 244Misread? lu2-d[...] dub-[sar] dumu lugal-[iti-da?]nam-ša3-tam + ab-ba-gi-naAS 1Provenience: Puzriš-Dagan?
Aleppo 253Misread? lu2-dingir-ra dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-gaab-ba-gi-naAS 3-5
AnOr 7, 325(MVN 18, 325)lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-gaŠS 4Mentions ab-ba-gi-na
AnOr 7, 367(MVN 18, 367)lu2-[dŠara2] dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-gaŠS 4Mentions ensi2 ab-ba-gi-na
BPOA 1, 0422lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-[ga]ŠS 4Mentions ab-ba-gi-na
BPOA 1, 0953misread? ur-dig-alim dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-gaab-ba-gi-naŠS 1Provenience: Girsu
BPOA 1, 1147lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-[ga]ab-ba-gi-naŠS 2
BPOA 1, 1255lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-gaab-ba-gi-naAS 7
BPOA 2, 2064lu2-[dŠara2] dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-gaab-ba-gi-naAS 9
BPOA 6, 1438lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ga; Mayr seal 403.3ab-ba-gi-naAS 8
BPOA 7, 1733lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ga; Mayr seal 403.2ab-ba-gi-naAS 6-13
BPOA 7, 1896lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ga; Mayr seal 403.2ab-ba-gi-naŠS 3-1
BPOA 7, 2905lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ga; Mayr seal 403.2nam-ša3-tam + ab-ba-gi-naAS 4
CBCY 3, p. 166 (NBC 04139)lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ga; Mayr seal 403.2ab-[...]
CBCY 3, p. 176 (NBC 04331)lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ga; Mayr seal 403.1RI? ab-ba-gi-na dumu Ur-sig5AS 2
CBCY 3, p. 176 (NBC 04328)lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ga; Mayr seal 403.2ab-ba-gi-naAS 5
CBCY 3, p. 192 (NBC 05182)lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ga; Mayr seal 403.2ab-ba-gi-naŠS 4
CBCY 3, p. 193 (NBC 05192)lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ga; Mayr seal 403.2ab-ba-[gi-na]ŠS 4
MCS 3, 85 (BM 105446)lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ga?ab-ba-gi-naŠS 1
MCS 3, 93 (BM 105437)lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ga?AS 4Mentions an ab-ba-gi-na as son of Ursaga
MVN 05, 053Misread or scribal mistake due to Ugula lugal-nesag-e? (lugal-nesag-e dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ga)ab-ba-gi-naAS 6-13
MVN 05, 065Treated hereab-ba-gi-naAS 7Treated here
MVN 13, 290lu2-!ipt">dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-gaab-ba-gi-naAS 9
MVN 13, 291lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-gaab-ba-gi-naŠS 3
MVN 15, 021lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-gaab-ba-gi-naAS 5-10-21
MVN 15, 045lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-gaab-ba-gi-naŠS 5-7-25
MVN 16, 0839lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ga; Mayr seal 403.3ab-ba-gi-naŠS 1-7
MVN 16, 1195lu2-d[Šara2] dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-[ga]; Mayr seal 403.2ab-ba-gi-naŠS 3-6
MVN 16, 1324lu2-d[Šara2] dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ga; Mayr seal 403.3ab-ba-gi-naŠS 2-5
MVN 16, 1507lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-[ga]; Mayr seal 403.3ab-ba-gi-naŠS 1
MVN 16, 1565lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ga; Mayr seal 403.2ab-ba-gi-naŠS 3
MVN 21, 037lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ganam-ša3-tam + ab-ba-gi-naŠulgi 48
MVN 21, 111lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-gaab-ba-gi-naŠS 6
MVN 21, 112lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-gaab-ba-gi-naŠS 6
Princeton 1, 331lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ga; Mayr seal 403.5ab-ba-gi-naŠS 4-9 or 12
Princeton 1, 500lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ga; Mayr seal 403.2ab-ba-gi-naŠS 3
Santag 6, 261Appears odd; lu2-dŠara2 dub-[sar] dumu [ur]-sa6-[ga]ab-ba-gi-naŠS 3
SAT 3, 1537lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ga; Mayr seal 403.2ab-ba-gi-naŠS 4
SAT 3, 1547lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ga; Mayr seal 403.5ab-ba-gi-naŠS 5
SAT 3, 1630lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ga; Mayr seal 403.5ab-ba-gi-naŠS 5
SAT 3, 1678lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ga; Mayr seal 403.5ab-ba-gi-naŠS 6-1
SNAT 312lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ganam-ša3-tam + ab-ba-gi-naAS 1-2
Syracuse 191lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-gaab-ba-gi-naAS 7-2
Syracuse 193lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ganam-ša3-tam + ab-ba-gi-naŠulgi 48-12
Syracuse 194lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-gaAS 1-3
UTI 3, 1625lu2-d[Šara2] dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-[ga]ab-ba-gi-naŠS 2-12
UTI 3, 1652lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-gaab-ba-gi-naŠS 2
UTI 3, 1783lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-gaab-ba-gi-naŠS 4-6 or 12
UTI 3, 1807lu2-[dŠara2] dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-gaab-ba-gi-naŠS 3
UTI 4, 2743lu2-dŠara2 dub-[sar] dumu ur-sa6-gaab-ba-gi-naŠS 2
UTI 4, 2756lu2-[dŠara2] dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-[ga]ab-ba-gi-naAS 9-12
UTI 4, 2893lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-gaab-ba-gi-naŠS 3
UTI 4, 2926lu2-[dŠara2] dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-gaab-ba-gi-naŠS 3-8 or 9
UTI 5, 3091lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-gaab-ba-gi-naŠS 4-1
UTI 5, 3185lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-gaab-ba-gi-na and many othersAS 9
UTI 5, 3439lu2-d[Šara2] dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-[ga]ab-ba-gi-naŠS 1-9
ViOr 8/1, 013lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ga; Type-3nam-ša3-tam + ab-ba-gi-naŠulgi 48
YBC 15397lu2-dŠara2 dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ga; Mayr seal 403.3ab-ba-gi-na
Unpublished; Treated by MayrYOS 4, 230Misread? lu2-dingir-ra dub-sar dumu ur-sa6-ga; Mayr seal 403.1ab-ba-gi-naAS 3


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* I am currently preparing a catalogue of the cuneiform objects held at the former Carsten Niebuhr Collection. I would like to thank N. Brisch (University of Copenhagen), Aa. Westenholz (University of Copenhagen) and R. Englund (UCLA) for their tremendous help during the research for this article. However, all mistakes can of course only be attributed to the author.
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