2. History

2.2 Babylonian History

MS 1686  

THE UR-ISIN KING LIST

  1. LIST OF THE 5 KINGS OF THE UR III DYNASTY WITH REGNAL YEARS FROM KING UR-NAMMU 2112 BC TO KING IBBI-SIN 2004 BC
  2. LIST OF THE 15 KINGS OF THE ISIN I DYNASTY WITH REGNAL YEARS FROM KING ISHBI-ERRA 2017 BC TO THE 4TH YEAR OF KING DAMIQ-ILISHU 1813 BC
MS 1686

MS in Old Babylonian with a few names in Sumerian on clay, Isin, Babylonia, 1813 or 1812 BC, 1 tablet, 5,6x3,9x2,0 cm, 21 lines in Old Babylonian cuneiform script.

Binding: Barking, Essex, 1993, red quarter morocco gilt folding case by Aquarius.

Context: A near duplicate was Erlenmeyer Collection no. 115, now in Italy and was published by Mario Fales (Fales 1989:144-45). The texts were originally extracted from date lists, now lost.

Commentary: 17 different Babylonian and Assyrian King Lists have survived, mostly in fragmentary or worn condition. The present King List is the only one perfectly preserved and is the oldest as well. All others are in public collections. In addition there are 23 surviving Sumerian King Lists, all in public collections except MS 2855. The importance of the King Lists for the chronology of the Babylonian and Assyrian Kingdoms can hardly be over-estimated. They are crucial tools and primary historical evidence for the historians.

Published: E. Sollberger: "New Lists of the Kings of Ur and Isin", in: Journal of Cuneiform Studies 8(1954) pp. 135-6; and A.H. Grayson, King List 2 in the article "Königlisten und Chroniken" in Reallexicon der Assyriologie und vorderasiatische Archaeologie, Berlin 1980, p. 90.

The Story of Time, ed.: Kristen Lippincott, with Umberto Eco, E.H. Gombrich. London, Merrell Holberton in association with National Maritime Museum, 1999, p. 255.

Jöran Friberg: A remarkable Collection of Babylonian Mathematical Texts. Springer 2007. Sources and Studies in the History of Mathematics and Physical Sciences. Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection, vol. 6, Cuneiform Texts I. pp. 233-236.

Andrew George, ed.: Cuneiform Royal Inscriptions and Related Texts in the Schøyen Collection, Cornell University Studies in Assyriology and Sumerology, vol. 17, Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection, Cuneiform texts VI. CDL Press, Bethesda, MD, 2011, text 100, pp. 206-207, pl. LXXXV.

Exhibited: 1. Conference of European National Librarians, Oslo. Sept. 1994; 2. "The Story of Time", Queen's House at the National Maritime Museum and The Royal Observatory, Greenwich, Dec. 1999 - Sept. 2000.

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MS 1876/1  
HAMMURABI, MIGHTY KING, KING OF BABYLON, KING OF THE FOUR QUARTERS OF THE WORLD, THE BUILDER OF THE TEMPLE EZI-KALAM-MA ("HOUSE - THE LIFE OF THE LAND"), TEMPLE OF THE GODDESS INNANA IN ZABALA MS 1876/1

MS in Old Babylonian on clay, Zabala, Babylonia, 1792-1750 BC, 1 brick, 13x29x9 cm, originally ca. 33x29x9 cm, 9 columns, (7x16 cm) in cuneiform script.


Context: There are 10 bricks extant apart from MS 1876/1-2, 9 in the Iraq Museum and 1, former MS 1876/3, now in British Museum (gift from The Schøyen Collection). MS 3028 is a royal inscription on black stone from the shoulder of a statue.

Commentary: Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC), the great king who created the Old Babylonian empire, is today mostly remembered for his famous law code. But he also built a series of great temples like the present one in Zabala. Towards the end of his reign, Hammurabi ordered his law code to be carved on stelae which were placed in the temples bearing witness that the king had performed his important function of "king of justice" satisfactorily. The famous stele now in the Louvre, was originally erected in the Sippar temple. The 12 surviving bricks are the only witnesses of the Zabala temple, its law code stele is lost.

For The Hammurabi law code, see MS 4507

Published: The Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia, early periods, vol. 4: Douglas Frayne, Old Babylonian Period (2003-1595 BC), p. 352. Andrew George, ed.: Cuneiform Royal Inscriptions and Related Texts in the Schøyen Collection, Cornell University Studies in Assyriology and Sumerology, vol. 17, Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection, Cuneiform texts VI. CDL Press, Bethesda, MD, 2011, text 58, p. 116, pl. XLIV.

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MS 1955  
INTERNATIONAL JUDGEMENT MADE BEFORE INITESHSHUB, KING OF CARCHEMISH AND SHAUSHGAMUWA KING OF AMURRU WHICH WAS SENT TO AMISTAMRU II, KING OF UGARIT CONCERNInG PIDDU, THE FORMER QUEEN OF UGARIT, SISTER OF SHAUSHGAMUWA, AND FORMER WIFE OF AMISTAMRU. PIDDU IS EXILED BUT PROTECTED FROM BEING PUT TO DEATH IN THAT AMISTAMRU CANNOT BRING HER BACK TO UGARIT FOR ANY REASON, AND SHAUSHGAMUWA IS FORBIDDEN TO ASSOCIATE WITH HER OR MAKE PLANS THAT WILL HAVE ANY IMPLICATIONS ON THE ROYAL LINE AT UGARIT

MS in Akkadian on clay, Carchemish, Syria, 1250-1240 BC, 1 tablet, 8,2x10,2x3,2 cm, single column, 15+5 lines in cuneiform script, with seal impression rolled across the whole of the tablet, showing the deity Sharruma advancing left, holding a double axe and a sceptre.

Context: The present tablet is one out of 11 tablets concerning the divorce and judgement of Queen Piddu, involving 3 of the Kingdoms of the time, as well as the Hittite empire under King Tudkhaliash IV (ca. 1265-1220 BC).

Commentary: The kingdoms of Ugarit, Amurru and Carchemish at the North-east corner of the Mediterranean, were squeezed between the 3 great powers of the 13th c. BC, the Hittite empire, Assyria and Egypt. The present tablet illustrates the tensions among the kingdoms that fills in a bit of the picture of the upheaval to come at the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age, leading to the fall of the Hittite empire to Assyria and the following Trojan war as described by Homer.

MS 1955/1

Published: Analecta Orientalia, 48, Roma, Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1971: Loren R. Fisher, editor, The Claremont Ras Shamra Tablets, pp. 11-21. The seal is published in Ugaritica III, p. 24.

Exhibited: 1. The Claremont Ras Shamra Tablets, at the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, Claremont, California, 1970-1994. 2. "Preservation for access: Originals and copies". On the occasion of the 1st International Memory of the World Conference, organized by the Norwegian Commission for UNESCO and the National Library of Norway, at the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, 3 June - 14 July 1996.

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MS 2063  

THE TOWER OF BABEL STELE

ETEMENANKI: ZIKKURAT BABIBLI: "THE HOUSE, THE FOUNDATION OF HEAVEN AND EARTH, ZIGGURAT IN BABYLON". CAPTION IDENTIFYING THE GREAT ZIGGURAT OF BABYLON, THE TOWER OF BABEL. THE ROYAL INSCRIPTION OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR CONTINUES: NEBUCHADNEZZAR, KING OF BABYLON AM I - IN ORDER TO COMPLETE E-TEMEN-ANKI AND E-UR-ME-IMIN-ANKI I MOBILIZED ALL COUNTRIES EVERYWHERE, EACH AND EVERY RULER WHO HAD BEEN RAISED TO PROMINENCE OVER ALL THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD – THE BASE I FILLED IN TO MAKE A HIGH TERRACE. I BUILT THEIR STRUCTURES WITH BITUMEN AND BAKED BRICK THROUGHOUT. I COMPLETED IT RAISING ITS TOP TO THE HEAVEN, MAKING IT GLEAM BRIGHT AS THE SUN-

MS 2063

MS in Neo Babylonian on black stone, Babylon, 604-562 BC, stele with rounded top, 47x25x11 cm, the back of the lower 2/3 missing, 3 columns, 3+24+24+24 lines in cuneiform script, to the left: carving of the Tower of Babel from a front view, clearly showing the relative proportions of the 7 stages including the temple on the top; to the right: the standing figure of Nebuchadnezzar II with his royal conical hat, holding a staff in his left hand and a scroll with the rebuilding plans of the Tower (or a foundation nail) in his outstretched right hand; at the top: a line drawing of the ground plan of the temple on the top, showing both the outer walls and the inner arrangement of rooms, including the one that once had a fine large couch in it, richly covered, and a gold table beside it, according to Herodotus : The Histories I:181; on the left edge: another line drawing of the ground plan of the temple.

Context: For bricks from the Tower of Babel, stamped with Nebuchadnezzar's name, used during the rebuilding, see MS 1815/1-3. For the only other known architect's plan of a known temple, see MS 3031.

MS 2063

The middle part of the inscription has been carefully erased, but the conquering ruler's inscription was never inserted instead. The same thing happened to the Law stele of Hammurapi, which was seized by the Elamites as war booty from Babylonia in the 12th century BC and taken to Susa, where it subsequently was found (Now in Louvre). This parallel, and archaeological and literary evidence (Ctesias c. 400 BC, and Aelian c.175-235 AD) leads to the possibility that also the Tower of Babel Stele was taken as war booty, most likely by Xerxes in the invasion in 483 BC. Like the Elamites before him, he kept a treasure-house of spoils of war at Susa, and possibly other sites as well. Actually one of the foundation cylinders of E-temen-anki was found in Susa during de Morgan's excavations at the end of the 19th century. But there can be no firm answers to these various possibilities. (See George pp. 163-165 in his publication mentioned below). More research details.


Commentary: The ziggurat in Babylon was originally built around the time of Hammurabi 1792-1750 BC. The restoration and enlargement began under Nabopolassar, and was finished after 43 years of work under Nebuchadnezzar II, 604-562 BC. It has been calculated that at least 17 million bricks had to be made and fired. Babylon with the ziggurat was captured by Kyros 538 BC (who pulled down the 3 stair ramps so the tower could not be used as a fortress), Darius I 519 BC, Cyrus ca. 483 BC, and entirely taken down by Alexander I the Great 331 BC, due to the structural water damage caused by the removed ramps, but his rebuilding plans failed.

Until now our knowledge of the Tower of Babel has been based on the account in Genesis 11:1-9, and of Herodotus: The Histories I:178 - 182, with the measurement of the first 2 stages, and a Seleucid tablet of 229 BC (Louvre AO 6555), giving the sizes of the stages. However, no contemporary illustrations have been known, resulting in a long series of fanciful paintings throughout the art history until present. Here we have for the first time an illustration contemporary with Nebuchadnezzar II's restoring and enlargement of the Tower of Babel, and with a caption making the identity absolutely sure. We also have the building plans, as well as a short account of the reconstruction process. The text also mentions the restoration of the E-ur-imin-anki ziggurat in Borsippa, once believed by some scholars to be the Tower of Babel.

Exhibited: Rounded top part only: 1. The Bibliophile Society of Norway's 75th anniversary. Bibliofilklubben 75 år. Jubileumsutstilling Bok og Samler, Universitetsbliblioteket 27.2 - 26.4.1997; 2. XVI Congress of the International Organization for the study of the Old Testament. Faculty of Law Library, University of Oslo, 29 July - 7 August 1998; 3. Tigris 25th anniversary exhibition. The Kon-Tiki Museum, Oslo, 30.1. - 15.9.2003 -

Published: Andrew George, ed.: Cuneiform Royal Inscriptions and Related Texts in the Schøyen Collection, Cornell University Studies in Assyriology and Sumerology, vol. 17, Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection, Cuneiform texts VI. CDL Press, Bethesda, MD, 2011, text 76, pp. 153-169, pls. LVIII-LXVII.

Image in: Joel Levy: Lost cities of the ancient world. London, New Holland Publishers, 2008, p. 31. Zondervan Illustrated Bible, Backgrounds, Commentary. John H. Walton, gen. ed. Grand Rapids, Mich., Zondervan, 2009, vol 1, p. 62.

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