THE UR-NAMMU LAW CODE

MS 2064
MS Short Title THE UR-NAMMU LAW CODE
Text CODE OF 57 LAWS INCLUDING CRIMINAL LAW, FAMILY LAW, INHERITANCE
LAW, LABOUR LAW INCLUDING SLAVE RIGHTS, AND AGRICULTURAL AND COMMERCIAL TARIFFS
Description MS in Sumerian on clay, Umma, Sumer, reign of King Shulgi, 2095-2047 BC, 1 cylinder, h. 28 cm (originally ca 30 cm), diam. 12 cm, 8 columns (originally 10 columns), 243 lines in cuneiform script.
Binding Barking, Essex, 1996, green quarter morocco gilt folding case by Aquarius.
Context For the Hammurabi law code, see MS 4507 in this section. This cylinder is by some way the oldest surviving witness to the text.
Commentary

The Ur-Nammu law code is the oldest known, written about 300 years before Hammurabi's law code. When first found in 1901, the laws of Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC) were heralded as the earliest known laws. Now older collections are known: The laws of the town Eshnunna (ca. 1800 BC), the laws of King Lipit-Ishtar of Isin (ca. 1930 BC), and Old Babylonian copies (ca. 1900-1700 BC) of the Ur-Nammu law code , with 26 laws of the 57 on the present MS. This cylinder is the first copy found that originally had the whole text of the code, and it is the world's oldest law code MS. Further it actually mentions the name of Ur-Nammu for the first time.

Hammurabi's laws represented the inhumane Law of Retaliation, "an Eye for an Eye". One would expect the 300 years older laws of Ur-Nammu would be even more brutal, but the opposite is the case: "If a man knocks out the eye of another man, he shall weigh out 1/2 a mina of silver".

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 107, p. 221-286, pls. XCIII-CI.
Place of origin Sumer
Dates 2095 - 2047 BC

Location