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Nuzi Texts and Their Uses as Historical Evidence.

Nuzi Texts and Their Uses as Historical Evidence. By MAYNARD PAUL MAIDMAN. Writings from the Ancient World, vol. 18. Atlanta: SOCIETY OF BIBLICAL LITERATURE, 2010. Pp. xxvi + 296. $34.95.

In this book M. P. Maidman offers in transliteration and translation a selection of ninety-six texts dated to the fourteenth century (of a total of 6000 documents unearthed at ancient Nuzi, modern Yor-ghan Tepe). The introduction stresses the great historical value of this corpus. Arrapbe, the capital of the kingdom to which Nuzi belonged, is located under the modern town of Kirkuk and has thus not been excavated. However, Nuzi, which lies 13 km away, was an important town, and the tablets discovered there are all the more important since the sources available on the Mittani empire, which ruled over the entire region, are scarce. The Nuzi texts were mostly found in well-known archaeological contexts: official buildings, temples, and houses. They are quite varied: public archives, often of administrative nature, but also private documents, mostly contracts. Since the scribes did not use date formulae, it is only possible to order them according to a relative chronology based on the succession of generations. Thus, they are here presented in the first four chapters of the book according to the order considered the most logical by the author, but their succession through time is not absolutely certain. In the last chapter the presentation is made according to the topics treated.

The first chapter deals with the contacts between the Arraptie kingdom and its nearest neighbor, Assyria. The tablets of Nuzi show that during an initial phase the relations were quite balanced. But there are also mentions of confrontations, which the author assigns to a second phase, when the power of Mittani had collapsed: the Assyrians, under the rule of Anur-uballit I, freed themselves from its authority and attacked their neighbor. References to battles taking place in the region of Turga, near the border, as well as in other towns, including Lubti, south of Nuzi, seem to indicate that Aggur-uballit took the towns from the Arrapbe kingdom and surrounded the capital in order to isolate its position. These texts would date to the end of the occupation of the site of Nuzi.

The affair of the exactions of the hazannu Ktai-barpe has not been reassessed as a whole since the first publication of the texts in 1936, in spite of its spectacular character, without known parallel in the extant cuneiform documentation (chapter 2). Testimony against Kuggi-harpe includes denunciations of a great variety of offences: "misappropriation of public funds, acceptance of bribes, aggravated acceptance of bribes ('aggravated' because the quid pro quo was never tendered), extortion, theft, aggravated theft (i.e., breaking and entering), kidnapping, abduction to rape, rape--all the usual crimes we associate with political corruption" (p. 7). Twenty-four texts are presented, some of them already published in AASOR 16, others later in the SCCNH series, in particular under the sigla EN 10 (copies by J. Fincke). However, the problem of the very existence of these texts and of their discovery in the "palace" of the town (room L2) remains: why, for whom, and for what scope were they written and preserved?

Chapter 3 presents seven documents related to a contestation of ownership over a vast territory designated as di, ntu, which included many villages and fields. For two generations the descendants of Kizzuk (a family of Kassite origin, according to the names of many of its members) contested the claims of others to this territory. Many trials took place successively and the contestation was apparently presented to the king himself. There was an inquiry among people from the villages concerned, asking them under which name they knew the place: the general opinion was that it was the dimtu of Kizzuk. The members of this family thus won the trial, which explains why the related documents were found in their archive, in one of the houses located north of the main tell.

The most numerous set of family archives found in Nuzi, namely that of Tehip-Tilla and his successors, includes more than a thousand texts and has already been dealt with by Maidman in a number of books and papers. He has selected ten of these tablets, documenting the relationships between a member of this family, Enna-mati son of Tehip-Tilla, and another family (chapter 4). This family, obviously in a difficult situation, gradually sells its fields to Ennamati. These documents show clearly how some families were becoming poorer, but such families are known only indirectly, the contracts documenting ownership of the fields they have sold being found in the houses of the buyers.

The last chapter is a reassessment of the much-debated issue of the ilku, a tax related to at least some real estate. Maidman defines ilku as a corvee, performed as agricultural work or craftwork, but not, apparently, as military service. People concerned are not only those defined as alik ilki, but also other groups, e.g., the rakib narkabti. According to the edict HSS 14.9, the ilku is due to the king of Arrapbe. The land belongs to different types of owners: individuals, families, royal retainers, the palace; it can be transferred, and in that case the land and the ilku are transferred together. One of the main ways to sell a plot of land was adoption: the buyer (adoptee) was then fictively introduced into the family of the seller (adopter). This is indeed a juridical fiction and the choice of this legal formula was certainly inherited from ancient times. However, if the buyer (adopted son) sometimes has to perform the ilku of the land he has acquired, which seems normal, it also often happens that the ilku is still supported by the seller (adopter).

In order to explain this situation, Maidman suggests that the ilku would remain the obligation of the seller if the contract was established after the harvest, since the seller, for that particular year, has benefited from the harvest and can thus pay the tax. The author presents three groups of two texts in support of his hypothesis. These texts are related to the successive sales of the same plot of land and show that the ilku, which is presented in the first contract as the responsibility of the seller, ends up, according to the second contract, being the responsibility of the buyer. Moreover, it is possible that the sellers stay on their former property to cultivate the land, and thus perform the corvie for the new owner, who is responsible for it.

Alternative interpretations of ilku are nonetheless possible. The recent study by J. Fincke, "Zum Verkauf von Grundbesitz in Nuzi," in Festschrift fiir G. Wilhelm, ed. J. Fincke (Dresden, 2010), 125-41, distinguishes, in the case of adoptions-sales, the possession of the land (which might still be in the hands of the adopter, so that the ilku would remain his duty) from the ownership (which would go to the adoptee). This debated issue will thus remain open.

At the beginning of the book, the reader will find two general maps, a map of the site, the family trees of two well-documented families whose activities are known over six generations or more, the chronologies of Middle Assyrian, Middle Babylonian, and Mittanian kings, and finally a relative chronology of the main families of the town and of the generations of scribes, At the end follow concordance tables, bibliography, indices of place names, personal names, professional designations and functions, as well as a list of the text types presented in the book.

Maidman's book provides the reader with a presentation of most types of documents found in Nuzi: real-estate adoptions, exchanges, trials, as well as administrative documents: accounts of men, arms, grain, or clothing allocations. Other types of documents are less represented, e.g., loans and contracts related to family law (wills, marriages), administrative texts such as long inventories of furniture, precious vessels, and textiles. However, it is clear that the author had to make choices and a hundred texts can hardly exhaust the very rich record of the site. This book will be very useful for specialists and will certainly provide stimulus for discussions, in particular about the ilku. The reader will find here transliterations, translations, and commentaries on many texts previously known only from cuneiform copies. This will make this rich documentation more widely available, whereas it has often been neglected because of the state of publication.

BRIGITTE LION UNIVERSITY OF PARIS
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Author:Lion, Brigitte
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2012
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