Domestic Animals

If the administrative texts from NA Nineveh may be said in general to "fall far short of the standards set by Mari and Ebla" (SAA 7, p. XVI), it is to the extraordinarily precise lists of domestic animals from the Drehem archives of the Ur III period that the mind turns with some regret, upon tackling the present group of documents, in which random formats, unclear typologies, and unknown scopes abound. At present, the available information on the role of sheep, goats, and cattle in the economic and administrative mechanisms of the Assyrian state is still quite spotty; the only hope is, that, despite their shortcomings, these Nineveh registers of domestic animals may fit in with others in defining the picture in the future.

Sheep and Goats

Texts dealing with sheep and goats are numerous (nos. 76-88, 100-103), and their main contribution is from the terminological point of view. We find all the contemporary terms for sheep in use : as a collective body (UDU.MEŠ, UDU.HI.A, the more unusual BABBAR.MEŠ - something like "whiteys," which in no. 76 opposes GI6.MEŠ, "blackies," i.e. goats - and probably also UDU.NITA.MEŠ in no. 77); as distinguished by sex between rams (UDU.NITÁ, puhālu, and even NITÁ, puhālu in no. 78) and ewes (*lahru, written UDU.U8, or just U8 , in no. 78 with the addition of ālittu, "bearing"); as divided up into the categories of age/size of KALAG, "full-grown," li-da (no. 77) or NIM (*hurāpu), "lamb," DUMU-MU(.AN.NA) or A-MU, "one-year old," while further year-designations were marked only by numbers. Culling from the same sampler, we find that goats ( once, as said, dubbed collectively GI6.MEŠ) are distinguished into (UDU.)MÁŠ, "male goat," MÁŠ.TUR or again li-da, "kid," (UDU.)UZ, "nanny-goat" (in one text also specified as ālittu, "bearing"), UDU.MÍ.ÁŠ.GÀR, "female kid," and ÙZ, urīsu, "billy-goat."

Other than this, the contents of the lists of sheep and goats present few items of any momentum. Entire flocks, listed by their owners, their shepherds, or at times the officials entrusted with them, are given in the multiple-section list of no. 76, or in the single-entry memoranda such as nos. 77 (of 685 BC), 79, and 78 (of 683 BC; no persons mentioned) - all possibly referring to incoming animals. Certainly incoming, but for the specific aim of ceremonial banquets (perhaps of the same type as the ones described in SAA 7 148-154), were the 1998 grain-fed sheep listed in no. 80 by their province of origin, both east of the Tigris and west of the Euphrates; while the "Temanaean" sheep in no. 85 might have represented a particular breed, such as the "Haršean" horses below. Finally, we find three exemplars of a type of tally in which only a subdivision of the flock by age was recorded (nos. 101-103): similar laconic schedules are known from Calah, cf. e.g. GPA 131, 232.

Other and Mixed Domestic Animals

Cattle and donkeys are the main protagonists of a memorandum on various thefts, unfortunately preserved only in part, no. 87: in one of the cases recorded, 10 people seem to have been taken away as well, while in a further item, 1500 sheep were part of the thieves' booty. No. 90 is a fragmentary note on the distribution of ṣibtu, a particular levy on domestic animals (TCAE, pp. 171 f); the estate of the chief cook (cf. his role in no. 36, above) is called upon to provide cattle and sheep, possibly to the benefit of other holdings. No. 94 concerns an inspection of domestic animals in Nineveh and in Dur-Sarruken (notice the orthography of the toponym, with interesting phonetic characteristics, to be added to the data in Toponyms, pp. 112ff), with a division between donkeys, oxen, and sheep "inspected" and "dead" : the administrative context of the tally and the exact implication of the vast number of "dead" animals escape us at present. The different prices paid for male or female donkeys are the topic of a further memo, no. 98: notice the presence, side by side, of the (regular) "mina" and the "royal mina." Another account (no. 100) regards a sum equivalent to an unspecified quantity of shorn wool, qualified as a "penalty," i.e. presumably to be made over following a judicial decision; the date is post-canonical (cf. Millard, SAAS 2, pp. 115f). Finally, we may notice the quaint list no. 106, which has long stumped philologists and lexicographers: was it a record of boonyms (oxen bearing specific personal names), or - as is more likely - a list of people with one ox each? And to whom or what do the unusual (possibly in part Aramaic) terms in the last five lines refer?

F.M. Fales & J.N. Postgate

F.M. Fales & J.N. Postgate, 'Domestic Animals', Imperial Administrative Records, Part II: Provincial and Military Administration, SAA 11. Original publication: Helsinki, Helsinki University Press, 1995; online contents: SAAo/SAA11 Project, a sub-project of MOCCI, 2021 []

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