Miscellaneous Commodities

The texts in this group are quite heterogeneous, both in format and content, but perhaps exactly for this reason they open up perspectives for enquiry in many different directions. No. 23 is an undated list of quantities of grain measured by homers and seahs, associated - item by item - with personal names, and which seems to have been delivered in "bundles" (ibissu) to Nineveh. Particularly intriguing is the section of the totals: the 70 homers and 7 seahs said to be destined for Nineveh do not, in fact, match the sum of all single items in the previous list, which comes to 72 homers, 7 seahs (by the 10-seah homer). Thus the last line (r.1) might be expected to set this calculation to rights, but in effect we have a conundrum: the given total is not only higher than expected, but also includes a 7-qa subdivision, of which no trace may be found on the obverse. Was this the result of a further count of the bundles, effected at the moment of arrival? And did the last two unclear signs of r.1 bear a reference to such a practice? Certainly this is a possibility, especially in the light of the sealing practices which accompanied shipments similar to this one, even from one bureau to the next ( cf. the texts of the next section).

No. 24 is a record of sheaves, and to a smaller extent of bales, of barley, listed in three allotments in the month of Nisannu (2nd, 6th, 16th day). At the end of the text, the scribe counted the sheaves, and then gave their equivalence in bales, proving that the ratio between the two measures was 3: 1, thus: 515 sheaves= 172 bales by approximation, plus 8 recorded bales, for a grand total of 180 bales.

No. 26 is a text divided into sections which may be loosely dubbed a "memorandum" on the trading activities of a number of merchants based in the city of Harran, whose names and patronymics were recorded at the end of the document. The transactions involved the purchase of a variety of goods, from iron to different types of skins, from linen garments and togas (šaddinnu) to coloured wool, plus other unintelligible items, in greater or smaller quantities, for a total expense just short of 40 minas (= approx. 40 kg) of silver. The description of the selling parties provides a small but vivid portrait of commercial mobility within the empire: we find among others an ironsmith from Inner City-Assur, traders coming from Kummuh (as in the letter SAA 1 33 of the time of Sargon), a man from Babylon, an Aramean, a further Kummuhean, all of whom seem to have arrived in Harran to barter their specific merchandise against silver; only in one case (7' ff.) do we find one of the Harran merchants receiving a consignment in Calah, but it is explicitly stated that "he himself exported" the purchased goods from that city.

That the activities described in the text were of a nature not fostered by the Assyrian state, in fact outright illegal, might be presumed from two elements: the first and most important is the running dialogue, introduced by mā within our text, between the merchants and an unnamed party. Now, the merchants take pains to point out repeatedly that they have no recollection or record of the personal names of their business counterparts: only in one case - the Babylonian citizen encountered in Harran - is the message different (although the gist is the same), "he was (just) passing through." This negative insistence would seem to point to an interrogation-type situation as its counterpart; and a plausible setting for our text would thus seem to be that of a trial, or of a judgment administered by the king himself during an audience, of which the merchants were the object. To this may be added the further element of a well-known ban on the private retail of iron - obviously in order to check the tendency toward individual arms manufacture - such as is described in SAA 1 179 concerning the Syrian region and the Arabs. However, it is doubtful that dyed skins, linen garments, black wool, and particular types of stone were considered socially dangerous to the same extent as iron; rather, they belong to the same class of wares that could form part of state and palace income in its various forms (cf. e.g. the items of maddattu, "tribute" in no. 36, below). Thus the object of the measure could have been that of hindering non-state-controlled commercial activities and the relevant interregional movement of goods.

A large group of these texts is constituted by short memoranda, in the main centering upon incoming shipments or consignments for the palace and its personnel: such are e.g. no. 27 (royal accoutrements), no. 28 (a list of food and garments for ilku contributions). On the other hand, the fragmentary inventory no. 30 might also provide a quick insight into Assyrian foreign policy towards the north west: on the basis of the final formula (r.10-11: "in all, 9 kings who have delivered within the year") and of the Luwian personal names in the document, Hawkins and Postgate (SAAB 2 [1988] 31 ff) have suggested that we might be dealing here with a list of tribute sent by the rulers of Tabal and outlying regions to Tiglath-Pileser III, presumably between 743 and 738 BC. To be sure, the presence of a document of such early date in the Nineveh archives is perplexing; on the other hand, the mules and horses in 􀉖 J the list find a good parallel in the tribute of a Tabalian king almost a century later, as shown by the horse report no. 112, below. No. 31 is a record of the return home(?) of foreign envoys to various countries of the Zagros region, and presumably centers on a complaint by one of these people, to the effect that some items which had been expected, are lacking. A list of greeting-gifts in gold and silver from Palestine and Phoenicia (no. 33) is addressed directly to the "king my lord," as in the contemporary letters.

A final group of documents regards schedules of contributions of different origin. The largest of these texts is a six-columned list (no. 3 6), largely complete, bearing "... of tribute" as a heading. Whatever the integration suggested for the missing first word ([HA.LA], i.e. za'uzzu , "distribution" is quite likely), it is clear that this was an inventory of incoming items, apportioned to individual officials together with their subordinates. Much of the tribute is in edibles: wine in bowls and sheep and form the majority of the entries, some of which are described outright as "food" for the individual recipient. Honey, figs, pomegranates, almonds and terebinths are also listed, but perhaps these were to be used in part for the professional activities of the "fruit master" and the "chief confectioner" (i.26-3 1), a further professional destination of the tribute is probably in ii. 19-21, where the chief fuller is said to receive dyes. The reverse of the tablet seems to concern in the main allotments of copper for individual members of the military; but, as so often in these lists, a search for other than a random ordering principle among the sections yields precious little.

In smaller fragments such as nos. 37, 38, and 40 (where a governor of Damascus is mentioned), on the other hand, we should be dealing with the recording of an opposite movement of goods: schedules of items brought by officials to the palace, more likely than not as audience gifts. The same may be said for no. 29: the obverse records a strange medley of items, from an ibex(?) head to crossed falcons to a pomegranate, presumably to be understood as ornaments deriving from individual confiscations during booty-raids in enemy lands, which are being at present offered to the ruler as audience gifts by military of various ranks; the reverse holds a memo on entirely different matters. The rest of this material is fragmentary: notice however no. 45, which bears good testimony to the variety of standards in use for capacity measures (6-qa and 8-qa seahs are specified) ; and no. 46, which is dated (670 BC).

F.M. Fales & J.N. Postgate

F.M. Fales & J.N. Postgate, 'Miscellaneous Commodities', 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 [http://oracc.org/saao/saa11/provincialadministrationandtaxation/miscellaneouscommodities/]

 
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