"Nimrud Letters" and Other Letters from Calah

The Nimrud Letters are not particularly informative about Calah (Nimrud), as they were sent to the Assyrian capital from all points of the compass, and most topics in these letters concern areas outside Assyria proper. Moreover, the group of letters called the "Nimrud Letters," excavated at the so-called North-West Palace in 1952, and republished in this volume, are not the only letters unearthed in Calah. However, they are the largest and most coherent group of letters found there and are therefore labelled as the "Nimrud Letters." The other letters excavated in Calah mainly consist of the 36[[56]] letters found at the Governor's Palace and the Burnt Palace ,[[57]] published by Post gate in GPA (1973), some of which are similar to the "Nimrud Letters" by their contents and also date to the reigns of Tiglath-pileser III and Sargon 11.[[58]]

The Nimrud Letters and other letters from Calah attest to active communication between the main palaces in the capital. For instance, no. 160 was originally sent to the governor of Calah, i.e., probably to his palace, but was found in ZT 4 of the North-West Palace among other Nimrud Letters.

The letter refers to a royal order concerning a team of Egyptian horses; such an important issue may have required the governor of Calah to come to the Central Palace and to have the request of the letter confirmed by the king. Bel-eriba, the sender of the letter, may have been ,hazannu of the Nabû temple at Calah , and thus a predecessor of the better-known Nabû-šumu-iddina/Nadi-nu.[[59]] This suggestion is based on the fact that his letter concerns horses (see also SAA 15 72) and that Bel-eriba addresses the governor (of the capital) with "my/your brother." It is of course true that in the strict Assyrian hierarchy hazannu is a lower official than the governor, but he is high enough, and as a colleague probably also close enough to the governor that he could address the latter as his "brother." Moreover, in his letter, he first mentions the addressee before his own name, a usual practice in letters sent to a higher authority.

An almost comparable case to no. 160 may be no. 13 from Šarru-duri , governor of Calah, sent from the governor's palace to the Central Palace.[[60]] Note also that SAA 1 26 (ND 2408), likely to be a copy of a sent letter, is an order from the king to the governor of Calah.

The "Nimrud Letters" are not the oldest letters found in Calah since Ahmad and Postgate have recently published at least one letter which predates all the letters published here.[[61]] Furthermore, eight seventh-century letters from Calah were edited by Dalley and Postgate in CTN 3 ( 1984 )[[62]] and a few others are either published elsewhere or remain unpublished .[[63]] Among the letters from Nimrud there are also a small number of letter-orders,[[64]] including a short letter-order with several duplicates .[[65]]

According to an unpublished Nimrud Excavation Register at the British Museum, it seems that some of the Nimrud Letters were not unearthed at ZT 4:

One immediately recognizes that these tablets have either an ND 20NN or ND 28NN number, i.e., they form the lowest and highest field numbers among the Nimrud Letters .[[66]] When compared with the main corpus tablets from ZT 4, the locations of the neighbouring finds raise the question of whether the above-listed letters are really part of Tiglath-pileser's and Sargon's Nimrud Letter corpus. In particular, one might be sceptical about nos. 144 and 215 , and without further information these might as well be seventh-century letters, whereas nos. 64, 137 and 180 are more than likely letters belonging to the main corpus[[67]].

On the other hand, e.g., ND 3477[[68]] may well belong to the Nimrud Letter corpus as the transliteration of four extant lines in the Database of the Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project reads:

56 GPA 180-200, 203, 205-211,230 (SAA 1228), 240 (SAA I 104), 241 (SAA 1 121), 242 (SAA 5292), 243(SAA 5 144), 244 (SAA 5 191), 245 (SAA 1 167).

57 See GPA pp. 1, 3, 255-264. One letter (GPA no. 230), addressed to the governor, was also found at B 50; for a description, see GPA p. 7.

58 GPA pp. 10f, 21-23. In fact, six or seven of these letters which were unearthed in the Burnt Palace are letters to the king. Except for GPA 180, from the Governor's Palace, these letters were re-edited in SAA 1, nos. 104, 121 (by Aššur-bani , governor of Calah), 167 (only a small fragment bearing three lines survives) and SAA 5 , nos. 144, 191 (a small fragment with the names or titles of the recipient and sender broken away), 292.

59 Nabû-šumu-iddina's/Nadinu's correspondence with Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal is edited as SAA 13 78-123 and three additional fragments ascribed to him were added to SAA 16 (nos. 175- 177).

60 GPA 181-187, 203, 206(?) went in the other direction from the king to the governor of Calah, his deputy or his subordinates.

61 Ahmad and Postgate, Archives from the Domestic Wing of the North-West Palace at Kalhu/Nimrud (Edubba 10, London 2007) no. 55 (ND 575). For the dates of this archive, see ibid. pp. v-vi.

62 CTN 3, nos. 1-5, 28, 46, and 84.

63 IM 132409, a private letter from Calah, was published by FadhiI and Radner in BaM 27 (1996) 419ff. Some other letters with ND-numbers that are not yet published do also exist (at least Wiseman in Iraq 15 [1953]: ND 3410 [p. 138, pl. 11], ND3471 [p.147, pl.13]).

64 For example, note that ND 2606 and ND 2651 are royal orders, i.e., a sort of "letters," although they were not listed in Luukko Variation p. 205. However, they do not belong to the Nimrud Letters, 1952 corpus.

65 The duplicates ND 2431/2652/2657/2659 were published by Parker (Iraq 23 [1961] 24 lPI. 131, 41f [Pl. 22]) and ND 3470 by Wiseman (Iraq 15 [19531 147, Pl. 1).

66 Furthermore, on the find place of no. 5, king to Madayu, the Nimrud Excavation Register at the British Museum says ''ZT 4?" and on no. 38, Ahu-lamur to the chief eunuch about the sick chief of trade, Nimrud: not recorded".

67 Note also that some of the GPA letters were not found in the Governor's Palace; see e.g., GPA 230, ibid. p. 219f.

68 For a short description of a tablet from ZTW 4, now in the Iraq museum, cf. Wiseman Iraq 15 (1953) 147.

Mikko Luukko

Mikko Luukko, '"Nimrud Letters" and Other Letters from Calah', The Correspondence of Tiglath-Pileser III and Sargon II from Calah/Nimrud, SAA 19. Original publication: Winona Laka, IN, Eisenbrauns, 2012; online contents: SAAo/SAA19 Project, a sub-project of MOCCI, 2021 [http://oracc.org/saao/saa19/nimrudlettersandotherlettersfromcalah/]

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