Archival practices at Old Babylonian/Middle Bronze Age Alalakh (Level VII)

by Lauinger, Jacob, Ph.D., THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, 2007, 363 pages; 3273033


The site of Alalakh (modern Tell Atchana) has provided us with approximately 300 cuneiform tablets and fragments that date to the late Old Babylonian Period/Middle Bronze Age II. Despite the scholarly attention that these tablets have received, no study has investigated their archeological and archival context. The dissertation fills this lacuna and demonstrates that an archival approach to the Alalakh VII tablets offers much for our understanding not just of Alalakh but also of ancient archival practices more generally.

Chapter 1 reviews previous scholarship on the archival approach and situates the Alalakh VII tablets within that scholarship. Chapter 2 explains how I increased the percentage of Alalakh VII tablets with a known find-spot from 19% to 90% of the corpus and concluded that almost every Alalakh VII tablet was found in one of three locations: the temple; room 2 of the palace; and the palace's storerooms (rooms 11-12-13). Chapters 3, 4, and 5 examine the tablets found in each of these locations. In addition to increasing our knowledge of specific persons or institutions, these chapters demonstrate that a conscious distinction between administrative and juridical texts structured archival practices at Alalakh VII.

In order to articulate this distinction, I use the concept of "fungibility," understanding a fungible object to be one whose value can be transferred from one person to another and which is potentially valuable, then, to whomever possesses it. Administrative texts had no fungible value; they were valuable only to the administrative office that used the texts to account for goods under their control. Accordingly, administrative texts seem to have been stored with the office, where they would be most useful. Juridical texts, on the other hand, did possess fungible value. They documented ownership rights to assets; possession of a juridical text affirmed ownership of the asset. Because of their fungible value, juridical texts were more than simply records but valuable objects in their own right and consequently were stored in a secure location.

AdviserMartha T. Roth
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsAncient languages; Middle Eastern history; Ancient history
Publication Number3273033

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