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Introduction to the Reconstruction 4
Role and Layout of Timeline Figures 20
Overview of Central Events in the Context of the Figures 26
Overview of Chapters 30


Encountering the Unexpected 35
Commercial Structures of the Old Assyrian Trade 40
Organizing the Trade: The Concept of the Family Firm 50
Reassessing Family Firm and Cooperation 66


Reconstructing the Original Venture 79
The Caravan Documentation 81
The Letters of Receipt 97
The Durḫumit Debts 106
Temporally Constraining the Original Venture 117
The Limits of Šalim-aḫum’s Accuracy and Language 128
Šalim-aḫum’s Imprecisions 131
Šalim-aḫum and ‘His’ Merchants 144
Conclusion 149


The Puzur-Ištar Affair 156
Puzur-Ištar Renegs 156
The Puzur-Ištar Affair and the ša ḫarrān ālim Contract 166
Šalim-aḫum Manages the Situation 174
The Temporal Development of the Puzur-Ištar Affair 187
Tempos of Trade and Communication in the Old Assyrian Period 195
The Tempo of Bulk Transport 196
The Donkeys 200

The Route 206
The Shipping Season 214
Rethinking the Tempo of Bulk Transport 218
The Tempo of Communication 219
The Content of the Correspondence 222
Questions about Equids 229
Conclusion 235


The Ilabrat-bāni Affair 238
Ilabrat-bāni’s Transgression 240
Šalim-aḫum’s and Ilabrat-bāni’s Reconciliation 261
Šalim-aḫum’s Retaliation 265
Metaphorical Retaliation, Duality of Structures, and Practice 277
Conclusion 288


Šalim-aḫum, His Sons, and Pūšu-kēn 292
Discussing Dān-Aššur’s Travel Plans 293
Dān-Aššur’s Travel Plans and the Timing of the nabrītum 309
Ennam-Aššur’s Reluctance to Return Home 322
The Joint Venture 335
Šalim-aḫum Helps Pūšu-kēn Buy a House 352
Getting Interpersonal 361
Father and Sons: Šalim-aḫum, Ennam-Aššur and Dān-Aššur 361
Principal and Agent: Šalim-aḫum and Pūšu-kēn 366
Šalim-aḫum’s Commercial Network 375
Conclusion 391


Agents 399
Archives 404
Risk 412








1 Location and Event Codes of Each Episode 8

2 Goods Shipped and Cleared from Šalim-aḫum’s Shipment 91

3 Lots Sold from the Shipments Arriving in Kanesh as Reported in 2.2 93

4 Comparison of the Contents of 2.3 and 2.4 104

5 Listed Amounts of Aššur-šamšī’s Sons and the Unknown Party’s Debts 111

6 Summary Table of Events from the Original Venture 116

7 Variation in Expressed Amounts of Šalim-aḫum’s Assets in Select Texts 132

8 Summary of Šalim-aḫum’s Sources of Gold 181

9 Summary Table of Events from the Puzur-Ištar Affair 185

10 Prices Quoted for the Purchase of Perdum 234

11 Summary of Ilī-ašranni’s Caravan and its Disposition 245

12 Ilabrat-bāni’s Minor Debts to Šalim-aḫum 274

13 Summary Table of Events from the Ilabrat-bāni Affair 275

14 Summary Table of Events from the Dān-Aššur Letters 307

15 Summary Table of Events from the Ennam-Aššur Letters 334

16 Summary Table of Events from the Joint Venture 350

17 Summary Table of Events from the Purchasing Houses Episode 360

18 Chronological Distribution of Debt Notes Attributable to Pūšu-kēn 405

19 Analytic Process Ledger of Šalim-aḫum’s Commercial Assets during REL 80 – 423

Part One: Merchandise and Claims

20 Analytic Process Ledger of Šalim-aḫum’s Commercial Assets during REL 80 – 429

Part Two: Miscellaneous Claims
LIST OF TABLES, continued

21 Analytic Process Ledger of Šalim-aḫum’s Commercial Assets during REL 80 – 431

Part Three: Silver Assets Received by Šalim-aḫum

22 Estimated Prices in Aššur during REL 80 used in the Temporal Ledger 433

23 Temporal Ledger of Šalim-aḫum’s Commercial Assets managed through 436

Pūšu-kēn during REL 80

24 Successor Eponym References in Intercalary Months and Months I-V 446

between REL 80 and 114


1 Logical Construction of Šalim-aḫum’s Activities – Step 1 11

2 Logical Construction of Šalim-aḫum’s Activities – Step 2 14

3 Logical Construction of Šalim-aḫum’s Activities – Step 3 17

4 Geographic and Temporal Layout for Reconstructed Activity in REL 80 23

5 Overview of the Reconstructed Activity during REL 80 25

6 Chronological Development of the Original Venture 120

7 Familial Relationship between Puzur-Ištar and Pūšu-kēn 171

8 Chronological Development of the Puzur-Ištar Affair 189

9 Two-Cycle Model in the Context of REL 80 198

10 Possible Southern Route through Habur 212

11 Map of Paleoclimate Proxy Sites 218

12 Density of Communication between Šalim-aḫum and Pūšu-kēn mid- 221

March to mid-June REL 80

13 Chronological Development of the Ilabrat-bāni Affair 285

14 Chronological Development of Dān-Aššur’s Activities During REL 80 304

15 Chronological Development of Ennam-Aššur’s Activities during REL 80 333

16 Chronological Development of the Joint Venture 345

17 Distribution of Intercalated Months between REL 81 and REL 110 451


Abbreviations follow those of C. Michel, Old Assyrian Bibliography (Leiden: Nederlands Instituut
voor het Nabije Oosten, 2003) 146-153 and the supplement C. Michel, Old Assyrian Bibliography
1 (AfO 51, 436-49), and secondarily M.T. Roth, The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the
University of Chicago, vol. Ṭ (Chicago: The Oriental Institute, 2006) ix-xxxii. Additions and a
selection of abbreviations from the sources above are presented for the convenience of

AC Paul Garelli, Les Assyriens en Cappadoce, Bibliothèque archéologique et

historique de l’institut français d’archéologie d’Istanbul XIX (Paris:
Librairie Adrien Maisonneuve,1963).

AHK Benno Landsberger, Assyrische Handelskolonien in Kleinasien aus dem

Dritten Jahrtausend, AO 24/4 (1925).

AKT Ankara Kültepe Tabletleri, Ankaraner Kültepe-Texte.

AMMY Anadolu Medeniyetleri Müzesi Yıllığı.

AnAr Anadolu Araştırmaları.

AnSt Anatolian Studies.

AOATT Klaas Veenhof, Aspects of Old Assyrian Trade and Its Terminology, Studia et
Documenta ad Iura Orientis Antiqui Pertinentia, no. 10 (Leiden: Brill,

APU Andrea Ulshofer, Die altassyrische Privaturkunden, FAOS B 4 (Stuttgart:

Franz Steiner Verlag, 1995).

ArAn Archivum Anatolicum.

Aššur-nādā Mogens Trolle Larsen, The Aššur-nādā Archive, PIHANS 96 (Leiden:

Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 2002).

ATHE Burkhart Kienast, Die altassyrischen Texte des orientalischen Seminars der
Universität Heidelberg und der Sammlung Erlenmeyer, Untersuchungen zur
Assyriologie und vorderasiatischen Archäologie. Bd. 1 (Berlin: Walter
De Gruyter, 1960).

Barjamovic, Gojko Barjamovic, “A Historical Geography of Ancient Anatolia in the

“Geography” Assyrian Colony Period” (diss., University of Copenhagen, 2005).

BIN Babylonian Inscriptions in the Collection of J.B. Nies.

CCT Cuneiform Texts from Cappadocian Tablets in the British Museum.

CMK C. Michel, Correspondance des Marchands de Kanish au début du IIe

millénaire avant J.-C., Littératures anciennes du Proche-Orient (Paris:
Lés Editions du CERF, 2001)
CTMMA Cuneiform Texts in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Edinburgh Stephanie Dalley, A Catalogue of the Akkadian Cuneiform Tablets in the

Collections of the Royal Scottish Museum Edinburgh, Art and Archaeology
No. 2 (Edinburgh: Royal Scottish Museum, 1979).

EL Georg Eisser and Julius Lewy, Die altassyrischen Rechtsurkunden vom

Kültepe, 2 vols, Mitteilungen der vorderasiatisch-aegyptischen
Gesellschaft 33, 35/3 (Leipzig, 1930-35).

FAOS B Freiburger altorientalische Studien Beihefte: Altassyrische Texte und


GKT Karl Hecker, Grammatik der Kültepe-Texte, AnOr No. 44 (Rome:

Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1968).

ICK Inscriptions cunéiformes de Kültepe.

Imdīlum Metin Ichisar, Les Archives cappadociennes du marchand Imdilum (Paris:

Editions A.D.P.F., 1981).

Innāya Cécile Michel, Innaya dans les tablettes paleo-assyriennes, 2 vols. (Paris:
Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1991).

KEL Kültepe Eponym List

KKS Lubor Matouš and M. Matoušová, Kappadokische Keilschrifttafeln mit

Siegeln aus den Sammlungen der Karlsuniversität in Prag (Prague:
Karlsuniversität, 1984).

KTB Julius Lewy, Die Kültepetexte der Sammlung Rudolf Blankertz (Berlin, 1929).

KTH Julius Lewy, Die Kültepe-Text aus der Sammlung Frida Hahn (Berlin, 1930).

KTK N.B. Jankowska, Klinopisnye teksty iz Kjul'-Tepe v Sobranijach SSSR
(Moscow, 1968).

KTP Ferris Stephens, "The Cappadocian Tablets in the University of

Pennsylvania Museum," Journal of the Society of Oriental Research 11
(1927): 101-36.

KTS Keilschrittexte in den Antiken Museen zu Stambul.

KUG Karl Hecker, Die Keilschrifttexte der Universitätsbibliothek Giessen, Berichte

und Arbeiten aus der Universitätsbibliotheker Giessen 9 (Giessen:
Universitätsbibliothek, 1966).

Larsen et al., “Ups Mogens Trolle Larsen, Gojko Barjamovic, and Thomas Hertel, "Ups and
and Downs” Downs at Kanesh: Observations on Chronology, History and Society in
the Old Assyrian Period," (forthcoming).

MOS Studies 1 Jan Gerrit Dercksen, ed., Trade and Finance in Ancient Mesopotamia, MOS
Studies 1, PIHANS 84 (Istanbul: Nederlands Historisch-Archaeologisch
Instituut te Istanbul, 1999).

OAAS Old Assyrian Archives Studies.

OAAS 2 Guido Kryszat, Zur Chronologie der Kaufmannsarchive aus der Schicht 2 des
Kārum Kaneš: Studien und Materialien, OAAS 2, PIHANS 99 (Leiden:
Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 2004).

OAAS 3 Jan Gerrit Dercksen, Anatolia and the Jazira during the Old Assyrian Period,
OAAS 3, PIHANS 111 (Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije
Oosten, 2008.

OAB Cécile Michel, Old Assyrian Bibliography (Leiden: Nederlands Instituut

voor het Nabije Oosten, 2003).

OACC Mogens Trolle Larsen, The Old Assyrian City-State and its Colonies,
Mesopotamia 4 (Copenhagen: Akademisk Forlag, 1976).

OACP Mogens Trolle Larsen, Old Assyrian Caravan Procedures, PIHANS 22

(Istanbul: Nederlands Historisch-Archaeologisch Instituut in het
Nabije Oosten, 1967).

OACT Jan Gerrit Dercksen, The Old Assyrian Copper Trade in Anatolia, PIHANS 75
(Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 1996).

OAI Jan Gerrit Dercksen, Old Assyrian Institutions, PIHANS 98 (Leiden:
Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 2004).

OALE Klaas Veenhof, The Old Assyrian List of Year Eponyms from Karum Kanish
and Its Chronological Implications, TTKY VI-64 (Ankara: Turkish
Historical Society, 2003).

OBO 160/5 Klaas Veenhof and Jesper Eidem, Mesopotamia: The Old Assyrian Period,
Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 160/5 (Fribourg: Academic Press, 2008).

PIHANS Publications de l‘Institut historique-archéologique néerlandais de


POAT Walter Gwaltney, The Pennsylvania Old Assyrian Texts, HUCA Supp. 3
(Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College, 1981).

Prag I Karl Hecker, Guido Kryszat, and Lubor Matouš, Kappadokische

Keilschrifttafeln aus den Sammlungen der Karlsuniversität Prag (Prague:
Institute of Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Charles University, 1998).

REL Revised Eponym List

Sealing Beatrice Teissier, Sealing and Seals on Texts from Kültepe Kārum Level 2,
PIHANS 70 (Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 1994).

Studies Erkanal Studies in Honor of Hayat Erkanal: Cultural Reflections, ed. Armagan
Erkanal-Oktu et al. (Istanbul: Homer Kitabevi, 2006).

Studies Garelli Dominique Charpin and Francis Joannès, eds., Marchands, diplomats et
empereurs: études sur la civilisation mésopotamienne offertes à Paul Garelli
(Paris: Editions Recherche sur les civilisations, 1991).

Studies Larsen Jan Gerrit Dercksen, ed., Assyria and Beyond: Studies Presented to Mogens
Trolle Larsen, PIHANS 100 (Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije
Oosten, 2004).

Studies Matouš B. Hruška and G. Komoróczy, eds. Festschrift Lubor Matouš, 2 vols.
(Budapest, 1978).

Studies Veenhof Wilfred van Soldt, ed., Veenhof Anniversary Volume: Studies Presented to
Klaas R. Veenhof on the Occasion of his Sixty-fifth Birthday, PIHANS 89
(Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 2001).

TC Tablettes cappadociennes du Louvre (TC 1, 2, 3/1, 3/2, 3/3 = TCL 4, 14,

and 19-21 respectively).
TCL Textes cunéiformes du Louvre.

TPAK 1 Cécile Michel and Paul Garelli, Tablettes paléo-assyriennes de Kültepe 1 (Kt
90/k) (Istanbul: Institut français d'Etudes anatoliennes Georges
Dumezil, 1997).

TTKY Türk Tarıh Kurumu Yayınlarından, Publications of the Turkish

Historical Society.

TuM Texte und Materialen der Frau Professor Hilprecht Collection.

UAR Hans Hirsch, Untersuchungen zur altassyrischen Religion, AfO Beiheft

13/14 (Graz, 1961).

UHKB Uluslararası Hititoloji Kongresi Bildirileri.

VS Vorderasiatische Schriftdenkmäler der (Königl.) Museen zu Berlin.


This dissertation owes its existence to a great many individuals and number of

institutions whose assistance I gratefully recognize. First, I thank my committee, Professors

Martha Roth, Mogens Trolle Larsen, and Seth Richardson for their patience and guidance

during the process of bringing this work to a completion. Martha Roth was an indefatigable

supporter, cogitator and demander of excellence. The influence of Mogens Larsen’s work and

his counsel on this project is inestimable and his continued support and critique, both in topics

withi this work and broader afeild during this period, have and continue to be refining and

improving. Seth Richardson consistently provided feedback that helped to better focus the

potential and scope of the project.

A number of insitutions and groups supported me during my work on this project. I am

grateful for the support of the A. Leo Oppenheim Scholarship (2006-2009), particularly for

support provided during my stay in Copenhagen (2006-2007), a University Research Travel

Grant (University of Chicago, 2006-2007) during that same period was also helpful.

I cannot hope to fully list all those who provided advice, support, and help in the

conception, research and writing of the present work. Fellow members of the Old Assyrian

Test Project, Klaas Veenhof (Leiden), Jan Gerrit Dercksen (Leiden), Guido Kryszat (Mainz),

Cécile Michel (CNRS) Gojko Barjamovic (Copenhagen), and Thomas Hertel (Copenhagen)

provided feedback and resources at several points. In particular, Thomas Hertel’s attentive and

incisive review of transliterations, translations, and discussion was extremely appreciated. I

also benefitted from the review, advice, and discussion of my research topics with serveral

colleagues in Chicago. Dennis Campbell was a frequent and productive discussion companion. I

also benefitted tremendously from a discussion group with Grant Madsen, Greg Thompson,

Max Hammond, and occasionally Jacob Hickman. Many more associates and colleagues’

thought and insights enriched my struggle with this topic whom I acknowledge here.

Most of all, the support I received from my wife during this process, making allowances

for my time, patiently reviewing drafts, and providing constant assurance, made this work

possible. I owe her more than I could ever repay.


The purpose of this dissertation is to provide an inductive description of one Old

Assyrian merchant’s pursuit of his commercial interests over the course of a year through a

temporal reconstruction of pertinent correspondence. Šalim-aḫum’s correspondence,

primarily with one of his important representatives, Pūšu-kēn, documents Šalim-aḫum’s

efforts to manage his business pursuits on the Anatolian plateau from his base at Aššur 1000

kilometers away.1 Through the year he shepherds ventures, responds to defaulting partners,

expresses outrage at being wronged, seeks retribution, plans one son’s travels, plans another

son’s marriage, helps an agent buy a house, presses an associate into a partnership,

manipulates colleagues, and is occasionally ignored. In response to a need for an inductive

description of private organization in the Old Assyrian trade, this account, focused on the day-

to-day practice of the trade, exposes a substratum of structures which shaped the social

dimensions of the trade but also reveals Šalim-aḫum making decisions in compelling temporal

and material contexts. In turn, Šalim-aḫum’s decisions and tactics, his reactions and strategies,

substantively document a mentality about the Old Assyrian trade and its social and economic

dimensions nearly four millennia ago.

The aerial distance between Aššur and Kanesh, the hub of Assyrian commerce in Anatolia, was c. 700km,
but the overland route between them was c. 1000km.
This micronarrative account arises from the identification of a set of thirty undated

and two dated letters written, I will argue, during 1890 BC (REL 80).2 The documentary corpus

comes largely from the reconstructed archive of a merchant named Pūšu-kēn and from an

excavated house associated with Šalim-aḫum’s son Ennam-Aššur. Though several small sets of

letters within this number have been noted previously in secondary literature, so large a group

of letters surrounding one person’s commercial operations within a single year is

unprecedented in the Old Assyrian documentation. Rendering a chronologically sensitive

reconstruction of commercial activity over the course of a single shipping season constitutes

an important reconsideration of the Old Assyrian evidence itself, offering the opportunity to

transcend the evidentiary limitations of a largely undated correspondence. In this work,

because Šalim-aḫum’s correspondence is reconstructed through internal analysis back into a

temporal continuum, the result is a different type of evidence on the practice of the trade than

what has heretofore been available, at least partially displacing the limits of an account framed

solely by the letter writers’ choices of content and composition.3

Through the reconstruction, substrata of structures underlying social coordination of

the trade are either confirmed or unmasked. Šalim-aḫum’s inaccuracies in accounting for

Pūšu-kēn’s stewardship over his goods reveal conflicting interests within the coordination

between principal and agent. Šalim-aḫum’s management of several crises during the year

show his ability to instruct his agents through time and space, revealing a tempo of

correspondence and transportation more robust than previously envisioned. In turn, the
All dates in this work are expressed in relation to the Revised Eponym List (REL). See Larsen et al., "Ups
and Downs" (forthcoming). During the period covered by this study, the numbering of REL is identical with the
original numbering of years published as the Kültepe Eponym List (KEL) in Veenhof, OALE.
The reconstruction is a product of an iterative hermeneutic interpretation of the assembled documents
as a contiguous whole. The process included the consideration of many other documents, which have not been
regime of communication permitted Šalim-aḫum to coordinate with multiple representatives

in Anatolia, a group not restricted to family members. When associates of Šalim-aḫum failed to

fulfill agreements, Šalim-aḫum took their individual and separate liability for those

agreements as justification for exploiting multiple tactics to recoup his assets from them.

As a further advantage of the reconstruction, this account interprets Šalim-aḫum’s and

others’ decisions in the context of material consequences as well as concurrent developments.

By exploring the interactions between merchants like Šalim-aḫum and Pūšu-kēn, at least

partly re-contextualized into a temporal continuum of events, the contingency of material

concerns plays a role alongside and within cultural and social dimensions. The micronarrative

account has purchase on a more substantive description of commercial mentalities of

merchants like Šalim-aḫum than those offered by other approaches to the Old Assyrian

evidence, normally bound by the use of synchronically aggregated texts. Though great strides

on the Old Assyrian trade have been made from the latter perspective, the traditional objects

of philological inquiry into the Old Assyrian period (lemmata, texts, archives, language) offer

insufficient grounds to fully reconstruct the nuances of the historically situated institutions

and mentalities of the Old Assyrian trade. In this study, practice rather than language or form

becomes the object of inquiry.

The remainder of this introduction will consist of three brief sections: First, a

discussion of the timeline template which facilitates the expression of the mechanical aspects

of the reconstruction; second, a brief overview of the central events of Šalim-aḫum’s

commerce during REL 80 and an expression of the foundational observations that tie the

various reconstructed episodes in this work together; and third, a preview of the chapters in

the rest of this work.

Introduction to the Reconstruction

One of the most rewarding aspects of the Old Assyrian documentation is the

identification and reconstruction of dossiers that revolve around discrete events. Many of

these dossiers are only well known to specialists. However, most known dossiers surround

singular or irregular events, For example, Thomas Hertel’s dissertation on dispute processes

accesses many dossiers of varying sizes that document legal disputes. In addition, there are

dossiers known to deal with the settlement of the death of a merchant. Pūšu-kēn, a central

person in this study, has just such a dossier documenting his death. By contrast, this

reconstruction and its reconstructed dossier arises from events that are either regarded as

structural, such as some of the commercial processes followed, or incidents that never entered

the realm of documented dispute processing. On a documentary level, the recognition of this

dossier overturns a pragmatic assumption made about the commercial correspondence in the

Old Assyrian trade. Because all recognized dossiers to date have been formed around irregular

events usually legal in nature, and because the focus on commercial processes has revolved

around structural aspects of the trade, the working assumption has been that the commercial

correspondence has been evenly or randomly distributed through time, perhaps like the

distribution of debt notes. The distribution of an individual’s debt notes usually spread across

many years, occasionally across decades. However, very few particular debt notes have ever

connected to particular correspondence. The present reconstruction demonstrates that as a

working hypothesis, we must allow for the fact that the correspondence preserved to the

present is just as likely to have been formed in dossiers in antiquity as not before encountering

the destructive processes that brought them to our present.

Still, because letters are not dated and infrequently include dates, the initial threshold

for demonstrating that two letters refer to the same discrete circumstances is higher when the

activity documented is understood by our current frame of investigation as regular. In

sensitivity to this condition, I include here an explanation of the logical formation of this

reconstruction, which can be shown to proceed logically from the formation of individual

episodes to the cumulative connections between the various episodes. By episodes, I mean

events or developments that can be tracked as main topics of letters. While the

conversations—the groups of letters around these episodes—are to some extent arbitrary,

several letters could belong two more than one conversation because of their open discussion

of two different episodes, this step is a necessary decision made in the organization of the


Recognizing individual episodes is the first step. All of the episodes covered in this

work have a consistency about them that is similar to that gained in forming dossiers

surrounding legal disputes or settlement of estates. For example, the Puzur-Ištar affair and the

Ilabrat-bāni affair each cohere easily because the discussion of the letters in each centers on

something specific going wrong with each person. In the Puzur-Ištar affair, Šalim-aḫum’s

concern for gold, his agreement with Puzur-Ištar to get gold, and his consistent effort to get

the gold after Puzur-Ištar defaults implies that the documents from that episode belong

together. In the Ilabrat-bāni affair, Šalim-aḫum’s consistent frustration with Ilabrat-bāni for

taking 6⅓ minas tin functions in the same way. The validity of each episode is also

corroborated by the agreement of specific and discrete details. For example, in the Puzur-Ištar

affair, Puzur-Ištar is to procure ⅔ minas gold for Šalim-aḫum, who needs a total of 1 mina for

his temple fund (ikribū). Throughout the Ilabrat-bāni affair, whether or not Ilabrat-bāni was
always frustrating Šalim-aḫum, a consistent set of small debts confirms the fidelity of the


Connecting the episodes into their synchronized development is the second step.

However, connecting episodes, while logically similar, differs in focus from the formation of

individual episodes. Like the first step, connections between episodes are also corroborated by

particular, idiosyncratic, small details. But the consistency of letter content observed within

episodes cannot be the basis of connecting episodes because the different episodes do not

originate from singular causalities, nor did the writers of the letters always explicitly connect

them. Some commentators have connected letters placed in different episodes based on their

sense of the situations;4 but when these previous connections were made, the implications of

the present work were not recognized. Occasionally, Šalim-aḫum explicitly discusses aspects of

two different episodes in the same letter or two episodes resolve in common letters. Where

these circumstances exist, such as when Šalim-aḫum looks to Ilabrat-bāni to fill his need for

gold created by Puzur-Ištar, the episodes are fortuitously intertwined. However, in other

circumstances, the connections between episodes are manifest through inferential context and

peripheral aspects of each episode. For example, in the explanation below, the location and

travels of Dān-Aššur form a key element in connecting the episodes together in their original

chronological relationship. Some of these associations and details can only be seen when

several episodes are already connected together. For example, as will be seen below, when the

Puzur-Ištar affair, Ilabrat-bāni affair, Dān-Aššur letters, and joint venture episodes are

assembled, only then do both the fit and corroborating details become apparent.

For example, in V. Donbaz and F. Joannès, "Nouvelles Lectures de Textes Cappadociens," in Mémorial Attaturk
(Istanbul: Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1982) 27-42 the authors suggest that 2.6, 3.7 and 5.2 stem from
the same circumstances. See Chapter 5, note 14.
The path I will take in this explanation is one that links the dating of the Ilabrat-bāni

affair to the dating of the original venture through a chain of specific observations. This chain

of observations can be treated as the core of the reconstruction, highlighting a series of events

that bind what we can observe of this year in the life of Šalim-aḫum. However, these events are

not the sum total of all that happened. There are many circumstances that arise in each

episode which do not find resolution in another, nor form clear connections between the

episodes. In some cases these appendages remain unknowns, in other cases, given the

coherence of the reconstruction some contexts for these events can be inferred. But the

validity of the reconstruction cannot be judged on whether or not every thread in every

episode resolves or weaves through every other episode. The activities of the merchants were

far more complex and our documentation far too fragmentary to expect such a result for the


To facilitate the present explanation, I have included three aids to allow the reader to

follow this core logical explanation into the chapters. These three aids employed here stand in

addition to the appendices of persons and assets at the end of this work. First, I will use a series

of three figures to illustrating the three most essential steps in the process of the explanation.

Second, the basic events in the discussion below and the essential events in the figure are

indexed with event codes. These event codes arise from summary tables of events located at

the end of each episode throughout the work. In those tables, a summary of main events with

textual references are listed and numbered with the event codes, marked with a star , thus

providing an overview for the reader. For example, the first event I discuss below, Ilabrat-

bāni’s theft of 6⅓ minas tin en route to Kanesh, is coded as IB2 in the summary of events on

the Ilabrat-bāni affair found in Chapter Four on page 235. These codes are also used on the
three figures in this explanation as well. Third, when pointing to the consistent details that

corroborate the connections between the episodes, I refer to the page numbers where those

connections are more fully discussed. With these three aids, the reader who is interested in

validating the (micro)historical validity of the reconstruction can proceed through the work

using this explanation as a sort of map. The table below lists each episode, its event code

abbreviation, the table number of each event summary, the chapter in which it is covered, and

the page number of each event summary table.

Table 1: Location and Event Codes of Each Episode

Episode Abbrev. Table Chapter Page
Original Venture OV 5 2 117
Puzur-Ištar Affair PI 8 3 185
Ilabrat-bāni Affair IB 11 4 277
Dān-Aššur Letters DA 13 5 300
Ennam-Aššur Letters EA 14 5 327
Joint Venture JV 15 5 342
Purchasing Houses PH 16 5 352

A logical chain of observations binding this reconstruction could be conducted in a

number of ways. This explanation proceeds in a way that most closely resembles a kind of

deductive process rather than following the order of the chapters, which are ordered in

sensitivity to the discussions within them. The chain will begin with the Ilabrat-bāni affair and

proceed in three steps illustrated by the three accompanying figures. The first step (Fig. 1) is

the elaboration of the Ilabrat-bāni affair and its connection to the Puzur-Ištar affair. The

second step (Fig. 2) consists of connecting the Dān-Aššur letters and the joint venture to the

combined Ilabrat-bāni/Puzur-Ištar affair. The third step (Fig. 3) then consists of showing the

connection between the conglomerate of the Ilabrat-bāni, Puzur-Ištar, Dān-Aššur, and joint

venture episodes to the other dated episode, the original venture. The Ennam-Aššur letters

and purchasing houses episodes are not reviewed here because they are peripheral to these

core episodes in the reconstruction.

STEP 1 (Fig. 1) – To begin with, Šalim-aḫum’s problems with Ilabrat-bāni play the most

prominent role in the letters between Šalim-aḫum and Pūšu-kēn. Early in REL 80 (April of 1890

BC, p. 264), Ilabrat-bāni travelled with Ilī-ašranni to Kanesh (IB1) and on the way Ilabrat-bāni

took 6⅓ minas tin out of Šalim-aḫum’s goods (IB2). When Šalim-aḫum found out, he reacted

angrily (IB5-6) and wrote to Pūšu-kēn that Ilabrat-bāni should buy a large lot of goods from

Šalim-aḫum as reconciliation (IB7).

Around this time, Ilabrat-bāni offered to buy goods worth a talent of silver and offered

to pay 10 minas silver up front (PI9). Šalim-aḫum’s response demanded that half be paid in

gold (PI11). Šalim-aḫum’s request ties the Ilabrat-bāni affair to the Puzur-Ištar affair. Before

receiving Ilabrat-bāni’s reconciliatory offer, Šalim-aḫum had learned that his plan to retrieve 1

mina gold for a temple fund had gone awry when another man, Puzur-Ištar, with whom he had

contracted to get ⅔ minas gold in Anatolia (PI1), stalled after arriving in Kanesh (PI3),

further stalled (PI5), then defaulted (PI7-8) on the agreement. In the wake, Šalim-aḫum

was fraught to fill his need for a mina of gold (PI8), and utilized Ilabrat-bāni’s offer to fill the

gap (PI12). In addition to the fact that the Puzur-Ištar affair was resolved within the Ilabrat-

bāni affair, the connection between the Ilabrat-bāni affair and Puzur-Ištar affair is

corroborated by the common references to small details like Ilabrat-bāni’s taking the 6⅓ minas

tin and the relationship to the 1 mina gold (p. 256ff.).

Šalim-aḫum also designated to his agents Pūšu-kēn and Lā-qēpum from what

transports Ilabrat-bāni should buy goods, including from a transport of 100 kutānum textiles

then being brought by Dān-Aššur, Šalim-aḫum’s son (PI10-11). Ilabrat-bāni was to buy goods

on short term credit and when he defaulted on a 20 mina debt thereafter (IB11), Pūšu-kēn

suggests that Šalim-aḫum take the aggressive move of seizing Ilabrat-bāni’s goods on the road

and liquidating them (IB11). Šalim-aḫum did so through Puzur-Aššur and Ennam-Aššur

(IB12), then when following up, continued to assert that Ilabrat-bāni had not yet paid for the

6⅓ minas tin he took (IB14).

Figure 1 Logical Construction of Šalim-aḫum’s Activities - Step 1

Ilabrat-bāni/Puzur-Ištar Affairs
& Puzur-Ištar Puzur-Ištar Puzur-Ištar
contract ⅔m gold in Kanesh defaults
PI1 PI3 PI7 Ilabrat-bāni
IB defaults on 20m Šalim-aḫum asks
IB11 Ilabrat-bāni’s
Ilabrat-bāni Šalim-aḫum buys goods goods siezed why Ilabrat-bāni not paid
takes 6⅓m tin angry PI11// IB9 Pūšu-kēn IB12 IB14
IB2 IB5 writes to sieze
IB11 Dān-Aššur ill in Aššur

STEP 2 (Fig. 2) – The Dān-Aššur letters can be connected to the combined Ilabrat-

bāni/Puzur-Ištar affair at the point in time when Dān-Aššur was travelling with Šū-Suen to

Kanesh with tin and 100 kutānum textiles (PI10, DA5). The eventual outcome of the

discussion of the Dān-Aššur letters was that Dān-Aššur would stay longer in Anatolia (DA10).

Because we know Dān-Aššur to have been back in Aššur and too sick to travel (IB12) when

his brother Ennam-Aššur travelled with Puzur-Aššur to seize Ilabrat-bāni’s goods (IB12), the

Dān-Aššur letters must either come from the time when Dān-Aššur was known to be travelling

to Kanesh with the 100 kutānum textiles, or some time well before then or some time after he

would have recovered from his illness (IB12). The Dān-Aššur letters belong to the moment of

Dān-Aššur transporting the 100 kutānum textiles, in the wake of Puzur-Ištar defaulting and

Šalim-aḫum telling Ilabrat-bāni to buy gold (PI11-12). The connection between the Dān-

Aššur letters and the Ilabrat-bāni/Puzur-Ištar affair is corroborated by, among other things,

the common references to small details like 6 shekels gold with Panaka, the gold associated

with Ḫuraṣānum, and the textile of the ṣuḫartum (p. 298).

The joint venture can also be connected to these three episodes through reference to

Dān-Aššur’s travels. Šalim-aḫum asked Pūšu-kēn to join him in a venture, requesting that

Pūšu-kēn donate one share to Šalim-aḫum’s two shares. In the first offer, Šalim-aḫum stated

that when Dān-Aššur arrived, further arrangements could be made (JV1). The execution of

the venture, slower than Šalim-aḫum had probably planned, was not initiated until Dān-Aššur

was returning to Aššur after his stay in Anatolia. Writing just before Dān-Aššur was to return

to Aššur (JV6), Pūšu-kēn intended Dān-Aššur to return to Kanesh with the joint venture tin

(JV6). However, another merchant, not Dān-Aššur, took the tin after Ilabrat-bāni’s goods
were seized, because Dān-Aššur was ill (IB12). The connection between the joint venture and

the combination of the Ilabrat-bāni/Puzur-Ištar affair and Dān-Aššur letters is corroborated by

an extended discussion about the venture in one of the letters from the Ilabrat-bāni affair (4.6,

p. 336).

The combination of these four episodes forms a consistent development of activity with

Ilabrat-bāni’s purchase of goods as a nexus to which each of the episodes can be related.

Ilabrat-bāni’s theft (IB2) and Puzur-Ištar’s default (PI7) led up to the configuration of that

purchase (PI11/IB9). The discussion of the Dān-Aššur letters was conducted while Dān-

Aššur brought goods (DA5, PI10) that Ilabrat-bāni eventually bought (PI11/IB9). The

joint venture was begun (JV1) either before Dān-Aššur left with those goods (IB12), or as

he was travelling; it then continued through Dān-Aššur’s stay in Anatolia (DA5, PI10), to

the point soon after he came home and was deemed to ill to travel (IB12), when Puzur-Aššur

instead took the tin to Kanesh (JV10).



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back to Aššur
STEP 3 (Fig. 3) – Finally, the original venture fits and corroborates the reconstructed

development of the four episodes already combined. The original venture caravan arrived in

Kanesh (OV1) and was sold off in various lots (OV2), one of which was sold on short term,

and by association with another debt, fell due in REL 80 VI (June/July 1890 BC,OV5, p. 119-

128). When that debt was collected and sent to Šalim-aḫum in Aššur, it went with Šū-Suen and

Aššur-mālik (OV6), both of whom had travelled to Kanesh at the same time as Dān-Aššur.

Like the joint venture and the Ilabrat-bāni affair, the original venture continuously developed

through Dān-Aššur’s stay in Anatolia. Šalim-aḫum wrote a letter acknowledging silver received

from Šū-Suen and Aššur-mālik and at the same time reminded Pūšu-kēn of more claims from

the original venture coming due in the near future (OV7). When the next claim was

collected, Dān-Aššur was among the persons who brought it back (OV8), linking the return

of Dān-Aššur evidenced in the Ilabrat-bāni affair and joint venture to the original venture.

Šalim-aḫum wrote another letter stating that the next debts on the original venture were

coming due (OV9). One of those debts was owed by Lulu, whose debt is mentioned in two

documents from the joint venture (5.9, 5.10), which connects that part of the original venture

to the later phases of the joint venture (JV6). Besides the consistent itineraries of Šū-Suen,

Aššur-mālik, and Dān-Aššur, and the coherence of development sustained in the

reconstruction, the connection between the original venture and the combination of the other

four episodes (the Ilabrat-bāni and Puzur-Ištar affairs, the Dān-Aššur letters, and the joint

venture) is corroborated by the common references to small details like a ½ kutānum textile

owed by Ilabrat-bāni (p. 247), Dān-Aššur’s return with more than one talent of silver as

planned (p. 298), and also his return with 2 minas of silver which arose as planned from 6

textile articles he was to sell (p. 298-99).

Thus, this development of activities began in the early spring of REL 80 with Šalim-

aḫum arrangements with Puzur-Ištar (PI1) and the departure of the original venture and Ilī-

ašranni caravans (IB1, OV1). The resolution of the problems arising from Puzur-Ištar’s

default (PI7), Ilabrat-bāni’s purchase of textiles (PI11/IB9), and Dān-Aššur’s arrival

(DA5, PI10) can all be anchored to June of REL 80. The original venture and joint venture

continued to develop through this time, when Šalim-aḫum sent letter 2.3. When Ilabrat-bāni

defaulted on his debt (IB11), which must have been a short term deadline arising from his

purchase, Dān-Aššur was returning to Aššur (JV6) and Pūšu-kēn advised Šalim-aḫum to seize

Ilabrat-bāni’s goods (IB11). Dān-Aššur was ill when he returned to Aššur (IB12), but Ilabrat-

bāni’s goods were seized (IB12), and Šalim-aḫum was making arrangements at that point to

ensure he himself was not “ashamed at the gate” (JV3, JV11), which seemed to loom

imminent at the end of the season.

The two chronological anchors arising from the Ilabrat-bāni affair on the one hand that

and original venture on the other situate the activities reconstructed here in REL 80 (i.e. 1890

B.C. Middle Chronology). The Ilabrat-bāni affair is anchored to REL 80 by counting 45-50

ḫamuštum weeks backward from the due date of a small group of debts that fell due in early

REL 81 (4.1). The original venture is anchored to REL 80 by counting 46 ḫamuštum weeks

forward from the commencement of a debt in REL 79 into REL 80 where it is stated to be due

(2.7). From here, we can begin to place these events on a timeline. But first, two points need to

be made.


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Coherence of development and consistency of specific detail in textual references

become the two important evidences on which the reconstruction proceeds. However, it must

be stated that the substance of some connections and some of the results of the reconstruction

add or revise present knowledge about the Old Assyrian period. The pace of commerce is one

major revision. The fidelity of the reconstruction cannot be rejected if it revises some

provisional conclusion reached from previous studies on the trade, especially studies

conducted within a different frame of inquiry. Language and structure is not the same as

situational context. For the most part, the revisions provoked by the reconstruction are minor.

In any case, historical work cannot proceed from one axiomatic truth to another. The

explanation above allows is ordered in such a way as to appeal to a reader desiring some

logical chain of statements as proof, however, the coherence of the reconstruction is larger

than the core outlined here. And the reconstruction itself is consistent within its own logic,

forming both a new unit of evidence on the trade, and a novel account of commercial activity

in the Old Assyrian period. Where in some cases the value is revisional, these revisions are

sensitive to aspects which are more difficult to detect within the structuralist or anecdotal

frames. Two examples are sufficient at this point to give a sense of the discussions in the

remainder of this work.

The first example concerns the connection observed between several episodes. The last

corroborating detail I cited in connecting the original venture to the conglomerate of the four

other episodes involved Dān-Aššur returning to Aššur after his stay in Anatolia with 2 minas of

silver which arose from him selling 6 textile articles while he was there (p. 298-99). In one

place Šalim-aḫum refers to these articles as 6 kutānum textiles, whereas in other places he
specifies that these six articles are 5 kusītum robes and a nibrārum textile. The objection could

be raised that Šalim-aḫum knew, just as well as we know, that robes are something more than

textiles, therefore he would not have called robes textiles, and this connection is dubious.

Though kutānum textiles are indeed textiles, that Šalim-aḫum calls what we think to be robes

in one place textiles in another simply shows the understandable shortcomings of our

structuralist understanding of terms. Šalim-aḫum was not a grammatical automaton and his

expressions do not always conform to our understanding of the Old Assyrian dialect. There

must be some allowance for a flexibility of expression, even sloppiness. He was, after all, a

merchant—not an Assyriologist. Rejecting the consistency of this particular connecting detail

requires considering its validity in the context of the entire coherence of the reconstruction.

The second example concerns the revision of our understanding about a poorly

understood event, the nabrītum. Two recently treated texts have placed occurrences of the

nabrītum in winter, which has prompted suggestion that the nabrītum is winter or wintertime.

However, this reconstruction clearly demonstrates that the nabrītum, whatever it was,

occurred in summer as well (p. 302ff.). The coherence of this reconstruction and its temporal

development confirms the fact that while the two recently treated letters in which nabrītum

occur do place the event in wintertime, identifying nabrītum directly with winter, or

concluding that it only occurred in winter, extends beyond what a close readings of those

letters can demand. The accumulated context of this reconstruction far exceeds the anecdotal

force of those individual letters.

The Role and Layout of Timeline Figures

Because a major facet of this work is placing undated correspondence into a temporal

context, expressing the interwoven development of the events and processes reconstructed in

this work in a clear manner is essential. In order to communicate this reconstruction visually,

a special type of timeline has been employed in figures throughout this work. The timeline

displayed in these figures is effective because it is carefully scaled and because all timeline

figures in this work derive from the same master timeline figure. The timeline figures also

provide a method of displaying and validating the entire reconstruction’s temporal

plausibility: any event presented in a timeline figure is sensitive to all events on every timeline

figure in the work. With the important role these timeline figures play in the work, some

further explanation on the layout follows.

Figure 4 below displays the template of these timeline figures. This template represents

the most relevant temporal and geographical frames for the reconstruction of commercial

activity during REL 80. The template has three registers and a key.

The top register of the template represents the passage of time, moving from left to

right along the horizontal axis of the figure. Directly below the figure title is a bar aligning

Gregorian and lunar Assyrian months during the shipping season of REL 80. The opening and

closing of the Taurus passes are aligned with the first week of April and the first week of

December. Vertical grey bars descending through the second and third registers mark

alternate Gregorian months.

Scale along the horizontal axis of time in the figure is important. The alignment of

Gregorian months and Assyrian lunar months in this register is an approximation of the
alignment between solar and lunar cycles that resulted from an intercalation performed at the

beginning of REL 81. In the figure month XII of REL 80 is represented as ending on the winter

solstice, which would be the approximate circumstances that would have provoked the

intercalation. This alignment is approximated but correlates within a few days to the situation

that would have triggered the intercalation in REL 81 (see Appendix Three). Distance between

Aššur and Kanesh is scaled to correspond to the passage of time. Each lunar month is scaled to

represent 29½ days and the Gregorian months are scaled to 30 or 31 days as appropriate.5 The

duration of the opening and closing of the passes as modeled on the template is scaled to seven


The second register, the ‘field of notation,’ includes brief explanations to enhance the

representation of activity placed in the third register. The third register, the ‘field of activity,’

is the locus of tracking commercial activity during REL 80. Within this register, the vertical

axis of the figure represents the distance between the two main destinations within this work:

Kanesh and Aššur. Kanesh is represented by the black line at the top of the field of activity,

while Aššur is represented by a black line at the bottom of the field of activity. Along the

vertical axis of distance, scale is more approximate. The passes in the Taurus Mountains are

represented by a dotted line approximating the position of the passes between the two cities.

Below the field of activity space is reserved for extra notation where necessary.

At the bottom of the figure is the key. The key displays four types of arrows, which

distinguish four types of activities. Solid arrows designate preserved letters while short-

dashed arrows represent letters either mentioned in the surviving documentation or proposed

In the original Adobe Illustrator file, each lunar month (29½ days) is scaled to ⅞ inch; each day is scaled
to .02966 inches.
through the reconstruction but not preserved. Arrows with alternating long and short dashes

represent shipments of goods from Aššur to Kanesh, and thus these arrows only travel upward

on the figure. Long-dashed arrows represent shipments of silver travelling from Kanesh to

Aššur, and thus these arrows only point downward on the figure.

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Figure 4 is a template and thus displays no ‘events’ in the field of activity. Figure 5

below displays a basic skeleton of events that come from REL 80, including select events from

various episodes: the ‘original venture,’ the Ilabrat-bāni affair, and the travels of Dan-Aššur.

Figure 5 includes commentary in the field of notation and provides an opportunity to make a

few more general remarks about these figures.

In the field of notation in Figure 5, stars within the temporal continuum represent the

two major chronological anchors for this reconstruction. The date of the sales reported in

letter 4.1 6 is placed approximately 45 ḫamuštum weeks before REL 81 III. The due date of Pilaḫ-

Aššur’s debt mentioned in letters 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6, and 2.7 is placed 46 ḫamuštum weeks after

REL 79 VII (below p. 14). The length of each ḫamuštum week is 7 days (see Chapter Three). Also

in the field of notation, several episodes in Ilabrat-bāni’s dealings with Šalim-aḫum are labeled

to further aid in understanding the progression of events.

In the field of activity in Figure 5, a continuous stream of events is represented and

labeled. As mentioned above, the horizontal axis of the figure is scaled as a reliable

representation of time. As a result, a visually legitimate series of events is chronologically

possible. The slopes of the arrows in the field of activity are a function of the estimated length

of that class of action. The slope of the arrows represents the assertion that bulk transport,

barring mishap, made the journey between Aššur and Kanesh in 30 days, while letters made

the passage in 15 days. A defense of these estimates is taken up within the latter half of

Chapter Three.

The documents belonging to the reconstruction of Šalim-aḫum’s activities are numbered by their placement in
each chapter (and hence within a particular episode) and bolded. Thus 4.1 refers to the first document presented
in Chapter Four (and is the first document of the Ilabrat-bāni affair).
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Two points must be stressed: First, there are only two chronological anchors in this

reconstruction; and second, the arrows represent a class of tempo rather than the precise time

it took a particular journey or missive to travel between destinations. As a result, the

reconstruction put forth is an approximation. It is likely that the reconstruction will be revised

with the discovery of new evidence. However, sufficient evidence and contextualization are

brought to bear on this reconstruction that any new evidence will be refining rather than


Nonetheless, within the approximation, the positioning of activities with respect to the

Gregorian calendar permits recounting the events in a straightforward manner and with

sensitivity to the seasonal progression. The arguments made for the particular and relative

chronological positions of these events are discussed at length in each chapter. As a result of

this approximation, it is possible to make temporal statements such as “By mid-May, Šalim-

aḫum could note that half of the shipments he sent at the beginning of the season would not

provide a return until the next spring.” Statements like this are the basis on which an account

of Šalim-aḫum’s and Pūšu-kēn’s sentiments about their commercial activity can be made with

greater ease for the reader and with greater impact for the understanding of the temporal

development of the activities during the year.

Overview of Central Events in the Context of the Figures

With the aid of the central events displayed in Figure 5, a further overview of select

activities provides an opportunity to narrate some key processes during REL 80 with

sensitivity to the layout of the figures. After recounting this brief narrative development, I will
again review the events in a way that shows that the events transpired within the course of a

single shipping season. Event codes will be used again.

Šalim-aḫum’s business ventures sometimes followed a predictable course. For example,

in mid-March Šalim-aḫum sent off about 650 minas of tin and about 80 textiles with five

transporters. This was the beginning the original venture, the first commercial process dealt

with in this work. Roughly five-sixths of the goods were sold on short-term credit, and this fact

was reported back to Šalim-aḫum (2.2). When the remainder of the shipment was sold,

perhaps at the end of April, that was reported as well (‘Report: Lot #4 sold’ on fig. 2). By mid-

June some portion of the goods had yielded silver and that silver was brought back by Šū-Suen

and Aššur-mālik. Letters document Šalim-aḫum sending the goods, tracking the sale of the

goods and the collection of the attendant claims, and then acknowledging receipt of his silver

(2.3, 2.4—not in figure). The first few claims were successfully collected and roughly two-

thirds of the sales revenue (83 minas of silver) was returned to him in Aššur by the end of

August with another shipment of silver brought by Dān-Aššur, Ilī-ālum, and Kurub-Ištar.

But while the sale and collection of merchandise from the original venture was going

smoothly, a shipment sent off at roughly the same time (mid-March to mid-April) with Ilī-

ašranni and Ilabrat-bāni was more complicated. On the way, Ilabrat-bāni apparently found it

necessary to break open some of Šalim-aḫum’s packaged goods and take a portion (6⅓ minas

tin) to pay for expenses. When Šalim-aḫum learned of this at the beginning of May (4.1), he

reacted angrily, writing scathing letters of accusation and demanding payment of previous

debts (4.2). By mid-May, Šalim-aḫum had heard that Ilabrat-bāni was in Kanesh and instructed

Pūšu-kēn to pressure Ilabrat-bāni to buy a large amount of goods at rates favorable to Šalim-

aḫum on short-term credit (4.4). By mid-June, Ilabrat-bāni had agreed to the demands and
purchased a talent worth of goods from Šalim-aḫum. However, when a portion of the talent of

silver fell due in mid-August, Ilabrat-bāni did not pay. Pūšu-kēn immediately advised Šalim-

aḫum to seize Ilabrat-bāni’s merchandise while it travelled to Anatolia. Šalim-aḫum sent

Puzur-Aššur with his son Ennam-Aššur to seize the goods in Amurrum, which they did,

returning by mid-September (reported in 4.5). In the second-half of October, when Šalim-

aḫum had waited in vain for an update about collecting more delinquent debts from Ilabrat-

bāni, he wrote again to reiterate his grievances (4.6).

In part because of Ilabrat-bāni, but in the context of a larger set of factors, Šalim-aḫum

became concerned during the season that his revenues would not adequately reflect his

position in his community or fulfill certain expectations. One measure he took to resuscitate

his balance sheet was to pressure Pūšu-kēn in mid-May to participate with him in a venture in

tin (5.8). Pūšu-kēn spent June and July avoiding and minimizing his involvement in the

venture. But Šalim-aḫum’s magnanimity in helping Pūšu-kēn complete the purchase of a house

supplied further social pressure for Pūšu-kēn to comply (5.9—not in figure). Pūšu-kēn finally

conceded to the joint venture, but not without obtaining concessions on both the rate at which

Šalim-aḫum bought the goods and on who should transport them: Šalim-aḫum’s son Dān-Aššur


Dān-Aššur had already travelled to Kanesh earlier in the season, sometime in mid-May

to mid-June, bringing part of the goods that Ilabrat-bāni had bought from Šalim-aḫum. Though

his travelling companion, Šū-Suen, turned back to Aššur almost immediately, bringing silver

back to Šalim-aḫum (reported in 2.3), Dān-Aššur remained in Anatolia until late July, when he

took more silver back to Aššur to Šalim-aḫum. Although Pūšu-kēn had stipulated when he

agreed to the joint venture that Dān-Aššur must turn around immediately and bring the
purchased tin back to Kanesh, when Dān-Aššur returned home to Aššur, Šalim-aḫum did not

give him leave to return to Anatolia, reporting to Pūšu-kēn that Dān-Aššur was ill (reported in

4.5). When Pūšu-kēn sent yet another letter in September instructing Šalim-aḫum to purchase

his part of the tin (‘Pūšu-kēn: “Buy tin!” see fig. 2), Šalim-aḫum finally purchased his portion

and sent it with Puzur-Aššur (not with Dān-Aššur) at the end of September (notified in 5.11).

Pūšu-kēn’s insistence signaled the need to begin the joint venture before Pūšu-kēn’s planned

return to Aššur at the end of the season. He would likely have needed to leave Kanesh by mid-

November to avoid being trapped by the snowed-in passes of the Taurus Mountains.

With this second review, the development of the activities in REL can be summarized

thus: The development of the various intertwined episodes reconstructed in this work was

continuous and must have transpired within the course of a single shipping season. The

‘original venture’ caravan and the caravan led by Ilī-ašranni and Ilabrat-bāni travelled at

roughly the same time to Kanesh early in the season (2.2, 4.1). The original venture

progressed through the year, yielding silver for Šalim-aḫum in mid-June (2.3), then in late

August (2.4), continually tracked by Šalim-aḫum. Dān-Aššur came to Kanesh with the second

part of the shipment of silver, and must have been back in Aššur by early September to be a

candidate (had he been well) for seizing Ilabrat-bāni’s goods (5.8). In turn, the trip to

Amurrum to seize Ilabrat-bāni’s goods must have finished by mid-September to allow enough

time for: a) Puzur-Aššur to leave for Kanesh with the joint-venture tin, which even at this late

point was expected to yield silver before the end of the season, and b) Šalim-aḫum to complain

that he had not received a proper response to 4.5, and still urge Pūšu-kēn to collect the

remainder of Ilabrat-bāni’s delinquent debts before he departed Kanesh for Aššur (4.6). Dān-

Aššur’s travels form a connecting thread between the original venture, the Ilabrat-bāni affair,

the joint venture, and other episodes (see commentary after 5.1-5.4)

Overview of Chapters

Within the chapters, the discussion is focused on the improvements in the

understanding of the Old Assyrian trade that are gained from the reconstruction. Chapter One

functions as an introduction to the topic, while each successive chapter uses one of more

episodes to illuminate an issue at stake in the study. A brief outline of each chapter:

Chapter One, “A Micronarrative Approach to the Old Assyrian Trade,” covers the

historiographic context and theoretical and methodological motivations of the current work.

A brief overview of the recovery of the Old Assyrian tablets from the site of Kültepe (ancient

Kanesh) and the development of the field of Old Assyrian studies makes the case that the Old

Assyrian record has overturned expectations many times before. A review of the commercial

aspects of the Old Assyrian trade offers an opportunity to point out the gains made by

synchronic approaches on the Old Assyrian trade. A review of the development of the concept

of the family firm in Old Assyrian studies situates the importance of the current work’s focus

on interpersonal organization of commerce. Finally, a section on the theoretical

underpinnings of the current work discusses the necessity of approaching social structures

through materially and temporally sensitive approaches.

Chapters Two through Five each consist of a section covering an episode from Šalim-

aḫum’s activities and a section expanding on an important element of the evidence arising

from that episode.

In Chapter Two, “The Original Venture,” I review Šalim-aḫum’s best attested and most

smoothly developing venture during REL 80. Reconstructing the original venture offers an

opportunity to follow the development of operations and to discuss the basis on which two

documents can be determined to derive from the same circumstances. In the first half of the

chapter, I describe Šalim-aḫum purchasing goods, sending them to Pūšu-kēn in Kanesh, and

his management of the venture as the goods are sold on credit, the due dates arrive, and the

silver is collected. In the second half of the chapter, two issues arising from the original

venture are discussed. First, Šalim-aḫum’s variable precision in citing figures throughout the

venture is discussed in the context of the limits of making reconstructions. Second, an initial

step is taken towards describing the organization of Šalim-aḫum’s commercial operations. I

conclude that Šalim-aḫum’s language does not support viewing the merchants who bought his

goods as his agents or part of his commercial network.

In Chapter Three, “Scrambling for Ikribū Funds: The Puzur-Ištar Affair,” I review an

episode in which a merchant named Puzur-Ištar reneged on buying gold for Šalim-aḫum.

Šalim-aḫum’s attempt to manage the situation in April and May underlines the robust tempo

of communication and commerce and demonstrates that Šalim-aḫum expected to engage

directly in developing matters in Anatolia even though he was 1000 kilometers away. In the

first half of the chapter, Šalim-aḫum’s interventions are described as Puzur-Ištar first stalled

and then backed out of a contract to procure gold for Šalim-aḫum, citing financial hardship.

Eventually Šalim-aḫum turned to Ilabrat-bāni, forcing the latter to pay gold up front for

merchandise he purchases from Šalim-aḫum as a conciliatory gesture. In the second half of the

chapter, a review of the tempo of bulk transport and communication evident in the

reconstruction gives the estimates used in the reconstruction: roughly a month for bulk

transport between Aššur and Kanesh, fifteen days for the message service.

In Chapter Four, “The Trouble with Ilabrat-bāni,” I recount the debacle that ensued

after Ilabrat-bāni repurposed some of Šalim-aḫum’s merchandise en route to Kanesh,

apparently to pay for expenses on the road. The Ilabrat-bāni affair provides another

opportunity to consider Šalim-aḫum’s commercial mentality as he dealt with a merchant he

knew well. It also provides an opportunity to speculate on Šalim-aḫum’s conceptions of

retribution. In the first half of the chapter, I narrate Šalim-aḫum’s reaction to the news of

Ilabrat-bāni’s actions as well as the ensuing dealings. Though Šalim-aḫum was furious about

the incident, when Ilabrat-bāni approached him for reconciliation and offered to buy goods on

credit from Šalim-aḫum, Šalim-aḫum accepted. However, when the errant merchant failed to

pay for the goods in a timely manner, Pūšu-kēn advised Šalim-aḫum to forcefully seize Ilabrat-

bāni’s goods in transit to Anatolia in order to recoup the capital. Šalim-aḫum agreed and

followed this counsel.

In Chapter Five, “Family and Firm,” I review Šalim-aḫum’s dealings during the season

with his two sons, Dān-Aššur and Ennam-Aššur, and with his agent Pūšu-kēn. Dān-Aššur’s

travels, Ennam-Aššur’s unruliness, and Pūšu-kēn’s hesitancies all provide opportunities to

review Šalim-aḫum’s relationships with both his family and his agent, in turn providing a basis

to discuss the contours of Šalim-aḫum’s commercial network and whether or not he operated

a ‘family firm.’ Four episodes during the year are discussed. The episodes of Dān-Aššur and his

itinerary and of Ennam-Aššur and his refusal to return to Aššur in the face of a looming

marriage focus attention on the sons’ autonomy vis-à-vis their father. The episode of Šalim-

aḫum’s ultimately successful attempt to pressure Pūšu-kēn into a joint venture in tin reveals
aspects of Šalim-aḫum’s own options for managing his revenues and Pūšu-kēn’s own sense of

minimizing risk. At the same time, Šalim-aḫum was helping Pūšu-kēn to purchase a house in

Aššur, which benefitted Šalim-aḫum indirectly in several ways. A comparison of Šalim-aḫum’s

dealings with his sons and with Pūšu-kēn suggest that each of them keenly felt a need to look

out for their own occasionally conflicting interests even as they cooperated to accomplish

their respective commercial pursuits.

Finally, in the conclusion, “Agents, Archives, and Risk,” I summarize the findings of this

work and then discuss their impact under three headings. Under the first heading, “Agents,” I

review Šalim-aḫum’s activities during the year and his commercial network as seen in REL 80.

Under the second heading, “Archives,” I discuss how this unit of evidence on Šalim-aḫum’s

activities during one year changes the use of the archival frame for understanding the social

organization of commerce in the Old Assyrian period. Finally, under the third heading, “Risk,”

I review the substratum of structures which undergirded Šalim-aḫum’s interaction with his

commercial network and the decisions which Šalim-aḫum made over the course of the year in

order to discuss how Šalim-aḫum and those around him conceived of risk as an important

aspect of an Old Assyrian commercial mentality.


This chapter consists of four sections. The first three sections are historiographic, while

the fourth section is dedicated to discussing the theoretical underpinnings of the current

work. My purpose for choosing the arrangement of these sections is to place my

reconstruction into a larger frame. Each section does so silghtly differently, but I feel that the

connection between the first, second and last two sections is cumulative rather than direct. In

the first section, I briefly review the discovery of the Old Assyrian tablets at Kanesh and the

initial scholarly efforts to identify and understand them. In so doing, I seek to hihglight the

paradigm-changing quality that the old Assyrian evidence had from its discovery. In the

second section, I review some of the core elements of the Old Assyrian trade that have been so

well perceived through synchronic approaches. This section forms somethiing of the backdrop

for the reconstruction that follows, but also provides some sense of the fruits of the

structuralist studies which have formed the backbone of synchronic understanding the Old

Assyrin trade. In the third section, I discuss the development of the concept of the Old Assyrian

family firm over recent decades. These discussions of the conceptualization of the family firm

and the synchronically derived understanding of the trade review the frames of evidence

through which the Old Assyrian trade has been approached. In the fourth section, I lay out the

theoretical difference between approaching the Old Assyrian trade through synchronically

structured evidence and through temporally sensitive evidence. This then leads to an
explanation of the importance of the current “unit of evidence” and the role a

“micronarrative” study plays in approaches to the current evidence.

Encountering the Unexpected

The story of the villager’s discovery, the archaeologist’s search, and the philologist’s

struggle in the early phases of Old Assyrian scholarship, culminating in 1925, is emblematic of

the successive stages at which the Old Assyrian record has repeatedly surprised or exceeded

expectations. The size of the documentary record far exceeded initial pronouncements, while

the provenience proved more difficult to pinpoint than supposed, and the language turned out

to be more familiar than at first glance. Through the interwar period and after, the content of

the tablets continued to be misunderstood because some scholars characterized the Old

Assyrian trade in terms of imperial expansion until this initial characterization of the trade

was overturned by close scrutiny of the basic operations of the trade.

The houses which yielded the vast number of Old Assyrian tablets were located in the

ancient city of Kanesh whose ruined tell, modern Kültepe, is located 20 kilometers northeast of

modern Kayseri, Turkey. However, the houses did not lie upon the tell, where archaeologists’

instincts first led them to search. Instead, the tablets came from a field east of the tell, outside

the acropolis. While the first discovery of tablets sometime in the third quarter of the

nineteenth century by local farmers was serendipitous, the villagers eventually realized the

economic potential of their new “crop.”

The problem of the Old Assyrian tablets in some way constituted another decipherment

narrative in miniature. Though in 1857 the Royal Asiatic Society had declared the Akkadian

language deciphered, and steady progress had been made since then, when the Cappadocian

tablets began appearing after 1875, they were considered alien. For the first few decades after

Western scholars encountered the ‘Cappadocian tablets,’ the struggle to decipher their content

was slow. One tablet was purchased in Constantinople in 1876 and sent to London, while

another tablet arrived in Paris soon thereafter.1 In 1881, T. G. Pinches reported on his first

attempt to decipher the difficult London and Paris tablets, and labeled them ‘Cappadocian’ by

virtue of their purchased provenance. Pinches considered the two tablets possible exemplars

of either the Sumerian or Hittite languages because the characters differed dramatically from

the scribal tradition in Mesopotamia known to Pinches and his colleagues.2 A. H. Sayce was not

able to clear the confusion either, as there were simply not enough gathered exemplars.3 The

difficulties in deciphering the tablets were gradually overcome with successive efforts by W.

Golénishchev, C. Contenau, and F. Delitzch on a slowly expanding corpus.4 But it was Benno

Landsberger’s work in 1925 on the merchants and their reasons for being in Anatolia that

provided insight into the nature of the tablets. His synthetic work remains an impressively

cogent statement of Old Assyrian affairs.5

Nevertheless, the early efforts of Pinches and Sayce meant that Cappadocian tablets

became objects of interest. Demand for the tablets increased, and scholars and museums began

buying them whenever possible. Golénishchev had himself purchased tablets already in 1890

Among the first studies to be published were: T.G. Pinches, "Cappadocian Tablets in the British Museum
and the Louvre," PSBA 4 (1881):11-18; T.G. Pinches, "Remarks on the Cappadocian Tablet Preserved in the
Bibliothèque Nationale, and that in the British Museum," PSBA 4 (1881):28-32; A.H. Sayce, "The Cuneiform Tablets
of Kappadokia," PSBA 6 (1883):17-25.
AC, 11.
A.H. Sayce, "The Cuneiform Tablets of Kappadokia."
Contenau, Trente tablettes cappadociennes (Paris: P. Geuthner, 1919); G.R. Driver, "Studies in Cappadocian
Tablets," RA 24, (1927):153-79; V.S. Golénishchev, Vingt-quatre tablettes cappadociennes de la collection W. Golénischeff
(St. Petersburg: 1891). For a contemporary summary of the various publications, see C.H.W. Johns, The Relations
between the Laws of Babylonia and the Laws of the Hebrew Peoples, 2nd Edition, The Schweich Lectures 1912 (London:
Oxford University Press, 1917), 88-89. A summary can also be found in AC, 11-18.
B. Landsberger, AHK.
in Kayseri. In 1888, John Peters, leader of the University of Pennsylvania’s expedition to

Nippur, noted while in London the British Museum’s demand for tablets. Later, Peters

purchased a group of ‘Cappadocian’ tablets in Istanbul, having earlier passed on buying

another group in London.6

At the same time, the source of the tablets attracted the attention of archaeologists,

who began looking in the expected, but wrong places. Still in 1890, Ramsay was uncertain of

the provenance of the tablets he purchased in Kayseri, thinking them to be from Kayseri itself

or points south. Chantre first proposed the source to be the site of Kültepe, but several visitors

failed to find tablets there in 1901 and 1906, searching on the mound. Despite frequent visits

from curious Europeans, the local villagers kept the source of the tablets secret and continued

to sell what they could on the market. Sayce reported in 1918 that the villagers had discovered

some 1200 tablets at one time, 800 of which had been seized by the Turkish government while

some of the remainder made their way to Paris where Sayce purchased a number of them.

Further large lots soon followed, and the British Museum and the Louvre purchased many of


B. Hrozný, the Czech scholar who had previously cracked the mystery of the Hittite

language,8 endeavored to solve the puzzle of the source of the Cappadocian tablets as well. He

started his search for the tablets in the same place as previous failed efforts—on the mound of

Golénishchev, Vingt-quatre tablettes cappadociennes de la collection W. Golénischeff, 4-5; J.P. Peters, Nippur: Or
Explorations and Adventures on the Euphrates, 2nd ed., 2 vols., vol. 1 (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1898), 13-16 and
W.M. Ramsay, The Historical Geography of Asia Minor (Amsterdam: A. M. Hakkert, 1890; reprint, 1962), 39
and 449. Visitors to Kültepe included Hugo Winckler, who was instrumental in finding the Hittite capital of
Boğazköy. On the large cache of tablets, see A.H. Sayce, "The Museum Collection of Cappadocian Tablets," MJ 9
(1918): 148-50. See AC, 17-19 for summary.
Hrozný demonstrated that the language had affinities with Indo-European in B. Hrozný, "Die Lösung
des Hethitischen Problems," MDOG 56 (1915), and identified it as an Indo-European language soon thereafter; see
B. Hrozný, Die Sprache der Hethiter: ihr Bau und ihre Zugehörigkeit zum indogermanischen Sprachstamm (Leipzig:
Hinrichs, 1917).
Kültepe, though on a much larger scale. He excavated large sections of the acropolis,

uncovering a main street and a large palace, but was frustrated by his lack of success in finding

tablets. Not until he got his cook drunk did he learn that the tablets he sought were directly

under his camp, in the fields off the mound. The next day, he began digging in the ‘suburbs’ of

the acropolis, and soon found what he sought, eventually recovering roughly 1000 tablets. In

the same year that Landsberger produced his synthetic work, Hrozný pronounced the mystery

surrounding the source of the tablets solved and the source exhausted.

When Tahsin Özgüç came to Kültepe in 1948, he quickly found that Hrozný’s claim of

having recovered everything of value was overstated. Beginning where Hrozný left off, Özgüç

began excavating and immediately found more tablets. The many subsequent seasons of

Turkish excavations under the direction of Tahsin Özgüç and since 2005 Fikri Kulakoğlu,

confirm that merchants in private homes maintained these archives.9 The Turkish expedition

has not ceased; the site has continued to yieldhouses and artifacts, bringing the total

recovered tablets and fragments to near 23,000.10

In the first few years of Özgüç’s excavation, it was recognized that there were four

successive levels of occupation in the suburb where the merchant’s houses and records lay.

The levels begin with the last occupation, Level 1 (which was further divided into Level 1b [ca.

1840- ca. 1775 B.C.] and Level 1a [poorly attested]) and extending back to Level 4 (ca. 2400-2300

B.C.). The overwhelming bulk of the documents comes from Level II (ca. 1950-1845 B.C.),

The preliminary reports of the Turkish Kültepe excavations have been published in Turkish in Belleten
(1950-57, 1972-75, and 1980-81); AnSt (1959-60 and 1962-66 seasons); TTKY (1961 and 1967-69 seasons); and Kazı
Sonuçları Toplantıswi (1985 season). English preliminary reports have been published for almost every season
(1950-51 and 1996 excluded) in AJA.
Of this total, about 4760 texts belong to the ‘old texts’ group, coming to light prior to the Turkish
excavations. For more details see OAB, v.
though a small number of tablets (around 500) come from Level 1b, contemporaneous with

Šamši-Adad’s early rule.

By the time Özgüç had come to Kültepe in 1948, many ‘old’ tablets (the term given to

tablets purchased on the market before the controlled Turkish excavations) had been copied

and published. And for a long time, though tablets poured from Kültepe’s houses into the

hands of archaeologists, the ‘old’ texts were the only material available to non-Turkish

scholars. During this period, while the publication of the ‘old texts’ continued, knowledge of

the language of the tablets and nature of the textual documentation increased. However, some

scholars framed the Old Assyrian trade within the ecology of militaristic expansion derived

from activity of the first-millennium Assyrian empire and viewed it as evidence of the imperial

expansion of an Assyrian political and military machine across Syria and into the Anatolian

plateau. Despite the fact that more than a thousand years separated Pūšu-kēn and Šalim-aḫum

from the Neo-Assyrian expansion into Syria-Palestine, of which parts were refracted in the

biblical record, the Old Assyrian merchants suffered from the reputation of the political

machine associated with their ethnic descendants. In 1963, a new phase of scholarship began

with the publication of Garelli’s seminal work establishing the private nature of the trade and

demonstrating that Assyria enjoyed no political hegemony in Anatolia.11

J. Lewy and H. Lewy were largely responsible for the characterization of the Old Assyrian mercantile
activity as an operation of empire. See J. Lewy, "On Some Institutions of the Old Assyrian Empire," HUCA 27 (1956):
1-79. The refutation of this model is Garelli, AC.
Commercial Structures of the Old Assyrian Trade

Beginning with Garelli’s study Assyriens en Cappadoce, a consensus about the nature of

the Old Assyrian material and the systems of the trade began to emerge.12 Garelli demonstrated

that the Old Assyrian merchants were not agents of the government but privately organized.

In Garelli’s wake, Old Assyrian studies have increasingly illuminated the structures of the Old

Assyrian trade. A growing consensus on the main elements of the trade has provided a

framework within which to explore the interaction of individual traders as a context for

understanding social and cultural dimensions of the Old Assyrian trade. A broad outline of the

commercial aspects of the trade will support further discussion on the family firm.

The Old Assyrian trade between the city of Aššur (modern Qala’at Sherqat) on the Tigris

and the Anatolian plateau was an entrepreneurial system in which ancient Kanesh functioned

as a hub of commercial activity. The numerous Level II documents are, in fact, the merchants’

business records from the period 1900-1845 B.C., providing scholars a detailed picture of the

commerce. In broad outline, the merchants packed and sent their wares, mostly tin and

textiles, by donkey caravan 1000 kilometers across the Syrian steppe, the Euphrates, and the

Taurus Mountains to Kanesh and points beyond. In Anatolia, they sold their wares in the

several politically independent city-states, acquiring silver and occasionally gold. The silver

and gold returned to Aššur, to be reinvested in tin and textiles to be brought again to Anatolia

by caravan.

The city-state of Aššur seems to have been supportive of this merchant trade both in

terms of actors and policy. While the initiation and early development of the trade are

A more extensive review of the scholarship before and after Garelli can now be had in OBO 160/5, 62-
121. The present review is restricted to matters of the trade pertinent to the work at hand.
uncertain,13 the royal inscriptions of Ilu-šumma (ca. 1990-1975 B.C.) and his son Irišum (1974-

1935 B.C.) suggest that both kings actively sought to enhance the commercial position of the

city Aššur. Ilu-šumma endeavored to attract traders from Southern Mesopotamia, establishing

‘free exchange’ for various commodities: gold, silver, tin, copper, barley, and wool.14 With

Irišum, our recovery of the eponym system—naming years after an official in Aššur—begins,

and it has been argued that this institution and dating system was implemented to facilitate

trade.15 A tablet with Irišum’s seal excavated in Kanesh suggests that this ruler may have

already set up a relationship with the Anatolian city.16

The political institutions at Aššur were arranged in such a way as to foster the interests

of the trade. Though the king’s position was hereditary, held for life, and involved a

relationship with the god of the city, he shared power with the city assembly, divided into the

‘big’ and ‘small’ men. The assembly, whose decisions the king carried out in an executive role,

provided a forum in which mercantilist policies were discussed, disputes involving trade could

be addressed, and the interests of elite investors were served.17

For a recent review of the political development of the city-state of Aššur, including thoughts on the
early development, see Veenhof, OBO 160/5, 122-146. Narratives of the Old Assyrian period and the development
of the trade can no longer cite the political control of Aššur by the Ur III empire as terminus post quem for the
trade’s inception. Recent work shows that Zarriqum of Aššur was both a namesake and contemporary of the
governor of Susa, but not subservient to the Ur III state; see P. Michalowski, "Aššur during the Ur III Period," in
Here and There Across the Ancient Near East: Studies in Honor of Krystna Łyczkowska, ed. Olga Drewnowska (Warsaw:
Agade, 2009), 149-56.
See A.K. Grayson et al., Assyrian Rulers of the Third and Second Millennia B.C. (to 1115 B.C.), RIMA 1 (Toronto;
Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1987), 14-46. For the royal inscriptions of Ilu-šumma, his father, and his
dynasty, including the two from which this translation is quoted, see A.0.32.1 and A.0.32.2. The various previous
interpretations of addurarum have been discussed elsewhere, and the word here translated as ‘free exchange,’ has
been argued to refer to a reform of the taxation system of foreigners, most likely to an economic measure, OACC,
63-80. More recently, see D. Charpin, "L'andurârum à Mari," MARI 6 (1990): 253ff; and OBO 160/5, 126ff.
On the eponym system, see OACC, Chapter Three. The order of eponyms was only recently discovered,
providing a secure annual chronology to Old Assyrian studies. See OALE and Larsen, et al., “Ups and Downs.” This
issue will be further discussed in Chapter Four.
OALE, 41. For reservations about the use of the seal for dating (the seal could have been used by a later
king), see OAAS 2, 5 and G. Kryszat, "Wer schrieb der Waklum-Briefe?," in Studies Larsen 353-8.
OACC, Part Two.
By the end of the 20th century B.C., Kanesh also enjoyed a political relationship with the

politically diverse city-states of the Anatolian plateau that supported the trade. The Assyrian

city-state needed to regulate its politico-economic relationship with many large cities and

smaller towns across the Anatolian plateau, in addition to Kanesh. These included Durḫumit,

the copper hub in the north; Purušḫattum, the entrepôt from the Aegean at the west end of

the plateau; and Waḫšušana, the crossing of the Kizil Irmak at the center of the plateau. The

city-state of Aššur negotiated trade agreements with the cities of the Anatolian plain to

regulate taxes on imported goods and to outlaw competition. To do so, Aššur authorized

organizations to be its representatives in Anatolia: kārum offices in the larger cities and

wabartum offices in the smaller. These offices were organized into a hierarchy in Anatolia, with

the kārum at Kanesh functioning as the chief governing body. Each of these bodies had

jurisdiction over affairs that dealt exclusively with the Assyrian traders. (When matters

involved both Assyrian merchants and local Anatolians, local palaces presided.) Thus, the legal

framework of the Assyrian merchants was extended into their activities abroad.18

The city of Aššur—and all the polities the trade passed through—benefitted by taxing

the trade. For example, Šalim-aḫum paid export taxes to Aššur when his goods left Aššur and

then paid an import duty and tithe at the palace in Kanesh. Along the route, each town levied a

(small) toll, filling the purses of the local leaders. For example, the kinglet of a small town in

the Taurus Mountains garnered one shekel of tin every time a donkey passed through heading

to the Anatolian plateau and one shekel of silver each time a donkey passed back to Aššur.19

Aššur’s trade with Anatolia was one part of a multifaceted network of trade in which

Aššur was one node. The Old Assyrian documentation attests to the fact that metals and luxury
For a fuller treatment, see OACC, Part Three.
OBO 160/5, 183-219.
goods from all over the known ancient world were traded over long distances. Tin, lapis lazuli,

and carnelian came from as far east as the mountains of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan via the

Iranian Plateau and Susa.20 Most woolen textiles that passed through Aššur were produced in

other Mesopotamian cities and acquired on the market, while small numbers of textiles were

produced for export in Aššur by merchants’ wives. Although copper was readily available in

Anatolia, it was not sent to Aššur in bulk; it was available more cheaply from Oman and

possibly mines to the north of Aššur. Carnelian and lapis lazuli, coming from the same

direction as the tin, were items of sufficient value and scarcity to be included on the trip to

Anatolia when available. Of these, tin and textiles were the main staples of the trade. Tin,

essential for making tin-bronze, was obvious in its importance; but alongside the tin, the

seemingly inexhaustible Anatolian demand for high-quality woolen textiles from Mesopotamia

is remarkable.

Both tin and textiles—the first a commodity, the other a semi-finished product—were

relatively durable, so perishability did not greatly affect the market.21 However, all the tin and

many of the textiles originated outside Aššur, and the circumstances of the supply chain

exerted an important effect on prices. Merchants often instructed their agents to buy only

J. Cierny and G. Weisgerber, "The Bronze Age Tin Mines in Central Asia," in The Problem of Early Tin, ed.
A. Giumlia-Mair and F. Lo Schiavo (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2003): 22-31. For a recent report on surveys in Central
Asia for tin mines, including the excavated second-millenium settlement site near tin mines at Karnab-Sichkonchi
in Uzbekistan, see H. Parzinger and N. Boroffka, Das Zinn der bronzezeit in Mittelasien I. Die seidlungsarchäeologischen
Forschungen im Umfeld der Zinnlagerstätten, Archäologie in Iran und Turan 5 (Mainz: 2003).
Moths could and did occasionally infest and destroy textiles: “The earlier textiles, both yours and mine,
which I left for Elamma, are they still (there)? The later ones are moth-eaten.” 36ṣubātū paniūtum lu kuwatum lu
iautum 37ša ana Elama ezibu adinī u 38warkiūtum sāsam laptū TTC 14:36-38, re-edited in C. Michel, "Réédition des
Trente Tablettes 'Cappadociennes' de G. Contenau," RA 80 (1986): 116-17, and translated in CMK no. 264, later in
Aššur-nādā no. 74. The translation of the first sentence as a question follows Larsen’s suggestion.
when the price was favorable, and merchants in Aššur sometimes reported to their associates

in Anatolia that an interrupted supply chain had driven up prices.22

Preferences for types of textiles affected demand in Anatolia, and where possible

merchants sought to respond to demands.23 However, the merchants treated the textiles as

wholesale bulk goods. Rather than describing each textile individually, as we would expect

from a retail orientation, the vast majority of textiles shipped to Anatolia were classified in

two categories, kutānum and šurum.24 The first class, kutānum, was the staple of Assyrian textile

trade with Anatolia, and these textiles could be classified within a wide range of qualities that,

at least nominally, fit into a logical continuum: “royal quality” (ša šarrūtim), “very

fine”(watrum/damqum watrum), “fine” (damqum), “medium quality” (qablītum), “secondary

quality” (tardium), “ordinary” (qātam/ša qātim), and “defective” (matium). However, there were

other matrices of description, such as geographical source or manner of weave. Geographic

designations like Akkadian (ša akkidīē), Abarnian (abarnīum), Takkuštian(?) (takuštāum), and

Šilipkīan(?) (šilipkīum) could describe the source or style of textiles alongside descriptions like

“thin” (raqqutum), “finished(?)” (kamsum), “fleecy(?)” (saptinnum), or “four-ply” (šurbuītum). In

contrast to the kutānum class of textiles, šurum (black) textiles were most often used to wrap

the tin during transport packing and were roughly half the value of the kutānum textiles.

The Old Assyrian merchant trade functioned on a market basis in which supply and

demand were major factors in determining prices of goods moving through an inter-regional

network. Silver was the standard valuta of the day, though in certain circumstances tin (road

For references, see K.R. Veenhof, "Prices and Trade: The Old Assyrian Evidence," AoF 15 (1988): 243-63.
See the letter in which the merchant Puzur-Aššur writes to a female relative named Waqqurtum,
giving her specific instructions on the type of textile he wants her to produce: TC 3 17. For translation and
treatment see, AOATT, 103-109. For more general discussions of women and textile production, see C. Michel,
"Femmes et production à Aššur au début du IIe millénaire av. J.-C.," Techniques and Cultures, 46-47.
The most thorough review of designations for textiles remains AOATT.
taxes on the way to Anatolia) and copper (road taxes in Anatolia) were used as bases of

exchange. Assyrian merchants usually expressed the value of their commodities in terms of

silver. Their correspondence reflected the merchants’ sensitivity to price. One merchant says

that tin was too expensive (16:1 tin to silver) and deferred the purchase until the rate

improved (15:1 or 14:1). Likewise, some merchants stockpiled goods in Anatolia, waiting to sell

until a supply problem drove prices up. This ability to sell tin in Anatolia profitably was

encouraged by cheap silver in Anatolia. A shekel of silver could buy 14 to 15 shekels of tin in

Aššur, while a silver shekel could only buy between 6 and 8 shekels of tin in Anatolia. The

prices for woolen textiles varied more between Aššur and Anatolia. The kutānum-textile

normally cost 4 or 5 shekels of silver in Aššur and was sold in Anatolia for a wide range of

prices (11 to 40 shekels) depending on the urgency to liquidate, access to trustworthy retailers,

and the quality of product. The favorable rate of exchange for silver, cheaper in Anatolia due

to its great supply, was perhaps the single greatest force fueling the trade between Aššur and

the cities of the Anatolian plain.

Differences in supply between markets within Anatolia afforded further opportunities

for Assyrian merchants to maximize their gain. In Kanesh they exchanged their tin and textiles

for wool, trucked the wool further north to the copper mine region, and transported copper

west to Purušḫattum to exchange for silver. Gold was also acquired in Anatolia, but an Assyrian

law prohibited the sale of gold to non-Assyrians and gold acquired in Anatolia was usually

converted to silver in Aššur.25

Purchasing merchandise to take to Anatolia required initial capital. Those who had

capital to spare could lend it out to other merchants at profitable rates. The state exercised
Veenhof, "Silver and Credit in Old Assyrian Trade," in Trade and Finance in Ancient Mesopotamia:
Proceedings of the First MOS Symposium, ed. Jan Gerrit Dercksen, PIHANS 84 (Instanbul, 1999) 55-56.
some regulation of these prices, declaring a standard default interest rate on loans between

Assyrian merchants, though “friends” loaned on (only slightly) better conditions. When

debtors delayed in paying, disgruntled creditors could take out a second loan on their own

loan to recoup their capital, forcing the debtor to pay double interest (to both the original and

new creditor). There were various types of partnerships that could combine capital and labor

or capital and situational advantage, such as geographic location or social access, between two

parties.26 Merchants also had access to long-term financing options such as the naruqqum

investment, a strategy by which a merchant combined several investors’ capital with his own

small sum to create a working fund with which to do business for a term (normally ten years).

The organizing merchant kept one third of the profits, investors divided another third in

periodic installments, and the last third was re-invested into the fund. At the end of the term,

investors received fourfold their original capital-shares. In similar fashion, merchants ‘paid’

service providers, such as shipping personnel, by giving them interest-free loans with which

the shipper would recoup profits in the same manner as the merchant.27

To further the operation of private trade, a host of institutions were necessary, both

public and private. Assyrian merchants developed business procedures to facilitate shipping,

representation, agency, credit, and liquidity of funds. These included caravan procedures,

partnerships, joint-capital investments, accounts at the colony office, and exchangeable debt-

notes. Family in part provided a framework for partnership, cooperation, and contacts. Some

merchants lived most of their lives in an Anatolian city, doing business for themselves and on

behalf of associates who either lived in Aššur, or specialized in shipping, or frequented a

different area of the plateau.

See M.T. Larsen, "Partnerships in the Old Assyrian Trade," Iraq 39 (1977): 119-45.
M.T. Larsen, "Naruqqu-Verträge," in RlA 9, ed. Dietz O. Edzard (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1999), 181-84.
A step-by-step description of the process of the caravan transport, made possible by

the contributions of many scholars, illuminates the major logistical challenge of the trade: to

bring the goods from the banks of the Tigris River across the Jezireh and the Euphrates, and

through the Taurus Mountains to the Anatolian plateau.28 In broad outlines: The bulk goods

were packed on “black” donkeys (emārum ṣallāmum), and the donkey’s load determined much

about its transporting. The donkey’s gear (unūtum), consisting of saddlecloths (ukāpum and

masradum), packsaddle (matliḫšum), ropes (eblum), and pouches (zurzum), supported the main

load. The main load was packed into two half-packs (muttatum), each consisting primarily of

either tin or textiles. If tin, each half-pack contained 65 minas of tin split into three sacks

(naruqqum), each portion wrapped in two textiles (normally šurum) suited for the purpose

(ṣubātum ša liwītim). Because each half-pack usually weighed just over a talent (biltum), that

term came to be used for the half-pack as well; another designation was weighed packs

(šuqlum). If the load was the bulkier textiles, the donkey carried between 20 and 30 textiles,

most often 25 or 26, with about 5 textiles to a sack. The Assyrians thus distinguished a visibly

smaller tin load (upqum) from a larger textile load (kibšum). The sacks were sealed (kanākum) at

departure and were not to be opened until arrival at the intended destination. In addition to

the main load of either tin or textiles, there was often a top-pack (elītum), holding additional

small items, including a purse for the road expenses (gamrum).29

The purse contained ‘hand tin’ (annak qātim)—loose tin for expenses incurred during

travel. The expenses (gamrum) incurred on the road arose from a number of sources. Tolls

For a recent discussion of the route between Aššur and Kanesh, see M. Forlanini, "Étapes et ininéraires
en Aššur et l'Anatolie des marchands paléo-assyriens: nouveaux documents et nouveaux problems," Kaskal 3
(2006): 147-76; and K.R. Veenhof, "Across the Euphrates," in OAAS 3.
On the topic of donkeys and their gear, see most recently OAI, Appendix 3. The discussion supplements
M.T. Larsen, "Four Letters from the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore," in Studies Matouš, and AOATT, 1-45.
(dātum) would be exacted along the road at various towns and were regulated by political

agreements with Aššur, including a head tax (qaqqadātum).30 In addition to the tolls, there were

several other taxes to be paid, including an export tax (waṣītum), often an excise tax (nisḫatum)

and shipping charges (šaddu’ātum). Food for the transporters and fodder for the donkeys

(ukultum) incurred costs as well.

The donkeys used to bear the goods to Anatolia were led by transporters and each

transporter had his own cargo or charge (šēpum).31 It was the job of the transporter principally

to see that the goods got safely to their destination. Transporters were remunerated for their

services in two primary ways. Some were paid wages in cash (igrum). Others were forwarded

capital (be’ulātum), documented in a contract; the average amount was one-half mina of silver.

The transporter would be responsible to repay the loan some time after arriving. References in

some contracts suggest that the transporters were under a labor obligation until repayment of

the loan.32 The long journey between Aššur and Kanesh required many consecutive days of

travel. Comparative evidence on donkeys has been used to suggest they could travel between

30 and 40 kilometers daily, rendering the journey 30 to 40 days.33

When the goods arrived in Anatolia, usually Kanesh, they passed through customs. If

the seller had agents there, they would participate in the customs process, checking the

transporter’s packs against the bill of lading, noting any instructions with regard to its

Commercial treaties are known between Aššur and various towns which include stipulations about
tolls, see OBO 160/5, 183-218.
Lit. “foot.” “The phrase šēp PN refers to the transporter in a general sense, ‘transported by PN,’” OACP,
176. In this chapter, this term is translated as ‘cargo of.’ However, this will be a point of discussion in Chapter
On be’ulātum loans, see B. Kienast, "The Old Assyrian beʾūlātum," JCS 41 (1989): 87-95. Regarding
vocalization of the term, see recently J.G. Dercksen, "On the Financing of Old Assyrian Merchants," in Trade and
Finance in Ancient Mesopotamia: Proceedings of the First MOS Symposium, ed. Jan Gerrit Dercksen, PIHANS 84 (Istanbul:
Nederlands Historisch-Archaeologisch Instituut te Istanbul, 1999), 87-88.
For further discussion on logistics of the trade, see Barjamovic, “Geography,” 13-43, and Chapter Three.
disposal. The cargo was unsealed in the presence of the parties in charge of levying customs.

The palace at Kanesh levied excise duties (nisḫatum) on both tin and textiles: 2 minas tin per

talent, and one textile in twenty. The palace also reserved the right to purchase ten percent of

the shipment at the cash price of the textiles (išrātum).34 When the custom duties had been

exacted, the goods were “cleared” (zakā’um) for sale on the local market, and they were said to

come “down from the palace” (ina ekallim warādum).

After the goods cleared the palace, it was the responsibility of the agents to coordinate

the sale and, if on credit, the collection of the silver. The aim was ultimately to convert the

goods into silver, but there were several means by which this could be accomplished; the

merchant in Aššur often expressed his preferences for the means, and sometimes a range of

preferences. The goods could be sold for cash (silver) in the market at Kanesh; they could be

sold on credit for greater profit, but at some delay; or they could be taken elsewhere to be sold

at a different market. For example, the merchant Imdī-ilum chose to instruct his

representatives to sell his goods immediately for cash. Cash sales allowed the silver to proceed

back to Aššur relatively quickly. On the other hand, Šalim-aḫum more frequently expressed a

preference for credit sales, which eventually would garner more silver, but at the expense of

time and the risk of default.

All this activity produced an abudance of documentation, from which our primary

understanding of the trade derives. Bills of lading, transport contracts, caravan accounts,

It has been elsewhere held that the palace at Kanesh purchased the textiles at a discounted price set by
themselves, OACP, Veenhof, AOATT. However, the prices cited for the purchase of textiles in the palace are only
discounted in relation to prices expressed for textiles sold on credit. Because the prices for which the palace
purchased textiles varies, it is more likely that the prices reported for purchases by the palace were the cash
prices for the textiles, which is not otherwise reported in the caravan accounts (see Chapter Two, p. 81, n. 25). In
this case, the prices paid for the pre-emptive purchases might form an important starting point for building crude
prices histories and for evaluating the rate of discount on silver in credit purchases.
notifying messages, loans, promissory contracts, bearers’ cheques, sales contracts, debt-notes,

memoranda, and a whole host of letters bearing on commercial issues attest to the well

developed system of transport, credit, and legal framework. Many aspects of this trade are now

clear through careful studies of the overland passage of goods, the institutions of the city and

colony, and the Anatolian copper trade, chronology, and credit.35 But the vast majority of this

voluminous documentation of 23,000 texts derives from about five dozen Assyrian houses.

These houses, in the area of the kārum or ‘port’ at Kanesh, lay outside the city walls, and

included houses inhabited by native Anatolians alongside houses the Assyrian merchants

purchased. In these houses valuables, merchandise, and important documents were stored in

‘strong rooms.’ And these houses, associated with families, have provided a strong context for

approaching the trade as a family-oriented enterprise.

Organizing the Trade: The Concept of the Family Firm

With the understanding of the basic structures of the trade as set out here, there has

been an interest in understanding how the Old Assyrian merchants organized themselves to

accomplish the goals of the trade. On the one hand, the long-distance aspect of the Old

Assyrian trade presented challenges for transporting goods, gathering information, and

procuring a network of reliable representation. On the other hand, challenges like financing,

purchasing, selling, and collecting credit were germane to the trade in general. To some

extent, it has been held that the Old Assyrian ‘family firm’ either grappled with all of these

Transport contracts, caravan accounts, and notifying messages are covered by Larsen, OACP, 8-14. All
three document types described goods and costs associated with the overland transport between Aššur and
Anatolia. The contract was a witnessed legal document, while the caravan account and notifying message were
sent ahead of a caravan by agent and owner respectively to report or instruct. For a discussion of bearers cheques,
see Veenhof, “Modern Features.” Generally for documents and structures of the trade, see OACP, AOATT, OACC,
OAI, OACT, OAAS 2, Veenhof, "Silver and Credit,” and OALE.
challenges internally, or where it did not, nonetheless “was the fundamental unit in the Old

Assyrian socio-economic system.”36 One broadly cited model of the family firm saw members of

extended families cooperating under the direction of a senior member who resided in the

home city of Aššur and directed and delegated complementary roles to the various family

members. Such an organization would have done the work of purchasing goods in Aššur,

transporting them to Anatolia, and selling them at retail. The importance of the broader

network of informal cooperation was always seen as important, but most scholarly focus has

been on clarifying the workings of the family firm.

Different, even incompatible, definitions for the family firm have co-existed in the

scholarship. The concept of the family firm began with sensitivity to a few important points,

namely: the term “our father’s house,” the use of familial terms, and the frequent cooperation

and correspondence between family members. This initial evidence motivated examination of

family cooperation, which produced a strong sense of a family firm based on medieval parallels

and confirmed by inductive approaches developed to explore family firms. As a result of

several studies, primarily by Mogens Trolle Larsen, a concept of family firm could claim

significant size and complexity, both social and financial. But within this complexity, there

were inherent tensions between strong central control and multi-generation extended-family

staff, between common purse and naruqqum funds, and between inheritance and multi-

generational continuation. Many of these tensions between central control and multiple

patrilineal lines have been resolved with recent scholarship through a realization of weaker

forms of “our father’s house.” However, with the resolution of some of these tensions, yet

Larsen, "Partnerships in the Old Assyrian Trade," 121 and OACC, 95. The centrality of the family firm in
the Old Assyrian trade has been recognized broadly, for example Johannes Renger, "On Economic Structures of
Ancient Mesopotamia," Or 63 (1994): 180.
further tensions emerge in the recent versions of the family firm. A review of these

developments will demonstrate the need for further inductive studies on the operation of

family firm, but on different bases than have been possible thus far. This need is filled in part

by the present study.

Before going on, it is important to point out that the present discussion focuses almost

exclusively on the coordination of activity in accomplishing the long-distance trade with

Anatolia. Households, most probably family households, were a locus of textile production in

Aššur; and households also were a locus of consumption, as the documents which evidence the

purchase of grain both in the City (Aššur) and Anatolia attest. These categories of production

and consumption should not be overlooked. Puzur-Aššur’s letter to Waqqurtum describing

what traits she needs to produce in the textiles to respond to Anatolian demand is

representative of a corpus of letters documenting the coordination of textile production

activities with the Anatolian trade37 and suggests the gendered division of labor in regards to

production. The trade is normally considered in terms of exchange, but with regards to the

focus of the firm, the trade itself was a production of wealth. It is this aspect of the family firm,

in relation to the operation of the commercial exchange, which occupies the more direct

discussion in this work.

Mogens Trolle Larsen has most intensively developed the concept of the family firm

through various studies throughout his career. Initially drawing comparisons with the ‘great

houses’ of medieval trade, Larsen has forwarded the understanding of the day–to-day

operations in relation to the family firm more than any other scholar. Larsen’s statement on

See note 23 above.
family firms in his 1976 synthesis The Old Assyrian City-State and Its Colonies, though superseded

in part by his later scholarship, forms an appropriate place to start.

It may be regarded as certain that the family-firm was a basic element of

the Old Assyrian system, and it is likely that each one of the prominent families
in Assur had its own ‘branch’ or factory in a colony in Anatolia. As a probably
typical example of a not too big and powerful family I propose to look at the
family firm led by Aššur-idī, the father and boss who lived in Assur. We have
some 125 letters which were exchanged between the members of the group of
persons, mainly in Anatolia, who were more or less closely associated; the man
who directed Aššur-idī’s affairs in Anatolia was his son Aššur-nādā, and he
cooperated very closely with a certain Ilī-ālum, and with his brother Aššur-
taklāku. Sometimes we find that Aššur-nādā has to deal intimately with persons
whose rank exceeds his own, for instance a certain Alāḫum, and such a person
certainly was connected with the firm although not concerned with its daily
affairs, so he was probably a more distant relative. It should be noted that the
study of such an ‘archive’ is hampered by serious difficulties and the
conclusions which can be given here must necessarily be of a tentative
character. It is possible to reconstruct a nucleus of persons who corresponded
fairly frequently with each other, of course, and in this case we find some ten
persons in that group.38

In this review of Aššur-idī’s firm, Larsen sought to demonstrate the importance of

family and the close ties binding kin together in commercial activities. The core of the family

was the father-son pair Aššur-idī and Aššur-nādā. Aššur-idī directed the firm from Aššur, and

Aššur-nādā functioned as the primary agent in Anatolia, running the ‘branch’ there, and giving

his commission agents consignments on credit, while travelling to sell retail as well. Younger

brothers were also present in Kanesh, and Aššur-nādā, as the older brother, apportioned tasks

to them. Others connected with the firm were assumed to have been relatives, their proximity

on the family tree commensurate with the closeness of their involvement. The agents were

mostly a stable cast of characters that formed an Anatolian branch of the family firm.

Larsen, OACC, 97.
Other Old Assyrian scholars have echoed Larsen’s assertion that the family firm was a

basic element of the trade. Cecile Michel’s publication on Old Assyrian correspondence

devoted an entire section to the family firm, which she regarded as fundamental.39 But while

broad agreement has existed on the use of the term “family firm” and the basic idea it implies,

different descriptions of its organization or mission reveal a lack of consensus on key points.

Two more brief descriptions set the stage for discussing a number of different aspects of the

family firm. First, Veenhof, in 1984:

Old Assyrian overland trade was carried out by family firms in the city of
Assur with an ‘Anatolian branch’, headed by an able member of the family, in
one of the colonies abroad, preferably in kārum Kaniš, which was the
administrative centre of the network of commercial settlements. This Anatolian
based trader functioned as the firm’s chief agent or director abroad and he was
in particular charged with the administration of the business there, the sale of
goods imported by the firm’s caravans and the shipment back to Assur of the
yield. He disposed of a house in the kārum with storing facilities, which also
housed his archives. From there he kept in touch with his agents and
representatives based in other Anatolian cities and with his traveling salesmen
who had received lots of merchandise on consignment for sale. In due time,
when he grew older, he might return to Assur, where his wife and relatives
lived, to take up his responsibilities there, leaving the Anatolian scene to a
younger member of the firm, not infrequently his son who had already acquired
experience there under the guidance of his father.40

And second, Dercksen, in 1999:

The traders were part of the urban elite and were organised in family
firms. As a result, the business relations were based largely upon family ties.
Men would start working in their father’s firm and gradually acquire enough
capital of their own to start a new branch. The core of their capital was formed
by the naruqqum or sack, in which wealthy merchants and money-lenders from
Assur invested a large sum of money for a fixed period. The ‘sack carrier’
rewarded his investors by giving them a share in the profit. A trader was

“La firme familiale constitue une association stable de personnes qui travaillent ensemble; c’est l’unité
fondamentale de l’organisation commerciale páleo-assyrienne. … Par consequent, l’analyse des différents groupes
familiaux représente une étape indispensable pour comprendre les mécanismes de foncionnement des
enterprises commerciales assyriennes.” CMK, 359ff.
K.R. Veenhof, "An Old Assyrian Business Letter in the Medelhavsmuseet," Medelhavsmuseet Bulletin 19
personally responsible for losses and debts and in the worst case his possessions
were seized and sold. Many of these well-to-do families made one of their
daughters a gubabtum-priestess. Like other Assyrian women from the mercantile
milieu they often remained involved in the business of their relatives.41

These two descriptions were written at different times for different audiences, but the

different contexts serve to highlight how the family firm could be described in very different

ways. However, they cover well the range of characterizations of the family firm in

comparison with Larsen’s descriptions above.42 Both descriptions share Larsen’s

characterization of the family firm as a hierarchical and multi-generational organization, but

Veenhof’s description focused on operations while Dercksen’s focused on finance. In Veenhof’s

description, an ‘able member of the family’ acted as a ‘chief agent or director abroad,’ reported

to the director based in Aššur, and directed a host of traveling salesmen. In Dercksen’s

description, the narruqum fund formed the core capital for men who worked at first for their


But an attempt to synthesize the two views, or some amalgamation of these two with

Larsen’s view, yields incongruencies. According to Veenhof, the family firm owned houses

abroad and the activities were centrally coordinated, with control of the operations passing

through the family. According to Dercksen, the naruqqum fund provided the means whereby

sons started their own branches. Different elements such as these have also been accompanied

by different historical meanings of the family firm. Larsen’s citation of economic historians

like Frederic Lane placed the family firm as an expected manifestation of the natural pre-

J.G. Dercksen, Trade and Finance in Ancient Mesopotamia, ed. by Jan Gerrit Dercksen, MOS Studies 1, PIHANS
84, Istanbul: Nederlands Historisch-Archaeologisch Instituut te Istanbul, 1999.
See also S. Démare-Lafont, "Aspects du Commerce International des Assyriens en Anatolie," in OAAS 3;
Veenhof, "Silver and Credit"; Veenhof, "Trade and Politics in Ancient Assur: Balancing of Public, Colonial and
Entreprenuerial Interests," in Mercanti e politica nel mondo antico, Congreso 23-24 marzo 2000 Università di Roma, ed. C.
Zaccagnini, Saggi di Storia Antica 21 (Rome: 2003).
modern institution, the ‘great family.’43 On the other hand, the Old Assyrian family firms have

been framed as precursors of more modern arrangements because of their apparent affinity to

later medieval firms.44 Morris Silver cited family firms as an efficient strategy for dealing with

the high cost of communication.45

Several pieces of evidence provided for the postulation of the family firm concept: the

bēt abīni, correspondence between family members, and familial terminology. Already in

Larsen’s publication on caravan procedures in 1967, he recognized the density of family

relationships in the correspondence and sought to explain this density as evidence of a semi-

formal organization. It was “apparent that the typical Old Assyrian business firm or ‘house’

was organized along family lines.”46 For Larsen at that point the most important indications of

a ‘typical Old Assyrian business firm’ were the prevalence of family or household members

interacting with each other and the use of the term bētum, “house.” As additional evidence,

Larsen pointed to the use of family terms to express the relationships between merchants,

affirming that ‘father’ could be used to mean ‘boss,’ and ‘brother’ to mean ‘associate’, and ‘son’

to mean ‘employee.’47 While elaboration of the family firm has in some ways moved past family

labels, both the concept of the household and that of corresponding family members and their

roles have formed important aspects of the idea of the family firm.

This initial configuration was evident in Larsen’s statement on the family firm in his

longer exposition (1976) quoted above. But in his yet later work, Larsen developed his

OACC, 97.
Veenhof, “Modern Features,” 342.
M. Silver, Economic Structures of the Ancient Near East (London: Croom Helm, 1985), 32-51.
OACP, 16-17.
approach in two important ways: parallels to medieval commercial organizations and the

pursuit of an inductive method.

First, observed parallels with medieval commercial organizations formed an important

reference point in the definition of the Old Assyrian family firm. The Old Assyrian use of the

term ‘house’ or ‘our father’s house’ in some situations found a ready comparison with S. D.

Goitein’s descriptions of pre-modern family partnerships and ‘great houses’ among the

Maghribi traders of the 12th and 13th centuries A.D. Goitein cited Frederic Lane’s statements

about the importance of ‘great families’ in pre-modern economies, which struck a familiar

chord with the observable activities of the Old Assyrian trade. The situation of Aššur-idī and

Aššur-nādā, reviewed by Larsen in his work, corresponded well to a type of trader outlined by

Abū-Faḍl al Dimašqī: stationary merchants who sent their purchases abroad with agents.

The Old Assyrian family firm and the aspects of the Old Assyrian system implied by the

family firm did have some notable differences from the trade as outlined by Goitein. For

example, al Dimašqī distinguished three different types of traders. Besides the stationary

trader, there were peregrinators and hoarders. The relative importance placed on family firms

in the Old Assyrian system suppressed the importance of a role for these other two types of

merchants. Also, Goitein’s discussion of family partnerships, though citing Frederic Lane’s

broad statement on ‘great families,’48 portrayed family partnerships as unusual in comparison

to more limited-duration partnerships, like commenda or muqarada. Goitein cited an example of

an uncle and a nephew who entered into formal written partnership, defined by shared profits

and liabilities, which suggests that family relationships in and of themselves did not constitute

“In most societies, at most times, it has been the great family which by its wealth, power, prestige, and
presumption of permanence has been the outstanding institution in private economic enterprise.” F.C. Lane,
"Family Partnerships and Joint Ventures in the Venetian Republic," Journal of Economic History 4 (1944): 178-96.
a basis for cooperation. In the formalized relationship between uncle and nephew, the

common purse funded all activities of either partner and all profits were returned to the

common purse. Goitein also cited the Tāhertīs of Qayrawān, four sons of Barhūn, who worked

together as partners with a common purse. But Goitein also emphasized that informal

cooperation was the most common form of commercial relationships. The case of the Tāhertīs

seemed to arise from an unusually good disposition among the brothers rather than as a

manifestation of a durable structure. An opponent of the Tāhertīs lamented that they were “as

one band, united by one spirit.”49 Goitein’s other important exemplar, al Dimašqī, did not

advise the stationary trader that his agents needed to be family members.

Second, Larsen recognized already in 1967 that a real understanding of Old Assyrian

family firms would only come through inductive descriptions of specific family firms and their

activities, arrived at through careful analysis of their reconstructed archives.50 In Goitein’s

observation that “letters [were] addressed to, or sent in the names of two or more brothers or

to or from father and his sons,”51 Larsen saw an intermediate approach to reconstructing a

family firm, which he called a ‘limited archive approach.’ The limited archive approach was

born of the reality that European scholars of the Old Assyrian trade only had access to the ‘old’

texts, the mass of documents which because they were excavated without careful recording,

were mixed from probably fifteen original archives. By following the family correspondence

outward from well-attested individuals, Larsen practically reasoned that one could both

reconstruct an archive and flesh out a family firm; he did so with a study on the Imdī-ilum

S.D. Goitein, A Mediterannean Society, 5 vols., vol. 1: Economic Foundations (Berkeley, CA: University of
California Press, 1967), 157, 181.
“A thorough study of the family and business partners of Enlil-bāni and of his father and grandfather
cannot be attempted here, though investigations of that kind would be extremely valuable for the understanding
of how trade was organized on this level,” OACP, 16-17.
Goitein, A Mediterannean Society, 181.
archive.52 The study on Imdī-ilum’s archive produced a large family firm around the main

protagonist. And in the study, the family tree that could be reconstructed was essentially

coterminous with the family firm.53 Sequences of addressor and addressee in the

correspondence provided an indicator of status or hierarchy. Fathers, sons, uncles, nephews,

cousins, and grandsons operated within a commercial amalgam directed by Imdī-ilum’s uncle,

Aššur-imittī, with Imdī-ilum directing the branch in Kanesh.

Larsen’s study on Imdī-ilum harvested a number of important characteristics that

diffused into other descriptions of the family firm. For example, Imdī-ilum’s uncle seemed to

enjoy strong central control of the extended family; this characteristic is manifest in both

Veenhof’s and Dercksen’s descriptions cited above. The family firm was large and multi-

generational. Members of the family were posted around Anatolia semi-permanently, a notion

that enjoyed broad consensus.54 The narrative of a central character within the family firm

who grew to inherit control of the family firm is also part of both Veenhof’s and Dercksen’s

models. Finally, the conduct of the study itself cemented the idea that archives were family


But while the study on Imdī-ilum presented a large family firm with a multi-

generational lifespan, some of these characteristics could not easily co-exist with each other,

with characteristics of family firms, or with the conduct of the trade noted elsewhere. There

was the tension between the common purse of the medieval partnership to which the Old

M.T. Larsen, "Your Money or Your Life! A Portrait of an Assyrian Businessman," in Societies and
Languages of the Ancient Near East: Studies in Honour of I.M. Diakonoff (Warminster, England: Aris and Phillips, 1982).
Largely echoed by independent analysis in M. Ichisar, Imdīlum.
“Chaque firme familiale dirigée par un important négociant d’Aššur se doit d’avoir une représentation
dans les places commerciales les plus dévelopées d’Asie mineure, soit par le basis de members de la familie en
résidence permanente dans ces localités, soit encore par l’intermédiaire de représentants. Ceux-ci sont parfois
rattachés à d’autres firmes, auxquelles ils peuvent consacrer la majeure partie de leur temps. Amur-Ištar
représente ainsi les intérêsts de sa familie dans Durhumid, il en est de même pour Iddin-Ištar.” C. Michel,
"Durhumid, son commerce et ses marchands," in Studies Garelli, 217.
Assyrian family firm was supposed to correlate, and the presence of an individually managed

fund, the naruqqum fund. There was also a tension between large family firms on the one hand

and central control and patriarchal inheritance on the other.

A singular tension arose from the lack of a common purse in either the Imdī-ilum or

Aššur-idī firms. Unlike medieval parallels of family cooperatives, called fraternas, which

focused on a ‘common table’ or purse,55 no direct evidence could be found for a common purse

between Aššur-idī and Aššur-nādā. Recognizing this disjuncture, Larsen countered the lack of

evidence on the common purse with evidence of common cause. Indications of common cause

in the form of concerns about family status and issues of representation were expressed by

both Aššur-idī and Aššur-nādā. Individually owned goods belonging to Aššur-nādā were

recognized, but when Aššur-idī had trouble settling accounts with his investors, he predicted

disaster for the whole family. Aššur-nādā similarly expressed concern that the lack of

shipments from Aššur-idī was hurting the former’s relationships with other merchants in

Anatolia. Obviously, both Aššur-idī and Aššur-nādā felt they shared a common barometer of

family financial health. Furthermore, Aššur-idī could instruct his son Aššur-nādā to sell the

house in Kanesh, implying that Aššur-idī was the benefactor of an extended enterprise.

But more problematic to the Old Assyrian family firm concept, independent of its

relation to medieval parallels, was the presence of individually run ‘joint-stock’ funds

(naruqqum). In place of pooled finances, members of the same Old Assyrian family firms could

and did have separate naruqqum funds. Aššur-idī’s problems with his own naruqqum did not

prevent him from being frustrated that his son had not yet acquired his own. Imdī-ilum’s

brother Ennum-Bēlum ran his own naruqqum. Noting its importance, Larsen’s 1976 study

Lane, "Family Partnerships," 178-80.
constituted a brilliant review of how the naruqqum fund was formed and its potential to

organize key relationships. Though only a single exemplar of the actual naruqqum contract,

belonging to an Amur-Ištar, was available to Larsen at the time,56 he cogently discussed

references to naruqqum funds in other contexts. By his definition, the naruqqum fund was a

financial agreement whereby a merchant gathered a large sum of capital to conduct trade by

attracting shares from investors. The naruqqum funds lasted for a decade or more, providing a

far more durable commercial arrangement in the Old Assyrian system than anything known in

the contemporary Old Babylonian evidence. Amur-Ištar’s contract and letters by Pūšu-kēn to

his own investors showed that the individual merchant who managed the naruqqum funds

purchased goods from his investors in addition to paying a premium for his use of their


Though Larsen reiterated his “distinct impression … that the family firm was the

fundamental unit in the Old Assyrian socio-economic system,” he noted that the coexistence of

naruqqum funds side by side with family firms lacking common purses introduced significant

complexity into the model. It was clear that “our father’s house” was important in the minds

of the merchants, but the naruqqum fund demanded flexibility about private organization in

general. Representation often extended far beyond family circles. The naruqqum fund formed

the basis of a commercial network of its own, potentially in conflict with a merchant’s family

and family firm. Moreover, issues of liability, ownership, and management seemed much more

clearly delineated in regards to the naruqqum fund than with the family firm. When individual

merchants interacted with persons outside their family, Larsen posited that the core idea of

More exemplars were later gathered in Larsen, "Naruqqu-Verträge."
family firms without common purse and defined by family relationships remained intact by

stressing that such commercial interaction could be between separate firms.57

Other tensions were also manifest. Large firms like the one outlined around Imdī-ilum

begged questions about effective, strong, central control. Situations like that of Aššur-idī and

Aššur-nādā showed that fathers could exert considerable control over their sons, but within

the larger family network of Imdī-ilum’s archive, there was evident discord. Within Imdī-

ilum’s firm, members acted in ways inconsistent with a centrally controlled hierarchical

organization. For example, Aššur-imittī’s role as head of the firm or pater familias was

questionable because he never wrote letters to Imdī-ilum as a sole executive addressor, but

rather alongside a stable cast of characters, only some of whom were demonstrably parts of

the family. At other points, Aššur-imittī seemed at odds with Imdī-ilum, as revealed by

concerned family members in Aššur, which hinted at factions within the family. Imdī-ilum’s

cousin Ennānum wrote letters to Imdī-ilum how he, “[took] care of all of Imdī-ilum’s wishes in

Aššur,” and warned Imdī-ilum to prepare against Aššur-imittī’s planned legal actions against

him.58 Likewise, Imdī-ilum seemed to interact with his other uncle, Amur-Ištar, on a

collaborative but not hierarchical basis, though the uncle is sometimes portrayed as operating

a branch of the family firm in Durḫumit.59 As already noted by Larsen in 1976 in his study on

naruqqum funds, the boundaries of the family firm are ambiguous; it is difficult to determine

whether some persons were or were not part of Imdī-ilum’s firm. For example, a man named

Uzua was a debtor to Imdī-ilum, and wrote to him complaining that Amur-Ištar would not let

Larsen, "Partnerships," 121-22.
Larsen, “Your Money,” 224.
OACT, 119-31; Michel, "Durhumid,"
him in to the copper trade in Durḫumit.60 Uzua is not recognized as a family or firm member in

Larsen’s study, but he seemed to depend on Imdī-ilum for help with the latter’s uncle.

In Old Assyrian scholarship, different descriptions of family firms reflected various

resolutions of these tensions. Veenhof’s description cited near the beginning of this section set

out a family firm essentially self-sufficient in carrying out a significant scale of operations. It

was the firm’s caravans that transported the merchandise to Anatolia. The trader based in

Anatolia was director of what appeared to be a sizeable staff, including traveling salesmen,

who received lots of merchandise on consignment. Though emphasizing the importance of

informal networks of contacts within the Old Assyrian trade in other descriptions,61 Veenhof’s

description postulated a fairly large firm, which included a substantial number of personnel

for transporting, but which at the same time enjoyed a theoretically stable succession of

directors within a patriarchal line. The Anatolian director was trained to take over the helm in

Aššur when the overall director passed on. This description responds to the breadth of the

firm discerned within Imdī-ilum’s archive, run by Aššur-imittī, with a significant number of

family members cooperating. On the other hand, Dercksen’s description focused on the

financial management of a nuclear family with less attention to the operation of the trade.

Dercksen’s attention to the naruqqum fund gave more room to the complexity of the financial

aspect of family firms by focusing on fewer family members who each had important roles

with regards to financing.

To this configuration of characteristics, Dercksen’s outline of the copper trade in

Anatolia and his elaboration of the regional aspects of the market in Anatolia also add an

CCT 4 27a.
“The fabric of colonial community which, in addition to these official bodies, consisted of a network of
private friendships, partnerships, representations and agencies, based in family relations and business contacts,
spread out over many cities and towns, was important for trade.” Veenhof, “Modern Features,” 341.
important dimension to the operations that a firm might encompass. Dercksen showed that

Old Assyrian traders were sensitive to a number of regional markets within Anatolia which

served to fuel a circuit route on the plateau that included markets in Kanesh, Durḫumit,

Purušḫanda, and Waḫšušana. A family firm that could place members in several of these major

markets could operate throughout Anatolia.

However, even placing persons at a few of these centers would have severely stressed

most nuclear families, shifting the focus back to large firms of extended families, such as those

associated with Imdī-ilum’s archive. In firms that depended on extended families, many

members of the family firm would be apportioned increasingly peripheral roles as cousins and

nephews and second cousins multiplied. This temporal aspect of the family firm posits a

tension between central control which, according some versions of the family firm model,

centered on a single person or patriarchal line, and an extended network of family relations

that would spread out across the descendants of several brothers or cousins. If there were a

core fund controlled by the head of the firm, access to that capital would become less available

to extended family members over time. The only known copy of an Old Assyrian will mentions

only immediate family members as heirs. Financial alternatives for participating in the trade,

such as partnerships and naruqqum funds, would provide strong forces pulling away extended

family members. Likewise, in the absence of a common fund, the inheritance of control would

play the same role: if each extended family member managed a naruqqum fund, then the

tension manifest in the nuclear family over control vis-à-vis financing would only become


The tension between large multi-generation firms and issues of inheritance became

more acute when more excavated archives became available for study, some of which provided
evidence of tense difficulties associated with settling the estates of dead merchants. Drawing

on his study of two archives, that of Aššur-nādā and Aššur-idī and the 1994 excavated archive

in the house of Šalim-Aššur (currently in preparation for publication), Larsen recently (2007)

highlighted the central tension between individual ownership and family cooperatives.62 In his

study, three important clarifications in regards to property, financing, and inheritance have

significantly nuanced the idea of the family firm. Under the first heading, ‘property,’ Larsen

argued that only individuals, not organizations, owned goods in Old Assyrian society. Though

family members often played complimentary roles within the trade, and fathers exerted

strong influence over their sons, and though reputations of healthy businesses rested on

families, accounts and property were consistently differentiated. Under the second heading,

‘investment,’ Larsen pointed out the competing role that naruqqum funds played in relation to

the family firm, stressing the fund’s potential to undercut the solidarity of the family. He

stressed that the naruqqum fund formed an egocentric network of important commercial

partnerships, which could be incongruent with the merchant’s family. Under the third

heading, ‘inheritance,’ Larsen pointed out that while merchants passed property on to the next

generation, settlement of an estate was often complicated and—most important—no

organization was passed on. Making use of a spectacular example from the 1994 archive,

Larsen illustrated that when an active merchant died, his heirs struggled to collect outstanding

claims and to settle existing debts in order to clear their father’s holdings. Thereafter, or even

in the process, sons went their separate ways; the family firm was not passed on as a legal

entity to the next generation.

M.T. Larsen, "Individual and Family in Old Assyrian Society," JCS 59 (2007):93-106.
Though Larsen maintained that the family firm should “be seen as a much wider circle

of individuals, reaching beyond the nuclear family,”63 his recent statements on the family firm

significantly revise the basis for the conceptualization of the Old Assyrian family firm. If his

characterization is followed—and its main points are sound—the practical aspect of family

firms must have been limited in scope to nuclear families, based on cooperation but not

common funds, and did not pass down through generations. In essence, these

characterizations address most of the tensions asserted in the various shades of the family

firm. The existence of large firms capable of transporting goods to Anatolia and selling those

goods through retail agents, like those suggested by Veenhof’s description, seems far less

likely. The common purse aspect now has to be abandoned in favor of individual ownership

and inheritance of property alongside a principle of cooperation. The concept of family firm

has now been rendered in a minimalist dimension.

Reassessing Family Firm and Cooperation

Describing the Old Assyrian family firm has served as an important guiding principle

within Old Assyrian studies. While previous work has rightly been focused on inductive

descriptions of the family firm, the nature of the evidence available has been incongruent with

such an effort. A major motivation for the concept of the family firm has been the

characterization of the recovered archives from Kültepe as family archives, guiding the focus

of many publications. However, that characterization is not without problems, and the

archives as artifacts of deposition stand at a remove from the evidence necessary to describe

day-to-day operations. Also, in distinction to dispute-process dossiers, synchronically

Ibid., 103.

aggregated commercial letters still suffer the shortcomings of a structuralist project—

rendering action and decisions symbolic, even when limited to archives or a network of

individuals. Temporally-sensitive units of evidence congruent with the tempo of activity in the

trade, such as the one reconstructed here, must be sought in order to craft accounts of the

practice of commercial activity; such accounts offer more viable descriptions of mentalities

because they remain connected to the materio-temporal context of the trade. Illuminating the

commercial activities of Šalim-aḫum in REL 80 as micronarrative offers an account of a few Old

Assyrian merchants and of aspects of the Old Assyrian commercial mentality.

The conceptualization of the family firm is important for understanding the social

organization of the trade because it draws together issues of evidence, method, focus, and

theory at the intersection between social and material interests. Any description of an Old

Assyrian commercial mentality must include the social dimension of organizing the trade,

hence the importance of the concept of the family firm. How traders organized themselves and

negotiated relationships with those around them in their networks communicates something

about their basic mentalities about commerce, exchange, production and property.

Larsen’s 2007 clarifications on the family firm have significantly diminished the

conceived scope of its meaning and size. But it is worth revisiting the foundation on which the

family firm concept rests, and what evidence survives. Without a common purse or an

organization that passed through generations, essentially only two of the original categories of

evidence for the family firm continue to motivate the concept: the term “our father’s house,”

and the concept of “family archives.” While “our father’s house” does suggest that a sense of

solidarity around the household was part of the Old Assyrian’s conceptual framework, what

form that took is still difficult to say (see Chapter Five). On the other hand, the idea of the
archives excavated and gathered from Kültepe forming “family archives” has developed and

grown deeper over time, beginning with a recognition that family members frequently

corresponded with each other. The initial observation of family interaction among the ‘old’

texts fueled the reconstruction of archives in terms of family members.

A focus on archives has been an important dimension of Old Assyrian studies. Family

firms as manifested by family archives and family archives manifesting family firms have been

and continue to be a reasonable basis for organizing projects of publication, like the Old

Assyrian Archives Series.64 A strong sense remains that family archives, as units of evidence,

are central to understanding the family firms.65 Their provenience in private houses—the

architectural manifestation of households—has parallels elsewhere in Mesopotamian family-

run businesses.66 And close archival analysis has yielded important gains to illuminate a

vigorous Assyrian trade in copper on the Anatolian plateau.67 Several studies have been

devoted to understanding the archives of the Old Assyrian traders recovered in Kültepe,

archaeologically and otherwise. These studies frequently address the chronological breadth of

A great many works within the Old Assyrian project have been focused on the unit of the archives and
their exploitation, the following being a small sample: J.G. Dercksen, "Review of Karl Hecker, Guido Kryszat and
Lubour Matouš, Kappadokische Keilschrifttafeln aus den Sammlungen der Karluniversität Prag," AfO 48/49
(2001/2002); V. Donbaz, "The Archives of Eddin-Aššur son of Ahiaya," in Studies Garelli; Ichisar, Imdilum; G. Kryszat,
"Beobachtungen zum Archive des Iddi(n)-Ištar," in Studies Veenhof; Larsen, Aššur-nādā; C. Michel, Innaya; K.R.
Veenhof, "Review of Die altassyrische Privateurkunden, Andrea Ulshofer," JESHO 40, no. 3 (1997); K.R. Veenhof,
"Review of Die altassyrische Privaturkunden, Maria Ulshofer," JAOS 118, no. 4 (1998); M.T. Larsen, "Archives and
Filing Systems at Kültepe;" In Old Assyrian Studies in Memory of Paul Garelli, edited by Cécile Michel, 77-88, Leiden:
Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 2008.
This notion was expressed by Larsen before his article on individual and family: “The understanding of
Old Assyrian trade and society is therefore entirely dependent on the study of families, i.e. their archives from the
houses in Kaneš.” Larsen, Aššur-nādā, xiv. But the sentiment continues: “The realization that all ‘old’ texts
belonged to a group of perhaps fifteen different archives belonging to family firms, made it desirable to
reconstruct and edit these, to allow the study of firms, which could serve as building stones for a more general
analysis.” OBO 16/5, 66.
The Neo-Babylonian private archives offer perhaps the largest such phenomenon. For an overview of
the private archives, see M. Jursa, Neo-Babylonian Legal and Administrative Documents: Typology, Contents and Archives,
Guides to the Mesopotamian Textual Record 1 (Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2005).
Dercksen, OACT.
the archives, the nature of the contents, and especially note any dossiers that can be

discerned.68 Attempts have been made to understand the filing systems involved in the original

deposition of the archives.69

But in the wake of Larsen’s 2007 article, the essence of the family firm has become

cooperation. To some extent, if we mean by firm “a partnership of two or more persons for

carrying on a business; a commercial house,”70 then it might be time to set aside that term. If

liability, financing, and ownership of funds were based in the individual, then it might be best

to begin to describe the Old Assyrian merchants as collaborative individual operators. Because

sole operators naturally required a large network of associates to accomplish the trade,

families would still have been an important organizing principle along which merchants

collaborated. Hence, a description of family firm, if the term must survive, must be a

description of the cooperation occurring to accomplish the trade in ‘real time.’

Up to a point, concentration on persons like Pūšu-kēn and Šalim-aḫum around whom

reconstructed archives can be arranged has yielded important information. A review of

archives like Pūšu-kēn’s can draw together a portrait of a well-attested person. Pūšu-kēn was

recognized by modern scholars as occurring often in the documentation and was assigned

early on distinction “as the head of one of the prominent business houses.”71 A basic sketch of

Dercksen, Prag I, OAAS 2, M.T. Larsen, "Archives and Filing Systems at Kültepe," in Studies Garelli;
Larsen, Aššur-nādā; O. Pedersén, Archives and libraries in the city of Assur: a survey of the material from the German
excavations, 2 vols. (Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 1985); K.R. Veenhof, "Archives of Old Assyrian
Traders," in Ancient Archives and Archival Traditions: Concepts of Record-keeping in the Ancient World, ed. Maria Brosius
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003); K.R. Veenhof, "Cuneiform Archives: An Introduction," in Cuneiform
Archives and Libraries, ed. Klaas R. Veenhof, PIHANS 57 (Istanbul: Nederlands Historisch-Archaeologisch Instituut,
Larsen, "Material Culture."
"firm n.1" The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 12 Jan.
2010 <>.
H. Lewy, "Anatolia in the Old Assyrian Period," in Cambridge Ancient History, ed. I.E.S. Edwards, C. J.
Gadd, and N.G.L. Hammond (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), 710.
Pūšu-kēn’s career was available before this study.72 Dates associated with his documents

stretch over a quarter of a century from REL 79 to REL 104, when a dossier on the settlement of

his estate witnesses his death.73 He was involved with Sargon, waklum of Aššur (REL 55-94),74

and he had four sons and a daughter. Šalim-aḫum’ dealings have also been illuminated in the

process of reviewing his sons’ archives.75 He is attested from REL 64 to at least REL 86 (perhaps

REL 92), while his son Ennam-Aššur is attested from REL 80 to REL 117 (see Chapter Five). One

contribution of the present study is to suggest that pockets of documents within archives can

offer more robust sets of evidence that tend to go unrealized within archival frameworks—

sometimes because the archive is so large.76

While archives have been associated with (or in the ‘old’ texts, around) a person who

occurs most often in the archive, the framing of archives has been familial. But this frame is

not without problems. The main person in any archive from Kanesh is usually seen as having a

boss of some sort in Aššur, and at some level this reinforces the concept of the family firm. But

characterizing archives as family archives should be reconsidered with sensitivity to the

reduced scope of the family firm now recognized. If Imdī-ilum’s archive reflected a network of

See Kryszat, OAAS 2, 40-50.
A list of these texts has already been assembled: AKT 1 11, AKT 2 20, Ankara 1938, ARK 166-9474, ATHE
13 (dupl. CCT 5 25a), ATHE 15, ATHE 21, ATHE 22, ATHE 23, ATHE 24, ATHE 33, ATHE 44, BIN 4 21, BIN 4 96, BIN 4
105, BIN 4 106, BIN 6 8, BIN 6 57, BIN 6 59, BIN 6 66, BIN 6 68, BIN 6 78, C 34, CCT 1 17b, CCT 1 49b, CCT 2 35, CCT 2
44b-44a, CCT 3 12b, CCT 3 41b-42a, CCT 4 31b, CCT 4 40b-41a, CCT 5 2b, CCT 5 8a, CCT 5 11d, CCT 5 21a, CCT 5 22a
(=L 17), CCT 6 44f, Dalley 11, Denver 1964.22.1, I 437, I 652, I 680, I 711, I 744, kt 94/k 785, kt a/k 499b, kt n/k 94,
KTH 7, KTS 1 29b, KTS 1 49c, OrNS 50 4, RA 81 83, Schmidt 2, TC 1 21, TC 1 30, TC 1 73, TC 1 79, TC 2 9, TC 2 46, TC 2
48, TC 3 99, TC 3 199, TC 3 274, TPAK 1 114, TPAK 1 21. See T. Hertel, "Old Assyrian Legal Practices: An
Anthropological Perspective on Legal Disputes in the Ancient Near East" (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of
Copenhagen, 2007). To this list can be added TPAK 1 14, and possibly also AKT 1 14, BIN 4 31, BIN 6 201, I 606, kt
m/k 7, and TPAK 1 16.
POAT 18b, KTS 30, VS 26 73 (VAT 9285), see OACC 134-42.
J.G. Dercksen, "Review of Emin Bilgiç, H. Sever, C. Günbattı, S. Bayram, Ankara Kültepe Tabletleri
(Ankaraner Kültepe-Tafeln) I, Ankara, 1990, Emin Bilgiç, S. Bayram, Ankara Kültepe Tabletleri II, Ankara, 1995,
Emin Bilgiç, C. Günbattı, Ankaraner Kültepe-Texte III, Ankara, 1995," JESHO 41 (1998).
For another review of the dating of an archive, see C. Michel, "The Alāhum and Aššur-taklāku archives
found in 1993 at Kültepe Kaniš," AoF 35 (2008).
associations far beyond a family firm, then that network is not indicative of a family firm’s

archive. On the other hand, when multiple family members’ documents are deposited in a

single room, that physical space certainly could have been used as a shared resource, with

multiple personal archives side-by-side, all without implying an archive connected to a family

firm. The egocentric orientation of the naruqqum prompts an egocentric orientation of the

archives in Kültepe. Nor are archives with documentation from multiple generations definitive

proof of multi-generation ‘family’ archives. Sons would often inherit a large set of tablets, like

property and debts, in the process of clearing the estate after their father passed away.

Moreover, the archival focus produces some inherently biased perspectives on

organization of the trade. First, the contents of the archives reflect a broad span of time. An

inductive method of describing family firms when focused on entire archives favors emphasis

on long-term relationships, especially family relationships, because their durability makes

them prominent through time. By contrast, associations which may have been short-term and

changing but which were important to carrying on the trade would seem transitory. However,

the accomplishment of the trade was largely a constant iteration of short-term arrangements,

and short term arrangements—the day-to-day practice of the trade—belong to a different

temporal register than the lifetime span associated with archives.

Second, in an archival focus, some inherent biases in the texts themselves can go

unnoticed. The reconstruction laid out in this work shows that on occasion several events

thought to be random activities in fact came from a single situation. For example, Garelli cited

two letters between Šalim-aḫum and Pūšu-kēn about ikribū funds as supporting evidence of a

class of action, but we can now demonstrate that both letters refer to the same instance (see

Chapter Three). Another example is significant. It is now clear from the present study that
almost all instances of the terms ‘short’ and ‘long’ credit stem from letters between Pūšu-kēn

and Šalim-aḫum during this one year. Without this chronological frame recognized, it is

possible to misconstrue how widespread the terms were, or to misunderstand those particular

situations (see Chapter Two). In other cases, the traders’ reactions to a particular circumstance

may seem to be durable characteristics of persons or situations. Thus, Šalim-aḫum has been

described as being generally impatient,77 but in REL 80 this impatience is amply justified (see

Chapter Five).

Structuralist approaches within and without archives have produced the lion’s share of

our knowledge on the Old Assyrian trade. The relatively atemporal evidentiary situation has

still illuminated many inherently structural topics—linguistic maps (lexicon, grammar),

physical structures (donkey-loads), and ideal processes (caravan procedures).78 With the

wealth of documentation made available to Old Assyrian specialists in the past fifteen years,

there has been a tendency to try to apprehend the totality of the available texts through

structural approaches.79 Some of the important results of the scholarship for understanding

the trade were reviewed above in the second section of this chapter.

The main benefit of the current study is that it constitutes an account of a particular

commercial operation over a particular span of time, which is independent of analysis of

archives. In contrast, accounts based on an archival focus do not escape the limitations

inherent in structuralist approaches for several reasons. When documents within an archive

Dercksen, "Review of AKT 1, 2, 3."
“A solution of all these, basically interrelated questions [about the Old Assyrian trade] can, if ever, only
be achieved by a comprehensive, systematic and structural approach to the material.” Veenhof, AOATT, xxiii.
During the 1990’s, the circulation of unpublished texts from Turkish scholars to European scholars
increased dramatically, and several European scholars were assigned the publication of major unpublished
archives. As a result, the documentation available to non-Turkish Old Assyrian specialists has virtually tripled.
However, the demands of philological publication continues to require a significant amount of effort, leaving
much of the material in an early state of exploitation, see K.R. Veenhof, "Traveling in Ancient Anatolia: Two New
Sources from Karum Kanesh," in Studies Erkanal, 778.
do not share a unique temporal, and hence material, context, they are disconnected; an

archive without connections becomes an aggregate of anecdotes, rather than evidence of

merchants choosing, strategizing, and negotiating among and against contingencies,

consequences, and competing interests. An anecdote is an encapsulated cosmos of meaning

essentially disconnected from the conditions out of which the interaction arose—whether the

hire of a transporter, the extension of credit, or a complaint about delinquency. When

separated from the material and temporal context, which are germane to the decisions of the

merchants, the actions and decisions of the traders in these anecdotes are rendered symbolic

and the material conditions tokenized. Inasmuch as studies on persons or themes rely on

aggregates of unconnected anecdotes, the frame of interpretation forces a structuralist

approach that divorces words, mechanisms, texts, and relationships from the irreducible

particular circumstances.80

By contrast, this study’s temporally sensitive arrays of evidence gives provenance to

the materio-temporal context of the Old Assyrian trade. To be sure, there are some places in

which the Old Assyrian evidence has previously offered evidence sufficient to historicize

action and seek context. For example, dossiers around specific legal disputes have been

recognized and explored within chronological development. But such processes operate on a

different register and pace from the day-to-day commercial trade, even if they more readily

stand out because of their nature.81 To truly grasp the necessary material and temporal

A forceful discussion on the problems of the lost irreducible past in terms of archaeological artifacts is
pursued in I. Hodder, Reading the Past (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986).
It’s important to point out the subtle but complementary differences between this account of practice
and the way practice has been used in regards to dispute processes in the Old Assyrian period. The most recent
example of this is T. Hertel, "Old Assyrian Legal Practices: An Anthropological Perspective on Legal Disputes in the
Ancient Near East," Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Copenhagen, 2007. In that study, Hertel assembles a body of
documentation that dwarfs the current study, including a large number of dispute process dossiers. That those
sources are more easily congregated into individual processes because circumstances are heightened and some
contexts of the day-to-day trade and to give agency a dimension within the account, an

integrated set of evidence from a single stretch of time is needed. That this account offers an

authentic window on agency of actors like Šalim-aḫum is signaled by the fact that the account

can give effective space to the duality of structures and that mental schemas and texts can

both structure action and be used as resources. Moreover, recognition that the sources

witness agents acting within structures signals the capacity to move to what Pierre Bourdieu

called practice.82

proceedings more likely to be dated, does not take away from the importance of the dispute process gathered
there. Hertel surveys a large corpus of dispute texts and dossiers to show the range of options open to Assyrian
merchants in resolving disputes. The study focuses on reconstructing dispute process as practice, and in this way
my effort follows Hertel’s lead. My work offers the opportunity to account for the intersection between social
interests and economic interests outside of the realm of dispute processes but in the realm of the day-to-day
practice of the trade. In this way it is complementary to studies on dispute processes. However, my work also
complements Hertel’s attempt to describe the mentalities exhibited through institutions of dispute processes by
observing these institutions as they were used. While part of my study focuses on structures, such as the tempo of
the trade and communication, I seek to provide an account of mentalities by recourse to reconstructions that can
draw on evidence beyond dossiers constituted by texts created for a single process. The legal processes reviewed
by Hertel belong, to some extent, to a different tempo of action which was overlaid on top of the day-to-day
progress of commercial action.
P. Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1977; reprint, 2008). My appeal to Bourdieu is limited to his claim that practice must constitute the principle
object of observation. In its most basic sense, this is a re-imagination of Marx’s materialism crafted as response to
the structuralist project, especially as envisioned by Levi-Strauss, but also with sensitivity to the role of
structures. Because it offers an alternative to post-structuralist pessimism about unbounded subjectivity, a
theory of practice offers a theoretical approach towards Old Assyrian economic and social activity that transcends
the problematic dichotomy between grand narratives of economic history, like those of Marx or Polanyi, and a
post-structuralist crisis of interpretation, as raised often, for example, in M. Van de Mieroop, "Economic Theories
and the Ancient Near East," in Commerce and Monetary Systems in the Ancient World: Means of Transmission and Cultural
Interaction, ed. Robert Rolinger and Christoph Ulf (Stuttgart, 2004), 54-64.
Bourdieu’s claim is that focus on objective relations at the expense of practice produces a disconnect
from human action in the world and this disconnect is the principle subjective weakness of structuralism. When
rules and relationships are the primary object of observation, then patterns, trends, or observable oppositions
that only signal these rules and relationships are falsely reified. Instead, Bourdieu argued that in order to
understand human behavior it is necessary to make the object of study the principles that generate behaviors,
rather than statistical patterns of behavior. Though Bourdieu’s intent was to render a ‘scientific’ (i.e. objective)
methodology, his arguments about the primacy of practice are pertinent to a historical approach to the Old
Assyrian trade. In fact, Bourdieu expressed the habitus, the principle of the generation of practice, as a product of
history or “history turned into nature” (Outline, 78). As a result, the mental schemas (to use a term which backs
away from Bourdieu’s more radical claims about habitus) of Old Assyrian traders were historically situated in their
own time. According to Bourdieu, structural anthropology (and by extension structuralist approaches) ignores
time and thus material context, power, and human agency, all key components of human behavior. The present
study responds well to a call that any description of Old Assyrian mentalities must incorporate merchants
‘encountering opportunities,’ raised in J.F. Robertson, "On Profit-Seeking, Market Orientations, and Mentality in
The temporal aspect of the Old Assyrian trade is indivisible from the commercial

mentality of the traders. The entire Old Assyrian trade was marked by a necessary awareness

of the passage of time. Winter marked an imminent and looming hiatus in the trade, and the

merchants were always faced with the press of the season, idle capital, and deadlines to pay or

collect debts. Structuralist framed evidence inherently suppresses the connection to the

materio-temporal continuum, a continuum in which the Old Assyrian letters must be

understood. Correspondents constantly refer directly to systemic processes, which can be

perceived through structuralist accounts, and also to intended exigencies, possible

eventualities, or proximal past occurrences.

The present account is micronarrative in character.83 The scope of the study is limited

to Šalim-aḫum, Pūšu-kēn, and persons and situations immediately around them in REL 80. I

attempt to both document the trade activity and also to explore Šalim-aḫum’s mental schemas

about the trade, particularly with regard to social relations. This dual aim draws on the

strengths of the Old Assyrian evidence. While much space in the historical apparatus will be

the 'Ancient Near East,'" review of Morris Silver, Economic Structures of the Ancient Near East (Kent, U.K., 1985), JAOS
113 (1993): 437-43.
William Sewell’s arguments for the duality of structures forms an alternative to Bourdieu’s habitus that
allows more for agency. Sewell argues that mental schemas and material resources are at play within social
structures. Actors make decisions with respect to themselves and with access to resources (social, material, and
otherwise), guided—but not robotically—by mental schemas about the way in which those resources should be
used. Importantly, Sewell holds that texts and structures can be used as resources in addition to being possible
loci or manifestations of mental schemas. W.H. Sewell, Jr., "A Theory of Structure: Duality, Agency and
Transformations," American Journal of Sociology 98 (1992): 1-29, revised and republished in W.H. Sewell, Jr., The
Logics of History: Social Theory and Transformation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 124-51.
Bourdieu’s arguments about the tension between privileging structuralist patterns over time are not
privileged because I feel that these two approaches are completely irreconcilible. That one can account for the
dynamic transformation of structure in time and history was well shown by Marshal Sahlins, Historical Metaphors
and Mythical Realities (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1981). However, Bourdieu’s focus on this tension
between structures and time suits the necessary evaluation of the evidentiary situation of the Old Assyrian trade
provoked by the reconstruction of Šalim-aḫum’s activities in REL 80.
For a introductory review of microhistory and micronarrative, see K. Appuhn, "Microhistory," in
Encyclopedia of European Social History from 1350 to 2000, ed. Peter N. Stearns (Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2001),
given to reconstructing the order of events during REL 80, there are no ‘historical events’ per se

during the year. The old Assyrian documentation, focusing on trade matters and not geo-

political crises, seems to present evidence for very few pivotal political events.84 The events

covered here are not axial transformations that alter large institutions. Instead, the personal

and social events are temporally and situationally contextualized manifestations of practice.

This approach to understanding the practice of the Old Assyrian traders permits an account

which does much to escape larger frames by virtue of centering within the account both the

agency and the mentalities of the actors involved.

It has already been noted that the beginning of Assyrian political self-determination cannot be directly
linked to an exit of control from the Ur III state (see note 13 above). Changes in supply of copper during the
period documented by the trade documents do seem to have had important implications for the Old Assyrian

“Sell the (26 kutānum) textiles to a merchant on credit. … Send your report on how
much the claim of silver is and when it is due”
2.1 (CCT 2 4b)

“We sold (the) 26 kutānum textiles for 30 shekels each … on long-term credit to a
2.2 (I 426)

“As for the (claim on the 26 kutānum textiles), if the term is completed, have the silver
paid and send it to me with the first traveler.”
2.4 (BIN 4 26)

The first episode revolves around a venture in which Šalim-aḫum purchased tin and

textiles in Aššur, including 26 ‘very fine’ kutānum textiles, and sent the whole shipment to

Pūšu-kēn, his agent in Kanesh, to sell on credit. Pūšu-kēn did so, selling the goods in different

lots for varying terms, collecting the silver as the claims fell due, and sending the revenue back

to Aššur where Šalim-aḫum likely re-invested the silver in further purchases.

This particular process, Šalim-aḫum selling the 26 kutānum textiles in Anatolia through

his representatives, constitutes one small thread of a conversation between Šalim-aḫum and

his representatives in seven documents that largely concern one venture. I will refer to this

venture as the ‘original venture’ here and throughout the rest of this work. The conversation

around the original venture is important in two ways. First, the conversation spans several

stages of the most iconic process of the Old Assyrian trade: buying goods in Aššur, shipping

them to Anatolia, and selling them there on credit, collecting the claims, and sending the silver

back to Aššur. The development of the original venture forms a welcome exemplar of this

process, because the process has been previously understood only by aggregating classes of

texts on individual stages from separate situations. Second, this conversation also plays an

important role in reconstructing the larger unit of evidence for this year—because the

reconstruction of the original venture provides a skeleton on which to stretch the

reconstruction of the subsequent episodes.

In the second half of the chapter more general issues are at stake. This original venture

is an excellent opportunity to examine the basis on which two texts can be assumed to refer to

the same circumstances. Because the letters in the original venture refer over and over again

to the same circumstances, they are good examples of variation any can or should be expected

from documents arising from the same circumstances. I will show that Šalim-aḫum

communicated with his correspondents in such a way that took for granted their familiarity

with the details of the original venture, precluding the need for precision in some contexts.

This can aid in developing sensitivity to the contexts in which precision was important and

contexts where correspondents were less concerned with precision. Šalim-aḫum’s practice of

referring to his assets and business shows that absolute precision between figures (numbers of

textiles or minas of tin, for example) cannot always be strictly required for evaluating the

connection between two documents. At the same time, Šalim-aḫum’s context-sensitive

language provides evidence of Šalim-aḫum’s attitude towards his relations with various

parties, in particular, an indifference towards who bought his goods in Kanesh. In combination

with several other strands of evidence, Šalim-aḫum’s lack of concern about the identity of the
buyers suggests that those individuals were neither part of his ‘firm’ nor his commercial

network and should be considered simply buyers on credit rather than commission agents.

This chapter is divided into two sections entitled “Reconstructing the Original

Venture” and “The Limits of Šalim-aḫum’s Accuracy and Language.” In the first section, the

seven documents will be reviewed and the original venture will be reconstructed. In the

second section, I will explore the ways Šalim-aḫum and his correspondents referred to persons

and assets in these letters and the ensuing implications for how the reconstructions of the

conversations in the remaining chapters can proceed. I will also review Šalim-aḫum’s varying

ways of referring to his assets to show that that the merchants who bought his goods from his

representatives in Kanesh were simply buyers rather than travelling or commission agents, as

has been previously proposed.

Reconstructing the Original Venture

The review of the Old Assyrian trade in Chapter One discussed various types of

documents which could be produced in the process of any single recurrence of the trade or

venture. There have been no known instances in which all of the documents outlined there are

extant for any one venture, including the original venture discussed here. In this chapter,

seven documents will be used to reconstruct the salient points of the development of Šalim-

aḫum’s original venture. Four surviving documents were produced by activities pursuant to

the completion of the venture (2.1, 2.2, 2.3, and 2.4). Our information on the venture is

supplemented by three more letters which fix the venture in time (2.5, 2.6, and 2.7).

The first documents written for the original venture would have been the bills of

lading, of which only one is known to us. 2.1 is a bill of lading concerning the 26 ‘very fine’
kutānum textiles. Next, we would expect a notifying message, but Pūšu-kēn travelled with

these goods so a notifying message was not necessary. The second document of the

conversation (2.2) is the caravan account, or, more probably, Pūšu-kēn’s copy of the caravan

account. After the goods arrived and were sold on credit, we would expect the debt notes, but

none of these have been recovered. After the goods were sold, the principal in Aššur continued

to communicate with his representatives about the claims still due and other developing

endeavors. The three supplementary letters (2.5, 2.6, and 2.7) were written during this

period. Finally, when the claims were collected, and the silver sent to Aššur, Šalim-aḫum

continued to communicate with his representatives. During this phase, Šalim-aḫum wrote two

letters acknowledging his receipt of silver (2.3 and 2.4), and thus I call these two documents

letters of receipt.

The three supplementary letters which were written while Šalim-aḫum waited for his

claims to be collected are important because they provide a chronological anchor for the

venture and permit consideration of the tempo of the events. Two of the letters stem from

Šalim-aḫum’s discussion with his representatives, including Pūšu-kēn, about some claims

originating in the previous year at Durḫumit (2.5 and 2.6). The third letter, written to Pūšu-

kēn by a man named Ḫinnaya, discusses a pair of those same claims originating in Durḫumit

and refers to the date of origination of one of these debts, allowing us to fix that debt and the

original venture in time (2.7).

The seven documents will be reviewed in three sections. The first, entitled “The

Caravan Documentation,” will review the two letters directly related to the transport of the

goods (2.1 and 2.2) The second, entitled “The Letters of Receipt,” will review two letters

which mark Šalim-aḫum’s receipt of his silver (2.3 and 2.4) After the development of the
original venture is established, the three supplementary documents which deal primarily with

the collection of debts originating in Durḫumit (2.5, 2.6, and 2.7) will be reviewed in the third

section entitled “The Durḫumit Debts.” After these three sections, “Temporally Constraining

the Venture” will discuss a temporally sensitive development of the original venture and fix it

in time in relation to the dated reference in 2.7.

The Caravan Documentation

Šalim-aḫum began the original venture by purchasing tin and textiles on the market at

Aššur. The total shipment included the 26 ‘very fine’ kutānum textiles, but also included more

than 10 talents of tin wrapped in šurum textiles and at least 30 more kutānum textiles. Šalim-

aḫum arranged for transportation of the goods, acquiring donkeys and tack, and arranging for

transporters to take the donkeys.

When the goods were packed and the arrangements made, Šalim-aḫum probably sent

off a notifying message to Kanesh. Taxes were assessed, transport contracts drawn up, and

some documentation with the caravan leader was likely involved. Nūr-Ištar, who transported

the 26 kutānum textiles, was accompanied by at least four other transporters. Some of them

were remunerated with be’ulātum loans, as evident from the caravan account. Nūr-Ištar was

paid a wage.

Document 2.1 - CCT 2 4b: Nūr-Ištar’s bill of lading1

1 um-ma Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um-ma
a-na La-qé-ep
ú Pu-šu-ke-en6 qí-bi4-ma

Previous treatments: G.R. Driver, "Studies in Cappadocian Tablets," RA 24, no. 4 (1927): Nr. 11. and P. van
der Meer, Une Correspondance Commerciale Assyrienne (Rome: Imprimierie Pie X, 1931), Nr. 27.
26 ku-ta-ni SIG5-tim
5 wa-at-ru-tim ku-nu-ki-a
ANŠE ṣa-lá-ma-am 5 ma-na AN.NA
a-na qá-tí-šu mì-ma
a-nim | Nu-ur-Ištar
10 ig-ri sà-ri-dim ša-bu
TÚG.ḪI.A i-ṣé-er DAM.GÀR
ke-nim ša ki-ma qá-qí-dí-ku-nu
a-na u4-me id-a
rev. lu ke-en6 1 ITU.KAM 2 ITU.KAM
16 la tù-šé-qá-ra ANŠE
iš-tí TÚG.ḪI.A e-mì-da
a-ṣé-er AN.NA-ak qá-tí-šu
ša DUMU I-dí-Ištar ša 5 ma-na
20 AN.NA URUDU a-na A-mu-ri-im
a-dí-in ù šu-ut
a-na ILLAT-tí-šu
iš-ku-un-šu KÙ.BABBAR
ša TÚG.ḪI-tí-a ma-lá
25 i-ṣé-er DAM.GÀR
ta-na-dí-a-ni ù u4-me
[té]-er-ta-ku-nu za-ku-tum

Šalim-aḫum to Lā-qēpum and Pūšu-kēn:2
26 very fine kutānum textiles under my seal, a black donkey, and 5 minas tin for his
expenses—Nūr-Ištar transports all this to you. The wages of the donkey driver are satisfied.
Sell the textiles on credit to a merchant as reliable as yourselves.3 Your merchant must be
reliable. Do not overvalue 1 or 2 months. Combine the donkey with the textiles (for sale).

I translate the opening epistolary formula (umma PN ana PN qibi-ma and variants) following translations
in M.T. Larsen, Aššur-nādā.
ṣubatē iṣṣēr tamkārim kēnim ša kīma qaqqidīkunu ana ūme id’ā – Lit. “Place the textiles on merchants as
reliable as yourselves for a period.” On ina ṣēr tamkārim nadā’um see K.R. Veenhof, AOATT, 84.
In addition to his hand tin, i.e. Iddi(n)-Ištar’s son’s , i.e. 5 minas, I gave (him) copper
for (expenses to be incurred in) Amurrum,4 and he himself deposited it in his caravan.
Let your full report come on the silver (paid) for my textiles, how much you placed
on the merchant, and the terms.

This document was addressed to the agents Lā-qēpum and Pūšu-kēn and was intended

to tell them what they should find in the sealed cargo, the details they would need to settle

with Nūr-Ištar, and how to dispose of the cargo once it cleared customs. Šalim-aḫum’s

interests for the goods seem typical, given his other bills of lading.5 Nūr-Ištar received 5 minas

tin for road expenses for his cargo. The donkey—an asset on the hoof—was to be sold with the

goods. When the transactions were complete, Šalim-aḫum expected his agents to report the

silver which his goods garnered, ‘placed’ temporarily on the buyer on credit, and the term it

would be due. Šalim-aḫum was risk averse, preferring to trade extra months in a credit term

for selling his goods to a reliable merchant.

Šalim-aḫum’s note regarding the copper (l. 18-23) suggests that the son of Iddi(n)-Ištar

in line 19 is Nūr-Ištar the transporter, thus reading the the bill of lading as a document that is

entirely concerned with Nūr-Ištar’s cargo.6 Nūr-Ištar placed the copper in his caravan (ana

illatišu iškunšu),7 simply meaning his part of the caravan, i.e., the donkey and its pack.8

kt n/k 524:22 where MAR.TU is written. See K.R. Veenhof, OBO 160/5, 97 n. 426. On ammurum as a verbal
adjective describing silver, see J.G. Dercksen, OACTA, 164 n. 512, T. Sturm, "kaspum ammurrum: ein Begriff der
Silbermetallurgie in den Kültepe-Texten," UF 27 (1995) 487-503.
See CCT 2 4a.
There are no patronyms which support a Nūr-Ištar son of Iddi(n)-Ištar. There is a man named Nūr-Ištar
son of Ilabrat-bāni (AKT 3 43:24, b/k 95:1) and a Nūr-Ištar son of Šū-Ištar, with a brother named Aššur-imittī
(TPAK 1 105:7).
For other examples of this construction, cf. CCT 4 1b: 19-24 3 mana 12 GÍN annakam ana illatim šukun šīm
URUDU ša ana amurrē ašqulu ina ṭuppim išti tappā’ē lapit, translated “Deliver 3 minas 12 shekels of tin to the
enterprise. The price of the copper, which I paid to the Amorites, has been booked in the tablet together with my
partners,” Aššur-nādā, No.5. Also, CCT 4 1a:22-32 “The 1 mina of silver which he borrowed from you, the ½ mina
Such a reading, where the bill of lading focuses entirely on the cargo at hand, derives

from the function of the bill of lading within the larger regime of communication. As reviewed

in Chapter One, the bill of lading was written when the cargo was packed and sealed just before

the caravan departed, then placed within the cargo to travel with the goods. However, at the

same time, the merchant sending off the goods would write a notifying message to his

associates in Kanesh. The notifying message travelled on ahead of the bulk goods and the bill

of lading. Because the bill of lading traveled with the caravan and therefore more slowly than

other communications, it would be a poor medium to communicate time-sensitive information

not connected to the specific cargo with which it travelled. Even though the bill of lading

formally resembles missives sent at the faster pace, any information sent with the bill of lading

but not directly related to the contents of the caravan would likely be outdated by the time it

arrived. By contrast, letters, like the notifying message, were suitable for discussing ongoing

matters not directly connected to the particular departure. Instructions as to the disposal of

the goods in the pack proceeded ahead in the notifying message, and even the instructions in

the notifying message could be superceded before the goods arrived at their destination (see

Chapter Three).

Nūr-Ištar’s bill of lading upholds this interpretation. The bill most accurately reflects

his own cargo, and the instructions about disposing of the cargo are cursory and general; the

which Aššur-šamšī has brought to you—in tin it was 8 minas—plus the 6 minas of tin that you will claim for the
enterprise—take that, and then add in all 14 minas 8 shekels of tin to the silver, seal it for transportation, and
send it to me as a greeting as soon as you arrive,” Larsen, Aššur-nādā, No.13.
For attestation of the geographical name in Old Assyrian texts, which was likely aroudn the bend of the
Euphrates and included the town of Neḫriya see, K. Nashef, Die Orts- und Gewässernamen der altassyrischen Zeit,
Répetoire Géographique des Textes Cunéiformes 4 (Wiesbaden: Ludwig Reichert, 1991), 10, K.R. Veenhof OBO
160/5, 97. Apparently the towns in Amurrum would accept or even prefer copper over tin. Larsen translates an
instance of paying copper to Amorites in CCT 4 1b (see Aššur-nādā, Nr. 5).
bill does not refer to circumstances outside this sphere. For example, it does not reveal that he

departed with four other transporters. Whatever Šalim-aḫum meant about the copper, it was

most likely limited to the matter of Nūr-Ištar’s transport.

Document 2.2 - I 426: Original Venture Caravan account9

1 a-na Ša-lim-a-ḫi-im qí-bi-ma

um-ma La-qé-pu-um Ì-lí-a
ù Pu-šu-ke-en6-ma iš-tù
ni-is-ḫa-tim ú mu-ṭá-e
5 nu-ṣa-ḫi-ru-ni 2 GÚ 2 ma-na 8 GÍ[N]
AN.NA-ak-[kà] iz-ku-a-am
27 TÚG ku-ta-ni 4 TÚG ša li-wi-t[im]
mì-ma a-nim DUMU E-ra-dì
ip-qí-id-ni-a-tí | ni-kà-sí
10 iš-tí-šu a-dí-ni | la ni-sí
ANŠE.ḪI-ru-kà me-tù ŠÀ.BA 20 TÚG ku-ta-ni
½ ma-na.TA 4 TÚG šu-ru-tum 15 GÍN.TA
7 GÍN.TA a-na AN.NA-ki-kà
nu-mì-id-ma 28⅓ ma-na 7 GÍN
15 KÙ.BABBAR i-ṣé-er DAM.GÀR a-na u4-me!
pá-tí-ú-tim | na-dí ší-tí TÚG ku-ta-ni-kà
7 TÚG! a-ni-kà-sí-kà na-ad-ú
2 GÚ 10 ma-na AN.NA 4 TÚG li-wi-tum
5 TÚG ku-ta-ni 1 ANŠE ṣa-lá-ma-am
20 ša šé-ep A-šur-mu-ta-bi-il5
26 TÚG ku-ta-nu 1 ANŠE ṣa-lá-mu-um
Nu-ur-Ištar ir-de8-a-am 1 ANŠE me-et
ŠÀ.BA 1½ TÚG ni-is-ḫa-tum
lo.e. ù 1 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR né-pu-ul | 3 TÚG.ḪI.A
25 a-ší-mì-im 1 TÚG iš-tí dNIN.ŠUBUR-ba-ni
ší-tí TÚG.ḪI-ti-kà 26 TÚG.ḪI.A iz-ku-ú-nim

Previous treatment: Prag 1, pp. 3-5 and plates I-II.
rev. i-na 2 GÚ 10 ma-na AN.NA
ša šé-ep A-šur-mu-ta-bi-il5
4 ma-na ni-is-ḫa-tum 4⅚ ma-na 4! GÍN
30 mu-ṭá-ú | iš-tù AN.NA-ak q[á]-tim
gám-ru 7⅓ ma-na 7 GÍN AN.NA
a-na A-šur-mu-ta-bil né-pu-ul
ší-tí AN.NA-ki-kà 1 GÚ 53⅔ ma-na LÁ 1 GÍN
iz-ku-a-am 11 ma-na AN.NA
35 [š]a ILLAT-at A-šur-ma-lik
[É] kà-ri-im ni-il5-qé-ma
a-li-bi4 AN.NA-ki-kà ni-dí
ŠU.NIGIN 2 GÚ 4⅔ ma-na LÁ 1 GÍN
AN.NA-ak-kà 7 GÍN.TA
40 26 TÚG ku-ta-nu ½ ma-na.TA ANŠE
ki-ma ½ ma-na ŠU.NIGIN KÙ.BABBAR ša AN.NA
TÚG.ḪI.A ú ANŠE 31 ma-na 18 ½ GÍN
i-ṣé-er DAM.GÀR a-na u4-me pá-tí-ú-tim
na-dí 4 TÚG ša li-wi-tim a-[na]
45 [n]i-kà-sí-k[à n]a-ad-ú i-na
6 GÚ 30 [m]a-na AN.[NA] ša šé-[ep]
Aḫ-ša-lim [2]1 ma-[n]a ni-is-[ḫa-tum]
3 ma-na 10 GÍN mu-ṭá-ú
ší-tí A[N].NA-ki-kà 6 GÚ 5[⅚ ma-na]
50 ŠÀ.BA 5 GÚ 4⅔ ma-na
8 GÍN.TA 50 TÚG ku-ta-nu
u.e. qá-dum šu-ru-tim ša iṣ-bu-[tù]
⅓ ma-na.TA a-na u4-me-e
le.e. qú-ur-bu-tim 54⅔ ma-na 5 GÍN
[K]Ù.BABBAR i-ṣé-er DAM.GÀR na-dì

To Šalim-aḫum, from Lā-qēpum, Ilī-ālum, and Pūšu-kēn:

—The lot sold from Erra-iddi(n)’s son’s cargo—

After we deducted the customs duty and deficiencies, they (the palace) cleared your
122 minas 8 shekels tin. 27 kutānum textiles, 4 wrapping textiles (and your tin)—all this Erra-
iddi(n)’s son10 entrusted to us. We have not yet settled accounts with him. Your donkeys died.11
Thereof, we bundled 20 kutānum textiles at ½ mina each, 4 šurum textiles at 15 shekels each, a 7
shekel rate for your tin, and it is placed on a merchant on ‘long-term’ credit for 28 minas 27
shekels silver. The remainder of your kutānum textiles—7 textiles—are deposited to your

—The lot sold from Nūr-Ištar and Aššur-mutabbil’s cargo—

2 talents 10 minas tin, 4 wrapping textiles, 5 kutānum textiles, 1 black donkey from
the charge of Aššur-mutabbil. Nūr-Ištar drove 26 kutānum textiles (on) 1 black donkey here. 1
donkey died. Thereof, the customs duty was 1 ½ textile, and we balanced 1 shekel silver. 3
textiles for purchases. 1 textile with Ilabrat-bāni. They cleared the remainder of your textiles—
26 textiles. From the 2 talents 10 minas tin of the charge of Aššur-mutabbil, the customs duty
was 4 minas. 4 minas 54 shekels (tin) were deficient. After the hand tin was spent, we balanced
7 minas 27 shekels tin to Aššur-mutabbil. They cleared the remainder of your tin: 1 talent 53
minas 39 shekels. We took 11 minas tin from the caravan of Aššur-mālik at the colony office
and placed it in your tin. In sum, your tin—2 talents 4 minas 39 shekels at a rate of 7 shekels, 26
kutānum textiles at a ½ mina each, a donkey for ½ mina. The total silver for the tin, textiles, and
a donkey: 31 minas 18 ½ shekels, is placed on a merchant on ‘long-term’ credit. 4 wrapping
textiles are deposited to your account.

—The lot sold from Aḫ-šalim’s cargo—

From the 6 talents 30 minas tin of the charge of Aḫ-šalim, the excise tax was 21
minas. 3 minas 10 shekels were missing. The remainder of your tin was 6 talents 5 minas 50
shekels. Thereof, 5 talents 4 minas 40 shekels (tin) at a rate of 8 shekels, 50 kutānum textiles

DUMU E-ra-dí: The original editors of the text suggest that DUMU E-ra-dí is Aššur-mutabbil son of E-ra-
dí, as in I 633:21’ and likely the same Aššur-mutabbil in l. 14. This is unlikely for the following reasons: (1) DUMU
E-ra-dí here and Aššur-mutabbil in l. 14 were transporting different cargos and the agents have not yet balanced
DUMU E-ra-dí by the time the document was written, but had already balanced Aššur-mutabbil. (2) As for the
mention of Aššur-mutabbil son of E-ra-dí in I 633, the document is entirely unrelated. At least five persons with E-
ra-dí/di as father are attested at Kültepe (Aššur-mutabbil I 633:21’; Enna(m)-Aššur KTK 79:17, kt 94k 1268:63; Šū-
Ištar AKT 1 61:1, kt 94/k 1261:28; Šū-Suen m/k 86:17; Šū-Zuzu c/k 277:36). Still, the agents may have referred to
the transporter as DUMU E-ra-dí to disambiguate him from the other Aššur-mutabbil.
The donkeys died somewhere along the route and replacements must have been needed. This matter is
mentioned in connection with settling accounts with the transporter because he would likely need to be
remunerated for the expense.
together with šurum textiles which they (the palace) seized, at 20 shekels each are placed on
the merchant on ‘short-term’ credit for 54 minas 45 shekels silver.

This document (2.2) is a copy of the original caravan report Pūšu-kēn must have

written and sent to Šalim-aḫum in Aššur. It describes both the transporters as well as the sale

of the goods. Nūr-Ištar did arrive in Kanesh with four other transporters, accompanied by

Erra-iddi(n)’s son, Aššur-mutabbil, Aḫ-šalim, and Amurrum-bāni. The first three transporters

appear by name in the caravan account; Ammuru-bāni is named later in the first letter of

receipt (2.3). When they arrived, the goods passed through customs and the transporters

settled accounts with Šalim-aḫum’s agents. Šalim-aḫum’s agents Lā-qēpum and Pūšu-kēn then

sold most of the goods on credit and wrote a caravan account. The agents now referred to the

goods not by the way in which they were transported, but by the way in which they were sold.

Like most caravan accounts, 2.2 reports directly or indirectly details related to the

various stages of the original venture. Although it doesn’t describe Šalim-aḫum’s initial

purchase of the goods, it does reveal how they were packaged and dispatched. The caravan

account also reveals the sizes of the cargoes of three other transporters at their departure

from Aššur. It gives some specific details about the actual journey, details which were largely

embedded within the direct report on the activities following the caravan’s journey: the

arrival of the transporters, when the goods passed through customs, what duties were paid,

and how accounts were balanced with the transporters. Finally, the report includes

information about the sale of the goods.

2.2 does not supply enough information to deduce all the details of any of these stages.

For example, it is impossible to know exactly how many kutānum textiles Erra-iddi(n)’s son

originally had when he left Aššur. It only reveals a few minor details about the travel like the

death of the donkeys and some sense of the duties paid. The representatives Lā-qēpum and

Pūšu-kēn reported the customs process in a way that leaves some questions unanswered. Nor

were all the goods sold by the time the report was written. However, much can stil be deduced

about the original venture from the caravan account.

Regarding the packaging and assignment of the cargoes and their departure, all the

original cargoes, except that designated to Erra-iddi(n)’s son, are specified explicitly in the

caravan account. Nūr-Istar’s load matched his bill of lading exactly: 26 kutānum textiles. Aššur-

mutabbil brought 130 minas tin and 5 kutānum textiles. Aḫ-šalim brought 390 minas tin on

three donkeys. Erra-iddi(n)’s son’s cargo can be somewhat deduced through the algebra of the

typical donkey-load—he brought one donkey-load of tin (130 minas), 12 and one donkey-load of

about 32 textiles at most. Although 27 textiles cleared customs, assessed duties were not

reported and therefore it is difficult to know the original number of textiles, whether 28, 29 or


Some details emerge from the caravan account about the travel from Aššur to Kanesh.

Three of the seven donkeys which left Aššur died during the trip to Kanesh, suggesting that

the beasts of burden were being pushed to their limits.13 Both of the donkeys traveling with

The agents state that 122 minas 8 shekels cleared customs, including some deficiencies. The difference
between the amount cleared and a typical donkey-load (130 minas) was 7 minas 52 shekels tin. 4 minas was the
excise duty, and the remainder seems a reasonable amount for a deficiency.
A discussion of how donkeys were treated and what that implies about the pace of the trade is taken up
in Chapter Three, p. 191.
Erra-iddi(n)’s son, and one donkey belonging to either Aššur-mutabbil or Nūr-Ištar died. The

dead donkey is mentioned directly after Nūr-Ištar’s cargo, suggesting that it belonged to him.14

There is some difficulty in reconstructing the details of the goods’ arrival in Kanesh,

their passage through customs, and the balancing of expenses with the transporters. The

agents did not report the duties to which Erra-iddi(n)’s son’s textiles were subject, making it

impossible to reconstruct precisely his original cargo as discussed above.15 But with Nūr-Ištar’s

tin cargo, the agents accounted precisely for the difference between the shipped and cleared

goods.16 It seems that Aššur-mutabbil and Nūr-Ištar processed their cargoes together, and the 5

extra kutānum textiles in Aššur-mutabbil’s top-pack paid for the excise duty on the

combination of those textiles and Nūr-Ištar’s textiles, allowing Nūr-Ištar’s textiles to clear en

bloc. Likely, Aššur-mutabbil’s five textiles were meant to ensure that just this happened; recall

that Šalim-aḫum had described the kutānum textiles that Nūr-Istar carried as ‘extremely fine’

in the bill of lading, possibly implying the desire to sell them as a group. However, the number

of textiles counted does not add up perfectly and, for reasons discussed in Chapter Four,

Perhaps the 7 minas 27 shekels tin balanced to Aššur-mutabbil by Šalim-aḫum’s agents when finalizing
accounts in Kanesh was the cost of purchasing a replacement donkey en route. However, the value of the tin
balanced was roughly 1 shekel of silver, and a replacement donkey would likely have cost twenty shekels of silver.
The textual proximity between the report on Nūr-Ištar’s cargo and the donkey’s death, weak as it is, is the only
criterium upon which to determine the donkey’s transporter.
The agents state that Erradi’s son turned over 27 textiles to them. Because 20 of these textiles were sold
and the other 7 were deposited in Šalim-aḫum’s account, the original amount before duties and taxes must have
been greater. If Erradi’s son brought 28 textiles, the excise tax would have been 1 2/5 textiles. In that case the
palace would have likely taken 1 textile and they would have been responsible to pay 8 shekels silver. If there had
been 29 textiles, the palace could have taken 2 textiles and balanced 11 shekels back to Šalim-aḫum’s agents.
However, if the palace also purchased the tithe on the textiles then there would have to have been at least 32
textiles for Erradi’s son to have turned over 27 textiles to Šalim-aḫum’s agents after passing through customs. (32
textiles would have yielded 1 3/5 excise and 3 textiles as tithe, the palace could have taken 5 textiles and balanced
8 shekels back to the agents.)
The excise duty on the 130 minas tin (2 minas in 65) was 4 minas, and there were 4 minas 54 shekels
Ilabrat-bāni is named as having or taking a textile.17 There is also some uncertainty with regard

to Aḫ-šalim’s original cargo. Though it was specified as 390 minas tin (three donkey-loads) in

the caravan account, during the customs procedure an unusually high amount of Aḫ-šalim’s

tin was taken for the excise, 21 minas instead of the expected 12 minas duty on his size cargo.18

No explanation was given.

The table below summarizes what can be known about the packaging, transportation,

and customs clearance of the goods.

Table 2: Goods shipped and cleared from Šalim-aḫum’s shipment

Transporter Donkeys Tin
kutānum šurum

Erra-iddi(n)’s Original Cargo 2 130m 28-32 4

After Customs 2† 122m 8š 27 4

Original Cargo 1 26
After Customs 1† 26

Original Cargo 1 130m 5 4

After Customs 1 113m 39š 0 4

Original Cargo 3 390m 12

After Customs 3 365m 50š 12

Total Sent from Aššur 7 650m 59-63 20

Total After Customs 4 601m 37š 53 20

(m = minas, š = shekels, † = death of donkey)

The excise duty (1 in 20) on the 31 total kutānum textiles (Nur-Ištar’s 26 + Aššur-mutabbil’s 5) was 1 ½
textiles plus 1/20 of a textile, balanced as 1 shekel silver. 3 textiles were purchased for the ‘tithe’, and another
textile went to Ilabrat-bāni. The total of these adds up to 5 ½ textiles. Ilabrat-bāni in fact only took ½ textile, see
Chapter Four Section B.4.1.
Though the expected duty on Aḫ-šalim’s tin cargo is 12 minas, the agents report 21 minas, which is not
a scribal error for 12 because they do subtract the entire 21 from the total cargo: of 390 minas – 21 minas – 3
minas 10 shekels (missing) = 365 minas 50 shekels (2.2:45-48).
After the goods were cleared through customs, the agents sold the goods in lots. The

sales were significant in part because they dictated the way in which the caravan account was

organized. Three lots were sold and reported. Each of the three lots was fashioned as a

combination of tin and textiles, and was mostly derived from a single cargo or two cargoes

combined.19 The first lot sold derived directly from Erra-iddi(n)’s son’s cargo. The second lot

comprised a combination of Nūr-Ištar and Aššur-mutabbil’s cargoes, and the agents added 11

minas more tin from another source. The third lot consisted of most of Aḫ-šalim’s cargo,

combined with 50 kutānum textiles from an unnamed source. Some 61 minas 10 shekels tin was

left over from Aḫ-šalim’s cargo after the third lot was sold. Though this lot was evidently not

yet sold by the time the report was written, the tin eventually formed a fourth lot, later

acknowledged by Šalim-aḫum (2.4:40-44). The three lots reported in the caravan account and

this fourth lot as well are numbered 1 through 4 on the table below.

This demonstrates the continuing effect the structure of the donkey-load had on the market.
Table 3: Lots sold from the shipments arriving in Kanesh as reported in 2.2
Composition of Lots and Prices of Each Good

Price (Tin : š Silver)

Total Reported

Kutānum textiles
Price Term

Šurum textiles
Price Each (š)

Price Each (š)

Price Each (š)

in Silver


Erra-iddi(n)’s son
#1 - 122m 8š 7 20 30 4 15 28m 27š Long
Aššur-mutabbil &
#2 1 30 124m 39š 7 26 30 - 31m 18 1/2š Long

#3 - 304m 40š 8 50 20 12 0** 54m 45š Short

- -
#4 - 61m 10š 8* 7m 35⅔š Long

(m = minas, š = shekels.)
* The calculated price of tin in Lot # 4 is actually 8.05:1, taken from 2.3 below.
**The 12 šurum textiles in lot #3 are priced at zero. When Aḫ-šalim’s tin cargo was sold in the third lot, it was
bundled with, “50 kutānum textiles, together with šurum textiles which were taken, at 20 shekels each” (50 kutānū
qādum šurūtim ša iṣbutū ⅓ mana.TA 2.2:50-52). The price of the lot suggests that the šurum textiles which were
taken were those still used to wrap the tin and were included in the price of the tin, suggesting a reading “50
kutānum textiles at 20 shekels each (together with the šurum textiles that were taken).” Thus the fifty kutānum
textiles came from another source, but the šurum textiles were brought by Aḫ-šalim.
The total price of the lot sold was 304 minas 40 shekels tin (l.48). The price of the tin at 8 shekels tin per 1
shekel silver totals 38 minas 5 shekels silver, leaving 16 minas 40 shekels for the price paid for the textiles. The
total of 50 kutānum textiles at 20 shekels each equals this price exactly. A solution where šurum textiles were
included in the price is difficult. For example, if 12 šurum textiles (still pertaining to the tin) were included in the
lot sold, then if the šurum textiles were valued at half the kutānum textiles (the value of the other šurum textiles an
kutānum textiles mentioned here), 2 minas silver remains unaccounted for. If it were 38 kutānum textiles and 12
šurum textiles, then the values for each type would have been 22⅔ shekels and 11⅓ shekels respetively for an
average price of 20 shekels.

The composition of Lot #3 reveals another layer missing in the caravan account. From

2.3:40-42, we know that another transporter named Amurrum-bāni accompanied Aḫ-šalim.

However, no mention of Amurrum-bāni is made in the caravan account. The question then

arises as to what goods he transported.20 If Amurrum-bāni brought the 50 kutānum textiles

which were added to Lot #3, then the source of the 50 kutānum textiles is identified, though he

was not named in the caravan account. However, the presence of Amurrum-bāni’s textiles

would not explain the extra 9 minas tin paid for the excise duty on Aḫ-šalim’s tin.21

Šalim-aḫum prefered selling his goods on credit, which produced more documents.

Debt notes were drawn up delineating the amount owed and the due date for payment.

Though none are extant, either originals or their copies must have travelled to Aššur with the

caravan account supplementing the information in the caravan account. It is possible that the

duplicate to 2.2, which was sent to Aššur and is now lost, had more detailed information about

the exact term periods and the names of the buyers. As a result, when Šalim-aḫum wrote his

It is unlikely that Amurrum-bāni worked under Aḫ-šalim to transport one or two of the donkeys over
which Aḫ-šalim had charge, since the pay each transporter received appears to have been roughly equal. Both Aḫ-
šalim and Amurrum-bāni were paid through be’ulātum loans. Aḫ-šalim owed 30 shekels and Amurrum-bāni owed
25 shekels on the capital extended to them. However, the parity of their remuneration is not completely certain
because the actual capital extended to each transporter is not known. This reflects a major weakness of both
be’ulātum contracts and debt notes. Because the nature and amount of the capital extended to the debtor is
virtually never specified, it is impossible to know all the dynamics of the agreements. While Amurrum-bāni and
Aḫ-šalim were required to pay back similar amounts of silver, it is possible that they were actually given different
amounts of capital. I propose that this is possible with regards to be’ulātum loans because the transporters were
being extended some capital in Aššur, but were asked to repay the loan in Anatolia. For the same reason that
Šalim-aḫum and other merchants paid their duties on the road to Anatolia in tin, the capital which merchants
extended to their transporters was most likely tin or textiles. Moreover, it is likely that Šalim-aḫum and his
merchants split the markup on the goods in Anatolia. In addition, it must be assumed that often the rate of
remuneration was haggled, causing small fluctuations in the pay. Pace Larsen OACP 41, I think that the
transporters did not receive the amount of silver stipulated in their be’ulātum contracts in Aššur, but rather the
textiles they received and would sell constituted the whole of their capital. For example, in OACP Type 2:7 (83f.),
the be’ulātum amount was 20 shekels silver and the capital received was 3 textiles. The textiles would have cost
the principal 15 shekels or less and would have fetched three times that amount in Anatolia. The same case holds
for OACP Type 3:12 where 3 kutānum textiles extended to the transporter would have cost the principal less than
the 25 shekels which the transporter was responsible to repay, but still netted the transporter something like 20
shekels of his own. In this way, both the principals and the transporters made a profit on the transaction.
Even if the palace had, for some unusual reason, demanded payment in tin for the duty on textiles
(unknown elsewhere), the total value of both the excise and tithe duties on textiles Aḫ-šalim brought would not
have matched the 9 minas tin discrepancy: The palace would have demanded 5 textiles for the excise (nisḫātum)
and purchased 10 more textiles for the tithe. At 20 silver shekels each (the likely cash price for textiles at this
time, see p. 96), the 15 kutānum textiles would have been worth 5 minas silver. Converted to tin at an 8 shekel rate
(the price in silver for which the tin from Aḫ-šalim’s tin later sold), the duties on the textiles would have been 40
minas tin, the nisḫātum alone would have been 13⅓ minas tin.
letters of receipt, he was well aware of the order and interval in which his claims would fall

due, despite there being no specific information in our copy of the report.

Before moving on to the letters of receipt, it is worth noting some apparent

characteristics. In the first place, it was noted that each lot except for Lot #4, which could be

considered a remnant, consisted of both tin and textiles. It is difficult to say whether the mixed

composition of the lots served the interests of Šalim-aḫum or those who bought the lots. It

might be that both Šalim-aḫum and those who bought his goods wanted to diversify their risk

by trafficking in both tin and textiles.

Second, the combination of the rate of exchange and term period, listed in the table

above, represented Šalim-aḫum’s key factors of interest in each credit sale. But Šalim-aḫum’s

agents, and Šalim-aḫum himself in later documents, described the periods of credit extended

to the buyers simply as ‘short’ or ‘long’ terms (ūmū qurbūtum or ūmū pati’ūtum), hampering

direct comparison between the transactions. While debt notes normally expressed term

periods with lengths specified in ḫamuštum weeks or months, no measurable length of ‘short’

or ‘long’ terms is available. One suggestion equates ‘short’ terms with periods in debt notes as

short as 20 days, while ‘long’ terms could range to 50 weeks or more.22 Šalim-aḫum often said

“don’t overvalue one or two months” (as in Nūr-Ištar’s bill of lading), and when he told Ilabrat-

bāni that his credit period should be one to two months, it seems logical that he was referring

to short term credit.23 However regarding ‘long’ terms, Šalim-aḫum’s letters of receipt (2.3 and

2.4) show that the due date of lots #1 and #2 differed, even though they were both described as

OACP, 167.
See 3.4:24-26.
‘long’ in the caravan account.24 Importantly, the attestation of ‘long’ and ‘short’ terms in the

Old Assyrian corpus is limited to a dozen times each, and most occur in Šalim-aḫum’s letters

from this year.25

The prices paid for the goods sold in each lot differed as well, but only between goods

sold on ‘short’ and ‘long’ term credit. Even though there were different term periods for Lots

#1 and #2, long-term credit in Lots #1 and #2 fetched the same price for tin (8 shekels) and

textiles (30 shekels), as opposed to the price for tin (7 shekels) and textiles (20 shekels) on

short-term credit in Lot #3. This suggests that ‘long’-term credit and short-term credit were

classes of credit which each dictated consistent prices independent of the actual length of the

credit term.26

The same difference in prices occurred in 4.1, see Chapter Four, Table 8.
Besides the documents in this chapter, ‘long’ terms (ūmū patiūtum) occurs in letters from Šalim-aḫum
to Pūšu-kēn in this year: (TC 3 21), 2.3, and CCT 6 19a (acephalous but easily identified as Šalim-ahum’s letter).
Two more are letters written to Pūšu-kēn from Ikūn-pīya (VS 26 26) and Šū-Kubum (CCT 2 34), and once in a letter
between Āl-ṭāb and Imdī-ilum. Likewise, ‘short’ terms (ūmū qurbu’ūtum) occurs in two of the same letters above
(TC 3 21 and CCT 6 19a), as well as other letters either certainly or probably from Šalim-aḫum (3.2, 3.4, 3.6, BIN 6
202). The designation ‘short’ terms also occurs once in a letter involving Pūšu-kēn but not between him and
Šalim-aḫum (TC 3 44).
The price of kutānum textiles on short term credit is the same as the rate at which the palace balanced
silver back to the agents for the overage on the excise duty for the textiles from Nūr-Ištar and Aššur-mutabbil: 20
shekels silver each. The palace paid 1 shekel silver to balance 1/20 of a textile. The equivalence between the rate
balanced and the price of the textile on short-term credit conflicts with statements in the literature proposing
that the palace enjoyed discounted prices when it purchased textiles through the tithe duty. (“It must have been
established by agreements between the local administration and the Assyrian merchants how much the palace
could buy, as the price paid by the palace was probably a favourable one; if more was bought the palace had to pay
the normal price—such I would interpret the evidence from [CCT 4:13a],” Larsen, OACP, 159. Veenhof was less sure
about the rate paid by the palace on the preempted textiles, Veenhof, AOATT, 84..) The preferential prices have
been thought to be the result of negotiations between the Assyrians and the Anatolian palaces. However, the rates
on textiles on which overages were paid differ from instance to instance; the agreements between palaces must
have pegged the prices set by market forces. (The variation of 10, 15, 20, and 26⅔ shekels each is listed in K.R.
Veenhof, "Silver and Credit in Old Assyrian Trade," in Trade and Finance in Ancient Mesopotamia: Proceedings of the
First MOS Symposium, ed. Jan Gerrit Dercksen, PIHANS 84 (Instanbul: Nederlands historisch-Archaeologisch
Instituut te Istanbul, 1999), 83.)
At the same time, the palace paid for the textiles in cash, making the fact that they paid the same rate as
the buyer who purchased on short-term credit of special interest. This further supports the thesis that the palace
paid the cash price for these goods (This is also evident in 4.1, as already noted in Veenhof, AOATT, 84.) and hence
that short-term credit applied to instances where the payments were received promptly enough to be considered
The Letters of Receipt

At least nominally consistent with the conventional translation, the short-term claim

fell due first (Lot #3). The agents collected most of the claim on Lot #3 and sent the silver back

to Šalim-aḫum in Aššur. When Šalim-aḫum received the silver, he wrote a letter of receipt

(2.3) back to the same set of agents.

Document 2.3 - TC 3 23: First Letter of Receipt27

1 um-ma Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um-ma
a-na La-qé-ep | Ì-lí-a-lim
ù Pu-šu-ke-en6 qí-bi-ma
ta-áš-pu-ra-nim um-ma a-[tù-nu-ma]
5 i-na lu-qú-tim ša šé-ep
Aḫ-ša-lim 12½ ma-na 5⅔!28 [GÍN]
KÙ.BABBAR | a-na u4-me pá-tí-[ú-tim]
i-ṣé-er DAM.GÀR | (Ras.) ke-nim! [na-dí]
54⅔ ma-na 5 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR [ša u4-mu-šu]
10 ma-al-ú-ni ŠÀ 31½ ma-[na]
qá-dum | ša-du-e-tem [Šu-Sú-en6] 29
ub-lam 21 ma-na 10 GÍN [KÙ.BABBAR]
A-šur-ma-lik ub-lam [ší-tí]

same as cash, while the incrementally higher long-term rate applied to payments that would be made farther in
the future.
I am not aware of any prior translations of this text.
Despite the slanted angle of the bottom wedge as copied, cf. 2.4:41.
The restoration of Šū-Suen is based on the parallel passage in 2.4:18-21 where it is recorded that Šū-
Suen and the son of Šū-Aššur brought the silver. Šalim-aḫum also reports the receipt of another packet of silver
totaling 31 minas 15 shekels with 30 shekels as šaddu’utum in 2.4:24-27. In both passages in 2.4, Šalim-aḫum
accounts the totals differently. However, it is clear that the present passage in 2.3 refers to Šū-Suen (or the son of
Šū-Aššur) for two reasons: (1) Restoring Šū-Suen preserves a consistent order between the listing of silver
received in 2.3 and 2.4. (2) Dān-Aššur is mentioned with an additional 2 minas silver in 2.4, which would be
difficult to restore in the break.
KÙ.BABBAR 2 ma-na 5 GÍN [i-li-bi-šu]
15 58 ma-na 18½ GÍN [KÙ.BABBAR]
ša lu-qú-tim [ša šé-ep]
Pu-šu-ke-en6 [28⅓ ma-na 7 GÍN]
ša lu-qú-tim [ša šé-ep]
lo.e. DUMU E-ra-dì [10 ma-na 10 GÍN]
20 KÙ.BABBAR ša me-er-[e]30
rev. A-šùr-UTU-ši [ ...? ]
i-ma-du-du31 ⌈x⌉ [ ... ]
DUMU Šu-dEn-líl [Lá-qé-pá-am]
e-pu-lu 21 ma-[na (17 GÍN) KÙ.BABBAR]
25 iš-tí Ḫi-na-a ù [5 ma-na]
KÙ.BABBAR a-ḫa-ma ša ⌈A⌉-[mur-Ištar]
iš-tí-šu-ma mì-ma KÙ.[BABBAR a-nim]
u4-mu-šu-nu ma-al-[ú]
ṭup-pí-šu-nu am-ra-[ma ša u4-mu-šu-nu]
30 e-tí-qú-ni | ṣí-i[b-tám]
la ta-ša-me-a | KÙ.[BABBAR]
pá-ni-a-ma | ša ta-[al-qé-a-ni]
ku-un-kà-ma [iš-tí pá-nim-ma]
šé-bi-lá-nim [ … ]
35 ṣa-aḫ-ra-am [ … ]
½ ma-na KÙ.BABBAR bé-ú-[lá-at]
A-šùr-mu-ta-bil DUMU Šu?-[A-nim]32
ù 1 TÚG ku-ta-num i-li-[bi4-šu]
u.e. ½ ma-na KÙ.BABBAR bé-ú-lá-at

This passage is difficult. It is evident elsewhere that Aššur-šamšī’s sons’ representatives are to repay
Lā-qēpum (10 ½ mana kaspam ša mērē Aššur-šamšī mera Ibni-ilī ša kīma šunūti Lā-qēpam eppulū 2.6:23-26). However to
whom Aššur-šamšī’s sons would have ‘measured out’ the silver (to be restored in the break at the end of line 35?)
and what role the son of Šū-Enlil played in the situation are unknown. The verb imaddudū is not explicitly marked
as subjunctive in parallel to eppulū in 2.6:26. It seems that the son of Šū-Enlil will balance the silver to Lā-qēpum.
i-ma-du-du – The verb is most often used in association with the measuring out of grain in the Old
Assyrian corpus, though cf. CCT 4 3b:4-6 4KÙ.BABBAR ù ṣí-ba-tù-šu 5i-ṣé-er A-zu-da 6i-mí-dí-id “He measured out the
silver and its interest to Azuda.” The half broken sign is shaped like NIM, AB, or ḪI.
See TC 1 63, ICK 1 187. Of the eight persons known to have an Aššur-mutabbil as father, only Šū-Anim is
possible if the wedge going into the break is vertical. If the wedge is horizontal however, (cf. line 22 i-ma-du-du on
the copy), then other possibilities exist (Ikuppi-Aššur, Iddin-abim, I-da-ZU, 91/k 201).
40 Aḫ-ša-lim ⅓ ma-na 5 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR bé-ú-la-at
le.e. MAR.TU-ba-ni DUMU Kur-ub-Ištar ša iš-tí Aḫ-ša-lim
is-ri-du | šu-ma lá iš-qú-ul | ša-áš-qí-lá-šu

Šalim-aḫum to Lā-qēpum, Ili-ālim, and Pūšu-kēn:

—New Claims, Claims Due, and Silver Received—

You wrote me,33 “12 minas 35⅔ shekels silver are placed on a trustworthy merchant on
long-term credit from the goods in Aḫ-šalim’s cargo.”
As for the 54 minas 45 shekels silver which are due, thereof Šū-Suen brought me 31 ½
minas together with the shipping charge. Aššur-mālik brought me 21 minas 10 shekels silver.
The rest of the silver—2 minas 5 shekels—he owes.

—Claims Coming Due—

58 minas 18 ½ shekels silver, (the proceeds) of the goods of the cargo of Pūšu-kēn.
28 minas 27 shekels (silver) (the proceeds) of the goods of the cargo of Erra-iddi(n)’s
10 minas 10 shekels silver of the sons of Aššur-šamšī … they will measure out. [PN and
(PN)] son of Šū-Enlil34 will balance (it) to Lā-qēpum.
21 minas (17 shekels) silver with Ḫinnaya and 5 minas silver separately of Amur-Ištar
are with him.
All this silver, their terms are full. Inspect their tablets, and those which are past due,
don’t listen to the interest.35 The previous silver that you received, seal and send it with the
first departure. …

I translate šapārum “write” instead of “send” because in this instance and in most cases in the Old
Assyrian it implies sending a missive. See also K.R. Veenhof, "Communication in the Old Assyrian Trading Society
by Caravans, Travelers and Messengers," in Studies Garelli, 200.
There are only two known persons with Šū-Enlil as the father: Aššur-nādā (88/k 40:3) and Ennum-Aššur
(94/k 1174:1, 4). The two are probably brothers (cf. 88/k 40). Both are demonstrably associated with Pūšu-kēn.
Aššur-nādā owes ⅓ mina silver to Pūšu-kēn and company and his brother Ennam-Aššur asks for a month or two,
after which they may go to the house of a merchant and take out a loan in their name. Ennam-Aššur is involved in
a dispute with Ennam-Aššur son of Lā-qēpum who is known to be associated with Pūšu-kēn and recruited by Šū-
Ḫubur (Adana 237d). The restoration of Lā-qēpum in l.23 is based on 2.6:23-26, where the representatives of the
sons of Aššur-Šamši will balance Lā-qēpum. I cannot confirm whether this son of Šū-Enlil was the same person as
the son of Šū-Enlil in 2.5:12-13.
On the personification of inanimate objects, especially silver, in Old Assyrian idiom, K.R. Veenhof,
"'Dying Tablets' and 'Hungry Silver'... Elements of Figurative Language in Akkadian Commercial Terminology," in
Figurative Language in the Ancient Near East, ed. M. Mindlin, M.J. Geller, and J.E. Wainsbrough (London: 1987, 1987).
—Collecting the Capital Extended to the Transporters—
½ mina silver, the be’ulātum loan of Aššur-mutabbil son of [Šū-Anim]; he also owes 1
kutānum textile. 30 shekels silver is the be’ulātum loan of Aḫ-šalim. As for the 25 shekels silver
be’ulātum loan of Amurrum-bāni son of Kurub-Ištar who drove with Aḫ-šalim, if he did not pay,
have him pay.

Šalim-aḫum wrote 2.3 to his agents in Kanesh, confirming the receipt of the silver from

the claim on Lot #3. He noted that he had received a letter sent since the original caravan

account (lost), which reported that the remainder of Aḫ-šalim’s cargo was sold (Lot #4). He also

listed four claims coming due, including the claim on Lot #2, and reminded the agents to

collect them. In the last section of the letter Šalim-aḫum noted that be’ulātum loans from some

of the transporters were due, including Aššur-mutabbil and Aḫ-šalim.

We can infer that after the agents received this letter they collected the claims listed as

due (if they had not already done so), and sent the silver also to Šalim-aḫum in Aššur. When

Šalim-aḫum received that second shipment of silver, he wrote another letter of receipt (2.4),

which listed the claims now due and silver he had received, as well as the entries already

posted in the first letter of receipt (2.3). After listing in 2.4 the claim on Lot #3, Šalim-aḫum

listed faithfully all the claims he had warned in 2.3 were coming due, now labeling them as

due. After totaling the claims, he then listed the monies received and included a directive to

collect the remaining monies promptly. He ended by noting that the claims on Lots #2 and #4

were coming due soon. The letter reads:

Document 2.4 - BIN 4 26: Second Letter of Receipt36

1 um-ma Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um-ma
a-na Lá-qé-ep ú Pu-šu-ke-en6
qí-bi4-ma 54⅔ ma-na 5½ GÍN
KÙ.BABBAR ša šé-ep Pu-šu-ke-en6
5 ša a-u4-me qú-ur-bu-tim
ta-qí-pá-ni 58 ma-na 18½ GÍN
ša šé-ep Pu-šu-ke-en6
28⅓ ma-na 7 GÍN
ša Lu-lu-ú DUMU Zu-ku-ḫi-im
10 31½ ma-na ša i-na
A-šur-UTU!-ši ú Ḫi-na-a i-qí-pu-ni
5 ma-na ša A-mur-Ištar ša AN.NA-ki-a
ta-áš-pu-ra-nim um-ma a-tù-nu-<ma>
15 Ḫi-na-a i-ša-qá-al-šu
ú té-er-tí-ni a-na Ḫi-na-a
i-ta-lá-ak ŠU.NIGIN 2 GÚ 58 ma-na 1 GÍN
ŠÀ.BA 31 ma-na 15 GÍN
½ ma-na ša-du-a-sú
lo.e. Šu-Sú-en6 ú DUMU Šu-A-šùr
21 ub-lu-nim 20⅚ ma-na
rev. ⅓ ma-na ša-du-a-sú
DUMU E-ra-a ub-lam
31 ma-na 15 GÍN ½ ma-na
25 ša-du-a-sú 2 ma-na
a-ḫa-ma me-eḫ-ra-at TÚG.ḪI!-tí-šu
Dan-A-šùr ub-lam
41⅔ ma-na ⅔ ma-na ša-du-a-sú
Ì-lí-a-lim ub-lam 18 ma-na 18 GÍN
30 Kur-ub-Ištar ub-lam
ŠU.NIGIN 2 GÚ 27 ma-na 18 GÍN

Previous editions: van der Meer, Correspondance, Nr. 25.
KÙ.BABBAR ša ub-lu-ni-ni ší-tí KÙ.BABBAR
30⅓ ma-na 3 GÍN
ša u4-mu-šu e-tí-qú-ni
35 ṣí-ib-tám lá ta-ša-me-a
KÙ.BABBAR ša-áš-qí-lá-ma
šé-bi4-lá-nim ú a-ṣé-er
Ḫi-na-a šu-up-ra-ma KÙ.BABBAR
ša áš-ra-kam-ma i-qí-pu-ni
40 lu-šé-bi4-lam i-na ṭup-pì-ku-nu
7½ ma-na 5⅔ GÍN
KÙ.BABBAR ša šé-ep Aḫ-ša-lim
u.e. a-na u4-me pá-tí-ú-tim
i-ṣé-er DAM.GÀR-ri
45 na-dí 31 ma-na 19 GÍN
le.e. ša šé-ep A-šùr-mu-ta-bi4-il5 ú Nu-ur-Ištar šu-ma
u4-mu-šu-nu ma-al-ú KÙ ša-áš-qí-lá-ma i-pá-nim-ma
šé-bi4-lá-nim KÙ.BABBAR ša Ì-lí-a-lim ú Kur-ub-Ištar ub-lu-ni-ni
mì-šu-um ṭup-pu-um ik-bi4-da-ku-nu-tí-ma lá tù-še-bi4-lá-nim

Šalim-aḫum to Lā-qēpum and Pūšu-kēn:

—Tally of Claims Due or Past Due—

54 minas 45½ shekels silver from the cargo of Pūšu-kēn which you extended on ‘short-
term’ credit,
58 minas 18½ shekels of the cargo of Pūšu-kēn,
28 minas 27 shekels from Lulu son of Zukuḫum,
31½ minas which Aššur-šamšī and Hinnaya extended on credit in Durḫumit, 5 minas
from Amur-Ištar for my tin—you wrote me, saying, “Hinnaya will pay it and our instructions
will go to Hinnaya.”
Total: 178 minas 1 shekel.

—Tally of Monies Received and Balance—

Thereof: Šū-Suen and the son of Šū-Aššur brought me 31 minas 15 shekels, 30 shekels its
shipping charge;
Erraya’s son brought me 20 minas 50 shekels, 20 shekels its shipping charge;
Dān-Aššur brought me 31 minas 15 shekels, 30 shekels its shipping charge, 2 minas
separately is the corresponding amount to his textiles;
Ilī-ālum brought me 41 minas 40 shekels, 40 shekels its shipping charge;
Kurub-Ištar brought me 18 minas 18 shekels.
Total: 147 minas 18 shekels silver which they brought. The remainder of silver is 30
minas 23 shekels of those (debts) whose terms are past due. Don’t listen to the interest. Have
the silver paid and send it to me. Write to Ḫinnaya so that he sends to me the silver which they
extended on credit there.

—Claims Coming Due—

In your tablet (you said), “7 minas 35⅔ shekels silver of the cargo of Aḫ-šalim on long-
term credit is placed on merchants.” 31 minas 19 shekels of the cargo of Aššur-mutabbil and
Nūr-Ištar, if their terms are due, have them pay the silver and send (it) to me immediately.

As for the silver which Ilī-ālim and Kurub-Ištar brought to me, why is it that the tablet
became too heavy for you to send to me?

Both letters of receipt can be divided into five basic sections. After the heading, Šalim-

aḫum listed (1) claims due (or past due), followed by (2) money received towards those claims;

he then listed (3) claims coming due. In both cases, Šalim-aḫum included (4) instructions to

collect the principal quickly. (In 2.3 section (4) followed section (3).) Finally, Šalim-aḫum

included (5) additional comments as necessary. This progression in the letter reflects a

temporal development: first the previous state of the venture is discussed (those debts that

have come due), then the current state (the silver received towards the claims due and the

balance due), and finally instructions pertinent to the time the letter would arrive at its

destination (collecting the balance of claims due and those claims coming due). The following

table outlines these sections. Instances where Lots #1-4 are mentioned are printed in bold.

Table 4: Comparison of the Contents of 2.3 and 2.4

2.3 2.4
Heading (ll. 1-3) Heading (ll. 1-3)
Lot #4 sold 12m 35²/₃š Tally of outstanding debts due (ll. 3-17)
-cargo of Pūšu-kēn (Lot #3) 54m 45 ½š
Tally of outstanding debts due (ll. 4-8) -cargo of Pūšu-kēn 58m 18 ½š
Claim from Aḫ-šalim’s cargo due -Lulu s. Zukuḫum (Lot #1) 28m 27š
Lot #3 54m 45š
-Aššur-šamšī, Ḫinnaya 31 ½m
-Amur-Ištar 5m

Total 178m 1š
(Total Due 54m 45š)
Tally of silver packets received (ll. 9-14) Tally of silver packets received (ll. 18-34)
-Šū-Suen w/ DUMU Šū-Aššur 31m 15š
-[Šū-Suen] 31m 30š
shipping 30š
-Erraya’s son 20m 50š
-Aššur-mālik 21m 10š
shipping 20š
-Dān-Aššur 31m 15 ½š
(Total Received 52m 40š)
shipping 30š
separately 2m
-Ilī-ālum 41m 40š
Balance: 2m 5š
shipping 40š
Notice of claims coming due (ll. 15-28) -Kurub-Ištar 18m 18š
-cargo of Pūšu-kēn 58m 18 ½š š
Total (Received) 147m 18š
-cargo of Erra-iddi(n)’s son(Lot [28m 27š]
Balance: 30m 23š
Instructions (ll. 35-40)
-Sons of … Aššur-šamšī [10m] 10š
Don’t accept interest in lieu of collecting
Brief notes on that debt
principal. Write to Ḫinnaya to send that silver.
-Ḫinnaya 21m [17š]
-Amur-Ištar to be paid by [5m]
Notice of claims coming due (ll. 40-48)
(Total 123m 12 ½š)
-Aḫ-šalim (Lot #4) 7m 35²/₃š
Instructions (ll. 29-34)
-Aššur-mutabbil & Nūr-Ištar 31m 19š
Ascertain and collect debts and send to Aššur. Do not
(Lot #2)
accept interest in lieu of principal.
Additional Comments (ll. 48-50)
Comment on wording of a previous letter(?)
Additional Comments (ll. 35-42)
Collection of be’ulātum-loans
-Aššur-mutabbil 30š
-Aḫ-šalim 30š
-Amurrum-bāni 25š

To review, the two letters of receipt document consecutive stages in collecting the

claims on silver for which the lots were sold. At the writing of 2.3, Šalim-aḫum had received

notice that the remaining portion of Aḫ-šalim’s cargo (Lot #4) had been sold. The claim on Lot

#3, sold on ‘short-term’ credit, had come due and most of it had been collected, and that silver

had been brought back by Šū-Suen and Aššur-mālik. Apparently having had the the debt notes

or copies, Šalim-aḫum took care to note that the claim on Lot #1 was either due or would be

due by the time his letter arrived. Later, at the writing of 2.4, the claim on Lot #1 had fallen

due, and it is likely that the additional silver sent with Dān-Aššur, Ilī-ālum, and Kurub-Ištar

included silver collected from that claim. Again, Šalim-aḫum took care to note that the claims

on Lots # 2 and #4 were due or coming due before this second letter would arrive in Kanesh. He

stressed that all the claims he had listed as coming due in the first letter of receipt were now

past due and reiterated his instructions to the agents to collect the silver and not to heed

promises to pay the interest.

There is no question that the two letters derive from the same venture as Nūr-Ištar’s

bill of lading and the caravan account, but details cited by Šalim-aḫum don’t always agree.

Some figures agree exactly across the documents. For example, the amount owed by Lulu son

of Zukuḫum in the second letter of receipt, 28 minas 27 shekels, matches exactly the amount

for which Lot #1 sold in the caravan account, revealing the Lulu as the buyer. On the other

hand, the remaining tin sold from Aḫ-šalim’s cargo, Lot #4, was quoted as 12 minas 35⅔ shekels

in the first letter of receipt but only 7 minas 35⅔ shekels in the second. And Šalim-aḫum

identified the claim on Lot #3 as part of Aḫ-šalim’s transport in the first letter of receipt, but

with a transport of Pūšu-kēn in the second letter. Significant variation in detail between the

letters suggests that if merchants kept careful track of their outstanding assets, it was not
always necessary to communicate with absolute precision. This trend has important

consequences for reconstructing particular events, which will be addressed later in the

discussion section.

Though some details remain elusive, the basic narrative of the venture and the

sequence in which these four documents occur within the development of the venture are


 Šalim-aḫum sent a shipment of goods to his agents in Kanesh. At departure, Nūr-

Ištar’s bill of lading (2.1) was inserted into his donkey’s pack.

 When the caravan arrived in Kanesh and the bulk of the goods sold, the agents sent

Šalim-aḫum a report (2.2).

 When the agents had collected the first claim, they sent it to Šalim-aḫum in Aššur


 he wrote the first letter of receipt (2.3).

 When the agents later collected more silver, including the claim on Lot #3, they sent

it back to Šalim-aḫum and

 he wrote the second letter of receipt (2.4).

The Durḫumit Debts

In 2.3 Šalim-aḫum discussed several persons bringing things to Kanesh and requested

news on the clearance of goods transported by Dān-Aššur, Aššur-mālik son of Erraya, and a

man designated as the son of Šū-Enlil. He also discussed a will, requesting that Lā-qēpum and

Pūšu-kēn acquire it and send it to him. 2.4 is comparably straightforward: all merchants with

terms due were to pay, and it seems all outstanding claims worth mentioning were due except
those associated with the caravan of Lā-qēpum.37 Also, Šalim-aḫum asked that the agents send

Dān-Aššur and his brother back home, and some details were set out with regards to the claims

deriving from Durḫumit, the city to the north of Kanesh in the copper mining area. Two more

letters also discuss these debts and help to clarify the situation.

Document 2.5 – POAT 19: First Durḫumit Letter38

1 um-ma Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um-ma
a-na La-qé-pí-im ù Pu-šu-ke-en6
qí-bi-ma a-ḫu-ú-a a-tú-nu
AN.NA-ki ù TÚG.ḪI.A39
5 la i-na-ki-mu a-na
u4-me-e | qú-ur-bu-tim
9 GÍN.TA ù e-li-iš
dì-na ù ša u4-me-e pá-tí-ú-tim
ma-lá | ta-da-nim dí-na
10 lu-qú-ti lu ša šé-ep
DUMU Èr-ra-a lu ša Dan-A-šùr
ìr-de8-a-ni40 lu ša ILLAT-at
DUMU Šu-dEn-líl AN.NA-ki
lo.e. ù TUG.ḪI.A ma-lá | iz-ku-ú-ni-ni
15 té-er-ta-ak-nu
rev. li-li-kam 5 TÚG ku-sí-tum
1 TÚG ni-ib-ra-ru-um
ša šé-ep Dan-A-šùr ù ší-im
ANŠE.ḪI.A ma-lá ta-áš-a-ma-ni

What Šalim-aḫum means by the caravan of Lā-qēpum is discussed in Chapter Five.
Copy in H. Lewy, "Old Assyrian Texts in the University Museum," HUCA 39 (1969):32f. Previous edition:
W.C. Gwaltney, POAT, Nr. 19.
Hecker prefers TUG.ḪI-a representing šubātū’ā (also in line 14), K. Hecker, "Review of Gwaltney, W.C,
The Pensylvannia Old Assyrian Texts," review of POAT, AfO 31 (1984):84 However, there is a relatively free
interchange between ḪI and ḪI.A, and while Hecker’s suggestion is equally valid, the least-marked form is
preferred here.
Hecker, AfO 31 (1984):84.
20 té-er-ta-ak-nu li-li-kam
30⅓ ma-na 7 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR
[u4]-me-e ša ta-áš-pu-ra-ni
[10] ma-na 10 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR ša me-er-e
A-šùr-UTU-ši 5 ma-na KÙ.BABBAR
25 ša Ḫi-na-a mì-ma a-nim
ša-áš-qí-lá-ma i-na
pá-nim-ma šé-bi-lá-nim
ṭup-pu-um ša ší-ma-at
A-šùr-i-mì-tí i-na Ḫu-ra-ma
30 iš-tí Ša-lim-A-šùr DUMU En-um-A-[šùr]
i-ba-ší šu-up-ra-ma ṭup-pá-am
le.e. ṭup-pá-am i-na qà-nu-e lá-wi-a-ma
[da]-am-qí-iš a-na DUMU um-mì-a-nim
35 [ke]-nim pí-iq-da-ma lu-ub-lam a-na
wa-bi4-il5 ṭup-[pì]-im KÙ.BABBAR 1 [GÍN] i-na [KÙ.BABBAR]
dí-na-šu-um [ x x ] ù? ša? [ x x ]

Šalim-aḫum to Lāqēpum and Pūsu-kēn:
My dear brothers, my tin and textiles should not be stocked up.41 Sell (the tin) on short-
term credit at a rate of 9 shekels or higher. Otherwise sell as much as can be sold on long-term
credit. Let your report come as to how much of my good—those from the cargo of Erraya’s son
(Aššur-mālik), those that Dān-Aššur drove, and those from the caravan of Šū-Enlil’s son42—
(that is) my tin and textiles, cleared (the palace). Let your report come (on) the five kusītum-
robes, the 1 nibrarum-textile from the cargo of Dān-Aššur, and the price of the donkeys, as
much as you bought.

Translation ‘stock up’ follows CAD (nakāmu v. usage c) in preference over Gwaltney, cf. Hecker, "Review
of Gwaltney, W.C, The Pensylvannia Old Assyrian Texts," 84.
Five different sons of one or another Šū-Enlil are known in the Old Assyrian corpus, three attested
commonly (Aššur-nādā, Aššur-taklāku, Ennum-Aššur) and two attested only once (Aššur-mālik (c/k 1502), Puzur-
Aššur (TC 3 41)). Aššur-taklāku is attested in association with a caravan (illat Aššur-taklāku mēr Šū-Enlil, kt a/k
381:22-23), and Ennum-Aššur is attested filling the role of transporter (TC 1 19, TC 3 73).
As for the 30 minas 27 shekels silver on terms about which you wrote me: 10 minas 10
shekels silver of the sons of Aššur-šamšī and 5 minas silver of Ḫinnaya, have all this paid and
send it to me at the first opportunity.
A tablet recording the will of Aššur-imittī is with Šalim-Aššur son of Ennum-Aššur in
Ḫurrama. Send to him to have the tablet brought to you. Wrap up the tablet in straw, and
carefully entrust (it) to a reliable mēr umme’ānum so that he may bring it to me.43 Give a shekel
of silver to the bearer of the tablet. …

Document 2.6 – TC 1 14 : Second Durḫumit Letter44

1 um-ma Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um-ma
a-na La-qé-pí-im
Ì-lí-a-lim ù Pu-šu-ke-en6
qí-bi-ma | u4-mu-ú
5 DAM.GÀR-ri-a ša i-na
Kà-ni-iš | ta-qí-pá-ni
ma-al-ú | iḫ-da-ma
DAM.GÀR-ri KÙ.BABBAR ša-áš-qí-lá-ma
ku-un-kà-ma i-na
10 pá-nim-ma | šé-bi-lá-nim
Dan-A-šùr ù a-ḫu-šu
ṭur-da-nim | i-na
DAM.GÀR ša u4-mu-šu
e-tí-qú-ni KÙ.BABBAR ú ṣi-ba-sú
15 lo.e. ša-áš-qí-la
la ta-ša-me-a šu-ma
rev. la ILLAT-at | La-qé-pí-im
lu-qú-ti | ša ta-qí-pá-ni
u4-mu-ú | DAM.GÀR-ri
20 šu-nu-tí | a-ḫu-ru-ni

Translation follows Veenhof, AOATT, 28.
Previous treatments: AHK, 18.; J. Lewy, Studien zu den altassyrischen Texten aus Kappadokien (Berlin: J.
Lewy, 1922), Nr. 13.; van der Meer, Correspondance, Nr. 24. (who recognized the connection between this text and
2.4), and Driver, "Studies," Nr. 9.

ša mì-ma | DAM.GÀR-ri-a
u4-mu-šu-nu | ma-al-ú
10½ ma-na KÙ.BABBAR ša me-er-e
A-šur-UTU-ši DUMU Ib-ni-ì-lí
25 ša ki-ma šu-nu-tí
La-qé-pá-am e-pu-lu
21 ma-na ša Ḫi-na-a
i-na Dur4-ḫu-mì-it
30 u4-mu-šu-nu | ma-al-ú
te9-er-ta-ku-nu «a-na!»
u.e. li-li-ik

Šalim-aḫum to Lā-qēpum, Ili-ālim, and Pūsu-kēn:
The term of my merchant to whom you extended credit in Kanesh is full. Take care
to make my merchant pay the silver, seal it, and send it to me with the first departing
Dispatch Dān-Aššur and his brother to me.
From the merchant whose term has expired, make him pay the silver and its
interest. Don’t listen (to the interest). Except for the caravan of Lā-qēpum, my goods which
you sold on credit—the terms of the merchants, those which are still running, of all of my
merchants—their terms are full. 10 ½ minas silver of the sons of Aššur-šamšī son of Ibni-ilī,
their representatives will balance Lā-qēpum. 21 minas which Ḫinnaya extended as credit in
Durḫumit, their terms are full. Let your report come.

Three debts owed by Aššur-šamšī and his sons, Ḫinnaya and Amur-Ištar, are noted as

due in 2.3 (l. 19-27), combined into two entries in the second letter 2.4 (l. 10-17), and

constitute claims arising from other ventures. In 2.3, the relevant section is broken: Šalim-

aḫum mentioned the debts of several persons which only become clear through comparison

with 2.4. The Durḫumit letters are immediately helpful in clarifying the three debts

mentioned in the first and second letters of receipt. Three separate parties owed Šalim-aḫum

the following amounts (some of which have not yet been discussed):

(1) Aššur-šamšī’s sons owed a combined total close to 10 minas 10 shekels silver.

a. Ibni-ilī owed 4 minas 34¾ shekels silver plus a small unknown additional


b. Pilaḫ-Aššur owed 5 minas 16⅔ shekels silver.

(2) An unknown party to which Ḫinnaya extended credit owed 21 minas 17 shekels


(3) Amur-Ištar owed 5 minas silver, for which Ḫinnaya was responsible to pay (2.3:25-

27, 2.4:13-17, 2.5:24-25).

The debts of Aššur-Šamšī’s sons and the unknown party are mentioned alongside each

other and occasionally combined. By separating the amount owed by Aššur-šamšī’s sons,

which is listed in letter 2.7 (discussed below), we can determine the amount owed by the

unknown party. These debts as they are recorded in letters 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, and 2.6 are listed in

the following table.

Table 5: Listed Amounts of Aššur-šamšī’s Sons and the Unknown Party’s Debts
Aššur-šamšī’s sons Unknown Party
2.3 :19-24 10m 10š :24-25 21m [(17š)]
2.4 :10-12 31½m (combined)
:21-22 31m 27š (combined)
:23-24 10m 10š
2.6 :23-26 10½m :27-29 21m
(m=minas š=shekels)

The 31½ minas mentioned in 2.4 (l. 10-12) as the combined amount of the two debts is

an approximation of the more precisely expressed 31 minas 27 shekels reported in 2.5 (l. 21-

22). Likewise, the 10 ½ minas in 2.6 (l. 23-26) as the debt of Aššur-šamšī’s sons must be an

approximation of the more precisely expressed 10 minas 10 shekels reported in 2.3 (l. 19-24)

and 2.5 (l. 23-24). Therefore the 21 minas silver attributed to the unknown party in 2.6 (l. 27-

29) must be an approximation of a debt of 21 minas 17 shekels: the unexpressed result of

subtracting the more precisely expressed 10 minas 10 shekels from the more precisely

expressed combined amount both in 2.5 and perhaps recorded in the partially broken section

2.3 (l. 24-25). This derived amount, 21 minas 17 shekels, illustrates how Šalim-aḫum used

varying precision in expressing these amounts, suggesting some uncertainty into how precise

they really were.

The uncertainty about the expressed amounts is compounded when we turn to the

debts of Aššur-šamšī’s sons. The more precisely expressed amount of 10 minas 10 shekels silver

represents an approximated combination of the two sons’ debts mentioned in letter 2.7 below.

More information on their repayment was certainly recorded in the broken section of 2.3.

Aššur-šamsī’s sons seem to have had a representative identified as the son of Šū-Enlil (2.3:23)

who was to be involved in repaying the debt to Lā-qēpum (2.3:19-24, 2.6:23-26, see note 30 on

p. 98).

While the first four documents in the chapter can easily be arranged in chronological

order, the two Durḫumit letters (2.5 and 2.6) were written close together, making a

determination of their order more difficult; they are presented here in their probable

chronological order. In 2.5, Šalim-aḫum responded to an initial inquiry about the combined

claims related to Aššur-šamšī’s sons and Ḫinnaya, saying: “As for the 30 ½ minas about which
you wrote me … have all this paid and send it to me at the first opportunity” (2.5:21-27). In

2.6, he wrote of the same claims: “Their terms are full. Let your report come” (2.6:24-32).

Other activities referenced in the two letters also suggest this order. In 2.5, Šalim-aḫum asked

for a caravan account on goods which his son Dān-Aššur brought to Kanesh. In 2.6, Šalim-

aḫum asked the agents to send Dān-Aššur home. When Šalim-aḫum wrote 2.4 he

acknowledged that Dān-Aššur had returned to Aššur with some of his silver.45

Finally, one more letter is presented as a potential addition to the documentary record

of the original venture. Letter 2.7 was written by a man named Ḫinnaya to Lā-qēpum, Pūšu-

kēn, and one other associate and may provide information on the due date for Aššur-šamšī’s

two sons’ debts mentioned in 2.5 and 2.6. Ḫinnaya reported the date of origination and a due

date expressed in weeks of two debts owed by persons who can be plausibly identified as

Hinnaya’s sons with a total amount that, with the addition of a small unknown amount, would

be essentially equivalent to the amounts listed in 2.5 and 2.6. To the extent that these debts

may have been the same as those reported in 2.5 and 2.6, the original venture can be

anchored to a specific point in time.

Document 2.7 – CCT 6 20c: Aššur-šamšī’s sons’ debts46

1 um-ma Ḫi-na-a-ma a-[na]

La-qé-pí-im Pu-šu-[ke]-en6
ù Ištar-pì-lá-aḫ
qí-bi4-ma 4½ ma-na 4½ GÍN 15 ŠE
5 KÙ.BABBAR | ṣa-ru-pá-am
a-na Ša-lim-a-ḫi-im

When compared with the overall progression of the venture, the absence and then presence of Ilī-ālum
as one of the correspondents also makes sense in this chronological order. See below p. 123.
I am not aware of any previous treatments of this letter.
ḫa-bu-lu i-ma-la
u4-me-šu ša E-la-ma
lo.e. 10 i-ša-qú-lu
rev. ú šu-ut i-ša-qal
5 ma-na 16⅔ GÍN
KÙ.BABBAR ṣa-ru-pá-am
Pì-la-aḫ-A-šùr DUMU A-šùr-UTU-ši
15 <a-na> Ša-lim-a-ḫi!-um
DUMU Dan-A-šùr | ḫa-bu-lu
ITU.KAM | Ḫu-bu-ur
Sú-kà-lí-a | a-na
ue. 20 46 ḫa-am-ša-tim
le.e. i-ša-qal <IGI> DUMU Puzur4-Ištar
mì-ma | AN.NA
ša Ša-<lim>-a-ḫi-im
E-lá ub-lam

Ḫinnaya to Lā-qēpum, Pūšu-kēn, and Ištar-pilaḫ:

—Ibni-ilī’s debt—
4 minas 34 ½ shekels 15 grains refined silver Ibni-ilī owes to Šalim-aḫum; he will also pay
whatever Ela pays at the completion of his term.47

—Pilaḫ -Aššur’s debt—

5 minas 16⅔ shekels refined silver Pilaḫ-Aššur son of Aššur-šamšī owes to Šalim-aḫum
son of Dān-Aššur. REL 79 VII. He will pay in 46 ḫamuštum weeks.
<Witness:> Son of Puzur-Ištar.48
Ela brought all the tin belonging to Šalim-aḫum.

I take 4 ½ mana … ḫabbulu (D stative subjunctive) as an asyndetic relative clause followed by i-mala
ūmēšu ša Ela-ma išaqqulu u šūt išaqqal, where mala is a substantive “fullness” in construct with ūmēšu. Expressing
the sentiment ‘paying in full’ with the verb malā’um is done with the D-stem, which prevents reading i-ma-la as a
present form of the verb.
Puzur-Ištar’s son must have functioned as a witness in the original debt note which is being loosely
quoted in an abbrevated form here.
This letter documents the two individual debts of Aššur-šamšī’s sons, Pilaḫ-Aššur and

Ibni-ilī, combined and expressed as 10 mina 10 shekels in the documents previously reviewed.49

Though the sons owed an expressed total of 9 minas 51 5/12 shekels, if Ela owed a be’ulātum

loan for delivering Šalim-aḫum’s tin (see 2.7:22-24), then Ibni-ilī must have owed very close to

the 10 minas 10 shekels cited in the Durḫumit letters. Ḫinnaya took a coordinating role in this

letter, reporting credit extended to Aššur-šamšī’s sons; this fits well with Ḫinnaya’s role as one

of the main coordinating representatives for Šalim-aḫum in Durḫumit, as expressed in the

other two Durḫumit letters. In 2.4 Šalim-aḫum told Pūšu-kēn to write to Ḫinnaya in Durḫumit

concerning these debts (l. 16-17).

The fact that Ibni-ilī and Pilaḫ-Aššur owed debts to Šalim-aḫum coordinated by

Ḫinnaya and totaling close to 10 minas silver plausibly connects 2.7 with the other letters of

the original venture. However there are no other activities mentioned in the letter with which

to connect other activities in the original venture. If all the original venture documents were

dated, then it would be much easier to determine whether we can associate 2.7 with the rest

of the original venture. However, if 2.7 is connected, the due date of Pilaḫ-Aššur’s loan in

Though not expressed in this letter, Ibni-ilī is certainly the son of Aššur-šamšī and brother of Pilaḫ-
Aššur: this is well attested in Šalim-aḫum’s own sons’ documents (AKT 3 110, v/k 177:1). In one of the texts
stemming from Šalim-aḫum’s sons’ texts, a letter addressed to Idnaya, Lā-qēpum, Pilaḫ-Aššur, and Ibni-ilī
instructs Alili’s representatives (Idnaya and Lā-qēpum) to take their principal’s share from the silver being
delivered by Aššur-šamšī. Pilaḫ-Aššur and Ibni-ilī must have been associates of Aššur-šamšī (AKT 3 110). While it’s
more likely to see this Aššur-šamšī as a son of either of the two, the father’s name recurring in the family line is
suggestive. Ibni-ilī’s parentage is also attested in several ‘old texts’ (TC 1 107:6-7, TC 3 272:24-5), and elsewhere
(75/k 68:5-6 and kt 91/k 485:21). Moreover Aššur-šamši’s own father was named Ibn-ilī, as shown in 2.6 (l. 24).
Papponomy is known among the Old Assyrian merchants. See J. Eidem, "In the Names of Aššur!," in Studies
Larsen.:191-203 The only other patronym known for Ibni-ilī is Al-ṭāb, restricted to the 91/k archive (kt 91/k 132:1
and kt 1/k 200:15).
2.7—46 ḫamuštum weeks after REL 79 VII—places the original venture in the shipping season

during REL 80.

In accordance with the explanation of the reconstruction in the introduction, the

summary series of events for the original venture is as follows:

Table 6: Summary Table of Events from the Original Venture

Nūr-Ištar s. Iddi(n)-Ištar, Aššur-mutabbil, Aḫ-šalim, s. Erra-iddi(n), and Amurru-bāni

OV1 s. Kurub-Ištar travel to Kanesh taking goods listed in Table 2 for Šalim-aḫum and
arriving at roughly the same time (2.1, 2.2).

OV2 Lā-qēpum, Pūšu-kēn, and Ilī-ālum sell most of the goods brought by the transporters
in three Lots (listed in Table 3) and report these in a caravan account, of which 2.2
is a copy.

OV3 Lā-qēpum, Pūšu-kēn, and Ilī-ālum (one, two, or all of them) later sell the remainder
of the goods listed as Lot #4 in Table 3. This fact is communicated to Šalim-aḫum
(probably in writing) (2.3:4-8, 2.4:40-44).

OV4 Aššur-mālik s. Erra-iddi(n), Dān-Aššur, and the caravan of s. Šū-Enlil depart for
Kanesh at roughly the same time.
A  Dān-Aššur’s cargo includes 5 kusītum robes and 1 nibrārum textile (2.5:10-20).

OV5 Šalim-aḫum sends two different letters asking for news on the disposal of goods
brought by Aššur-mālik s. Erra-iddi(n), Dān-Aššur, and s. Šū-Enlil (2.5, 2.6).
A  He asks Lā-qēpum and Pūšu-kēn to get the will of Aššur-imittī which is with
Šalim-Aššur s. Ennum-Aššur in Ḫurrama (2.5:28-36).
B  In the second letter Šalim-aḫum asks Lā-qēpum, Pūšu-kēn, and Ilī-ālum to
collect on the merchant (2.6:4-10).
C  He asks they send Dān-Aššur and his brother (Ennam-Aššur) back to Aššur
D  He mentions the caravan of Lā-qēpum (2.6:17-18).
E  He mentions that the Durḫumit debts are due (2.6:23-32).
F  The debts assigned to Aššur-šamšī’s sons fall due around REL 80 IV, about the
same time as the due date for Lot #3.

Table 6: Summary Table of Events from the Original Venture, continued

OV6 Lā-qēpum, Pūšu-kēn, and Ilī-ālum (one, two, or all of them) collect some part of the
claim on Lot #3 and send packets of silver with Šū-Suen and Aššur-mālik s. Erra-
iddi(n). Aššur-mālik s. Erra-iddi(n) had to have arrived in Kanesh by the time the
silver was sent back (2.3:9-14).

OV7 Šalim-aḫum receives the silver brought by Šū-Suen and Aššur-mālik s. Erra-iddi(n)
and writes a report (2.3). He tallies outstanding debts due, silver received, and
claims that will be coming due in the proximate future, i.e. the claim on Lot #1
(summarized in left column of Table 4). He mentions the be’ulātum loans of Aššur-
mutabbil, Aḫ-šalim, and Amurru-bāni. He mentions some assets related to Lā-qēpum
and a possible claim on s. Kududu (2.3).

OV8 Lā-qēpum, Pūšu-kēn, and Ilī-ālum (one, two, or all of them) collect silver from the
claim on Lot #1 and presumably receive all or some of the silver of the Durḫumit
debts; then Ilī-ālum takes the collected silver along with Dān-Aššur and Kurub-Ištar
back to Aššur (2.4:6-17, 24-30).

OV9 Šalim-aḫum receives the silver from Ilī-ālum, Dān-Aššur, and Kurub-Ištar and writes
a report (2.4). He tallies outstanding debts due, silver received, and claims that will
be coming due in the proximate future, i.e. the claims on Lots #4 and #2
(summarized in right column of Table 4).

OV10 Lulu’s debt as the claim on Lot #2 falls due.

Temporally Constraining the Original Venture

To review, Šalim-aḫum bought tin and textiles on the market in Aššur and sent the

goods to be sold in Kanesh. His goods were packed on donkeys as cargo of the various

transporters—Erra-iddi(n)’s son, Nūr-Ištar, Aššur-mutabbil, and Aḫ-šalim (assisted by

Amurrum-bāni). When the cargo was packed and as the transporters departed, Šalim-aḫum

sent a notifying letter on ahead of the caravan to his agents. When the transporters arrived in

Kanesh, Šalim-aḫum’s goods entered and cleared customs. His agents sold three lots on credit

and dispatched a caravan account to Šalim-aḫum back in Aššur, of which 2.2 is a copy. The

agents later sold the remainder of Aḫ-šalim’s cargo (Lot #4), sending notification. The agents

sold Lot #4 around the same time they collected on the claim from Lot #3 because Šalim-aḫum

acknowledged news of that sale in the letter declaring receipt of the silver collected on Lot #3

(2.3). In the same letter, Šalim-aḫum reminded his agents that the claim on Lot #1 had also

fallen due. This letter travelled to Kanesh and Šalim-aḫum’s agents sent silver back collected

from both the claim on Lot #1 and debts from associates in Duḫumit. Šalim-aḫum wrote

another letter of receipt acknowledging the silver received, expressing what was yet to be

received, and noting that the claims on Lots #2 and #4 were coming due.

The pace at which business was pursued and conducted in large measure determined

the way in which Old Assyrian merchants pursued their trade and coordinated their activities.

One way to approach the temporal reconstruction of the original venture is through

considering that the connection with 2.7 is valid and following the logical chain. If this

connection is valid, the development of the original venture, beginning with the departure of

Nūr-Ištar and the other transporters and continuing through the collection of the claims on

Lots #3 and #1—and the expected collection of the claims on Lots #2 and #4, transpired from

mid-March to mid-September in REL 80. I will begin with a figure laying out the development

of the original venture and marking the bill of lading (2.1), caravan account (2.2), and two

letters of receipt (2.3 and 2.4) so as to clarify the temporal relationships between the events.

However, even if 2.7 was not connected to the original venture, the original venture must

have transpored within the course of a single season. After exploring the particular

configuration suggested for REL 80, I will show by appealing to the scenarios that don’t work

for REL 80 and the internal documentation of the original venture that it must have developed

continuously within the frame of one shipping season.

In order to represent the development of the original venture, I will use a figure which

represents space and time in the Old Assyrian trade.

Figure 6 Chronological Development of the Original Venture

Passes Open Passes Close

March April May June July August September October November December
R 80 XII
Pilaḫ-Aššur’s du
ue date
46 ḫamuštums after REL 79 VII (2.7

Lotss #1-3
#1 sold Lot #4 sold Lot #3 due Lot #1 due Lots #2 & #4 due

2 .2


Report: L


l ī




ot #4 sold



u r, Šū




2.1 N

2.5 & 2.66



Shipment Packet
Letter Lost Letter of Goods of Silver
The only potentially datable event in the original venture correspondence is Pilaḫ-

Aššur’s debt in Ḫinnaya’s letter to Pūšu-kēn (2.7). This leads to the argument that Pilaḫ-

Aššur’s term suggests that the ḫamuštum week was seven days long. With this in mind, Pilaḫ-

Aššur’s due date forms the point at which we can work out the pace of the events of the

original venture. I’ll begin with Pilaḫ-Aššur’s debt in 2.7 first, then work backwards to the two

Durḫumit letters (2.5 and 2.6), then move to the development of the original venture.

If 2.7 is connected to the original venture, the due date for Pilaḫ-Aššur’s debt can be

estimated to be mid-June of REL 80 (ca. second week of REL 80 VI). This is determined by both

the range of dates valid for the origination of the loan and the length of the ḫamuštum week.

The two current postulated lengths for the ḫamuštum period are 5 and 7 days.50 Because REL 79

did not have an intercalary month between its twelfth month and the first month of REL 80, a

5-day ḫamuštum week predicts a due date between the beginning of March (REL 80 II 23/24)

and the beginning of April (REL 80 III 22/23); a 7-day ḫamuštum yields a due date between first

week of June (REL 80 V 27) and the first week of July (REL 80 VI 26). If the ḫamuštum was 5 days,

then the loan would have fallen due before the spring opening of the passes through the

Taurus Mountains between Aššur and the Anatolian plateau. If the 7-day ḫamuštum is correct,

then the loan would have fallen due two or possibly three months after the passes opened.51

The two different dates would suggest rather different tracks for the development of

the original venture. The 7-day ḫamuštum permits a plausible course of development. The four

transporters departed near the beginning of the shipping season in mid-March of REL 80 and

K.R. Veenhof, "The Old Assyrian Hamuštum Period: A seven-day week," JEOL 34 (1996).
Old Assyrian months were lunar months, thus the initiation of each month correlated to the
observation or expected observation of the new moon; the average month was 29.5 days long. These parameters
(the timing of the new year, the length of time the passes were closed, etc.) are more fully discussed, including
other arguments for the 7 day ḫamuštum week, in Chapter Four.
the due date of Pilaḫ-Aššur’s debt was due between the first weeks of June and July (the term

length being at most three months). To begin with, it’s important to clarify the relationship

between the due date of Pilaḫ-Aššur’s debt, and presumably that of his brothers, to the two

Durḫumit letters (2.5 and 2.6). In the first Durḫumit letter, Šalim-aḫum assumes that the time

has sufficiently transpired to expect that the debt should be collected. In the second letter, he

states that the terms on the claims are full. Obviously, with such constant communication Old

Assyrian merchants must have had a good sense of how long it took for their letters to get to

Kanesh. Waiting to write a letter about a claim until the actual date that the claim was due

would be ineffective, and would significantly slow down the pace of commerce. As a result, it is

likely that the first Durḫumit letter (2.5) was written before the actual due date, and that its

arrival would correspond roughly with the due date, though it could have preceeded it by a

week or even followed by more. The second Durḫumit letter (2.6) would have followed the due

date by some time.

To this caution we must add the ambiguity of the due date itself, expressed in ḫamuštum

weeks and anchored to simply REL 79 VII. It is possible that references specifying only a month

could mean that the transaction took place at the beginning of the month and thus Pilaḫ-

Aššur’s debt would have been due around the first week of June in REL 80. It has also been

suggested that the resolution of dates in debt notes, expressed no more precisely than in

weeks, implied a periodicity to the trade revolving around a weekly turnover.52

Proceeding with these provisos, the chronological relationship of the Durḫumit letters

to the original venture can be articulated by focusing on the Durḫumit debts and the travels of

For a good discussion of these problems with dating, see Veenhof, "The Old Assyrian Hamuštum Period:
A seven-day week."
Dān-Aššur and Aššur-mālik. In the first place, the two Durḫumit letters (2.5 and 2.6) were

clearly written before the second letter of receipt (2.4) because by that time, Šalim-aḫum had

received at least part of the payments he was asking for in the Durḫumit letters. Also, by the

time of the second letter of receipt, Dān-Aššur had returned back to Aššur, which Šalim-aḫum

had requested in the second Durḫumit letter (2.6). The peregrinations of Aššur-mālik push the

writing of the two Durḫumit letters even further back in the process of the original venture.

Šalim-aḫum had asked in the first Durḫumit letter about Aššur-mālik’s arrival in Kanesh,

requesting details about the disposal of goods he was transporting, at the same time he stated

that Pilaḫ-Aššur’s debt was coming due. Then, Pūšu-kēn sent Aššur-mālik back to Aššur with

the silver for Lot #3 (see fig. 2). Thus, the due date of Pilaḫ-Aššur’s debt can be matched to

roughly the same time as the due date of the claim on Lot #3 through Aššur-mālik’s arrival in


This proposition is also supported by the appearance of Ilī-ālum in the addressee

position of Šalim-aḫum’s letters. In the first Durḫumit letter, Šalim-aḫum did not address Ilī-

ālum, but he did in the second. Šalim-aḫum did not learn that Ilī-ālum was participating in the

venture until he received the caravan account, which Ilī-ālum participated in composing. Ilī-

ālum’s peripheral role as an agent for Šalim-aḫum is further reinforced by the fact that he

brought back silver to Aššur, as seen in the second letter of receipt (2.4). Šalim-aḫum did not

address the letter to him, but acknowledged that Ilī-ālum had just brought silver.

On the other hand, a 5-day ḫamuštum would yield a due date just before the opening of

the passes—at the latest. In this case, Šalim-aḫum would have sent off the two Durḫumit letters

(2.5 and 2.6) just as the passes opened. In turn, this alternate scenario would imply that Nūr-

Ištar and the other three transporters must have travelled to Kanesh in the previous shipping
season (REL 79) because the due date of Pilaḫ-Aššur’s debt roughly coincides with the due date

of the claim on Lot #3 (2.3:15-35 and 2.6:12-32). This situation would demand that the ‘short

term’ claim on Lot #3 spanned the four-month winter and the caravan account (2.2) would

have had to get back to Aššur during this period or before the passes closed so that Šalim-

aḫum would have known that he indeed had a claim coming due at the very beginning of the

season. This scenario uncomfortably stretches the supposed time for the ‘short-term’ credit in

comparison with ‘long-term’ credit. Nūr-Ištar and the other three transporters could have

arrived in Kanesh before the passes closed in time for the caravan account to travel back to

Aššur. But this would only further pressure the length of the ‘short-term’ credit claim.

If 2.7 provides evidence to date the original venture, even with the cautions

necessarily associated with the figure above, there is a sense of the trade’s brisk tempo of

action and communication. For example, the claims of the original venture can roughly be

correlated to multiple round trips of letters. As a result, the timeline largely becomes a

function of two independent but unknown variables. The first variable is the the time it takes

for the letters to travel; the second is the time between letters—or in terms of the claims, how

long it took to sell the first three lots, and how long it took to collect the claims when they

came due.

Even without 2.7 the internal evidence of the original venture suggests that the

venture developed within the framework of a single shipping season. The first three letters of

this original venture all reveal that Šalim-aḫum expected his goods to sell soon after arrival

and it seems they did. In the first place, notifying messages were regularly sent ahead of

shipments. Šalim-aḫum and other merchants must have sent such letters with an expectation

that the information provided would enable their agents to begin attracting buyers even
before the goods arrived. In the bill of lading, Šalim-aḫum told his agents in one breath to

report both on the arrival of goods and their sale, as when asking about Dān-Aššur and Aššur-

mālik in the first Durḫumit letter (2.5:10-16). Likewise, Šalim-aḫum’s agents acted in

accordance with Šalim-aḫum’s expectation that the caravan account be written soon after the

goods arrive. Though they had sold Lots #1-3 by the time they wrote the caravan account, they

had not yet settled the transporting costs with Erra-iddi(n)’s son, nor had they sold the

remaining portion of the cargo brought by Aḫ-šalim.

These expectations about the rate of turnover for investments are consistent with

general practices and specifically with Šalim-aḫum’s expectations about other parts of the

process. There was a general desire among Old Assyrian merchants to ship goods and silver

back and forth as quickly as possible. In some letters, the owner of the silver or goods urged his

counterpart on the other end to send the the silver corresponding to anticipated revenues

before the goods even arrived (see 4.5:38ff). As for Šalim-aḫum, he clearly intended his claims

to be collected promptly and in full. He instructed his agents in both letters of receipt and in

the Durḫumit letters (2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6) not to “listen to the interest,” or in other words

permit the merchants to buy extra time by paying the default interest in lieu of the principal

amount.53 Rather he always urged his agents to collect the silver and send it to him.

An alternate reading of this expression is to disregard the interest which may have accumulated when
collecting the debt. In this particular case, I have a hard time seeing such an instruction as arising from Šalim-
aḫum. If he is only mentioning debts that are due in the proximal future and therefore not late, but about to be
due, then the interest would be negligible, and concerns about the interest, whether on the part of Šalim-aḫum,
the debtor, or Šalim-aḫum’s agents would have been quite small. This does present a context in which Šalim-
aḫum could say that the interest is unimportant, but this same context cannot ignore that Šalim-aḫum’s principle
desire (I hesitate to use the word interest here, but in my larger discussions about motivations this is the word I
would use) would be focused on the speed of payment. In this case, he would not want a payment of interest to be
offered by the debtor as a ligitimate way of putting of paying the capital.

These aspects of Šalim-aḫum’s preferences and the consistency of the development

evident in the letters support the cautious use of letters as temporal markers for particular

events. In general, letters that mentioned the receipt or departure of a good or asset were

occasioned by the receipt or departure; more general remarks were included secondarily. Bills

of lading and notifying letters marked the departure of a shipment from Aššur; and caravan

accounts marked the arrival of goods in Kanesh—written very soon after the goods arrived;

any sales reported in the caravan accounts would have been concluded in that short period.

The writing of letters of receipt, like the ones Šalim-aḫum wrote (2.3 and 2.4), were written

on the occasion of receiving silver in Aššur.

Likewise, Šalim-aḫum’s letters can provide temporal markers for the due dates of his

claims, albeit less precisely. When Šalim-aḫum noted that a claim was coming due, such as in

the Durḫumit letters or in the letters of receipt, then the estimated time of the letter’s arrival

in Kanesh can be loosely tied to the debts he stated as due. When the sole purpose of a letter

was to remind agents to collect debts, the estimated time of arrival of the letter (in the mind of

the writer) would converge most closely with the actual due date of his claim. However, none

of the letters in the original venture were written with this sole purpose in mind. The first

Durḫumit letter (2.5) was written as a response to an inquiry about the debts associated with

Ḫinnaya, and the second Durḫumit letter (2.6), which covers the same debts, was written later.

In both the Durḫumit letters and the letters of receipt (2.3 and 2.4), the letters were

occasioned by some other event than a direct reminder to collect Šalim-aḫum’s claims. Thus

the composition of any given letter is only secondarily related to the due dates they reference;

therefore the chronological relationship between the composition of the letter and the due

date is not direct, and diverges in ways that cannot always be accounted for. At the same time,
Šalim-aḫum’s choice of which claims to mention or not mention in the first and second letters

of receipt (2.3 and 2.4) suggests that uncollected debts were not mentioned unless they were

coming due. In the first letter of receipt (2.3), Šalim-aḫum noted that the claim on Lot #1 was

coming due, but not the claims on Lots #2 or #4. These were far enough off in his estimation to

not yet warrant mention. However, when he wrote the second letter of receipt (2.4), the

claims on Lots #2 and #4 were then coming due, therefore he listed them.

This same principle of mentioning proximal events in the letters argues that the entire

development of the original venture transpired within a single season. In the first place, Šalim-

aḫum composed the first letter of receipt (2.3) in such a way that indicated he had (a) just

received news of the sale of Lot #4, (b) just received silver gained from the collection of the

claim on Lot #3, and (c) expected the claim on Lot #1 to be coming due around the time his

letter arrived in Kanesh. Then, Šalim-aḫum wrote the second letter of receipt (2.4) at such a

time when he had (d) just received silver from the collection of the claim on Lot #1, and (e)

expected the claims on Lots #2 and #4 to be collected around the time his letter arrived in

Kanesh. While we have already argued that the first half of the original venture must have

developed continuously, this second half of the original venture must have as well. Whether of

not the original venture took place in REL 80 or some other year, it seems that there was no

simple space during its development in which we might expect winter to have intervened.

The Limits of Šalim-aḫum’s Accuracy and Language

In the original venture Šalim-aḫum sent goods to Kanesh, the goods were sold on

credit, and (insofar as we can observe) the collection of the silver proceeded smoothly; two of

Šalim-aḫum’s four claims were collected and the silver sent back to him. This reconstruction of

the original venture forms a previously unafforded view of a central recurring process in the

Old Assyrian trade. It also forms the first step in reconstructing an account of Šalim-aḫum’s

commercial pursuits during this shipping season. The reconstruction of the original venture

provides an opportunity to describe the relationships between the four categories of persons

or parties directly involved in the commercial aspects of Šalim-aḫum’s original venture. The

first party was Šalim-aḫum, owner of the goods. The second party was the group of his agents

in Anatolia: Pūšu-kēn, Lā-qēpum, and Ilī-ālum (and perhaps Ištar-pilaḫ, who appeared as

correspondent in 2.7) in Kanesh, and Ḫinnaya (and perhaps Amur-Ištar) in Durḫumit. The

third party was the group of transporters. The fourth party were the buyers of Šalim-aḫum’s

goods. The basic aspects of the roles played by the first three parties have been well covered.

However, my description of the fourth party as buyers rather than commission agents differs

from other descriptions of the trade. The evidence with which I will argue the nature of the

commercial relationship between the buyers and Šalim-aḫum rests mostly on evidence

peculiar to this reconstruction.

In regards to transport, the legal aspects of the roles played by the owner, agents, and

transporters were well described by Larsen in his study on caravan procedures. Larsen

reconstructed the process of transporting goods between Aššur and Kanesh by gathering a

synchronic group of the three main caravan texts: transport contracts, notifying messages,

and caravan accounts (reviewed in Chapter One). In one instance, Larsen was able to identify

three caravan texts which seem to derive from the same transport: Enlil-bani’s agent Dadaya

sent goods from Aššur with Kukkulānum to Enlil-bāni in Kanesh.54 As in Larsen’s review of the

caravan texts, in this reconstruction there is an opportunity to explore the nature of the roles

of the various parties in the original venture, particularly the buyers. But in another way, the

original venture documentation is very different from Enlil-bāni’s caravan texts. The caravan

texts included the transport contract, which defined the legal aspect of the relationship

between the transporter and the owner. The documentation on the original venture includes

no contracts—particularly between Šalim-aḫum and the buyers. Because the original venture

documentation does not include contracts expressing the configuration of the commercial

relationship between the owner and the buyers, it may seem at first glance inferior to the

evidence available on caravan procedures in terms of elucidating the relationship between


However, the documentation on the original venture does provide a different type of

evidence not afforded by the caravan texts: recurring language in letters about discrete assets,

particularly the owner’s language about his own assets. In the epistolary conversation about

the original venture, Šalim-aḫum referred to his discrete assets in five of the seven documents

(2.1, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6). Šalim-aḫum’s language—the manner in which he refers to his assets

and associates—provides a window into his mental topography of the transactions and

relationships involved in the original venture. With the caravan texts, only the notifying

The three documents are: VS 26 102 (VAT 13519) OACP Type 1:1, TC 3 67 OACP Type 2:1, CCT 3 27a OACP
Type 3:1. There is also a duplicate to CCT 3 27a: KTS I 38a. See Larsen, OACP, Chapter 1. In one way, the original
venture forms a parallel example to Larsen’s reconstruction of the transport of Enlil-bāni’s merchandise. In both
cases, multiple documents derive from a particular instantiation of a common process.
message offers the potential to see the owner discussing his assets. The transport contracts

were too rigidly composed, and owners did not write caravan accounts about their own goods.

By contrast, in the letters from the original venture aspects of Šalim-aḫum’s language hold

particular advantage for describing the nature of his commercial relationship with the buyers

of his goods. Significantly, Šalim-aḫum referred to his claims on silver in a way that does not

make reference to those who owed him the money. This suggests that the buyers were not

stable members of Šalim-aḫum’s commercial network.

Šalim-aḫum’s language also provides material for exploring the basis on which the

reconstruction of this shipping season can proceed. One aspect of Šalim-aḫum’s language is

the variation in accuracy and precision with which he refers to the amounts of his assets.

Šalim-aḫum’s imprecision is no barrier to the reconstruction of the original venture because so

many different details of the conversation converge and cohesively agree. However, it is

important to understand the possible conditions of Šalim-aḫum’s discrepancies in order to

inform the credibility of the reconstructions in the following chapters.

The remainder of this chapter will deal with these two aspects of Šalim-aḫum’s

language. First, reviewing Šalim-aḫum’s variation in detail provides an opportunity to probe

the basis on which these reconstructions can be verified and the nature of and reason for the

discrepancies. Second, Šalim-aḫum’s manner of referring to his assets suppresses the identity

of those who purchased his goods in Kanesh. Reviewing Šalim-aḫum’s regular omission of the

buyer’s names in this conversation provides an opportunity to discuss what role these buyers

played in Šalim-aḫum’s commercial network.

Šalim-aḫum’s Imprecisions

The reconstruction of the original venture benefits from the overlapping references to

the same assets through a number of documents. However, with such overlapping evidence,

one aspect of Šalim-aḫum’s language becomes immediately apparent. Though he referred to

the same assets time and again, his references to them vary in both precision and detail—both

within the documents he wrote, and in comparison with the documents written by others.

These variations are at once interesting and unsettling: interesting because they suggest a

problem with record keeping, a style of accounting (or lack of one), or a lenient attitude

toward precision; unsettling because they complicate our ability to verify reconstructions.

After presenting Šalim-aḫum’s discrepancies and discussing them briefly, I will review the

impact these discrepancies have on further reconstructing Šalim-aḫum’s activities during this

shipping season. Thereafter, I will discuss what factors might have conditioned this aspect of

Šalim-aḫum’s language. The table below lists the various figures for assets owned by Šalim-

aḫum and reported more than once in the original venture documentation.

Table 7: Variation in Expressed Amounts of Šalim-aḫum’s Assets in Select Texts

Second Letter of Receipt

Second Durḫumit Letter

First Letter of Receipt

First Durḫumit Letter

Letter from Ḫinnaya

Caravan account

2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7

Claim #1 28m 27š (broken) 28m 27š

Claim #2 31m 18.5š 31m 19š
Claim #3 54m 45š 54m 45š 54m 45.5š
Claim #4 12m 35.6š 7m 35.6š
Silver Packet 1* 31m 30š 31m 45š
Silver Packet 2* 21m 10š 21m 10š
šēp Pūšu-kēn 58m 18.5š 58m 18.5š
Aššur-šamšī’s sons (broken) [10]m 10š 10m 30š 9m 51š**
31 1/2m
Ḫinnaya 21m [x] (21m 17š) 21m
Amur-Ištar (broken) 5m 5m
*Šalim-aḫum’s figures for both silver packets included the shipping costs paid on the silver.
**Sum of the two stated amounts in the text.

There is a range of discrepancies and convergences. Some figures match exactly: the

claim on Lot #1 is cited the same in the caravan account (2.2) and the second letter of receipt

(2.4). Some of the discrepancies are small: there is only a ½ shekel difference between the

figures for the claim on Lot #2 in the caravan account (2.2) and the second letter of receipt

(2.4). One discrepancy is huge: Šalim-aḫum cited the claim on Lot #4 as 12 minas 35⅔ shekels

in the first letter of receipt (2.3) but 7 minas 35⅔ shekels in the second letter of receipt (2.4).

(The two figures no doubt refer to Lot #4: the transporter is the same; the irregular amount of

shekels in both prices is an exact match (35⅔); and the overall context matches.55) Most

discrepancies fall somewhere in between the two extremes. Some discrepancies appear to

simply be sloppy accounting: Šalim-aḫum felt no need to be precise when he listed the

shipping charges for the silver packets he received. In the first letter of receipt, Šalim-aḫum

listed silver packet #1 as 31 ½ minas silver plus shipping (2.3:10-11), but in the second second

letter of receipt he recorded 31 minas 15 shekels silver plus ½ mina shipping costs (2.4:18-19).

Likewise, Šalim-aḫum only noted in the second letter of receipt (2.4) that the shipping costs

were part of the 21 minas 10 shekels for silver packet #2. Other discrepancies are perplexing:

Šalim-aḫum’s figure for the claim on Lot#3 (54 minas 45 ½ shekels) in the second letter of

receipt (2.4:3-6) seems like a hyper-correction for the figure (54 minas 45 shekels) in both the

caravan account and first letter of receipt (2.2:53-54, 2.3:9-10).

What is at stake when Šalim-aḫum’s figures vary? Naturally, when different aspects of

an event or asset are reported in different documents we gain valuable information. For

example, it is clear that Aššur-mālik in the first letter of receipt (2.3:12-13) was the same man

as Erraya’s son in the second letter of receipt (2.4:21-23), and not one of the more than one

hundred other men named Aššur-mālik attested in the Old Assyrian corpus. Likewise, Aššur-

šamšī’s sons’ debts and the claims managed by Ḫinnaya in the two letters of receipt (2.3 and

2.4) are more clearly defined when the Durḫumit letters (2.5 and 2.6) are included. But while

some differences in the references to persons or assets offer more information, the

discrepancies between the amounts of the assets cited complicates determining which figures

The remaining 61 minas 10 shekels of tin at an 8 shekel rate yields 7 minas 38.7 shekels and matches
well the second quoted price.
are valid. It can also frustrate attempts to verify that documents refer to the same discrete

transactions or commercial processes.

The presence of these discrepancies is of far more impact to this diachronically

constructed reconstruction than it was for most previous studies on the Old Assyrian trade.

Because previous studies have relied on synchronically aggregated evidence, whether the

evidence referred to one discrete event was interesting and helpful, but not necessary. Larsen

proposed that the three (or four) caravan texts referring to Enlil-bāni’s goods probably came

from the same discrete circumstances because the same persons appeared in the same roles

with regards to the same amounts of goods. However, at the end of his discussion, he felt that

he could not decisively conclude that the documents came from a single distinct process: “We

cannot know whether another shipment of exactly the same size, involving the same persons,

etc. has been recorded on other tablets lying in the yet undug houses of Kültpe or in museums

or perhaps irretrievably lost”.56

In contrast to synchronically motivated evidence, the present study requires sufficient

confidence about the reconstruction in order to make many of the arguments here and in the

following chapters. The compelling aspect of the reconstruction here is that it offers practice—

Šalim-aḫum and those around him navigated discrete situations largely configured within

social and commercial structures, but situations equally composed of novel contingencies and

risks. How Šalim-aḫum and other correspondents reacted to the contingencies within the

structures—how they exercised their agency—provides entry into the commercial and social

structures refigured and reinforced in the very excercise of that agency. An account of

OACP, 19f.

practice rather than of forms (of language, of texts), through diachronically rather than

synchronically motivated evidence, comprises the more direct approach to the type of

commercial and social structures with which this study is concerned. Within the frame of

practice, language offers good evidence of Šalim-aḫum’s mental topography. But at the same

time, the reconstructions have to be valid.

Larsen’s concerns about “shipment[s] of exactly the same size” in combination with

Šalim-aḫum’s tendencies to imprecision demonstrate how difficult it can be in recognizing and

verifying reconstructions of other conversations about discrete transactions or circumstances

when there is not the same degree of overlap as in the original venture. Precisely because the

commercial activities were so germane to the trade, and because some regular structures, such

as the donkey-load, dictated that most goods were transported in packages of roughly the

same size, one could initially demand that all figures match exactly in order to have sufficient

confidence that documents stem from the same transactions. Under this demand, if fewer of

the documents from the original venture were preserved, the connections between them

would seem far less secure. For example, if only the first letter of receipt (2.3) and second

Durḫumit letter (2.6) had survived, the connection between the two would be tenuous at best.

Both cite the names of the debtors for the Durḫumit debts, but the letter of receipt is broken in

the pertinent section and the figures for the debts in the Durḫumit letter differ from those that

are preserved in the first letter of receipt. Likewise, if only the caravan account (2.2) and the

first letter of receipt (2.3) had survived, the difference between the way Šalim-aḫum and his

agents expressed the same claims might negate their connection, even if the first letter of

receipt was not broken at key points. Of the three different claims mentioned in the first letter

of receipt, Šalim-aḫum does not include the name of the transporter with the claim on Lot #3,
and the claim on Lot# 4 had not yet been sold by the time the caravan account was written.

Furthermore, the incorrect price Šalim-aḫum quotes for Lot #4 (12 minas instead of 7 minas)

would frustrate an attempt to verify the connection between the remaining goods listed in the

caravan account (2.2).

Thus the issue of discrepancies is particularly important to the validity of the activities

reconstructed in this work. The reconstruction of Šalim-aḫum’s commercial pursuits in this

shipping season has consequences for understanding the temporal nature of the trade in a way

previously unafforded by studies on synchronic evidence. The reconstruction overturns a

claim about the naming of eponyms and reveals a dramatically more aggressive pace of

commerce, both distinct changes from synchronically motivated descriptions. Yet there are

only three dates in the documents in the reconstruction of this shipping season. The strength

of the diachronic reconstruction lies in connecting the documents together in a temporal

fashion through internal analysis; therefore neither the uncertainty nor the indifference that

is permissible with a synchronic set of evidence can be afforded here. Less cautious claims of

connections between texts have been made in the past as the basis for chronological

arguments with unsatisfying consequences. A brief aside can demonstrate this point.

In 1957 Julius Lewy argued that the texts found in Alişar and Boǧazköy belonged to the

period of the Kültepe Level II period rather than the Level Ib period on the strength, among

other things, of common persons mentioned between Alişar and Boǧazköy on the one hand

and Kültepe Level II on the other.57 Lewy’s assertion was made as a response to Kemal Balkan’s

argument that the documents arising from Alişar and Boǧazköy were contemporary with Level

J. Lewy, "Apropos of a Recent Study in Old Assyrian Chronology," Orientalia 26 (1957): 16-20.
Ib, an argument based mostly on orthographic and linguistic evidence.58 Lewy noted that in

one place Balkan stated that a text in which Da’a appeared (Bo 289/h) exhibited no

grammatical difference from Level II texts but in another place associated Da’a with Level Ib by

association with a man named Nabi-Enlil. Believing Balkan’s grammatical arguments to be ill-

founded, Lewy sought to strengthen the connection of Da’a to Level II. Lewy noted that Da’a

was evidenced in Alişar (OIP 27 15) and Boǧazköy (Bo 289/h, 2017/l, 2018/l, and VAT 7676/EL

34—now KBo 9 6, KBo 9 4, KBo 9 9, and KBo 9 3 respectively). Lewy set out to show that this

Da’a lived during the Level II period by connecting these texts with three Level II texts (EL 232,

ICK I 162, L 29-560 (POAT 7), and ICK I 178) through the co-occurrence of a name Ziki with Da’a

in Bo 289/h. Lewy argued that the Ziki mentioned in both Bo 289/h and EL 232 was the same

person because the name was rarely attested. He then claimed that Nūr-Ištar in both EL 232

and ICK I 162 was the same person, and that a reference to Ḫattum in those texts (the Old

Assyrian period name of Hittite Ḫattuša, ancient Boǧazköy) placed Nūr-Ištar there, reaffirming

the connection with the texts from Boǧazköy where he was named. On that strength, Lewy

noted that Ilabrat-bāni was departing to Ḫattum in L 29-560, when Nūr-Ištar appeared to be in

that text. Lewy argued that the two men met in Ḫattum. Finally, Lewy supported this assertion

by noting that Ilabrat-bāni’s brother, Iddi(n)-Ištar, was also mentioned in connection with

Ḫattum in ICK 1 178. An inaccurate picture of Ziki and Da’a in Ḫattum surrounded by a circle of

people including Nur-Ištar, Ilabrat-bani, and Iddi(n)-Istar—who were all clearly Level II


K. Balkan, Observations on the Chronological Problems of the Kārum Kaniš, TTKY Series 7 No. 28 (Ankara:
Turkish Historical Society, 1955).
Lewy’s claims were faulty in part because he connected documents based on the rarity

of names (rarely attested at the time of his publication). By contrast, my reconstruction of the

original venture is based on the thorough coherence of the seven documents referring to

particular assets and transactions. But it is important to try to understand the factors that

conditioned Šalim-aḫum’s discrepancies in order to better understand not only which

discrepancies should not affect the validity of the reconstruction, but also what those

discrepancies might reveal.

So what factors might have conditioned the discrepancies evident in the the original

venture documentation? Were there problems with record keeping; was it a loose style of

accounting? Or does it reflect an attitude about the assets to which they refer?

Šalim-aḫum’s assets changed form through the various phases of the venture, first as

goods transported to Anatolia and sold, then as claims on merchants recorded in clay, then as

monies collected and sent back to him. (In American accounting language: first inventory, then

receivables, then cash.) Yet Šalim-aḫum refered to his assets throughout the three phases of

the process by referencing the initial phase. Most often, Šalim-aḫum identified a claim (the

second phase) by referencing its value in silver and the transporter or tranporters that

brought the original goods. Later, when Šalim-aḫum acknowledged receipt of silver he

referenced it by the claim to which the silver corresponded. This aspect of Šalim-aḫum’s

language makes it easier to track assets from the first phase, (transported inventory), through

the second and third phase, (claims and silver collected). Importantly, it also reduces the need

for precise figures in some situations.

Šalim-aḫum’s problem with precision was not likely due to problems with record-

keeping or to lack of records. In the original venture Šalim-aḫum probably had copies of debt
notes for his four claims with him in Aššur; his attentiveness in collecting the debts shows he

knew the due dates even though those dates were not conveyed by our extant copy of the

caravan account (2.2). Šalim-aḫum recounted debts due and debts coming due in both letters

of receipt (2.3 and 2.4) in a manner that shows he knew when the debts would come due. Even

if for some reason he did not have the debt notes or their copies, his copy of the caravan

account (as opposed to the extant copy) would had to have included the due dates to his

claims. As a result, if he wanted to record the exact amounts, he could have easily done so,

which makes his errors—especially the quotes of the claim on Lot #4 (7 minas 35⅔ shekels)

differing by 5 minas—all the more noticeable. The completely dissimilar way in which 7 and 12

were written in Old Assyrian orthography precludes a slip of the stylus. Could it have been

some sort of lapsis occuli?

Different sensitivities to accounting do explain the discrepancies between amounts

recorded by Šalim-aḫum and amounts recorded by his representatives. In general, the figures

reported in the caravan account seem to be more precise than those cited by Šalim-aḫum. For

example, Ḫinnaya clearly stated the debts of Aššur-šamšī’s two sons Ibni-ilī and Pilaḫ-Aššur

much more accurately in his letter (2.7) than Šalim-aḫum ever stated in his, where they were

always combined into one figure. Likewise, Pūšu-kēn and company reported the lots sold and

their claims in the caravan account more accurately than did Šalim-aḫum. Šalim-aḫum

rounded Claim #2 from the caravan account up to a whole number of shekels (31 minas 18 ½

shekels to 31 minas 19 shekels). In both documents, Šalim-aḫum’s representatives stated the

exact amount of the claims more judiciously than Šalim-aḫum tended to do.

But Šalim-aḫum’s discrepancies within his own documents show that his attitude

toward precision depended on context. I can identify three different contexts in the original
venture documentation within which Šalim-aḫum excercised different sensitivities to

precision. The three contexts are: legal context, accounting context, and simple discussion. In

the first, like in Nūr-Ištar’s bill of lading, the figures stated are legally binding. Both Šalim-

aḫum as the owner and Nūr-Ištar as the transporter would have been interested in ensuring

that the stated amount of cargo was accurate. The same would have applied to the debt notes

(which we do not have) drawn up by Šalim-aḫum’s agents and the buyers. In these legal

contexts, Šalim-aḫum’s interests demanded that the figures be precisely recorded. By contrast,

accuracy did not carry the same consequences in either of the two other contexts. Mistakes

about claims on merchants in either an accounting or discussion context did not affect the

actual status or value of assets. For example, when Pūšu-kēn first read Šalim-aḫum’s gross

error on the Claim #4 in the first letter of receipt (2.3 – as 12 minas 35⅔ shekels silver), he

might have furrowed his brow, but he certainly recognized the claim to which Šalim-aḫum was

referring. Šalim-aḫum’s error did not affect the fact that the buyer was obligated to pay the 7—

not 12—minas.

Particularly in the third context, when writing to Pūšu-kēn and simply discussing

claims, Šalim-aḫum’s main concern was normally only to identify a particular claim by

sufficiently distinguishing it from a finite number of other active claims. Given that principal

and agents were continuously communicating in ongoing epistolary discussions, the difficulty

in identifying any given asset would have been minimal. On some occasions, Šalim-aḫum was

clarifying the amount of a particular claim or its asset. For example, when Šalim-aḫum wrote

to Pūšu-kēn in the first Duḫumit letter (2.5), he was responding to a need for clarification

about the Durḫumit debts; and in this letter Šalim-aḫum stated most accurately the amounts of

Aššur-šamšī’s sons and the unknown party’s debts. Thereafter, when Šalim-aḫum only needed
to again refer to the Duḫumit debts, the figures he cited were rounded or even combined (in

2.6 then in 2.3 and 2.4). When the purpose was not to clarify the amount of the asset, Šalim-

aḫum’s only need was to distinguish it. In those cases, the accuracy of the amount was less

important, especially with the added context of the name of the transporter.

Šalim-aḫum’s tendency to round figures in his ongoing letters tempers the stringency

we should expect from references to the same discrete assets in the reconstruction. It was

common for merchants to quantify their tin on the road in terms of ‘talents’ referring to the

šuqlum packs which held slightly more than a talent. Šalim-aḫum certainly did (3.4:14-15).

Obviously, when the amounts were hypothetical, round numbers were appropriate. At one

point Šalim-aḫum asked Pūšu-kēn to buy some goods from him, “Have I not written you

already (saying), ‘Take roughly 1 talent tin or 10 textiles and do me a favor?’” (5.9:12-16).

Likewise, when Šalim-aḫum asked Pūšu-kēn to send silver, he asked for 20 minas (5.3:4-6,

5.2:22-24) or 30 minas silver (5.1:14-16, 32-33, 5.2:14-16). But Šalim-aḫum referred to his own

real assets or claims in this way as well. In two instances Šalim-aḫum simply stated ‘the 30

minas of silver with Aššur-ṭāb (and Uṣur-ša-Aššur)’ (5.9:38-38, 5.10:2-3), which is clearly an


The more removed from the immediate or legal context of a particular venture, the

more likely Šalim-aḫum was to further approximate a figure or round a number. Šalim-aḫum

was wont to round figures up or down to a multiple of five or ten when the reference was in

passing. For example, as we will see in Chapter Five, Šalim-aḫum referred to the claim on Lot

#3 from the original venture (27 mina 28 shekels silver on Lulu son of Zukuḫum) as “25 minas

owed by Lulu” (5.9:16-20). Sometimes Šalim-aḫum rounded numbers for rhetorical effect.

When Šalim-aḫum asked Pūšu-kēn to supply 13⅓ minas to a joint venture (5.8) he wrote
‘about 10 minas’ in a reminding plea (5.9) to make the request more palatable for Pūšu-kēn,

though he probably still wanted the larger amount. As a result, when reconstructing this

shipping season, it must be acknowledged that when Šalim-aḫum cited a round-number figure

and the figure was not cited in a legal context (contract or loan) or accounting context (a

portion of a letter where Šalim-aḫum was determining outstanding balances), that figure was

likely only an approximation.

But there is something more interesting in Šalim-aḫum’s attitude towards precision in

contexts where he was doing his own accounting. Obviously, Šalim-aḫum did not round his

figures in accounting contexts as he could in a discussion context. However, there are

discrepancies in his figures within the sections of his two letters of receipt where he added up

debts outstanding and silver received. In the first letter of receipt (2.3), Šalim-aḫum made one

error against the caravan account. He approximated some silver he received, but ignored the

shipping costs (his cost), thus inflating the balance outstanding for his representative by 15

shekels.59 In the second letter of receipt (2.4), however, Šalim-aḫum made three errors. The

claims on Lots #2 and #3 were both inflated by ½ shekel, and when he listed two of the

Durḫumit debts as one entry, he inflated that total by three shekels over the total expressed in

the first Durḫumit letter. Šalim-aḫum’s errors are minor, but they may not have been

accidental; all his ‘errors’ are in his favor.

Thus, understanding Šalim-aḫum’s discrepancies as an element of his language forms

an important part of understanding the limited demands we can make on figures to verify

reconstructions. Šalim-aḫum’s representatives seem to be better sources for the actual

Šalim-aḫum writes 31 ½ minas with the shipping charge; in the second letter (2.4), it is actually 31
minas 15 shekels with ½ mina shipping.
amounts of his assets than himself, except when he composed a document with legal force. In

the original venture, the caravan account (2.2) is the most reliable indicator of the precise

values of the claims on Lots #1, 2, and 3. Ḫinnaya’s letter (2.7) is a more reliable indicator of

Aššur-šamšī’s sons’ debts than Šalim-aḫum’s letters. However, in legal contexts Šalim-aḫum’s

figures are reliable, as in Nūr-Ištar’s bill of lading (2.1). Like the caravan texts gathered in

Larsen’s study, both the bill of lading and caravan account were intended to communicate the

precise nature of assets. But when it comes to Šalim-aḫum’s ongoing correspondence with his

agents, the most common type of documentation throughout the reconstruction of this year,

we cannot demand the same accuracy from Šalim-aḫum’s figures. Often, the amounts he cited

do seem to be precise, but there are occasions when Šalim-aḫum’s only intention was to

identify the claim. In these instances, his approximations were sufficient for himself and his

representatives, and they will have to be so for the reconstruction as well.

Šalim-aḫum’s discrepancies also suggest something about the relationship between

himself and his agents. Though it would appear that the agents were obligated to report Šalim-

aḫum’s assets to him accurately, Šalim-aḫum did not feel a reciprocal obligation in his

accounting operations. Šalim-aḫum’s minor but consistent errors in his favor in the

accounting context did not comprise an outright attempt on Šalim-aḫum’s part to cheat his

representatives. Pūšu-kēn would not likely have been fooled by the small errors, nor do I think

that he would have considered them serious. Sometimes seemingly small amounts of goods or

silver could mean much to Šalim-aḫum. During this season, when Ilabrat-bāni took 6⅓ minas

tin worth about a mina of silver, Šalim-aḫum reacted angrily (Chapter Four). Šalim-aḫum’s

consistent accounting errors suggests that Šalim-aḫum in some way considered his agents to

be privy to accurate reports of his accounts. But the way in which Šalim-aḫum’s language
reveals aspects of his commercial relationships with his agents is comparable to the way in

which Šalim-aḫum’s language can be used to better understand Šalim-aḫum’s relationship

with his buyers, whom he sometimes called ‘his’ merchants.

Šalim-aḫum and ‘His’ Merchants

From time to time, an Old Assyrian merchant could refer to a person who owed him

money as ‘his’ merchant; this could be interpreted to suggest a durable relationship with ‘his’

merchant, comparable to when someone says ‘our PN.’60 The merchants in the original venture

which I have called buyers have sometimes been called commission agents in other

descriptions of the Old Assyrian trade. However, Šalim-aḫum’s language and other indicators

portray the buyers in the original venture, like Lulu who bought Lot #1, as neither Šalim-

aḫum’s employed nor ad hoc commission agents. Šalim-aḫum’s language towards the buyers

both before and after the credit sale transactions communicates disinterest in their identity,

suggesting that to whom his goods were sold was not based on his social or commercial

networks. The conduct of the original venture suggests that Šalim-aḫum could operate his

commerce with a minimum number of contacts in Anatolia if he chose.

In the original venture, Šalim-aḫum wrote to Pūšu-kēn, “The term of my merchant to

whom you extended credit in Kanesh is full. Take care to make my merchant pay the silver ...

the terms of the merchants, those which are still running, of all of my merchants—their terms

are full” (2.6:4-8, 19-22). In the letter, Šalim-aḫum was referring to Aššur-šamšī’s sons and the

other Durḫumit debts, but possibly also to the buyer of Lot #3, whose debt was due around the

Larsen, OACP 41, 150.
same time. Within some descriptions of the Old Assyrian trade, persons like these who took

goods from merchants were described as taking them on commission to sell them elsewhere,

either in different markets within Anatolia or through retail sales.61 This role has been called

either commission or traveling agent, both implying the same phenomenon. According to the

commission agent arrangement, at the time that the seller or his agent turned the goods over

to the commission or travelling agent, a bond would be drawn up stipulating that the

travelling agent would return a set amount of the proceeds by a set time. Whatever proceeds

the travelling agent could procure through the sales of the goods beyond the amount of his

bond would remain the commission agent’s property.

To some extent, my concern with the term commission agent lies in factors external to

the contract itself. Essentially, there is only a slight functional difference between an

commission agent and a buyer: the point at which ownership of the merchandise was

transferred. For example, if Lulu took Šalim-aḫum’s goods on commission, then he did not own

the goods he held, at least until he paid the amount stipulated, after which, if he still had not

sold all the goods, the remaining ones would essentially be his. If Lulu bought the goods on

credit, then he immediately owned the goods and Šalim-aḫum owned a claim on silver.

The nature of the arrangement, however, suggests that Lulu was not Šalim-aḫum’s

commission agent. In the first place, commission agents are primarily employed to provide a

service—to connect a seller and a buyer. In the original venture, Šalim-aḫum already had his

agents Pūšu-kēn and Lā-qēpum, etc., who filled this role. Second, when the buyer like Lulu

agreed to a set price and time which he must pay, the transaction was materially the same

This arrangement has been variously described or alluded to in M.T. Larsen, OACC. Veenhof, "Silver and
Credit in Old Assyrian Trade," 208f; K.R. Veenhof, "Prices and Trade: The Old Assyrian Evidence," AoF 15 (1988):
51-52; and K.R. Veenhof, "'Modern Features' in Old Assyrian Trade," JESHO 40 (1997): 347-48.
thing as a credit sale unless the seller regularly exercised his right to reclaim the goods if the

bond were not paid in time. However, no such effort of reclamation is known in the Old

Assyrian evidence. At the least, it would seem quite exceptional alongside the ubiquitous

demand for silver (or sometimes gold) which the buyer was contracted to pay. If the well-

attested debt note were the document which recorded the bond for a commission agent, then

the fact that the debt note did not include the original goods exchanged in the text would have

complicated such a reclamation. Third, assuring Šalim-aḫum’s retention of ownership would

have likely required similar procedures to signal such a retention of ownership, similar to the

act of laying hands on merchandise to clearly establish ownership when handing it over to a

transporter. No evidence of such a process in conjunction with the buyers in the original

venture is available. Granted, citing missing evidence is not convincing in and of itself, but

Šalim-aḫum in his letters never said, “Have my merchants sold my goods?” He only said

effectively “Make them pay.”

As a result, the only logical basis on which we might consider Lulu or the other

merchants who took goods in the original venture as commission agents would be if they were

employed by Šalim-aḫum, or if social or network obligations external to the individual

transaction dictated that they were his commission agents. Such a model implies a much

further organizational reach for a firm than was the case with Šalim-aḫum. If Lulu and others

were employed by Šalim-aḫum, or if they had durable relationships with him that predisposed

them to take his goods on commission, then Šalim-aḫum’s operation would have to have been

configured to coordinate all the phases of the trade, starting with acquiring tin and textiles on

the market at Aššur, to selling the goods retail across Anatolia. The designation of commission

agent as travelling agent particularly implies this configuration of operations for the Old

Assyrian firm.

However, Šalim-aḫum’s attitude towards the identity of the buyers works against any

organizational model wherein Lulu and the other buyers were chosen because of their

connection to Šalim-aḫum. Before the transaction, Šalim-aḫum regularly left the selection of

the buyer to the domain of his representatives. When the original venture began, Šalim-aḫum

made no effort to designate who the buyers of Nūr-Ištar’s goods might be. He wrote of the

buyers, “Your merchants must be reliable” (2.1). (Note here they are not ‘his’ merchants, but

those of his representatives.) This instruction is a typical refrain for Šalim-aḫum’s notifying

messages (3.7:13-21). It was entirely his agent’s responsibility to evaluate the reliability of the

merchants to whom they sold his goods if they sold them on credit. The fact that Šalim-aḫum

did not select the buyers underscores the assertion that Šalim-aḫum’s agents sold the goods on

credit to anyone they deemed sufficiently creditworthy—not from within a pool of persons

more concretely tied to Šalim-aḫum.

After the transaction, Šalim-aḫum’s language continued to place little importance on

the identity of the buyers in comparison to the silver they owed. The manner in which Šalim-

aḫum referred to his claims largely leaves the identity of the buyers unexpressed. As stated

before, Šalim-aḫum normally referred to his claims by citing their approximate value in

combination with the transporter or tranporters who brought the original goods, usually in

the phrase “from the transport of PN” (ša šēp PN). For example, in the second letter of receipt

Šalim-aḫum refers to his claim on Lot #2 thus: “As for the 31 minas 19 shekels of the cargo of

Aššur-mutabbil and Nūr-Istar” (31 mana 19 šiqil ša šēp Aššur-mutabbil u Nūr-Istar, 2.4:45-46).62

This phrasing did not mean that the transporters purchased the goods they brought. For

example, Lulu bought Lot #1, which largely consisted of the goods transported by Erra-iddi(n)’s

son. Instead, when the transporters did owe money (their be’ulātum debts) their debts were

expressed without the ša šēp PN formula at the bottom of the first letter of receipt (2.3).

Thus, though any profit Šalim-aḫum would make on the original venture was bound up

in the buyers, Šalim-aḫum seemed either unconcerned with who they were or (more likely)

less familiar with them, at least in comparison with the transporters. For example, Šalim-aḫum

only once directly referenced Lulu son of Zukuḫum by name in these letters. In contrast to the

buyers, the transporters formed prominent landmarks in Šalim-aḫum’s referential topography

in this conversation, probably because he interacted with them face-to-face. Šalim-aḫum

effectively de-personalized the buyers, ‘his’ merchants, whether active or passive. This

suggests that when Šalim-aḫum used possessives like “my” in referring to merchants who

owed him money, he was identifying his ownership of his silver rather than any substantive

relationship with the merchant. Thus one would be justified in translating the passage from

2.6, quoted near the beginning of this section: “The term of the merchant to whom you

extended my credit in Kanesh is full. Take care to make that merchant with my silver pay … the

terms of the merchants, those which are still running, of the merchants who owe me silver—

their terms are full” (2.6:4-8, 19-22).

The phrase ša šēp PN is parallel to the less frequently attested phrase ša luqūtim ša šēp PN, reconstructed
in 2.3(TC 3 23):15-19. The formula is found on a private note referring to duties on goods in the cargo of a
transporter: 10 GÍN.TA qaqqadātum gamrum ša luqūtim ša šēp Aššùr-ṭāb (TC 1 106:6-8). See Larsen, OACP, 169-70; A.M.
Ulshofer, APU, 263.
The original venture forms an example of how few persons Šalim-aḫum needed in his

durable commercial network to conduct his trade. Sometimes transporters did buy some of the

goods they brought and there is one example where Šalim-aḫum arranged a sale with someone

before the goods even arrived in Kanesh. However, the original venture forms the more likely

example of business as usual. In the original venture Šalim-aḫum only needed to know well his

agents in Anatolia: Pūšu-kēn, Lā-qēpum, Ilī-ālum, and Hinnaya. Šalim-aḫum could transport

his goods with a range of transporters, depending on the volume of his trade, but he did not

necessarily need to have them as employees. Examples from Larsen’s caravan texts show that

there were even agents who could arrange for Šalim-aḫum the transport of his goods. Šalim-

aḫum did not seem to know or need to know who bought his goods in Kanesh. If he was

satisfied with selling his goods mostly in Kanesh or occasionally in Durḫumit, then he could

easily do so.


As far as we can observe, the original venture proceeded without significant hazard.63

While we do not know what transpired when the agents tried to collect the claims on Lots #2

and #4, Šalim-aḫum’s safe receipt of silver from Lots #1 and #3 indicates that Šalim-aḫum had

Not all of the identifiable strands in this conversation have been discussed. One, for example, is a dead
end: in one of the Durḫumit letters, Šalim-aḫum told Pūšu-kēn and his associates to acquire the will of Aššur-
imittī from another merchant in the town of Ḫurrama and send it to him (2.5:28-36). There are no other
references to this activity. However, there is another strand I have intentionally postponed discussing until
Chapter Five. In the second letter of receipt, Šalim-aḫum referred to the claim on Lot #3 as “54 minas 45 ½ shekels
from the šēpum of Pūšu-kēn on short terms” (2.4:3-6). According to the phrasing, this was not intended to convey
that Pūšu-kēn bought this shipment and owed the money. But neither did Pūšu-kēn personally oversee the
transport of this shipment, as that task was performed by Aḫ-šalim. At the same time, Šalim-aḫum noted the 58
mina 18 ½ shekel claim listed directly afterward also as from the šēpum of Pūšu-kēn (2.3:15-17, 2.4:6-7). This is
another example of the intransparency of the language used in referring to these assets and a hint that we do not
have all of Šalim-aḫum’s commercial activities, only those overseen by Pūšu-kēn.
already turned a profit on the venture. If Šalim-aḫum paid an average price in Aššur for the

total merchandise he sent with Nūr-Ištar and the other transporters (49 minas 15 shekels

silver),64 then the silver he had received from the revenues of Lots #1 and #3 (66 minas 32

shekels)65 at the time he wrote 2.4 minus the estimated costs of transport (2 minas 8¾ shekels

silver)66 and customs duties (3 minas 14 shekels silver)67 exceeded his original investment by 11

minas 55 shekels silver. All other silver received thereafter would have been profit, and the

remaining claims totaled 38 minas 54⅙ shekels. Even given that Šalim-aḫum had not yet

received all of the first two claims, he had likely broken even.68 If Šalim-aḫum eventually

received the full amount of his claims, then he would have grossed about 105 minas 30⅙

shekels, profiting 55 minas 35⅙ shekels69—nearly 110%.

The conversation documenting the original venture provides a welcome example of a

process at the core of the Old Assyrian trade as we understand it: buying goods in Aššur,

shipping them to Anatolia, selling them there on credit, collecting the claims, and sending the

silver back to Aššur. Because the process has previously been understood only by aggregating

disparate fragments of separate situations, this example is a welcome addition to our

Average prices used: 4 shekels silver for one mina tin, 5 shekels for each kutānum textile, 3 shekels for
each šurum textile. Figures taken from Tables 2 and 3.
This figure comprises the combination of the claim on Lots #1 and #3 (83 minas 12 shekels) with the
proceeds of the 50 kutānum textiles in Lot #3 left out (16 minas 40 shekels).
Estimated amounts of ‘hand tin’ given for expenses and any wages paid directly to transporters based
on hand tin given to Nūr-Ištar was 5 minas tin each donkey. Wages for Nūr-Ištar are estimated to be 30 shekels
silver. Because a be’ulātum loan is not mentioned for Erra-iddi(n)’s son in the first letter of receipt alongside the
other merchants, I estimate 30 shekels for him as well. Shipping costs for the transport of the silver back to Aššur
is 66½ shekels.
The combined cost of the merchandise taken in Kanesh only (6 kutanum textiles, 48 minas 23 shekels
tin) rated at the average cost of the merchandise in Aššur.
Šalim-aḫum noted in the second letter of receipt (2.4) that he had still not received 30 minas 23
shekels of a total of 177 minas 41 shekels due. Thus, on average, he had only received 83% of his claims due. That
same ratio applied to the pertinent amount of the claims on Lots #1 and #3 is 55 minas 11 shekels.
Total revenue minus initial costs minus 39 shekels silver as the shipping cost for the remaining silver
back to Aššur.
knowledge of the trade. Particularly, because each letter pertains to the same venture, several

things are possible to examine. In the second half of the chapter, I argued for caution when

comparing letters arising from the same situations, given that writers could have different

sensitivities to precision in different contexts. Šalim-aḫum referenced his assets in ways that

prevent reliance on exact coordination of amounts for either the verification or disruption of

the reconstruction. Šalim-aḫum referred to his assets with different levels of precision

depending on whether he was simply trying to identify an asset, whether he was accounting

for his assets, or whether he was giving a legal description of his assets. Šalim-aḫum’s comfort

with less precision, particularly in instances when he was simply identifying an asset in

passing, demands that some flexibility be given when trying to verify whether two letters refer

to the same situation.

At the same time, Šalim-aḫum’s language about his assets and the buyers of his goods,

because it could be tracked through the original venture and kept in context, showed that

Šalim-aḫum did not foreground the identities of those who bought his goods. When reading

Šalim-aḫum’s letters in context, it is clear that his manner of referencing his claims suggests

that the buyers held little social significance to Šalim-aḫum, especially in conversation with

his representatives. Instead, the buyers’ identities appeared to be peripheral to Šalim-aḫum’s

attention. For this reason, and for several reasons more germane to the trade, it is inaccurate

to define these persons as commission agents, as is sometimes done in the description of the



Šalim-aḫum to Pūšu-kēn:
“Puzur-Ištar owes me ⅔ minas pašallum gold … He promised to pay me upon his arrival
in Kanesh. … Seize him and make him pay.”
3.1 (TC 2 4)

“Why did Puzur-Ištar answer you in that way? … Now if the wind carried off his textiles,
how am I liable? … Seize him and make him pay.”
3.2 (CCT 4 5b)

“Why did you return 1 mina 11 shekels to (Puzur-Ištar)? In view of the fact that he broke
the agreement and wrote to me here, … (gather gold from other various sources) .”
3.3 (TC 2 2)

Ilabrat-bāni to Šalim-aḫum:
“Let your message come to your representatives so that they may give me tin and
textiles worth about one talent of silver when they sell on credit. And, in confirmation
of these things let a 10 minas portion of my silver (i.e. the silver I will pay) go to you,
so that you give heed to my message.”
3.4 (TC 1 26)

Šalim-aḫum to Pūšu-kēn about Ilabrat-bāni:

“Send 5 minas silver and its excise and ½ mina pašallum gold.”
3.4 (TC 1 26)

In the previous chapter, I reconstructed the ways Šalim-aḫum tracked his assets in

Anatolia through a fairly typical cycle of trade. Most aspects of the original venture seem to

have gone according to plan. By contrast, the episode in this chapter details Šalim-aḫum’s

more frustrating process of attempting to acquire a mina of gold in Anatolia. When a purchase

contract he had arranged with a merchant named Puzur-Ištar fell through, Šalim-aḫum was

forced to scramble to aquire from other sources the gold which he owed to a temple in
conjunction with what was called an ikribū fund. Šalim-aḫum’s arrangements with Puzur-Ištar

were to buy ⅔ mina gold in Anatolia. However, Puzur-Ištar reneged on the contract, and Šalim-

aḫum sought to compensate by seeking gold in smaller sums from several other merchants

(Panaka, Ḫuraṣānum, and Agua). When another merchant named Ilabrat-bāni asked to

purchase goods from Šalim-aḫum, offering to pay a portion up front, Šalim-aḫum demanded

that half of the initial payment be paid as a half mina of gold.

Šalim-aḫum’s dealings with Puzur-Ištar touch on several salient conditions of the Old

Assyrian trade. Šalim-aḫum sought the mina of gold because he needed to pay it as part of

managing his ikribū fund. In general, ikribū funds (or goods purchased with ikribū funds) appear

to have been funds dedicated to temples by merchants, but with the opportunity to further

manage-and enhance-them in the trade. Thus there existed special rules and advantages for

their use, including rules about taxation and shipping charges. G. Dercksen’s review of the

evidence on ikribū represents the most recent review of the ikribū.1 Šalim-aḫum’s efforts to

gather gold for his ikribū account offers another account ikribū arrangements. But just as

important, the Puzur-Ištar affair provides background for the Ilabrat-bāni affair reconstructed

in Chapter Four.

But even more important, how Šalim-aḫum goes about procuring the gold—and

managing the small crises that complicate his efforts—provides the broader insight into how

effectively merchants like Šalim-aḫum could project short-term instructions from Aššur

concerning their affairs in Anatolia. Puzur-Ištar’s decision to exit the contract presented a

J.G. Dercksen, "The Silver of the Gods: On the Old Assyrian ikribū," ArAn 3 (1997). To my knowledge,
Dercksen’s thinking on the nature of the ikribū has developed since this article. An up-to-date treatment of ikribū
funds is needed. My discussion in this chapter only covers a very small part of that needed discussion. See TC 3 68
and 87/k 34 for examples of packages stored in the temple which could be opened and sealed. I thank Mogens
Larsen for pointing these texts out to me.
problem for Šalim-aḫum, forcing him to find other sources for the gold he was obligated to pay

to the temple in Aššur. Because of the regime of communication in the Old Assyrian trade,

when Ilabrat-bāni asked to buy goods, Šalim-aḫum was able to respond within a timeframe

that allowed him to use Ilabrat-bāni’s offer to defuse his developing crisis. The capacity for

merchants like Šalim-aḫum to project their interests and intentions across formidable

geographic distances formed an important aspect of the framework within which the trade

was conducted. This conversation about gold provides an opportunity to consider the tempo

and density of correspondence between Šalim-aḫum and Pūšu-kēn evident both in this

instance and through the entire reconstruction of this year. The density and tempo of letters

sent between these two merchants represent a significant shift in our understanding of

communication in the Old Assyrian trade. A recent review of communication in the Old

Assyrian period stated that “every year hundreds of [letters] were written and delivered,

usually in the months between spring and autumn.”2 However, the correspondence between

Pūšu-kēn and Šalim-aḫum, fragmentary as it is, suggests that in REL 80 alone the two

correspondents sent perhaps a hundred letters between themselves. The dynamic nature of

Šalim-aḫum’s and Pūšu-kēn’s communication suggests that the regime of communication in

the Old Assyrian trade brought Anatolia within a horizon in which merchants 1000 kilometers

away in Aššur could not only track ventures that were proceeding in an orderly manner, like

the original venture, they could also react to developing situations and crises during the

course of a shipping season.

K.R. Veenhof, "Communication in the Old Assyrian Trading Society by Caravans, Travelers and
Messengers," in Studies Garelli, 201.
The first half of this chapter is divided into four sections. The first section, entitled

“Puzur-Ištar Renegs,” reviews the first phase of Šalim-aḫum’s interaction with Puzur-Ištar

through three letters documenting the existence and collapse of their purchase contract (3.1,

3.2, 3.3). The second section, entitled “The ša ḫarrān ālim Contract and ikribū Funds,” discusses

the nature of the purchase contract between Šalim-aḫum and Puzur-Ištar and its relationship

to the management of ikribū funds. In the third section entitled “Šalim-aḫum Manages the

Situation,” the narrative is resumed through three more letters documenting Ilabrat-bāni’s

serendipitous offer to purchase goods with a down payment, Šalim-aḫum’s response, and the

departure of Dān-Aššur with a portion of the goods that Ilabrat-bāni will buy (3.4, 3.5, 3.6).

Finally, in the fourth section entitled, “The Temporal Development of the Puzur-Ištar Affair,” I

review the connections between the events covered in the Puzur-Ištar affair and other

episodes reconstructed in this work.

The second half of the chapter, entitled “Tempos of Trade and Communication in the

Old Assyrian Period,” comprises a review of the basis on which Šalim-aḫum and Pūšu-kēn

could communicate in the way they did, involving the pace of both the bulk transport and of

messages in the Old Assyrian trade. I argue that both transport and communication proceeded

at a more deliberate and aggressive tempo than what has been gathered from previous

synchronic approaches. Based on the requirements of the reconstruction of Šalim-aḫum’s

activities, bulk transport—tin and textiles on donkeys—could make the 1000km journey from

Aššur to Kanesh in about a month; letters travelled the same route in roughly two weeks. This

half of the chapter is divided into two sections, each comprising several subsections. The first

section, entitled “The Tempo of Bulk Transport,” covers the pace of tin and textiles through

three components in subsections entitled, “The Donkeys,” “The Route,” and “The Shipping
Season,” then summarized in a subsection entitled, “Rethinking the Tempo of Bulk Transport.”

The second section, entitled “The Tempo of Communication,” covers the pace of couriers in

the Old Assyrian period through two subsections entitled, “The Content of Letters,” and

“Questions about Equids.”

The Puzur-Ištar Affair

The entire Puzur-Ištar Affair develops in what can be described as two phases and takes

place between mid-March and mid-June of REL 80. The first phase began in mid-March with

Puzur-Ištar leaving Aššur with an agreement to buy gold for Šalim-aḫum. Within a few weeks

of arriving in Kanesh in mid-April, Puzur-Ištar exited the contract. The second phase began in

late April when Šalim-aḫum realized that he could ask Ilabrat-bāni to pay gold for a purchase.

Ilabrat-bāni agreed to the transaction and took the goods, in part filling Šalim-aḫum’s need for

gold by mid-June. We will review the first phase, then discuss the nature of the contract

between Šalim-aḫum and Puzur-Ištar, then discuss the second phase followed by a review of

the chronological matters of the reconstruction and connections between the Puzur-Ištar

affair and other episodes in this work.

Puzur-Ištar Renegs

Three letters revolve around the arrangement between Šalim-aḫum and Puzur-Ištar

son of Aššur-mālik. Šalim-aḫum had contracted with Puzur-Ištar to purchase ⅔ minas pašallum

gold, payable upon Puzur-Ištar’s arrival in Kanesh (3.1). But after his arrival Puzur-Ištar did

not pay, giving excuses instead (3.2). Thereafter, Pūšu-kēn gave Puzur-Ištar about 1 mina

silver and Puzur-Ištar chose to terminate his contract with Šalim-aḫum (3.3). The three letters

will be presented in order before discussing their content in depth.

In the first letter, Šalim-aḫum reminded Pūšu-kēn to collect Puzur-Ištar’s gold. The

tenor of the letter reveals some of the urgency Šalim-aḫum felt about collecting the gold. The

letter reads:

Document 3.1 – TC 2 4: First Puzur-Ištar letter3

1 um-ma Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um-ma
a-na Pu-šu-ke-en6 qí-bi-ma
⅔ ma-na KÙ.GI pá-ša-lam
ša ḫa-ra-an | a-limki
5 Puzur4-Ištar DUMU A-šur-ma-lik
ḫa-bu-lam | i-na Kà-ni-iš
i-na | e-ra-bi4-šu-ma | ša-qá-lam
qá-bi | ù me-ḫe-er | ṭup-pí-šu
ḫa-ar-mì-im | a-na-[ku]4
10 a-dí-na-kum | a-wi-[lúm]
a-ma-kam | i-na e-[ra-bi4-šu-ma]
a-na iš-té-en6 ⌈u⌉ [šé-na]5
ma-áš-qá-al-tám | i-[ša-qal]
[e-t]í-iq-ma | ṣa-ba-sú-[ma]
15 KÙ.GI | ša-áš-qí-il5-[šu]
rev. um-ma a-ta-ma iš-ti [x x x]6

Previous treatments: van der Meer, Correspondence No. 27, AC, 253 n. 1.
Alternatively restore –kam. Either restoration implies that Šalim-aḫum gave the tablet to Pūšu-kēn in
person rather than sending it to him.
Van de Meer restored u[4-mi(mì!)-im], but a construction ana ištēn ūmim is unparalleled. A translation
restoring ūmim is possible, “As for the man, he must pay an installment when he arrives—on the first day.”
However, the construction ana ištēn u šēnā, an adverbial phrase, seems more appropriate. Cf. BIN 6 196:12-14 ú ḫa-
li-ip-t[í] a-na iš-té-en | ú šé-na iq-bi “He has cursed me several times (lit. He has spoken my cursing once or twice).”
See also BIN 6 113:11-13. Rendering the conjunction u with the sign U is uncommon and it could well be a Ù, but
DUMU Šu-Ištar | ú-šé-ba-[lá-kum]
⅓ ma-na KÙ.GI i-na KÙ.[GI-kà]7
ra-dí-ma | iš-té-ni-iš 1 ma-na
20 KÙ.GI a-na ik-ri-bi-a
ku-un-kam-ma | Ì-lí-a-lim | DUMU Sú!-[kà-li-a]8
lu-ub-lam | a-ḫi a-ta
a-na té-er-tí-a | i-ḫi-id-ma
ṭup-pé-e-a | za-ki-ma
25 En-nam-A-šùr u4-ma-kál
lá i-sà-ḫu-ur | ṭur4-da-šu

for the seeming lack of space. Colaltion of the original is needed to decide whether the sign could be read ù. For
now, (with reservation) I read ⌈u⌉ as the beginning of the winkelhacken in the copy.
Restoration of name unknown. Amur-Aššur son of Šū-Ištar appears later in this episode, in 3.4:15-16
where he is travelling to Kanesh. According to the reconstruction of this episode, it is unlikely he could be the
person mentioned here. Amur-Aššur son of Puzur-Ištar is also attested in TPAK 1 192:13, but in that situation
there is no perceivable connection to Šalim-aḫum or Pūšu-kēn. Beyond Amur-Aššur there are at least thirty
persons in published texts who were the son of one or another Šū-Ištar: Amurrum-bāni (AKT 2 20:28, BIN 6
241:20), Šū-Niraḫ (AKT 3 3:19) Aššur-emūqī (AKT 3 49:37), Aššur-rābi (AKT 3 104:2, CCT 5 18c:3), Aššur-iddin (EL
321:44, CCT 1 7b:21, JCS 14 14:14, TPAK 1 104:18, TPAK 1 153:13, KTH 36:35, TC 3 236:17), Il-mitī (EL 321:48), Šamaš-
bāni (ATHE 5:4, I 750:19), Enna-Suen (ATHE 19:4, CCT 1 4:9, ICK 3 37b:2, Ka 1004:15, TPAK 1 94:6, KTK 104:5, TC 1
16:4, TC 3 68:39, TC 3 192:24, TC 3 229:12), Ikuppiya (ATHE 23:17), ?-Išḫara (ATHE 70:6’), Iddin-abim (BIN 4 197:15,
CCT 1 22b:10, TPAK 1 13:1, KTB 10:10), Šū-Bēlum (BIN 6 242:6’, ICK 3 12b(seal impression), kt a/k 485 (seal
impression), KUG 23:17), Aḫu-waqar (CCT 1 4:3, CCT 5 41b:26, EL 93:2, I 501:16), Sakliya (CCT 1 13a:10, AMMK 1995
p. 151(k/k 108):45, OIP 27 56:9ff., TC 1 81:46, TC 3 213:27), Aššur-imittī (CCT 1 15b:18, CCT 4 6b:9, ICK 1 97:19, I
648:5, I 669:7, TPAK 1 103:22, ArAn 4(2000) no.2:1, ArAn 4(2000) no.3:1, ArAn 4(2000) no.4:1), Susaya (CCT 5 20b:4ff.,
CTMMA 1 91:2, CTMMA 1 93b:2), Ataya (ICK 1 133:7) Aššur-bāni (I 496:3), Aššur-mālik (ArAn 4 p. 168 n. 8:2, TC 1
96:14), Lā-qēpum (2001/k 325:57, OIP 27 56:32), Aḫuni (TPAK 1 153:12, TC 2 67:9), Abiya (KTB 7:14), Aššur-tayyār
(KTK 104:3), Amur-Ištar (POAT 37:6), Ikūnum (TC 3 83:8), Šalim-aḫum (TC 3 91:34), Šū-Anum (TC 3 123:2), Puzur-
šaduē (TC 3 264b:3), Aššur-rē’ī (VS 26 91a/b:6ff.), Kakkabānum (VS 26 94:16). At least another eleven can be found
in unpublished texts, including: Susaya, Uraya, Burqānum, Amur-šamšī, Aššur-ṭāb, Abu-šalim, Iddin-Adad,
Buzutaya, Āl-ṭāb, Ilī-ašrannī, and Ḫanānum.
This restoration, suggested by J. Lewy and related in Garelli, AC, 253 n. 1, as opposed to KÙ.GI-ia, is
supported by 5.5:40-41.
This is the only instance in which Ilī-ālum is mentioned with a patronym in the documents in this work.
From the attested patronyms associated with Ilī-ālum (Sukaliya (AKT 1 25:29, CCT 5 43:20’, JCS 15 127:23, TPAK I
115:11, KTS 2 9:29, kt 91/k 336), Il-pī-uṣur (BIN 4 173:20), Ilī-ālum (TC 1 75:25, n/k 1826:4), Buṣiya (kt n/k 15:21),
Ennam-Aššur (kt m/k 137:2), Šarrum-Adad (kt m/k 148:49), and DU10-lu-kà (TC 3 249:27)) Sukaliya is the only name
which fits Thureau-Dangin’s copy. Ilī-ālum son of Sukaliya is attested several times in the company with persons
in Šalim-aḫum’s and Pūšu-kēn’s circles (in AKT 1 25 with Šalim-aḫum and Ilabrat-bāni, in CCT 5 43, a debt
memorandum where Pūšu-kēn also appears, in JCS 15 127, a letter from Imdī-ilum, in KTS 2 9 with Ilabrat-bāni). It
is uncertain whether this Ilī-ālum son of Sukaliya would have been the same person after whom REL 111 was
named. If so, that fact that he was usually mentioned last in the company of Lā-qēpum and Pūšu-kēn is
appropriate: he would have been quite young in REL 80/81/82. Garelli read i-šé-[pí-šu], AC 253 n.1.
Šalim-aḫum to Pūšu-kēn:
Puzur-Ištar son of Aššur-mālik owes me ⅔ minas pašallum gold from the “journey of
the city.” He is obliged to pay me upon his arrival in Kanesh.10 Now,11 I personally gave you a

duplicate of his certified tablet, (saying) “As for the man, there, he will pay in installments
severally at his arrival.” (The debt) is overdue, seize him, and make [him] pay the gold. You
said, “I will send it to you with … son of Šū-Ištar.”
Add ⅓ mina gold from your own gold and seal 1 mina gold in a single package for my
ikribū and let Ilī-ālum son of …. bring it to me. My dear brother, give heed to my instructions,
clear my tablets, and do not detain Ennam-Aššur for a single day. Send him to me.

As is evident from the content of the letter, Šalim-aḫum had already discussed the basic

aspects of Puzur-Ištar’s contract with Pūšu-kēn in person at Aššur, at which time Šalim-aḫum

gave Pūšu-kēn a copy of the contract. As a result, the first section of the letter is largely a

reminder. In this vein, I have translated Šalim-aḫum’s instructions to Pūšu-kēn and the latter’s

response to be representations of statements made during their meeting in Aššur. When

Šalim-aḫum began “As for the man,” he was in effect quoting his own words from the time of

his meeting with Pūšu-kēn. Pūšu-kēn had told Šalim-aḫum he would send the gold with the

son of Šū-Istar,12 And now the debt was past due. Perhaps Šū-Ištar had arrived in Aššur without

the expected packet of gold.

See the discussion on the ša ḫarrān ālim contract on p. 150.
For translation, “he is obliged to …,” for stative of qabā’um taking an accusative infinitive, (lit. he is
promised to …) in this case šaqālam, see EL no 202, n. a. (p. 194); and Landsberger, ZA 38, 278.
I translate u as ‘now’ when it occurs between two clauses or series of clauses that do not form a logical
progression. ‘Moreover’ (ausserdem, GAG §117b) may be appropriate in some cases, but ‘now’ offers the function
of shifting the temporal or logical focus without implying the escalating sense implied by ‘moreover.’
An alternate reading might interpret Pūšu-kēn’s statement “I will send it to you with … son of Šū-Ištar”
not to have been made in person but in a letter and Šalim-aḫum’s ‘statements’ not to be self quotation but simply
resuming the matter. However, the debt was due when Puzur-Ištar arrived, so the letter could have been written
anytime after.
The second section of the letter comprises Šalim-aḫum’s new instructions. Šalim-aḫum

wanted to ensure that when Pūšu-kēn sent the ⅔ minas gold collected from Puzur-Ištar, he

added enough to make a full mina for his ikribū fund. Šalim-aḫum also asked that Ilī-ālum and

not the son of Šū-Ištar bring it to him. Perhaps since their meeting the son of Šū-Ištar had

already returned to Aššur. (Recall that in the last chapter Ilī-ālum, who appeared as a

correspondent alongside Pūšu-kēn and Lā-qēpum, travelled back to Aššur with Dān-Aššur.)

Šalim-aḫum also wanted his other son, Ennam-Aššur, back home in Aššur and requested Pūsu-

kēn to send him quickly.

Though Šalim-aḫum did not mention his concern about the ikribū in the next letter, his

palpable discontent with Puzur-Ištar’s attempt to forestall payment suggests a development

towards Puzur-Ištar’s eventual default. The second letter reads:

Document 3.2 - CCT 4 5b: Second Puzur-Ištar Letter13

1 um-ma Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um-ma
a-na Pu-šu-ke-en6 qí-bi4-ma
mì-šu Puzur4-Ištar
BA-a-tám14 e-pu-lu-kà
5 um-ma šu-ut-ma i-na
e-ra-áb lu-qú-tí-a
a-ša-qal ú šu-ma
TÚG.ḪI-tí-šu ša-ru-um
i-tí-ší15 a-na-ku

BM 115078 Previous editions: P. van der Meer, Une Correspondance Commerciale Assyrienne (Rome:
Imprimierie Pie X, 1931), Nr. 17. Lines 13-26 also treated in P. Garelli, "La tablet cappadocienne de Liège PUL 100 et
le dossier Ilabrat-bāni," in Festschrift Lubour Matouš, ed. B. Hruška and G. Komoróczy (Budapest: Eötvös University,
1978), 123 n. 24.
I cannot explain this form. Is it an adverbial accusative?
On Šalim-aḫum referring to the wind carrying things off, see also 5.5:32. For i-tí-ší as itišši, 3ms perfect
of našā’um, see GKT §95c.
10 mì-nam ṭá-ḫu-a-ku
i-ṣé-er A-šùr-ma-lik
gi5-mì-lam ta-áš-ku-u[n]
KÙ.BABBAR-áp-šu tù-ša-áš-qí-il5
15 lá tù-ša-áš-qí-il5
a-ḫi a-ta i-na
u4-mì ša ṭup-pì
ṣa-ba-sú-ma (Ras.) KÙ.GI
20 ša-áš-qí-il5-šu
ḫu-ra-ṣí ni-is-ḫa-tum
ṭup-pu-šu ḫa-ar-ma-am
a-na-kam ú-kà-al
šu-ma mì-ma i-qá-bi4
25 ta-ar-ki-is-tám
le.e. ú KÙ.GI ša-áš-qí-il5-šu-ma
iš-tí pá-ni-im-ma šé-bi4-lam

Šalim-aḫum to Pūšu-kēn:
Why did Puzur-Ištar answer you in that way? He (had) said, “I will pay when my
goods arrive.” Now if the wind carried off his textiles, how am I liable? You did a favor for
Aššur-mālik. You had his silver paid. Mine you did not have paid. My dear brother, on the day
you read this tablet, seize him and make him pay the gold. My gold is the excise tax. As for his
certified tablet, I retain (it) here. If he says anything (i.e. if he makes excuses), take a binding
agreement for him and cause him to pay the gold and send it to me immediately.

When Puzur-Ištar arrived in Kanesh he decided for one reason or another that he could

not pay Šalim-aḫum the contracted sum of gold. If Šalim-aḫum’s angry remark (ll. 7-10) is any

indication, Pūšu-kēn had reported that the difficulties seemed to be linked to problems with

Puzur-Ištar’s textiles. Though Šalim-aḫum complained that Puzur-Ištar had paid silver to
another man (Aššur-mālik), it is clear that when Šalim-aḫum said, “Mine you did not have

paid,” he was referring to the gold that Puzur-Ištar owed him, made clear in the next sentence.

Šalim-aḫum was adamant that Pūšu-kēn promptly collect the gold and send it immediately,

reminding Pūšu-kēn that he held the original of the contract in Aššur.

In order to try to bring resolution to the situation, Šalim-aḫum instructed Pūšu-kēn to

draw up a binding agreement (tarkistum) with Puzur-Ištar if he continued to evade payment.

The tarkistum document was the result of a rakkusum procedure, wherein the creditor or his

representative would confront the debtor and demand payment. If the debtor questioned the

validity of the claim, a resolution identifying what the debtor was liable to pay was recorded in

a tarkistum document. Often a double or triple penalty would be assigned if the debtor either

again contested the debt or did not pay within a reasonable time. The procedure had the effect

of raising the stakes on the debtor.16

Despite Šalim-aḫum’s attempts to coerce Puzur-Ištar into paying the gold, Puzur-Ištar

found a way out of his obligation. As Šalim-aḫum’s agent, Pūšu-kēn did not effectively look out

for Šalim-aḫum’s interests. While this second letter was making its way to Kanesh, a new

arrangement reflected in the third letter developed. The first half of the third letter is

concerned with Šalim-aḫum’s involvement in purchasing a home for Pūšu-kēn in Aššur, which

will be discussed in a further episode in Chapter Five. The statements about purchasing homes

(ll. 3-18) were made to apply subtle pressure on Pūšu-kēn to perform the tasks directed in the

For this description of tarkistum, see T. Hertel, "Old Assyrian Legal Practices: An Anthropological
Perspective on Legal Disputes in the Ancient Near East" (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Copenhagen, 2007), 374-
282. All known tarkistum texts are listed there along with references to tarkistum documents in other types of
texts, including 3.2. For a slightly different definition see K.R. Veenhof, "Old Assyrian Period," in A History of
Ancient Near Eastern Law, ed. R. Westbrook, HdO 72 (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 467-68; K.R. Veenhof, "Private Summons
and Arbitration among the Old Assyrian Traders," Bulletin of the Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan 5 (1991): 441 n.
second section of the letter, which bears directly on Puzur-Ištar’s status in the situation. The

letter reads:

Document 3.3 - TC 2 2: Third Puzur-Ištar letter17

1 um-ma Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um-ma
a-na Pu-šu-ke-en6
qí-bi4-ma a-šu-mì É-tí
ša ta-áš-pu-ra-ni
5 šu-ma ni-iš-ta-a-ma-kum
KÙ.BABBAR i-ra-mì-ni-a
ma-la ša-qá-li-im
a-ša-qal-ma té-er-tí
i-lá-kà-kum a-wi-lu
10 KÙ.BABBAR ma-dam e-ri-šu
a-ší-a-tí nu-ta-qá
šu-ma la ku-a-tí ša-im-š[u-nu]
ú mu-ri qá-áb-li-tim
rev. ú-li-ba-ší | šu-ma
15 ta-da-nu-um i-ta-áb-ší
a-na-ḫi-id-ma a-ša-a-ma-ku-šu-nu
ù KÙ.BABBAR i-ra-mì-ni-a
a-ša-qal KÙ.GI ša DUMU A-šùr-ma-lik
ḫa-bu-lá-ni a-mì-nim
20 1 ma-na 11 GÍN [KÙ].BABBAR ta-áp-ṭur4-šu-um18
a-ki-ma iš-mu-ḫu-ma
a-ni-ša-am iš-pu-ra-ni

Previous editions van der Meer, Correspondance, no. 30. Lines 3-18 were translated in J. Lewy, "Studies in
Old Assyrian Grammar and Lexicography," Or. 19 (1950): 33. Kienasṭ FAOSB 1, 86; 21: EL II, 181.
The copy has the AB sign inserted in a lower position on the line, crammed between TA and KIB, as
though it was written afterwards. Ignoring the sign produces tatūršum, which as a G stem 2ms preterite of tuārum
“to return” would not accept the silver as an accusative object. Opening the package of silver in the sense of
remitting it occurs in CCT 2 25:3-10, TPAK 1 156a:1-6, etc., and VS 26 69:8-11 – šumma kaspam ina bīt kārim ana ṣibtim
iḫaššuḫū kaspam puṭrāma a šibtim dinā “If they require silver on credit in the kārum office, then open silver and
loan it on interest.” See aCAD P paṭāru mng. 2a for more examples.
14 ma-na AN.NA ma-zi-ra-am
ša Dan-A-šùr a-na A-gu5-a
25 ub-lu a-na i-ta-aṭ-li-im
dí-in-ma a-ṣé-er KÙ.GI
ša Ì-lí-[áš]-ra-ni
ša 5 GÍN.TA
le.e ù 4 GÍN.TA ⅓ ma-na KÙ.GI
30 ú 1 ma-na pá-ša-lam i-pá-nim-ma
šé-bi-lam ú-tù-ku ú-ša-aḫ-du-ru-ni

Šalim-aḫum to Pūšu-kēn:
Concerning the houses about which you wrote to me. If we buy for you, I will
personally pay as much silver as necessary and my instructions will come to you. The men (i.e.
the sellers) asked much silver, therefore we will wait. Apart from you, there are no potential
buyers for them or bearers of the qablītum.19 If selling activity arises, I will take care to buy
them for you and I will pay my own silver.
The gold which the son of Aššur-mālik owes me, why did you open (and remit) 1
mina 11 shekels to him? On account of the fact that he broke the agreement20 and sent word to
me, sell for cash the 14 minas mazīrum tin which Dān-Aššur brought to Agua, and in addition to
the gold from Ilī-ašranni, of 5 shekels rate and 4 shekels rate, <add> 20 shekels gold and send 1
mina pašallum (gold) immediately to me. The utukkum demons are frightening me!

In the second section of the letter, Šalim-aḫum first expressed frustration that Pūšu-

kēn remitted 1 mina 11 shekels silver to Puzur-Ištar. Though there is no overt reference

Mūrī qablītim – “bearers of the qablītum,” are associated with the purchase of homes I 502, a/k 605, RA 58
p. 124. Just what a qablītum is remains difficult, but seems to be associated with the home. For a discussion in
relation to the purchase of a home, see P. Garelli, "Tablettes Cappadociennes de collections diverses," RA 58
(1964): 127-28.
As proposed in CAD šamāḫu B, this word clearly has the sense of breaking an agreement. Lewy
translated šamāḫu “überheben” (EL Teil 4, 181.) The current text reinforces a sense of exiting the contract with a
penalty (see discussion below). As a result, šamāḫu B might be conflated with šamāḫu A ‘to grow, flourish.’ (Both
are u-class verbs.) The meaning ‘to exit a contract’ would be an anaphorical extension of ‘growing out’ of an
agreement. The merchant pays a penalty to exit the contract in order to avoid stifling financial burden, thus
continuing to grow.
connecting this silver to Puzur-Ištar’s contract to buy gold referred to in the previous letters,

the context clearly shows that Šalim-aḫum was reacting to the loss of the gold from that

contract. As a result of Puzur-Ištar’s letter, Šalim-aḫum told Pūšu-kēn to go to other sources to

recover the lost mina of pašallum gold which Šalim-aḫum had requested in 3.1. First, he told

Pūšu-kēn to sell for gold 14 minas of mazīrum tin associated with Agua. Next, he told Pūšu-kēn

to add ⅓ minas gold to the “gold from Ilī-ašranni, of 5 shekels rate and 4 shekels rate” (ḫurāṣim

ša Ilī-ašrannī ša 5 GÍN.TA u 4 GÍN.TA, ll. 26-29).21 At the end of the letter, Šalim-aḫum’s

comments connect the need for gold with the ikribū obligation. Failure to pay implies dire

supernatural consequences—the utukkum demons were frightening Šalim-aḫum.22

Two elements tie the three letters (3.1, 3.2, 3.3) together: their similar tenor and the

clear development of events I have outlined. However, there are some aspects of this third

letter which, at least on the surface, are difficult to understand. For example, how was Puzur-

Ištar able to exit his contract with Šalim-aḫum in a way that Šalim-aḫum accepted as final?

And what did the transaction of 1 mina 11 shekels silver between Pūšu-kēn and Puzur-Ištar

have to do with the contract? Also, what did Šalim-aḫum mean in the second letter by saying

that his gold was the “excise” (nisḫatum)? These difficulties can be addressed through

exploring the nature of the contract between Šalim-aḫum and Puzur-Ištar and the relationship

between their contract and Šalim-aḫum’s management of his ikiribū funds.

Here Šalim-aḫum was referring to the 7 shekels 23 ½ grains gold which Ilī-ašranni paid for two textiles
he transported to Kanesh for Šalim-aḫum earlier in the year (4.1:47-49).
Tarišmātum and Bēlatum write Pūšu-kēn elsewhere telling him that they have been afflicted by the
utukkū and eṭammū spirits in relation to an ikribū matter (KTS 1 24:4-8) 4a-šu-mì KÙ.BABBAR ša ik-ri-bi4 5a-na-kam Bé-
la-tum 6ta-am-ra-aṣ i-na ú-tù-ki 7ù i-na e-ṭá-me 8ša-am-ṭù?-a-ni. See H. Hirsch, Untersuchungen zur altassyrischen Religion,
Archiv für Orientforschung Beiheft 13/14 (Graz: 1961), 71 n. 385. For a new citation involving the uttukū demons,
see C. Michel, "Les Assyriens et les Esprits de leurs Morts," in Old Assyrian Studies in Memory of Paul Garelli, ed. C.
Michel, PIHANS 112 (Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 2008), 188 n. 51.
The Puzur-Ištar Affair and the ša ḫarrān ālim Contract

In 3.1, Šalim-aḫum stated “Puzur-Ištar son of Aššur-mālik owes me ⅔ minas pašallum

gold from the ‘journey of the city’ (ša ḫarrān ālim).”23 There are a small number of references to

such a contract in Level II. The situation between Puzur-Ištar and Šalim-aḫum provides a

better opportunity to understand this contract. It appears that the ša ḫarrān ālim was one

strategy whereby merchants in Aššur could obtain gold in Anatolia for their ikiribū funds.

The purpose of the contract cannot be determined by the translation of ša ḫarrān ālim,

“a journey of the city (Aššur).” As it was employed with Puzur-Ištar the contract phrase did not

deal directly with the transport of goods on the road between Aššur and Kanesh, nor did it

imply that Puzur-Ištar was to deliver the gold he found to Aššur. Puzur-Ištar was to turn over

the gold to Šalim-aḫum’s representative in Kanesh. As a result, the direction implied by the

phrase did not indicate the directionality of the journey to or from the city of Aššur.

Moereover, even though Puzur-Ištar’s contract was made in the city of Aššur, the phrase ša

ḫarrān ālim is too vague to demand the contract’s point of origin be Aššur. Where ša ḫarrān ālim

contracts were actually contracted, whether in the city of Aššur or in Anatolia, must be

determined by recourse to all the examples, still few. The function of the contract, giving one

person capital to buy gold where he finds it, would have been as useful within Anatolia as it

was in Aššur. Some ša ḫarrān ālim contracts are dated according to ḫamuštum weeks, which

according to some commentators is a clear sign that some contracts were created in Anatolia.24

The title ālikū ḫarrān ālim, confined to the Level Ib period, is not of direct relation. The ālikū ḫarrān ālim
appear as a party important in official declarations or making legal decisions. On that title, see Veenhof,
“Communication in the Old Assyrian Trading Society,” 210-212.
Dercksen, "The Silver of the Gods: On the Old Assyrian ikribū."
Besides references in the letters covered in this chapter, there are only a handful of

other references in the Old Assyrian corpus to ša ḫarrān ālim contracts. There are six copies of

such contracts, all for payments of between 5 shekels and 1 mina gold.25 There are also three

letters which refer to such an arrangement.26 The contracts are for the payment of fine,

pašallum, or fine pašallum gold. When mentioned, the term periods are short term, ranging

from 2 months to 15 weeks. The penalty interest rate on these debts varies, ranging from low –

¼ shekels per mina per month (a/k 602b:12-15), to the standard rate – 1½ shekels per mina per

month, to double the standard rate – 3 shekels per mina per month (ICK 1 60:12-15).

One ša ḫarrān ālim contract provides an important insight: “If I can’t find (lit. If my eye

does not encounter) any gold, I will pay an eight-shekel silver rate for the gold and I will take

silver.”27 The eight-shekel rate exceeded the price of gold in Anatolia but closely followed the

price in Aššur, and was the same rate between silver and gold applied to naruqqum contracts.

Though the actual price of gold in both Anatolia and Aššur must have fluctuated, and the price

of the gold would have depended on its quality, the average price of a shekel of gold attested in

the Old Assyrian period was just under 6 shekels silver in Anatolia, and around 8 shekels silver

in Aššur.28 In this way, the ša ḫarrān ālim contract was one instrument through which

AKT 2 9 for 16½ shekels, ICK 1 60 for ⅓ minas in 12 weeks, ICK 1 160 for ⅓ minas in 15 weeks, a/k 602b
for 5 shekels in 10 weeks, v/k 153 for ⅔ minas in 2 months. There is also a ša ḫarrān ālim debt mentioned in a debt
memorandum: I 432:18-23 for 1 minas 3 shekels in 3 months.
CCT 2 46b+ with mention of a debt for ½ minas gold, ICK 1 84 with a debt for 25½ shekels, and 87/k 472
with a debt for ⅔ minas.
AKT 2 9: 116½ GÍN KÙ.G[I] 2pá-ša-lam SI[G5] 3ša ha-ra-an a-limk[i] 4i-ṣé-er 5dIŠKUR-ṣú-lu-li 6Ḫu-ni-a i-šu 7a-na ša
ke-n[a]-tim 8i-ša-qal 9šu-ma KÙ.GI e-ni 10lá im-ta-ha-ar 118 GIN.TA KÙ.BABBAR 12a-na KÙ.KI a-ša-[qal-ma] 13KÚ.BABBAR
a-lá-qé. “Adad-ṣulūlī owes Ḫunia 16½ shekels fine pašallum gold of the journey of the city. He will pay in month III.
If my eye does not meet any gold, I will pay an eight shekel rate for the gold and take the silver.”
Prices in silver for one shekel gold in Anatolia: 6¼ shekels (ATHE 33:29’-31’ 1½ ma-na 6 GÍN KÙ.KI a-na-
[ku áš-am] 10 ma-na KÙ.BABBAR a-na ší-mì-im a-n[a] DAM.GÀR KÙ.KI a-dí-in); 5.61 shekels (BIN 4 143:23-24 ⅓ ma-na
6 GÍN KÙ.GI 2⅓ ma-na 6 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR-áp-šu); 5 shekels (CCT 3 39b:4-5); 6½ shekels (CCT 5 37a:24). Prices in silver
for one shekel gold in Aššur: 8½ shekels and 8⅚ shekels (BIN 4 30:5-8); 7⅓ and 8⅔ (CCT 3 22a); 7⅓ (TC 3 36); 8⅙
merchants in Aššur sought less expensive Anatolian gold. Merchants also took advantage of

the exchange rate in the opposite direction: when one merchant in Anatolia owed silver in

Aššur, he sent some gold to Aššur to be exchanged into silver where it would garner a better

rate (BIN 4 66).

The penalty stipulation above—paying an eight shekel rate in silver when no gold can

be found—does not appear in full in any other examples of the contract. Therefore, either such

a rate was unique to Puzur-Ištar’s contract or this was a general condition of the ša ḫarrān ālim

contract.29 If a general condition, then the penalty clause served as a safety valve for the

buying agent because of the variable availability of gold in comparison to silver in Anatolia. If

the buying agent could not find gold, then he could pay his way out of the contract to avoid a

financial burden. At the same time, the eight-shekel rate in silver protected the interests of the

contractor, since he would be remunerated the approximate price he needed to acquire gold

back in Aššur. The eight-shekel rate did not represent the orginal amount of silver given to the

buying agent. In theory, the contractor of the ša ḫarrān ālim arrangement would have given the

buying agent enough capital both to acquire the gold and to allow some profit margin for the

buying agent, but less than the amount required to purchase gold in Aššur itself. Otherwise,

the buying agent could too easily opt to pay out silver and make his money without buying

gold for the contractor. Though the ša ḫarrān ālim contract clause above states that the buying

agent would be able to keep ‘the silver,’ denoting the original capital, this was likely rated in

regards to its value in silver obtained in Anatolia by selling that capital when no gold could be

found. The contracts do not state the capital extended to the agent.

shekels and 6⅔ shekels (kubrusinnum) (TC 3 43); 8⅚ shekels (BIN 6 65:5-9); 8 shekels (Nesr. C 1:35); between 8 and 9
shekels (CCT 3 47a:5-12); 8 shekels (CCT 4 4a:44); 8 shekels (CCT 4 50b:29); 7⅓ shekels (TC 3 36:4).
The eight-shekel penalty rate is also invoked in kt 87/k 472.
According to this arrangement, if Puzur-Ištar was unable to find ⅔ minas gold upon his

arrival in Aššur, he would have instead been obligated to pay 5⅓ minas silver. But Šalim-aḫum

would not have given Puzur-Ištar 5⅓ minas silver in Aššur to buy gold. Rather, when the deal

was struck in Aššur, he likely gave Puzur-Ištar goods, such as textiles, which Puzur-Ištar could

sell for slightly less than 5⅓ minas silver when he got to Anatolia, or he gave him enough silver

to buy those same goods in Aššur.30 Indeed, when Puzur-Ištar connected his problems paying

the gold with problems with his textiles in 3.2, this could be read to suggest that Puzur-Ištar

either received textiles from Šalim-aḫum or obtained textiles with silver given him by Šalim-

aḫum that he planned to sell in Anatolia for gold.

There was obvious tension between Šalim-aḫum’s and Puzur-Ištar interests within the

parameters of the ša ḫarrān ālim arrangement. While Šalim-aḫum continually asserted the

fitness and finality of the original agreement, Puzur-Ištar attempted to exploit the safety valve

in the contract by linking his problems with textiles to his difficulty paying the gold. In Aššur,

Šalim-aḫum had given some amount of silver or textiles to Puzur-Ištar in return for a

promissory note with conditions (i.e. the ša ḫarrān ālim contract) to Šalim-aḫum. After the

exchange, Puzur-Ištar’s textiles depreciated in value in some way. Either the textiles were lost,

damaged, or seized. Puzur-Ištar tried to claim this as a condition that merited a change in the

status of his obligation to Šalim-aḫum. But Salim-aḫum’s response was essentially that the

state of the textiles had no bearing on the condition of Puzur-Ištar’s obligation: “If the wind

Based on the value of an average kutānum textile in silver in Kanesh at this time (20 shekels each, see
Chapter Two), we might hypothetically propose that Šalim-aḫum paid Puzur-Ištar twelve or thirteen textiles to
purchase the gold. Twelve kutānum textiles would have yielded 4 minas silver or ⅔ minas gold in Kanesh
(according to the exchange rate of 6:1 for silver to gold, see note 23 above). If the textiles only cost 5 silver shekels
each in Aššur, then Šalim-aḫum’s cost Aššur to have Puzur-Ištar obtain the gold in Anatolia would have been 1
mina of silver, compared to 5 ½ or 6 minas if he had to purchase the ⅔ minas gold in Aššur.
carried off his textiles—how am I liable?” (3.2:7-9). It could be that like the credit sale of tin

and textiles in Anatolia, this purchase contract was not constructed as a consignment

transaction wherein Šalim-aḫum gave silver or textiles to Puzur-Ištar for the express purpose

of purchasing gold, but retained owneership of that silver or those textiles. If Puzur-Ištar’s

pleadings are to be understood as relevant to the matter at hand, then the textiles likely were

the goods given him to get gold. But if Šalim-aḫum’s retort concerning the textiles’ lack of

relevance is also taken into account, then it could be seen that the textiles were payment to

Puzur-Ištar for gold. The exchange in Aššur was final: Puzur-Ištar received textiles and Šalim-

aḫum received the promissory note. If Puzur-Ištar was to repay anything it would have to be

gold. The escape clause permitted payment in silver, but not textiles.

Despite Puzur-Ištar’s excuses, Šalim-aḫum sought to pressure him to pay the contract,

but Puzur-Ištar instead found a way out, to which the reference to Pūšu-kēn remitting Puzur-

Ištar some silver must pertain. We might assume that when Pūšu-kēn remitted Puzur-Ištar 1

mina 11 shekels, he allowed Puzur-Ištar to pay 4 minas 9 shekels instead of the 5 ⅓ minas silver

in penalty he would have owed. Šalim-aḫum described Puzur-Ištar’s move with the verb

šamāḫum, which I interpret idiomatically as ‘to remain financially viable by choosing to exit a

contract.’ This effectively meant that Puzur-Ištar paid the optional ‘break contract’ fee when

the means to meet the contract ran beyond his control.

This clash of interests between Šalim-aḫum and Puzur-Ištar with Pūšu-kēn as

intermediary is particularly interesting because although an ongoing or permanent

relationship between Puzur-Ištar and Šalim-aḫum is not documented,31 Puzur-Ištar was Pūšu-

kēn’s nephew: Puzur-Ištar’s father Aššur-mālik had married Pūsu-kēn’s sister Tariš-mātum

(see figure below).32 Puzur-Ištar was also in the same financial circles as Pūsu-kēn. Both Pūsu-

kēn and Puzur-Ištar invested in the same fund, as did also Puzur-Ištar’s brother Uṣur-ša-Ištar.33

Figure 7: Familial relationship between Puzur-Ištar and Pūsu-kēn

The familial relationship between Pūšu-kēn and Puzur-Ištar adds fitting context to the

interchange between Puzur-Ištar and Šalim-aḫum. Though Pūsu-kēn was Šalim-aḫum’s

representative in the matter, he was also Puzur-Ištar’s uncle. Note that when Šalim-ahum

complained that Pūšu-kēn ensured that Aššur-mālik got paid but not him, it’s possible that this

Outside of the letters reviewed from this year in this work, the name Puzur-Ištar occurs very few times
in the roughly 150 documents referencing Šalim-aḫum: it is possibly this Puzur-Ištar to whom Šalim-aḫum
entrusted 30 minas silver and instructed him to then entrust it to Amur-Aššur (ICK 1 54). 2.7 records a son of
Puzur-Ištar probably as a witness to the contracting of debts to Šalim-aḫum, but our present Puzur-Ištar seems to
have been far too young to already have a son at this point. A Puzur-Ištar did witness the entrusting of several
packages to an Urani to deliver to (probably) Pūšu-kēn’s investors and Šalim-aḫum in Kanesh (RA 59 no. 8). The
packages include 4 minas silver from Ilabrat-bāni to Šalim-aḫum as well (see Chapter Four), but the transporter
does not appear anywhere else in the documentation assigned to this year in this work.
For Puzur-Istar, Uṣur-ša-Aššur, Ilabrat-bāni, and Iddin-Ištar as brothers and sons of Aššur-mālik, see
KTH 19 and TC 2 21. Michel unconvincingly asserts that Aššur-mālik and Tarīš-mātum have a son named Enlil-
bāni (CMK 446). (In AAA 1/3 1, Tarīš-mātum writes to Enlil-bāni addressing him as ‘my dear brother.’) However, it
is difficult to know whether this Enlil-bāni should be identified with a known Enlil-bāni son of Aššur-mālik. The
known Enlil-bāni s. Aššur-mālik transported goods to Šū-Ḫubur in I 442, acted as witness to a legal decision in
MNK 635, was entangled with a man named Nab-Suen in TC 1 35, held a promissory note worth 25 shekels against
Iddin-Aššur s. Uzua (TC 3 230), received a legal document Pilaḫ-Aššur (TMH 1 7e), owed someone 20 shekels silver
(kt c/k 258:38-39), and witnessed the creation of a loan (kt n/k 674). Nothing compels that the Enlil-bāni to whom
Tarīš-mātum wrote in AAA 1/3 1 was her son.
ICK 2 305, see A.M. Ulshofer, Die Altassyrische Privaturkunden, FAOSB 4 (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag,
1995), 294.
particular Aššur-mālik was Pūšu-kēn’s brother-in-law. Perhaps Puzur-Ištar reasoned that

Uncle Pūšu-kēn would forgive his problems with his textiles. In the end, Šalim-aḫum may have

lost his 1 mina 11 shekels to family loyalty.

Puzur-Ištar’s difficulties with his textiles were likely legitimate. His troubles might also

have been amplified by the short term period to which he agreed. When compared to other

extant texts, it seems that Puzur-Ištar had less than the average span of time to find and

purchase the gold. At least in his own discourse, Šalim-aḫum clearly expected Puzur-Ištar to

pay some of the gold as soon as he arrived in Kanesh. Perhaps Puzur-Ištar had more time to fill

the balance of the obligation, but Šalim-aḫum was careful to point out that Puzur-Ištar needed

to pay at least an installment when he arrived in Kanesh, giving him only the month or so to

travel to Kanesh, as opposed to several months total. Alongside the longer periods expressed in

other ša ḫarrān ālim contracts, Puzur-Ištar was under direct pressure to produce gold without

much time to find it; and Šalim-aḫum was hounding his agent to check on him.

Šalim-aḫum was clearly using Puzur-Ištar as a buying agent to acquire part of the mina

of pašallum gold he needed for his ikribū. Although he did not report what he was specifically

going to do with the gold when he received it in Aššur, it seems clear that Šalim-aḫum needed

to account for it to another party, most likely a temple. In a later letter, Šalim-aḫum urges

Ilabrat-bāni on by saying, “May the god, the lord of my prayer (ikribī), marshall you (to pay

your debt to me)” (3.4:35). Thus Šalim-aḫum’s arrangement with Puzur-Ištar offers new

evidence on the use and management of ikribū funds.

In fact, most of the references in Dercksen’s Appendix to his article on ikribū funds

pertain to this instance of Šalim-aḫum’s management of ikribū funds. Therefore, Šalim-aḫum’s

conversation about his ikribū offers a comparably rare insight into an aspect of managing ikribū
funds which is not well documented otherwise—merchants procuring gold to be turned over

to the temple. Within Dercksen’s review of the use of ikribū funds, Šalim-aḫum’s activity in

these letters seems anomalous alongside the more numerous examples of selling merchandise

of tin and textiles. (Dercksen refers to 3.1 and 3.5.) Possible acquisition of funds from the

temples is well-documented, but repayments to the temples are not explicitly recorded. Thus

there is little evidence how the merchants paid the temples either for the use of what were

originally temple funds or the ability to dedicate the funds to a special category which then

afforded the merchant privileges. Though donations of gold in bullion and votive objects to the

temple are known, the connection between these donations and the management of the funds

is uncertain. If Šalim-aḫum’s use of the ša ḫarrān ālim contract here is indicative of a broader

practice, then merchants would periodically ‘cash out’ all or part of their funds which were

normally run through the more usual business of trading tin and textiles for silver. The gold

obtained in this way would be returned to the temple. One further point suggests that the ša

ḫarrān ālim contracts were associated with the ikribū funds: The lower interest rates associated

with some of the known ša ḫarrān ālim contracts accord with lower interest rates associated

with silver loans made with ikribū funds.34

Šalim-aḫum pursued the normal traffic of trading merchandise for silver with his ikribū

funds as well, as we will review later. But Šalim-aḫum’s aggressiveness in securing gold

indicates that obtaining the gold was an important aspect of managing his ikribū during the

span of time in which this episode occurred this year. It seems likely that Šalim-aḫum was

going to give this gold as a votive offering to the temple which had given him his ikribū funds,

See Dercksen, "The Silver of the Gods: On the Old Assyrian ikribū," 77-78.
as it likely constituted an amount he owed to the temple for having access to some capital

from it. Šalim-aḫum’s comments reveal the importance of collecting the gold in order to

remunerate the temple for access to funds provided by it when he states, “my gold is the

‘excise tax’” (ḫurāṣī nisḫatum, 3.2:21).

Šalim-aḫum Manages the Situation

Puzur-Ištar’s default forced Šalim-aḫum to find alternate sources for his gold. He found

an important source when Puzur-Ištar’s younger brother Ilabrat-bāni requested to purchase a

large amount of goods from Šalim-aḫum, offering an initial down payment in silver. Šalim-

aḫum took the opportunity to demand part of the down payment in gold. The following three

letters (3.4, 3.5, and 3.6) document this opportunity. In 3.4, Šalim-aḫum recounts Ilabrat-

bāni’s offer and responds. 3.4 was sent to Ilabrat-bāni and Pūšu-kēn together, though most of

the content was addressed directly to Ilabrat-bāni and part of the goods that Šalim-aḫum

agreed to sell to Ilabrat-bāni included one hundred kutānum textiles. 3.5, which was sent at the

same time as 3.4, was addressed only to Pūšu-kēn, revealing Šalim-aḫum’s immediate interest

in obtaining gold from Ilabrat-bāni in connection with the ikribū funds. 3.6 comprises the

notifying message for the transport that brought those one hundred kutānum textiles and the

14 minas mazīrum tin which Šalim-aḫum sought to convert into gold.35

There are two more documents that might belong to this conversation, but they are so fragmentary
that their interpretation relies entirely on the documents presented here and their addition offers very little. RA
81, p. 19 is mostly broken. If it is related it is because the amounts mentioned on the reverse: 30 shekels gold(?)
and 5 minas silver would correspond to the amounts Ilabrat-bāni is supposed to pay in 3.5 (KTS 1 27b). It reads:
um-ma Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um-[ma] 2a-na Pu-šu-ke-en6 qí-[bi-ma] 3a-šu-mì ša um-me-a-ni-[kà] 4ta-x [...] 5x [...] (rev.) 1’ma-da-[...]
TÚG iš ma am [...] 3’ù a-na dIl5-ba-ni 4’um-ma a-ta-ma um [x x] 5’a-ṭá-ra-ad! 1½ ma-[na KÙ.GI] 6’ù 5 ma-na KÙ x [x x] 7’pá-
šál-lam ù ⅓ ma-[na x x] 8’x [...]. Translation: “Šalim-aḫum to Pūšu-kēn, say: Concerning (your?) investors … (you
wrote?) … and about(?) Ili-bāni, you said, “… I will dispatch … 1 mina 30 shekels [gold] and 5 minas silver x [gold]
pašallum and ⅓ mina silver(?).” The other tablet, BIN 6 53 (NBC 3767) is also quite broken. In that letter, Šalim-
Document 3.4 - TC 1 26: First Ilabrat-bāni letter36

1 um-ma Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um-ma
a-na Pu-šu-ke-en6
ù dNIN.ŠUBUR-ba-ni qí-bi4-ma
a-na NIN.ŠUBUR-ba-ni qí-bi4-ma
5 ta-áš-pu-ra-am um-ma a-ta-ma
té-er-ta-kà a-na ṣé-er
ša ki-ma ku-a-tí li-li-kam-ma
AN.NA ù TÚG.ḪI.A ki-ma
i-qí-pu-ni ša KÙ.BABBAR
10 1 GÚ li-dí-nu-nim ù i-ta-ki-it
a-ni-a-tim 10 ma-na.TA
KÙ.BABBAR-pí li-li-kà-ku-ma
a-na té-er-tí-a i-ḫi-id
2 GÚ AN.NA iš-tí Ḫu-ra-ṣa-nim
15 2 GÚ iš-tí A-mur-A-šùr
lo.e. DUMU Šu-Ištar ù 1 me-at ku-ta-nu
AN.NA SIG5 i-re-eš15
rev. AN.NA ù TÚG.ḪI.A a-na
u4-me qú-ur-bu-tim
20 nam-gi5-ra-ma li-qé
šu-ma KÙ.BABBAR-áp-kà a-na ší-a-ma-tim
tù-šé-ba-lam la-ma KÙ.BABBAR-áp-kà
e-ru-ba-ni ṭup-pá-kà le-tí-qá-ma
ší-ma-am ša ta-ša-pá-ra-ni
25 i-ra-mì-ni-a lá-áš-a-ma

aḫum is writing to Ilabrat-bani and mentions the tablet from Agua, tin, and Dan-Aššur bringing something. The
circumstances resemble what is happening here, but not clearly enough to be confident. The preserved portions
of the letter read: 1[u]m-ma Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um-m[a] 2a-na dNIN.ŠUBUR-ba-ni 3qí-bi-ma i-ṭup-pì-im 4ša A-gu-a AN.NA ku-
nu-ki-k[à] 5a-na dNIN.ŠUBUR-ba-ni 6ú? [x x ni]-is-ḫa-tim 7[x x x t]ám a-ṣé-er 8[ ... ]-x 1’Dan-A-šur dí-ma lu-ub-lu-[nim] 2’a-
šu-mì dIŠKUR-a-[x x x] 3’i-ra-mì-ni-kà [x x x] “Šalim-aḫum to Ilabrat-bāni: According to the tablet of Agua under
your seal, “(?)To Ilabrat-bāni and(?) … excise … Give […] to Dān-Aššur so that they can deliver (it). Concerning
Adad-a[…] from your own funds(?) …”
Previous translations: B. Landsberger, AHK, 15; van der Meer, Correspondance, Nr. 22.
lu-šé-bi-la-kum KÙ.BABBAR-pí
ITU.1.KAM iš-té-en6 ù šé-na
li-bé-la-ni a-ḫi a-ta
a-na AN.NA-ki-a 6 GÍN.TA
30 la ta-ba-ta-qám 5 ma-na KÙ.BABBAR ù ni-is-ḫa-sú
½ ma-na KÙ.GI pá-šál-lam
šé-bi-lam 1 ma-na KÙ.BABBAR a-šu-mì
u.e. DINGIR i-ra-mì-ni-kà ma!-li
li-bi4 lá tù-lá-ma-an
35 DINGIR be-el! ik-ri-bi li-ir-de8-k[à]
le.e. i-ṭup-pì-im ša La-qé-pí-im ù Pu-šu-ke-en6
6 ma-na AN.NA ù ku-sí-tum ù ½ ku-ta-nim
iš-tí NIN.ŠUBUR-ba-ni a-ḫi a-ta37
KÙ.BABBAR-pí šé-bi-lam

Šalim-aḫum to Pūsu-kēn and Ilabrat-bāni:
To Ilabrat-bāni, say:
You wrote me, “Let your message come to your representatives so that they may
give me tin and textiles worth about one talent of silver when they sell on credit. And, in
confirmation of these things let a 10 minas portion of my silver (i.e. the silver I will pay) go to
you, so that you give heed to my messages.”38
2 talents tin with Ḫuraṣānim, 2 talents with Amur-Aššur son of Šū-Ištar and 100
kutānum-textiles—there is fine tin on top of the tin and textiles)—: make an agreement on
short-term credit and take the tin and textiles. If you send your silver for purchases, before
your silver arrives let your tablet cross overland and I will purchase the purchase-requests
which you send to me with my own funds and send them to you.

Collation of lines 31-38 in J. Lewy, "Apropos of a Recent Study in Old Assyrian Chronology," Or. 26
(1957): 23 n. 1.
The use of takittum here suggests that it should be read as ‘down payment’ or security deposit in Old
Assyrian. Despite the fact that .TA normally functions as a distributive marker, I take the use of .TA in the phrase
to indicate that the 10 minas forms part of the larger price (about 1 talent of silver) which Ilabrat-bani will
eventually pay for the goods he will buy from Šalim-aḫum. See remarks immediately following 3.5 below.
Let my silver be disposed for 1 or 2 months. My dear brother, do not go lower than a
6 shekel rate for my tin. Send me 5 minas silver and its excise and 30 shekels pašallum gold. As
for the 1 mina of silver, it belongs to the god! Fill it with your means! Don’t make me angry.
May the god, the owner of the ikribū offering, marshall you.39
From the tablet of Lā-qēpum and Pūšu-kēn: “6 minas tin and a robe and ½ kutānum-
textile (are) with Ilabrat-bāni.” My dear brother, send me my silver.

The companion letter reads:

Document 3.5 - KTS 1 27b : Second Ilabrat-bāni Letter40

1 um-ma Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um-ma
a-na Pu-šu-ke-en6
qí-bi-ma a-ṣé-er
5 ma-na KÙ.BABBAR ša a-na
5 NIN.ŠUBUR-ba-ni
áš-pu-ru ù a!-ta!
10 ma-na i-na KÙ.BABBAR-pì-a
ra-dí-ma 15 ma-na
lo.e. ma-la tù-ba-lá-ni
10 i-na a-wi-tim
ša ILLAT-tim41 ki-ma KÙ.BABBAR
rev. ik-ri-bu-ni
wa-dí-ma ša-du-a-tám
i-na ḫa-ra-nim
15 la i-lá-ma-ad
6 GÍN KÙ.GI ša Pá-na-kà
7 GÍN iš-ti Ḫu-ra-ṣa-nim
i-na e-ra-bi4-šu-ma
20 ½ ma-na KÙ.GI

The clause 1 mana kaspum aššumi ilim is constructed to place emphasis on the god’s ownership as
opposed to Šalim-aḫum’s. The translation of lines 32-35 follows Hirsch, UAR, 38 n. 193.
Previous translations: AC, 253 n. 2.
See Garelli, AC 253 n.2, 257 n. 2.
u.e. ù ni-is-ḫa-sú
le.e. li-dí-na-kum 6 GÍN KÙ.GI
iš-tí A-gu-a DUMU DU10-A-šùr
25 i-na a-lá-ki-kà ša-áš-qí-il5-šu

Šalim-aḫum to Pūšu-kēn:
In addition to the 5 minas silver about which I wrote to Ilabrat-bāni, you yourself add
also 10 minas from my silver and then declare the 15 minas silver and the gold, as much as you
bring to me, in the awītum of the caravan as ikribū money, so that it will not accrue road fees. 6
shekels gold of Panaka, 7 shekels with Ḫuraṣānum: have it paid at his arrival. Let Ilabrat-bāni
give you 30 shekels gold and its excise tax. 6 shekels gold from Agua son of Ṭāb-Aššur: have it
paid at your departure.

Šalim-aḫum begins letter 3.4 by quoting a previous letter from Ilabrat-bāni. In Ilabrat-

bāni’s letter, which is lost to us, Ilabrat-bāni asked to buy one silver talent worth of goods from

Šalim-aḫum and offered 10 minas silver up front if Šalim- aḫum accepted. While the syntax of

Ilabrat-bāni’s 10 mina offer as quoted by Šalim- aḫum is unusual,42 the companion letter (3.5)

clearly shows that Šalim-aḫum understood Ilabrat-bāni to be offering the 10 minas silver as a

down payment and that he intended to use this opportunity to gather the gold for his ikribū

fund. Šalim-aḫum stipulated that Ilabrat-bani pay the down payment in two specie: half in

silver and half in gold. He wrote, “Send 5 minas silver and 30 shekels paššallum-gold and its

excise,” and said later, “May the god, lord of my ikribum, marshall you” (3.4:30-32, 35). Šalim-

aḫum directed Pūšu-kēn in 3.5 to send the silver and gold with the other funds he needed. The

5 minas silver was to be lumped together with 10 minas from another source and the 30

shekels gold was to be included with the small amounts of gold which Šalim-aḫum had already

See note 38 above.
begun instructing Pūsu-kēn in 3.3 to gather from other sources. In that same letter he

mentioned Ilabrat-bāni’s ½ mina of pašallum-gold and instructed Pūšu-kēn to declare all of the

gold—and 15 minas of silver (of which 5 minas was the other portion to be paid by Ilabrat-

bāni)—as ikribū-funds so that they be exempt from the šaddu’atum fee on the journey to Aššur.

These sources would yield a half mina of gold for Šalim-aḫum, badly needed because of the loss

he suffered from Puzur-Ištar’s abandoning the previous agreement.

In accepting Ilabrat-bāni’s offer, Šalim-aḫum indicated that he would sell him two-

donkey loads of tin brought by Amur-Aššur son of Šū-Ištar and Ḫuraṣānum and 100 kutānum

textiles associated with fine tin.43 While assets already cleared through customs and sold in

Kanesh could still be referenced by the names of their transporters (as shown in the last

chapter), these goods could not have already arrived in Kanesh. If Šalim-aḫum had believed

the goods to already be in Kanesh as he wrote the letter, he would also know he ran the risk

that the goods would be sold by the time his letter arrived in Kanesh. The market price of the

goods, minus the various import duties, closely matched Ilabrat-bāni’s request for one talent

worth of goods. After the shipments of both the tin and textiles cleared the nisḫatum duty, and

the tithe purchases on the textiles had been taken, and after Dān-Aššur took his ten kutānum

textiles (3.6, 11-12), then based on Šalim-aḫum’s demands (20 shekels each on short term

credit for the textiles (see Chapter Two) and 6:1 tin:silver as Šalim-aḫum demanded) the

roughly 250 talents of tin and 76 textiles remaining would have been worth 67 minas silver

Note that Ḫurāšānum and Amur-Aššur do appear in another text as transporting a donkey-load of tin
each for Šalim-aḫum in BIN 4 27 (OACP Type 3:14). Each brought about 2 talents (Ḫuraṣānum - 2 talents 6 minas,
Amur-Aššur - 2 talents 10 minas). After clearing the goods through customs and balancing the shipping costs, 3
talents, 43½ minas remained. However, BIN 4 27 does not seem to derive from the same year: Pūšu-kēn was not
present, other persons are acting as Šalim-aḫum’s agent (Al-āḫum, Imdī-ilum, and Puzur-Aššur), both
transporters also bring textiles, there is no ‘fine’ tin mentioned, and the goods are split up into multiple lots and
sold to multiple merchants (l. 36 i-ṣé-er DAM.GÀR ke-nu-tim).
based on Šalim-aḫum’s demands (20 shekels each on short term credit for the textiles (see

Chapter Two) and 6:1 tin:silver as Šalim-aḫum demanded) equalled approximately 1 talent of


It should be clear that the circumstances under which the sale to Ilabrat-bāni was

arranged were quite different from the circumstances of the sales made in the original

venture. In the original venture, Šalim-aḫum sent his goods to Anatolia leaving his agents to

sell the goods to whomever. But Ilabrat-bāni had good reasons for making such an offer (see

Chapter Four). More important is Puzur-Ištar’s relationship to Ilabrat-bāni. The two were

brothers, yet Šalim-aḫum never intimated that Ilabrat-bāni might have had some

responsibility to pay him because his older brother had partially created Šalim-aḫum’s

problems with gold. There is no sense that because Puzur-Ištar and Ilabrat-bāni were brothers,

they were part of the same firm and default of one could rightfully be claimed on the other.

Either a sense of shared responsibility was so deeply engrained in the mental frameworks of all

parties involved that it didn’t need mentioning, or it wasn’t relevant to the business of Old

Assyrian merchants.

Šalim-aḫum’s language—that the god of the ikribū conduct Ilabrat-bāni along--suggests

that the gold was intended to partially solve Šalim-aḫum’s ikribū problem. This is confirmed in

3.5, where Šalim-aḫum instructed Pūšu-kēn to combine the ½ mina gold he demanded from

Ilabrat-bāni with other amounts of gold. First was the gold he hoped to gain from Agua’s fine

tin mentioned in 3.3. Agua’s 14 minas of fine mazīrum tin, which Šalim-aḫum estimated would

yield 6 shekels gold, had not yet arrived in Kanesh travelling as it was with the 100 kutānum

textiles (see comments to 3.6 below). Šalim-aḫum also sought 7 shekels gold from Ḫuraṣānum

(3.5:17-19) likely from the be’ulātum obligation which Ḫuraṣānum would have owed to Šalim-
aḫum after he transported the goods mentioned in 3.4:14. Panaka also owed Šalim-aḫum 6

shekels of gold, and though the origin of his debt is unknown, it is mentioned again in another

letter from a later episode (5.5:18-19, 37-42).

The table below summarizes the various sources of gold cited by Šalim-aḫum in the

three letters in which he discusses these matters:

Table 8: Summary of Šalim-aḫum’s sources of gold

Letter Sources of gold Total
3.1 ⅔m gold from Puzur-Ištar, ⅓m gold from other sources
(Pūšu-kēn) 1 mina

3.3 Gold from selling mazīrum tin, gold from Ilī-ašrannī,

⅓m gold from other sources (Pūšu-kēn) 1 mina

3.5 6š gold from Panaka, 7š gold from Ḫuraṣānum, ½m gold

49 shekels
and its excise from Ilabrat-bāni, 6š gold from Agua’s tin
m = minas, š = shekels

The documentation on the shipment of tin carried by Amur-Aššur and Ḫuraṣānum and

earmarked for Ilabrat-bāni has not survived. However, 3.6, the notifying message for the

transport of Dān-Aššur (Šalim-aḫum’s son) and Šū-Suen does show that the two brought the

one hundred kutānum textiles which Šalim-aḫum sold to Ilabrat-bāni, along with the fine

mazīrum tin associated with Agua. It reads:

Document 3.6 - CCT 5 5a: Notifying message for Dān-Aššur’s caravan44

1 um-ma Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um-ma
a-na La-qé-ep ú Pu-šu-ke-en6
qí-bi-ma 6 GÚ 30 ma-na
AN.NA ku-nu-ki-a 18 TÚG šu-ru-tum
5 ša li-wi-tim

Previous treatments: Garelli, Assyiens en Cappadoce, 239 n. 3, Larsen, OACP, 166, n. 83.
1 me-at TÚG ku-ta-nu
7 ANŠE.ḪI.A ṣa-lá-mu
1 GÚ 10 ma-na AN.NA a-qá-tí-šu-nu
mì-ma a-nim ku-nu-ki-a Šu-Sú-en6
10 ú Dan-A-šùr i-ra-de8-ú-ni-ku-nu-tí
ŠÀ 10 TÚG ša Dan-A-šùr 1 TÚG šu-ra-am
a-na a-wi-il5-tim dí-na
AN.NA ú TÚG.ḪI-tí-a a-na DAM.GÀR
ke-nim ša ki qá-qí-dí-ku-nu
15 a-u4-me qú-ur-bu-tim dí-na
šu-ma a-u4-me qú-ur-bu-tim
lá i-ba-ší ki-ma i-qí-pu-ni
AN.NA ú TÚG.ḪI-tí-a | a-na
DAM.GÀR ke-nim ša ki-ma
20 qá-qí-dí-ku-nu | dí-na | DAM.GÀR-ku-nu
lu ke-en6 ITU.KAM iš-té-en6
ú šé-na lá tù-šé-qá-ra
KÙ ma-lá i-na ṣé-er DAM.GÀR
ta-na-dí-a-ni ú u4-me
25 i-na ṭup-pì-ku-nu lu-up-ta-nim
2 ri-ik-sà-an 14 ma-na AN.NA
a-na A!-gu-a 6 TÚG ku-ta-nu
a-ḫa-ma a-na DAM.GÀR-ri
mì-ma a-nim a-ṣé-er
30 Lá-qé-ep ú Pu-šu-ke-en6
Šu-Sú-en6 ú Dan-A-šùr
na-áš-ú | ANŠE.ḪI.A ṣa-lá-me
TÚG.ḪI.A ša Dan-A-šùr iš-tí
ANŠE.ḪI.A ṣa-lá-me e-mì-da-ma
35 a-na u4-me qú-ur-bu-tim
dí-na a-ba-áb ḫa-ra-ni-šu
KÙ.BABBAR li-ší-qí-il5-ma
i-šé-pì-šu KÙ.BABBAR lu-ub-lam
(Remainder uninscribed)

Šalim-aḫum to Lā-qēpum and Pūšu-kēn:
6 talents 30 minas tin under my seal, 8 šurum-textiles as wrappings, 100 kutānum-
textiles, 7 black donkeys, 1 talent 10 minas hand tin, all this under my seal Šū-Suen and Dān-
Aššur drive to you. Therein, 10 textiles belong to Dān-Aššur. Give 1 šurum textile to the woman.
Sell my tin and textiles to a trustworthy merchant as reliable as yourselves on short-term
credit. If there is no opportunity to sell on short-term credit, when you sell on credit, sell my
tin and textiles to a merchant as reliable as yourselves. Your merchant must be reliable. Do not
overvalue one or two months. Write to me how much silver you deposit on the merchant and
the term period in your tablet.
Two packages—14 minas—of tin for Agua. 6 kutānum textiles separately for the
merchants. All this, Šū-Suen and Dān-Aššur are transporting to Lā-qēpum and Pūšu-kēn. As for
the black donkeys and textiles of Dān-Aššur, combine them with the (other) black donkeys and
sell them on short-term credit. At his (Dan-Aššur’s) departure let the silver be paid so that he
may bring it here with him.

Šalim-aḫum sent seven donkeys loaded with goods to Lā-qēpum and Pūšu-kēn via Šū-

Suen and Dān-Aššur (ll. 3-9): three donkeys loaded with 130 minas of tin each and four donkeys

with a total of 100 kutānum textiles. In addition to revealing the source of the 100 kutānum

textiles, the letter also shows that the fine mazīrum tin came in the same shipment. After

counseling Lā-qēpum and Pūšu-kēn to sell the goods on invoice to a reliable merchant (a

typical admonition for Šalim-aḫum to make), he noted the inclusion of two packages of tin

weighing a combined 14 minas for Agua, and six textiles for the merchants (Šū-Suen and Dān-

Aššur). Having written this letter before he received Ilabrat-bāni’s offer, Šalim-aḫum

instructed Pūšu-kēn to combine Dān-Aššur’s donkeys and the six textiles with Šu-Suen’s

donkeys, and sell them on short term credit. The silver for that transaction was to be collected

before Dān-Aššur left again for Aššur.

The consistency of the mention of the 14 minas of fine mazīrum tin associated with

Agua and the consistent development of its intended use corroborates the identification of the
100 kutānum textiles mentioned in this letter with the textiles Šalim-aḫum sold to Ilabrat-bāni

(3.4:16-18). Following the references to the 14 minas of tin through several letters reveals how

rapidly the situation developed. First, Šalim-aḫum sent off the tin with Dān-Aššur and Šū-Suen

with no specific instructions as to its disposal (3.6). Next, Šalim-aḫum told Pūšu-kēn to sell the

tin for gold when he learned that Puzu-Ištar had backed out of his contract (3.3:23-26). Finally,

Šalim-aḫum attempted to sell the tin to Ilabrat-bāni when the latter offered to purchase a

large lot of goods from him (3.5:16-20). All of these decisions had to be made quickly enough

for Šalim-aḫum’s last letter (3.5) to reach Pūsu-kēn in Kanesh before Dān-Aššur and Šū-Suen

arrived with the tin. Šalim-aḫum must have believed he could communicate to Pūšu-kēn his

decision to sell the tin to Ilabrat-bāni before Dān-Aššur and Šū-Suen arrived, and before the tin

had been sold. The same is true for the 100 kutānum textiles which Šalim-aḫum sold to Ilabrat-

bāni. If the textiles had arrived ahead of Šalim-aḫum’s letter, then it is quite possible that

Pūsu-kēn would have already sold the textiles.

Šalim-aḫum’s instructions to Pūšu-kēn to sell the 14 minas mazīrum tin might seem

confusing if the tin belonged to Agua. Šalim-aḫum clearly seemed to be selling the tin in order

to meet his own needs. Perhaps the tin transported by Dan-Aššur and Šū-Suen came from Agua

but was given as a payment to Šalim-aḫum when it arrived in Kanesh, then Šalim-aḫum’s

attribution of the tin to Agua and at the same time his instruction to Pūšu-kēn to sell that tin

seems reasonable.

Obviously, not everything mentioned in these letters has been exhaustively treated.

Several items merit more attention. For instance, Šalim-aḫum told Ilabrat-bāni that he owed 6

minas tin, a kusītum robe and ½ kutānum textile from a previous incident (3.4:35-39). This

detail pertains to Ilabrat-bāni’s problems more fully documented in the conversation reviewed
in Chapter Four. Also, Šalim-aḫum instructed Pūšu-kēn to dispatch Ennam-Aššur to him

(3.1:25-26). Šalim-aḫum’s efforts to coax his son home to Aššur for an imminent wedding are

more fully covered in a conversation in Chapter Five. Šalim-aḫum was also involved in aiding

Pūsu-kēn’s acquisition of real estate, doing so in relative concert with other persons in Aššur

(3.3:3-17). Šalim-aḫum’s role in the real estate endeavor and Pūšu-kēn’s poor showing in

looking after Šalim-aḫum’s interests vis-á-vis Puzur-Ištar both likely contributed to pressure

Pūšu-kēn felt to comply when Šalim-aḫum asked him to participate in a joint venture—despite

Pūšu-kēn disliking the undertaking. This development will be taken up in Chapter Five.

Table 9: Summary Table of Events from the Puzur-Ištar Affair

PI1 Šalim-aḫum makes arrangements with Puzur-Ištar to buy gold in Anatolia, giving
him assets to buy the gold and making a ša harrān ālim contract with him (3.1:3-6).

PI2 Šalim-aḫum discusses with Pūšu-kēn the contract he has with Puzur-Ištar while
Pūšu-kēn is in Aššur. He give Pūšu-kēn a copy of the contract. At this time Pūšu-kēn
may have planned to send the gold with s. Šū-Ištar (3.1:8-13).

PI3 Puzur-Ištar travels to Kanesh but does not provide the gold when he arrives (3.1:3-6,

PI4 Šalim-aḫum writes to Pūšu-kēn that Puzur-Ištar is overdue and tells Pūšu-kēn to
start legal proceedings against Puzur-Ištar. He tells Pūšu-kēn to get 1 minas total in
gold for Šalim-aḫum’s ikrībū fund to be brought with Ilī-ālum (3.1).
A  He tells Pūšu-kēn to send Ennam-Aššur directly back to Aššur (3.1:25-26).

PI5 Puzur-Ištar further stalls payment and rebuffs Pūšu-kēn’s attempt to collect,
claiming problems with his textiles, which Pūšu-kēn reports in a letter (3.2:3-10).

PI6 Šalim-aḫum responds to Pūšu-kēn’s letter, saying that Pūšu-kēn has not been
sufficiently diligent with Šalim-aḫum’s assets, especially in comparison to a certain
Aššur-mālik’s assets. He urges Pūšu-kēn to bind Puzur-Ištar to pay (3.2).

Table 9: Summary Table of Events from the Puzur-Ištar Affair, continued

PI7 Pūšu-kēn remits 1 mina 11 shekels silver to Puzur-Ištar and apparently thus allows
Puzur-Ištar to break the agreement, which Puzur-Ištar reports to Šalim-aḫum

PI8 Šalim-aḫum writes to Pūšu-kēn, accepting the outcome of the event with frustration,
and tells Pūšu-kēn to still get 1 mina gold through various means (selling 14 minas
mazīrum tin with Agua, gathering gold from Ilī-ašranni, and from other places)
A  He reports to Pūšu-kēn on the ongoing process of purchasing a house for Pūšu-
kēn, promising that he will pay silver out of his own pocket if necessary to close the
deal. He is waiting for the price to fall (3.3:3-18).

PI9 Ilabrat-bāni writes to Šalim-aḫum asking to buy 1 talent of silver worth of goods
from him and offering 10 minas silver up front (3.4:5-13).

PI10 Dān-Aššur and Šū-Suen travel to Kanesh with 3 donkey loads of tin, 8 š. textiles, and
100 kutānum textiles on 4 donkeys and 1 talent, 10 minas hand tin for Šalim-aḫum
A  10 textiles are designated to Dān-Aššur and 1 š. textile is designated to the
woman (3.6:11-12).
B  14 minas tin are related to Agua (3.6:26-27).
C  6 kutānum textiles are noted for Šalim-aḫum’s merchants (i.e. Dān-Aššur)
D  Šalim-aḫum designates the silver (on some of the assets) to be paid when Dān-
Aššur departs so that the latter can bring it with him back to Aššur. (3.6:36-38).

PI11 Šalim-aḫum writes back to Pūšu-kēn and Ilabrat-bāni that Ilabrat-bāni is to buy 4
talents tin associated with Ḫuraṣānum and Šū-Ištar and 100 kutānum textiles. He
demands a 6 š. rate for the tin and in response to the offer of 10 minas silver by
Ilabrat-bāni, he specifies that instead of 10 minas silver, Ilabrat-bāni is to pay 5
minas of silver and ½ mina pašallum gold (3.4).
A  He complains about 1 mina of silver which Ilabrat-bāni owes saying that it
belongs to the god (3.4:32-34).
B  He calls on the god of the ikribū to ‘marshall’ Ilabrat-bāni (3.4:35).
C  He notes that Lā-qēpum and Pūšu-kēn’s letter says that Ilabrat-bāni owes 6
minas tin, a robe, and ½ kutānum textile (3.4:36-39).

Table 9: Summary Table of Events from the Puzur-Ištar Affair, continued

PI12 At the same time as the letter above, Šalim-aḫum writes to Pūšu-kēn to tell him to
include the 5 minas silver which he demanded from Ilabrat-bāni with 10 more minas
silver and to designate that silver as ikribū assets. He tells Pūšu-kēn to send: 6 shekels
gold from Panaka, 7 shekels gold from Ḫuraṣānum, ½ mina gold just demanded from
Ilabrat-bāni (3.5:31-32; 3.6:20-23), 6 shekels gold from Agua s. Ṭāb-Aššur (3.6:23-25).

The Temporal Development of the Puzur-Ištar Affair

The letters were written in the order they have been presented in this chapter with the

exception of 3.6, which was written before Šalim-aḫum received Ilabrat-bāni’s offer. Some

semblance of the temporal development of the events can be gained from internal review of

the events within these letters. There are no specific chronological references within the

documentation that allow us to date the Puzur-Ištar affair or its development. It certainly

developed contemporaneously with the Ilabrat-bāni affair covered in the next chapter, and

with the other episodes covered in Chapter Five. However, when the events are laid out on the

framework of the original venture, it becomes apparent how quickly the process developed.

After sketching the development through internal analysis of only the letters in this

conversation, a more rigorous reconstruction will be assembled in context of the original


Šalim-aḫum wrote 3.1 while Pūšu-kēn traveled to Anatolia from mid-March to mid-

April (see fig. 5 below). Reminding Pūšu-kēn to collect the debt when he arrived in Kanesh, the

letter was written in late March and sent so as to arrive in Kanesh at the same time or ahead of

Puzur-Ištar and perhaps even overtake Pūšu-kēn before he made it to Kanesh. Pūšu-kēn and

Puzur-Ištar must have arrived within a short time of each other. The next two letters, 3.2 and

3.3, followed in rapid succession. Because Puzur-Ištar was responsible to pay an installment of

gold practically upon arrival in Kanesh, Pūšu-kēn would have written Šalim-aḫum the news

that Puzur-Ištar was stalling. This prompted the quick response from Šalim-aḫum (3.2) soon

after Puzur-Ištar and Pūšu-kēn arrived in Kanesh and thus relatively soon after Pūšu-kēn had

received 3.1. After Šalim-aḫum received a letter from Puzur-Ištar himself, stating that the

latter was exiting the contract, Šalim-aḫum wrote 3.3. Most likely, Puzur-Ištar exited the

contract before Pūšu-kēn received the instructions in 3.2 to bind Puzur-Ištar into paying. In

3.3, Šalim-aḫum faulted Pūšu-kēn only for cutting a deal with Puzur-Ištar, not for failing to

deliver a tarkistum to Puzur-Ištar. Had Šalim-aḫum felt that Pūšu-kēn had received 3.2 but still

settled with Puzur-Ištar in the way he did, Šalim-aḫum would have likely reacted more

strongly in 3.3, instead of accepting the outcome as a foregone conclusion.

Šalim-aḫum sent the next two letters, 3.4 and 3.5, together, after he had written 3.3,

when Ilabrat-bāni’s offer to purchase merchandise reached him in Aššur. 3.4 and 3.5 were

also written after Ḫuraṣānum, Amur-Aššur, Šū-Suen, and Dān-Aššur had departed Aššur for

Anatolia, when 3.6, the notifying message for Šū-Suen and Dān-Aššur, was sent. The notifying

message, 3.6, also preceded 3.3 because in 3.6 Šalim-aḫum had already mentioned selling the

mazīrum tin listed in 3.3 which Šū-Suen and Dān-Aššur were bringing in their cargo.

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While it is clear that Šū-Suen and Dān-Aššur had left before Šalim-aḫum wrote 3.3, it

seems that Ḫuraṣānum and Amur-Aššur did not depart with Šū-Suen and Dān-Aššur, nor

before Šalim-aḫum wrote 3.3. When Šalim-aḫum wrote 3.5 to Pūšu-kēn, he told his agent to

collect 7 shekels gold from Ḫuraṣānum (3.5:17), while in 3.3, Šalim-aḫum made no mention of

Ḫuraṣānum. Šalim-aḫum’s arrangement with Ḫuraṣānum likely represents another attempt by

Šalim-aḫum to raise more gold in the aftermath of Puzur-Ištar’s default. Exactly what type of

arrangement he made with Ḫuraṣānum is unknown. One possibility was a be’ulātum loan, with

terms indicating Ḫuraṣānum would pay the debt in gold. At a the basic exchange rate between

gold and silver in Anatolia (1:5 ratio of gold to silver), Ḫuraṣānum’s be’ulātum obligation in gold

would have been valued at 35 shekels silver, which is comparable to the transporters be’ulātum

debts in the original venture (2.3:35-42). Another possibility is that Šalim-aḫum gave

Ḫuraṣānum a few textiles to sell for gold. This would parallel his attempts to raise gold through

Ilabrat-bāni on an earlier occasion (see Chapter Four). In either case, Šalim-aḫum’s

arrangement with Ḫuraṣānum implies two things. First, though he needed gold soon, Šalim-

aḫum nonetheless deemed making an arrangement with a departing merchant a sufficiently

prompt method of obtaining some of that gold. Second, Šalim-aḫum likely took this measure

soon after receiving word from Puzur-Ištar and writing 3.3.

Unlike the documentation on the original venture, there are no specific dates

mentioned in the letters from this conversation, no comparable chronological anchors to assist

in determining how quickly the conversation evolved. From the review above, it seems that

several letters from Kanesh arrived in Aššur on the heels of their precursors and Šalim-aḫum’s

responses followed suit. If Puzur-Ištar’s concerns about his textiles to which Šalim-aḫum
alluded in 3.2 were a preview of his default, then its demise was already in process, the

confirmation of the portended failure followed soon thereafter, and Šalim-aḫum was already

trying to compensate for his losses. When the development of this conversation is connected

to the development of the original venture, the sense of swift progression is corroborated. This

connection is found in the movements of Šalim-aḫum’s son Dān-Aššur. As discussed in

3.6,Dān-Aššur had travelled with Šū-Suen to Kanesh and remained in Kanesh. while Šū-Suen

proceeded back to Aššur with the first salvo of silver packets for Šalim-aḫum (2.3:9-14). Dān-

Aššur then later returned to Aššur with the second round of Šalim-aḫum’s silver packets


Dān-Aššur’s departure for Kanesh in 3.6 and his return to Aššur in 2.4 comprised two

legs of the same round trip. This is evident due to a small lot of goods he carried to Kanesh and

the silver which he brought back to Šalim-aḫum in Aššur. In the original venture

documentation, Šalim-aḫum wrote to Pūšu-kēn about Dān-Aššur transporting goods to Kanesh

for himself, among which are 6 textiles (1 nibrarum and 5 kusītum textiles) which Šalim-aḫum

asked Lā-qēpum and Pūšu-kēn to purchase (2.5:11-12, 16-20). The notifying message for Dān-

Aššur in this chapter (3.6) shows that 6 textiles, separate from the main load, were “for the

merchants,” and asked that those textiles be sold on short term credit so that Dān-Aššur could

bring the silver home with him (3.6:23-38). When Dān-Aššur returned to Aššur, noted in the

second letter of receipt (2.4), he brought back “2 minas silver which corresponded to his

textiles” (2.4:25-27). The two minas silver corresponds to the typical price for 6 kutānum

textiles on short term credit (20 shekels each).

The connection between Dan-Aššur’s departure from and return to Aššur becomes

stronger when documentation from later chapters is also considered. It has already been noted
that Dān-Aššur travelled to Kanesh, then stayed there for some period of time. The

conversation in Chapter Five revolves around the discussion leading to the decision that

allowed Dān-Aššur to stay in Kanesh. While Dān-Aššur travelled to Kanesh, Šalim-aḫum heard

that Pūšu-kēn planned to send Dān-Aššur on to Purušḫattum when he arrived in Kanesh. In

response, Šalim-aḫum maneuvered to bring Dān-Aššur home (5.1:30, 5.3:22-24), and to have

him bring one talent of silver with him, also asking Pūšu-kēn to send pašallum gold, including

the 6 shekels from Panaka (5.5:18-19, 37-42) referenced in this chapter (3.5:17).) And in the

process Šalim-aḫum did decide to let Dān-Aššur stay in Anatolia for the nabrītum (see Chapter

Five). Pūšu-kēn responded to Šalim-aḫum’s request that Dān-Aššur bring home one talent of

silver by promising to send 1 talent 20 minas silver (5.10:13-16). When he sent Dān-Aššur with

the 1 talent 32 minas silver, Pūšu-kēn delivered as promised (2.4:24-30).

Aligning Dān-Aššur’s transport of Šalim-aḫum’s goods to Kanesh in this conversation

with Dān-Aššur’s trip to Kanesh mentioned in the original venture (2.5) places the

development of this conversation bewteen the beginning of April and mid-June. The principle

anchor is that of Šū-Suen’s return to Aššur from Kanesh with the first packet of silver

delivered to Šalim-aḫum in the original venture. From the chronological discussion in Chapter

Two, Šū-Suen’s departure with the first packets of silver for Šalim-aḫum’s goods fell around

the time of Pilaḫ-Aššur’s due date from Chapter Two—sometime between the first week of June

and the first week of July in REL 80. As a result, all the activity from this conversation leading

up to Šū-Suen’s arrival with Dān-Aššur occurred before that time.

With Pilaḫ-Aššur’s due date functioning as a terminus ante quem for Puzur- Ištar default

and Šalim-aḫum’s compensatory measures, we can work backwards to try to reconstruct their

timing (See Figure 8). Their development can be divided into three general phases taken
loosely from Figure 8. The first phase consists of Šalim-aḫum’s making the agreement with

Puzur-Ištar and Puzur-Ištar’s travel to Kanesh. During this first phase, all proceeded according

to plan as far as Šalim-aḫum was concerned, though he still anxiously sent 3.1. In the second

phase, Puzur-Ištar arrived in Kanesh and began backing away from the agreement, causing

Pūšu-kēn to write the letters that prompted 3.2 and 3.3 from Šalim-aḫum. In the third phase,

Ilabrat-bāni offered to purchase goods. The travel of Dān-Aššur, Šū-Suen, Ḫuraṣānum, and

Amur-Aššur and the writing of 3.4 and 3.5, and the earlier writing of 3.6 all occurred in this

third phase.

Several other items brought up here connect the Puzur-Ištar affair to other episodes in

this work. For instance, Šalim-aḫum told Ilabrat-bāni that he owed 6 minas tin, a kusītum robe

and ½ kutānum textile from a previous incident (3.4:35-39). These details pertains to Ilabrat-

bāni’s problems that are more fully documented in the Ilabrat-bāni episode reviewed in

Chapter Four. Also, Šalim-aḫum instructed Pūšu-kēn to dispatch Ennam-Aššur to him (3.1:25-

26). Šalim-aḫum’s efforts to coax his son home to Aššur for an imminent wedding are more

fully covered in an episode in Chapter Five. Šalim-aḫum was also involved in aiding Pūsu-kēn’s

acquisition of real estate, doing so in relative concert with other persons in Aššur (3.3:3-17).

Šalim-aḫum’s role in the real estate endeavor and Pūšu-kēn’s poor showing in looking after

Šalim-aḫum’s interests vis-á-vis Puzur-Ištar both likely contributed to pressure Pūšu-kēn felt

to comply when Šalim-aḫum asked him to participate in a joint venture—despite Pūšu-kēn

disliking the undertaking. The development of this episode will also be taken up in Chapter


While phase one is temporally distinct from phase two, phases two and three seem to

have developed simultaneously—Dān-Aššur and Šū-Suen could have left before Šalim-aḫum
received notice of Puzur-Ištar’s default. From the discussion in Chapter Two, we posited that

the goods sold in the original venture arrived roughly four weeks before Pilaḫ-Aššur’s due

date. We can also posit here that Šū-Suen and Dān-Aššur departed for Kanesh roughly four to

six weeks before Pilaḫ-Aššur’s due date so that they arrived near that date. If Pilaḫ-Aššur’s due

date fell roughly three months after the passes opened (see Chapter Two), then there would be

six weeks prior to Dān-Aššur and Šū-Suen’s departure from Aššur in which the first phases

could develop, demanding that phases two and three largerly overlapped. In order to allow

sufficient time for the development of the actions in this conversation, Puzur-Ištar’s departure

to Kanesh (the earliest known point in this conversation) must have preceded Nūr-Ištar’s

departure to Kanesh in the original venture (2.1).

In the context of the original venture, the rapid development of Šalim-aḫum’s crisis

suggests that the tempo at which Šalim-aḫum communicated with Pūšu-kēn was swift. The

nature of Šalim-aḫum’s actions in his letters, the type of requests he made and his

expectations for affecting situations, suggest that he had access to a reasonably quick tempo of

trade and communication. While in the first three letters of this conversation Šalim-aḫum

seems to be the victim of a situation developing out of his control, he nonetheless wrote letters

which indicate that he felt that his intentions, if effectively communicated, could somehow

effect success in obtaining gold from his contract with Puzur-Ištar. All the while, both Pūšu-

kēn and Šalim-aḫum understood that while Pūšu-kēn was 1000 kilometers away in Kanesh

acting as Šalim-aḫum’s representative, Šalim-aḫum still retained tactical control of his matters

whenever possible. Clearly in the case of Puzur-Ištar, the distance between Šalim-aḫum and

Kanesh proved too great. However, Šalim-aḫum’s ability to affect a sale of goods to Ilabrat-bāni

while those goods were still en route to Kanesh is impressive. And, because he was sufficiently
informed of the situation with Puzur-Ištar, he had the near ‘real-time’ information to identify

Ilabrat-bāni’s offer as a new opportunity to procure gold. It is possible that Pūšu-kēn suggested

such a maneuver, but the fact that Šalim-aḫum had the opportunity to decide reveals that the

regime of communication available to Pūsu-kēn and Šalim-aḫum facilitated an impressive

horizon of reaction. This aspect of the Old Assyrian trade, the tempo of bulk transport and

communication, is the subject of the discussion that follows.

The Tempo of Trade and Communication in the Old Assyrian Period

Perhaps the most significant point that emerges from Šalim-aḫum’s ikribū crisis is the

fact that he remained the effective decision-maker despite the time pressures. Šalim-aḫum

might have wanted to retain control because he felt that Pūšu-kēn, as Puzur-Ištar’s uncle, had

a conflict of interest. Whatever his motivations, the measures he was able to take as

reconstructed above demonstrate an impressive regime of communication. At the same time,

Šalim-aḫum’s capability to react and direct his Anatolian affairs from afar both further

supports and demands a similarly robust schedule of transport between Aššur and Anatolia

which could permit the kind of movement that Šalim-aḫum assumed with his requests. In the

timeframe reconstructed for the original venture and the conversation from this chapter,

Šalim-aḫum expected to be able to recover gold from Anatolia in time to repay his ikribū fund

obligation within the shipping season of REL 80.

The reconstruction of Šalim-aḫum and Pūšu-kēn’s activities during this year imply that

the pace both of bulk transport and communication between Aššur and Anatolia was swifter

than has been previously assumed. In the figures used to display this reconstruction, I have

used 30 days as the duration of a bulk transport journey between Aššur and Kanesh and 15
days as the duration of time required for a letter to travel between the same points. The

reconstruction of continuous activity during this shipping season suggests that these times—

or something very close to them—were facts of the trade. In this half of the chapter, I will

argue that this portrayal is reasonable according to the sources, the route, and comparative


The Tempo of Bulk Transport

Though a discussion of the mode of transport has been part and parcel of nearly every

description of the Old Assyrian trade, there is a lack of direct evidence on the duration of an

average journey from Aššur across the Jezireh and Euphrates and through the Taurus

Mountains to Anatolia. Like fish in water, the Assyrian merchants rarely discussed the most

germane parameters of the journey—no direct references to length or duration of entire or

daily journeys have been found among the documentation. In the wake of this absence,

attempts to account for the tempo of travel between Aššur and Anatolia combined estimates of

abstract parameters. Estimates for caravan travel between Aššur and Kanesh have consisted of

dividing the estimated distance of the journey (between 1000 and 1200 kilometers between

Aššur and Kanesh) by the average daily travel of the donkeys (20 to 30 kilometers per day),

permutated within the estimated length of time during which the Taurus mountains were

passable (eight months—from the 1st of April to the 1st of December). The most common

combination of parameters has been 1200 kilometers segmented into 30 kilometers per day,

resulting in a 40 day journey. This result allowed a particular trader only two round-trip

journeys between Aššur and Kanesh during each eight-month shipping season including time

spent at either terminus between trips.45 An agreement on the part of one merchant to travel

back and forth to Aššur from Kanesh twice in the space of a single year has also been cited as a

sense of the maximum possible travel within a shipping season.46

A tempo limited to two round trips per season has important implications. Within a

season dictated by a two-round-trip cycle, two round trips from Aššur would have crossed

paths with two round trips from Anatolia. Synchronized in this way, transporters would have

traveled in cyclical waves of large caravans, giving any merchant four opportunities per

season to ship from either terminus.47 Figure 9 below illustrates this model.

Veenhof referred to the two-trip model in passing in K.R. Veenhof, "Prices and Trade: The Old Assyrian
Evidence," AoF 15 (1988): 249.
Iddin-Ištar was obliged by his father Aššur-nādā to make two trips to Aššur in the space of one year as a
repayment for the loan of 10 minas silver. See Aššur-nādā, No. 142. In both Aššur-nādā and “Individual and Family,”
97, Larsen associated the journey with 1200 kilometers each way.
The reference to a 300 donkey caravan (ARM 26/2 432) is from the later Level Ib period and must admit
different conditions.
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Such a schedule would have had the potential to impose a strict economy of action. For

example, if a merchant was not prepared to ship goods at the right time, he would have to wait

two months for the next opportunity. Any given transporter had the opportunity to make two

round trips per season, and if he missed the first opportunity, his capacity for action (and

profit) was cut in half. In such a regime of transport, no matter how fast the communication

was, reacting to new situations would have been practically impossible. Moreover, there would

be little time for an individual merchant to travel around Anatolia between journeys; a

decision to go to a city like Purušḫattum would have been a decision to forfeit a cycle between

Aššur and Kanesh. Such a situation would likely have resulted in a division of labor between

transporting within Anatolia and between Anatolia and Aššur.

The development of activities in the original venture and those activities reviewed in

this chapter do not appear to be constrained by a schedule limited to two round trips per year.

For example, Šalim-aḫum’s son Dān-Aššur left Aššur for Kanesh at least a month after the

opening of the season, which would have jeopardized his second trip for the season. His

brother Ennam-Aššur refused to return to Aššur when he was hailed by his father. The pace of

activity already accomplished by Pilaḫ-Aššur’s due date in mid-June, combined with the total

activity reconstructed for this year implies that four consecutive round-trips were

theoretically possible within the space of one shipping season. This is not to say that it would

be practical for any one transporter to have made all four trips. To do so, he would have had to

have proceeded without any delays or problems, or any down time at either terminus.

However, within the realm of this ideal four trips, it was practical for any one transporter to

accomplish three round trips, even if there arose an occasional problem.

The case for the more robust tempo will be made first by reviewing the three

parameters mentioned above: the donkeys, the route, and the season. In the course of

reviewing each factor, it will be shown that though the conservative estimates proposed

elsewhere were appropriate within an approach structured by synchronically motivated

evidence, the temporally-sensitive evidence available in this reconstruction supports faster

travel and communication.

The Donkeys

The first variable of the tempo of bulk transport is the daily rate of travel. Average daily

travel is not information forthcoming from the Old Assyrian sources. Most estimates on

average daily donkey travel have come from the few printed publications on such matters—

largely nineteenth century military manuals. A short range of the average daily travel for

donkeys has been postulated, from 25 kilometers per day to 30 to 40 kilometers per day,

splitting the journey to Anatolia into 48, 40 or 30 (presumably daily) stops.48 Other estimates

posit even lower rates of travel;49 but 30 kilometers for the distance between king’s road

stations in the Neo Assyrian period,50 and 22 kilometers between stations along the Persian

road from Susa to Sardis,51 should suggest that any shorter daily distances were unlikely for a

motivated and well-directed merchant. On the low side, 25 kilometers a day along a 1200

English army donkeys at 24 kilometers per day are cited in J.G. Dercksen, OAI, 255. Veenhof estimates
30 to 40 kilometers per day. H. Lewy makes reference to modern military use of donkeys in H. Lewy, "The Assload,
the Sack, and Other Measures of Capacity," RSO 39 (1964): 186.
Streck (RlA 1980) claims 20 kilometers per day based on Hallo’s review of the Old Babylonian itinerary
to Emar, “Road to Emar,” JCS 18(1953) 71, though Hallo estimates distances between 25-30 airline kilometers per
Parpola 1987 XIII-XIV.
Stations were placed about every 5 parasangs (111 stations over 2,600 kilometers). Herodotus V.52-3.
For an accessible translation see, F. Meijer and O. van Nijf, Trade, Transport and Society in the Ancient World A
Sourcebook (London: Routledge, 1992), 141-42.
kilometer route assured that no more than two round trips could be accomplished within an

eight-month season. On the other hand, averaging 33 ⅓ kilometers per day on a 1000 kilometer

journey renders a 30-day journey, making the journey between Aššur and Kanesh a single

month. In the discussion that follows, I will argue that an average daily rate of travel up to 35

kilometers per day is not outside the realm of possibility.

Much information on donkeys, their use, equipment, and supply in the Old Assyrian

period, has already been gathered.52 As for the specific breed the merchants used, it might

seem that the ‘black donkeys’ needed to be stout and large to carry their heavy loads.

However, no direct evidence is yet available for the physical stature of the ‘black donkey’

which the Old Assyrian merchants used, and all indications gathered to date are too indirect to

muster any confidence.53

The observable mortality rate of donkeys is worth considering in conjunction with the

daily rate of travel. Donkeys were likely used from three years old on, though their life

expectancy thereafter seems a rather moribund prospect. Once on the caravan, the number of

years a donkey was expected to live could easily be counted on one hand—if counting at all was

not too optimistic. In Dercksen’s Appendix, his table on ‘Lost Donkeys’ (donkeys which died)

includes caravan reports from the reconstruction in this work (2.2 and 4.1), where Šalim-

aḫum’s donkeys suffered a 50% mortality rate. Three of Šalim-aḫum’s 7 donkeys died in the

original venture (2.2) and 5 of his 9 donkeys that left with Ili-ašrannī’s caravan died en route

OAI, Appendix C.
Dercksen leaves open the question as to whether the asses from Damascus, which Lewy preferred, or
perhaps some other type of ass, like that from Tell Brak, should be associated with the ‘black donkey.’ Ancient
evidence of variation and cross breeding between different regions seems to undermine any suppositions that
modern donkey breeds found in various areas might correlate directly to anything the Assyrian merchants used
four thousand years ago.
(4.1). Despite the high mortality rate and short lifespan of the cargo donkeys, Anatolia likely

had some infusion of donkeys from the Mesopotamian plain because the bulk of the goods

going up to Anatolia from Aššur was far larger than that which returned. If donkeys died or

were otherwise lost en route, there was obviously ample opportunity to replace them, as

shown by the settling of caravan accounts, where compensation for replacing pack animals

was frequent.

Donkeys likely did not die of exhaustion due to the rate of travel. Donkeys’ reputation

for being stubborn has been earned through their keenly developed sense of self preservation,

at least in comparison with horses, thus the caravan could have proceeded no faster than the

capabilities of the donkeys permitted. It is more likely that the heavy tin loads, rather than the

pace, significantly shortened the lives of the beasts.54 The weight of the tin load was close to

150 pounds (75 kg). The weight of the textile loads are unknown but were certainly lighter

than the tin.55 The evidence from the original venture could be interpreted to support the idea

that donkeys loaded with textiles fared better than those carrying tin: only one of Šalim-

aḫum’s eight dead donkeys was certainly carrying textiles, and at least three of them were

certainly carrying tin. While outside forces such as brigands56 may have been an occasional

Leah Patton, office manager at the American Donkey and Mule Society (Lewisville, TX) figures that the
heavy loads would not so much slow down a 400-500 pound donkey as wear them down over time. Donkeys could
outpace human walking for long periods each day (personal communication).
K.R. Veenhof, AOATT, 89-91.
C. Michel, "Les pérégrinations des marchands assyriens en haute Mésopotamie et en Asie Mineure," Res
Antiquae 5 (2008). Michel suggests that outlaws posed a significant hazard to the donkeys on the road. This begs
the question: Given that the report of a donkey death in the caravan account is stated alongside the safe arrival of
the goods it was originally carrying, would raiding robbers have simply beaten donkeys to death and left the
cargo? Donkey caravans could have never outrun surprise raids.
problem, it was the loads which they bore and the care which they received that were the real

factors of their mortality.57

Modern military manuals have been cited for comparative evidence of the ultimate

physical capabilites of donkeys and uniformly favor lower daily rates of travel than 30

kilometers per day. However, the writers of the military manuals were not suggesting rates of

travel consistent with the way the Old Assyrian merchants treated the donkeys, since it is

likely that the authors of the military manuals would not have approved of the treatment of

donkeys in the Old Assyrian trade. The ancient owners’ cautions and complaints to their

transporters about the care of their donkeys indicate that the interests of the merchant-

owners and the interests of their transporters were at variance.58 Because the donkeys were

not necessarily permanent acquisitions, there was less incentive to purchase the finest

donkeys available, only those that would feasibly make the trip. If the ‘black donkeys’ survived

the trip from Aššur intact, they could be sold for a slight profit in Kanesh.59 However,

instructions to transporters were often about feeding the donkeys, rather than about not

pushing them too far, and transporters had little incentive to pamper the donkeys against

making better time if the prospect was that they could replace them at no cost to themselves.

Interestingly, the heavy loads of tin might have provided one incentive among several to team a
donkey loaded with tin with a donkey loaded with textiles; the loads could be exchanged from time to time. From
another perspective, pairing different loads could have been for the purpose of spreading risk, or in response to
regulatory injunctions—for example when the city of Aššur demanded that equal amounts of tin and textiles were
to be purchased in Aššur. However, providing for the exchange of loads between some donkeys provided a
possible way to prolong the lives of the donkeys. Granted, this would be unlikely in cases such as in the original
venture where one merchant drove one donkey.
See Dercksen, OAI, 266 n. 708. for relevant passages. G. Barjamovic, "A Historical Geography of Ancient
Anatolia in the Assyrian Colony Period" (diss., University of Copenhagen, 2005), 14, also expresses the opinion
that the donkeys were pushed to their limits.
Donkeys were sold for around 20 shekels in Aššur and between 20 shekels and 30 shekels in Kanesh. As
has been stated elsewhere, there is little hope of recovering evidence regarding what a specific donkey was worth
in Aššur and was then sold for in Kanesh. Owners did not report to their agents the price they paid for their lesser
steeds, so one side of the equation is always missing in the documentation.
There are more general reasons why Western military handbooks do not have direct

purchase on the average daily travel of Old Assyrian caravans. Military proscriptions on the

use of equids in printed manuals from European armies were conditioned both by Western

concepts about equids and military interests—neither necessarily applicable to the Old

Assyrian situation. The military wanted to avoid having to replace trained beasts with

untrained equids on campaign. Self-sufficiency was important for the armies. By contrast, the

Old Assyrian merchants could benefit more by sacrificing self-sufficiency for longer days and

further travel.

Despite owners complaining about the treatment of their donkeys, it does seem that

donkeys were fed sufficiently, and some references suggest they were fed so as to permit

longer stretches of travel. Straw was purchased for feed when departing from Aššur,60 possibly

because of the limited opportunities to graze in the area, but also perhaps allowing for

donkeys to be fed as they walked. The occasional reference to feeding donkeys grain shows

there were some times when donkeys were fed heartier meals, perhaps for a longer leg of the

trip.61 In this regard, and with information on the pace of donkeys outside a military context, a

case can be made for a pace of 35 kilometers per day. Provided that water and food were

available, a caravan could cover 40 kilometers in 11 hours by travelling three shifts of slightly

more than two hours each, at a walking pace of 5½ km per hour, separated by two one-hour

rests, a pace not outside the capabilities of donkeys. Provided that the entire purpose for

See Dercksen, OAI, 266 n. 709. This was probably more important as the summer continued. In the wet
spring, grass might be found along the way more easily.
TC 3 162:25-26 25ša 2 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR ú-ṭá-tám a-na 26ú-kúl-ti ANŠE.HI.A áš-a-am “I purchased 2 shekels
silver worth of grain for the donkeys’ feed.”
travelling was to make it from one end of the route to the other, a schedule approaching this

rate does not seem unreasonable.62

When they reached the Taurus Mountains, there were other measures transporters

could take in order to maintain a good pace, even in the more difficult terrain. A report of

transport expenses seems to indicate that at certain parts of the journey, an extra donkey or a

wagon was hired to distribute the load more broadly and augment the capabilities of the

caravan. One writer recorded paying extra for ‘transport’ at two different stretches early in

the journey, replaced a donkey, hired a wagon to climb the piedmont west of the Euphrates,

and hired an additional donkey through two consecutive stretches of the trip through the

Taurus Mountains.63 A similar text from the same archive suggests that a single donkey was

hired to supplement only three donkeys loaded with goods.64 Renting extra donkeys and

assistant drivers in the mountain regions lightened the loads of the primary donkeys in the

more difficult stretches.

Another parameter of daily travel involved the condition of the human transporters.

Whether an individual walked alongside or rode a donkey all day the man’s endurance, not the

beast’s, would have been the limiting factor. If caravans were to proceed at a reasonable rate,

Several informal interviews with ranchers and ranch hands have resulted in a range of proposed travel
rates. One rancher recalls travelling with donkeys at an average of 20-25 miles (32km-40km) per day, perhaps
closer to 20 miles, through the Chihuahua desert, making camp along the way. However, trouble in procuring
water and feed could slow the pace to 15-20 miles (24-32km) per day.
Kt 92/k 103, see K.R. Veenhof, "Across the Euphrates," in Anatolia and the Jazira During the Old Assyrian
Period, ed. J.G. Dercksen, PIHANS 111 (Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 2008), 24. for an edition
of the text. There Veenhof remarks that transporters frequently compensated for donkeys that died were
frequently compensated by hiring donkeys along the way. That the writer ‘replaced’ (ušpa’’il) a donkey in this text
suggest that the hiring of donkeys and the wagon were not meant to compensate for a lost donkey, but to amplify
the caravan.
Ibid. Kt 92/k 108 shows perhaps the same writer hiring a single donkey at certain stretches for what
appear to be three donkeys loaded with cargo. Veenhof states that kt 92/k 108 was closely related to kt 92/k 103,
but they do not seem to be from the same journey; the costs for two separate legs of the journey are not equal.
then the transporters were also likely mounted. Mounted travelers on donkeys are known

from the Mari letters, and discussions of propriety about such beasts suggest that it was

sufficiently common for the activity to have a decorum associated with it.65 In general, riding a

donkey is far more tiring than riding a larger equid, since riding donkeys demands sitting far

back on the rear of the donkey.

It is possible that some caravans were set up to have one driver (sāridum) or packer

(kaṣṣārum) to each donkey as suggested by the Level Ib reference to the 300 men with 300

donkeys.66 However, in the original venture, the transporter-donkey ratio ranges from 1:1 to

1:3. Furthermore, the assumption in interpreting the Level Ib document is that the

transporters were bringing only the donkeys for the merchant who was receiving the report. A

review of the several persons who were transporting for Šalim-aḫum during this year in

Chapter Five suggests that these transporters were likely also taking goods for either

themselves or other merchants in addition to what they brought for Šalim-aḫum. This further

strains the proposition that donkeys were led individually.

Stepping back, there is cause for considering that the daily journey was not always the

basic unit of progress on the caravan and thus perhaps not always the best parameter for

estimating the duration of the journey. In other historical situations, stages of caravan travel

were not always correlated to the 24-hour cycle.67 In the Old Assyrian period there are many

examples of transporters being sent along without any rest: “Take care to see that the servant

For men from Larsa riding donkeys, see Durand, Les Documents Epistolaries du palais de Mari 584 (ARM 2
72). For the decorum of using a donkey as a mount, see Documents 283 (ARM 2 37).
See Dercksen, OAI, 283-84 n. 805.
Some caravans in Mongolia did not regard the day/night cycle but stopped as the animals required it
or as weather dictated. O. Lattimore, The Desert Road to Turkestan (London,: Methuen & co. ltd., 1928).
and Ḫazu do not spend the night, but dispatch them to me. I await them.”68 “Šalim-Adad is not

to stay the night; dispatch him to me.”69 “He must not delay a single day; dispatch him.”70 “He

must not delay in Kanesh a single day; we will dispatch him immediately.”71 “I am waiting for

Amur-ilī to arrive. You must be patient until he comes. As soon as Amur-ilī arrives, I will not

allow him to stay the night. ”72 One letter recounts how a merchant departed a town in the

evening at the behest of some other merchants, staying at an inn later the same night.73 Such

accounts suggest that merchants sometimes travelled into the night and that the inns in which

they slept were not necessarily always in the towns corresponding to the itinerary stops listed

in their letters.74 Such letters were written as expense reports, not travelogues.

In the end, computing the travel time for the journey between Aššur and Kanesh based

on an average daily rate of donkey travel, in turn based on Western military manuals, does not

adequately account for the different conditions /under which the merchants travelled

between Aššur and Kanesh and around Anatolia, or the possible ingenuity of the Assyrian

CCT 4 6d:8-11 8iḫ-da-ma 9IR ù Ḫa-zu | lá i-bi4-tù 10ṭur4-da-ni-šu-nu | šu-nu-tí 11ú-qá-a.
KTS 1 10:25-26 25Ša-lim-dIŠKUR | ú-ma!-kál 26lá i-bi4-at | ṭù-ur-da-ni-šu.
TTC 11:7-8 7u4-ma-kál | lá i-sà-ḫu-ur 8ṭur4-da-šu.
ICK 1 184:33-35 33u4-ma-kál 34i-Kà-ni-iš lá i-sà-ḫu-ur iš-tí 35pá-nim-ma | ni-ṭá-ra-da-šu.
CCT 4 28a:22-26 22A-mur-DINGIR 23ú-qá-a | a-dí | A-mur-DINGIR 24i-lá-kà-ni | lá ta-ḫa-dí-ri 25ki-ma | A-mur-
DINGIR | e-ru-ba-ni-ni 26u4-ma-kál | lá uš-bi-a-sú.
If understood correctly, Pilaḫ-Aššur’s letter to Aššur-nādā explains how the former departed from
Badna in the evening(?) at the invitation of three unfamiliar travelling companions. The merchants bivouacked at
an inn, where his new companions locked him out, leaving him to sleep out in the cow stable. Later that night, the
same companions broke into the (same?) structure (the cow stable where the donkeys were staying?) and stole 6
textiles which Pilaḫ-Aššur was carrying for Aššur-nādā, while Pilaḫ-Aššur slept. When he awoke and found them
and the 6 textiles gone, he travelled back to Badna and related the matter to the local Assyrian wabartum office for
Aššur-nādā’s sake. KTH 3:1-29 1a-na A-šur-na-da 2qí-bí-ma um-ma 3Pí-lá-ḫi-Ištar-ma 4iš-tù | Ba-ad-na 5A-gu5-a | Ṭá-bi-A-
nu-um 6ú Il5-li-ba-ni ú-wa-šé-ru-ni-ma 7um-ma Ṭá-bi-A-nu-ma 8ba-am iš-tí-ni TÚG.HI 9ú-qá i-ú iš-tí-šu-nu 10iš-tù Ba-ad-na
na-ba-ta-am 12nu-ṣí-ma iš-tí-šu-nu 13a-na É wa-áb-ri 14ú-lá ú-šé-ru-ni 15a-ḫa-ma É al-pí 16a-bi-it | É-tám 17im-lu-šu-ma 6
TÚG.HI 18i-ta-áb-ku 19ep-«ra»-ra-am a-na qá-qí-dí-a 20áš-pu-kum-ma 21a-na Ba-ad-na 22a-na ṣé-er A-lá-bi-im 23a-tù-ra-ma
wa-ba-ar-tum10 24ša Ba-ad-na 25a-na ṣé-er ba-ru-li 26e-li-ú-ma «um-ma» 27um-ma šu-nu-ma lu ni-iš-e 28ú šu-ma i-ḫa-li-qú
né-nu nu-ma-lá - See M.T. Larsen, Aššur-nādā, No. 130.
References to inns are frequent and inns are mentioned in small towns, such as Karamaku (83/k 181),
Butnātum, ina paṭi ša Hanaknak, Ḫanika, Wazida (Anatolian towns on the road to Waḫšušana, 91/k 437), as well as
larger towns such as Ḫaḫḫum, Purušḫattum, Waḫšušana, Timelkiya, Šalatuwar, Wašḫaniya, etc. see Barjamovic,
"A Historical Geography of Ancient Anatolia in the Assyrian Colony Period", 34.
transporters. Daily rates may even distort our understanding of the travel. However, if the

journey was to be split into ‘daily’ intervals, then the emphasis turns to the lie and path of the

route and where along the route the merchants decided to rest.

The Route

The second parameter on which the frequency of journeys between Aššur and Anatolia

would have depended was the length and segmentation of the route and its layout in the mind

of its travelers. To some extent, if the merchants sought to attain a specific location or inn at

the end of each day, the locations of these inns would have been important. As stated above,

there is no guarantee that all inns were located in the towns that formed waypoints in the

itineraries. While these itineraries are useful for proposing routes—inasmuch as the places

named can be localized—qualifications about whether or not the towns were the rest stops

must be admitted. Nonetheless, reviewing what can be roughly sketched about the route in

relation to stops shows the shortcomings of the itineraries as evidence for the pace of the


In the first place, the length of the route between the two main termini, Aššur and

Kanesh, is important. The Euphrates River divides the journey between Aššur and Kanesh into

two almost equal segments, though the two segments were significantly different in terms of

elevation. My own attempts to measure the lengths of the different interpretations of the

route favor a length close to 1000 kilometers; this is in line with distances quoted by T. Özgüç

as opposed to the 1200 kilometers advocated by Veenhof.75 Proceeding west from Aššur, the

N. Özgüç, Kültepe Kaniš/Neša: The earliest international trade center and the oldest capital city of the Hittites
(Istanbul: The Middle East Culture Center in Japan, 2003), 44-45.
net elevation gain to the Euphrates at modern Biriçek is only 250 meters. From the Euphrates

to Kanesh the net elevation gain is 714 meters, added to which the several passes caravans had

to surmount. But despite our general understanding of the entire geography, reconstructing

individual segments of the route system is not without problems.76 Though the general area of

many intermediary stops can be guessed at, the only ancient locations that enjoy broad

consensus are the termini, Aššur and Kanesh.

From Aššur, the Old Assyrian merchants were able to proceed to the Anatolian plateau

by a number of different routes. Reviewing all the apparent options or even the entirety of one

possible route between Aššur and Kanesh is beyond the scope of this treatment.77 However,

there were two chief routes from Aššur across the Jezireh. The northerly route proceeded

north past Nineveh and then west along the southern rise of the Tur Abdin. The southern

route proceeded through the southern Ḫabur through Apum. The decision to take the

southern or northern route was made at Qaṭṭarā as one could proceed to Burullum (northern)

or Apum (southern) still from that point.78 For our purposes here, I will limit my review to just

one section of one of the possible routes—the section between Aššur and Apum. The purpose

in reviewing this section of the route is to show that correlating daily stops with places on an

itinerary suggests that daily travel could accomplish 40 kilometers per day the route.

Several attempts at working out various sections of the route are available, including K. Nashef,
Rekonstruktion der Reiserouten zur Zeit der altassyrischen Handelsniederlassungen, Beihefte zum Tübingen Atlas des
Voerderen Orients 83 (Wiesbaden: Ludwig Reichert, 1987).
On the sukinnu route, see most recently OBO 160/5, 79-81.
Kt 92/k 108, see Veenhof, "Across the Euphrates," 24.
According to the “itinerary” TC 3 163 and its duplicates, a series of stops along the route

comprises the following sequence:79

Aššur Sadduwātum Razamā Abitibān Qaṭṭarā Razamā Darqum Apum

If Tell Leilan is Apum,80 then the distance between Aššur and Apum was 230 kilometers

in a straight line. If transporters followed an imaginary route, where each of the stops above

represented a daily journey and they were spaced equidistant apart, then at the end of the

seventh day they would have arrived at Apum/Tell Leilan having averaged almost 33

kilometers per day. However, as seen on the map in Figure 10, based on Forlannini’s and

Veenhof’s suggestions below, the route was certainly not that direct. The caravan would first

cross over to the Wadi Tharthur, then follow its general lie through Razamā and Qaṭṭarā

(Forlanini’s locations, see below), through the saddle in the Jebel Sinjar, around the north of

TC 3 163: 11 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR a-na 2du-ul-ba-tim 3 ¼ GÍN KÙ.BABBAR a-na 4Ébe-et wa-áb-ri-im 5a-dí-in 2 LÁ ¼
GÍN AN.NA i-na sá-du-a-tim 7 ½ GÍN KÙ.BABBAR a-na 8URUDU ta-bu-e-em 9i-na Ra-za-ma 10 ⅔ ma-na URUDU 11i-na A-

pì-tí-pá-an 1212 GÍN URUDU i-na 13Qá-aṭ-ra 1410 GÍN URUDU i-na 15Qá-aṭ-ra a-dí-in 162 LÁ ¼ GÍN AN.NA 17a-na Ébe-<tí>-im 18i-
na pá-tí ša Ra-za-ma 19a-dí-in 1 GÍN 20AN.NA a-na ṣú-ḫa-ri-im 21ša kà-ší-im 22ša Da-ar-ki-im 23a-dí-in ½ ma-na 24URUDU a-
še-AM i-na 25A-pì-im 26 ½ ma-na URUDU i-na A-pì-im 27a-na ki-ri 28a-na 294 GÍN AN.NA ⅓ ma-na URUDU “1 shekel silver
to . I gave ¼ shekel silver to the guesthouse. 1¾ shekels tin in Sadduwātum. ½ shekel silver for copper t. in Razamā.
⅔ minas copper in Abitibān. 12 shekels copper in Qaṭṭarā. I gave/sold 10 shekels copper in Qaṭṭarā. I gave 1¾
shekels tin to the guesthouse in pāti ša Razamā. I gave 1 shekel tin to the servant of the kaššum of Darqum. ½ mina
copper for grain in Apum. ½ mina copper in Apum for kiri for 4 shekels tin ⅓ mina copper.” For Razamā 
Abitibān Qaṭṭarā see also BIN 4 193.
The localization of Apum is not completely secure. Forlanini claims Apum was the name by which the
Old Assyrian merchants referred to the ancient city at Tell Leilan M. Forlanini, "Étapes et ininéraires en Aššur et
l'Anatolie des marchands paléo-assyriens: nouveaux documents et nouveaux problems," Kaskal 3 (2006); following
D. Charpin, "Šubat-Enlil et le pays d'Apum," MARI 5 (1987), which is followed generally for the Old Assyrian
evidence; K.R. Veenhof, The Archive of Kuliya, AKT 5 (Ankara: TTK, 2008); the fact that the site was called Šeḫna
during the Old Babylonian period before and after it became Šamši-Adad’s residence continues to provide reasons
to look close by for another site, J. Eidem, "Old Assyrian Trade in Northern Syria: The evidence from Tell Leilan,"
in Anatolia and the Jazira During the Old Assyrian Period, ed. J.G. Dercksen, PIHANS 111 (Leiden: Nederlands Instituut
voor het Nabije Oosten, 2008), 32-34. If the localization of the kingdom of Apum to the east Ḫabur is correct, then
the site was likely within 10 kilometers of Tell Leilan and either north or west of the marshes along the course of
the Jagjag River. Such a change in location would have little effect on the overall distance between Aššur and
Apum; the effect on the daily travel average would have been no more than 1 km/day.
the marshes along the Wadi Jagjag and across to Tell Leilan. This route is fairly direct but also

reasonably sensitive to the topography of the land. This route would have been between 260

and 270 kilometers, rendering the average daily travel between the stops on the itinerary

above at 38 kilometers per day.

Figure 10 Possible Southern Route through Habur
(Figure based on Forlanini 2008)

Naḫur Razamā

Ḫab Marshes
ur R
Jebel Sin




Distance between Šeḫna (Tell Leilan)

and Aššur (Qal’at Sherqat) = 230 km ddu
30 km

20 miles

The segmentation of the route argues for a daily travel rate with an average higher

than 30 kilometers per day. Of course, the proposed route is not without problems. The

interpretation of itineraries (that is, whether the towns represent stops for the night) and the

uncertainty of the locations combine to make the problem much more complex. Forlanini’s

placement of some of the place names along the route highlights the challenge of interpreting

the places on the “itineraries” as the nightly stops.81 Forlanini places Qaṭṭarā in the region of

Yamutbal south of Karanā. From Aššur to Forlanini’s location for Qaṭṭarā, the journey is almost

100 kilometers. However, Qaṭṭarā was the fourth stop on Forlanini’s itinerary. If Abitibān was

not an overnight stop, then the daily distance between Razamā and Qaṭṭarā would be close to

the average daily distance for the journey from Aššur to Apum (38 kilometers).82 Otherwise the

segment would be bisected into two very short days. If Forlanini’s localization for Qaṭṭarā is

maintained and the towns interpreted as nightly stops, then the average was 25 kilometers per

day before Qaṭṭarā but almost 45 kilometers per day after. The problem of 45 kilometers per

day after Qaṭṭarā might be solved by an appeal to another stop not known, lowering the

average daily travel to 33 kilometers per day through that section.

Pursuing the route further past Apum, the stretch across the Ḫabur favors daily

journeys of 35 kilometers. Other stops included Amaz, which Eidem identified with Tell Arbid,

where the Syrian-Polish excavation has recently found an Old Assyrian tablet envelope.83 The

On the difficulties of assigning locations to place names in this area, see M.C. Astour, "Review of Nashef,
K. Reknonstrucktion der Reisenrouten zur Zeit der altassyrischen Handelsniederlassunen," JAOS 109 (1989).
The estimated distance covered for a journey to Emar in the Old Babylonian period through this
section of land (though over a different route which followed the Euphrates river more closely for the first
section) estimated 27 airline kilometers per day. See W. Hallo, "The Road to Emar," JCS 18 (1953).
Eidem, "Old Assyrian Trade in Northern Syria: The evidence from Tell Leilan," 40. Tell Arbid lies about
45 kilometers south of modern Qamishliye and 50 kilometers north-northeast of Hassake.
distance between Apum and Amaz thus would have been 35 kilometers and from there to

Naḫur, which Forlanini located in the eastern Habur, yet another 35 kilometers. If the towns

mentioned in the itinerary were usually the location of the inns at which the merchants

stayed, 35 kilometers per day was a typical journey.

The Shipping Season

The third parameter that affects how often merchants could travel between Anatolia

and Aššur was the length of the shipping season. Because of references to departing before or

getting stuck in the winter, the model of Old Assyrian trade has recognized a shipping season

within which bulk transport was able to proceed alternating with a winter season during

which the trade was disrupted. This most likely affected bulk transport directly, though some

letters show that messages could get through at least some portions of the Taurus mountains

when the bulk transport could not. One merchant was forced to wait to accumulate capital

because of the arrival of winter.84 Several letters include messages to take measures before the

cold season.85 Another merchant seems to have been overtaken by the cold on the eastern side

of the passes.86 However, there are some indications that merchants could and did travel

CCT 3 7b, see translation in Aššur-nādā, no. 50.
CCT 4 3a (translation in Larsen, The Aššur-nādā Archive, no. 118.) where arrangements in regards to
matters on the Anatolian plateau needed to be made before the cold. In 94/k 375, the donkeys refused to travel
because of the cold; the text mentions Waḫšušana, suggesting that the locus of the activity was not in the Taurus
mountains (courtesy G. Barjamovic).
BIN 6 114 1[a-na I-n]a-a qí-bi-ma 2[um-ma d]UTU-DU10-ma 3[i-na] dUTU-ši | ša PN 4[e]-ra-ba-ni | u4-ma-kál 5lá i-
bi-a-at a-na Wa-aḫ-šu-ša-na 7ṭù-ru-sú | a-dí | TÚG.ḪI-tí-a 8ša a-ma-kam i-ba-ší-ú-ni 9a-bi a-ta | bé-li 10a-ta TÚG.HI-tí | a-na

KÙ.B[ABBAR] 11[ma]-lá i-«ni»-du-nu-ni 12KÙ.BABBAR | ku-nu-ku-ma 13[š]é-bi-lam 14ku-ṣú-um | i-sí-ni-iq-ni-a-tí-ma 15e-lu-

tum 16i-ib-té-re 17té-er-ta-kà ú e-ma-ru-kà 18šál-mu | a-na-kam iš-tù 19[Ḫ]a-ḫi-im a-na Tí-me-el-ki-[a] 20[1-i]š-té-na ú 2-ša-na
[x]-x-ru | uš-ta-lu-ḫu 22[x x t]a-áš-pu-ra-ni 23[x x x x š]é-bu-lam 24[x x x x x] té-er-ta-<kà> 25[li-li-k]am-ma 26[uz-n]i | pí-té
[ x x (x)] 26[x x] x AN.NA [ ] “To Innaya: Šamaš-ṭāb – On the day that PN arrived he did not stay a single day, he
was dispatched to Waḫšušana. With regard to my textiles which are there, my dear father and lord, sell my
textiles for silver. Seal and send the silver to me. ‘Winter’ overtook us. The caravan suffered from hunger. Your
during the winter. After asking his representatives to send him a mina of silver, one merchant

reminds them that he is taking the ‘winter road.’87

Nevertheless, it seems likely that the high passes in the Taurus Mountains through

which the Assyrian merchants travelled were extremely difficult or impassable for some time

each winter, as they remained until the advent of modern roads in the area. During the 19th

century, the passes were blocked for four months—from the first week of December to the first

week of April.88 This statement of conditions has been corroborated by contemporary local

inhabitants’ memory.89

The general consensus has been to define the period when the Taurus passes were not

blocked—approximately from the first week of April to the first week of December—as the

shipping season of eight months during which commercial travel was possible. Two factors

suggest that the Old Assyrian shipping season was longer than eight months, probably nine.

First, aggressive transporters pushed the limits of the seasons by traveling through the

passes as they were closing, as evidenced by the experience of the transporter overtaken by

the cold in the area of Timelkiya. This aggressiveness suggests that it is reasonable to add two

weeks in the spring and two weeks in the fall to the shipping season on the Aššur side of the

passes. Blocked passes in the Taurus only limited travel along the western end of the Jezireh.

By contrast, the route from Aššur across the Euphrates and perhaps even to Timelkiya (at the

goods and your donkeys are well. Here, from Ḫaḫḫum to Timelkiya, one or two ... (Concerning) x about which you
wrote me. … is sent … let your message come so that I am informed ... tin …”
BIN 4 97:1-20 1a-na ša ki-ma i-a-tí ... 3qí-bi-ma um-ma 4A-šùr-mu-ta-bi-il5-ma … 9KÙ.BABBAR 1 ma-na ma-li-a-
ma ku-un-kà-ma šé-bi4-lá-nim 11šu-ma i-na 12ba-áb-tí-a 13a-a-kam-ma lá tal-qé-a! 14lu tù-dí-na-tù-ki 15lu mì-ma i-qá-tí-ki i-

ba-ší-ú 16KÙ.BABBAR 1 ma-na 17ma-li-a-ma šé-bi4-lá-nim 18lá tí-de8-a ki-ma 19ḫa-ra-an ku-ṣí-im 20a-lu-ku “To my
representative, … thus Aššur-mutabbil: ... Raise about a mina of silver and seal and send it to me. If at my arrival
there you have not received it, either your … or whatever you have on hand raise about a mina silver and send it
to me. Do you not know that I go by way of the winter road?”
Admiralty Handbook of Asia Minor, vol. 4 pt. 2 (1919), 82.
Gojko Barjamovic (personal communication).
top of the Taurus piedmont) would have been ‘open’ all year. Granted, this eastern portion of

the route was still difficult in the wintertime. If today’s conditions are indicative of the Old

Assyrian time, by October the rains began; between December and March half the annual rain

falls, and sometimes snow falls on the Jezireh. Another third of the annual rainfall comes in

the spring months following March. This would have offered a rainy, muddy journey to the

Euphrates, but not necessarily an intractable path. Merchants could have departed in early to

mid-March from Aššur so as to approach the passes as they were opening in the first week of


Second, while it has been reasonable to assume that the general climate during the Old

Assyrian trade was similar to today’s, there are indications that the Taurus passes themselves

might have been blocked for less time in antiquity. Thanks to propositions about social

collapse at the end of the third millennium, there has been a fairly intensive focus on climate

research in the period just before and into the period when the Old Assyrian traders were

plying the Taurus routes. Even if correlations between sudden climate change and social

collapse overstretch the evidence, the data gathered do provide some evidence on which to

consider the extent of the Taurus snowpack. There is widespread agreement that the end of

the third millennium saw two separate but sustained and relatively severe droughts from ca.

2200-2100 B.C. and ca. 2000-1900 B.C. followed by relatively arid conditions similar to today.90

There is also some indication that during the same period the passes were blocked for less time

than in our contemporary climate. Though no climate proxy data have been gathered directly

C. Kuzucuoǧlu, "Climatic and Environmental Trends during the Third Millennium B.C. in Upper
Mesopotamia," in Sociétés Humaines et Changement Climatique à la Fin du Troisième Millénaire: Une Crise a-t-elle eu Lieu
en Haute Mesopotamie? Actes du Colloque de Lyon 5-8 Décembre 2005, ed. C. Kuzucuoǧlu and C. Marro (Istanbul: Institut
Français d'études Anatoliennes Georges-Dumézil, 2007).
from the Taurus Mountains, data have been gathered from a range of locations, including the

central Anatolia plateau and Lake Van (fig. 8). The most important factor in the climate was

the the westerly jet stream coming from the Mediterranean. Soil cores from Lake Van suggest

the transition towards a drier climate in Anatolia beginning in the late third millennium,

which trend continues today.91 But more direct proxies for the snow pack in the Taurus

mountains—the levels of the Euphrates river—were decreasing from 2000 B.C. onwards,

suggesting that the annual snow pack in the drainage basins feeding into the Euphrates,

including the Taurus Mountains, decreased as time went by.92 Thus if, as according to some

indications,93 in Šalim-aḫum’s time the climate were similar to the modern period, the levels of

the Euphrates were still decreasing over time. The depth and extent of the Taurus snowpack

might have been less intense and thus the Taurus Mountains open for longer periods each year

than observed in the modern period.94

L. Wick, G. Lemcke, and M. Sturm, "Evidence of Lateglacial and Holocene climatic change and human
impact on east Anatolia: high-resolution pollen, charcoal, isotopic and geochemical records from laminated
sediments of Lake Van, Turkey," Holocene 13 (2003).
S. Riehl and R. Bryson, "Variability in Human Adaptation to Changing Environmental Conditions in
Upper Mesopotamia during the Early and Middle Bronze Age," in Sociétés Humaines et Changement Climatique à la Fin
du Troisième Millénaire: Une Crise a-t-elle eu Lieu en Haute Mesopotamie? Actes du Colloque de Lyon 5-8 Décembre 2005, ed.
C. Kuzucuoǧlu and C. Marro (Istanbul: Institut Français d'études Anatoliennes Georges-Dumézil, 2007), 525.
Kuzucuoǧlu, "Climatic and Environmental Trends during the Third Millennium B.C. in Upper
Several studies and two edited volumes are specifically dedicated to the question of climate change
around the end of the third millennium: H.N. Dalfes and, eds., Third Millennium B.C. Climate Change and Old
World Collapse (Berlin: Springer-Varlag, 1997); Kuzucuoǧlu, "Climatic and Environmental Trends during the Third
Millennium B.C. in Upper Mesopotamia.".
Figure 11 Map of Paleoclimate Proxy Sites

(Image taken from NOAA website: Sites most

directly pertinent to Taurus mountains are: 8 - Kaz Gölü, 9 - Konya, 10 - Eski Açigol, 13 - Sögütlü Lake, 14 - Lake

Rethinking the Tempo of Bulk Transport

To summarize, there are three parameters by which the present understanding of the

Old Assyrian bulk transport pace has been estimated: 1) average daily travel, 2) the length of

the route between Aššur and Kanesh, and 3) the duration of the shipping season. Be revisiting

each of these elements it becomes apparent that the time constraints assigned by the three

abstract parameters (30 kilometers per day, 1200 kilometers, eight-month shipping season) are

too restrictive. Veenhof appropriately postulated that this would have established some sort of

periodicity: the large caravans of donkeys “presumably departed only a few times a year,

probably in spring, in late autumn and a few times in between.”95 While the two-cycle season is

a reasonable combination of the parameters above, such a system does not reflect the earnest

pace of activity manifest in the reconstruction of Šalim-aḫum’s, Pūšu-kēn’s, and their

associates’ activities in REL 80. It is possible that large caravans took longer to make the

journey, but the progress of the original venture and Dān-Aššur’s departure slightly later in

the season suggest that there was sufficient flexibility in the system so as not to demand the

synchronization implied by the two-cycle season. Slight increases in the average daily travel of

the transports, a slightly shorter journey, and a slightly longer shipping season, especially in

combination with the sense of earnestness of the trade, makes eight month-long journeys

either to or from Aššur possible within the confines of a single shipping season. For smaller

groups, this must have been attainable, and this pace supported a constant ebb and flow of

goods along the trails around the larger caravans. In such a system, merchants like Šalim-

aḫum had the capability of making tactical decisions and responding to developing situations

within the confines of a single year by coordinating or directing not only activity on the

Anatolian plateau, but also goods transported from Aššur throughout the season. It will be

clear below that Šalim-aḫum’s decisions during this year depended on this kind of flexibility.

The Tempo of Communication

Within the reconstruction of the ikribū crisis, Šalim-aḫum received and wrote at least

five letters (3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, and 3.5) within a short period of time, indicating that he

wished Pūšu-kēn to collect and send gold to him as soon as possible. While Šalim-aḫum never

Veenhof, "Commnication," 205.
expressed any firm deadline by which he had to have the gold, it seems clear that he needed to

have the gold in Aššur in the near term. Despite the fact that the matter seemed urgent, Šalim-

aḫum received the update about Puzur-Ištar’s initial excuse and then wrote to attempt to

constrain Puzur-Ištar to pay, feeling that he could still affect the desired result in a sufficiently

timely manner. When he (probably soon thereafter) found out that his tactics were too late, he

began laying out a different strategy for obtaining the gold. All this happened within a period

of around two to three weeks during the month of May. Šalim-aḫum’s capability to capitalize

on Ilabrat-bāni’s offer in this context further reflects his ability to keep a hand in his own

affairs as they evolved in Anatolia. Within the context of the Šalim-aḫum’s activities in REL 80,

this earnestness of communication becomes even more apparent. The figure below shows the

density of communication evidence in the first third of the shipping season during REL 80

(mid-March-Mid-June). The figure includes letters from most episodes reconstructed in this


Figure 12 Density of Communication between Šalim-aḫum & Pūšu-kēn mid-March to mid-June REL 80

Passes Open Passes Close

March April May June July August September October November December
R 80 XII
Pilaḫ-Aššur’s du
ue date


.2 .


Pūšu-k ē

l ven


4.1 & 2.2



i n


IEnnam ššur: “

ni’i’ss off

& ori


Puzur-Iš Puzur-Iš

ffIearm cle

Lot #4 sittos contract


I tar dela

a m


- I š tar rat-bāni
3.4 & 3..5

3.1 En

Puzu nni, Ilab
5. 7

Shipment Packet
Letter Lost Letter of Goods of Silver
The reconstruction of Šalim-aḫum’s activities during REL 80 demands that the letters

needed to have been travelling at roughly twice the pace of the bulk transport; that is, a letter

was able to travel between Aššur and Kanesh in approximately 15-17 days. This proposition

will be defended by discussing some of the elements of Old Assyrian letters, particularly

regarding the pace and ubiquity of letter writing, as well as further examples from the Old

Assyrian documentation. This will lead to a discussion of the feasibility of the 15-day tempo as

related to the equids used by the Old Assyrian merchants.

The Content of the Correspondence

As is clear from the previous chapter, communication could travel faster in both

directions than bulk transport activities. But how much faster? A recent review by Veenhof of

communication in the Old Assyrian period has underlined the fact that there must have been a

messenger service, positing a type of traveler different from the bulk transporter.96 Šalim-

aḫum’s measures taken during the Puzur-Ištar crisis confirm the vibrancy of the

communication regime in the Old Assyrian period, suggesting that things moved even more

rapidly. While Veenhof asserts that hundreds of letters might have been sent each year, the

review here—especially the fact that Pūšu-kēn and Šalim-aḫum likely sent upwards of one

hundred letters between themselves during the year—suggests that the volume of post could

be many times more voluminous. Though thousands of letter are extant, no direct references

to the specific length of time taken to travel from Aššur to Kanesh exist. However, the

merchants understood from long experience the rate at which the messages travelled, and

Veenhof, "Communication," 205.
they composed their letters with this rate in mind. Šalim-aḫum’s own letters, and what he

states and what he does not state, give a sense of how many letters were travelling at once

along the road. The overlapping references in his letters and the reconstruction of this year

demand that the letters and activities discussed in this work developed continuously over the

course of a single shipping season.

In other cases, functions of a particular transaction suggest a robust regime of

communication between Anatolia and Aššur. For example, the mere existence of the ša ḫarran

ālim arrangement is a testament to the effective communication between Aššur and Anatolia

during the Old Assyrian trade. In order for a ša ḫarrān ālim contract to work, both the

contractor and buying agent would have needed to know the relative price of gold in Anatolia.

The contractor needed to know the price to ensure that he did not pay too much to the buying

agent; the buying agent needed to know the price to ensure that he would be able to sell the

capital for sufficient gold to fill the contract and make a small profit. Without sufficient

knowledge of the prices in Anatolia, either the contractor or the buying agent risked

unnecessary losses.

Letters were ubiquitous. One letter, written to Pūšu-kēn by a merchant living in Aššur,

shows how many documents could be generated in the process of a lot sold on credit. In the

letter, the different documents mentioned are bolded and their order numbered in relation to

the sequence of events described below. Some of the numbered documents are not mentioned

in the letter.

Šū-Ḫubur to Pūšu-kēn:

As for the tin and textiles which Ikūnum purchased, you wrote to me(3): “He will pay

you 20 shekels refined silver for each of your textiles in 13 ḫamuštum weeks, and a 1:7 rate for

the tin.” When you wrote me(3) this I was content. (Now) later, you write me(7):

“Ikūnum produced a letter (5, našpertum) from you in front of my colleagues and put me to

shame.” Indeed, I did write to him(5), but after you set him a term and your message(3)

had come to me, I did not write to him again(6). Please, my dear brother, take care to have

him pay the silver … as soon as you have read my report(8, i.e. this letter), let your

report(10) come by express messenger.97

Šū-Ḫubur’s predicament implied that at least ten letters were written, should have

been written, or were to have been written in relation to this credit sale. The process likely

I 678 1-18, 2’-4’: obv. 1um-ma Šu-Hu-bur-ma a-na 2Pu-šu-ke-en₆ | qí-bi-ma | a-šu-mì 3AN.NA ù TÚG.HI.A | ša I-
ku-num il₅-qé-ú-ni | ta-áš-pu-ra-am 5um-ma a-ta-ma | a-na TÚG-tí-kà 6 ⅓ ma-na.TA ù a-na AN.NA-ki-kà 77 GÍN.TA | a-na

13 ha-am-ša-tim 8KÙ.BABBAR ṣa-ru-pá-am | i-ša-qal ki-ma 9ta-áš-pu-ra-ni li-bi ih-du 10i-na bar-ki-tim ta-ša-pá-ra-am um-
ma 11a-ta-ma | na-áš-pé-er-ta-kà I-ku-num 12IGI i-ba-ru-tí-a ú-šé-ṣí-a-<am> ú | ub-ta-i-š[a]-ni 13ke-na | i-pá-ni-tim lu áš-pu-
ra-šum 14ú-lá a-tù-ur-ma | iš-tù | a-ta 15u₄-me-e | ta-áš-ku-nu-šu-ni-ma | té-er-ta-k[à] 16i-li-kà-ni | ú-lá áš-pu-ra-šum 17a-pu-
tum | šu-ma a-hi a-ta | i-hi-i[d-ma] 18KÙ.BABBAR | ša-áš-qí-il₅-šu 2’ki-ma | té-er-tí | ta-áš-me-ú-ni 3’[té-er-ta-kà | iš]-tí ba-tí-
[qí-im pá-nim-ma] 4’[li-li-kam]. Cf. Veenhof, "Communication," 202-03, for similar translation, but slightly different
There was a range of terms used to described the peregrinations of the merchants, and Veenhof’s review
makes its most important contributions by approaching the trade through the terminology, aiming to describe
methodologically the communication through the constellation of vocabulary. The limitations of the evidence for
providing precise definitions of terms referring to travelers—specifically ālikum, was̄ium,and bātiqum—and to the
terms ḫarrānum and ellutum are well known. Nonetheless, the following general constellation of relationships
might be suggested. The term ālikum must refer generally to a traveler. If a more specific meaning is sought, then
it may refer to peregrinating merchants. To “join a traveler” (išti ālikim ṭaḫḫu’um) meant to join a small group of
peregrinators and accompanying occasional travelers as they left the city. Likewise, wāṣium had a general
connotation. Either an ālikum or wāṣium could be travelling in a larger group, not necessarily alone. By contrast,
the term bātiqum finds its most important distinction as ‘detached traveler.’ In a context which did not necessitate
the distinction, the same bātiqum traveler could have been referred to by the term ālikum. In regards to speed, it
seems prudent to propose that an ālikum or bātiqum could be fast or slow depending on the individual needs of
that person or group. While the bātiqum has been taken to represent a faster mode of travel, the
interchangeability of attested formulas—“Send your message with the first ālikum/wāṣium/bātiqum”—seems to
reflect the preference of the correspondent rather than materially different phenomena.
transpired as follows: When the caravan set off, a notifying message (1), and a bill of lading (2),

were created.98 When the caravan arrived in Kanesh, Pūšu-kēn cleared the goods through

customs, then sold some or all of the goods to Ikūnum, writing up a caravan account (3) and a

debt note (4). Pūšu-kēn sent the caravan account (3) to Šū-Ḫubur. In the meantime, Šū-Ḫubur

had written Ikūnum (5) regarding some matter, conditions which must have allowed Ikūnum

more time than Pūšu-kēn’s original arrangement, and conditions which required some

confirmation in the form of a letter which Šū-Ḫubur never wrote (6). When thirteen weeks had

passed since the original sale, Pūšu-kēn went to collect from Ikūnum, and Ikūnum showed

Pūšu-kēn Šū-Ḫubur’s letter (5), which Ikūnum cited as grounds for not yet paying. Frustrated,

Pūšu-kēn reported this to Šū-Ḫubur (7). Šū-Ḫubur responded apologetically with the present

letter (8). This letter must have been accompanied by another letter likely addressed to both

Pūšu-kēn and Ikūnum (9) which would have sufficiently clarifed the matter so that Pūšu-kēn

could collect the silver.99 When Pūšu-kēn had done so, he was to send an express message (10)

reporting on his success. In the end, the documentation flowed so freely that Ikūnum

essentially used the lack of a document to avoid paying his debt.

The activity of trade and tempo of communication were brisk. Every indication from

the textual sources points to the fact that impatience, which the American economist Irving

Fischer described as a prerequisite for the financial concept of interest,100 was part of the Old

Assyrian merchant’s mindset. Silver was said to “grow hungry” if it was not invested,

Depending on how far one wanted to expand the focus, we could also include the contracts with the
transporters, and possibly other bills of lading with accompanying shipments.
As a parellel for companion letters, in which one letter is addressed to the agent and the other letter is
addressed to the agent and the person with whom he will be conducting the transaction on behalf of the
principal, see 3.5 and 3.6.
Irving Fisher, The Theory of Interest (New York: 1930).
reflecting it’s owner’s feelings.101 The same impatience surfaced in the expectation of activity

requested in the correspondence. Phrases like “as soon as you read my tablet send your

response,”102 or “the day you read my letter (give the silver to PN1 and PN2)”103 are common.

There was always a desire (and thus an expectation that it were possible) that requests or

instructions were performed on the same day or very soon thereafter. “At Purušḫattum, do not

tarry at the colony. Do no stay more than 10 days after you arrive.”104

The fact that merchants had constant opportunities to send letters is strengthened by

the fact that even if a situation were to change in 5 or 10 days, there was still sufficient reason

to inform the agent on the other end of the route about the current state of affairs. Writers

reported, “the caravan will arrive within 10 days;”105 “Convert the tin (on hand) into gold

before the (new) tin arrives by caravan;”106 “Be patient for ten days;”107 “Concerning the

purchases of the son of Šu-Aššur about which you wrote me, if I have not written you in ten

days, you won’t hear anything.”108 “Here, in your message (you wrote), ‘Il-wedāku owes about a

mina or two of gold upon his arrival.’ He will pay in ten days. Also, we will have the (debt) of

Amria’s son paid and we will gather about 10 minas silver from various sources and I myself

K.R. Veenhof, "'Dying Tablets' and 'Hungry Silver': Elements of Figurative Language in Akkadian
Commercial Terminology," in Figurative Language in the Ancient Near East, ed. M. Mindlin, M.J. Geller, and J.E.
Wainsbrough (London: 1987).
CCT 2 28:17-19 ki-ma ṭup-pì ta-áš-me-ú té-er-ta-kà li-li-ik.
AKT 3 78:18-19 i-na u4-mì-im ša ṭup-pá-am ta-ša-me-ú.
CCT 3 4:41-44 41i-na Pu-ru-uš-ḫa-tim 42kà-ra-am 43la tù-ša-áb i-nu-mí 44té-ru-bu a-la-an 4510 u4-me la tù-ša-áb.
For a translation of the entire letter, see C. Michel, Correspondance, 382-83; Aššur-nādā No. 39.
BIN 4 84:12-13 a-na 10 u4-me e-lu-tum e-ra-ba!-am.
CCT 4 11b:19’-21’ lá-ma AN.NA ša ILLAT-tim e-ru-ba-ni AN.NA a-na KÙ.GI ta-er.
adi 10 ūmē lā taḫaddar, CCT 4 36b-37a:17, CCT 5 4a:8.
TC 2 15: 35-38 35a-šu-mì | ší-mì-im 36ša DUMU Šu-A-šur | ša ta-áš-pu-ra-ni 37šu-ma | a-dí 10 u4-me-e | mì-ma-
ša-ma [lá] áš-pu-ra-[kum] | ú-za-kà | lá i-ba-ší.
will depart when Uṣṣur-ša-Aššur goes out in 10 days.”109 “My caravan (leaves) after Puzur-

Aššur. Within 10 days I will dispatch Aššur-lamassī, my maḫḫā’um.”110 “We wrote you (a letter,

taken) by Šū-Adad (saying), “Within 10 days travelers will arrive here two or three times, and

for now we will set aside five minas silver each time.”111

Alongside these urgings, the references in which merchants wrote that they had not

heard from someone in years seems hyperbolic. Complaints by wives that they had not seen

their husbands for unbearable periods of time attest to the rhetorical effect of the emotional

aspect of the discourse. Likewise, when writers complained that a correspondent had not

responded promptly by counting the caravans that had arrived, only weeks were involved—

not months or years. At one point during this year, Šalim-aḫum complained that he had

written five letters to Ilabrat-bāni but the latter had not taken action (4.3:22). At another point

(4.6:10-14), Šalim-aḫum complained to Pūšu-kēn: “Five or six of your tablets have arrived. As

for these (debts), why did you not write in your tablets that I am paid in full?” In both cases,

each group of five letters must have been sent within a period of two weeks or less (see

Chapter Four). In the context of the present review, a complaint like: “Our tablets go to you in

caravan after caravan, but no consignments from you has ever arrived here,” probably refers

to a matter of months rather than years.112

BIN 4 38:3-12 3i-na té-er-tí-kà 4KÙ.GI 1 ma-na ù 2 ma-na 5Il5-we-da-ku ba-ab ma-hi-ri-im 6ú-ha-bi-il5 a-dí 10
u4-me i-ša-qal ú ša DUMU Am-ri-a 8nu-ša-áš-qal-ma KÙ.BABBAR 10 ma-na 9nu-uš-ta-ṣa-ba-at-ma 10Ú-ṣur-ša-A-šùr a-dí
10 u4-me-e u-ṣí-a-ma 12a-na-ku a-ta-lá-kam.
BIN 4 68:3-6 3ha-ra-ni | wa-ar-kà-at 4Puzúr-A-šùr | a-dí 10 u4-me-e 5A-šùr-lá-ma-sí | ma-ha-i 6[a]-mì-ša-am | a-
CCT 4 10a:8-15 8ni-iš-pu-ra-kum 9i-na šé-ep | Šu-dIŠKUR 10um-ma né-nu-ma a-dí 10 u4-me 11a-li-ku | a-dí šé-ni-
šu 12ù ša-lá-ší-šu 13[i]-lu-[ku]-ma a-ni-ma 145 ma-na.TA KÙ.BABBAR 15nu!-na-ša-ra-kum. Translated also in Larsen, The
Aššur-nādā Archive, No. 44.
TC 3 1:12-15 i-na ILLAT-at ILLAT-at-ma ṭup-pu-ni i-li-ku-ni-kum ma-ti-ma te9-er-ta-kà ú-lá i-li-kam.
The general feeling in these letters that messages and people needed to keep moving

is corroborated by the sense that messages moved faster than the bulk transport tempo. Along

with the notifying message as described in Chapter Two, several direct quotations serve to

show that the Old Assyrian writers knew that messages outpaced the bulk transport. When

Šalim-aḫum writes Pūšu-kēn about Ilabrat-bāni, he says, “As for the 18 fine kutānum-textiles

which Suea is bringing to you—do not wait for the arrival of the textiles. Send me 5 minas

silver so that I may make purchases and cause them to arrive while you are still there so that

an (extra) mina may arise” (4.6:38-44). Šalim-aḫum’s explicit tactic depended on the letter

beating the arrival of the textiles by a sufficient time so as to benefit him in the short term. An

impatient sister wrote her brother about news concerning the clearance of her father’s estate.

“You have written and in your missive you said: ‘Aluwa must not delay a single day. Let him

catch up with me on the journey.’ Today it is 3 months since we sent Aluwa and until this day

we have heard nothing concerning …”113 Though the tablet is broken, it is clear that the sister

considered three months an unreasonable time to wait for important news. Clearly she did not

imagine either Aluwa or the letter to travel at the pace of bulk goods.

Another reference implies that two different letters from Aššur reached Kanesh during

the duration of a bulk transport caravan’s journey. Aššur-iddi(n) wrote, “In my former letter I

wrote you as follows: ‘Give the tin and textiles to my son Ilī-alum.’ (But) do not give him

anything! He took a lot of tin from his own caravan. Out of the textiles take those of lesser

quality and deposit them as my share on my account. Give the rest of my textiles and the 2

kt 94/k 1421:4-10 4ta-áš-pu-ra-nim-[ma i-na] 5na-áš-pè-er-tí-ku-nu um-ma a-t[ù-nu-ma] 6A-lu-wa u4-ma-kál lá
i-sà-ḫu-u[r] 7a-pá-ni-a a-ḫa-ra-ni li-i[k-šu-dam] 8u4-ma-am iš-tù ITI.3.KAM 9A-lu-wa ni-iṭ-ru-da-ma ù [a-na] 10u4-mì-im a-
nim mì-ma ša x […] (courtesy M. T. Larsen).
talents of tin to my younger son Aššur-taklāku … ”114 Aššur-iddi(n), though having assigned the

goods of the shipment to an older son, Ilī-ālum, changed his mind upon learning that Ilī-alum

already took plenty of the goods. Instead he decided to give them to his younger son, Aššur-

taklāku. Both the earlier letter (the notifying message for the caravan) and this letter were

sent while Ilī-ālum was in transit.

Questions about Equids

Veenhof’s recent discussion on messages and messengers postulated that there was a

messenger service, and though there is ample evidence that merchants used younger men

(ṣuḫārum) to take messages, as well as merchants already traveling, some messenger service

must have been operating alongside the more informal post.115 To make the journey from

Aššur to Kanesh in 15 days, such messengers would have had to travel 66 kilometers (41 miles)

per day, roughly double the rate of bulk transport. On foot, an unloaded messenger can travel

upwards of 66 kilometers in one day, but not continuously and not with a cargo of clay letters.

Such a pace could not be the basis for even a single trip to Anatolia, let alone a continuing

messenger service. Nor could donkeys provide sufficiently paced transportation. If letters were

to travel such distances quickly, then horses or mules would have had to have been involved.

There are ample modern and pre-modern examples of courier systems which suggest

that 66 kilometers per day was not unreasonable for the Old Assyrian period. The Pony Express

represents perhaps the ultimate speeds for post by horse. On the Pony Express, the riders

POAT 5 (L29-558) Translation according to Aššur-nādā No. 2.
Veenhof, "Communication."
averaged 315 kilometers (196 miles) per day.116 The pre-modern Islamic barīd was claimed to

relay news 300 kilometers (186 miles) in 24 hours.117 There are claims of Roman messengers

with fast horses and repeated changeovers having been able to travel up to 385 kilometers (239

miles) in one day, though this was extraordinary and unsustainable.118 Before there was

imperial post, Ceasar hired private citizens to organize messages for him, though, with his

impressive pace, he would sometimes arrive ahead of his messages. Seutonius admired Ceasar

for making 100 miles per day on his travels, though he would sleep along the way.119

Aššurbanipal would probably have claimed he could do at least half that distance.120

Some of these pre-modern estimates are hearsay. But more reliable estimates include

numbers closer to the capacity claimed for the Old Assyrian merchants. Estimates of typical

travel for Roman messages were upwards of 50 miles per day.121 Alexander’s cavalry and other

mounted soldiers covered over 40 miles per day on some campaigns, when the entire army was

not involved.122 At the height of the Roman Empire, couriers could leave Rome and reach

Antioch in 40 days.123 The Old Assyrian system did not benefit from an imperial infastructure

like that of Rome, nor was it a Pony Express. (If the Pony Express operated on the Old Assyrian

The nineteen hundred sixty-six miles of roads and trails from St. Louis to Sacramento took ten days to
cover, passing through the Wasatch and Sierra Nevada Mountains. Horses covered ten miles each and riders
changed horses three to seven times. Oscar Winther, The Transportation Frontier: Trans-Mississippi West, 1865-1890
(New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964) 52-53.
A. Silverstein, Postal Systems in the Pre-Modern Islamic World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2007), 191.
A. Hyland, Equus: The Horse in the Roman World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), 250-54.
Suetonius, Divus Julius 1. 57. See M.R. Sheldon, Intelligience Activities in Ancient Rome: Trust in Gods, but
Verify (London: Frank Cass, 2005), 132.
“I can canter on thoroughbreds all day long.” gimir ūmēya šitaḫḫuṭāku mūr nisqi, Streck, Asb. 256 I 19.
C.W.J. Elliot, "New Evidence for the Speed of the Roman Imperial Post," Phoenix 9 (1955); A.W. Ramsay,
"The Speed of the Imperial Post," Journal of Roman Studies 15 (1925).
D.W. Engels, Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army (Berkeley: University of
California, 1978).
L. Casson, Travel in the Ancient World (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994), 188.
route, the time for a letter between Aššur and Kanesh would have been 3½ days.) However, 66

kilometers (41 miles) per day does not seem unattainable.

While riding equipment was different between the Old Assyrian riders and the Pony

Express, the differences between the Old Assyrians and Alexander’s cavalry were not likely

significant. Neither had treed saddles, thought to be necessary for long distances because they

lift the rider off of the horse’s or mule’s back, thus preventing the spine of the animal from

being pinched, and provide the necessary prerequisite for true dual stirrups. Treed saddles

came later than Alexander.124 Recent evidence has pointed to the adoption of metal bits

already in the third millennium B.C.125 In any case, some of these technologies are not

unilaterally advantageous for the horse.126 The Old Assyrians used saddlecloths for their pack

donkeys—they likely also did for riding.127

Archaeological and pictoral evidence for the presence of the horse in Mesopotamia and

Northern Syria now leads some to postulate the use of the horse in this area as early as the

first half of the third millennium BC.128 It is clear that in areas of Mesopotamia equids were

prized and valued already in the Early Akkadian period, such as the equid burials in Hamrin

The first evidence of the innovation of the stirrup is in representations in the sculptures of the stupa
at Sanchi (ca. 200 B.C.). The stirrup in these depictions is simply a loop for the big toe. The true stirrup developed
later, is credited to the southern Siberian or Altaic nomads by the 5th century AD. See M.A. Littauer, "Early
Stirrups," Antiquity 55 (1981).
M.A. Littauer and J.H. Crouwell, "The Earliest Evidence for Metal Bridle Parts," Oxford Journal of
Archaeology 20, no. 4 (2001).
These innovations did not necessarily dramatically improve riding distances. Stirrups are most useful
in warfare, where swinging swords and throwing spears requires a much more stable mount than simple riding.
Treeless saddles have become increasingly popular in endurance horsemanship for the comfort of both the horse
and rider.
The first millennum Assyrian reliefs of Assurbanipal II and Shalmaneser III have been interpreted to
depict Assyrian soldiers riding bareback. Later reliefs (Sargon II) show introduction of a saddlecloth and more
advanced reins, followed by more advanced reining system in the 7th century B.C.: M.A. Littauer and J.H.
Crouwell, Wheeled Vehicles and Ridden Animals in the Ancient Near East (Leiden: Brill, 1979), 142-43. However, this
can’t be used to infer that Old Assyrian merchants would not have used saddlecloths.
E. Vila, "Data on Equids form the late fourth and third millennium sites in Northern Syria," in Equids in
Time and Space: Papers in Honor of Véra Eisenmann, ed. M. Mashkour (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2006).
Basin.129 But it has also reasonably been questioned whether an Ur III seal of Abbakal with a

depiction of a “flying horse” meant horses (equus caballus) were used in everyday third

millennium Mesopotamia for riding or draft.130 If the seal of Abbakal does not demonstrate that

horses were regularly employed in the Ur III period, it does evidence human use. Either way,

their existence and use in the Old Assyrian ambit is clear from a quotation about getting goods

from one point to another fast: “Much tin will arrive at Purušḫattum, so exhaust every shekel

of silver there so that the tin is carried either by horse (sīsum) or drive donkeys so that it

arrives in Purušḫattum as soon as possible.”131

Within the discussion of equids, the identification of the perdum is of direct interest to

the Old Assyrian messenger system. By lexical exclusion, Veenhof proposed that a perdum was

a mule because an Anatolian position rāb sīsē “administrator of the horses” implied that sīsum

was still the word for horse in Anatolia.132 Michel largely follows Veenhof, though she prefers

to include the possibility that perdum could have been a hermione.133 Nonetheless, though Old

Assyrian perdum as “mule” is reasonable, it is not yet possible to completely exclude that in the

early second millennium perdum may have referred to a unique, perhaps Anatolian, breed of

M. Gibson, ed., Uch Tepe 1: Tell Razuk , Tell Ahmed al-Mughir, Tell Ajamat, Hamrin Report 10 (Copenhagen:
University of Copenhagen, 1981), 73.
D.I. Owen, "The "First" Equestrian: An Ur III Glyptic Scene," Acta Sumerologica 13 (1991), warns against
using the depiction of the “flying horse” on Abbakal’s seal as evidence of everyday activity. The horse is mounted
by a human and the horse is in full gallop.
TTC 28 (RA 80 128-9):7-19 7AN.NA 8ma-dum | a-na 9Pu-ru-uš-ḫa-tim 10e-ru-bu ú 11a-ma-kam KÙ.BABBAR 121
GÍN gu5-mu-ur-ma 13lu i-na sí-sá-im 14AN.NA i-ta-ší 15ú-lá e-ma-re-e 16sé-er-da-ma 17i-pá-nim-ma 18a-Pu-ru-uš-ḫa-[t]im 19e-
ru-ub. Though the horse mentioned would have been acting as a burden animal, the essence of the message is the
speed. Without a rider accompanying the horse on a similarly capable equid, the relative advantage of using the
horse would have been muted.
K.R. Veenhof, "Status and Offices of an Anatolian Gentleman - Two Unpublished Letters of
Huharimataku from karum Kanish," in Anatolia and the Ancient Near East: Studies in Honor of Tahsin Özgüç, ed. K. Emre,
et al. (Ankara: 1989), 520-1.
C. Michel, "The perdum-mule, a Mount for Distinguished Persons in Mesopotamia during the First Half
of the Second Millennium BC," in PECUS. Man and Animal in Antiquity. Proceedings of the Conference at the Swedish
Institute in Rome, September 9-12, 2002., ed. B.S. Frizell (Rome: The Swedish Institute in Rome, 2004).
horse.134 In the Old Assyrian documentation, the rab sīsē or his wife never sell a ‘horse’ (sīsum),

but do sell perdum equids. The quotation above about sending tin by horse or donkey is, in fact,

the only reference to a sīsum aside from the title rab sīsē. On the other hand, there are

references to a rab perdī (kt 94/k 1226, 87/k 320). It is possible that rab perdī represents the

more direct rendition of an Anatolian title that was more often rendered rab sīsē.

The question of whether or not a perdum was a breed of horse or a mule is less

important from an economic perspective. Both the cost to purchase and the opportunity cost

to produce a horse or mule was roughly equal. Because mules are statistically infertile, and

because a hinny, the result of a jenny (female donkey) and male horse is less desirable, the only

sustainable way to produce mules is with a mare (female horse) as dam. As a result, the to bear

a mule is to give up a horse because the gestation periods (340 days) are the same. In the

Roman period, mares fit for breeding mules were considered to be as valuable as fine racing

horses and much more valuable than mares only able to bear horses.135 So too, in the Old

Assyrian period, a perdum cost upwards of ten times a donkey.

The editors of the CAD simply translate ‘(an equid)’. The word is also found in the Hebrew Bible, but
focus on the evidence from the early second millennium is best. Gelb’s affirmation still holds: “We must try to
bring clear understanding into the chaos of historical presentations. When an occurence is attested and its
meaning established, it must be stated that this meaning applies only to one certain area and to one certain
period. An identically sounding word may denote elephant at one time and camel at another; it may be used for
cedar in one area and for juniper in another. It is absurd to speak of a fixed meaning of a word, as if it had been
left unchanged formally and semantically for almost three thousand years and throughout the vast area of the
Near East in which Akkadian was spoken.” in I.J. Gelb, "Lexicography, Lexicology, and the Akkadian Dictionary,"
in Miscelánea Homenaje a André Martinet, Estructuralismo e Historia II, ed. D. Catalán (Tenerife: Biblioteca Filológica,
1958), 74.
Junius Moderatus Columella De re rustica Book 6 Chapter 27.
Table 10: Prices quoted for the purchase of perdum
Reference Quotation Price per perdum
CCT 6 46b:23 5 ma-na KÙ.BABBAR ší-im 3 pé-er-di 1⅔ minas silver

I 443:6-8 4 ma-na KÙ.BABBAR ší-im pé-er-dí136 2, 1⅔, or 1 minas silver

t/k 1:6-7 2 ma-na 16½ GÍN KÙ.BABBAR a-na pé-er-dí-im | áš-qúl 2 minas 16⅔ shekels silver

m/k 21:1-2 4 ma-na KÙ.BABBAR ší-im pé-er-dí 2, 1⅔, or 1 minas silver

94/k 1176:34 1 ma-na KÙ.GI ší-im | pé-er-dí 1, ½, ⅓ mina gold (ca. 5, 2½,

1⅔ minas silver)

94/k 1756:18-19 3 ma-na KÙ.BABBAR ší-im pé-er-dim 3 minas silver

Mules outlive horses by almost double, with the average mule living past 20 and some

living to 40 years old. This meant that if the perdum were a mule and if each established

merchant had his own, he would only perhaps need two in his life. This might explain why

there are few references to the purchase of perdum equids and why in some cases, the purchase

of a perdum involved wine; it would have been a special event in the life of a merchant.137

Moreover, the capabilities of a mule are essentially equivalent to a horse, and it excels the

The form is plural. If there were three perdum the average price would have been 1⅔ minas, if there
were four, the price 1 mina.
Kt t/k 1 (See Sever, TTK II, pl. 290) 12 ma-na LÁ 6½ GÍN KÙ.BABBAR 2ša Kà-da-lá a-na pé-er-dí-im 3ša-a-mì-
im | i-dí-na-ni 4 ⅓ ma-na 4 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR i-na 5ra-mì-ni-a ú-ra-dí-ma 62 ma-na 16½ GÍN KÙ.BABBAR a-na 7pé-er-dí-im |
áš-qúl 3 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR 8a-na É wa-áb-ri a-dí-in 93 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR | a-na É kà-ri-im 10ša-du-a-tám áš-qúl 7 ma-na
URUDU i-ša-am-ší pé-er-dam 12ni-iš-ú-mu-ú | a-na ki-ra-nim 13áš-qúl 1 ma-na a-na iš-pá-tá-li 14mì-ma a-nim i-na Ša-lá-tí-
wa-ar 15a-šu-mì pé-er-dí-im ú-ša-qí-il5 16iš-tù | Ša-lá-tí-wa-ar 17nu-ṣa-ma 2½ ma-na URUDU 18i-na ša-pá-at na-ri-im 19a-šu-
mì pé-er-dí-im áš-qúl 202 ma-na URUDU a-na ŠE-am 21i-na Ša-lá-tí-wa-ar áš-qúl 225 ma-na URUDU a-na É wa-áb-ri 235 ma-
na ša-du-a-tám 24a-na É kà-ri-im áš-qúl 255 ma-na a-na kà-ší-im 26áš-qúl 4 ma-na a-na ŠE-am 27áš-qúl 10 ma-na URUDU a-
na 28ra-dí-im a-na a-lá-ḫi-nim 29a-dí-in-ma | a-dí | ša-pá-at 30na-ri-im | ir-dí-a-ni 311 ma-na a-na ma-lá-ḫi-im 32a-dí-in | mì-
ma a-nim 33i-na Wa-aḫ-šu-ša-na 34a-šu-mì | pé-er-dí-im 35ú-ša-qí-il5 “I added 24 shekels silver from my own funds to the
1 mina 53 ½ shekels silver Kadala gave me for buying a perdum, and I bought a perdum for 2 minas 16 ½ shekels
silver for the perdum. I gave 3 shekels silver to the ‘inn.’ I paid 3 shekels silver to the colony office as šaduattum. I
paid 7 minas copper for wine on the day we bought the perdum. 1 mina (copper?) for išpitali: All this I paid out in
Šalatuwar on account of the perdum. We departed from Šaltuwar and I paid 2½ minas copper from the bank of the
river on account of the perdum. I paid 2 minas copper in Šalatuwar for grain. I paid 5 minas copper for the ‘inn,’ 5
minas (copper) as šaduattum to the colony office. I paid 5 minas copper to the kasim, I paid 4 minas copper for
grain. I gave 10 minas copper for a guide to Alaḫum. He led us up to the bank of the river. I gave 1 mina (copper)
to … I had all this paid in Waḫšušana on account of the perdum.” Compare also t/k 25.
horse in endurance. Getting a donkey to travel as quickly as a mule was considered an enviable

and magical feat in Mesopotamia, associated with the blessing of the gods.138 As one indication

of the parallel capability of horses and mules, mules regularly do well against horses in the

Tevis cup, a 100 mile (160 kilometers) course across the Sierra Nevada Mountains along the old

Pony Express trail from Lake Tahoe, Nevada, topping elevations of 7400 ft. Times of 12-13

hours are considered competitive, with the horse or mule trotting most of the way. In longer

situations where the speeds are lower but conditions rougher, mules are claimed to have an

advantage over horses.139 Mules also subsist on a much more variable diet than horses and on

less water. If the perdum were a mule and the common mount of Old Assyrian messengers, then

66 kilometers per day would not have been a problem.


Šalim-aḫum’s interaction with Puzur-Ištar ended in failure. Though he had arranged

with Puzur-Ištar to purchase gold in Anatolia, Puzur-Ištar cited financial hardship in relation

to textiles with which the latter apprently had problems. Set up by early march, Šalim-aḫum’s

arrangements for acquiring Anatolian gold for payment to a temple at Aššur had collapsed by

mid-May around the time he expected the returns, leaving Šalim-aḫum in a position where he

was forced to gather smaller amounts of gold from a number of sources. Fortunately for Šalim-

aḫum, he had other issues with Ilabrat-bāni, who had also wronged Šalim-aḫum in late March

Among the promises that Ištar makes to Gilgamesh should he heed her charms, she touts, “Your
packass shall outrun the mule” ANŠE.NITA-ka ina bilti ANŠE.ŠÚ.MUL libā’ Gilg. VI 9. In Atra-hasis, the mules are
associated with the four winds (Atra-hasis 122 r. 5).
M. Stamm, The Mule Alternative (Dugway, UT: Medicine Wolf Press, 1992), 1, 127.
or early April, and by mid-May was asking for ways to make it up. Šalim-aḫum took advantage

of the situation, through the benefit of an apparently robust pace of correspondence, and

demanded that some of Ilabrat-bāni’s reconciliation go towards filling his deficit in gold.

Šalim-aḫum’s effort to gather Anatolian gold was back on track, but it was likely running late.

At the same time, the Puzur-Ištar affair highlights the impressive ability that Šalim-

aḫum had to communicate with his agent in Kanesh, Pūšu-kēn. Correspondence containing

directions and instructions constantly moved between principals like Šalim-aḫum and agents

like Pūšu-kēn in the Old Assyrian system. The Puzur-Ištar affair, and the larger reconstruction

of Šalim-aḫum’s activities in REL 80 demonstrate that the tempo of bulk transport clearly

outstripped previous understanding, such as models based on two round-trips per year.

Moreover, Šalim-aḫum’s ability to tactically respond to his own affairs in Anatolia from his

base in Aššur shows an aggressive tempo of communication. A review of the route and equids

involved in both transport and communication suggests that transport could travel between

Aššur and Kanesh in about 30 days, while couriers must have been travelling the same route in

roughly half that time, 15 days. With the flexibility and tempo associated with this system,

Šalim-aḫum depended on an ever-moving flow of peregrinating merchants and couriers

through which he could pursue the trade.


Lā-qēpum and Ilī-ālum:

“Ilabrat-bāni took 6⅓ minas tin. He is not present here.”

“He acted on his own authority and opened my sack and took my tin!
Not some thief, but he took my own tin!”

“Let your message come to your representatives so that they may give me tin and textiles worth about
one talent of silver when they sell on credit. And, in confirmation of these things let a 10 minas portion
of my silver (i.e. the silver I will pay) go to you, so that you give heed to my message.”

“May Aššur and Ilabrat witness that whenever I give out a single shekel of (your) silver, I
lose 10 or 20 minas of my silver! My dear brother, do not make me angry. Give my silver to
Pūšu-kēn, or send to me so that I may take from your silver here. Do not make me angry.”

“On the day I am writing this tablet to you, (Ilabrat-bāni’s) term is full. Purchase
refined tin so that Puzur-Aššur can depart with Dān-Aššur to Amurrum and seize
(Ilabrat-bāni’s) tin on his own authority.”

“I sold (Ilabrat-bani’s) goods in Amurrum and I took my silver. … If he quarrels, send your
message with the first traveler so that I may here make my decision about taking my
silver here.”
4.6:5-6, 38-42

In the previous chapter, Puzur-Ištar’s problems with procuring gold for Šalim-aḫum

was portrayed as an instance of the problems a merchant faced in working with other

merchants. The development of the Puzur-Ištar affair also demonstrated the tempo of

communication during the Old Assyrian period, a tempo which was faster than previously

assumed. In this chapter, I explain another problem that Ilabrat-bāni presented for Šalim-

aḫum. Šalim-aḫum’s reactions to the ongoing saga of Ilabrat-bāni are interesting in their own

right, but especially so when they are contextualized within the larger documentation of REL

80. The Ilabrat-bāni affair allows us to grasp actors making active decisions which can be

connected to material contexts, risks, and consequences.

The present chapter is divided into two sections. In the first section, entitled, “The

Ilabrat-bāni Affair,” I reconstruct the Ilabrat-bāni affair and its connections to the original

venture. In second section, entitled, “Metaphorical retaliation, Duality of Structure, and

Practice in the Ilabrat-bāni Affair,” I consider the source of Šalim-aḫum’s decisions and

motivations within the Ilabrat-bāni affair and the different quality of an account of those

decisions and motivations as offered by the reconstruction. I argue that the Ilabrat-bāni affair,

when contextualized in contemporary developments, is an opportunity to see Šalim-aḫum not

only pursuing activities within the frame of cultural structures, but also using those structures

as resources for his own interests.

The Ilabrat-bāni Affair

Šalim-aḫum’s problems with Puzur-Ištar, whose quittance of his duties left Šalim-aḫum

in need of gold for his ikribū fund, were not his only problems in the first half of REL 80. He also

had a problem with another merchant, Puzur-Ištar’s brother Ilabrat-bāni. As seen in the

previous chapter, Šalim-aḫum turned to Ilabrat-bāni among others to compensate for Puzur-

Ištar’s failure to deliver gold. Meanwhile, Ilabrat-bāni had requested to purchase goods from

Šalim-aḫum. Šalim-aḫum did not turn to Ilabrat-bāni to right Puzur-Ištar’s wrong because the

two were brothers. Rather, Ilabrat-bāni initiated his offer after tracing a prodigal route of his

own. Šalim-aḫum was able to demand a dear price for his merchandise from Ilabrat-bāni

because Ilabrat-bāni had appropriated 6⅓ minas tin out of Šalim-aḫum’s goods while he

travelled to Kanesh earlier in the year, in tandem with the caravan of the original venture

(4.1, 4.2, 4.3). But when Ilabrat-bāni failed to pay his first installment on time, Šalim-aḫum

heeded advice to seize merchandise belonging to Ilabrat-bāni, which was travelling on the

road to Kanesh. Just as Ilabrat-bāni highhandedly stole from Šalim-aḫum, Šalim-aḫum

highhandedly collected by force from Ilabrat-bāni.1

The entire Ilabrat-bāni affair, insofar as we can follow it, transpired within the course

of the same shipping season as the original venture. There are three perceivable phases in the

interaction between Šalim-aḫum and Ilabrat-bāni during this year, which will divide this

reconstruction into three sections. In the first phase, entitled “Ilabrat-bāni’s transgression,”

Ilabrat-bāni took 6 minas 20 shekels tin from Šalim-aḫum’s shipment while in transit from

Aššur. Apparently, Ilabrat-bāni took the tin to pay expenses on the road, but Šalim-aḫum felt

that the purported expenses were excessive and that Ilabrat-bāni’s actions were in violation of

good practice. Four letters (4.1, 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4) document the initial report of the incident

The interconnection between some of these documents have been noted before. Veenhof, AOATT, 32 n.
66, noted that BIN 4 61 (4.1), TC 2 3 (4.2), and L 29-560 (POAT 7)(4.3) all mentioned the same incidents. Also, P.
Garelli, "La Tablet Cappadocienne de Liège Pul 100 et le Dossier Ilabrat-Bāni," in FS Matouš (Budapest, 1978): 105-
and Šalim-aḫum’s reaction. In the second phase, entitled “Šalim-aḫum and Ilabrat-bāni

attempt to reconcile,” Ilabrat-bāni offered to buy a large lot of goods from Šalim-aḫum, who

constrained him to pay half of his conciliatory down payment in gold. This second phase,

occurring a few months after the season started, was documented in the previous chapter.

However, these measures did not lead to resolution. Approximately two months later, when

Ilabrat-bāni missed another deadline to pay, Pūšu-kēn advised Šalim-aḫum to seize some of

Ilabrat-bāni’s goods, then in transit to Kanesh, in order to recoup his investment. Šalim-aḫum

did so, liquidating the goods, and Šalim-aḫum reported the result of the action and Ilabrat-

bāni’s updated balance of debt to Pūšu-kēn. Two letters from Šalim-aḫum (4.5 and 4.6)

document this third phase, which I have entitled “Šalim-aḫum exacts justice.”

Ilabrat-bāni’s transgression

Our documentation commences with a document reporting the goods from which

Ilabrat-bāni took the tin. Šalim-aḫum’s representatives, Lā-qēpum and Ilī-ālum, reported the

process of clearing the goods for sale upon their arrival (4.1:3-25) after which they reported

on the credit sale of most of the goods to two persons, Puzur-Anna and Iddi(n)-abum (4.1:26-

42). They also reported the liquidation of the remaining merchandise through cash sales and

another smaller credit sale to Ilī-ašranni, the chief transporter (4.1:42-71).

Because 4.1 provides only a brief mention of the problem with Ilabrat-bāni, our

information for reconstructing what happened along the road to Kanesh comes from Šalim-

aḫum’s angry letters 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, an emotionally charged version of events based on

secondary reports. As in most cases with Šalim-aḫum’s interpersonal interactions during this

year, Ilabrat-bāni’s interests and actions are mediated almost exclusively through Šalim-

aḫum’s perspective. While there seems to be consensus among Šalim-aḫum and his agents

concerning Ilabrat-bāni’s responsibility—and Šalim-aḫum certainly must have had information

about Ilabrat-bāni’s action that surpasses the surviving documents—it impossible to know to

what extent Ilabrat-bāni would have agreed to Šalim-aḫum’s version of the story. It is clear

that Ilabrat-bāni removed tin from Šalim-aḫum’s sealed cargo, committing a breach of

conduct. The letters in this conversation give no indication that Ilabrat-bāni ever protested his

responsibility for the missing 6⅓ minas tin and we do not know why Ilabrat-bāni decided to

take the tin from Šalim-aḫum cargo. Nonetheless, what transpired after the event—

particularly Šalim-aḫum’s reaction—is documented.

The progression of 4.1 is detail-laden.

Document 4.1 - BIN 4 61: Summary Document on of Ilī-ašranni’s arrival2

1 a-na Ša-lim-a-ḫi-im qí-bi4-ma

um-ma La-qé-pu-um ú Ì-lí-a-lúm-ma
6 GÚ 30 ma-na AN.NA ku-nu-ki
20 TÚG šu-ru-tum | qá-dí ša li-wi-tim
5 85 TÚG ku-ta-ni ša a-na Ì-lí-áš-ra-ni
ta-dí-nu | ŠÀ.BA 4¼ TÚG ku-ta-ni
ù šu-ra-am ni-is-ḫa-tim il5-qe-ú
2 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR i-pu-lu! | 8 TÚG ku-ta-ni
iš-ra-tí-kà É.GAL-lúm il5-qé ù 2 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR
10 ta-pu-ul ši-tí TÚG.ḪI-tí-kà 73 LÁ ¼ TÚG ku-ta-nu

Previous treatments: Larsen, OACP, 122, Type 3:11. The translation and interpretation of this letter here
differs slightly from Larsen’s previous treatment in respect to the role taken by Ilī-ašranni vis-à-vis Šalim-aḫum.
Larsen points out that the subject of iqīp in lines 30 and 40 is Ilī-ašranni. Ilī-ašranni continues as the subject in the
sentence directly after these two sections where he turns over textiles to the agents. However, though the agents
then record that the palace bought some of the goods next, it is clear from several factors that Ilī-ašranni was the
one who paid gold for the two textiles. In the first place, Ilī-ašranni is the only possible referent even though the
palace is more proximal because the persons acting on behalf of the palace, when the palace is not specifically
invoked as the subject, are grammatically plural in this letter, as in the beginning of the caravan account (ll. 6-16).
Second, the reconstruction corroborates Ilī-ašranni’s role (see note 3 below).
1 TÚG šu-ra-am | a-na iš-ra-tim
il5-qé-ú 3 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR i-pu-lu
ší-tí šu-ru-tí-kà | 20 LÁ 2 TÚG qá-dí
ša li-wi-tim i-na 6 GÚ 30 ma-na
15 AN.NA-ki-kà 12 ma-na AN.NA
ni-is-ḫa-tim il5-qé-ú | 9⅔ ma-na
mu-ṭá-ú | 6⅓ ma-na AN.<NA>
NIN.ŠUBUR-ba-ni il5-qé
a-na-kam lá w[a-š]a-áb | iš-tù
20 50 ma-na 5 GÍN AN.NA-ak qá-tí-šu
4 SILÀ re-eš15-tám | ⅓ ma-na AN.NA
ù 5 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR a-na A-bi-tí-ba-an
tù-šé-bi4-lá-šu-n[i] gám-ru | 9 ma-na AN.NA
a-na Ì-lí-áš-ra-ni | ni-pu-ul
25 ší-tí AN.NA-ki-kà 5 GÚ 53 ma-na AN.NA
lo.e. ŠÀ.BA 3 GÚ LÁ 1 ma-na AN.NA
7 GÍN.TA 20 TÚG ku-ta-ni ½ ma-na.TA
10 TÚG šu-ru-tum 15 GÍN.TA ŠU.NIGIN KÙ.BABBAR-pì-kà
rev. 38 ma-na 4½ GÍN | Puzur4-A-na
30 DUMU E-lá-lí i-qí-ip
ŠÀ.BA 30 LÁ 2 ma-na | a-na 50 ḫa-am-ša-tim
i-ša-qal 10 ma-na 4¼ GÍN
a-na 45 ḫa-am-ša-tim i-ša-qal
2 GÚ 14 ma-na 10 GÍN AN.NA
35 7 GÍN.TA 20 TÚG ku-ta-ni ½ ma-na.TA
4 TÚG šu-ru-tim 15 GÍN.TA
1 ANŠE ṣa-la-mu-um | ki-ma ½ ma-na
a-na 30⅔ ma-na KÙ.BABBAR a-na 48 ḫa-am-ša-tim
I-dí-a-ba-am DUMU I-dí-in-Ištar

Though there is damage between MA and MIN, Larsen’s reading of only 2 textiles is corroborated by the
gold Šalim-aḫum sought from Ilī-ašranni in 3.3(TC 2 2):26-29, where Šalim-aḫum asked Pūšu-kēn to gather Ilī-
ašranni’s gold worth 4 and 5 shekels each and send it to him. The price Ilī-ašranni paid in gold, 7 shekels 23 ½
grains, would have been a fair price for no more than two kutānum textiles (usually worth about 20 shekels silver).
If all but a small amount of Ilī-ašranni’s gold was valued at a gold:silver rate of 5:1, then the gold he paid would
have had a value close to 37 shekels silver.
40 i-qí-ip | u4-mu-šu-nu ITU.KAM
ša ke-na-tim li-mu-um
Šu-da-a DUMU En-na-nim 8 TÚG ku-ta-ni
ú 3 TÚG šu-ru-tim i-dí-in-ni-a-tí
5 TÚG ku-ta-ni | wa-at-ru-tim
45 É.GAL-lúm a-na ší-mì-im il5-qé-ma
1⅔ ma-na i-na ni-kà-sí
ni-ša-kà-an ki-ma 23 TÚG ku-ta-ni
i-dí-in-ni-a-tí | ší-tí | TÚG ku-ta-ni-kà
50 17 TÚG | ù 1 TÚG šu-ru-um | KÙ.BABBAR-áp-šu-nu
⅓ ma-na.TA ù 10 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR
ša šu-ri-im | 5⅚ ma-na
ší-ti AN.NA-ki-kà 40 ma-na LÁ 10 GÍN
u.e. KÙ.BABBAR!-áp-šu 5 ma-na
55 lu ša ší-tí TÚG ku-ta-ni
ù šu-ri-im lu ša ší-tí
AN.NA-ki-kà | 10⅚ ma-na KÙ.BABBAR
le.e. ṣa-ru-pá-am i-li-bi4
60 ta-dí-in ṭup-pu-šu
ša 10⅓ ma-na KÙ.BABBAR
ú a-ḫa-ma
ša ½ ma-na KÙ.BABBAR
la-pì-it ITU.1.KAM
65 ku-zal-li | li-mu-um
Šu-da-a DUMU E-na-nim
i-na ITU.1.KAM a-na
1 ma-na-im ú-ṣa-áb
70 5 ANŠE.ḪI.A ša šé-ep
Ì-lí-áš-ra-ni me-tù

To Šalim-aḫum, from Lā-qēpum and Ilī-ālum:
—Receipt of Shipment—
Regarding the 6 talents 30 minas tin under seal, 20 šurum-textiles along with
wrappings, and 85 kutānum-textiles which you gave to Ilī-ašranni:
—Payment of Custom Duties—
Thereof, they took 4 ¼ kutānum-textiles and a šurum-textile as the excise tax. They
balanced 2 shekels silver. The palace took 8 kutānum-textiles as your tithe, and you balanced 2
shekels silver. The remainder of your textiles: 72¾ kutānum-textiles. They took 1 šurum-textile
for tithes. They balanced 3 shekels silver. The remainder of your šurum-textiles: 18 together
with wrappings. From your 6 talents 30 minas tin, they took 12 minas as excise tax.
—Settlement with Ilī-ašranni—
9⅔ minas were deficient. Ilabrat-bāni took 6⅓ minas tin. He is not present here.
From the 50 minas 5 shekels of his hand tin, the 4 qûm fine oil and the ⅓ minas tin and the 5
shekels silver which you sent to him at Abitiban were exhausted. We balanced 9 minas tin to
Ilī-ašranni. The remainder of your tin: 5 talents 53 minas tin.
—Lot Sold to Puzur-Anna—
Thereof, he (Ilī-ašranni) sold on credit 2 talents 59 minas tin at 7 shekels (silver per
mina), 20 kutānum-textiles at 30 shekels each, 10 šurum-textiles at 15 shekels each—in total
your silver is 38 minas 4½ shekels to Puzur-Anna son of Elāli. Thereof, he will pay 28 minas in
50 ḫamuštum-weeks. He will pay 10 minas 4¼ shekels in 45 ḫamuštum-weeks.
—Lot Sold to Iddi(n)-abum—
He (Ilī-ašranni) sold on credit 2 talents 14 minas 10 shekels tin at 7 shekels (silver
per mina), 20 kutānum-textiles at 30 shekels each, 4 šurum-textiles at 15 shekels each, one black
donkey for 30 shekels—30⅔ minas silver for 48 ḫamuštum-weeks—to Iddi(n)-abum son of
Iddi(n)-Ištar. Their terms were month III, eponymy of Šudaya son of Ennanum (REL 81).
—Miscellaneous Cash Sales—
He (Ilī-ašranni) gave us 8 kutānum-textiles and 3 šurum-textiles. The palace took 5
fine kutānum-textiles for (tithe) purchases, and we put 1⅔ minas (silver) into accounts. He (Ilī-
ašranni) gave us 7 shekels 23½ grains gold and 5 shekels silver for the 2 textiles.
—Lot sold to Ilī-ašranni—
The remainder of your textiles was 17 (kutānum)-textiles and 1 šurum-textile, their
(price) in silver, 20 shekels each (for the kutānum-textiles) and 10 shekels each for the šurum-
textile, is 5⅚ minas (silver). The remainder of your tin was 39 minas 50 shekels, its (price in)
silver is 5 minas. Both the price of the remainder of the kutānum-textiles and the šurum-textiles
and the remainder of your tin, 10 minas 50 shekels refined silver, is sold to Ilī-ašranni. His
tablet stating ‘10⅓ minas silver,’ and separately ‘½ mina silver,’ has been written. Month XI,
eponymy of Šudaya, son of Ennānum (REL 81). He will add 1½ shekels per mina per month.
—Equine Postscript—
Five donkeys from Ilī-ašranni’s caravan are dead.

The following table summarizes the transactions reported in 4.1. In order to facilitate

the arithmetic for the reader, all amounts of tin have been expressed in terms of minas, while

silver has been expressed in terms of minas (m) and shekels (š). The credit sales are not

separated from the sales for cash.

Table 11: Summary of Ilī-ašranni’s Caravan and its Disposition (4.1)

Goods Shipped: 6 donkeys 390 minas tin 20 š. textiles 85 k. textiles Silver Gained
nisḫatum excise -9⅔ m -1 -4 ¼ 2š, -2š
Subtotal 6 380⅓ m 19 80¼ 0
Tithe purchases -1 -8 3š
Subtotal 6 380⅓ m 18 72¾ 3š
Other Losses
Missing -12 m
Ilabrat-bāni -6⅓ m
Transport -9 m
Death -5
Subtotal 1 353 m 18 72 ¾ 3š
Puzur-Anna -179 m -10 -20 38 m. 4¼š
Iddi(n)-abum -1 -134⅙ m -4 -20 30 m. 40š
Subtotal 0 39⅚ m 4 32 ¾ 68 m. 47¼š
To agents -3 -8
Palace -5 1m 40š
Ilī-ašranni-cash -2 5š
Ilī-ašranni-credit -39⅚ m -1 -17 10m 50š
Final Balance 0 0 0 ¾ 81m 22¼š
m = minas š = shekels
Note: The table does not include the 7 shekels 23½ grains of gold which Ilī-ašranni paid in cash for goods reported
in conjunction with his purchase of textiles for 5 shekels, which would belong with the second to last entry, Ilī-
ašranni credit.
The accounting is straightforward. Šalim-aḫum’s goods arrived in Kanesh on 6 donkeys,

half loaded with tin and half with textiles, and all but ¾ of one kutānum textile were sold,

perhaps an error of accounting (as Larsen suggests). After the goods were cleared for sale, one

lot of goods was sold on credit to Puzur-Anna, and another to Iddi(n)-abum. Small amounts of

goods were sold for cash after which Ilī-ašranni purchased the remainder of the goods on


The summary document suggests that Ilī-ašranni played a more active role in selling

the goods than did the writers of the summary document, Lā-qēpum and Ilī-ālum, even though

they seem to act as Šalim-aḫum’s representatives. It is Ilī-ašranni who sells the goods on credit,

and when there are goods still unsold, it is Ilī-ašranni who purchases the balance on credit. Ilī-

ašranni apparently bore the primary responsibilty of selling off the transported goods.

I tentatively suggest that 4.1 could be an example of a ‘complete report’ (têrtum

zakûtum). It is clearly written well after the arrival of the caravan which is the subject of

report. It also records how virtually each and every good in the caravan was sold or disposed,

or ‘cleared’ from Ilī-ašranni’s responsibility to ensure it was sold. By contrast, this document is

not a caravan account according to the description put forth in OACP, where it is “primarily an

acknowledgement of receipt...” While “it (could) also inform [the receivers of] the sender(s) ...

activities [concerning] the shipments, and in some cases even [report what happened with the

goods],” the primary purpose of the caravan report was to report the receipt of the caravan

and how much cleared. 4.1 instead is careful to report both the circumstances of arrival and

how (nearly) every mina of tin and textile was turned for a claim or cash.

Full reports, if 4.1 is any indication, would have been necessarily large and detailed.

They would have been physically larger than the average letter and as such may have incurred

an extra charge if sent with other letters. As comparison, Šalim-aḫum instructs Pūšu-kēn and

Lā-qēpum to pack the will he requests in straw before sending—because it was larger than

average—and to give the person that will take it back to Aššur and extra shekels of silver (2.5).

At the same time, because ‘full reports’ would be mostly ‘old news,’ they would not need to

travel at the same speed as letters and they could go to Aššur or Kanesh (depending on the

owner of the goods and his location) with the transport rate, where they could packed in

straw, or in textiles, and placed in a top pack, where they would incur no cost for transport.

Letters often include a note that a transporter or merchant should bring a full report with


Likewise, if 4.1 is an example of a complete report, then the only thing faithfully

recorded is the sale of the goods—not the collection of the sales. Whether one wants to assert

that ūmūšunu refers to the beginning or the end of the terms associated with the credit sales to

Puzur-Anna and Iddi(n)-Ištar, information about the collection of those debts is not the point

of the report. In the case that the debts would be coming due at the end of REL 81 or the

beginning of REL 82, or whether they were due in REL 81 III, in neither case does the document

concern itself with the collection of the debts. I take this to be consistent with a view that the

credit sales were regarded as final and that once the goods were sold, the nature of the asset

An additional example arises within this reconstruction. In 5.3:30-32, Šalim-aḫum directs that Dān-
Aššur should bring the full report of a different venture with him when he comes. In that context, the full report
seems to refer to the goods Dān-Aššur is bringing. In fact, it is Dān-Aššur’s delay that prompts Šalim-aḫum to
suggest that he would be able to do so. Šalim-aḫum’s directions for Dān-Aššur to bring back a ‘complete report’ on
the goods brought by his caravan is consistent with this reconstruction and Šalim-aḫum’s hope and intention that
all the goods would at least be sold by the point that Dān-Aššur was able to come home, after the nabrītum.
changed and the essential phase of the caravan venture was finished, provoking a full report of

the caravan.

If 4.1 is seen as a copy of a complete report than as a caravan account, then the

composition of the document is worth looking at. In comparison with the gestalt of the copy of

the caravan account in the original venture (2.2), 4.1:3-40 up to ūmūšunu seems to more or

less represent a faithful copy of the copy of the (lost) caravan account for Ilī-ašranni’s caravan,

which tablet was retained in Kanesh at least until the time that 4.1 and its copy (sent to Šalim-

aḫum) was written. In addition, 4.1:42-49, which records textiles taken for purchases and

small purchases made by Ilī-ašranni, also likely represents events that transpired soon after

the caravan arrived in Kanesh and was included in the caravan account.

Whether or not 4.1 is a ‘complete report’ or some other type of document not given a

specific name within the Old Assyrian dialect, it was written after REL 81 XI, but recording in

full detail events which occurred in the past only for the sake of reporting on a venture. The

most straightforward reading of 4.1:40-42 (u4-mu-šu-nu ITU.KAM ša ke-na-tim li-mu-um Šu-da-a

DUMU En-na-nim) is “Their terms were REL 81 III” that is that the caravan arrived in REL 80 IV,

the lots were sold relatively quickly with terms of 45, 48, and 50 weeks so that they would have

been due in REL 81 III, 50 weeks (there was an intercalation between REL 80/81, see Appendix

Three) after the arrival. References to Iddi(n)-abum’s and Puzur-Anna’s debts clearly show that

their debt notes were term debt notes,6 the expression of the dates related to their debts does

With regard to the first lot, Lā-qēpum and Ilī-ālum report that Puzur-Aššur must pay in two
installments, due in forty-five then fifty ḫamuštum weeks. The phrasing reflects what appears to be the pertinent
portion of Puzur-Aššur’s debt note, the amount and the length of the term of the loan. The original debt note
would probably have read like any other typical debt note of its kind: 30 LÁ 2 mana KÙ.BABBAR ṣarrupam iṣṣer
Puzur-Adad Šalim-aḫum išu ištu ḫamuštim ša PN ITU.KAM MN limmum PN2 ana 50 ḫamšātim išaqqal šumma la išqul 1½
GÍN.TA i-warḫim ana 1 mana’im uṣṣab IGI PN3. All the information which was already obvious was left out of the
not stem from their debt notes; rather it is descriptive prose concerning when Šalim-aḫum

should expect the silver. Whether REL 81 III referred to the extension of credit to them or was

related to the due date of their debts depends entirely on whether “their terms” (ūmūšunu)

refers to the beginning or end of the credit period. 7 According to Šalim-aḫum’s use of the

term, REL 81 III refers to the due date rather than the origination of the debts. Statements

similar to “the term of my merchants are full, collect the money and send it to me” can be

found in much of his correspondence from this period (2.4:46-47, 2.6:4-7).8 While the basic

term ūmū can refer to the days between contracting the loan and the due date,9 and thus

introduce ambiguity as to what part of the term it could denote, in all cases it is used with a

view towards the completion of the term, as in ūmūšu(nu) etiqū/etqū “his/their terms are past”,

i.e. the debt is past due.10 There are also instances where the term is used in a simple

letter. Šalim-aḫum’s name and the name of the debtor need not be included, the origination date of the loan was
not included because it was old knowledge, the repayment clause was standard, the witnesses were unimportant
in this context. In the case of the second lot, the synatx of the date shows that Lā-qēpum and Ilī-ālum did not
directly quote the debt note.
The linguistic ambiguity of the quotation in no way implies a situational ambiguity for Šalim-aḫum or
the writers. When Šalim-aḫum read the clause, he would have had no trouble determining whether the date
represented the dates of the initial sales or the due dates as the date would have referred to the past or future
from his perspective.
Also BIN 4 25:25-29 mì-ma KÙ.BABBAR a-nim u4-mu-šu-nu ma-al-ú ṭup-pì-šu-nu am-ra-ma ša u4-mu-šu-nu e-
tí-qú-ni ṣí-ib-tám ša-áš-qí-lá.
For example, CCT 4 16c:30-33 2 ma-na KÙ.BABBAR ša Ḫa-nu-nu ù šu-a-tí iḫ-da-ma KÙ.BABBAR ša-áš-qí-lá-
šu-nu u4-mu-šu-nu im-tí-du “As for the 2 minas silver from Ḫanunu and him, take care and make them pay the
silver, their days have become numerous.” See CAD mâdu mng. 1a-2’ for more examples. This language still
focuses on the endpoint of the term.
AKT 3 13:24-25 a-šu-mì A-šùr-i-dí-ma e-tí-iq u4-mu-šu | im-lu-ú-ma “Regarding Aššur-iddi(n), it is passed,
his terms are full.” AKT 3 50:13-15 a-dí iš-tù Ú-la-ma a-tù-ra-ni u4-mu-šu-nu ma-al-ú a-ša-ḫu-ut “Before I return from
Ulama their terms will be full. I am concerned.” ATHE 28:26-29 um-ma šu-ut-ma 2 ḫa-mu-uš-ta-an u4-mu-šu e-ti-qú ṣí-
ib-tám šu-uq-lá-nim-ma ù ṭup-pu-šu lá-dì-na-ku-nu-[ti] “He said, ‘The terms are 2 weeks past. Pay me the silver so
that I can give you (pl.) the tablet.” BIN 4 15:7-9 u4-mu-šu 4? ḫa-am-ša-tím e-ti-qá “The terms are 4 weeks past.” BIN
6 59:7 u4-mu-šu 3 ša-na-tim lu e-ta-at-[qú] “His terms have indeed passed by three weeks.” CCT 3 45a:21-24 ù a-šu-mì
ša A-mur-A-šur DUMU Sú-kà-lí-a ki-ma u4-mu-šu a-ḫu-ru-ni | na-áš-pè-er-tám lá ú-<lá>-pì-ta-ku-um “Now as for the
matter of Amur-Aššur son of Sukalia, I will not write a našpertum to you (stating) that his terms are past due.”
declarative sense and must refer to the end of the term.11 Thus, REL 81 III could easily be read as

the time that the debts would begin to come due.12

To review, the summary document on Ilī-ašranni’s caravan (4.1) included the sale of

two larger lots, one to Puzur-Anna and one to Iddi(n)-abum, and one smaller lot that Ilī-

ašranni bought. (Smaller bundles of goods were sold as well, but are irrelevant to this

discussion.) If the order of packages reported in 4.1 reflect a chronological progression, then

Puzur-Anna and Iddi(n)-abum first purchased large lots of goods on credit from Ilī-ašranni in

REL 80 IV.The two lots were sold on credit with delayed payment. Puzur-Anna was to pay his

debts in two installments, one in 45 ḫamuštum weeks and another in 50 ḫamuštum-weeks, while

Iddi(n)-abum was to pay in 48 ḫamuštum weeks. After recording how many weeks Iddi(n)-abum

had to pay, 4.1 simply states: “Their terms (are) the month Ša Kēnātim, eponymy of Šudaya

son of Ennanum (REL 81 III).” The claims on Puzur-Anna and Iddi)n)-abum came due beginning

in REL 81 III. After these two lots were sold, some small amounts of goods were sold or

purchased. Finally, when the remainder of goods did not sell for some time, Ilī-ašranni

BIN 6 150:1-14 iš-tù ḫa-muš-tim ša A-šur-be-el-a-wa-tim ù A-gu5-za a-na 44 ḫa-am-ša-tim ša Pu-šu-ke-e[n6] a-
[n]a 41 ḫa-am-š[a-t]im ša Zu-kur-ì-lí iš-tù ḫa-muš-tim [ša] A-šur-[SIPA] ù E-na-ma-nim u4-mu-šu-nu a-na 47 ḫa-am-ša-tim
ša Išta[r-pì]-lá-aḫ ù Id-na-a “From the ḫ. of PN and PN2 for 44 ḫ. weeks from Pūšu-kēn; for 41 ḫ. weeks from Zukur-
ilī; from the ḫ. of PN3 and PN4, their term is for 47 ḫ. weeks from Ištar-pilaḫ and Idnaya.” Cf. also CCT 5 27b: 1a-dí
ma-lá u4-me-e 2tám-kà-ri sà-aḫ-ra-k[u] 3i-na UTU-ši <ša> ṭup-pì 4a-ni-ú-tim ú-lá-pì-ta-ku-ni 5u4-mu-šu-nu 15 ḫa-am-ša-tum
i-li-ku KÙ.BABBAR ma-lá 7qá-tí i-kà-šu-du pá-ni-a-ma 8ú-še-ba-lá-kum u4-mu-šu-nu 9i-ma-lu-ni!11-ma 10ú-za-kà-ma a-ta-
be-a-ma 11a-ta-lá-kam “I am delayed for the duration of the term of the merchants. From the day they wrote out
these tablets to me, their terms have proceeded 15 hamuštum weeks. I will send you as much as I (my hand) can
assemble. As soon as their terms are full, I will clear my affairs, set out, and come to you.” In this case, ūmūšunu
seems to refer to the moving endpoint of the progress of the terms. Though this could mean that terms could
refer to the beginning as well as the end, here ūmūšunu is distinguished from the date that the document was
drawn up.
The three term periods (45, 48, and 50 ḫamuštum weeks) would have fallen due over five full weeks if
they were contracted on the same day. But in the context of the letter, the statement meant the commencement
of the variosu due dates. Demanding that the writers of the letter would have described the due dates fully, thus
relating them to their likely span of 5 or more weeks in coming due, demands that they needed to carefully
describe an event in the past that is if secondary importance. The collection of those debts are not discussed.
purchased the remainder of the goods in REL 81 XI. His purchase was not on credit, but rather

interest began accruing on his debt immediately. 4.1 was written in REL 81 XI (November).

The summary document (4.1) reports so much information about the customs

procedure and the subsequent credit sales that small details not directly pertinent to the

typical aspects of this caravan procedure can be easily overlooked. But nestled within the mass

of details, between an accounting of losses and a report of settlement with Ilī-ašranni, Lā

qēpum and Ilī-ālum the terse report: “Ilabrat-bāni took 6⅓ minas tin.” (ll. 17-19). The brevity

of the remark mirrors the small amount of tin involved, less than 2% of the original shipment.

At the same time, the brevity of the second statement, “He is not present here,” is pregnant,

signalling Lā-qēpum’s and Ilī-ālum’s reluctance to dwell on the unresolved matter. If we read

this letter focusing on the typical aspects of the procedures, there is little indication of its

importance, how Šalim-aḫum would react to this statement, or if he would even give it a

second thought. However, because of Ilabrat-bāni’s conduct in the recent past, Šalim-aḫum’s

response to the statement was neither positive nor reserved.

Document 4.2 - TC 2 3: Šalim-aḫum’s angry response13

1 um-ma Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um-ma
a-na La-qé-ep ù Pu-šu-ke-en6
qí-bi-ma ta-áš-pu-ra-nim
um-ma a-tù-nu-ma i-na lu-qú-tim
5 ša šé-ep | Ì-lí-áš-ra-ni
6⅓ ma-na AN.NA ù ½ TÚG
iš-tí dNIN.ŠUBUR-ba-ni e-ta-lu-tám

Previous Treatments: P. van der Meer, Une Correspondance Commerciale Assyrienne (Rome, 1931), Nr. 29;
EL, 206 n. a.
e-pu-uš-ma | šu-uq-li
ip-ṭù-ur-ma AN.NA-ki il5-qé
10 a-pu-ùḫ | a-wi-lim sà-ri-im
šu-ut AN.NA | i-a-am | il5-té-qé
a-na AN.NA-ki-a 6 GIN.TA
ša!-áš-qí-lá-šu | a-ša-me-ma
i-na lu-qú-tim | ší-a-tí-ma
15 16½ ma-na KÙ!.BABBAR!14 (Ras.)
ù ½ ma-na 7 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR
iš-tí | I-dí-a-bi-im DUMU I-dí-Ištar
a-na AN.NA 6 GÍN.TA
ú-lá i-ba-ta-aq
rev. 20 IGI dEn-líl-ba-ni IGI Puzur4-A-šur
DUMU E-la-lí | ú-nu-tí
ù ú-nu-sú-nu | iš-té-ni-iš
a-na-nu-um ir-de8-ma |
a-wi-lúm | sà-ru-um | a-ṣé-er
25 AN.NA qá-tim | ša a-dí-nu-šu-nu-tí
ù AN.NA 1 GÚ ù 2 GÚ
up-ta-re-er | a-ki-ma | šu-nu
a-ma-kam | wa-áš-bu-ni | a-wi-lam
ú-tí-du-ma | i-na i-a-im
30 il5-qé-ma | ú-nu-sú-nu | ša-lim-tám
il5-ta-qé-ú | ILLAT-at Lá-qé-ep
ú-ku-ul-tám ⅔ ma-na 5 GÍN.TA
iš-ku-nu | šu-nu | šu-a-tí
⅓ ma-na.TA | ú-ša-áš-ki-nu-šu
35 mì-šu | a-num | ša i-na i-a-tim-ma
lu-qú-tim | e-ku-lu | lu i-na
AN.NA-ki-šu-nu | il5-qé lu i-na
TÚG-tí-šu-nu | il5-qé-e

Signs: AN.NA. The amount must be either an error or an approximation. According to 4.1, Iddi(n)-
abum purchased 134 minas 10 shekels tin, which according to the 7 shekel rate would have cost 19⅙ minas silver.
Though the rates quoted match 4.1, Šalim-aḫum’s quotation of the amount of silver is another example of his
garbling details.
ú-tí-du-šu-ma i-na i-a-im
40 il-qé-ma | ṣú-ba-tí-šu-nu
ù an-na-ak-šu-nu
le.e. šál-ma-am-ma ú-ta-er | a-pu-tí-a-ma a-na-ku
lá a-ḫa-li-iq | iš-té-en6 ù šé-na
lu-uš-bu-ma | a-šar | us-ma-at-ni le-pu-šu
45 šu-ma da-nu-tám | e-ta-wu-ú a-na kà-ri-im [x]

Šalim-aḫum to Lā-qēpum and Pūsu-kēn:
You wrote me, “From the goods of Ilī-ašranni’s cargo, 6 minas 20 shekels tin and ½
textile are with Ilabrat-bāni.” He acted on his own authority and opened my sack and took my
tin! Not some thief, but he took my own tin! Make him pay a 6 shekel rate for my tin. I ‘hear’
(i.e. read) that from those very same goods 16 ½ minas silver and (at a rate of) ½ mina (for the
kutānum textiles), (and) 7 shekels silver (for the tin) are with Iddi(n)-abum son of Iddi(n)-Ištar.
Do not discount below a 6 shekel rate for the tin. In the presence of Enlil-bāni and Puzur-Aššur
son of Elāli, he drove my goods and their goods together from here and the thief (i.e. Ilabrat-
nāni) broke up 1 or 2 ‘talents’ (i.e. sacks) of tin in addition to the hand tin which I gave to them.
In this way they who were there ‘informed’ the man so that he took from mine while they took
away their merchandise intact.
As for the caravan of Lā-qēpum, they charged feed (expenses of) 45 shekels each,
while they themselves charged 20 shekels each to him. How is this that thay took it out of my
own merchandise? Did he take (anything) from their tin or did he take (anything) from their
textiles? They ‘informed’ him and he took from mine, and he returned their textiles and their
tin intact. Urgent, I shall not lose (this). Let one or two of them stay and do whatever
necessary. If they speak harshly, [go?] to the colony.

Though Ilabrat-bāni is not reported in the summary document (4.1) to have

transported the goods, Ilabrat-bāni evidently participated in Ilī-ašranni’s transport. Despite

the hand tin Šalim-aḫum had already given them for expenses on the road, at some point

along the journey either Ilī-ašranni or Ilabrat-bāni wrote back to Šalim-aḫum requesting more

funds (4.1:19-24). It is likely that after these further funds (20 shekels tin and 5 shekels silver)

were expended Ilabrat-bāni opened one of Šalim-aḫum’s sealed half-packs of tin and took the

6⅓ minas. Apparently, Ilabrat-bāni was ‘informed’ (perhaps assigned?, l. 39) to pay a duty and

he used Šalim-aḫum’s tin. In Šalim-aḫum’s mind, he should have taken from someone else’s

goods. Šalim-aḫum was clearly furious with Ilabrat-bāni, who having apparently acted alone,

bears all of Šalim-aḫum’s malice. Liability for the anomalies in feed costs, however, was shared

by Ilabrat-bāni and Ilī-ašranni. The caravan of Lā-qēpum charged 45 shekels per donkey for

feed to Šalim-aḫum, but “they” (Ilī-ašranni and Ilabrat-bāni) only charged 20 shekels each for

their own donkeys.

In the context of the explanation of the reconstruction reviewed in the Introduction,

one comment from 4.2 provokes one of the connections between the original venture and the

Ilabrat-bāni affair. Šalim-aḫum quotes a letter or letters he has received saying “From the

goods of Ilī-ašranni’s cargo, 6 minas 20 shekels tin and ½ textile are with Ilabrat-bāni.” This

quotation presents a problem of interpretation. Šalim-aḫum references a ½ textile debited to

or with Ilabrat-bāni, but while there is ¾ of a kutānum textile unaccounted for in the complete

report,15 there is no mention of Ilabrat-bāni owing ½ textile in the complete report (4.1).

While this may be a function of the derivative nature of 4.1, one can at least note that the

absence of any ½ textile attributed to Ilabrat-bāni in the complete report—with its emphasis on

detail—leaves it possible that the ½ textile arose from something other than Ilī-ašranni’s

caravan despite the fact that it was mentioned in the context of the 6⅓ minas tin. Given that

the most logical reconstruction of the travel of Ilī-ašranni’s caravan places it in the spring of

REL 80, that the copy of the caravan account for the original venture, which venture also

This point already poitned out in OACP, 127.
occurred in REL 80, suggests the source of the Šalim-aḫum’s reference to the ½ textile. If so,

then Šalim-aḫum received the caravan account for both Ilī-ašranni’s caravan and the original

venture caravan at the same time. In the copy of the caravan report (2.2), Ilabrat-bāni is

reported to have a whole kutānum textile. There are other differences about the details, but

these can all be understood by a closer look at the respective references to the matter.

In the first place, it should be noted that Šalim-aḫum begins the quotation with, “You

(pl.) wrote me.” The “you (pl.)” likely refers to both Pūšu-kēn and Lā-qēpum, to whom 4.2 is

addressed. That Pūšu-kēn does not appear as a writer of the copy of the complete report (4.1)

is irrelevant because it was written so long after the fact. Both Lā-qēpum and Pūšu-kēn,

alongside Ilī-ālum, appear as writers of the copy of the original venture caravan account (2.2).

The discrepancy more in need of explication is that between the descriptions of the

textile or ½ textile that Ilabrat-bāni purportedly owed Šalim-aḫum. Further clarification about

the ½ textile makes it very unlikely that the ½ textile arose from within Ilī-ašranni’s caravan

and the ¾ textile unaccounted for in 4.1. Later letters in the Ilabrat-bāni affair clarify that the

½ textile to which Šalim-aḫum was referring in 4.2 was a ½ kutānum textile associated with

Nūr-Ištar’s cargo (4.3:15-19, 4.6:16-17). However, in the copy of the original venture caravan

report (2.2), Ilabrat-bāni is assigned a whole kutānum textile that came from Aššur-mutabbil’s


The difference between the two descriptions can be lessened by a closer look at the

surviving copy of the original venture caravan account (2.2). In 2.2, Aššur-mutabbil brought

five kutānum textiles on top of his donkey loaded with tin. Nūr-Ištar brought 26 kutānum

textiles. However, the two cargos, Aššur-mutabbil’s cargo and Nūr-Ištar’s cargo, were grouped

together in their description of what cleared; and it is clear that they formed a logical unit for
Šalim-aḫum’s agents, and thus likely for Šalim-aḫum as well. In fact, the five textiles on Aššur-

mutabbil’s donkey were used to pay the nisḫātum and išrātum taxes on Nūr-Ištar’s 26 fine

kutānum textiles, all of which cleared. The five kutānum textiles Aššur-mutabbil’s cargo were

used for this purpose, but 2.2 records a total of 5½ textiles being spent from these 5 textiles:

1½ textiles for the nisḫātum, 3 textiles for išrātum, and ‘1’ textile to Ilabrat-bāni (2.2:22-24). 5½

textiles taken from only five textiles means that some accounting is incomplete.

It was easiest for the palace to take whole textiles, and the textiles thus far paid for

Aššur-mutabbil’s and Nūr-Ištar’s cargoes added up to 4½ textiles. Only a shekel of silver had

been balanced for the slight difference between nisḫātum tax and the 1½ textile given for that

tax. The copy of the caravan account has Ilabrat-bāni with a whole textile, but there was only a

½ textile left and it was likely in the hands of the palace. When Ilabrat-bāni needed ½ kutānum

textile to clear some of his own goods, the ½ textile was credited to his account. When Šalim-

aḫum later stated that he read “½ textile is with Ilabrat-bāni” in 4.2:6-7, and mentioned this as

a kutānum textile pertaining to Nūr-Ištar’s cargo later in 4.6, the context communicated in 2.2

suggests that either the “1” textile in 2.2 is an error, or a different way of describing the asset

that we are not used to seeing. A collation of 2.2 may or may not reveal that that the vertical

wedge representing ‘1’ textile for Ilabrat-bāni in fact has some faint horizontal wedge so that it

should instead be read as ½ textile. But the description of the asset as part of Nūr-Ištar’s cargo

still remains. It is the context and the contemporaneous dating of the two documents that

support this argument.

Šalim-aḫum’s comments in 4.2 betray more knowledge about the incident involving

the 6⅓ minas tin than the surviving copy of the summary document on Ilī-ašranni’s caravan

(4.1) communicates. Another letter, updating Šalim-aḫum on the journey, may have come

while the caravan was still en route. Šalim-aḫum’s response (4.2) reveals raw and present

feelings about the news. Rather than referring to him by name, Šalim-aḫum only refers to

Ilabrat-bāni as ‘the man’ or calls him a thief, naming him only in his quotation of 4.1.

Šalim-aḫum’s remark equating Ilabrat-bāni with “some thief” asserts that the act was

criminal. However, it also prefigures what Šalim-aḫum’s next letter reveals about Ilabrat-

bāni’s recent track record with Šalim-aḫum. In Šalim-aḫum’s mind, Ilabrat-bāni’s infraction

had added yet one more insult to a growing list of injuries.

Document 4.3 POAT 7 – Šalim-aḫum’s angry words to Ilabrat-bāni17

1 um-ma Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um-ma a-na

Pu-šu-ke-en6 ù dNIN.ŠUBUR-ba-ni
a-na dNIN.ŠUBUR-ba-ni qí-bi4-ma
i-na ṭup-pì-im ša Lá-qé-ep
5 6⅓ ma-na AN.NA i-na
šu-uq-li-kà dNIN.ŠUBUR-ba-ni
il5-qé-ma i-nu-mì-šu-ma a-na
Ḫa-tim i-ta-lá-ak ku-sí-tám
pá-ṣí-tám ša ik-ri-bi4-a
10 Ì-lí-áš-ra-ni a-na A-šùr-ma-lik
ú-bi4-il5 A-šur-ma-lik ù-lá
ik-šu-ud i-ta-ṣa-am ku-sí-tám
a-ta tal-qé um-ma a-ta-ma
a-na a-bi4-a šé-bu-lá-at
15 ½ ku-ta-nim ša šé-ep
Nu-ur-Ištar 15 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR

Previous treatments: Julius Lewy, "Apropos of a Recent Study in Old Assyrian Chronology," Or. 26
(1957): 26 n. 18.
a-na Dan-A-šur ta-aq-bi4
um-ma a-ta-ma wa-ar-kà-at-kà
lo.e. ú-šé-ba-lam mì-ma a-nim
20 iš-tù li-mì-im Aḫ-mar-ší
rev. tù-kà-a-al té-er-tí
a-dí ḫa-am-ší-šu i-li-kà-ku[m]
lu ša AN.NA ku-sí-tim
ù ½ ku-ta-nim KÙ.BABBAR a-na
25 Pu-šu-ke-en6 dí-in ù-lá
šu-up-ra-am-ma a-na-kam i-na
KÙ.BABBAR-pì-kà lá-al-qé
3 TÚG.ḪI.A ša ik-ri-<bi->a
1 TÚG ša ṣú-ḫa-ar-tim iš-tí
30 ṣú-ba-tí-kà A-šùr-ma-lik DUMU A-zu-za!18
ub-lá-kum 1 ma-na KÙ.BABBAR a-na
Pu-šu-ke-en6 dí-in-ma a-li-bi4
KÙ.BABBAR-pì-a li-dí ú-lá ta-áš-ta-na-me
ki-ma a-dí KÙ.BABBAR-pì-kà 1 GÍN
35 a-šar ni-du-nu ša-tí-ša-ma
iš-tí ṣa-bi4-im 5 ù eš15-ra-at
šu-t[a-a]l-mu-na-ku<-ni> A-šùr
[ú d]NIN.ŠUBUR ⌈li⌉-ṭù-lá
u.e. a-šar [KÙ.BABBAR] 1 GÍN a-dí-nu KÙ.BABBAR-pì
40 10 ma-na ù 20 ma-na
lu i-ru-qá-ni
le.e. a-ḫi a-ta li-bi4 lá tù-lá-ma-an KÙ.BABBAR-pì a-⌈na⌉  
Pu-šu-ke-en6 dí-in ú-lá šu-up-ra-ma a-na-kam
i-na KÙ.BABBAR-pì-kà lá-al-qé li-bi4 lá tù-lá-ma-an

Šalim-aḫum to Pūsu-kēn and Ilabrat-bāni:
To Ilabrat-bāni: In the tablet of Lā-qēpum: “Ilabrat-bāni took 6 minas 20 shekels tin
from your package and at that time left for Hattum;” Ilī-ašranni brought a white kusītum robe

For other occurrences of Aššur-mālik s. Azuza in this context, see 4.6:18-21, and 5.3:39.
pertaining to my ikribū fund to Aššur-mālik. He did not reach Aššur-mālik, (for) he had
departed.19 So you took the kusītum robe, saying, “It is delivered to my father”; ½ kutānum
textile from the cargo of Nūr-Ištar; (and) you promised 15 shekels silver to Dān-Aššur, saying,
“I will send it after you”;—all this you hold since the eponomy of Aḫ-marši (REL 78). My
messages have come to you five times. Either give the proceeds of the tin, the kusītum robe and
the ½ k. textile to Pūšu-kēn, or write to me so that I may take from your silver here.
Aššur-mālik son of Azuza brought you 3 textiles of my ikribū fund and a textile for
the girl with your textiles. Give 1 mina silver to Pūšu-kēn so that he can deposit into my silver.
Aren’t you hearing that every year I am alienated from groups of five or ten people
for every shekel of your silver whenever we give it out? May Aššur and Ilabrat witness that
whenever I give out a single shekel of silver, I lose 10 or 20 minas of my silver! My dear
brother, do not make me angry. Give my silver to Pūšu-kēn, or send to me so that I may take
from your silver here. Do not anger me!

It is important to mention that Šalim-aḫum’s quote from ‘the tablet of Lā-qēpum’ (ll. 5-

8) is not an exact quote of the text of the caravan account preserved in 4.1, which only states,

“He is not here.” The present letter indicates that Šalim-aḫum had been informed of Ilabrat-

bāni’s destination, from which I infer that Šalim-aḫum had yet additional sources of


Ilabrat-bāni’s ‘theft’ of the 6⅓ minas tin was not the only grievance that Šalim-aḫum

had with Ilabrat-bāni. For several years (since REL 78), Ilabrat-bāni had maintained an

unfavorable balance with Šalim-aḫum. In addition to the ½ kutānum textile mentioned in 4.2,

Ilabrat-bāni had promised to pay for a white kusītum robe. Ilabrat-bāni also owed 1 mina silver

for the 3 textiles from Šalim-aḫum’s ikribū fund which he bought in conjunction with textiles

brought to him by Aššur-mālik son of Azuza (so designated to distinguish him from Ilabrat-

Alternatively, one might translate “Aššur-mālik had not yet arrived, he (Ilī-ašranni) departed.” Though
the grammatical antecedent at this point is Ilī-ašranni, it is also possible that Šalim-aḫum is referring to Ilabrat-
bāni leaving. In this case, the quotation of the tablet of Lā-qēpum—most likely the copy of the caravan account
which Šalim-aḫum received—would continue until line 12 whereas now it is interpreted to end in line 8.
bāni’s father). Moreover, as creditors came calling to Šalim-aḫum for Ilabrat-bāni’s debts in

Aššur, Ilabrat-bāni’s apparent irresponsibility was taking an increasing toll on Šalim-aḫum,

who claimed that he was losing credibility among the merchant community in consequence of

their relationship.

Šalim-aḫum finishes his list of grievances by saying “all this (viz. the things

enumerated in the previous list) you have held since REL 78” (mimma annim ištu REL 78 tuka’’al).

It must be noted that the statement was hyperbole. Obviously the 6⅓ minas tin became a

problem only from the beginning of REL 81 as indicated by the dates in 4.1. Of the three

grievances listed alongside the 6⅓ minas tin, we’ve already established that the half textile

from the cargo of Nūr-Ištar was contemporaneous with the problem of the tin (4.2:6-7). The

matter of the kusītum robe could have occurred around the same time as well, since Ilī-ašranni

would likely have been carrying the white kusītum robe for Aššur-mālik, Ilabrat-bāni’s father,

on the same journey that Ilabrat-bāni took the 6⅓ minas tin. Only the final grievance, Ilabrat-

bāni’s promise to pay 15 shekels silver to Dān-Aššur, must originate in REL 78.20 The more

recent infractions caused Šalim-aḫum consternation and hence he either mentally or verbally

collapsed them together with his past infractions.

Šalim-aḫum also mentioned sending “five” messages to Ilabrat-bāni, emphasizing

Ilabrat-bāni’s lack of reply (ll. 21-22). Whether or not “five” is a rhetorical remark, surely

Šalim-aḫum did not begin sending messages three years ago in REL 78, but only recently since

he had first received news of the 6⅓ minas tin. If he had waited for Ilabrat-bāni to reply to

each letter before sending the next one, the process would have stretched at least three

Thus mimma annim cannot be translated literally as “all this” in this instance without admitting that it
applies to a temporal span or the last item on the list—not all of the infractions listed.
months, an unreasonable time period within the reconstruction—as well as for Šalim-aḫum’s

immediate interests. Šalim-aḫum may have sent a letter as often as every day or every ten

days, but whatever the case, Šalim-aḫum’s complaint—contrasting his own earnestness in

communicating with Ilabrat-bāni’s apparent reticence—was a more forceful way of pointing

out Ilabrat-bāni’s evasion.

Šalim-aḫum’s and Ilabrat-bāni’s Reconciliation

It is difficult to know to what extent Ilabrat-bāni realized he had damaged his

relationship with Šalim-aḫum. Based on the reaction of Šalim-aḫum and the caravan account

that must have been sent by Lā-qēpum and Ilī-ālum, Ilabrat-bāni must have known that his use

of the 6⅓ minas tin would be contested. While Ilabrat-bāni was away from Kanesh on his trip

to Ḫattum and out of the reach of Pūšu-kēn, Šalim-aḫum’s could only write angry letters. But

when he learned that Ilabrat-bāni returned to Kanesh, he wrote to Pūšu-kēn to demand more

personal and direct pressure: Šalim-aḫum’s idea of reconciliation was to demand that Ilabrat-

bāni buy Šalim-aḫum’s inventory.

Document 4.4 - CCT 4 25b: Ilabrat-bāni returns to Kanesh21

1 um-ma Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um
a-na Pu-šu-ke-en6
qí-bi-ma a-ṣé-er
AN.NA-ki-im ša a-na
5 En-nam-A-šur ta-dí-nu
ù TÚG.ḪI.A ma-lá

Previous treatments: P. van der Meer, Correspondence, Nr. 17; Garelli, “PUL 100,” 123 n. 24.
ra-du-im ra-dí-šu-ma
KÙ.BABBAR 1 GÍN i-ša TUG.ḪI-tí-a
10 ù qá-sú-ma
lu-kà-il5 a-ša-me-ma
[ ] x [ ] tí ?
DUMU A-šur-ma-lik
15 a-ma-kam wa-ša-áb
gi-ri-šu-ma AN.NA
ù TÚG.ḪI.A | a-na u4-me
lo.e. ma-lá ta-da-nim
20 dí-šu-um um-ma a-ta-ma
rev. té-er-tí Ša-lim-a-ḫi-im
mì-ma ⌈a-na⌉ ša ki-ma
ku-a-tí lá té-zi-ib
25 qá-a[t]-kà-ma
le.e. i-ṣ[é-e]r DAM.GÀR li-dí-ma
ki-ma-ma! KÙ.BABBAR i-šé-pì-kà
tù-ub-lá-ni li-bi4

Šalim-aḫum to Pūšu-kēn:
In addition to the tin which you gave to Ennam-Aššur, add to him as many textiles as
can be added so that every single possible shekel (of profits) results from the proceeds of my
textiles. And he may retain his own share.22
I hear that … Ilabrat-bāni son of Aššur-mālik is there. Approach23 him and give to
him as much tin and textiles as possible on short-term credit. Say (to him), “Do not leave the
instructions of Šalim-aḫum concerning any tin and textiles to your representatives, but do it

This portion of the letter (lines 3-11) will be discussed in Chapter Five.
In the sense of taking legal action.
yourself (lit. it (must be) your hand).” Sell (the goods) to the merchant (Ilabrat-bāni) so that I
will be pleased in this way—by you bringing silver to me in your own charge.”

When Šalim-aḫum heard that Ilabrat-bāni was back in Kanesh, he was eager to force

Ilabrat-bāni to buy goods at a rate favorable to himself. As in other letters, when Šalim-aḫum

gives instructions to tell something to someone, or quotes another’s words, he drifts between

direct and indirect speech. After referring to himself as ‘the merchant’ (l. 26), Šalim-aḫum

places his own words into the speech which Pūšu-kēn is to give to Ilabrat-bāni. Ilabrat-bāni is

to take care of matters himself. Pūšu-kēn’s responsibility is to see to it that Ilabrat-bāni buys

the goods and then to bring as much silver, now apparently also the silver that will arise from

selling goods to Ilabrat-bāni, back to Šalim-aḫum.

Ilabrat-bāni responded in the way Šalim-aḫum directed. As seen in the previous

chapter, Ilabrat-bāni wrote a letter to Šalim-aḫum offering to buy a talent worth of goods, for

which he was willing to pay 10 minas silver up front. Šalim-aḫum responded to Ilabrat-bāni’s

offer by stipulating that half of the initial payment must be submitted in gold (3.4 and 3.5).

Šalim-aḫum’s reminder about the 6⅓ minas tin and the half textile (3.4:36-39) indicated that

those amounts had not yet been paid. Šalim-aḫum also stated that he would sell two talents of

tin and 100 kutānum textiles to Ilabrat-bāni. These goods were evidently on their way to

Kanesh at the time, the textiles in particular being brought by Dān-Aššur, Šalim-aḫum’s son


In Chapter Three, Dān-Aššur’s trip to Kanesh with the 100 kutānum textiles was

anchored to the original venture by demonstrating that his arrival in Kanesh was

contemporaneous with the due date for Pilaḫ-Aššur’s debt, that is in mid-June. Around that

same time, the first packets of silver were transported back to Šalim-aḫum by Dān-Aššur’s
traveling companion Šū-Suen (2.3). As a result, we see a definite span of time during which

the first phase of the Ilabrat-bāni affair developed into the second phase. If Nūr-Ištar and

Ilabrat-bāni arrived together in mid-April, then Ilabrat-bāni would have had two months to go

to Ḫattum, return, interact with Pūšu-kēn, decide to make a conciliatory purchase, send a

letter, and receive Šalim-aḫum’s response (3.4 and 3.5), all before Dān-Aššur arrived in

Kanesh. Was there sufficient time for these events to develop?

Working backwards from mid-June, by which time 3.4 and 3.5 must have arrived in

Kanesh, we can see there was sufficient time. Šalim-aḫum would have had to respond with 3.4

and 3.5 by the beginning of June, and thus Ilabrat-bāni would have had to have sent the offer

(which is lost to us) by the end of May. If Šalim-aḫum had received the caravan accounts (2.2

and 4.1) at the beginning of May (the caravans having arrived in mid-April), then Šalim-aḫum

could have sent his ‘five’ letters during the middle of REL 80 V. This meant his initial letters

would have reached Ilabrat-bāni in the middle of May, leaving Ilabrat-bāni two weeks to

respond. Ilabrat-bāni’s trip to Ḫattum would have taken less than a month, possible because

the city of Ḫattum (Hittite Hattuša) was only 155 kilometers north of Kanesh. The journey

there would have taken less than a week, the round trip less than two weeks. Furthermore, he

might only have been headed to the region of Ḫattum, not as far as the city itself. Thus, if

Ilabrat-bāni arrived in Kanesh sometime in mid-April, then he could have been back in Kanesh

before mid-May to receive Šalim-aḫum’s ‘five’ letters.

In this phase of the interaction between Ilabrat-bāni and Šalim-aḫum, it seems as

though Ilabrat-bāni was trying to mend his relationship with Šalim-aḫum. Šalim-aḫum had

designated that the sale to Ilabrat-bāni should be short-term in duration (3.4:26-28). If the

sale was transacted during the middle part of June, then it would have fallen due during
August or September. Had Ilabrat-bāni promptly paid his debt on this new credit purchase and

paid off his various small debts to Šalim-aḫum, he certainly had a chance of repairing his

tarnished relationship with Šalim-aḫum. After all, he was part of the solution to Šalim-aḫum’s

gold problem with Puzur-Ištar. However, when part of the price for the large lot fell due, in

mid-August, Ilabrat-bāni was not prepared to pay. At this point, Šalim-aḫum’s patience was

wearing thin. And Pūšu-kēn, whose two nephews were fast becoming liabilities to his own

relationship with Šalim-aḫum, was prepared to invoke more extreme measures.

Šalim-aḫum’s Retaliation

Despite the lack of documentation spelling out the distinct term of Ilabrat-bāni’s

purchase, Šalim-aḫum had expressed that he expected the sale to be on short terms. Ilabrat-

bāni had an obligation to pay about 20¾ minas silver in mid-August. This amount must have

constituted part of the amount due from the conciliatory purchase. It seems unlikely that he

had other major debts with Šalim-aḫum at that time. If he had, Šalim-aḫum would likely have

brought them up in 3.4 or 3.5. Moreover, Šalim-aḫum’s method of reclaiming his silver

reflected a symbolic response to the original infraction with the 6⅓ minas tin.

When the end of Ilabrat-bāni’s term arrived and he had not paid, Pūšu-kēn

recommended to Šalim-aḫum that he seize some of Ilabrat-bāni’s goods on the road to Kanesh

(4.5:5-11). Šalim-aḫum followed this recommendation, sending Ennam-Aššur his son and

Puzur-Aššur to seize the goods. The two then liquidated the goods in Amurrum for most of the

amount owed. When he received the silver, Šalim-aḫum wrote to Pūšu-kēn (4.5) to update

Ilabrat-bāni of his balance and to continue pressing him for the money. Šalim-aḫum

impatiently wrote again soon therafter complaining that he had still not received payment

from Ilabrat-bāni for his other debts (4.6).

Document 4.5 - TC 3 20: More Extreme Measures, Part I24

1 um-ma Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um-ma
a-na Pu-šu-ke-en6 qí-bi4-ma
a-šu-mì ša dNIN.ŠUBUR-ba-ni
ša ta-aš-pu-ra-ni
5 i-u4-mì-im ša ṭup-pá-am
ú-la-pí-ta-ku-ni u4-mu-šu
ma-al-ú AN.NA za-ku-a-am
ša-a-ma KI Dan-A-šùr Puzùr-A-šùr
a-li-bi dMAR.TU lu-ṣí-ma
10 a-na e-ta-li-tí-šu25 AN.NA
li-iṣ-ba-at Dan-A-šùr ma-<ra->aṣ-ma
la ú-ṣí En-um-A-šùr té-er-tí
a-ṣé-ri-kà i-ra-de8 ù Puzur4-A-šùr
iš-tí-šu ú-ṣí-ma i-ša DUMU
15 šu-e-em a-e-ta-lu-tí-šu AN.NA
En-um-A-šùr iṣ-ba-at-ma
a-na Puzur4-A-šùr i-dí-ma
20 ma-na LÁ 6⅙ GÍN al-qé
lo.e. ší-tí KÙ-pì-a ⅚ ma-na 1⅙ GÍN
20 a-ma-kam le-qé ù a-ša-ar
rev. wa-áš-bu šu-pu-ur-šu-um
20 ma-na KÙ-ap-kà ša a-na
a-limki a-ṣé-er ša ki-ma i-a-tí
ú-šé-bi4-lu lu-qú-tum ú-ṣa-ma26

Previous treatments: (all partial): Lewy, HUCA 32, 63 n. 188 (lines 3-18); Hirsch, UAR 5 n. 21 (lines 5-11,
25-28); Lewy, HUCA 32, 64 (lines 22-31); Larsen, OACP 96 (lines 38-43).
For etallūtišu; see GKT §15b.
uṣamma — For this form of the preterite of waṣā’um, see GKT § 97e.
25 ki-ma u4-mu-kà ma-al-ú-ni
a-na e-ta-lu-tí-šu Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um
i-li-bi4 dMAR.TU i-dí-ma
20 ma-na LÁ 6⅙ GÍN KÙ il5-té-qé
ší-tí KÙ-pì-šu ⅚ ma-na 1⅙ GÍN
30 šé-bi4-lam-ma ṭup-pá-ka lá-dí-na-ku-ma
du-uk (Ras.) ší-tí KÙ ú-šé-bi4-lá-ku-um
lá ú-šé-bi4-lá-ku-um té-er-ta-kà
li-li-kam 12 ma-na 15 GÍN
KÙ ša tù-šé-bi4-lá-ni AN.NA ša-mì
35 ù a-na-ku ša ra-du-im
ú-ra-da-ma AN.NA a-ša-a-ma
Dan-A-šùr ù Puzur4-A-šur
a-ṭá-ra-dam 18 TÚG ku-ta-ni
dam-qú-tim ša Sú-e-a na-áš-ú-ni-kum
u.e. 40 e-ra-áb TÚG-tí-šu lá tù-qá-a
5 ma-na KÙ.BABBAR šé-bi4-lam-ma
le.e. lá-áš-a-ma a-dí a-ma-kam wa-áš-ba-tí-ni lu-ša-ak-<ší->da-ma
KÙ 1 ma-na le-li a-ḫi a-ta a-lá-nu-kà
45 a-ma-nim ta-ak-lá-ku a-té-er-tí-a i-ḫi-id

Šalim-aḫum to Pūšu-kēn:
Concerning the matter of Ilabrat-bāni about which you sent word to me, “On the day
I am writing this tablet to you, his term is full. Purchase refined tin27 so that Puzur-Aššur can
depart with Dān-Aššur to Amurrum and seize the tin on his own authority.” Dān-Aššur is sick
so he did not go.
Ennum-Aššur conveys my message to you. Now, Puzur-Aššur departed with him and
from the (goods) of his (Ilabrat-bāni’s) son, Ennam-Aššur seized the tin on his own authority
and gave it to Puzur-Aššur and I received 19 minas 53⅚ shekels.
Acquire the remainder of my silver—51⅙ shekels—there. Now, send to him
wherever he is staying (saying), “Regarding the 20 minas (of) your silver which you (lit. he)

On zaku’um as ‘pure’ or ‘clean’, see OACTA, 44, 213.
had sent to the city to my representative28—the goods departed, but because your term was
full, Šalim-aḫum sold it in Amurrum on his own authority and took 19 minas 53⅚ shekels. Send
the remainder of your (his) silver—51⅙ shekels, so that I may give your tablet to you and it
may be voided.” Let your message come as to whether he sent to you the remainder of the
silver or not.
Regarding the 12 minas 15 shekels silver which you had sent to me, (saying)
“Purchase the tin.” Now, for my part, I will gather as much silver as I can and purchase the tin
and dispatch Dān-Aššur and Puzur-Aššur.
As for the 18 fine kutānum-textiles which Suea is bringing to you—do not wait for
the arrival of his textiles. Send me 5 minas silver so that I may make purchases and cause them
to arrive while you are still there so that an (extra) mina may arise. My dear brother, whom
can I trust besides you? Give heed to my messages.

Šalim-aḫum opens the letter by quoting Pūšu-kēn’s suggestion to take action against

Ilabrat-bāni. According to Šalim-aḫum’s quotation, Pūšu-kēn had written to Šalim-aḫum on

the very day that Ilabrat-bāni’s term had lapsed and suggested that Šalim-aḫum purchase tin

and send it with Dān-Aššur and Puzur-Aššur so that the two could overtake Ilabrat-bāni’s

goods and confiscate them in Amurrum.29 For the most part, Šalim-aḫum heeded Pūšu-kēn’s

advice, though instead of sending Dān-Aššur, he sent his other son, Ennam-Aššur, with Puzur-

Aššur. These two did seize the goods in Amurrum, where they liquidated them, realizing just

less than 20 minas silver. Upon their return, Šalim-aḫum sent this letter with Ennam-Aššur.

Šalim-aḫum told Pūšu-kēn to send Ilabrat-bāni a message, wherever he was. The message, a

The text which Šalim-aḫum instructs Pūšu-kēn to say is a mix of direct and indirect discourse. It is
possible that Šalim-aḫum is again referring indirectly to himself by quoting Pūšu-kēn’s (future) direct speech,
thus he, Šalim-aḫum, would be Pūšu-kēn’s representative. Were Pūšu-kēn speaking directly, he could be referring
to a different representative of Pūšu-kēn, for example, Šu-Ḫubur. It is also possible that the speech is indirect and
the person is a different representative of Šalim-aḫum.
Veenhof identifies Amurrum as the area of the west bend of the Euphrates and the Balikh, including
the town of Niḫriya, see OBO 160/5, 97 n. 426.
mishmash of direct and indirect discourse, effectively informed Ilabrat-bāni of the action

taken in Amurrum and demanded the remainder of the payment.

Šalim-aḫum then moved to a different matter between Pūšu-kēn and himself, that of a

joint purchase of tin (ll. 33-38). Šalim-aḫum acknowledged both the receipt of Pūšu-kēn’s 12

minas 15 shekels along with Pūšu-kēn’s instructions to go ahead and purchase the tin. This

instruction was written in the same letter by Pūšu-kēn (lost to us) from which Šalim-aḫum had

quoted Pūšu-kēn’s instructions to send the tin with Dān-Aššur (ll. 3-12). Šalim-aḫum responded

that he would try to purchase the remainder of the silver and indicated that he would send it

with Dān-Aššur when he did purchase it. The joint purchase had been in process of

arrangement for at least a few months; it will be dicussed at length in Chapter Five.

Šalim-aḫum finished the letter with a few other notes, including a request that Pūšu-

kēn send another 5 minas of silver so he could send one more lot of goods to Anatolia before

Pūšu-kēn left Kanesh at the end of the season.

This letter (4.5) exemplifies two general points worth mentioning:

1) The fact that Pūšu-kēn could suggest in a message sent by post that Šalim-aḫum seize

Ilabrat-bāni’s goods, which would be heading away from Šalim-aḫum by the time Pūšu-kēn’s

letter arrived, and that Šalim-aḫum had the ability to follow through with the suggestion,

reinforces the claim of the brisk tempo of communication asserted in the previous chapter.

Prior to this exchange, Ilabrat-bāni had sent 20 minas of silver to Šalim-aḫum to buy goods for

his own business, and Šalim-aḫum had complied. Ilabrat-bāni must have sent his 20 minas of

silver in late July, arriving in late August, so that his goods were to have been bought, packed,

and sent back on the road to Kanesh soon after Pūšu-kēn wrote his letter informing Šalim-

aḫum of Ilabrat-bāni’s default on the 20¾ minas (in mid-August). Pūšu-kēn writes his
instructions assuming that the goods would have already departed by the time his letter

arrived in Aššur. Despite the merchandise’s head start, Pūšu-kēn also assumed it would be

possible to overtake the goods. Both Pūšu-kēn’s knowledge of Ilabrat-bāni sending 20 minas

silver to Aššur along with his estimate of what was happening to that silver demonstrate

effective knowledge of developments at the other terminus of the trade. Pūšu-kēn’s confidence

that he could propose such an operation from his remote location only serves to underline the

extent to which a merchant in one terminus could effectively interfere in another.30

2) The market for tin between Aššur and Amurrum was sufficiently integrated so that

the value of the Ilabrat-bāni’s goods in both places was essentially the same. Thus it was not

until after the Assyrian merchants began to push across the Euphrates and into the Taurus

Mountains that their wares increased in value as they gained elevation. Provided all the silver

which Ilabrat-bāni sent to Aššur was applied towards tin and its transport, the value of the tin

did not significantly appreciate between Aššur and Amurrum: Ilabrat-bāni sent 20 minas silver

to Aššur (ll. 22-24) while the liquidated tin fetched 19 minas 53⅚ shekels silver in Amurrum.31

The price in Amurrum would have depended in part on the effective demand for the tin

there—how many persons were capable of buying the merchandise. Local inhabitants could

have purchased it, as could have Assyrian merchants on their way back from Anatolia, rich in

silver. However, merchants on their way to Anatolia would likely not have had the ready

The seizure of Ilabrat-bāni’s goods had to have taken place after Dān-Aššur was expected to arrive in
Aššur, but with enough time to allow the following actions to be completed before the end of the season.
20 minas silver less 20 shekels šaddu’utum which would have been exacted, could have purchased two
donkeys loaded with tin, as well as pay for the associated expenses (assuming an exchange rate of 15 shekels
tin/shekel silver): 2 talents 20 minas tin at (17 minas 20 shekels silver) + 20 shekels silver for each donkey (40
shekels silver) + 5 shekels per donkey for gear and food (10 shekels silver) + 5 minas hand tin for each donkey (40
shekels silver) + export taxes (1-10 shekels silver). All this leaves 40 shekels silver, which could have purchased
textiles to put in a top pack.
silver, as they would have converted all silver into tin and textiles in Aššur before commencing

the journey to Anatolia. Also, to know exactly how much the tin appreciated between Aššur

and Amurrum relied on an exact knowledge of the price of tin in Aššur (and whether or not

the donkeys were part of the goods liquidated), and thus remained unknown.

Though the booty from the retributionary raid answered most of the 20¾ minas silver

debt, Šalim-aḫum did not recoup the remainder of the petty debts which Ilabrat-bāni owed.

Pūšu-kēn responded to the letter above (4.5), but despite writing further letters, Šalim-aḫum

had yet to receive news that the remainder had been collected. Again becoming impatient,

Šalim-aḫum pestered Pūšu-kēn. At this point he was adamant that Pūšu-kēn force Ilabrat-bāni

to send permission to Šalim-aḫum so that he could take the silver directly from Ilabrat-bāni’s

accounts in Aššur.

Document 4.6 - CCT 2 3: More Extreme Measures – Part 232

1 um-ma Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um-ma a-na

Pu-šu-ke-en6 qí-bi-ma a-šu-mì
ša dNIN.ŠUBUR-ba-ni ša ta-qí-pu-šu
ta-áš-pu-ra-ma i-na té-er-tí-kà-ma
5 lu-qú-tám i-li-bi4 dMAR.TU
a-dí-in-ma KÙ.BABBAR-pì al-qé ší-tí KÙ.BABBAR
⅚ ma-na 1⅙ GÍN a-ší-tám
áš-pu-ra-kum um-ma a-na-ku-ma
li-iš-qú-lá-ku-ma ṭup-pu-šu
10 dí-in-šu-um | ṭup-pu-kà 5 ù 6
i-li-ku-nim a-ni-a-tim
ki-ma ša-bu-a-ku-ni mì-šu-um
i-ṭup-pè-kà lá ta-al-pu-tám
6⅓ ma-na AN.NA KÙ.BABBAR-áp-šu

Previous treatments: van der Meer, Correspondance, Nr. 21.
15 1 ma-na 3 GÍN ku-sí-tum
ma-al-a-i-tum ½ TÚG ku-ta-num
½ ma-na 5 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR-áp-šu-nu
lo.e. 3 TÚG ša ik-ri-bi4-a
1 TÚG ša ṣu-ḫa-ar-tim
rev. iš-tí ṣú-ba-tí-šu A-šùr-ma-lik
21 DUMU A-zu-za ú-bi4-il5-šu-um
1 ma-na KÙ.BABBAR lá i-ba-ta-qam
šu-ma TÚG.ḪI.A | a-ta tal-qé
té-er-ta-kà li-li-kam
25 ṭup-pu-um ša a-ki-lá-li-ku-nu
lá-pu-tù ki-ma ta-áš-me-ú
pá-nam šu-ku-šu-ma mì-ma a-nim
ša lá-pu-ta-ku-ni a-na nu-ku-ra-e
lá i-ša-kà-an ṭup-pu-um
30 ša ki-lá-li-ku-nu li-li-kam-ma
KÙ.BABBAR-pì a-na-kam lá-al-qé
a-na KÙ.BABBAR-pì-šu ša a-na-kam
ma-dí-iš du-mu-uq-tám
e-pu-šu-um ú li-ba-kà i-de8
35 a-na KÙ.BABBAR-pì-šu ša-lu-ḫi-im
iš-tap-ra-am i-dí-qá-tí-ma
u.e. li-iš-pu-ra-ma a-na-kam KÙ.BABBAR-pì
lá-al-qé šu-ma
ší-ib-sa-tim e-ta-wu i-na
40 iš-té-en6 a-li-ki-im
le.e. té-er-ta-kà li-li-kam-ma ša lá-qá KÙ.BABBAR-pì-a
a-na-ku a-na-kam mì-il5-ki lá-am-li-ik

Šalim-Aḫum to Pūšu-kēn:
Concerning the (silver) of Ilabrat-bāni which you entrusted to him—you sent me
word: “In your message (in which you quoted me as saying): ‘I (Šalim-aḫum) sold the goods in
Amurrum and took my silver. The remainder of the silver is 51⅙ shekels.’” I (Šalim-aḫum)

wrote you (again) about the remainder, “Let him pay you, then give his tablets to him.”33 Five
or six of your tablets have arrived. As for these (debts enumerated below), why did you not
write in your tablets that I am paid in full? 6⅓ minas tin—its price in silver: 1 mina 3 shekels; a
kusītum mal’aītum34 robe; ½ kutānum textile—their price in silver: 35 shekels; Aššur-mālik son of
Azuza brought him 3 textiles of my ikribū and 1 textile for the girl along with his textiles. He
must not go below 1 mina silver. If you yourself received the textiles, then let your message
When you read the tablet addressed to both of you, confront him with it so that he
cannot deny all for which I am written. Let a tablet from both of you come to me so that I can
take my silver here. As for his silver which is here, I have done him a great favor and you know
it very well. He had sent word to me to withdraw his silver. He should have sent word at the
same time so that I could take my silver here. If he quarrels,35 let your message come with the
first traveler so that I may here make my decision about taking my silver.

Although the letter is clearly a continuation of the matter of Ilabrat-bāni, without the

aid of 4.5 it would be difficult to recognize that it was Šalim-aḫum (through his agents) who

seized the merchandise rather than Pūšu-kēn. Šalim-aḫum’s prose underlines the difficulty in

understanding his letters. This letter opens with Šalim-aḫum quoting Pūsu-kēn’s citation of

Šalim-aḫum in the previous letter. Correlation with 4.5 clearly shows that the quotation from

Pūšu-kēn’s letter was in fact another quotation of Šalim-aḫum’s own words. However the

language within the letter does not reveal this sufficiently on its own. Šalim-aḫum does lead

Despite the nominative case ṭuppušu in line 9.
Most probably a nisbe qualification, cf. Veenhof, AOATT, 190.
šumma šib/ps/ṣātim etawwû lit. “If he speaks angry/violent words.” AHw places this occurrence with
šipṣu ‘Gewalt, Widersetzlichkeit.’ The CAD limits the use of šipšu A to Neo-Assyrian, but does not include this
instance under šibsātu s. pl. tantum (limited to Standard Babylonian). The Old Assyrian orthography allows either,
and all lemmas (the one in AHw and the two in CAD) revolve around abstract meanings which fit the current
instance. Here šib/ps/ṣātim could also be read as a fem. pl. adjective elliptically modifying awâtum.
the quotation with a lexico-syntactic cue that does not imply the following text was Pūšu-kēn’s

own speech (i-tīrtika-ma instead of umma attama).

This letter also underlines again the earnestness of the tempo at which Šalim-aḫum

expected his letters to be delivered and hence his instructions to be executed. Šalim-aḫum’s

use of the quotation from Pūšu-kēn’s letter is a frank reminder to move ahead. Šalim-aḫum

pointed out that although he had sent five more letters since, Pūšu-kēn had not informed him

as to whether he had collected the remainder of Ilabrat-bāni’s 20¾ minas silver (51⅙ shekels)

(4.6:6-7). This period could have been as short as a week if Šalim-aḫum were sending off

letters each day.

Before he urged Pūšu-kēn to resolve the matter (ll. 25-42), Šalim-aḫum again listed the

outstanding debts owed by Ilabrat-bāni. Šalim-aḫum notes that the 6⅓ minas tin was to garner

1 mina 3 shekels silver, commensurate with the 6 shekel rate he previously demanded. He

again lists the kusītum robe (here described as mal’aītum), and the ½ kutānum textile now rated

as a combined 35 shekels, then the 3 other textiles and the textile for the girl brought by

Aššur-mālik son of Azuza, for which Šalim-aḫum had demanded one mina silver. Šalim-aḫum

reminds Pūšu-kēn to let him know if Ilabrat-bāni has returned the textiles instead. Ilabrat-bāni

still needed to pay these debts and the rest of his talent of silver.

Table 12: Ilabrat-bāni’s Minor Debts to Šalim-aḫum

4.3 4.6
6⅓m tin 6⅓m tin = 63š silver
white kusītum kusītum mal’aītum \
=35š silver
½ kutānum-textile = 15 š silver ½ kutānum-textile /
3 textiles for Šalim-aḫum’s ikribum 3 textiles for Šalim-aḫum’s ikribum
1 textile for the maiden 1 textile for the maiden
m = minas, š - shekels

At this point, I present the summary table of events for the Ilabrat-bāni affair.
Table 13: Summary Table of Events for the Ilabrat-bāni Affair
IB1 Ilī-ašranni in the company of Ilabrat-bāni conducts 6 donkey-loads with 390 minas
tin, 85 kutānum textiles, 20 š. textiles and hand tin to Kanesh for Šalim-aḫum in REL
80 IV (4.1:3-25).

IB2 During the trip, Ilabrat-bāni opens one or more of Šalim-aḫum’s sealed packs of tin
and extracts 6⅓ minas tin, perhaps to pay for expenses on the road (4.1:17-19;
4.2:3-31, 4.3:3-27; 4.6:14).

IB3 The caravan arrives and two lots of goods are sold to Puzur-Anna s. Elāli and Iddi(n)-
abum s. Iddi(n)-Ištar respectively (see Table 11) (4.1:3-42).

IB4 A caravan account is written and sent to Šalim-aḫum (not a direct copy of 4.1) The
letter as quoted by Šalim-aḫum includes the statement, “From the goods of Ilī-
ašranni’s cargo, 6⅓ minas and ½ kutānum textile are with Ilabrat-bāni.” (4.2:4-7) and
also, “he left at that same time for Ḫattum” (4.3:7-8).

IB5 Šalim-aḫum finds out about Ilabrat-bāni’s ‘theft’ of the 6⅓ minas tin. He reacts
angrily and demands a 6š rate for the tin. He mentions Iddi(n)-abum s. Iddi(n)-Ištar.
Šalim-aḫum states that Ilabrat-bāni was part of the caravan as witnessed by Enlil-
bāni and Puzur-Aššur s. Elāli (4.2).
A  Šalim-aḫum writes to Ilabrat-bāni five times (4.3:21-22).

IB6 Šalim-aḫum writes to Ilabrat-bāni quoting the caravan account/letter. He

enumerates other things that Ilabrat-bāni owed, clarifying that the ½ kutānum textile
derived from Nūr-Ištar’s cargo (rather than Ilī-ašranni’s cargo as in 4.2:4-7), that
there was also a white kusītum robe brought by Ilī-ašranni, and that Ilabrat-bāni had
promised Dān-Aššur (presumably Šalim-aḫum’s son) 15 shekels of silver, but never
given it to him. Šalim-aḫum states that Ilabrat-bāni had begun accruing these debts
in REL 78. He tells Ilabrat-bāni to give the owed goods to Pūšu-kēn (4.3).
A  He points out that Ilabrat-bāni owes 1 mina silver related to Šalim-aḫum’s ikribū
funds which arose from Ilabrat-bāni’s responsibility to pay for 3 textiles brought by
Aššur-mālik s. Azuza (4.3:28-33).
B  He complains that his relationship with Ilabrat-bāni continually costs him both
social and commercial capital (4.3:33-44).

Table 13: Summary Table of Events for the Ilabrat-bāni Affair, continued

IB7 Šalim-aḫum writes to Pūšu-kēn telling him that he hears that Ilabrat-bāni is in
Kanesh and to sell tin and textiles to him. He instructs Pūšu-kēn to tell Ilabrat-bāni
to do the job himself (4.4).
A  He tells Pūšu-kēn to sell textiles to Ennam-Aššur (presumably Šalim-aḫum’s
son) (4.4:3-11).

IB8 Ilabrat-bāni writes to Šalim-aḫum asking to buy tin and textiles worth 1 talent of
silver from Šalim-aḫum (3.4:5-13). Events discussed in Chapter 3 transpire at this

IB9 Ilabrat-bāni buys the goods outlined by Šalim-aḫum (assumed).

IB10 Ilabrat-bāni sends approximately 20 minas silver to Šalim-aḫum in Aššur so that

Šalim-aḫum can by goods for Ilabrat-bāni and send them to Kanesh with Ilabrat-
bāni’s son (4.5:22-27).

IB11 Ilabrat-bāni does not pay a debt of 20 minas 45 shekels silver. On the very day it is
due, Pūšu-kēn writes to Šalim-aḫum to send Puzur-Aššur and Dān-Aššur to seize the
Ilabrat-bāni’s goods that will be travelling on the road in Amurrum.
A  Pūšu-kēn tells Šalim-aḫum to buy refined tin to send with the two travellers

IB12 Šalim-aḫum follows Pūšu-kēn’s advice but sends Ennam-Aššur instead of Dān-Aššur
with Puzur-Aššur because Dān-Aššur is sick. Ennam-Aššur and Puzur-Aššur travel to
Ammurrum and seize and liquidate Ilabrat-bāni’s goods for the amount of 19 minas
53⅚ shekels silver and return to Aššur (4.5:13-18).

IB13 Šalim-aḫum writes Pūšu-kēn explaining these events, instructing Pūšu-kēn to tell
Ilabrat-bāni to pay the remaining 51 shekels silver (4.5).
A  He tells Pūšu-kēn that he received Pūšu-kēn’s 12 minas 15 shekels silver, that he
bought tin with it and that he will buy his own portion of the tin and send it soon
with Dān-Aššur and Puzur-Aššur (4.5:32-38).
B  He mentions 18 kutānum textiles which Sueyya is bringing to Kanesh, and asks
that Pūšu-kēn send 5 minas silver in exchange for them before they arrive so that
Šalim-aḫum can use that silver again (before the end of the shipping season?)

Table 13: Summary Table of Events for the Ilabrat-bāni Affair, continued

IB14 Šalim-aḫum again writes Pūšu-kēn complaining that although he had received five
or six letters from Pūšu-kēn, no news about payment of the 51 shekels silver had
been sent in those letters. He again enumerates the list of small debts which Ilabrat-
bāni owes, viz.
A  6⅓ minas tin, the kūsītum robe, the ½ kutānum textile, and 3 textiles worth 1
mina silver (4.6:10-24).
He tells Pūšu-kēn to confront Ilabrat-bāni and force him to write a letter so that
Šalim-aḫum can collect the silver from Ilabrat-bāni’s accounts in Aššur. If Ilabrat-
bāni resists, Pūšu-kēn is to write Šalim-aḫum immediately (4.6).

IB15 Ilī-ašranni, who brought the 6 donkey-loads of goods and was responsible for seeing
that the cargo was sold under the observation of Lā-qēpum and Ilī-ālum (who wrote
4.1) is unable to sell off the last portion of the cargo and is responsible to buy it from
Šalim-aḫum with a debt arrangement in which interest begins accruing immediately

IB16 4.1, a complete report, is drawn up in REL 81 XI as a summary document of the

caravan taken by Ilī-ašřanni.

Metaphorical Retaliation, Duality of Structures, and Practice

The Ilabrat-bāni affair is a good example of the potential evidence lying beneath the

surface of the Old Assyrian documentation. The Ilabrat-bāni affair can be read as a self-

contained episode, though failing to contextualize it in the larger processes of REL 80 risks

rendering the account of Šalim-aḫum’s actions and decisions in the affair anecdotal. At the

anecdotal level, Šalim-aḫum’s actions toward Ilabrat-bāni can be read as a manifestation of

what might be called metaphorical retaliation.36 However, this is only part of the story. When

the Ilabrat-bāni affair is temporally contextualized within concurrent developments in REL 80,

it becomes clear that Šalim-aḫum needed to meet needs outside his relationship with Ilabrat-

bāni. At the level of practice, Šalim-aḫum conciously chose to seize Ilabrat-bāni’s goods

because it served his immediate needs. Because of the contextualization of the Ilabrat-bāni

affair, the evidence on Šalim-aḫum’s motivations transcends the limitations of the anecdotal

frame and offers a more compelling account of Šalim-aḫum’s measures, more compelling even

than if they were related at length in a single letter. In a contextualized account of the Ilabrat-

bāni-affair, not only did Šalim-aḫum conform to the concept of metaphorical retaliation, but

his measures also served his larger interests and this more robust account, sensitive to

practice on a personal scale, constitutes a previously unrealized type of evidence on the Old

Assyrian trade.

The theoretical arguments I make in this discussion are not novel in social theory; they

are adopted from other struggles with the limitations of structuralism. My arguments hinge on

the concept of practice as argued by Pierre Bourdieu and the concept of the duality of

structures argued by William Sewell. However, the present argument is focused on the

potential of the temporally reconstructed Old Assyrian documentation. Temporal

reconstruction of commercial activity has been far less common a mode of inquiry in Old

Assyrian studies in comparison to structural and archival focuses. I make no claim that

documentation subject to reconstructions such as the present is the norm or that this

reconstruction signals a vast undiscovered state of evidence in the Old Assyrian

By this I do not mean that the retribution itself was not actual, only metaphorical, but rather that the
nature of the retaliation had a metaphorical relationship to the incident which prompted the retaliation.
documentation. Indeed, much of the Old Assyrian record is fragmentary. However, there is the

potential for further reconstructions and their importance and nature are worth considering.

Temporally sensitive reconstructions offer substantive evidence of socioeconomic

motivations, transcending theoretical frameworks that imply specific categories of motivation.

In that regard, accounts like the Ilabrat-bāni affair contextualized in REL 80 show the potential

to query Old Assyrian mentalities.

A brief narrative of the Ilabrat-bāni affair exhibits a certain poetic balance. On the road

to Kanesh, Ilabrat-bāni opened Šalim-aḫum’s sealed merchandise “on his own authority” and

appropriated some of the tin to pay for an expense. Ilabrat-bāni’s actions angered Šalim-aḫum,

who likened them to worse than thievery because the two had a working relationship. As

compensation, Šalim-aḫum demanded that Ilabrat-bāni purchase more goods at a price that

favored Šalim-aḫum. But when Ilabrat-bāni did not pay part of that debt (the 21 minas silver)

at the appointed time, Šalim-aḫum followed Pūšu-kēn’s recommendation to recoup the silver

by seizing Ilabrat-bāni’s goods heading out on the road to Kanesh. Šalim-aḫum sent Puzur-

Aššur and Ennam-Aššur to Amurrum, where they seized Ilabrat-bāni ‘s goods “on their own

authority.” The silver they brought back nearly equaled the amount of Ilabrat-bāni’s

delinquent debt.

Pūšu-kēn’s recommendation to seize Ilabrat-bāni’s goods in Amurrum reflect the

symbolic parity of metaphorical retaliation in more ways than one. It is tempting to suggest

that the reason to seize Ilabrat-bāni’s goods in Amurrum, on the road between Aššur and

Kanesh, stemmed from a sense that returning to the original scene of the crime would have

been fitting. But there is no way to know with the documents at hand where Ilabrat-bāni’s

infraction actually took place. That the seizure was done on the road when Ilabrat-bāni was
absent from his goods, as was Šalim-aḫum, certainly had symbolic merit. What may have been

more important regarding the choice of location was the price for which the goods were sold.

When Puzur-Aššur and Ennam-Aššur liquidated Ilabrat-bāni’s goods in Amurrum, Šalim-aḫum

nearly recovered the 20¾ minas Ilabrat-bāni owed. Ilabrat-bāni had just sent 20 minas to

Šalim-aḫum to purchase goods, the goods that were then seized. The relative equivalence

between the silver Ilabrat-bāni sent for purchases and the silver gained from liquidating them

suggests there was a price parity between Aššur and the land of Amurrum. Šalim-aḫum or

Pūšu-kēn could have preferred to seize the goods farther along the road, closer to Kanesh, in a

place that would probably have yielded not only the twenty minas and change in which

Ilabrat-bāni was most recently delinquent, but also the full amount associated with further

debts that Ilabrat-bāni owed Šalim-aḫum. But seizing Ilabrat-bāni’s goods in Amurrum appears

to have been a measured act of retribution, targeted at a specific claim. Šalim-aḫum received

approximately (but not more than) the 20 minas Ilabrat-bāni had just sent for his own

purchases, which should have gone straight into Šalim-aḫum’s coffers in the first place.

Gaining more money might have risked overextending the logic of the retaliatory act.

Šalim-aḫum’s sense of metaphorical retaliation as an element of an Old Assyrian

mentality forms a interesting parallel to the principle of lex talionis invoked in collections of

laws from the same era, such as the Laws of Lipit-Ištar, or later collections, like Hammurabi’s

laws. This is interesting because Šalim-aḫum seized Ilabrat-bāni’s goods in lieu of pursuing

either informal dispute resolution or formal legal measures. While Šalim-aḫum’s working

relationship with Ilabrat-bāni must have affected the way he dealt with him, even family

members appealed to formal dispute processes from time to time. Rather, the narrative of the

Ilabrat-bāni affair suggests that at some level Šalim-aḫum’s actions derived from a practical

concept of metaphorical retaliation, which seems to have justified using force associated with

formal legal authority, and in that sense it must have been a potent structure.

According to this reading, the Ilabrat-bāni affair is an anecdotal narrative of re-

balancing imbalances. By anecdotal, I mean that Šalim-aḫum’s and others’ decisions and

actions within the frame of the Ilabrat-bāni affair are functionally symbolic because those

decisions and actions are disconnected from larger, specific material consequences and

concerns. Consequences do arise within the narrative of the Ilabrat-bāni affair. Šalim-aḫum

was deprived of potential revenues when Ilabrat-bāni appropriated the tin. In turn, Ilabrat-

bāni was obligated to bear the risk of selling a large batch of goods when he was constrained to

make the compensatory purchase from Šalim-aḫum. Ilabrat-bāni also lost the goods which he

had planned on receiving from Aššur when they were seized. But the 6⅓ minas tin or the 20¾

minas silver taken and owed do not escape a symbolic meaning within the Ilabrat-bāni affair;

instead they form tokens of the social balance between Pūšu-kēn and Šalim-aḫum. At the same

time, Šalim-aḫum’s and Ilabrat-bāni’s actions and decisions are also tokens of the balancing

structure of metaphorical retaliation. The meaning of the tin or silver or actions or decisions

have connections only to a structural context around it, and no connections to larger

situations at work during REL 80.

Likewise, if the narrative of the Ilabrat-bāni affair as reviewed here were all that could

be reconstructed from the Old Assyrian documentation, then in this instance, as in most from

the account of Old Assyrian practice, the focus of inquiry is not on practice at the personal

level, but on apparent structures. Structures, like the idea of metaphorical retaliation or the

tempo of trade and communication discussed in the previous chapter, or even caravan
procedures, must constitute part of an account of Old Assyrian commercial mentalities. But

accounts which do not extend beyond such structures themselves, as with either tempos or

caravan procedures or metaphorical retaliation—accounts that cannot reference proximal

causes for motivations—while an important part of the attempt to slowly reclaim a dead

civilization, fall short of comprehending mental schemas.

Bourdieu’s and Sewell’s arguments concerning practice and the duality of structures, as

briefly reviewed in Chapter One, hold respectively that structuralist inquiry separated from

time cannot grasp the mode of generating behavior and that actors use both material and

structural resources to pursue their interests. At the level of documentation and evidence, the

necessary requirement for pushing past the structuralist limitations of the anecdote is the

capacity to provide at least an incipient account of practice sensitive to material interests. A

crucial element of practice is agency; but to the extent that material resources and decisions

function as tokens within narratives that manifest primarily structures, agency is functionally

subverted. Agency in practice is only observable in temporally-sensitive reconstructions that

benefit from a broader interconnected documentation in a way that can couple decisions with

particular material interests and consequences. Agency through the lens of practice is clearly

apparent when reconstructions offer sufficient context to account for the dual nature of

structures. Ideas, tempos, and institutions structure activity, but just as actors use material

goods as resources, actors also can use structures as resources. When the Ilabrat-bāni affair is

re-contextualized into Šalim-aḫum’s larger concerns, interests, and activities during REL 80,

the decisions Šalim-aḫum made in the Ilabrat-bāni affair not only depict the concept of

metaphorical retaliation but Šalim-aḫum’s calculated use of the concept as a resource to serve

his interests beyond his problems with Ilabrat-bāni.

The Ilabrat-bāni affair can be connected to the other developments during REL 80 to

show the importance of a larger context (See Figure 13 below). It was already noted above that

the original venture caravan and Ilī-ašranni’s caravan travelled at roughly the same time to

Kanesh in the early spring. The ½ textile which Nūr-Ištar was deficient shows up as the ½

textile which Ilabrat-bāni took and about which Šalim-aḫum complained was owed to him,

along with other small debts. Dān-Aššur’s travels form a central connecting thread

interweaving the original venture, the Puzur-Ištar affair, the Ilabrat-bāni affair, and a joint

venture between Pūšu-kēn and Šalim-aḫum during the year. In addition to the joint venture,

the travels of Šalim-aḫum’s other son active in the trade, Ennam-Aššur, and Šalim-aḫum’s help

to Pūšu-kēn in purchasing a house are covered in the following chapter.

Dān-Aššur travelled from Aššur to Kanesh and back one time during this year.38 He

departed Aššur in mid-May and arrived in mid-June, bringing the 100 kutānum textiles

designated for Ilabrat-bāni.39 By the time Dān-Aššur had arrived in Kanesh, Puzur-Ištar’s

backing out of his obligation had already resolved into Šalim-aḫum demanding that Ilabrat-

bāni pay half of his down payment in gold (3.5, 3.6).40 Dān-Aššur then stayed in Anatolia until

late July (5.1-5.3), when he departed for home with silver acknowledged by Šalim-aḫum as

the second shipment of silver from the original venture (2.4).41 Pūšu-kēn had planned that

upon Dān-Aššur’s arrival in Aššur, he would then bring back to Kanesh tin pertaining to the

joint venture between Šalim-aḫum and Pūšu-kēn (4.5:3-12, 5.3:31-37). Pūšu-kēn also planned

that Dān-Aššur participate in seizing Ilabrat-bāni’s goods. However Dān-Aššur fell ill and

Šalim-aḫum prevented him from going, instead sending Ennam-Aššur with Puzur-Aššur (4.5:3-

12). After going to Amurrum and returning to Aššur, Ennam-Aššur brought word to Pūšu-kēn

of Šalim-aḫum’s delay in sending the tin for the joint venture (4.5:13-18).42

When Šalim-aḫum responded to Pūšu-kēn’s suggestion that he seize Ilabrat-bāni’s

goods, he acknowledged receipt of Pūšu-kēn’s portion of a joint venture (4.5). Šalim-aḫum had

initially suggested the joint venture to Pūšu-kēn already in May (5.8), and after further

prodding (5.9), Pūšu-kēn had agreed to participate on certain conditions (5.10). By the time

Šalim-aḫum was writing 4.5 in the second week of September, he was discussing the joint

venture in the context of his anxiety that he produce enough revenues by the end of the

shipping season to avoid being “shamed at the gate” (5.11). Šalim-aḫum had trouble raising

the funds to purchase his own portion of the tin according to the arrangement, sending word

to Pūšu-kēn that he needed more time to purchase his own portion (5.11). The silver from

Ilabrat-bāni accounted for about half his portion. Within a week or so, Šalim-aḫum had

managed to obtain the remainder of the silver and sent the tin off to Pūšu-kēn (5.11).

Figure 13 Chronological Development of the Ilabrat-bāni affair

Passes Open Passes Close

March April May June July August September October November December
R 80 XII

IIlabrat-bāni purchases
chases Ilabrat-bāni defaults
Ilabra Ilabrat-bāni’s goods
Kanesh Ilabrat-bāni
ni to Ḫattum liquidated in Amurrum



l ven

4.1 & 2.2






āni in

āni’i’ss off
’s respon


: “Sieze Il

s 20

r, Šū
se to

Kan e s h
š u

m sil




, Ilabr

n i
h Ennam

āni’s goo



4 (
4. 6

Ilabrat-bāni’s goods depart Puzur-Aššur & Ennam-Aššur
travel to and from Amurrum
Shipment Packet
Letter Lost Letter of Goods of Silver
Recontextualized into the larger documentation and developments of REL 80, the

Ilabrat-bāni affair now plays a more nuanced role in an account of Šalim-aḫum’s practice. At

two different points, Šalim-aḫum’s dealings with Ilabrat-bāni not only addressed the status of

their social relationship, but also social pressures that lay outside their association.

In mid-May, when Šalim-aḫum wrote to Ilabrat-bāni to buy more goods, Šalim-aḫum

was already shaping Ilabrat-bāni’s reconciliation with respect to Šalim-aḫum’s immediate and

intermediate interests. In the wake of Puzur-Ištar’s failings, Šalim-aḫum’s demand that Ilabrat-

bāni pay half of his down payment in gold served his immediate need for gold. His demand

that Ilabrat-bāni purchase a silver talent worth of goods on short terms served his

intermediate interests to boost revenues within the current year. In mid-August, when Ilabrat-

bāni missed his payment deadline for 20¾ minas silver, he compromised more than his already

strained relationship with Šalim-aḫum; he also compromised Šalim-aḫum’s effort to boost

revenues and avoid being “shamed at the gate.” Šalim-aḫum’s swift measures against Ilabrat-

bāni to regain his money, outside of a regulated court, or more usual adjudication procedures43

were motivated by his need to preserve his own social capital at Aššur. Metaphorical

retaliation provided a valuable resource of legitimation to Šalim-aḫum’s need to raise funds

quickly in order to have time to process them before the end of the season.

In accessing the broader temporally sensitive reconstruction, the concept of

metaphorical retaliation alone neither determined Pūšu-kēn’s advice nor Šalim-aḫum’s

decisions. Outside of this context, the Ilabrat-bāni narrative portrays metaphorical retaliation

not only as a lever in Šalim-aḫum’s mind with ample moment to motivate, but with sufficient

mass to self-activate. In such an anecdotal frame, Šalim-aḫum’s motivations were disconnected

from the braoder materio-temporal facts—the immediate contexts in which he made those

decisions. In the greater context, unexpectedly offered from undated letters, Šalim-aḫum’s

plurality of motivations and interests become relevant.

Only when we are able to reconstruct sufficiently particular and personal contexts of

activity that extend beyond the domains directly invoked by writers can we move beyond the

anecdotal frame. Only when we are able to connect the Ilabrat-bāni affair to the original

venture, Puzur-Ištar’s revocation of his contract, and the joint purchase of Šalim-aḫum and

Pūšu-kēn can we begin to contextualize the Ilabrat-bāni affair, understanding the motivations

of Šalim-aḫum in this particular instance as a manifestation of his mentality. By contrast to

practice observed within a dossier defined by its direct relevance to a particular process,

reconstruction of Šalim-aḫum’s activities during REL 80 provides a different kind of evidence

than individual letters and their symbolic cosmos. It might seem that because Šalim-aḫum

does not himself connect his seizure of Ilabrat-bāni’s goods with his need to increase revenues

before the end of the season, that the current account is weaker than if he had related his

motivations to Pūšu-kēn in a single letter. However in such a situation, Šalim-aḫum would

have been framing his narrative, rendering the evidence of the narrative anecdotal. Rather,

access to contemporary developments not mentioned by Šalim-aḫum in the frame of his

dealings with Ilabrat-bāni provides a more compelling explanation of extreme measures. In

this way, a greater evidentiary potential lies below the surface of the Old Assyrian



Ilabrat-bāni’s entanglement during REL 81 with Šalim-aḫum is within its own frame

slightly tragic, but only slightly. Ilabrat-bāni had a commercial association with Šalim-aḫum

before REL 81, and he likely had one after his goods were seized in September of REL 81.

However, the measures Šalim-aḫum took against Ilabrat-bāni, pre-empting some sort of due

process an reconciliation with an appeal to a third party, must have been a harsh message to

Ilabrat-bāni. Šalim-aḫum’s patience had run out. Ultimately, the Ilabrat-bāni affair is

important to understanding the Old Assyrian trade studies for several reasons. Pūšu-kēn

seemed to tap into a sense of metaphorical retaliation that could legitimize the actions which

Šalim-aḫum needed to take. Yet Šalim-aḫum could use such a sense to profit his short term

interests. The ability to see both sides of the concept of metaphorical retaliation, its structure

and Šalim-aḫum’s use of it as a resource within the context of his needs in REL 810 represents a

decidedly different kind of evidence for mental schemas in the Old Assyrian trade.


Šalim-aḫum to Pūšu-kēn:
I hear that you will dispatch Dān-Aššur to Purušḫattum … instead dispatch Dān-Aššur to me.
5.1:15-16, 22

Šalim-aḫum to Pūšu-kēn:
If Dān-Aššur is delayed, then fulfill 20 minas silver … and send it with the next departure.
5.2:17, 21-23

Šalim-aḫum to Pūšu-kēn:
Let Dān-Aššur stay for this nabrītum … send me one talent of silver (later) with Dān-Aššur.
5.3:8-9, 18-19

Šalim-aḫum to Pūšu-kēn:
Give my silver … to Ennam-Aššur … Let him arrive here for the nabrītum
5.5:35-36, 38-39, 43-44

In this chapter, I seek to lay out what I feel is an important differnce between the

important dimension of family and that of firm, if such a concept is appropriate for the Old

Assyrian period. The most important observation from the episodes in this year which come

forward within the context of the their temporal development is the relative autonomy of the

various actors, particularly Šalim-aḫum, his agent Pūšu-kēn, and Šalim-aḫum’s sons. While

copperation between merchants was essential to the manner of trade practiced by the Old

Assyrian merchant society, each trader seemed to operate with a keen sensitivity to his

ultimate individual liability in the long-run. This sensitivity, together with the lack of

substantive evidence of coprorate ownership associated with firms is the largest argument for

a re-evaluation of the assumptions of family firms as the default mode of cooperation. At the

very least, the symbol of the fmialy firm, occasionally invoked in the discourse of the traders

appears to be more ideal than a real part of the day-to-day operation. As in previous chapters,

several episodes will lay the groundwork for further observations. The relationship between

Šalim-aḫum and his closest associates—his two sons, Dān-Aššur and Ennam-Aššur, and his

agent Pūšu-kēn—allow us to consider the interplay between cooperation and autonomy in the

Old Assyrian trade through the lens of Šalim-aḫum’s commercial activities in REL 80. Šalim-

aḫum’s interaction with these three actors as they each pursued their own interests in the

trade presents an opportunity to observe their decisions and strategies as practice.

In the first half of the chapter, entitled “Šalim-aḫum, His Sons, and Pūšu-kēn,” I review

four episodes, two episodes relating to Šalim-aḫum’s dealings with his sons and two episodes

with Pūšu-kēn. Because these letters are less formulaic than others (for example, those in the

original venture) the discussion of these episodes lies primarily in recounting their

development and their relationship to the rest of the reconstruction. The first episode

concerns the travels of one of Šalim-aḫum’s sons, Dān-Aššur, confirming the aggressive tempo

of communication in the Old Assyrian trade, and also the secondary roles that Šalim-aḫum’s

sons played in his own commercial operations. The second episode concerns the ongoing

preparations for Ennam-Aššur’s marriage to Šū-Ḫubur’s daughter during this year and the

resulting conflicted with his need to take care of affairs in Anatolia: the tension between his

father’s wishes that he come home and his decisions to delay doing so project a clear fissure

between the interests and commercial accounts of father and son.

The two episodes between Šalim-aḫum and Pūšu-kēn indicate the complexity of the

relationship between principal and agent. During the year, Šalim-aḫum risked losing social

capital with a large group of merchants, perhaps the community of merchants in Aššur, if he

was not able to display sufficient revenues. As a result, Šalim-aḫum needed to more closely

align Pūšu-kēn’s interests with his own, and he pressured Pūšu-kēn to join him in a

partnership in tin. At the same time, Šalim-aḫum was also attempting to help Pūšu-kēn

purchase a house in Aššur and forwarded to him ten minas of silver. This move provided an

opportunity for Šalim-aḫum to manifest both conspicuous generosity and capacity in

contradistinction to Pūšu-kēn’s other associates, thereby increasing Šalim-aḫum’s social

capital with Pūšu-kēn and with the merchants involved.

In the rest of the chapter, entitled “Getting Interpersonal,” I return to the four episodes

again in order to explore the mentalities evoked through the decisions and strategies

employed by Šalim-aḫum, Dān-Aššur, Ennam-Aššur, and Pūšu-kēn. This half of the chapter is

divided into two parts. The first part, “Father and Sons: Šalim-aḫum, Dān-Aššur, and Ennam-

Aššur,” focuses on the independent liabilities of the commercially active male members of a

nuclear family. Dān-Aššur was a willing participant in his father’s operations, but he was not

always able to perform up to expectations. Moreover, he had his own naruqqum fund to

manage. Ennam-Aššur’s resistance to returning to Aššur in connection with his upcoming

marriage in preference to his balance sheet suggests that he imagined himself an autonomous

actor at the commercial level and that his family and social interests were not always aligned

with his commercial interests. Both Šalim-aḫum’s instructions and Ennam-Aššur’s instructions

to Pūšu-kēn suggest a contested arena of autonomy and activity.

The second part is entitled “Principal and Agent: Šalim-aḫum and Pūšu-kēn.” As Šalim-

aḫum’s primary representative, Pūšu-kēn was a central node in Šalim-aḫum’s commercial

network in Anatolia. However, Pūšu-kēn’s relationship to Šalim-aḫum was not dictated by a

strict hierarchy, and although principal and agent cooperated they watched out for their own

interests. Two episodes during this year involving both Šalim-aḫum and Pūšu-kēn highlight

Šalim-aḫum’s multiple and overlapping social interests with regards to Pūšu-kēn and his need

to maintain a level of prestige in reference to large and small social groups. When Šalim-aḫum

found himself in need of increasing revenues from Anatolia to make a good showing to the

group of merchants at Aššur, he pressured Pūšu-kēn to enter a joint venture, which he

engineered either to artificially boost his own volume of silver revenues before season’s end or

to use Pūšu-kēn to share the burden of risk associated with the venture. However, when Pūšu-

kēn was trying to finalize his purchase of a house in Aššur, Šalim-aḫum took opportunity to

show his own beneficence by fronting Pūšu-kēn ten minas of silver to finish the deal,

exceeding the assistance given Pūšu-kēn by other associates. Moreover, though Šalim-aḫum’s

decisions illustrate the complex social dimensions of the participating in the commercial

trade, those same decisions further confirm a sense of autonomy of accounts between the

principal and agent.

Šalim-aḫum, His Sons, and Pūšu-kēn

The four episodes presented in this chapter benefit from the context of the

reconstruction in the previous chapters. For the most part, these episodes are treated either to

illustrate how they are involved in the reconstruction, as is the case with Dan-Aššur’s travels

and the joint venture, or to explain their importance in analyzing Šalim-aḫum’s dealings with
his close associates. The episodes in this chapter are derived from letters which are far less

structured than those associated with the original venture and thus the focus in these episodes

is on the narrative action rather than the textual format. In addition, the explication of each

of these four smaller episodes (rather than one large episode as in each of the earlier chapters)

moves more at a narrative level in order to lay the foundation for the discussion of their

combined significance in the second half of the chapter. To illustrate the development of the

episodes within the context of the entire year, Dān-Aššur’s travels, Ennam-Aššur’s reluctance,

and the joint venture are all represented on timeline figures. Because the house buying

episode is less chronologically clear, no figure is presented for that episode.

Discussing Dān-Aššur’s Travel Plans

Dan-Aššur’s actions during the season were an important part of Šalim-aḫum’s

commercial operations and are one of the important threads connecting each of the episodes

discussed in previous chapters (see fig. 12 below). As mentioned in conjunction with the

Puzur-Ištar affair, Dān-Aššur first left Aššur for Kanesh in mid-May, with his father’s cargo in

tow, two months after the original venture caravan and Ilī-ašranni’s caravan had left. The

cargo that Dān-Aššur and Šū-Suen transported for Šalim-aḫum was in part sold to Ilabrat-bāni

when they arrived in mid-June (3.5, 3.6). Dān-Aššur stayed some additional six weeks in

Anatolia, until late July, probably making the further trip west to Purušḫattum. Thereafter,

Dān-Aššur travelled back to Aššur, bringing part of the second shipment of silver from the

original venture to his father (2.4). Upon his return, plans to send him back to Kanesh were

scrapped because he was too ill to travel (5.11).

When Dān-Aššur was first travelling to Kanesh in mid-May, Šalim-aḫum planned to

have Dān-Aššur return to Aššur as soon as he reached Kanesh. When he heard that Pūšu-kēn

had other plans for Dān-Aššur, he wrote to persuade him otherwise (5.1). He wrote again soon

thereafter to make arrangements in the case that Dān-Aššur arrived late (5.2). However,

Šalim-aḫum changed his mind rather quickly, writing once more to tell Pūšu-kēn that Dān-

Aššur should remain in Kanesh during the nabrītum, an event of unknown purpose or meaning

(5.3). These three letters were all written while Dān-Aššur travelled to Kanesh from mid-May

to mid-June. The fourth letter (5.4) elaborates on a situation in which Šalim-aḫum had

involved Dān-Aššur in helping manage another’s difficulties.

Document 5.1 - KTS 1 42d: First Letter on Dan-Aššur’s Travel Plans1

1 [um-ma Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um-ma]
[a-na Pu-šu-ke-en6]
5 [ša šé-ep Ku-lu]-ma-a
⌈ù⌉ [A-gu5-a té-er-t]a-kà
[li-li-kam i-na KÙ.BABBAR]2
[ša Ḫu-ra-ṣa-n]im
⌈ù⌉ A-[šur-ma-l]ik
10 ⌈ù⌉ 7[½ ma-na] KÙ.BABBAR
lo.e. [š]a TÚG.ḪI.A ša ta-áš-pu-ra-ni
rev. 30 ma-na KÙ.BABBAR
ku-nu-uk-ma i-pá-ni-ú-tí-ma

Previous treatments: edition in V. Donbaz and F. Joannès, "Nouvelles Lectures de Textes Cappadociens,"
in Mémorial Attaturk (Istanbul: Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1982), 28-29, 35 (photo of reverse), 38
(handcopy). Line numbering follows edition rather than handcopy.
There are problems with the reconstruction of the obverse as put forth by Donbaz and Joannés. Line 7
in the transliteration has no corresponding line or space on the tablet in the accompanying handcopy, while
there seems to be enough room for an extra line above line 4. The ù at the beginning of line 10 disrupts the
relationship between Aššur-mālik and the 7½ textiles as more clearly expressed in 5.3:11-13. Despite these
problems, I have no better suggestion.
wa-ṣí-e šé-bi-lam
15 a-ša-me-ma Dan-A-šùr a-na
Pu-ru-uš-ḫa-tim ta-ṭá-ra-ad
KÙ.BABBAR ma-lá ú-šé-ṣa-a-ni
lu a-ma-kam ša šé-ep Ku-lu-ma-a
ù A-gu5-a šu-ma mì-ma ta-dí-in
20 lu ša ANŠE.ḪI.A | a-li KÙ.BABBAR
1 GÍN i-ba-ší-ú za-ki-a-ma
Dan-A-šùr ṭur4-dam a-ḫi a-⌈ta⌉
a-na té-er-tí-a i-ḫi-id
li-ba-am dí-nam KÙ.BABBAR
25 ša Puzur4!-dIŠKUR ù En-um-A-[šùr]
⌈ša⌉3 u4-mu-šu-nu ma-al-[ú]
[ša-á]š-qí-il5-šu-nu 30 ma-[na]
u.e. [KÙ.BABBAR ku-nu-uk-ma šé-bi-lam]
le.e. [šu-ma am-tám Dan-A-šùr lá ir]-de8-a-am [li-bi]
30 [i-lá-mì-na-kum] i-na ṭup-pì-kà u[m-ma a-ta-ma]4
[KÙ.BABBAR ša A]-pì-lá A-šùr-iš-ta-ki-il5
[i-ša-qal K]Ù.BABBAR ša-áš-qi-il5-šu

Šalim-aḫum to Pūšu-kēn:
Regarding the tin and textiles of Kulumaya’s and Agua’s cargo, let your message
come. From the silver of Ḫuraṣānum and Aššur-mālik and the 7½ minas silver about which you
sent word to me, seal 30 minas silver and send it with the first travellers.
I hear that you will dispatch Dān-Aššur to Purušḫattum. The amount of silver he
realizes, both whatever is sold there of Kulumaya’s and Agua’s cargo, and also from (the
proceeds) of donkeys, wherever there is a single shekel of silver, clear (pl.) it and dispatch Dān-
Aššur to me. My dear brother, pay heed to my message. Give (me) some encouragement.
As for the silver of Puzur-Adad and Ennum-Aššur, whose terms are full, cause them
to pay. Seal and send 30 minas silver. If Dān-Aššur’s does not lead the maidservant here, I will
be angry with you. In your tablet, you said, “Aššuriš-tikal will pay the silver of Apila.” Make
him pay the silver.

ša – Handcopy suggests ša instead of šu-ma.
Restoration possible through comparison with 5.3:3-7.
Document 5.2 - TC 2 1: Second Letter on Dān-Aššur’s Travel Plans5

1 um-ma Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um-ma
a-na Pu-šu-ke-en6
ù Dan-A-šùr qí-bi-ma
5 ša šé-ep Dan-A-šùr
lu ša A-gu-a ù Ku-lu-ma-a
ma-lá iz-ku-a-ni
té-er-ta-ak-nu li-li-kam
i-na KÙ.BABBAR ša Ḫu-ra-ṣa-nim
10 ù A-šùr-ma-lik
7½ ma-na ša TÚG.ḪI.A
ša ta-áš-pu-ra-ni
30 ma-na KÙ.BABBAR
ù ni-is-ḫa-sú
15 ku-nu-uk-ma i-pá-ni-ú-tí-ma
rev. wa-ṣé-e šé-bi-lam
šu-ma Dan-A-šùr sà-ḫe-er
ù ší-tí KÙ.BABBAR lu i-ša
20 a-šar i-ba-ší-ú
20 ma-na KÙ.BABBAR ma-li-ma
iš-tí wa-ar-ki-ú-tim
šé-bi4-lam KÙ.BABBAR ša Puzur4-dAdad
ù En-um-A-šùr šu-ma
25 u4-mu-šu-«ma»-nu ma-al-ú
ša-áš-qí-il5-šu-nu-ma šé-bi-lam
lu lu-qú-tam ša šé-ep
Dan-A-šùr lu ša A-gu-a
ù Ku-lu-ma-a za-ki-a-ma!

Previous treatments: P. van der Meer, Correspondance, Nr. 16.
30 Dan-A-šur ṭur4-dam
i-na KÙ.BABBAR ša tù-šé-ba-<la-ni>
le.e. Ḫa-nu ú-ul ša?-ni!-um! l[e-tí?-i]q6 šu-ma
am-tám Dan-A-š[ùr i?-na?] a-lá-kí-[šu]
lá ir-de8-a-am ⌈li-bi4 i-lá-mì⌉-na-kum i-na ṭup-pì-kà
35 um-ma a-ta KÙ.BABBAR ša A-pì-lá A-šùr-iš-tí-kál

Šalim-aḫum to Pūšu-kēn and Dān-Aššur:
Let your(pl.) message come (informing) how much (of) the tin and textiles of Dān-
Aššur’s cargo cleared, and both that of Agua and Kulumaya. (To Pūšu-kēn:) From the silver of
Ḫuraṣānum and Aššur-mālik – 7½ minas worth of textiles about which you sent word to me,
seal 30 minas silver and its excise and send with the first travellers. If Dān-Aššur is delayed,
then fulfill 20 minas (with) the remainder of silver, whether from the proceeds from the
donkeys or every shekel of silver wherever it is available, and send it with the next departure.
As for the silver of Puzur-Adad and Ennum-Aššur, if their terms are full, make them pay and
send it to me.
Clear both the goods of Dān-Aššur’s cargo and Agua’s and Kulumaya’s cargo and
dispatch Dan-Aššur to me. Let Ḫanu or someone else travel overland with the silver that you
send to me. If Dān-Aššur does not bring the maidservant at his departure, I will be angry at
you. In your tablet you said, “Aššuriš-tikal will pay the silver of Apila.”

Document 5.3 - AKT 3 72: Third Dān-Aššur Letter7

1 um-ma Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um-ma
a-na Pu-šu-ke-en6 ù Dan-A-šùr <qí-bi-ma>
i-na u4-mì-im ša ṭup-pá-am

The restoration and translation of this clause and the next is difficult, though some information can be
gained from comparison with 5.3:3-7. In the first main clause (Ḫanu ul šani’um l[eti]q), the second element could be
a personal name, perhaps Kà?-lá?-pá?-am. The restoration ša-ni!-um! from ša?-na?-am is not certain. When Šalim-
aḫum asks Pūšu-kēn to send Ḫanu in 5.3:3-7, he proposes no second candidate. For the reading l[é-tí-i]q, see
leading portion of LI in li-bi4 (l. 34) instead of in li-li-kam (l. 8). In the second main clause (šuma amtam Dān-Aššur ina
alākišu lā irde’am), reading šu-ma at the end of l. 32 produces a reasonable protasis in lā irde’am for libbī
ilamminakkum “I will be angry with you.”
Previous Treatments: E. Bilgic and C. Günbattı, AKT, 115-17.
ta-ša-me-ú 20 ma-na KÙ.BABBAR
5 ù ni-is-ḫa-sú ša ta-áš-pu-ra-ni
i-na pá-nim-ma wa-ṣí-im
šé-bi-lam ù Ḫa-nu ṭur4-dam
Dan-A-šùr na-ab-ri-tám
a-ni-tám li-ib-re-ma8
10 a-ṣé-er KÙ.BABBAR ša šé-ep
Ḫu-ra-ṣa-nim ù 7½ ma-na KÙ.BABBAR
ša TÚG.ḪI.A ša še-ep DUMU Er-ra-a
ša ta-áš-pu-ra-ni lu i-na
AN.NA lu TÚG.ḪI.A ša še-ep
15 Dan-A-šùr lu i-ša ANŠE.ḪI.A
lu i-ba-áb-tí-a | ta-aḫ-sí-is-tám
ša a-na-kam a-dì-na-ku-nu-tí-ni
lo.e. 1 GÚ KÙ.BABBAR iš-tí Dan-A-šùr
20 šé-bi-lá-nim | 55 TÚG.ḪI.A
rev. ša šé-ep DUMU Er-ra-a
mì-šu ša 30-ma ta-áš-pu-ra-ni-ni
qá-tí <ša> TÚG.ḪI.A KÙ.BABBAR a-ṣé-er
ša šé-ep Ḫu-ra-ṣa-nim-ma
25 ṭá-ḫi-a | lu-qú-tum lu ša šé-ep
Dan-A-šùr lu ša a-ni
iš-tí ḫa-ra-nim ú-šé-ba-lá-ku-nu-tí-ni
AN.NA-ki ù TÚG-tí-a za-ki-a-ma | ma-lá
KÙ.BABBAR 1 GÍN i-ṣé-er

On the translation of nabrītam barā’um, see section entitled “Dān-Aššur’s Travels and the Timing of the
nabrītum” p. 316 below.
Read lá-áš instead of lá?-áš? in Bilgic and Günbattı, AKT 3, 116, see 5.8:9-12.
tamkārum ‘the merchant’ is used anaphorically to refer to Ḫuraṣānum. Šalim-aḫum writes about
Panaka’s 6 shekels gold (5.3:18-19, 37-42), which is the same 6 shekels gold he needed for his ikribū fund (3.5:17).
As a result, a satisfying interpretation of the reference to the ‘gold of the merchant’ (5.3:41-42) logically points to
Ḫuraṣānum, mentioned earlier in the letter and who also owed 7 shekels gold which Šalim-ahum desired for his
ikribū fund (3.5:18-20).
The word tamkārum could be used anaphorically in the same way that awīlum was used from time to time.
The term tamkārum seems to be such a broadly held characteristic of all Old Assyrians, at least in Anatolian, that it
was the way they defined themselves in relation to the Anatolian populace, as common among the merchants in
Anatolia as their being Assyrian. In many contexts the term can be taken very generally.
30 DAM.GÀR ta-na-dí-a-ni
Dan-A-šùr i-šé-pí-šu <té-er-tí-kà>
za-ku-tám lu-ub-lam | a-šu-mì
ša Dan-A-šùr KÙ.BABBAR ša ra-mì-ni-«ni»-kà
ma-lá tù-šé-ba-lá-ni šé-bi4-lá-ma
35 ú a-na-ku ší-ta qá-té-en6
la-dí-ma a-ší-mì-im ša ta-ša-pá-ra-ni
lá-áš-a-ma9 Dan-A-šùr i-pá-nim-ma
lá-aṭ-ru-da-kum | a-ṣé-er
u.e. 6 GÍN KÙ.GI ša Pá-na-kà
40 ù ší-im TÚG ša ṣú-ḫa-ar-tim
ta-dí-na-ku-ni ù a-ta KÙ.KI
le.e. ma-lá ra-du-im ra-dí-ma KÙ.KI pá-šál-lam
DAM.GÀR10 šé-bi4-lam 40 ma-na URUDU SIG5 Dan-A-šùr lu-ub-[lam]

Šalim-aḫum to Pūšu-kēn and Dān-Aššur:
On the day which you read the tablet, send 20 minas silver and its excise about which
you wrote me with the first departure and dispatch Ḫanu. Let Dān-Aššur stay for this nabrītum,
and in addition to the silver from Ḫuraṣānum’s cargo and the 7½ minas silver of the textiles of
Erraya’s son’s (Aššur-mālik) cargo about which you sent word, the tin and textiles of Dān-
Aššur’s cargo, the proceeds from the donkeys, from my outstanding claims, my memorandum
which I gave to you here, send 1 talent of silver with Dān-Aššur. Why is it that you two wrote
to me thirty times (about) the 55 textiles from Erraya’s son’s cargo? Combine my share of the
textiles (in) silver to the proceeds of Ḫuraṣānum’s cargo.
As for the goods both those of Dān-Aššur’s cargo, as well as those which I now send
to you with the caravan, clear my tin and textiles, and as much silver, every shekel that you
will give to the merchant, let Dān-Aššur bring your full report in his caravan.
As for Dān-Aššur, send as much silver from your own funds as you are able so that I
myself may deposit two shares and I will buy for the purchases about which you will send to
me, and I will dispatch Dān-Aššur immediately (back) to you. In addition to the 6 shekels gold

of Panaka, add the price of the textile which the girl gave you and as much gold as you are able
and send to me the pašallum-gold of the merchant. Let Dān-Aššur bring 40 minas fine copper.11

Document 5.4 - AKT 3 78: To Aššur-tikal First Letter12

1 um-ma A-li-li-ma
ù Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um-ma
a-na Pu-šu-ke-en6
A-šùr-iš-tí-kál ù Dan-A-šùr
5 a-na A-šùr-iš-tí-kál qí-bi4-ma
1 GÚ 5 ma-na AN.NA
ku-nu-ki-ni 6 ku-ta-nu
2-šé-na ša li-wi-tim
5 ma-na AN.NA-ak qá-tim
10 mì-ma a-nim (Ras.)
a-na A-bi-lá nu-šé-bi-il5-kà
AN.NA ù TÚG.ḪI.A e-ta-lu-tám
ta-ap-ṭur4-ma a-na
ra-mì-ni-kà ta-al-té-qé
lo.e. 15 6 GÍN.TA KÙ.BABBAR
rev. ša AN.NA-ki-ni
½ ma-na.TA ša TÚG.ḪI.A
i-na u4-mì-im ša ṭup-pá-am
ta-ša-me-ú KÙ.BABBAR
20 a-na Pu-šu-ke-en6
ù Dan-dA-šùr dí-in
šu-ma a-na A-bi-la
ta-dí-in a-ma-kam-ma
ší-bi-kà šu-du-ud-ma
25 i-na KÙ.BABBAR-áp
A-bi-lá le-qé!13-ma

The 40 minas fine copper (5.3:42) might have also pertained to Šalim-aḫum’s ikribū fund.
Previous treatments: Bilgic and Günbattı, AKT 3, 127-28.
a-ša ki-ma
ni-a-tí | dí-in

Āl-ilī and Šalim-aḫum to Pūšu-kēn, Aššuriš-tikal, and Dān-Aššur:
To Aššuriš-tikal: 65 minas tin under our seal, 6 kutānum-textiles, 2 as wrappings, 5
minas hand tin, all this we sent to Abila with you. You opened the tin and textiles on (your
own) authority and you took for yourself. A 6 shekel rate silver for our tin, a 30 shekel rate for
the textiles. On the day you read (this) tablet, give the silver to Pūšu-kēn and Dān-Aššur. If you
already gave it to Abila, line up your witnesses there, and take it from Abila’s silver, and give it
to our representatives.

Although a number of other participants were involved alongside Dān-Aššur with

Šalim-aḫum’s operations,14 we will remain focused here on the relevance of Dān-Aššur’s travels

The reading li-di-ma as reported in AKT 3 is unlikely. If the sign is DI, not TÍ, then KI is preferred. A
reading li-di-ma weakens Alili and Šalim-aḫum’s communication of their ultimate intent—getting the silver.
Notes on other individuals in texts 5.1-5.4.
Agua and Kulumaya – Agua and Kulumaya transported goods for Šalim-aḫum and were set to arrive in
Kanesh at roughly the same time as Dān-Aššur (5.1:17-21; 5.2:27-29; 5.3:24-31). Donbaz and Joannès posited that
TC 3 21 constituted the notifying message for the two. Though this cannot be verified, their intuition with regards
to connections to other letters (5.2, 3.7, and 2.6) is supported by the present reconstruction.
Ḫuraṣānum and Aššur-mālik – Ḫuraṣānum and Aššur-mālik son of Erraya have silver and commodities due
to Šalim-aḫum as a result of transporting they have done for him. Expected revenue from the cargoes of
Ḫuraṣānum and Aššur-mālik is also a point of discussion for Šalim-aḫum in these letters. 7 ½ minas silver arises
from textiles of Aššur-mālik son of Erraya’s cargo and an undisclosed amount from Ḫuraṣānum. While the
phrasing in the first two letters would indicate that Ḫuraṣānum and Aššur-mālik might have owed the silver
themselves (KÙ.BABBAR ša PN), the phrasing in 5.3:11-12 suggests instead that they transported the shipments
(KÙ.BABBAR ša šēp PN – 5.1:4-7; 5.2:9-16; 5.3:10-14, 19-23). The textiles brought by Aššur-mālik likely stem from
the same trip from which some tin was taken to sell lot #3 in Chapter Two, but neither the 7½ minas silver from
textiles nor the 55 textiles fit well into that context, though Šalim-aḫum’s possible sloppiness must be taken into
account. In connection with the 55 textiles, Šalim-aḫum’s capacity to employ hyperbole is apparent: he
complained that Pūšu-kēn wrote 30 times about the 55 textiles associated with Aššur-mālik son of Erraya (5.3:21-
24). Also, it is difficult to verify that two other texts might have informed by Pūsu-kēn’s effort to get that silver
from Ḫuraṣānum. In one other document, Pūšu-kēn seized Ḫuraṣānum stating that Ḫuraṣānum owed 1 talent 14
minas less ten shekels of tin and nearly 3 minas of silver (cf. ATHE 20 and Ark. 397/FS Garelli 234a.) The composite
transcription of the two duplicates reads: Pūšu-kēn a-Ḫuraṣānim iṣbatniāti-ma umma Pūšu-kēn-ma a-Ḫuraṣānim-ma 1
GÚ 14 mana LÁ 10 GÍN annakum u 2⅚ mana 1 GÍN kaspum i-libbika umma Ḫuraṣānum-ma kēna i-libbia ina alāk harrānia
kasapka ašaqallakkum ana awatim anniātim kārum Kaniš iddinniāti-ma IGI paṭrim ša Aššur šībūtīni niddin IGI Aḫ-šalim
(mer Šū-Anum) IGI Kurara IGI Ikuppī-Aššur. As Pūšu-kēn played a role in arranging Ḫuraṣānum’s affairs when he
died, there could have been more than one occasion on which Pūšu-kēn needed to collect money from the man.
RA 88 p. 121 is a (copy of a) letter to Ḫuraṣānum’s representatives and investors in Aššur wherein Pūšu-kēn and a
number of other merchants reported the measures they took in sealing up the deceased merchant’s storage room.
for reconstructing Šalim-aḫum’s activities during REL 80. Also, 5.4 is tangential to Dān-Aššur’s

travel plans and thus will be dealt with separately at the end of the explication of 5.1, 5.2, and


Šalim-aḫum sent 5.1, 5.2, and 5.3 in quick succession while Dān-Aššur was travelling

to Kanesh from mid-May to mid-June as seen in Figure 14. Though the time elapsed between

sending them was minimal, 5.1 logically precedes 5.2 and they should not be mistaken for two

copies of the same letter.15 Having heard that Pūšu-kēn intended to send Dān-Aššur on to

Purušḫattum, Šalim-aḫum directed that his son return home instead with as much silver as

possible (5.1:15-24), reiterating that Dān-Aššur bring 30 minas silver, once at the beginning of

the letter, and once again at the end (5.1:12-14, 27-28). When Šalim-aḫum wrote 5.2, he made

provisions for the possibility that Dān-Aššur would arrive late in Kanesh, and asked that Pūšu-

kēn raise 20 minas silver and send it with Ḫanu. In 5.3, Šalim-aḫum changed his mind again.

Puzur-Adad and Ennum-Aššur – It is possible that Ennum-Aššur and Puzur-Adad purchased Lot #3 on short-
term credit in the original venture (2.2:45-55). When Šalim-aḫum was writing 5.1 and 5.2, Puzur-Adad and
Ennum-Aššur owed him silver in the near term (5.1:24-27, 5.2:23-26). Though the phrasing in 2.2 suggests a
single buyer (54⅔ mana 5 GÍN kaspum iṣṣer DAM.GÀR nadi), the timing fits with Šū-Suen’s arrival in Kanesh then
his quick and direct return to Aššur with the silver collected on that claim (2.3:10-12, 2.4:18-21). It is doubtful
that this Ennum-Aššur is Šalim-aḫum’s son Ennam-Aššur; Šalim-aḫum’s son was ‘cleared’ of financial obligations
according to a letter he wrote before Dān-Aššur arrived (5.8).
Ḫanu and Dān-Aššur’s maid – At the end of 5.1 and 5.2, Šalim-aḫum wished Ḫanu to bring back 20 minas of
silver and Dān-Aššur’s amtum (junior wife). Though the upper edge of both 5.1 and 5.2 are damaged, the situation
can be fairly well decoded. In the first letter, Šalim-aḫum wanted Ḫanu to bring the maid back (5.1:29-30). In the
second letter, Šalim-aḫum seemed to suggest that Pūšu-kēn send the silver with Ḫanu or some other person and
reasserted that Ḫanu should bring the maid (5.2:31-34). Finally, in the third letter, Šalim-aḫum instructed Pūšu-
kēn to send Dān-Aššur’s maid along with the 20 minas silver and Ḫanu as soon as he received the letter (5.3:3-7).
Panaka and the ‘girl’ – For Panaka, see note 10. The ‘girl’ (ṣuḫartum) is also mentioned in conjunction with a
textile related to Ilabrat-bāni and the ikribum (4.3:28-30, 4.6:18-21). Precisely who she is is difficult to know. In
parallel with Šalim-aḫum’s reference to Ennam-Aššur as the ‘boy’ (ṣuḫārum, note 48), she may be Šalim-aḫum’s
The near duplication between 5.1 and 5.2 was already pointed out in Donbaz and Joannès, "Nouvelles
Lectures de Textes Cappadociens," 29. The editors there suggest that 5.2 preceded 5.1, citing the mention of
Purušḫattum as a new piece of information to Šalim-aḫum, and explaining that the reference to the goods which
should be given to Dān-Aššur in 5.1:17-23 imply that the goods are now in Pūšu-kēn’s hands.
He settled for Ḫanu transporting the 20 minas silver, as first mentioned in 5.2 (5.2:17-23, 31-

32, 5.3:3-7), and decided to “Let Dān-Aššur stay for this nabrītum” (5.3:8-9).

Figure 14 Chronological Development of Dān-Aššur’s Activities during REL 80

Passes Open Passes Close

March April May June July August September October November December
R 80 XII

IIlabrat-bāni purchases
chases Ilabrat-bāni’s goods
Kanesh Dān-Aššur
Aššur in Anatolia liquidated in Amurrum

5 .

.2 5.88

2 .2











: “Buy tin

ni on
-Ašš -Aššur

ur: “I am
r, Šū
w/ j





m -Aššu





5. 7

Aššur Dān-Aššur ill

Shipment Packet
Letter Lost Letter of Goods of Silver
All three letters, 5.1, 5.2, and 5.3, were written in the last week of May. Based on the

discussion of the tempo of communication in Chapter Three, Šalim-aḫum most likely wrote the

first two letters, requesting news of what cleared from Dān-Aššur’s and the accompanying

travelers’ shipments, so that the letters would have arrived with or ahead of Dān-Aššur (5.1,

5.2).16 Because 5.3 communicated his change of mind about Dān-Aššur’s travel plans, Šalim-

aḫum must have intended for 5.3 to reach Kanesh before his instructions in 5.1 and 5.2 were

irreversibly effected. The letter did serve its function: Dān-Aššur’s travelling companion Šū-

Suen turned back immediately to Aššur, but Dān-Aššur stayed for the nabrītum (see fig. 12).

The activities of Dān-Aššur provide a continuous thread binding together the

reconstruction of Šalim-aḫum’s commercial activity during 1894 B.C. The 14 minas fine

mazīrum tin they carried under Agua’s name connected their journey to the Puzur-Ištar affair

(3.3:23-26, 3.6:26-27). The small portion of the goods included in Dān-Aššur’s cargo, the six

kutānum textiles (1 nibrarum textile and 5 kusītum robes), which was to be sold quickly so that

he could bring the proceeds back to Aššur with him, connects his travels with the original

venture (2.5:11-12, 15-17, 3.6:17-18). Šū-Suen’s quick return to Aššur with the silver collected

from the claim on Lot#3 (2.3:9-14, 2.4:18-21) also connects Dān-Aššur’s travels to the original

venture. Dān-Aššur’s six-week stay in Anatolia ended when he returned to Aššur with the

second shipment of silver from the original venture (1 talent 38 minas silver); he also brought

the 2 minas silver from the six kutānum textiles which he had brought for immediate sale

That Dān-Aššur was addressed in 5.1 – 5.3 does not imply that he was in Kanesh. It did imply that the
letter concerned him and that when he arrived in Kanesh he could have read it, and perhaps if he encountered
the letter on the road he could probably have read it as well.
(3.6:17-18, 2.4:24-30).17 Dān-Aššur’s return with the packet was Pūšu-kēn’s answer to Šalim-

aḫum’s request that Dān-Aššur bring 1 talent of silver with him (5.3:18-19): Pūšu-kēn had

responded that he would send 1 talent 20 minas silver with Dān-Aššur (5.10:12-18), including

the claim of roughly 25 minas on Lulu (2.4:8-9, 5.9:16-17). Pūšu-kēn also directed that Dān-

Aššur must again head back to Kanesh with the tin for the joint venture (5.10:31-37).

Dān-Aššur’s travels are evident in the Ilabrat-bāni affair. The cargo that Dān-Aššur and

Šū-Suen took for Šalim-aḫum was in part (the 100 kutānum textiles they carried) sold to

Ilabrat-bāni when they arrived in mid-June (3.4:16-17, 3.6:3-10). In turn, references in the

documents from this chapter to Panaka’s 6 shekels gold (3.5:17, 5.3:38) and the 7 shekels gold

which must be associated with Ḫuraṣānum (3.5:18-20, 5.3:41-42) reinforce the following chain

of events: Dān-Aššur left Aššur with the 100 kutānum textiles and the 14 minas fine tin

associated with Agua; while he was still enroute, discussion ensued as to where Dān-Aššur

should go after he would arrive in Kanesh; Dān-Aššur arrived and the 100 kutānum textiles and

fine tin were sold to Ilabrat-bāni. Dān-Aššur then stayed in Anatolia for the nabrītum. Then, at

the end of August, Dān-Aššur did return to Aššur but he did not go to seize Ilabrat-bāni’s goods

as suggested by Pūšu-kēn; Šalim-aḫum reported that Dān-Aššur was ill (4.5). Instead, Ennam-

aššur travelled to Amurrum, then back, then travelled to Kanesh with the message to Pūšu-kēn

about the succesful operation against Ilabrat-bāni (4.5).

The fourth letter presented here (5.4) was likely written well before 5.1-5.3 but is

included in the reconstruction because it shows Dān-Aššur acting in Kanesh as a

representative for his father, a detail important to the discussion of Šalim-aḫum’s commercial

Note the price for the textiles would have been 20 shekels each, consistent with the short term price
for textiles this year (see Chapter Two).
network later in the chapter. In 5.2:35-36, Šalim-aḫum noted that Pūšu-kēn had reported that

Aššuriš-tikal would pay the silver of Abila. Prior to mid-May, perhaps in REL 79, Aššuriš-tikal

was paid to transport a half-donkey load of tin and 6 kutānum textiles to Abila, but Abila then

claimed to have never received the shipment. Aššuriš-tikal was told that he must pay the silver

to Pūšu-kēn and Dān-Aššur or demonstrate that he delivered it to Abila (5.4).18

Table 14: Summary Table of Events from the Dān-Aššur Letters

DA1 Āl-ilī and Šalim-aḫum send 65 minas tin, 6 kutānum textiles and 5 minas tin to Apila
by means of Aššuriš-tikal to Kanesh (5.4:6-11).

DA2 (En route?) Aššuriš-tikal opens the tin and textiles and takes some for himself

Elsewhere, Āl-ilī was dicussed by Abila and Lā-qēpum as an owner of goods, and Šalim-aḫum mentions
similar circumstances, but it is difficult to confirm that these letters apply here. AKT 3 110 – 1a-na Id-na-a La-qé-ep
Pí-lá-aḫ-A-šùr ù Ib-ni-lí 3qí-bi-ma um-ma A-bi-lá-ma 416 ma-na LÁ 6 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR ku-nu-ki-a 516 GÍN ša-du-a-sú ša A-
li-li 6a-na A-šùr-UTU-ši áp-qí-id 7a-ma-kam KÙ.BABBAR ù ša-du-a-sú 8ša ki-ma A-li-li li-il5-qé 95½ ma-na KÙ.BABBAR i-a-
um 10a-na A-šùr-dUTU-ši a-ší-a-m[a-tim] 11a-dí-in ba-áb né-pí-ší-i[m] 12a-na A-šùr-UTU-ši KIŠIB DAM.GÀR 13lá-pí-it a-na
Id-na-a 14ù Lá-qé-ep qí-bi-ma 15KÙ.BABBAR li-qé-a-ma | [iš-tí-ku-nu] 16li-bi-ší ù té-er-ta-[ku-nu] 17li-li-kam (lo.e.) 185 GÍN
KÙ.BABBAR ku-nu-ku-a 19a-na Ta-ta-a (rev.) 20me-er-<i>-tí-a 3 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR ku-n[u-ki-a] 21a-na Ša-zu-a DUMU.SAL
En-nam-A-šùr šé-bu-lá-tim 23a-na A-šùr-UTU-ši áp-qí-id 24a-ma-kam šé-bu-lá-tim 25li-qé-a-ma ša a-na a-[limki] 26i-li-ku a-
na a-li-ki-im 27dí-na-ma šé-bu-lá-tim 28a-na a-limki lu-bi-il5-ma 29a-na Ta-ta-a me-er-i-tí-a 30ù Ša-zu-a DUMU.SAL En-nam-
A-šùr 31li-dí-in ki-ma KÙ.BABBAR 32ù šé-bu-lá-tim tal-qé-a-ni 33té-er-ta-ku-nu li-li-kam. Another letter, written only by
Šalim-aḫum, appears it might refer to this same situation but it is difficult to verify because the details are
inconclusive and further corroborating context cannot be found: P. Garelli, "Tablettes Cappadociennes de
collections diverses (suite)," RA 59 (1965): no. 26, p. 160-63 – 1um-ma Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um-ma 2a-na Pu-šu-ke-en6 3A-šùr-iš-
tí-kál ù Dan-A-šùr 4a-na A-šùr-iš-tí-kál 5qí-bi-ma 35 ma-na AN.NA 61 TÚG ½ ANŠE ša šé-pí-kà 72 TÚG ku-ta-<ni> En-um-A-
šùr 8DUMU I-li-li 2 ku-ta-ni 9Dan-A-šùr i-dí-nu-ni-kum 10ma-áš-kà-tí ša šé-pí-kà 11AN.NA-ki 7 GÍN.TA 12[T]ÚG.ḪI.A ½ ma-
na.TA 13[i]-dí-nu-ma KÙ.BABBAR ub-lu-nim 14[a-š]a qí-ip-tí-im! 2-šé-né (About 8 lines destroyed.) 1’[ ... u]š? 2’[ ... šé]-bi4-
il5? 3’a-ḫi a-ta KÙ.BABBAR dí-šu-nu-tí-ma 4’ší-ma-am la-áš-a-ma 5’KÙ.BABBAR 1 GÍN le-li-ma? (Ras.) 6’i-nu-mì ta-la-kà-<ni>
ṭup-pá-am ša na-ru-qí-kà 8’i-lá-pu-tù-ni 9’ù a-na-ku a-da-na-kum-[ma] 10‘(Ras.) – “Šalim-aḫum to Pūšu-kēn, Aššuriš-
tikal,and Dān-Aššur: To Aššuriš-tikal: As for the 35 minas tin, 1 textile, ½ donkey of your šēpum; 2 kutānum-textiles
of Ennum-Aššur son of Ilili, 2 kutānum-textiles of Dān-Asšur which he gave to you, my inventory of your šēpum:
they sold (you) tin at a 7 shekel rate, textiles at a 30 shekels rate and they brought the silver. With regards to the
qīptim, 2 … . (8 lines broken) My dear brother, give the silver to them so that I may make purchases and make
every shekel of silver possible. When you come, then I will give to you myself the tablet of your naruqqum which
they will write for you and …” Some elements from this document could fit the situation from 5.4. In this letter,
one could posit that Šalim-ahum’s share of the 65 minas tin in 5.4 was 35 minas (thus Āl-ilī’s share 30 minas tin).
But Abila is not mentioned, the textiles add up to five instead of six, the rate on the textiles was 7 instead of 6.
Table 14: Summary Table of Events from the Dān-Aššur Letters, continued

DA3 Āl-ilī and Šalim-aḫum demand that Aššuriš-tikal pay a 6 shekel rate on the tin taken
and 30 shekels each for the textile unless Aššuriš-tikal can produce witnesses to the
effect that he turned the goods over to Apila (5.4:15-28).

DA4 Kulumaya and Agua travel to Kanesh with goods owned by Šalim-aḫum (5.1:4-7;

DA5 Dān-Aššur leaves for Kanesh from Aššur with Šū-Suen (perhaps in company with
Kulumaya and Agua?) (5.1:17-22; 5.2:5).

DA6 Ḫuraṣānum and Aššur-mālik incur debts with Šalim-aḫum (Aššur-mālik’s - 5.1:7-10,
5.2:9-12, 5.3:10-13).

DA7 Pūšu-kēn makes plans to send Dān-Aššur to Purušḫattum and word travels to Šalim-
aḫum (5.1:15-17).

DA8 Šalim-aḫum writes to Pūšu-kēn to instead send Dān-Aššur directly back to Aššur
with whatever can be sold from Kulumaya’s and Agua’s cargo and from the donkeys
and from Dān-Aššur’s goods (5.1:15-24).
A  He asks that Pūšu-kēn send 30 minas silver, which Pūšu-kēn is to gather from
the silver owed by Ḫuraṣānum and Aššur-mālik, from 7½ minas silver which Pūšu-
kēn wrote about in an earlier letter (related to textiles – 5.2:9-12), and from silver
owed by Puzur-Adad and Ennum-Aššur (5.1:7-14, 24-28).
B  He writes that Ḫanu is to bring the junior wife of Dān-Aššur, or else Šalim-aḫum
will be angry (5.1:29-30; 5.2:32-34).
C  He reminds Pūšu-kēn to have Aššuriš-tikal to pay Apila’s silver (5.1:30-32;

DA9 Šalim-aḫum writes a second letter to Pūšu-kēn, asking how much of Dān-Aššur’s
cargo cleared, and the same for Kulumaya and Agua, again asking to collect the
silver of Ḫuraṣānum and Aššur-mālik and send 30 minas silver as soon as possible. If
Dān-Aššur is delayed, then Pūšu-kēn is to send 20 minas silver. If the debts of Puzur-
Adad and Ennum-Aššur are due, he is to collect those as well. Šalim-aḫum reiterates
that Pūšu-kēn is to send Dān-Aššur back to Aššur quickly. He reiterates that Ḫanu
should bring Dān-Aššur’s junior wife, and suggests that Ḫanu travel with the silver.
He brings up the matter of Aššuriš-tikal paying Apila’s silver as well (5.2).

Table 14: Summary Table of Events from the Dān-Aššur Letters, continued

DA10 Šalim-aḫum writes a third letter to Pūšu-kēn, this time asking Pūšu-kēn to send 20
minas silver and to send Ḫanu. He then changes his mind about Dān-Aššur, saying
that Dān-Aššur can ‘stay for the nabrītum.’ Instead, Pūšu-kēn is now to add the silver
coming from Ḫuraṣānum’s cargo, the 7½ minas silver related to Aššur-mālik s. Erra-
iddi(n)’s textiles, the tin and textiles of Dān-Aššur’s cargo, the proceeds from the
donkeys, anything from his outstanding claims, and anything from his
memorandum, which Šalim-aḫum had given to Pūšu-kēn when Pūšu-kēn was last in
Aššur, and add all those assets together and send 1 talent silver with Dān-Aššur
when he comes back to Aššur (5.3).
A  He tells Pūšu-kēn to send as much silver as Pūšu-kēn can from his own funds
with Dān-Aššur so that Šalim-aḫum can add two shares to the venture himself,
adding that Pūšu-kēn can send his orders for goods to Šalim-aḫum. When Pūšu-kēn
sends that silver, Šalim-aḫum will send Dān-Aššur directly back to Pūšu-kēn in
Kanesh (5.3:30-38).
B  He asks Pūšu-kēn to add as much gold as he can and send pašallum gold of the
merchant (Ḫuraṣānum?) in addition to the price of the girl’s textile and the 6 shekels
gold owed by Panaka (5.3:39-42).
C  He asks that Dān-Aššur bring 40 minas fine copper with him (3.5:42).

Dān-Aššur’s Travel Plans and the Timing of the nabrītum

Within the reconstruction, the roughly six weeks that Dān-Aššur spent in Anatolia

before returning to Aššur becomes of special interest. During this stay from mid-June to the

end of July, Šalim-aḫum intended that Dān-Aššur “perform this nabrītum” (nabrītam annītam

libre).19 However, recent opinion on the nabrītum has emphasized its context in two letters as

The normalization of this word as nabrītum is provisional. Because Old Assyrian orthography does not
fully distinguish phonemes, in this case particularly b and p, the normalization naprītum is also possible; likewise
for the verb: i.e., barā’um or parā’um. I render the normalization barā’um (and hence nabrītum) because of the
continuing plausibility that this barā’um could be indentified with CAD barûm B ‘to inspect’ and thus nabrītum be
clear evidence that nabrītum means winter or wintertime. However, the strength of this

conclusion is in need of revision. The present reconstruction presents independent evidence

that the nabrītum was not “winter”; and while claiming that it is easiest to read nabrītum as

winter in the two letters in question is understandable, asserting that no further revisions are

possible based on independent evidence prizes the anecdotal evidence over more fully

contextualized discrete examples.

Šalim-aḫum wrote in 5.3, ceding at least in part to Pūšu-kēn’s plans recognized in 5.1,

that Dān-Aššur should “perform this nabrītum.” Thus, ‘this’ nabrītum was an expected event.

Treatment of nabrītum in Old Assyrian has followed a course of distinguishing two or three

separate homonyms.20 The lemma nabrītum which appears in contexts that indicate it was an

event, as in the case with Dān-Aššur here, was initially associated with ‘inspection’ (CAD barûm

B) by virtue of a set of parallel constructions luqūtam ana nabrītim likšudam (as in CCT 2 7:30-31

and Ka 1004:19-20, 39-40) and luqūtam ana barā’im likšudam (as in CCT 3 8b:8-9).21 It has also

been associated with the wintertime nabrû festival practiced in the Ur III and Old Babylonian

periods, which was also the ninth month of the Amorite calendar at Tell Rimah.22 More

understood as a maprast form meaning ‘inspection.’ However, the present discussion does not provide sufficient
evidence to make this assertion stronger than a plausibility.
The first two lemmas would refer to 1) the care of donkeys, i.e. ‘paddock’ (rendered as nebrītum in the
CAD), while a possible second word would be manifest in a single known use as an object, most likely a textile. For
‘paddock,’ see Dercksen, Old Assyrian Institutions, 267-70. The textile is found in BIN 6 190 (Innāya II, no. 1):14-18 -
10 GÍN K[Ù.K]I ku-pu-ur-ši-nàm ù na-áb-ri-tám a-ṣú-ḫa-ar-tim šé-bi4-lam na-áb-ri-tum [lu] ra-bi4-a-at ‘send 10 shekels
kupuršinnum gold and a nabrītum for the girl. The nabrītum must be large.’ See also Donbaz and Veenhof, "New
Evidence for some Old Assyrian Terms," 140.
CAD recognizes a nabrītum (meaning unknown) and an OA nabrītum under neb/prītum ‘food, fodder,
pasture,’ citing K.R. Veenhof, AOATT, 249f. and 50 n. 380. Ahw. (774a) translates naprītum as ‘basic/minimum
provisions.’ The stance of the dictionaries and previous treatments were well summarized in V. Donbaz and K.R.
Veenhof, "New Evidence for some Old Assyrian Terms," Anatolica 12 (1985): 139-42. The positions taken there were
largely followed by J.G. Dercksen, OAI, 267-70.
Veenhof, “New Evidence for Some Old Assyrian Terms,” 141.
M. Cohen, The Cultic Calendars of the Ancient Near East (Bethesda: 1993): 394-95.
recently, it has come to be associated with winter or winter time through its use in two

diferent letters.23 Just what the nabrītum was is still difficult to say. There are fewer than

twenty references to the phenomena. It is not the purpose of the present discussion to develop

a definition of the nabrītum, though the original association with commercial concerns and

some connection to the ‘settling of accounts’ (nikassī) seems to be the most promising


The association between winter and nabrītum is due to two letters from the 94/k texts.

The two texts in their entirety read as follows; the translations mostly follow their

translation in Larsen, The Archive of the Šalim-Aššur Family, vol 1. and 2:

kt 94/k 1673:

a-na Zu-ku-a qí-bi-ma 2um-ma Puzur4-A-šur-ma 3šál-ma-ku i-Dur4-ḫu-mì-it 4wa-áš-ba-ku i-na
Ḫu-ra-ma 51 ku-ta-nam i-ṣé-ri-a 6il5-qé iš-tù Ḫu-ra-ma 7a-dí Dur4-ḫu-mì-it ½ ma-na 8da-tum a-na ANŠE
ik-šu-ud a-ḫi a-ta 10we-da-ku mu-ša-ki-il5 11ANŠE ú ša ba-áb-tí 12ú-šé-ṣa-a-ni ú-lá i-šu 132 ṣú-ha-ri ša li-
ba!-kà 14i-de8-ú šu-up-ra-ma 15iš-tí-in ANŠE.HI.A 16lu-ša-ki-il5 iš-tí-in 17i-š[a-ḫ]a-tí-a li-zi-iz-ma 18⌈a⌉ [x
x] ṣú-ba-tám a-tù-nu 19⌈x⌉ [x š]é-ṣí-a-ma lá-ma 20ku-ṣí-im a-na Pu-ru-uš-ḫa-tim 21le-ru-ub na-áb-ri-tum
lá i-kà<-ša>-da-ni a-na-kam ú-ku-ul-ti 23ANŠE.HI.A da-na-at 24i-ḫi-id-ma ṣú-ha-ri 25ṭur4-da-ma ku-ṣú-
um 26lá i-kà-ša-da-ni ḫa-ra-ni 27le-pu-uš i-na dUTU-ši 28ša ṭup-pí ta-ša-me-ú 29we-da-ku ṣú-ḫa-ri 30ṭur4-

To Zukua, from Puzur-Aššur: I am well. I am in Durḫumit. He took 1 kutānum on my

account in Ḫurrama. From Ḫurrama to Durḫumit, fees of ½ mina accrued per donkey-load. My
dear brother, I am alone. I have no one to feed the donkeys or realize the outstanding claims.
Send me two young men whom you prefer, so that one will feed the donkeys and one will
assist me. … textile … you yourselves … produce so that I can arrive in Purušḫattum before the

Dercksen, OAI, 270, first published the suggestion that nabrītum was associated with winter through
context with kt 94/k 1673. This interpretation of winter has been followed by K. Veenhof in his recent citation of
Ka 1004 in “Communication in the Old Assyrian Trading Society by Caravans, Travelers and Messengers,” in Old
Assyrian Studies in Memory of Paul Garelli (Leiden, 2008) 199-246. It is also the position taken by Mogens Larsen in his
translation of the two 94/k texts cited below.
winter. The nabrītum must not overtake me. Here donkey fodder is difficult to get. Take care to
send the young men so that I can take my way without winter overtaking me.24 On the day that
you read this letter, I am alone, send the young men.

Kt 94/k 1131
um-ma En-um-A-šùr-ma a-na SIG5-pí-i-A-šur | qí-bi-ma i-na pá-ni-tim-ma áš-pu-ra-kum um-
ma a-na-ku-ma šu-ma ILLAT-at-kà 5i-sà-ri-dam ù a-ta qá-dí-ma | ILLAT-tí-kà sí-ir-dam-ma lu-qú-tám
ša DAM.GÀR ša ta-ra-dí-ú TÚG.ḪI.A SIG5-tim bi-ir-ma i-na Ma-a-ma 10ú-lá i-na Ú-na-ap-sé-e-sí ší-tí
TÚG.ḪI.A ma-ṭí-ú-tim lu i-na ša DAM.GÀR i-ba-ší-ú lu ša bé-ú-lá-tí-kà | ù-lu i-na ša bé-ú-lá-at 15ṣú-ḫa-
re-e i-ba-ší-ú qá-dí-ma tap-pá-e-kà | a-na É.GAL-lim le-ru-bu-nim | a-ni na-ab-ri-tum i-na Ur-šu i-ṣa-ba-
at-ku-nu | ki-ma ku-pá-um 20ma-du-ni a-na lu-qú-ut DAM.GÀR-ri-im ša ki-ma qá-qí-dí-a ú-lá áš-tap-ra-
am i-na na-áp-ṭí-ir | ku-nu-tí ù a-na-ku ú-lá ša ki-ma 25qá-qí-dí-a | a-ṭa-ra-dam-ma mì-li-ik lu-qú-tim ša
DAM.GÀR a-ma-lik mì-šu ša ta-áš-pu-ra-ni um-ma a-ta-ma tí-ir-tí DAM.GÀR | ḫi-mì-tum | i-li-kam 30a-
na-ku sà-aḫ-ra-ku-ma a-na lu-qú-tim ša DAM.GÀR mì-li-ik-ša ma-lá-kam | lá a-al-té-e | ba-a-nim i-a-tí |
ta-aš-pá-ra-am | a-pu-tum ri-iš | lu-qú-tim ša DAM.GÀR 35ša-ṣí-ir | ú a-ma-lá tí-ir-tí-kà [um]-ma a-ta-
ma ṣú-ba-tù an-ḫu-tum! i-ba-ší-ú a-pu-tum i-na dUTU-ši ša ṭup-pí ta-ša-me-ú i-na ḫu-ur-ší-im ša ib-ri-
im 40a-[ta] ù Ì-lí-áš-ra-ni TÚG.ḪI.A kà-lá-šu-nu-ma na-pí-ša-ma 3 u4-me-e ú 5 u4-me-e li-ib-ší-ú-ma šu-
ta-áb-lá-ki-da-šu-nu ma-ma-an ša-ni-am lá tù-ṭá-ḫa-a | a-dí 4510 u4-me-e lē ta-ḫa-ta-ar a-ṣé-er E-ni-ša-
ri-im a-di AN.NA-ki-kà Ú-ṣú!-ur-ší-Ištar aš-ta-pá-ar iš-tù Za-al-pà i-tù-ru-nim-ma A-lá-ḫa-am 50a-ṭá-ra-
dam ½ ma-na ṣa-ru-pá-am ú ša 3 GÍN ṣà-ḫi-ir-tám ku-nu-ki-a Ili5-tù-ra-am ú-šé-bi4-lá-kum 15 GÍN
KÙ.BABBAR ší-im TÚG-tí-kà Id-na-a ú A-lu-a na-áš-ú-ni-[kum e-]ma-ru-kà | lu ak-lu

From Ennam-Aššur to Damiq-pī-Aššur: I sent word to you earlier, saying “If your
caravan is being packed, then you too should pack together with your caravan, and choose
textiles of good quality from the goods of the merchant that you are leading, and in Mamma or
in Unapsesi the rest of the less good textiles—both from what there is of the merchant’s and
from your own working capital and from the working capital of the servants—should enter the
palace together with your partners.
Now, the nabrītum has overtaken you in Uršu. Because there is a lot of snow, I have not
sent anyone on whom I could rely for the goods of the merchant. At the opening (of the

I read the syntax of lines 24-27 to understand kuṣṣum lā ikaššadanni as a subjunctive clause functioning
as a temporal marker within the following chain of verbal clauses: iḫid-ma | ṣuḫārī ṭurdam-ma | kuṣṣum lā
ikaššadanni ḫarrānī lēpuš. An alternate translation which instead finds the end of the clauses linked by –ma in
ikaššadani is equally possible due to the incomplete specificity of the Old Assyrian orthography.
passes)?/Instead,?25 I shall send either myself or someone I can rely on, and I shall make a
decision about the merchant’s goods. Why did you send word, saying: “A heated letter from
the merchant came.” I have personally been delayed and been unable to take any decsion
about the merchant’s goods. Come on, it is to me you send word! Urgent, guard the goods of
the merchant; and with regard to your message where you said: “There are some old
textiles”—urgent, the very day you hear my letter you and Ilī-ašranni should air all of the
textiles in the store-room of a friend, and leave them for 3 or 5 days before you turn them
over. Do not approach anyone else. Do not hesitate for 10 days!
I have sent Uṣur-ši-Ištar to Enišarum concerning your tin. When they come back from
Zalpa, I shall dispatch Ali-aḫum. I sent Ili-tūram to you with ½ mina of refined silver and small
goods worth 3 shekels under my seal. Idnaya and Aluwa are bringing you 15 shekels of silver,
the proceeds from your textile. Your donkeys are consumed.

Unquestionably, the sense gained from these two letters is that onset of the nabrītum

occurs at the same time as the winter (kuṣṣum). In the first letter, kt 94/k 1673, the two terms,

nabrītum and kuṣṣum, are invoked in parallel. In the second, the writer comments that the

nabrītum has overtaken his correspondent as pretext for the ensuing discussion about the

problems of the snow preventing him from travel. Unquestionably, the easiest way to read

these examples is that nabrītum is essentially “winter” or something inextricably associated

with winter.

If these were the only two texts available on nabrītum, then it would appear that it was

essentially equivalent to wintertime. At the same time, nabrītum is not invoked as the strict

ina napṭir<im?> — This cannot be the N-stem infinitive, which would be rendered napṭurim. There are
two possible interpretations I propose at this point. First, in the present context a meaning “opening” as in the
opening of the passes. In this case, we would expect to restore na-ap-ṭí-ir-<im>, though this would be a broken
writing. The form as it stands is absolute. This provokes the second, more speculative proposal: the phrase ina
napṭir, with napṭir as an absolute form related to napṭirum “substitute,” could be construed as a productive sort of
adverb. It is now becoming more apparent with the increasing publication of different archives, that new words
and expressions are arising with different writers. There is a vibrancy to the Old Assyrian dialect amongst the
many writers that is only beginning to be appreciated. While this does not in itself dictate that the second
proposal is correct, both proposals are of words/expressions that we would think to be more common than this
single attestation indicates.
cause of either potential or ongoing transport problem in either letter. Rather, in both letters

above, it is the ‘winter’ (kuṣṣum) and ‘snow’ (kuppa’um) which are the phenomena that directly

impair or hold the potential to impair the intentions of the correspondents. Though reading

nabrītum as winter or the like in these contexts seems a straightforward solution, to assert that

these two contexts are sufficiently clear as to preclude any further revision to nabrītum is too

strong a position.

Beyond the inherent theoretical dangers of precluding any further evidence, such as

this reconstruction, from bringing any revision to the interpretation of nabrītum as winter or

wintertime, I see two specific weaknesses in such a strong proposition arising from other

points in the Old Assyrian documentation. The first weakness involves the difference with

which writers refer to kuṣṣum and nabrītum in the letters. When writers discuss making

arrangements to avoid the winter they often write that things must be accomplished ‘before

the winter’ lama kuṣṣim (several references in CAD, to which a/k 913:26-27 lama kuṣṣim etarūnim,

87/k 509:12’-15’ iḫid-ma annakī u ṣubatīā ki luqūtika abkam-ma lama kuṣṣim ana kaspim lūtar can be

added). An example of arranging something for the winter, i.e. ana kuṣṣim is attested: KTS 2

40:25-27 šitti kaspim mala ištišu kunuk-ma ana kuṣṣim šēbil. However, by and large, merchants are

trying to get things arranged before the advent of winter. By contrast, arranging things to

happen before the nabrītum (i.e. lama) is comparatively rare. Instead, arrangements are made

for the nabrītum, i.e. ana nabrītum. This difference is entirely linguistic, but it must be

considered that the distribution of prepositions used with kuṣṣum is different than that used

with nabrītum. Moreover, an argument that proposes that nabrītum is winter because of its

parallel usage to kuṣṣum must also allow for the fact that nabītum is also used in parallel with

settling accounts (nikassī). Dercksen’s recent remarks when discussing the nabrītum confirm
that aside from the contexts of the two letters above, the nabrītum seems to have a closer

connection to a commercial procedure (OAI, 270). Following Veenhof’s initial review of Ka

1004, the most noticeable aspect was that goods needed to arrive for the nabrītum.

The second problem with demanding that nabrītum is winter on the strength of the two

kt 94/k letters is Ka 1004, where nabrītum is used several times, and reading nabrītum as winter

results in a strained interpretation of the letter. In this letter Imdī-ilum writes to his colleagues

in Aššur in order to prepare against the upcoming nabrītum. However, he expresses frustration

that Amur-Ištar was prevented from making it to him for what must be a past nabrītum. I have

included the transliteration with a translation that closely follows the translation in Anatolica

12. Statements of direct interest are rendered in bold text in the translation.

Ka 1004

[a-na] A-šùr-i-mì-tí Šu-Ištar [Šu]-Ḫu-bu-ur En-na-nim ù Bu-bu-ra-nim qí-bi-ma um-ma Im-dí-
lúm-ma 45⅔ ma-na 4⅓ GÍN KÙ.BABBAR ṣa-ru-pá-am 5ni-is-ḫa-sú DIRI | ša-du-a-sú ša-bu ku-[n]u-ki-a
Ḫi-na-[a] na-áš-a-ku-nu-tí a-ḫu-a | a-tù-nu ki-ma lu-qú-tí ša šé-ep A-mur-Ištar a-na na-áb-ri-tim lá ik-
šu-da-ni li-bi4 im-ta-ra-aṣ 1012 ma-na KÙ.BABBAR ni-is-ḫa-sú DIRI ša-du-a-sú ša-bu ù 1 ma-na KÙ.GI
[ni]-is-ḫa-sú DIRI ša-du-a-sú ša-bu E?-li na-áš-a-ku-nu-tí 20 ma-na KÙ.BABBAR ṣa-ru-pá-am ni-is-ḫa-
sú 15DIRI ša-d[u]-a-sú ša-bu En-na-Sú-en6 DUMU Šu-Ištar na-áš-a-ku-nu-tí iḫ-da-ma lu-qú-[tí] ša šé-ep
Ḫi-na-[a] lu ša šé-ep E-li lu ša šé-ep I-na-Sú-en6 a-na na-áb-ri-tim 20lu-qú-tí | li-ik-šu-dam-ma iš-té-ni-iš
le-ru-ba-am AN.NA-[ka]m šu-uq-lam za-ku-tám li-wi-sú ù e-li-a-tim ša-ma-ma iš-tí a-li-ki-im pá-ni-im-
ma áb-kà-nim 25ki-ma lu-qú-tám ša šé-ep A-mur-Ištar tù-uk-ta-ṣí-da-ni | a-dí ni-kà-sí ak-ta-lá ni-kà-sú i-
[ša-s]í-ú-ma | a-ta-be-a-ma [a-ta]-lá-kam a-ma-lá té-er-tí-a iḫ-da-ma 30[AN.]NA li-wi-sú ù e-li-a-tim ša-
ma-ma še-bi4-lá-nim AN.NA lu za-ku a-ma-lá té-er-tí-a a-šar lu-qú-tí ta-pá-qí-da-ni ší-ma-am ša a-ki-dí-
e ša 1 ma-na 35ša-ma-ma dí-na-šu-um lu KÙ.BABBAR lu sà-am-ru-a-tim | lu Ì.GIŠ ṭá-ba-am a-qá-tí-šu
lu re-eš15-tám dí-na-šu-<um> [a-ḫ]u-ú-a | a-tù-nu a-na té-er-tí-a [iḫ-d]a-ma lu-qú-tum a-na Kà-ni-iš
[a-na n]a-áb-ri-tim li-ik-šu-dam [...] x ù Ḫi-na-a ni-kà-sí [...] a-ma-lá ší-ma-at [...] i-na mì-ma i-šu-ú
[a]-na šé-ni-šu a-zu-az 45[...]-a-ma i-na zi-tim a-[n]a qá-tí [...]-a E-nu-Be-lum AN.NA ù [...] x a x [...] x
en? x i-dí-nu [...] x mì-šu-um [...] iš-tí A-mur-Ištar lá [...]

To Aššur-imittī, Šū-Ištar, Šū-Ḫubur, Ennānum and Buburānum, say, thus Imdīlum:
Ḫinnaya is transporting to you 45 minas 44⅓ shekels refined silver under my seals, its excise
added, its expenses paid. My dear colleagues, I am disappointed because my
merchandise in the cargo of Amur-Ištar did not reach me for (ana)26 the
nabrītum. 10Eli is transporting to you 12 minas silver, its excise added, its expenses paid, plus
1 minas gold, its excise added, its expenses paid. Enna-Suen son of Šū-Ištar is transporting to
you 20 minas refined silver, its excise added, its expenses paid. Take care that my
merchandise in the cargo of Ḫinnaya, Eli, and Enna-Suen reaches me for (ana)
the nabrītum and arrives (lit. enters) all together. Buy tin in pure packets, with
wrappings and top-packs, and ship them here with the first travellers. 25Since you had held
up merchandise in the cargo of Amur-Ištar, I have stayed here until the
settling of accounts; when the accounts are settled, I will depart and leave.
Take care to buy tin, its wrappings and top-packs according to my instructions and send them
to me. The tin must be pure! Follow my instructions and buy Akkadian textiles with 1 mina
(silver) and give it to him when you entrust my merchandise. Give him silver, (copper) nails,
fine oil, and prime oil for his account. 38My dear colleagues pay heed to my message
and let the merchandise reach me in Kanesh for (ana) the nabrītum. [When PN]
and Ḫinnaya settle accounts, I will divide a double share of all he owns according to the
dispositions …

One of Imdī-ilum’s chief concerns in this letter is to ensure that his correspondents will

help rather than hinder Ḫinnaya, Eli, and Enna-Suen to bring goods back to him in Kanesh for

the nabrītum. Imdī-ilum uses the term nabrītum three times in the letter. But the most

important information the letter provides for understanding nabrītum lies beyond the various

syntactic constructions in which the term is found. Rather, it is in the context nabrītum is used.

I see two salient contexts: 1) when the nabrītum that Amur-Ištar missed occurred, and 2) the

relationship between the nabrītum and settling accounts (nikassī) in Imdī-ilum’s plans for the

immediate future.

In Anatolica 12, Donbaz and Veenhof rendered ana as be(for)e. I avoid this translation in sensitivity to
the difference in usage between ana and lama with regards to nabrītum and kuṣṣum discussed above.
First, Amur-Ištar was delayed from reaching Imdī-ilum for a nabrītum, a fact which

required Imdī-ilum to stay for the upcoming accounting time. But which nabrītum did Amur-

Ištar miss?27 One way to interpret Imdī-ilum’s letter is that Amur-Ištar was so delayed by Imdī-

ilum’s correspondents that it was now impossible for him to get to Kanesh for the upcoming

nabrītum. I find this reading strained within the (limited) context of the letter becasue it seems

that it will be possible for Ḫinnaya, Eli, and Enna-Suen to make it to Aššur and back to Kanesh

during this same time. Moreover, Imdī-ilum’s includes no further efforts to obtain the goods

transported by Amur-Ištar. Instead he is only interested in the silver he is now sending with

Ḫinnaya, Eli, and Enna-Suen. If Imdī-ilum meant that Amur-Ištar was to miss the upcoming

nabrītum, then he had strangely lost interest in the goods with Amur-Ištar. On the other hand,

the letter could better be read to understand that Imdī-ilum is referring to the fact that Amur-

Ištar missed the previous nabrītum. This is then the context for his current pleas to his

correspondents about Ḫinnaya, Eli, And Enna-Suen. In this case, the goods of Amur-Ištar were

no longer a problem. However, the lingering effect of Amur-Ištar’s failure to arrive in time for

the previous nabrītum meant that Imdī-ilum now had to stay until the settling of accounts.

Therefore, if nabrītum means ‘winter’ then Amur-Ištar’s tardiness nearly a year ago is the cause

of Imdī-ilum now having to stay for the settling of accounts. That something which happened

a year ago is affecting Imdī-ilum’s plans seems a strange situation. This could be the case; but

my sense of this letter, and the pace of commerce in general, is that the previous nabrītum to

The phrase in question is rendered with a preterite ikšudanni. However, because of the aspectual nature
of verb usage in Akkadian within the subjunctive clauses, and particularly within the complex temporal situations
of epistolary discourse, even though the morphosyntax of the verb would suggest that the action to which he is
referring is essentially complete, whether or not Imdī-ilum used it purposefully in this context or not to
emphasize the actual finality of the event or the inevitable finality of the event cannot be determined on
grammatical grounds alone.
which Imdī-ilum refers, occurred more recently than the previous winter in order to have

created a situation that required Imdī-ilum stay for the upcoming winter.

Second, the order of events in Imdilum’s intended itinerary is: (1) Ḫinnaya, Eli, and

Enna-Suen arrive in Kanesh with goods, (2) nabrītum (3) settling of accounts, (4) Imdī-ilum

departs (most likley to Aššur). It is possible that nabrītum and ‘settling accounts’ occurred at

the same time. It is even possible that they are essentially different aspects of the same

process. But Imdī-ilum pleads that the goods reach him in Kanesh for the nabrītum and he says

that he will leave after the settling of accounts. If the settling of accounts technically followed

the nabrītum, then Imdī-ilum planned to leave after the settling of accounts, but this was after

the arrival of the nabrītum. Was he essentially saying that he was staying for winter? On the

other hand, if nabrītum is to be read winter, and the settling of accounts occurred at the same

time as the nabrītum, then the same problem as the first interpretation remains. In this letter,

interpreting nabrītum as winter creates a series of events that contradicts the current

understanding of travel restrictions associated with winter.

For the problems inherent in this text alone, nabrītum as winter should be carefully

reconsidered. There are approximately a dozen other occurrences of the Old Assyrian event

nabrītum. Besides the one above, two others come from Imdī-ilum’s letters, where Imdī-ilum is

intent that goods enter Kanesh before the nabrītum so that he can exchange the goods for

silver.28 His concern about the deadline understandably makes equating wintertime with the

nabrītum a reasonable hypothesis. But it is the disposition of goods in relation to an upcoming

and ongoing process for which they seem to be purposed (business transactions in Kanesh),

CCT 2 7, I 489, for translations of these passages see Dercksen, OAI, 269.
rather than for which they are purposed to avoid (the wintertime), that makes winter a less

likely meaning of the word. Other occurrences where persons are urged to make haste so that

they or their goods arrive for the nabrītum include the following one:

um-ma Ša-lim-A-šùr Pu-šu-ke-en6 2ù Sà-ba-sí-a-ma a-na 3Ì-lí-iš-ti-kál qí-bi-ma 416 ma-na
KÙ.BABBAR ni-is-ḫa-sú DIRI 5ù 1 ma-na 17 GÍN KÙ.GI 6pá-ša-lam ša-du-a-sú 7ša-bu Ku-lu-ma-a na-
áš-a-kum 8KÙ.GI da-mì-iq wa-ta-ar 9a-na-kam-ma 10 GÍN.TA ú-ba-al 104 GÚ AN.NA ú-tù-ra-e-šu 11ù li-
wi-sú li-we-tum 12lu TÚG ku-ta-nu lu ša-ak-sú 13ù a-ší-tí KÙ.BABBAR ku-ta-ni 14ša-a-ma iš-tí a-li-ki-im
pá-ni-e-ma ab-kam-ma 16a-na na-ab-ri-tim 17li-ik-šu-dam-ma 18a-na tám-kà-ri-kà li-ba-kà 19dì-in

Šalim-Aššur, Pūšu-ken and Sabasiya to Iliš-tikal: Kulumaya brings you 16 minas silver,
its excise added and 1 mina 17 shekels pašallum gold, its shipping charge paid. The gold is
extremely fine. Here it was worth a 10 (silver) shekel rate. Convert it to 4 talents tin, and its
wrappings can either be kutānum textiles or šakšum textiles. Then purchase kutānum textiles
with the remainder and send it out with the first departure so that it will arrive for (ana) the
nabrītum and (you can) give your account to you’re a merchant of your choice.29

The nabrītum seemed applicable to both Anatolia and Aššur. In addition to Dān-Aššur

going to Kanesh, or possibly to Purušḫattum for the nabrītum, other cities in Anatolia are

mentioned in association with the nabrītum: “As long as you are delayed, I will perform this

nabrītum in Kununamit for my qīptum” (VS 26 71:45-49). As for Aššur, Šalim-aḫum expressed his

desire that Ennam-Aššur return to Aššur for the nabrītum when he told Dan-Aššur to hand over

his revenues from his naruqqum fund to Ennam-Aššur (5.5:34-46, see below). In fact, it seems

that the tone of Šalim-aḫum’s letter (5.5:43-44) suggested that the idea of Dān-Aššur staying in

Kanesh for the nabrītum was counterbalanced by the idea that Ennam-Aššur would be back in

Aššur for the same period of time.

kt 94/k 1130 (courtesy M.T. Larsen).
According to the present reconstruction, the occurrence of the nabrītum about which

Šalim-aḫum made reference did not transpire during the winter. Instead, the movements of

Dān-Aššur in the reconstructed activities of REL 80 suggest that it transpired during July.

Moreover, within the reconstruction, there is a continuation of activity (travelling, crossing

the Taurus mountains, letters being sent, etc.) through this period. When Dān-Aššur arrived in

Kanesh in mid-June, he did stay in Anatolia longer than his travelling companion, Šū-Suen,

who proceeded directly back to Aššur. But when Šalim-aḫum later acknowledged Šū-Suen’s

arrival in Aššur in mid-July (2.3, see also fig. 5, p.172), he also noted that Lot #1 was coming

due soon and reminded Pūšu-kēn to collect. Dān-Aššur in fact helped bring that silver at the

end of July (2.4), which was in line with Šalim-aḫum’s intent in 5.3. Šalim-aḫum expresses no

sense that a winter hiatus was approaching when he wrote the letters as Dān-Aššur arrived

(5.1-5.3) and winter surely did not arrive before Dān-Aššur returned to Aššur (2.4). Because

Šalim-aḫum intended that Ennam-Aššur return to Aššur in time for the nabrītum and that Dān-

Aššur would have given Ennam-Aššur silver from his own funds when he arrrived in mid-June

suggests that the nabrītum would not have started until Ennam-Aššur had time to return to

Aššur in July. There is no sense in the letters that a cessation of activity was imminent.

If Šalim-ahum’s decision to have Dān-Aššur ‘perform this nabrītum’ meant he was

relenting to Pūsu-kēn’s original plans, then those plans must also be considered: Dān-Aššur

was to go to Purušḫattum after he arrived (5.1). It is possible that Pūšu-kēn’s plan included the

circuit journey around Anatolia. Whatever relation that may have had with the nabrītum

(indirect if any), the circuit journey to Purušḫattum involved a series of exchanges of goods. In

Kanesh, merchants exchanged their tin and textiles for wool, took the wool north to the

copper mine region, and transported the copper obtained there west to Purušḫattum to
exchange for silver, and then shipped the silver back to Aššur to start the process all over

again.30 Wherever he directed his travels, Dān-Aššur did leave Kanesh during his stay in

Anatolia. At the end of July, Pūšu-kēn received a letter from Šalim-aḫum asking for silver (5.9);

Pūšu-kēn’s response indicated that Dān-Aššur would arrive in (or return to) Kanesh in two

days and that Pūšu-kēn would then send Dān-Aššur with the silver.31

Dān-Aššur’s possible trip to Purušḫattum could have occasioned the following letter.

However I have not numbered it because it cannot be confirmed to come from this year.

a-na Pu-šu-ke-en6 qí-bi4-ma 2um-ma Dan-A-šùr-ma 3a-bi a-ta be-lí a-ta 4a-na ša-al-ṭim 5lá ta-ša-
ki-ni-a-tí 6URUDU ša É.GAL-lim a-dí 7u4-mì-im a-ni-im 8i-ta-na-bu-lu-ni-a-tí 9ù i-a-tí mu-ur-ṣú-um
im-qú-tám-ma 11a-dí-ni a-sú-ḫu-ur 12ša-al-ma-ku 13mì-ma li-ba-kà 14lá i-pà-ri-id 15a-dí 5 u4-me ú-ta-
qá-ma 16šu-ma URUDU ša 17«ša» É.GAL-lim lá i-ta-ṣa-am 18kà-ki a-lá-qé-ma 19a-Pu-ru-uš-ḫa-tim 20a-ta-

To Pūsu-kēn, from Dan-Assur: My dear father and lord, you must not treat us harshly.
(Concerning) the copper of the palace, they have been giving us the run-around to this day.
Now as for me, I illness had overcome me so that until now I was confined, (but now) I am well.
Do not be troubled. I will wait for 5 days and if the copper of the palace does not emerge, I will
take up my weapon and will depart for Purušḫattum.32

In this letter, Dān-Aššur tells Pūšu-kēn that he has been waiting on the palace with

regards to the trade in copper, most likely in Durḫumit. He has been there long enough to get

First discussed in OACTA, 90-157.
Pūšu-kēn promised to send Dān-Aššur back to Aššur with one talent twenty minas silver when Dān-
Aššur was to have arrived in Kanesh in two days (5.10). This would fit well as a response to Šalim-aḫum’s request
that Dān-Aššur come home with one talent silver, written in late May (5.3). However, 5.10 could not have been a
direct response to 5.3 and written in mid-June, implying that Dān-Aššur was at the time travelling to Kanesh
from Aššur. First, it has already been shown that Dān-Aššur returned with the second shipment of silver from the
original venture in late July while the first shipment was sent just after Dān-Aššur arrived in Kanesh in mid-June.
Second, it would be difficult to place 5.10 in mid-June because if Pūšu-kēn promised to send Dān-Aššur back with
the one talent twenty minas silver, he was inexplicably reversing his earlier stance to send him to Purušḫattum
within the tight timing of 5.1-5.3.
TC 3 25. Translation closely follows Dercksen, OACTA, 205. Dercksen there equates “taking up the
weapon” with preparing for departure.
sick and recover, and evidently for Pūsu-kēn to worry. He reports that he will only wait 5 more

days and then he will depart for Purušḫattum. Dān-Aššur’s illness in Durḫumit could presage

his illness when he returned to Aššur at the end of August, wherein he was not able to go seize

Ilabrat-bāni’s goods because of his health (2.4, 4.5).

Ennam-Aššur’s Reluctance to Return Home

Ennam-Aššur also played a significant role in Šalim-aḫum’s commercial operations

during this year. Ennam-Aššur travelled to Kanesh more than six weeks before his brother,

soon after the original venture and Ilī-ašranni’s caravans departed. When Šalim-aḫum wrote to

Pūšu-kēn at the beginning of April, he was already asking that Pūšu-kēn not delay Ennam-

Aššur, but send him home quickly (3.1:25-26). Ennam-Aššur had a prospective father-in-law

who shared Šalim-aḫum’s sentiment (5.7). But Ennam-Aššur had a mind of his own. By the

first half of May, almost a month after Šalim-aḫum’s initial urgings, Ennam-Aššur was still

delaying in Kanesh, expressing his intention to return to Aššur only when Dān-Aššur was

expected to arrive in mid-June (5.5:3-7). Despite Ennam-Aššur’s promises, Šalim-aḫum had to

repeat requests for him to return to Aššur at the end of May (2.6), of June (5.5), and in mid-

July (5.9), and doubtless in other letters that do not survive. In response to the last extant

request, Ennam-Aššur retorted in the presence of several witnesses that Pūšu-kēn, who

relayed the message, was acting over-zealously. Ennam-Aššur asserted that Pūšu-kēn was

acting as if he were the ‘son of a dead man,’ a condition that would have obligated Ennam-

Aššur to more diligently heed Pūšu-kēn’s request if it were so, but was rather Ennam-Aššur’s

way of implying that Pūšu-kēn was being overbearing in those circumstances (5.10:28-37).33

Nonetheless, he must have changed his mind soon thereafter and headed back to Aššur

because by the end of August, Šalim-aḫum was able to send him on the errand to seize Ilabrat-

bāni’s goods. Ennam-Aššur spent the first half of September on that job and was then

dispatched back to Kanesh.

The following documents (5.5, 5.6, 5.7) show the measures taken to have Ennam-Aššur

return home in order to continue the preparations for marriage. The first two letters (5.5, 5.6)

came from his own father, urging him to leave his business activites in Kanesh, stop acting like

a ‘big-shot,’ and come home. The third letter (5.7) stems from the bride’s side of the family; it

was written to Pūšu-kēn by Šū-Ḫubur, Ennam-Aššur’s intended father-in-law. Šū-Ḫubur

probably wrote near the beginning of the season asking Pūšu-kēn to ensure that Ennam-Aššur

returned quickly to Aššur. That Šū-Ḫubur was writing Pūšu-kēn instead of Ennam-Aššur fits

with Šalim-aḫum’s comment to his son that Šū-Ḫubur was being polite by not writing him


Document 5.5 - AKT 3 67: “Come Home!”34

1 um-ma Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um-ma a-na

En-nam-A-šur qí-bi4-ma
ta-áš-pu-ra-am um-ma a-ta-ma
za-ku-a-ku ki-ma Dan-A-šur e-ru-ba-ni
5 a-ta-lá-kam a-ša-me-ma KÙ.BABBAR 1 ma-na

A ‘son of a dead man’ was one whose father had recently died and was thus under constraint to clear
his father’s estate. Persons in this position had a responsibility to dutifully execute the will and ensure that all
accounts of the father were settled. Often this included paying off debts that the father had incurred. See K.R.
Veenhof, "Some Social Effects of Old Assyrian Trade," Iraq 39 (1977): 109-18.
Previous treatments: Bilgiç and Gunbattı, AKT 3, 106-08.
ù 2 ma-na nu-a-ú35 iš-ta-du
KÙ.BABBAR da-ma-qam li-im-ḫu-ur36
i-na u4-mì-im ša ṭup-pá-am
ta-ša-me-ú al-kam-ma e-en
10 A-šur ù e-ni-a a-mu-ur
ta-aḫ-sí-is-tám a-na a-ḫi-kà
e-zi-ib-ma a-ḫu-kà lá ki-ma
qá-qí-dí-kà KÙ.BABBAR ma-lá qá-at-kà
kà-áš-da-at-ni na-an-ší-a-ma
15 me-eḫ-ra-at KÙ.BABBAR ša nu-a-e
a-na-ku a-na-kam lá-dí-na-ku-ma
ḫa-ra-nam ša ra-mì-ni-kà
kà-ší-id mì-ma pá-nu-ma
lo.e. lá i-kà-bi4-du
20 A-šur ù dNIN.ŠUBUR
rev. li-ṭù-lá mì-ma li-bi4
lá i-lá-mì-nu-ma as-ḫu-ru-nim-ma
tù-ta-šé-er al-kam-ma
e-ni-a a-mu-ur me-er-at
25 um-mì-a-nim i-ga-ra-am
tù-mì-id-ma ki-ma a-wi-lim
ra-bi4-im a-dí u4-mì-im a-nim
ta-sú-ḫu-ur ù šu-nu pá-ni-a
wa-ab-lu-ma ú-lá i-ša-pu-ru-ni-kum
30 a-nu-a-e lá ta-áš-té-né-ar
a-qá-qí-dí-kà lá ta-ša-ḫu-ut
ša-ru-um li-ší-šu-nu37 qá-dum

nu’ā’ū - For an interpretation of this as a form of a term referring to Luwians, see O. Carruba, "Luwier in
Kappadokien," in La circulation des biens, des personnes et des idées dans le Proche-Orient ancien, ed. D. Charpin and F.
Joannès (Paris: Éditions Recherche sure les Civilisations, 1992), 251-57; but now questioned by I. Yakubovich,
"Sociolinguistics of the Luvian Language" (diss., University of Chicago, 2008), 279. Here I translate the word
loosely as Anatolians, realizing that the ethnic composition of Anatolia was complex, that evidence of Luwian,
Hittite, and Hattic speakers is available during the Old Assyrian period, but that a translation such as ‘native’
invokes a sense of colonial encounter incongruent with our knowledge of the Old Assyrian trade.
Dān-Aššur is the most likely subject of limḫur.
For Šalim-aḫum’s use of the phrase ‘let the wind carry them off,’ see also 3.2:7-9.
KÙ.BABBAR-pì-šu-nu i-ša-ḫa-at a-ḫi-kà
ba-ab kà-ri-im lu kà-a-na-tí
35 a-Dan-A-šur qí-bi4-ma KÙ.BABBAR
lu i-a-am lu ku-a-am
ša na-ru-qí-kà ma-lá qá-at-kà
i-kà-šu-du a-na En-um-A-šur
dí-in-ma lu-ub-lam
u.e. šu-ma ni-qí-am ḫa-bu-ul ni-qí-šu
41 ú dá-ta-am kà-lá-ma
a-na-ku-ma a-da-šu-um
a-na na-ab-ri-tim a-ni-ša-am
le.e. li-ik-šu-dam

Šalim-aḫum to Ennam-Aššur:
You wrote me, “I am clear. When Dān-Aššur arrives, I will depart (for home). I hear
that the ‘Anatolians’ are short 1 or 2 minas of silver. Let him acquire good silver.”
On the day that you read (this) tablet, come and see the eye of Ašsur and my eye.
Leave the taḫsistum to your brother so that your brother is not liable for you. Bring here as
much silver as you can lay your hands on, and no one should be disappointed (lit. no face
should be heavy at all), for I myself will give you the equivalent of the silver of the ‘Anatolians’
when you arrive here (lit. your own caravan having arrived).
Let Aššur and Ilabrat witness that I will not be angry and retain (you), but you will
be released. Come and see my eye. A daughter of an ummi’ānum leans against the wall and you,
like a big-shot, delay until this day. Now, they are not writing to you because they are
preserving my reputation.
As for the ‘Anatolians,’ do not be agitated.38 Do not be concerned about your own
welfare. Let the wind carry them off—together with their silver!
You must strongly support your brother at the gate of the colony.
To Dān-Aššur: Give both my silver and your silver from your naruqqum fund—as
much as accrues to your share—to Ennam-Aššur so that he may bring it. If he owes niqī’um,39

Following AKT 3, 108, taštene’ar Gtn of ši’ārum “to rise early.”
niqī’um is translated as ‘offering’ in AKT 3, but must have something to do with Ennam-Aššur’s financial
relationship with his brother Dān-Aššur, likely in relation to Dān-Aššur’s naruqqum fund.
retain his niqī’um and the dātum payment, and I myself will give to him. Let him arrive here for
(ana) the nabrītum.

Document 5.6 - AKT 3 66: Šalim-aḫum Continues to Urge Ennam-Aššur Home40

1 um-ma Ša-lim-a-ḫu-um-ma
a-na En-nam-A-šur qí-bi4-ma
lu iš-tí nu-a-e lu a-a-kam-ma
ba-ab-ta-kà ša áš-ta-na-me-ú
5 lá-ma ḫa-ra-nim ša Ḫa-ḫi-im
e-ru-ba-ni ra-ma-kà za-ki
a-ṣé-er KÙ.BABBAR ša iš-tí I-na-a
tù-šé-bi4-lá-ni ki-ma ni-iš-ri-im
KÙ.BABBAR ma-lá qá-at-kà i-ka-šu-du
10 i-pá-ni-kà ša šé-bu-lim
šé-bi4-lam AN.NA ù TÚG.ḪI.A
ša šé-ep Dan-A-šur qá-at-kà
lá tu-ša-ar a-na KÙ.BABBAR
li-tù-ra-ma i-Kà-ni-iš
15 lá ta-ba-re tí-be-a-ma
lo.e. a-tal-kam al-kam-ma
šu-ma li-bi4-kà a-ni-ma
rev. ṭup-pá-kà li-li-pì-it-ma
ḫa-ra-kà kà-ší-id
20 a-nu-a-e-kà lá na-az-qá-tí
A-šur-ma-lik DUMU Lu-zi-na
ki-iš-da-tí-a lá tè-zi-ba-am
KÙ.BABBAR ša AN.NA ša Ša-at-A-šur
25 ù A-zi-a i-pá-ni-kà
šé-bi4-lam ú ša ṣú-ba-tí-šu-nu
iš-tí (Ras.) lu-qú-tí-a lá ṭa-ZA-ḫi41

Previous treatment in AKT 3, 103-05.
15 ma-na URUDU da-mu-qam
re-eš15-tám ša Kà-ni-iš
30 ú ša Ḫa-ḫi-im bi4-lam
16½ GÍN KÙ.GI iš-tí
Li-[x-x-i]n i-Ší-ma-lá42
lá-d[í-na-ku]m kà-sa-tám43
u.e. ša ˹pa-šu-ri˺-im ša a-ma-at
35 ú ú-uṭ bi4-lam kà-ab-lu
a-na-kam i-ba-ší
le.e. A-gu-a DUMU DU10-A-šùr pa-šu-ra-am ša ḫa-bu-lá-ni

Šalim-aḫum to Ennam-Aššur:
As for your outstanding claims with both the ‘Anatolians’ and wherever, which I
continue to hear about, clear yourself before the caravan from Ḫaḫḫum arrives.
In addition to the silver which you sent me with Innaya, send as much silver as you
can lay your hands on ahead of you as an installment. Do not neglect your share of the tin and
textiles in Dān-Aššur’s cargo. Convert it to silver, and do not tarry in Kanesh, but depart
quickly. Come here and if you so desire, have your tablet drawn up and then take your journey.
Don’t be concerned about your ‘Anatolians.’
Do not neglect my assets—the silver from the tin of the caravan of Aššur-mālik son
of Luzina. Send the silver from Šāt-Aššur’s and Azia’s tin ahead of you. Also, do not … the
proceeds of their textiles with (that of) my goods.
Bring 15 minas of very fine copper from both Kanesh and Ḫaḫḫum.

ṭa-ZA-ḫi – Šalim-aḫum’s clear concern is the relationship between his silver and the proceeds of Šāt-
Aššur and Azia. The reading requires emendation. The editors suggest taṣaḫḫir, but it is difficult – “Do not look for
my silver with the proceeds from their assets(?).” An emendation to tù!-ṭa!-ḫi would make sense in this context,
“Do not combine the proceeds from their textiles with my assets.” I have no other suggestions.
For the location of Šimalā to the east of the Euphrates, roughly across from Ḫaḫḫum, see Barjamovic,
“Historical Geography,” 215ff.; K.R. Veenhof, "Across the Euphrates," in Anatolia and the Jazira During the Old
Assyrian Period, ed. J.G. Dercksen, PIHANS 111 (Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 2008), 11-13.
kassutum/kasātum/kasattum – The morphology is uncertain . The editors suggest “tabletop,” which
makes good sense considering the length specified and the fact that the legs were already with Šalim-aḫum. It is
also possible that it referred to raw material for a table top. So an Akkadianized borrowing from Hurr. kazan
(CAD), likely a specific specie of tree, is worth considering.

The 16½ shekels gold with Li[…]n in Šimala, let him give it to you. Bring a tabletop of
one and one-half cubits. The legs are here. As for Agua son of Ṭāb-Aššur, the table which he
owes me, let him give it to you.

In 5.7, Šū-Ḫubur spends the first half of the letter discussing matters of business

between himself and Pūšu-kēn which do not directly concern us here. In the second half of the

letter he asks Pūšu-kēn to tend to Ennam-Aššur.

Document 5.7 - VS 26 64: Šū-Ḫubur Tries to Get Ennam-Aššur Home through Pūšu-kēn44

1 um-ma Šu-Ḫu-bur-ma
a-na Pu-šu-ke-en6
qí-bi-ma | a-šu-mì
ša Puzur4-A-[šur DU]MU Qá-a-tim
5 a-na-kam | a-šar KÙ.BABBAR 1 GÍN
lá-qá-em | ú-lá i-ba-ší
a-ma-kam | ki-ma ta-le-ú
a-wi-lam | ša!-zi-iz-ma
KÙ.BABBAR ša-áš-qí-il5-ma
10 a-na tár-ki-is-tim
a-na ší-a-ma-tim
pá-kà dí-in-šu-um
lo.e. šu-ma | ṭup-pu-šu
rev. ḫa-ar-mu-um
15 ša ku-nu-ki-šu | a-na-kam
lá ú-kà-al | ru-ta-ki-is
En-um-A-šùr DUMU
iš-tí ILLAT-tim i-lá-ak

Previous Treatment: J. Lewy, "Ḫatta, Ḫattu, Ḫatti, Ḫattuša and 'Old Assyrian' Ḫattum," ArOr 18/3 (1950):
374 n. 49.
20 a-na-kam | i-na É-tim
ṣú-ḫa-ar-tám e-ḫa-az
a-ma-kam | ki-ma | i-a-tí
kà-bi-sú li-bu-šu
lá i-lá-mì-in
25 e-mì-i-ma | lá e-mu-kà
u.e. ṭur4-da-šu-ma
rev. ṣú-ḫa-ar-tám li-it-ru-ma
šu-ma a-ḫi a-ta | me-er-i-tí
30 lá me-er-at-kà | kà-bi-sú-ma

Šū-Ḫubur to Pūsu-kēn:
Concerning the matter of Puzur-Aššur son of Qa’atum: Here, there isn’t a single
shekel of silver to take. There, make the man accountable for whatever you can and cause him
to pay the silver and promise him regarding tarkistums and purchases. If I do not hold his
certified tablet with his seal here, it is bound up.45
Ennam-Aššur son of Šalim-Aḫum will go with the caravan. Here he will marry the
girl in the house. There, honor him as you would (honor) me, don’t disappoint him. Is not my
son-in-law your son-in-law? Dispatch him quickly so that he can take the girl away (to his own
house.) If you are my brother, is not my daughter your daughter? Honor him and send him off.

Ennam-Aššur’s travels during REL 80 began in late March when he departed for Kanesh

wth goods, including some which belonged to his father. He then stayed in Anatolia long after

his father and Šū-Ḫubur had hoped he would, until the end of July. When he did finally return

to Aššur near the end of August, he was soon off to Amurrum to seize Ilabrat-bāni’s goods, then

Translated differently in CAD R rakāsu mng. 12, where la ukal is read ‘he does not have in his person,’
would refer to Puzur-Aššur son of Qa’atum. This is difficult because Puzur-Aššur must be in Anatolia for Šalim-
aḫum’s comments to make sense, therefore when Šalim-aḫum says ‘here’ in conjunction with holding the tablet,
the ‘here’ must mean Aššur, and must refer to Šalim-aḫum himself holding the tablet.
back to Aššur, then back to Anatolia during September (4.5). He thus did not spend much time

in Aššur after all, which may not have bothered him as much as it did his father.

Unlike Dān-Aššur’s travels, which form a central thread through the reconstruction,

Ennam-Aššur’s activities rely heavily on the strength of the reconstruction in order to plot

their chronological development (fig. 13). Šū-Ḫubur likely sent 5.7 asking Pūšu-kēn to send

Ennam-Aššur home quickly in early April, around the same time that Šalim-aḫum sent his

letter to Pūšu-kēn about Puzur-Ištar and asking that Ennam-Aššur be returned as soon as

possible (3.1:25-26). Perhaps the two families had come to an agreement about the marriage

after the caravan had left and wished to proceed more quickly than had been anticipated when

Ennam-Aššur departed. One of the two letters by Šalim-aḫum asking Ennam-Aššur to return to

Aššur (5.5) was sent in early June, roughly timed around Dān-Aššur’s arrival in Kanesh.

Ennam-Aššur’s report to his father that he was clear of his obligations, acknowledged in that

letter (5.5:3-7), must have been sent by mid-May. As a result, his statement that he was clear

did not mean that the problems with the Anatolians were resolved. Rather, ‘clear’ probably

meant that he had paid all his imminent obligations, including any be’ulātum loans he had been

extended in transporting goods. By contrast, it is difficult to determine whether or not 5.6

preceded or followed 5.5. The tone of 5.6 is more businesslike than the promises and pleas of

5.5, but whether this means that Šalim-aḫum was becoming more stern over time (i.e. 5.5

came first) or more desperate (i.e. 5.6 came first) is difficult to tell. Ennam-Aššur clearly had

not left Kanesh by mid-July, as Šalim-aḫum was still asking for his return then when he sent

another letter (5.9:37-44).

Documents from the joint venture (see below) reveal further information about

Ennam-Aššur. From 5.9 it is evident that Ennam-Aššur had brought goods to Kanesh when he
came earlier in the season, goods Šalim-aḫum offered to Pūšu-kēn (5.9:35-37) in order to

participate in a joint venture with Šalim-aḫum. Because Pūšu-kēn was to send Ennam-Aššur

back to Aššur in mid-June, Šalim-aḫum anticipated that Ennam-Aššur might have already left,

directing Pūšu-kēn to send the silver so that it would catch with Ennam-Aššur if he were

already gone (5.11:34-37).

During REL 80 it appears that Ennam-Aššur was not easy to deal with. One of Šalim-

aḫum’s letters has an element of exasperation about it, complaining that Ennam-Aššur was

acting like a ‘big-shot’ and worrying himself about silver owed him by Anatolians instead of

attending to a matter of life-long importance. Assuring Ennam-Aššur that he wouldn’t keep

him home in Aššur for long, Šalim-aḫum seemed to be negotiating from a perceived point of

weakness (5.5:20-34). Moreover, Ennam-Aššur’s delay in returning was clearly a source of

anxiety for Šalim-aḫum, who pointed out that Šū-Ḫubur’s good breeding prevented them from

writing directly to Ennam-Aššur to return (5.5:37-44). That Šalim-aḫum’s delicate manner in

5.5 was because of Ennam-Aššur’s unruliness seems corroborated by Ennam-Aššur’s curt

response to Pūšu-kēn when the latter relayed Šalim-aḫum’s instruction that he return home.

Ennam-Aššur spat that Pūšu-kēn was not the ‘son of a dead man,’ implying that Pūšu-kēn could

not demand attention from him. Ennam-Aššur’s comment was somewhat ironic in the context

of talking about his marriage arrangements. There would likely be few other more pivotal

events in his life.

Ennam-Aššur’s resistance to various parties’ directions telling him to return to Aššur

must be placed within a context of conflicting interests. Šalim-aḫum’s discussions in 5.6 do

indicate that Ennam-Aššur was fulfilling, or at least supposed to fulfill, important tasks for

Šalim-aḫum in Anatolia. Ennam-Aššur had sent silver to Šalim-aḫum with Innāya (5.6:7-8),
Šalim-aḫum asks him to send more silver (5.6:8-11). Šalim-aḫum also tells him to attend to the

silver arising from tin (brought by) Aššur-mālik son of Luzina (5.6:21-21-23).46 At the same

time, Šalim-aḫum clearly recognized that Ennam-Aššur was an autonomous commercial

operator with his own balance sheets. Ennam-Ašˇßur was clearly concerned about his

difficulty in collecting silver from Anatolians. In order to make it more amenable for his son to

leave Kanesh, Šalim-aḫum assured him that he would be reimbursed for any losses from

leaving the Anatolians’ debt uncollected. Ennam-Aššur apparently had goods shipped with

Dān-Aššur (ll:11-15). Šalim-aḫum’s recognition of the autonomous nature of Ennam-Aššur’s

commercial operations mirrors his own autonomy from persons also close to him, such as Šāt-

Aššur and Azia, from whom he wanted his silver kept separate (5.6:24-27).

Ennam-Aššur’s actions and decisions show the limits of cooperation between a son and

a father. While the two cooperated to help each other, Šalim-aḫum also includes fatherly

advice to Ennam-Aššur to take care of his affairs, reminding him of assets he needed to attend

to that came from Dān-Aššur’s caravan (5.6:11-15). But at the same time, Ennam-Aššur had his

own concerns, and at least in Ennam-Aššur’s mind in the short term, the interests of his father

and his soon-to-be father-in-law were less important than his own. This aspect will be taken

up again in the second half of the chapter.

On Figure 15 below, 5.6 is not displayed in the field of activity as its precise

chronological position is uncertain.

This tin of one Aššur-mālik son of Luzina may have been the same as the tin associated with an Aššur-
mālik combined with the tin of Lot #2 in the original venture (2.2:38-44).
Figure 15 Chronological Development of Ennam-Aššur’s Activities during REL 80

Passes Open Passes Close

March April May June July August September October November December
R 80 XII

Ilabrat-bāni’s goods
Kanesh Dān-Aššur
Aššur in Anatolia liquidated in Amurrum

5 .

2 .2




m -







: “Buy tin

ni on

ur: “I am
w/ j




m -Aššu

n a




5. 7

Aššur Dān-Aššur ill

5.6 is not pictured on the figure.

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