W02 – Narrative of Forms and Formulas or Forms and Formulas of Narrating? New Approaches to Standardized Elements in Documentary Sources

Organizers: Sven Günther (Northeast Normal University, Changchun) — Michela Piccin (Northeast Normal University, Changchun)


  1. Sven Günther (Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations: Northeast Normal University, Changchun)
  2. Changyu Liu (Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua)
  3. Xiaoli Ouyang (Fudan University, Shanghai)
  4. Michela Piccin (Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations: Northeast Normal University, Changchun)

General Abstract

Documentary forms like accounts, receipts or dedications and their formulas are one of the main sources for studying the Ancient Near East. The “facts” they present mostly in standardized way, are widely used for different analyses, interpretations and reconstructions of the past. However, that these standardized elements, the subsequent formulas and the forms as a whole, also produce a kind of narrative is quite often neglected. Starting from theoretical considerations about the narrativity of this documentary evidence, the panel seeks to discover these narratives, their elements, their pre-, con- and after-text through linguistic, literary, historiographical and legal methods.

Further Reading:

Berti, I. et al. (eds.). 2017. Writing Matters. Presenting and Perceiving Monumental Inscriptions in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Materiale Textkulturen 14. Berlin & Boston: De Gruyter.
Baker, H. D. and Jursa, M. (eds.). 2014. Documentary Sources in Ancient Near Eastern and Greco-Roman Economic History. Methodology and Practice. Oxford & Philadelphia: Oxbow Books.
Hudson, M. and Wunsch, C. (eds.). 2004. Creating Economic Order. Record-keeping, Standardization, and the Development of Accounting in the Ancient Near East. A Colloquium Held at British Museum, November 2000. Bethesda: CDL Press.
Schwemer, D. 2014. “’Form Follows Function?’ Rhetoric and Poetic Language in First Millennium Akkadian Incantations.” Die Welt des Orients 44: 263-288.

General Contact: sveneca@aol.com

Paper Titles with Abstracts

To view the abstracts, please click on the titles:

Trick and Treat? Theoretical Approaches to Forms and Formulas in the Studies of Ancient Near Eastern Documents, and Beyond
Sven Günther (Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations: Northeast Normal University, Changchung; sveneca@aol.com)

Forms and formulas matter, in lists, decrees, administrative and legal documents but also in other genres of documentary sources. They create a specific narrative that can, and has to, be read in the different frames it anchors in. To access what they narrate, and from whom and to which audience(s), one has to extract these forms and formulas as well as to reveal the specific regulatory frames with which they are connected. The paper shall offer the theoretical framework of the workshop papers by analyzing, and comparing, different characteristics of these forms, in Ancient Near Eastern documents, and beyond, in Egyptian, Greek and Roman documentary sources, to illustrate the necessity of examining these sources not only from a quantitative but also a qualitative perspective.

Forms and Formulas: U8+HUL2 and u8 gukkal in Ur III Sources from Drehem
Changyu Liu (Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua; liucy@zjnu.cn)

Among the administrative documents issued by the Puzriš-Dagan organization (modern Drehem) dating to the Third Dynasty of Ur (2112-2004 BC), the term “female fat-tailed sheep” which is indicated in Sumerian, forming either U8+HUL2 or u8 gukkal, occurs in different Ur III documents. This study aims to discuss the occurrence and frequency of the two different forms and formulas of terminology in Drehem texts during different dates, and try to find out the reason why the ancient scribes chose either than the only one and why they differentiated the documentation, by the comparation of images of their cuneiform tablets.

The Narrative and Formula of the Temple Treasury Accounts from Ur III Umma
Xiaoli Ouyang (History Department, Fudan University, Shanghai; ouyang@fudan.edu.cn)

This study targets a group of about fifty temple treasury records identified in the Umma corpus from Mesopotamia during the Ur III period (c. 2112-2004 BC). The majority of the records contain the hallmark Sumerian phrase mu-DU + divine names, which means “delivery for god so-and-so.” An analysis of their contents as well as their structure and formulas can distinguish several different kinds of records, such as receipts, withdrawals, and checklists. Such distinction may reveal the managerial procedure that oversees the movement of the treasury items in the temple households of the Umma province. It is also possible to compare the movement of the treasury items with that of the silver revenue in the provincial economy. This comparison might shed new light on the competition between the king and the Umma governor for control of luxury items in the Umma province.

The Succession Treaty of Esarhaddon: A “Patchwork” Text
Michela Piccin (Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations: Northeast Normal University, Changchun; michela.piccin@hotmail.it)

In 672 BC the ageing King Esarhaddon, worried about the fate of the Kingdom, developed a strategy for his succession. One son, Assurbanipal, would become the next king of Assyria; under him, his older brother, Šamaš-šumu-ukin, would become king of Babylon. To ensure his will, the King wrote a lengthy text, the so-called Esarhaddon’s Succession Treaty. It describes in detail the many actions his subjects needed to observe, ensured by a long list of terrifying curses for anyone who dared to break their oath. This paper analyzes the phraseology of the various narrative sections from which the treaty is composed. Such analysis highlights how it is made up of small segments, each of which is complete in itself, integrated into its overall design, thereby creating a “patchwork” text.

Nach oben scrollen