POEMS IN POSTHUMAN AKKADIAN
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POEMS IN POSTHUMAN AKKADIAN
written by General Totleben
© Ivan Stanev, executor testamentarius
Read the full text of the poem KUDURRU – Part One h e r e
Kudurru, Boundary Stone, Grenzstein
In 1788, Antoine Michaux, an amateur bota- nist traveling in Mesopotamia, found an intrigu- ing stone object on the west bank of the Tigris, just south of Baghdad. M. Michaux brought the object back with him to Paris, and in 1801 the object entered into the collections of the Bibliotheque Nationale. Thus did the Caillou Michaux, the first significant monument and inscription from ancient Mesopotamia, come to the attention of the modern world.
In the final decade of the nineteenth century, a number of inscribed and sculpted stone objects ex- hibiting clear physical and textual similarities to the Caillou Michaux were discovered by French and British expeditions to Mesopotamia. Shortly after the objects made their westward way into thecollections of the Louvre and the British Museum, their inscriptions and reliefs appeared in the series Mission de la Delegation en Perse (MDP) and in L.W. King’s Babylonian Boundary Stones and Memorial Tablets in the British Museum (BBSt).
Many of the objects commemorate a grant of agricultural land from the king to an individual, and their inscriptions open with a description of the land according to its borders. The prominence of these land descriptions and the occurrence of the Akkadian word kudurru “boundary” in the in- scriptions led to the classification of the texts as “royal” or “feudal” land grants, and it was assumed that in antiquity the objects themselves stood upon the boundaries of granted land. Thus, at the beginning of the twentieth century, early in the his- tory of Assyriology, the objects entered into the Assyriological lexicon as kudurrus, English “boundary stones,” German “Grenzsteine.”
Classification plays a primary role in any re- search, and since the time of their publication, the objects have been almost uniformly accepted as boundary stones marking the limits of royal land grants. Yet there are features of the artifacts that cannot be reconciled with their alleged function as boundary markers. For example: one inscrip- tion relates that it is a copy of a text destroyed when a wall collapsed upon it. This statement clearly points to an architectural rather than an agricultural provenance. Five initial observations can be marshaled against the designation kudurru “boundary marker” for the objects:
1. While the Akkadian word kudurru does mean “boundary,” the inscriptions do not designate the objects with the word kudurru. Rather, the inscriptions of the objects themselves refer to the objects to as (na›)narû, the regular Akkadian term for “(stone) stele” or “(stone) monu- ment.”
2. Some of the inscriptions refer to the objects having been erected “in the presence of the gods.” Combined with the passage cited above indicating architectural provenance, these ref- erences suggest that the original setting of the objects had been within temples.
3. Approximately one-third of the objects was found in Susa, capital of ancient Elam, where they had been taken in the aftermath of Elamite raids into Babylonia. It is inconceivable that the Elamite soldiers went scavenging in the fields to pick up boundary markers and carry them home. Moreover, the objects were set up in the main Elamite temple, alongside more spectacu- lar monuments seized in Babylonia. Archaeo- logical and epigraphical evidence indicates that these other trophy objects—such as the Law Stele of Hammurabi and the Stele of Naram-Sin—were removed from Babylonian temples. The original Babylonian setting for the objects under discussion should be sought alongside these other artifacts taken from the temples of Babylonia.
4. Most of the objects have a highly polished, visually appealing surface. The objects do not have the appearance of stones left outside in the elements.
5. Recent systematic excavations, as well as re- interpretations of earlier, less systematic exca- vations, have indicated that find spots for some of these objects lie within the architectural re- mains of ancient temples.
In short, these objects were not boundary markers. The Babylonians knew them by the term narû, “(stone) monument,” the same term they used to designate their royal monuments. In order to de- termine the true function of the narûs under discussion, we need to reject their classification as boundary markers and consider the objects anew.
Kathryn E. Slanski / Tel Aviv University
Languages / scripts used: English, French, German, Russian, Ancient Greek, Latin, Spanish, Sumerian/Akkadian, Proto-Elamite
Apokrifna Realnost, Big OM of Tibet, BM, University of Pennsylvania Museum, The Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary Project, CDLI, archive.org