February 2, 2013

I May Have Discovered Something

Not much but something. Not certain but may have.

I’ll explain the issue in this post and then explain several possible solutions, including mine, in a follow-up post.

The Akkadian tablet RS 8.208 from Ugarit contains an edict in which Gilben, the overseer of the queen’s estate, releases Eleyawe, his servant, to marry Buriyanu. While dependent on Thureau-Dangin, 253-4, Nougayrol, 110-11, and Finkelstein, 546, I translate the tablet as follows:

[RS 8.208:6 (F. Thureau-Dangin, “Trois Contrats de Ras-Shamra,” Syria (xviii) 18:3, 245-255, here 248, 252-255; PRU 3, 110–11)]

(1) As of [th]is day,
     before witnesses,
     Gilben, overseer of the queen’s estate,
     releases
(5) Eleyawe
     his servant, in/from (ina) THE SUBJECT OF THIS SERIES,
     repeating(?), “I have poured out
     oil on her head.
     and freed her
(10) just as the [Shap]shi is free.”
     So, with regard to me, she is fr[ee]
     forever.
     Further, Buriyanu, a man of the steppe (namū”,
     has taken her as his wife,
(15) and 20 (shekels) of silver
     Buriyanu, her husband, has given
     into the hands of Gilben.
     Before Sindalu
(20) Before Tubbiynu
     Before Zaluwanu
     Before Šubanmu
{the seal impression of Gilben}
     If tomorrow or the following day, Buriyanu
     does not approach (his marriage) with [Eliyawe – ]

Yes, the text ends without specifying the consequence(s) of not consummating the marriage within two days. In fact, Thureau-Dangin, 254, tells us that this penalty clause is written in small characters. A fact reflected in his autograph of the tablet.

There are several problems with this text that may cause you to quibble about this or that in my translation but here I want to focus on line 6 and the conditions from which Eliyawe was freed to marry Buriyanu. The line reads in Thureau-Dangin’s, 248 autograph,

RS 8.208:6

The first part of the line is easy, GEMÉ-šu i-na (amatšu[ssu] ina), “his (Gilben’s) servant in/from . . .” but after that the trouble starts. The next sign is certainly SAL, in this case most likely serving as a feminine determinative; then comes either É or KID. The finally sign is rather clearly a KAR. On the basis of his transliteration, it is clear that Thureau-Dangin saw an É. But his autograph is ambiguous. It could be either an É sign or a KID sign. Scholars have read it both ways. É and KID are different signs that in some periods and some hands look very similar. Neither sign appears elsewhere on this tablet so there is no basis for internal comparison.

So which is it, É or KID? And in any either case, what do the last three signs on this line mean? If we read it as an É, the text may indicate that Eliyawe was a woman without a family or a member of the harem. If we read it as a KID, then she may have been a prostitute or of the social class of prostitutes. Various scholars have proposed each of these options. In my next post I’ll get into the details and my own understanding of the ideogram complex.

References:

Nougayrol, Jean, “Textes Accadiens et Hourrites des Archives est, ouest et Centrales,” Claude Schaeffer ed., Le Palais Royal d’Ugarit (PRU), III (Mission de Ras Shamra, VI ; Paris : Imprimerie Nationale, 1995) 110-11.

Finkelstein, J. J., “Documents from the Practice of Law,” in James R. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (3rd edition, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), 543-547

Thureau-Dangin, F., “Trois Contrats de Ras-Shamra,” Syria, 18:3 (1937), 245-255

Posted by Duane Smith at February 2, 2013 10:31 AM | Read more on Ugarit |

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