RS 1957.1 – From Where Did It Come?

There are likely no more than six people in the world that give a hoot about the topic of this post and of those only half will find the following abnormally interesting. But I am among that half, so here goes.

RS 1957.1 Reverse with seal

RS 1957.1 Reverse
Schøyen Collection Photo

I’ve mentioned the Akkadian tablet RS 1957.1 before. These days it’s sometimes referred to by its Schøyen Collection catalogue number, MS 1955. But I will always think of it as part of the Claremont Ras Shamra collection. (A pause please while I suppress a vile outbreak of involuntary swearing . . . . Now that’s better, but this understandable affliction could return at any time.) The tablet is a decree from Initeššub, king of Carchemish concerning Amistamru, king of Ugarit’s divorce of Piddu, the daughter of Benešena, king of the Amurru. But it is not the only tablet on this issue. Three other tablets address the issue rather directly: RS 17.159 (PRU IV 126), RS 17.396 (PRU IV, 127), and RS 17.348 (PRU IV, 128). Seven additional tablets relate in one way or another to Amistamru and his queen and two others may well inform the situation.
While there is no doubt that RS 1957.1 is from Ugarit its provenance beyond that is unknown. According to the official story it was illegally excavated in 1957 and appeared on the antiquities market in 1969 or perhaps a little before. See Fisher, 7. But can we nail its provenance down a little closer? Wilfred van Soldt collected the find spots of all (most?) of the tablets from Ugarit in his somewhat hard to get hold of but still important if somewhat out of date Studies in the Akkadian of Ugarit. Here are find spots of RS 17.159, RS 17.396 and RS 17.348. After the tablet’s excavation number and PRU page reference is the numeric point reference of the find spot, then comes the depth in meters and the find location in terms of its location among the various architectural features of the Royal Palace at Ugarit. Finally, in parentheses, I give the page in van Soldt from which I got this information
RS 17.159 (PRU IV, 126) 1006, 0.55 Room 68 (97)
RS 17.396 (PRU IV, 127) 1201, 3.00 Room 68 (99)
RS 17.348 (PRU IV, 128) 1238, 2.05 Room 69 (101)
Tablets found in Rooms 68 and 69 are associated with the South Archive. So are those from Court V. van Soldt subdivides Court V into three regions. There is no surprise here. With the exception of two tablets, all the tablets published by Nougayrol in PRU IV are from the South Archive. What van Soldt adds to Nougayrol’s listing, 272-276, are the associated architectural features. The current thinking is that tablets scattered in considerable number in these locations came from a second story collapse. Here are the find data for the seven tablets that I described as relating to the concerns of RS 1975.1, RS 17.159, RS 17.396, and RS 17.348.
RS 17.116 (PRU IV, 132) (103) 879, 2.10 Court V-1
RS 16.270 (PRU IV, 134) (82) 444, 068 Court IV/VI
RS 17.365+18.06 (PRU IV, 137) (105) 1206, 1.55 Court V-2; join PC/PS 1253, 0.90
RS 17.318+17.349A (PRU IV, 144) (98) 1202, 3.40(?) 91, 1.80 Room 68; join 1191, 1.8
RS 17.372A+360A (PRU IV, 139) (101) 1208, 2.20 Room 69; join 1207, 3.4 Room 68
RS 17.450A (PRU IV, 144) (101) 1029, 0.50 Room 69.
RS 17.82 (PRU IV, 147) (), 799, 16 (from Nougayrol, 272), ?
Note that five of these tablets come either from Rooms 68 or 69 or from Court V. In other words, they come from the South Archive. No surprise. RS 16.270 is an anomaly, one of the two exceptions in PRU IV. It comes from the Court IV/VI complex, in other words from the Central Archive. I didn’t know that I would be worrying about this exact problem, so I failed to record van Soldt’s summary of RS 17.82. If this ever becomes more than a blog post I will need to make sure I recover its information. But from PRU IV I am quite sure that it comes from the South Archive even if I’m not exactly sure where it was found. O yeah, the other two tablets that I mentioned above, RS 17.228 (PRU IV, 141) and RS 17.365 (PRU IV, 137), are also from the South Archive, both found in Room 68 to be specific.
Notice that the two fragments of the joined tablet RS 17.372A+360A are associated with different rooms. However, there can be no doubt that they were together (as a single tablet) at one time and likely became broken and separated during the collapse that brought them to the places Schaeffer found them. The fragments of RS 17.318+17.349A were found in the same room, Room 68. It’s not exactly clear where RS 18.06, the join of RS 17.365+18.06, came from. I don’t have a reference handy so I can’t identify point 1253. I will need to find it should this blog post develop into more than a blog post. PC/PS covers the whole of the Royal Palace and the South Palace (the house of Yabninu) complex. Perhaps we should think of the plaza, directly south of area of the Royal Palace that housed the South Archive. It separates the Royal Palace from the South Palace. Tablets were found in this plaza area. In any case, Nougayrol, 276, associates RS 18.06 with the South Archive.
Does any of this inform us concerning the provenance RS 1957.1? Well, it depends on what one means by “inform” and perhaps what one means by “provenance. It does not bring certainty. But I do think it does bring a relatively high probability to part of the issue; early in its sojourn RS 1957.1 was very likely part in the South Archive. With somewhat less probability, I think it is fair to say that it was associated with those tablets recovered form Rooms 68 and 69 in the Royal Palace of Ugarit.

Fisher, Loren R., ed., The Claremont Ras Shamra Tablets (Analecta Orientalia 48; Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1971)
Nougayrol, Jean, Textes Accadiens des Archives Sud, Le Palais Royal d’Ugarit IV (PRU IV; Claude Schaeffer, ed; Mission de Ras Shamra, IX; Paris: Kinchsieck, 1956)
van Soldt, Wilfred, Studies in the Akkadian of Ugarit (Alter Orient und Altes Testament, 40; Neukirchener Verlag 1991).