An Update from John Nielsen (2005 US TAARII Fellow)

With the generous support of a TAARII Fellowship, I spent the autumn of 2005 copying and collating early Neo-Babylonian legal and administrative tablets in British collections. The vast majority of the tablets were housed in the British Museum, but I also spent time looking at tablets in the Ashmolean’s collection in Oxford and traveled to Edinburgh and Truro, Cornwall, to study additional tablets. The tablets dated from the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. and provided invaluable information about the social and economic history of Babylonia at a time when the Neo-Assyrian Empire was the dominant power in the Near East.

My primary interest was in tracing the activities of the urban elites in Babylonian society who controlled temple and civic offices as well as land. Many members of this class had begun using ancestral or occupational names as family names at this time and a corresponding interest of mine was the emergence of these family names. This research was critical to the completion of my dissertation, “Sons and Descendants: A Social History of Kin Groups and Family Names in the Early Neo-Babylonian Period, 747–626 B.C.,” which I then modified for publication in the Brill series Culture and History of the Ancient Near East.

My work reading and copying tablets was also essential for two of my articles (“Adbi’ilu: An Arab at Babylon [BM 78912]” in Antiguo Oriente 7 [2009]: 199–205, and “Three Early-Neo-Babylonian Tablets belonging to Bel-etir of the Misiraya Kin Group” in JCS 62 [2010]: 97–106) and will be featured in an article I’m currently working on that will feature the seven-tablet archive of a man named Nadinu and his son Labashi at Dilbat.