Monday, January 16, 2023

State, Province, and Temple in Kassite Nippur: A Case Study of the Livestock Economy of the EREŠ.DINGIR Priestesses

Scholarship on Babylonian administration during the Kassite period (ca. 1595–1155 BCE) has tended to paint the provincial government under the governor of Nippur (šandabakku) as a highly centralized one that exerted significant political, economic, and religious control over the province at large, as well as the city’s temples. In this dissertation, I investigate the relationship between Nippur’s provincial administration and the city’s temple households through a case study of the economic transactions recorded between the šandabakku and a pair of EREŠ.DINGIR priestesses. The documents in question include those pertaining to the care and management of institutional livestock, a topic that has been historically understudied for the Kassite period. Although scholars have interpreted some of the documents as evidence of the governor’s authority over the use and disposal of temple property, I argue that such a reconstruction is founded on uncritical assumptions, misreadings, and misinterpretations of the texts, which can be traced back to a feudal model of the Kassite state proposed by Kemal Balkan in the 1940s. By reanalyzing and synthesizing these texts, I propose instead that the EREŠ.DINGIR household functioned as a distinct and semi-autonomous economic entity rather than a mere arm of the provincial administration. Furthermore, the evidence I consider also brings into question the overarching extent of economic centralization as it pertains to the province of Nippur.


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