Aspects of Ancient Near Eastern calendars : a study of month names from southern Mesopotamia, Ebla and Mari

Abstract :

The objective of this work was to investigate calendars from three different areas of the Ancient Near East. The month names of Up and surrounding cities were investigated as a typology of the south Mesopotamian society. Month names of Ebla represented the northern Syrian area and the month names of Mari were investigated to represent the area of north-western Mesopotamia. The three areas were first placed within their respective historical contexts. It was found that the chronology and events of ancient history of the Near East provided the structure for this investigation. Investigation of month names from the three areas supplied the following results: In the calendars of the political centres of southern Mesopotamia, namely Up and Lagas, more festively named months appeared than in the religious centre of this area, namely Nippur. This is indicative of the strong influence of the temple in this area. Between the years 1696 and 1911 no less than four month names were suggested by the early cuneiformists as the initial month of the year. This uncertainty was due to the volume of Up 111 texts. Not a single text was found that could be compared to the genre of our modern “almanac”. All calendars or month names were intertwined or dispersed in ration lists, contracts or economic texts and had to be reconstructed. In sharp contrast to southern Mesopotamia, the month names in northern Syria were found to be closely connected to certain agricultural activities pertaining to the typical farming year of the Ancient Near East. The new calendar of Ebla contains a large proportion of Elamite and Hurrian influences. The Neo-Sumerian influence is apparent in the new calendar which can be seen in the use of the month name SE.GUR, KU, at Ebla. These changes in the month names between the old and new calendar are indicative of a strong south-eastern political and cultural influx in north-western Syria during the days of Ibbi-Sipis. The calendars of Mari show a resemblance to other calendars of the Ancient Near East which are indicative of cultural diffusion. In the Mari calendars Babylonian affinities, Kassite Neo-Sumerian affinities. Old Assyrian affinities as well as the Up 111 period and Akkadian affinities of the Diyala region can be detected. As the year consists of at the most thirteen month names, not all the month names in the texts of Mari could belong to the Mari calendar. It was found that the political shifts in power base between the different cultures also created a change in the calendars expected or desired. In this investigation the five historical periods for Mari were taken as a paradigm for allocating the month names. In this sense the title “five calendars of Mari” denotes not only forces from within Mare, but also from outside. Within the wide spectrum of the importance of time in the Ancient Near East, month names serve as a mirror of ancient society, which, like pottery and other artifacts, can assist in the identification of an archaeological site’s chronological, cultural, linguistic, religious, political and economic influences.



Author Van Wyk KJ
Date Accessioned 2016-09-22T08:37:20Z
Date Available 2016-09-22T08:37:20Z
Date Created 1988
Identifier URL 1989
Language English
Subject Semitic language
Subject 2 Semitic language
Alternative Title
Degree Type Masters degree
Degree Description  MA