The Nuzi texts are ancient documents found during an excavation of Nuzi, an ancient Mesopotamian city southwest of Kirkuk in modern Al Ta'amim Governorate of Iraq, located near the Tigris river. The site consists of one medium-sized multiperiod tell and two small single period mounds. The texts are mainly legal and business documents. They have also been viewed as evidence for the age and veracity of certain parts of the Old Testament, especially of the Patriarchal age, but this is no longer widely accepted.
Archeological site and tablets
Tablets from the site began appearing back as far as 1896, but the first serious archaeological efforts only began in 1925 after Gertrude Bell noticed tablets appearing in the markets of Baghdad. The dig was mainly worked by Edward Chiera, Robert Pfeiffer, and Richard Starr under the auspices of the Iraq Museum and the Baghdad School of the American Schools of Oriental Research and later the Harvard University and Fogg Art Museum. Excavations continued through 1931. The site has 15 occupation levels. The hundreds of tablets and other finds recovered were published in a series of volumes. More finds continue to be published to this day.
To date, around 5000 tablets are known, mostly held at the Oriental Institute, the Harvard Semitic Museum and the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. Many are routine legal and business documents and about one quarter concern the business transactions of a single family. The vast majority of finds are from the Hurrian period during the second millennium BC with the remainder dating back to the town's founding during the Akkadian Empire. An archive contemporary to the Hurrian archive at Nuzi has been excavated from the "Green Palace" at the site of Tell al-Fakhar, 35 kilometres (22 mi) southwest of Nuzi. These tablets have been described as showing parallels between the Bible and Hurrian culture such as making a slave an heir and using a surrogate for a barren wife. Writing in The Oxford History of the Biblical World Wayne T. Pitard says "The appearance of Late Bronze Age parallels to certain marriage, inheritance, and family religious customs in Genesis cannot be used as evidence that such stories preserve ancient traditions of the second millennium, since most of these customs continued into the first millennium BCE when the Genesis narratives were written down. So the Nuzi texts have a limited, largely illustrative function."
Notes and references
- Kenton L Sparks (2016). "The ancient Near Eastern context". In Chapman, Steven B; Sweeney, Marvin A. (eds.). The Cambridge Companion to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521883207.
Scholars once believed that customs reflected in Nuzi's fifteenth- and fourteenth-century Akkadian texts were similar to, and thus confirmed, the antiquity of the patriarchal stories in Genesis, but today this is widely doubted; the Nuzi texts provide only general cultural background for our understanding of ancient Israel.
- The Joint Expedition of Harvard University and the Baghdad School at Yargon Tepa Near Kirkuk, David G. Lyon, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No 30, 1928
- Edward Chiera, Joint Expedition with the Iraq Museum at Nuzi. Mixed Texts., University of Pennsylvania Press, 1934
- Nuzi; report on the excavation at Yorgan Tepa near Kirkuk, Iraq, conducted by Harvard University in conjunction with the American Schools of Oriental Research and the University museum of Philadelphia, 1927-1931, Richard F. S. Starr, Harvard University Press, 1937 and 1939, 2 volumes ISBN 0-674-62900-0
- Joint Expedition With the Iraq Museum at Nuzi VIII: The Remaining Major Texts in the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (Studies on the Civilization and Culture of Nuzi and the Hurrians, V. 14), M. P. Maidman, David I. Owen, Gernot Wilhelm, Mathaf Al-Iraqi, University of Chicago Oriental Institute, CDL Press, 2003, ISBN 1-883053-80-3
- The Teip-tilla Family of Nuzi: A Genealogical Reconstruction, Maynard Paul Maidman, Journal of Cuneiform Studies, Vol. 28, No. 3, 1976
- al-Khalesi, Y.M. (1970). "Tell al-Fakhar. Report on the First Season's Excavations". Sumer. 26: 109–126. ISSN 0081-9271.
- Wayne T. Pitard. "Before Israel". In Coogan, Michael David (ed.). The Oxford History of the Biblical World. Oxford University Press. p. 52. ISBN 978-0195139372. Retrieved 1 March 2017.