Return to Inheritance Documents

Old Assyrian



The archives excavated in the houses of Kaneš lower town belong mainly to Assyrian merchants settled there for business purposes during the 19th and 18th centuries BCE. This documentation contains relatively few contracts pertaining to family law, presumably because these were kept in Aššur. However, several wills have been found in Kaneš, suggesting the absence of specific rules of inheritance.


Format and content

Assyrians drew up wills (šīmtam šiāmum) that could demonstrate their concern for protecting the financial interests of all the women in their families. The widow’s support was provided for, either by a share in the estate or by the children. The consecrated daughter was usually among the first to receive a share. Certain widows deemed it worthwhile to draw up their own wills to distribute their belongings as they wanted.

In his will, Agūa provided in the first instance for his wife, who received his assets and the use of the house she was living in at Aššur, next his daughter, who inherited gold, silver, and a servant. By constituting his wife “father and mother” (abat u ummat) over the money that she received, Agūa granted her full ownership. She could use her money as she wished, on the condition that it remained in the family so that, at her death, the eldest son would inherit it, along with the family home in Aššur (55).

indicate the absence of specific rules of inheritance; the same is true of the Assyrian archives at Kaniš. Drawing up of wills with a view to providing for inheritance by women shows clearly that women enjoyed important socio-economic status, and the numerous letters found at Kaniš sent to and by women serve to reinforce this impression


Overview of corpus

The archives of Kaneš have yielded several dozens of documents concerning inheritance among which several last wills. Most of these texts date to the 19th century BCE.


Sample Text

Kt o/k 196   Last will, Kt o/k 196. Photos published by Kulakoğlu & Kangal 2010, no. 443-444, p. 338-339.©Kültepe Archaeological Mission.

Ob. 1 (seal A)  
2 kišib I-dí-Sú-en6 Sealed by Iddin-Suen,
3 dumu Puzur4-Ištar son of Puzur-Ištar,
4 kišib A-šùr-na-da sealed by Aššur-nādā,
5 dumu Pu<zur4>-A-na son of Puzur-Ana,
6 (seal B)  
7 kišib A-pí-il5-ke-en6 sealed by Apil-kēn,
8 [dumu Ì]-lí-dan [son of I]lī-dān,
9 [kišib I-ku-pì-a dumu PN] [sealed by Ikuppia, son of PN],
10 (seal B)  
lo.e. 11 kišib Sà-li-a dumu Ú-ṣú-ur-[x-x] sealed by Salia, son of Uṣur-[x-x].
rev. 12 (seal C)  
13 (seal D)  
14 ša ší-ma-at A-gu-a (Text) concerning the will of Agūa,
15 dumu Šu-A-nim son of Šū-Anum.
16 (seal D)  
17 (seal D)  
u.e. 18 (seal F)  
l.e. 19 (seal F)  
r.e. 20 (seal E)  
Ob. 1 A-gu-a : ší-im-tù-šu Agūa, his will,
2 i-ší-ma : bé-tum ša A-limki he drew up as follows. The house in Aššur
3 ša a-ší-ti-a : i-na kù-babbar is the property of my wife. The silver
4 qá-dì : me-er-e-a-ma with my children
5 ta-zu-az i-na kù-babbar she shall share. Over the silver
6 zi-ti-ša : a-ba-at ù um-ma-/at (that is) her inheritance share, she is father and mother
7 bé-tù-um ù kù-babbar wa-/ar-kà-/sà After her (death), the house and silver
8 ù mì-ma ti-šu-ú and everything that she owns,
9 ša Šu-Be-lim bé-tù-um is the property of Šū-Bēlum. The house
10 ša Kà-ni-iš : ša Šu-Be-lim in Kaniš is the property of Šū-Bēlum.
11 um-me-a-ni : me-er-ú-a My investors, my sons
12 e-pu-lu-ma i-na kù-babbar shall pay back, and of the silver
13 ša i-a-ti : i-šé-ta-ni which remains belonging to me,
14 ma-na kù-gi 1 ma-na ⅓ mina of gold, 1 mina
15 kù-babbar ù am-tám Áb-ša-lim of silver as well as a female slave, Ab-šalim
16 tù-ša-ra-ma : ta-lá-qé shall be the first to take.
  ù i-na ší-ta-tim Then, from what remains,
  me-er-ú-a my sons
lo.e. 19 ša bé-ta-tim who houses
20 lá il5-qé-ú-ni 4 gú-ta did not receive, 4 talents
rev. 21 urudu ki-ma bé-ta-tí-šu-/nu of copper instead of their (share of) real estate
22 i-lá-qé-ú : i-na shall each take. Of
23 ší-tí kù-babbar am-tim wa-ar-dim the remaining silver and male and female slaves,
24 a-ší-tí Šu-Be-lim ù me-er-ú-a my wife, Šū-Bēlum and my sons
25 mu-ta mu-ta-ma in equal parts
26 i-zu-zu : ša-wi-sú ša A-šùr-/i-dí shall share.The šawītum-concubine of Aššur-idī
27 wa-šu!-ra-sú-um šu-ma kù-babbar is ceded to him. In the case there is no more silver
28 i-a-ti : mì-ma ú-la iš-té-/tám of mine, and
29 4!(2*) gú-ta urudu 4 talents of copper
30 ša bé-ta-ti-šu-nu instead of their (share) of real estate,
31 me-er-ú-a : ú-lá i-lá-qé-/ú my sons will not be able to each take,
32 2 ma-na kù-babbar 2 minas of silver,
33 Puzur4-Ištar ú-wa-da! Puzur-Ištar shall designate
34 2 ma-na kù-babbar Ú-ṣú-ur-/ša-A-šùr 2 minas of silver Uṣur-ša-Aššur
35 ú-ta-ar shall give back.
36 e-li-a-tù-šu-nu* their elītum-share
37 a-pu-a-ti-šu-nu-ma at their discretion
u.e. 38 i-ta-pu-lu they shall mutually balance
39 A-bi-ì-lí šu-ma 10 ma-na If Abi-ilī, 10 minas
40 kù-babbar i-ša-qal of silver pays,
l.e. 41 qá-dì : a-hi-šu-ma : i-zu-az šu-ma 10 ma-na he shall take a share together with his brothers, (but) if, 10 minas
42 kù-babbar lá iš-qúl : na-sí-ih ù 10 ma-na-ta of silver he does not pay, then he shall be disinherited and 10 minas
43 kù-babbar a-na a-he-šu : i-na-pá-al igi I-dí-Sú-en6 of silver to each of his brothers he shall have to compensate. In the presence of Iddin-Suen,
44 igi A-šùr-na-da igi A-pí-il5-ke-<en> igi I-ku-pì-a of Aššur-nādā, of Apil-kēn, of Ikuppia,
45 igi Sà-li-a of Salia.

This text is published by Albayrak 2000, studied within its context by Michel 2000 and Michel to appear no. 54. It commented by Veenhof 2012, 183-184
Albayrak İ. 20002. Ein neues altassyrisches Testament aus Kültepe,
Archivum Anatolicum 4, p. 17-27. Hecker K. 2004. Altassyrische Texte, in B. Janowski & G. Wilhelm (eds.), Texte zum Rechts- und Wirtschaftsleben, TUAT Neue Folge Bd. 1, Tübingen, p. 43-57 Michel C. 1997. Les enfants des marchands de Kaniš, in B. Lion, C. Michel & P. Villard (ed.), Enfance et éducation au Proche-Orient ancien, Actes de la table ronde, Nanterre, Décembre 1997, Ktèma 22, p. 91-108. Michel C. 2000.   À propos d'un testament paléo-assyrien: une femme ‘père et mère’ des capitaux, Revue d’Assyriologie et d’Archéologie orientale 94, p. 1-10 Michel C. To appear. Women from Aššur and Kaniš according to the private archives of the Assyrian merchants at beginning of the IInd millennium B.C., Writings from the Ancient World, SBL, Baltimore. Veenhof K. R. 1997. Old Assyrian and Ancient Anatolian Evidence for the Care of the Elderly, in M. Stol et S.P. Vleming (eds.), The Care of the Elderly in the Ancien Near East, Leiden, p. 119-160. Veenhof K. R. 2008. The death and Burial of Ishtar-Lamassi in karum Kanish, in R. J. van der Spek (ed.), Studies in Ancient Near Eastern World View and Society Presented to Marten Stol on the Occasion of his 65th Birthday, 10 November 2005, and his retirement from the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, p. 97-119. Veenhof K. R. 2012. Last Wills and Inheritance of Old Assyrian Traders with Four Records from the Archive of Elamma. In K. Abraham and J. Fleishman (eds.), Family Cohesion in the Bible and the Ancient Near East. Studies in Honour of Aaron Skaist on the Occasion of his 76th Birthday, Bethesda, p. 169-201. von Soden W. 1976. Ein altassyrisches Testament, WO 8 [1976], p. 211-217. Wilcke C. 1976. Assyrische Testamente, ZA 66, p. 196-233.   Page prepared By Cécile Michel

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