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Old Assyrian Marriage Documents




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 is mostly concerned with business matters and contains relatively few contracts pertaining to family law, including marriage contracts.

Most of the marriages contracted between Assyrians must have taken place at Aššur, where one may suppose that the contracts were kept. Marriage contracts discovered at Kaneš involve marriages between Assyrians, or between Assyrians and Anatolians. They reflect atypical circumstances or contain special clauses: they provide for financial arrangements in case of divorce or stipulate steps to be taken in case of no offspring. Thus, marriage did not regularly entail drawing up a written document, but only agreements providing for specific terms were set down on tablets.


Overview of corpus

The archives of Kaneš have yielded about forty marriage contracts or legal documents concerned with divorce, as well as about ten other legal records touching on these subjects. The majority of the texts date to the 19th century BCE, as well as a handful of later documents (18th century BCE).


Format and content

The written agreement was made between the father or the parents of the young woman and the young man, or sometimes the family of the latter. According to the terminology, the girl was given (tadānum) in marriage by her family, or in some cases, the man took her (ahāzum) as wife. The exchange of gifts is usually not mentioned in the contracts. The bride gift paid by the groom to his in-laws was called šīmum, ‘price’; it was paid over at the occasion of the wedding. The husband could also make a gift to his wife (iddinū). Some marriage contracts include a penalty in case of divorce.

Sample Text

Kt v/k 147
Marriage contract, Kt v/k 147. Photo: C. Michel. ©Kültepe Archaeological Mission.

Ob. 1 (seal A)  
2 kišib Nu-ú-nu dumu E-ki-a Sealed by Nūnu, son of Ekia,
3 kišib [A-l]á-hi-im kišib A-ta sealed by Ali-ahum, sealed by Ata,
4 ki[šib T]ù-tù-pì-a-lá kišib sealed by Tutupiala, sealed by
5 A-šùr-gal dumu A-ta-tí-a Aššur-rabi, son of Atatia,
6 kišib Ga-lu-a dumu A-kà-áb-ší sealed by Galua, son of Akabši.
7 (seal B)  
8 (seal B) Ga-lu-a dumu [A-k]à-[á]b-ší Galua, son of Akabši,
lo.e. 9 (seal B)  
10 Ta-am-na-ni-kà dumu-munus Tamnanika, daughter of
rev. 11 (seal C)  
12 Šu-be-lim e-hu-uz : šu-ma Šū-Bēlum, he married. If
13 Ga-lu-a : e-zi-ib-ší Galua divorces her,
14 2 ma-na kù-babbar : i-ša-qal he shall pay 2 minas of silver.
15 lam-nì-iš : ú-lá e-zi-ib-ší – he shall not leave her badly –,
16 ù šu-ma : Ta-am-na-ni-kà and if Tamnanika
17 te-zi-ib-šu! (ŠÍ) divorces him
18 (seal D)  
19 2 ma-na kù-babbar 2 minas of silver
u.e. 20 (seal A)  
21 ta-ša-[qal] she shall pay
le.e. 22 (seal D)  
r.e. 23 (seal C)  
Ob. 1 Ga-lu-a dumu A-kà-áb-ší Galua, son of Akabši,
2 Ta-am-na-ni-kà dumu-munus Tamnanika, daughter of
3 Šu-be-lim : e-hu-uz Šū-Bēlum, he married.
4 šu-ma : Ga-lu-a : e-zi-ib-/ší If Galua divorces her,
5 2 ma-na kù-babbar 2 minas of silver
6 i-ša-qal : ù šu-ma he shall pay, and if
7 Ta-am-na-ni-kà Tamnanika
8 te-zi-ib-šu! (ŠÍ) divorces him,
9 2 ma-na kù-babbar 2 minas of silver
10 ta-ša-qal she shall pay.
rev. 11 igi Nu-ú-nu : igi In the presence of Nūnu, of
12 A-ta : igi A-šùr-gal Ata, of Aššur-rabi,
13 igi A-la-hi-im lam-ni-ìš of Ali-ahum. Badly
14 ú-lá e-pá-ší he shall not treat her

This text is published by Donbaz 2003. It is edited and photos are published by Michel 2010b. It is also edited by Kienast 2015, no. 10 and Michel to appear no. 17.

A specific arrangement for Assyrian merchants

Marriage was normally monogamous in the ancient Near East. However, for couples that remained childless, only infertility in the woman was envisaged: thus Assyrians could take a second woman in order to produce children.

A specific arrangement for the Assyrian merchants who were absent from Aššur for long periods, permitted them to take a second wife in Anatolia. This second marriage was possible only by observing two fundamental rules: an Assyrian merchant could not have two wives of the same status (aššutum, main wife, amtum, secondary wife) and he could not have two wives in the same place (Aššur, Anatolia). Both Assyrian and Anatolian women could be aššutum or amtum and letters seem to give the same rights to both wives. The merchant could never live with his both wives simultaneously.  These peculiar circumstances obliged married women to run their households alone during certain periods of their lives. The Assyrian wife lived at Aššur and remained there, together with her younger children, during her husband’s career in Anatolia, whereas the Anatolian wife lived with her husband but found herself alone when he retired and moved back to Aššur.

Sample Text

Kt 94/k 149

Ob.1. A-šùr-ma-lik Aššur-malik
2 Sú-ùh-kà-na Suhkana,
3 dumu-munus Ir-ma-a-šùr daughter of Irma-Aššur,
4 e-hu-uz married.
5 a-šar A-šùr-ma-lik Wherever Aššur-malik
6 i-lu-ku : iš-tí-šu goes, with him
7 i-ra-dí-ší he shall take her.
8 ša-ni-tám another (woman)
9 i-Kà-ni-iš in Kaniš
10 ú-lá e-[ha]-az-/ma he shall not marry, and
lo.e. 11 i-na ša-ha-tí-ša at her side
rev. 12 ú-lá ú-šé-ša-áb he shall not install (another one).
13 lu me-er-at a woman from
14 A-šùr : lu me-er-at Aššur or a woman from
15 ma-tim : ú-lá e-ha-a[z] Anatolia, he shall not marry.
16 šu-ma : e-ta-ha-az If he marries one, then
17 5 ma-na kù-babbar 5 minas of silver
18 A-šùr-ma-lik Aššur-malik
19 a-na Sú-ùh-kà-na to Suhkana
20 i-ša-qál he shall pay.
21 i-na A-limki In the City
u.e. 22 A-šùr : dumu-munus Da-da of Aššur, the daughter of Dada
23 e-ha-az he shall marry.
le.e. 24 igi A-lá-hi-im In the presence of Ali-ahum,
25 igi Ú-zu-a of Uzua.

The marriage with Suhkana takes place in Anatolia, but the groom is already bound by a marriage promise to the daughter of Dada in Aššur. Ultimately, he will have two wives. He is forbidded to marry another woman in Anatolia.

This text is published by Michel and Garelli 1996, p. 298-299 (Kt 94/k 149) and Michel (to appear), no. 25. The envelope is edited by Kienast 2015, no. 7.




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Veenhof 1997. Two Marriage Documents from Kültepe, Emin Bilgiç anı kitabı, ArAn 3, p. 357-381.


Page prepared by Cécile Michel

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