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Hamȃ, Yabȃ - Banītu, and Ataliya

The name of Hamȃ, queen of Shalmaneser IV (782-773), is only known from her seal, which was found in the Tomb III of Mulissu-mukannišat-Ninua (Svärd 2012: 105).

(Fig.11, Lamia al-Gailani Werr, “Nimrud Seals”, New Light on Nimrud Proceedings of the Nimrud Conference 11 th- 13 th March 2002, (Eds.) Werr, British Museum, London 2008, p.156)

ša2 fha-ma-a MI2.E2.GAL ša2 mšul-man-MAŠ MAN KUR AŠ kal!-lat mU-ERIN2.DAH:

Belonging to Hamȃ, queen of Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, daughter-in-law of Adad-nerari” (Al-Rawi 2008: 136; Macgregor 2012: 76).

There is no further archeological or textual evidence about her.

In the Northwest Palace of Nimrud, there were recovered graves and objects of the queens Yabȃ (Tiglath-Pileser III), Banītu (Shalmaneser V) and Ataliya (Sargon II) in Tomb II (Damerji 2008: 82; Gansell 2012: 19; Karlson 2013: 57). The skeletons of Yabȃ (Fig.12) and Atalia (Fig.13) were found in the same sarcophagus (Teppo 2005: 36; Damerji 2008: 82. For the figures see Michael Müller Karpe-Manfred Kunter-Michael Schultz, “Results of the Palaeopathological Investigations on the Royal Skeletons from Nimrud”, New Light on Nimrud Proceedings of the Nimrud Conference 11 th- 13 th March 2002, (Eds.) Werr, British Museum, London 2008, p.143-144).

Paleopathological work on the skeletons indicates that both women died at approximately the same age, that of 30 to 35. But they were not buried at the same time, as there were 20 to 50 years between the interments (Karpe-Kunter-Schultz 2008:142-143; Macgregor 2012: 79). It must have been opened again for a second funeral, perhaps in order to preserve the body of a queen who had died elsewhere and been brought back to Nimrud for burial (Damerji 2008: 82). The sarcophagus also contained two vessels of Yabȃ and a gold bowl, electron mirror, a crystal jar belonging to Atalia. These were probably heirlooms (Teppo 2005: 36). Examples of jewellery from Tomb II match those represented on a rare large-scale relief portraying King Ashurbanipal (ruled 685-627 ? BC) and his primary wife, Libbali-šarrat, sharing a victory banquet in the royal garden (Gansell 2012: 20).

The names of Yabȃ and Atalia are of West Semitic origin, suggesting that the women in Tomb II may have been Levantine princesses who entered the Assyrian palace through marriage, Neo-Assyrian rulers regularly gave and received ranking women in diplomatic unions (Gansell 2012: 20). It is generally accepted that Atalia was a Judahite princess (K. Rander, “Royal Marriage Alliances and Noble Hostages”, Assyrian Empire Builders). She may have been brought to Assyria after the conquest of Samaria in 722 BC (S.Parpola, “National and Ethnic Identity in the Neo-Assyrian Empire and Assyrian Identity in Post-Empire Times”, Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies, Vol.18, No.2, 2004, p.12, footnote 31). She also may have been the mother of the crown prince Sennacherib (Stephanie Dalley, “The Idendity of the Princesses in Tomb II and A New Analysis of Events in 701 BC”, New Light on Nimrud Proceedings of the Nimrud Conference 11 th- 13 th March 2002, (Eds.) Werr, British Museum, London 2008, p.171.). As stated before, Yabȃ had an Aramaic name (Parpola 2004: 12, footnote 31). Interestingly, a third name, “Banītu, wife of King Shalmaneser V” (r.726-722 BCE), is inscribed on objects in the sarcophagus, but it does not refer to a third individual. “Banītu” is an Assyrian translation of “Yabȃ”. At some point, probably when Tiglath-Pileser died and Yabȃ transitioned into the court of Tiglath-Pileser’s son and successor Shalmaneser, Yabȃ became “Banītu” (Gansell 2012: 20). Dalley is of the same opinion (Svärd 2012: 91; Dalley 2008: 171). “Banītu” means “beautiful” in Akkadian. Yapȃ/Yabȃ has the same meaning in Hebrew. Melville, however, disagrees with Dalley (Svärd 2012: 92). Because of absence of evidence, these proposals must remain speculative.

The name of Yabȃ was inscribed on two gold bowls in the Tomb II. On inscriptions read as follows:

ša2 fia-ba-a MI2.E2.GAL al-ti m gišTUKUL-A-E2.ŠAR2.RA MAN KUR AŠ:

Belonging to Queen Yabȃ, wife of Tiglath-Pileser, king of Assyria

ša2 fia-ba-a MI2.E2.GAL ša2 mTUKUL-A-E2.ŠAR2.RA MAN KUR AŠ:

Belonging to Yabȃ, queen of Tiglath-Pileser, king of Assyria.

In Tomb II, a stone funerary tablet was found belongs to Queen Yabȃ and reads as follows:

1. MU dUTU dereš-ki-gal da-nun-a-ki
2. DINGIR.MEŠ GAL.MEŠ ša2 KI-ti fia-ba-a
3. MI2.E2.GAL ina mu-te NAM ZI-ti\ 4. ik-šu2-da-še-ma ur-ḫu AD.MEŠ-šu2 ta-lik
5. man-nu EGIR-u2 lu MI2.E2.GAL
6. šá ina gišGU.ZA tu-šá-ba lu míÉRIN.MEŠ É.GAL
7. na-ra-an-te MAN šá ul-tú KI.MAḪ-ia
8. i-da-ka-in-ni lu mam-ma šá-nu-u-ma
9. it-ti-ia i-šá-kan-nu ù a-na
10. šu-ku-ti-ia qa-su ina ḪUL-te LÁ-ṣu
11. šá na4KIŠIB šá KI.MAḪ šu-a-tú BAD-ú
12. e-le-nu ina šu-ru-ru dšam-ši
13. e-ṭé-ma-šú ina ṣu-me-e ka-ma-te
14. li-ir-pu-du
1. šap-la-nu ina KI-tim ina na-qa me-e
2. KAŠ.SAG gešGEŠTIN u2-pu-un-tu
3. it-ti da-nun-na-ki ta-kal-li-mu
4. la i-ma-ḫar dnin-giš-zi-da
5. dbi-ṭu-ḫi-du-gul DINGIR.MEŠ GAL.MEŠ
6. ša2 KI-tim ša2-lam-di zi-qi-qi
7. la sa-la-lum li-me-du
8. a-na du-ri da-ri-iš .

“By the command of Šamaš, Ereškigal and Anunnaki, the great gods of the netherworld, mortal destiny caught up with Queen Yabȃ in death, and she traveled the path of her ancestors. Anyone, in time to come, whether a queen who sits on the throne or a palace lady of the palace who is a favorite of the king, that removes me from my tomb, or places anybody else with me, or lays his hand on my jewellery with evil intent or breaks open the seal of this tomb-on earth, under the rays of the sun, let his spirit roam outside in thirst. In the netherworld he must not receive with the Anunnakku any offering of libation of water, beer, wine or meal, but instead may Ningišzida and (unintelligible), the great gods of the netherworld, inflict his corpse and ghosts with eternal restlessness.”

In the royal inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser, the title MUNUS.É.GAL is used for Queen Yabȃ.

The sarcophagus also contained two vessels (a gold bowl and a cosmetic container) bearing queen Banītu’s inscription which reads as follows: “šá miDÙ-ti MÍ.É.GAL šá mdSILIM-man-MAŠ MAN KUR AŠ: Belonging to Banītu, queen of Shalmaneser, king of Assyria”.

In the royal inscriptions of Shalmaneser, the title MUNUS.É.GAL is used for the queen: “šá fDÙ-ti MUNUS.É.GAL šá mSILIM-man-MAŠ MAN KUR AŠ” or “šá fba-ni-ti MUNUS.É.GAL šá mdSILIM-ma-nu-MAŠ MAN KUR AŠ: Belonging to Banītu, queen of Shalmaneser, king of Assyria”.

Tomb II contained at least three objects (a gold bowl, jar and mirror) inscribed with the name of Atalia, wife of Sargon II:

“šá mia-ta-li-a MÍ.É.GAL šá mMAN-GIN MAN KUR AŠ: Belonging to Ataliya, queen of Sargon, king of Assyria”. The inscription ends with the symbol of a scorpion.

Queen Ataliya’s authority and high position are highlighted in a list of tribute and audience gifts sent to Sargon by his son Sennacherib (SAA 1 34). Numerous officials receive tribute and audience gifts in two separate lists. In both listings, contributions to “the palace”, are listed first, but immediately after that, the queen receives her share. Only after her do the crown prince, sukkallu, turtanu, sartinnu and the second sukkallu receive their shares. The lists are clearly organized by rank. This demonstrates Atalia’s high position in the palace.

Some letters to the king (all found at Nineveh) relate to the queen. Aššur-bani, the governor of Kalhu, begins his three letters by assuring the king that temples, the city and the queen are well, implying that the queen was living in Kalhu:

 1. a-na LUGAL EN-ia
 2. ARAD-ka m aš-šur-ba-ni
 3. lu DI-mu ana LUGAL EN-ia
 4. DI-mu a-na É.KUR-MEŠ
 5. DI-mu i-na URU.kal-ha
 6. DI-mu a-na MÍ.É.GAL
 7. DI-mu a-na LÚ.GÁL-MEŠ

“To the king, my lord, your servant Aššur-bani. Good health to the king, my lord! The temples are well, the city of Calah is well, the queen is well, the slaves are well”.

It is possible that Ataliya moved to Dur-Šarrukin, later on.

As understood from the above expression, the chronological order of succession of the three names mentioned in the owner’s inscriptions on the grave goods is Yabȃ, Banītu and Ataliya. Therefore, Ataliya was apparently placed in the sarcophagus last. The other skeleton could be of Yabȃ but also Banītu. It was Yabȃ for whom the tomb was built and it was her stone tablet with the curse, that still lay in the alcove of the antechamber. The microscopic investigation of samples taken from the bones of Ataliya have yielded an unexpected result. The bones were apparently heated at temperatures of about 150-250ºC over several hours. This may point to some kind of desiccation, i.e. dehydration or smoking of the corpse. Whether this was part of a special mortuary practice to preserve the corpse, possibly in preparation for a long journey back home to the final resting place, has still to be determined.

In addition, some amulets were also found in the Nimrud tombs. Amulets were usual for Assyrian kings, queens and men and women of rank to wear as jewellery. Cylinder seals were also used as amulets. Four amulets were found in Tomb II, the burial chamber of Yabȃ which also contained grave goods of Ataliya and Banītu. There is no personal label to show that the amulets were the property of a particular queen but it is possible to speculate on other evidence. It is possible that Ataliya the queen of Sargon II must have been buried in a hurry, perhaps because she had a contagious disease. Such circumstances might explain why the body was boiled or, in modern terms, disinfected. It is suggested that if Atalia was ill, she was most likely the owner of amulets. The question arises as to what kind of disease of the head occasioned the use of these amulets. Bearing in mind the limited options and the fact that our modern typology of disease did not exist at that time, we can say, comparatively, it could be “meningitis” or severe “migraine”. At least two of these amulets in the tombs, and perhaps all of them, were written against the condition called “sagkidibbû”, literally “forehead-seizing”. This condition is characterized by the authorities as an “unidentified illness of the head” (according to CAD S:25, sub sagkidabbû) or “migraine”. Ataliya also suffered from dental caries.

hamȃ_yabȃ_-_banitu_and_ataliya.txt · Last modified: 2014/09/30 14:50 by hawkins
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