A new Sumerian cuneiform inscription is discovered in a manuscript in the Sephardic Museum of Toledo

the Assyriologist Daniel Sanchez Munozspecialist in ancient Mesopotamian languages ​​and texts and postdoctoral researcher Margarita Salas in the Department of History and Music Sciences of the University of Granada (UGR), has discovered a new royal inscription in the Sumerian language written using the cuneiform notation system, one of the oldest writing systems in history. The discovery took place while studying a manuscript in the Sephardic Museum of Toledo.

The text of this cuneiform inscription must be contextualized as it happens in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq and eastern Syria) 20th to 18th centuries BC (BC) In this period, various kingdoms fought for hegemony in southern Mesopotamia after the disintegration of the kingship of the Third Dynasty of Ur (2110- 2003 BC). Two duplicates of this text are currently known, both preserved in foundation nails, i.e. clay cones set in the walls of temples/chapels which recorded the divinity who lived there and who had built or restored said space. . One of those manuscripts is in the Sephardic Museum of Toledo.

The text itself says the following: For Annunitum de Acadé, his mistress, Enlil-bāni, the shepherd of all that exists in Nippur, the strong king, the king of Isin, the king of Sumer and Acad, Inana’s heartily chosen husband, built for her the Ulmaš, her beloved residence in the hinterland of Isin.

“This simple and short text can remind us of any current plaque currently commemorating the reform or construction of a building. However, it is exceptional, among other things, for two reasons,” explains the UGR researcher.

This simple and short text can remind us of any current plaque that currently commemorates the reform or construction of a building. However, it is exceptional, among other things, for two reasons

Daniel Sánchez Muñoz, Researcher at the UGR

On the one hand, “we find ourselves faced today with the most relevant testimony for the study of the cult of the Annunitum in the Mesopotamian city of Isin (mod. Išān Bahrīyāt, Iraq). Annunitum was a goddess closely linked to the monarchical establishment in Mesopotamia: every city that housed a royal house developed a cult of this goddess. Since Isin was the seat of a royal dynasty in the first centuries of the second millennium BC, one might expect an active cult of this goddess. However, until now we have only had a brief allusion to King Išmē-Dagān of Isin (ca. 1955–1937 BC) appealing to this goddess to appoint a priestess,” Sánchez Muñoz points out.

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On the other hand, the person who orders to build or rebuild this chapel is Enlil-bāni. This monarch came to the throne after a moment of political instability in the kingdom of Isin, and faced no less difficulties during his reign. For example, you had to reconquer the city Nippur (at the time the religious and cultural capital of Mesopotamia) after being taken over by the rival kingdom of Larsa.

In this sense Enlil-bāni was able to create this chapel so as not to lose the favor of Annunitum in those troubled times. This would add to other measures that the king himself took to control his kingdom (and which are known from various texts), including a tax exemption and the construction or reconstruction of a defensive wall.

The article by Sánchez Muñoz, published in the magazine Oriental Archive, presents this inscription with critical edition (transliteration and philological commentary). This work also has a technical illustration and photo of the manuscript found in the Sephardic Museum of Toledo.

This institution has the manuscript in question as part of a larger Mesopotamian collection (studied in the same article) that explains some of the cultural context in which the Jewish people would have emerged in Western Asia, all of this before some of it migrated to the Iberian Peninsula during antiquity .


Sánchez Muñoz, D. A Sumerian royal inscription describing the (re)construction of a chapel for Annunītum by King Enlil-Bāni of Isin. oriental archive.

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