A.1.1.06 – The Cultivation of Sesame in Ur III Susa

This dossier gathers single records that document the cultivation of sesame in the province of Susa. These stem from the provincial archives of Ĝirsu[geogr=Ĝirsu], one from Ĝaršana [geogr=Ĝaršana]and very few from Susa[geogr=Susa] itself.

On the one hand, the cultivation of sesame was carried out in Susa on a provincial level under the control of the local governor (ensi2) and of local institutions. One of them, the house of Igibuni  (ŠS.04 to IS.01), registered 240 litres of „barley for purchasing sesame seeds“ (še sam2 ĝeš-i3[glossary=še-ĝeš-i3]) and as „fodder“ (ša3-gal) for sheep and onager hybrids (MDP 54 17, 0000.05.00). According to another document dated to the reign of Ibbi-Sin, but not belonging to the Igibuni archive, 300 litres of „sesame seeds“ (še-ĝeš-i3) were „to be milled“ (sur-de3[glossary=sur]) to obtain oil in the eleventh month, and another 300 litres were received in month II/May, probably for sowing (MDP 28 121 505, […].00.00, Susa ). Other texts concerning sesame in Susa are MDP 10 125, AS.05.06.00 and probably from Susa also MDP 14 50, 0000.00.00.

On the other hand, the Ĝirsu province established a branch in Susa for the cultivation of cereals and other products (Ur III Susa). In this regard, a record dated to the year Šulgi 36 concerning the „allotment holders (in) the fields of Susa“ (lu2 šuku-ra-me a-ša3 šušinki) documents both the area of the respective allotment parcels and the expected amount of barley, together with the corresponding allotment holders. It also registers 12 „ploughmen of sesame“ (engar ĝeš-i3[glossary=engar ĝeš-i3]) holding parcels of 3 iku (= 1.08 ha) each but does not record their names (r. i 23-25). Altogether the allotted fields in Susa correspond to an area of 237 ha. (ASJ 04 118 19, Šu.36.00.00).

A balanced account on barley of the Ĝirsu branch in Susa for the year Šulgi 36 registers the sowing of barley fields in Susa for a total area of 1,133 ha (174 bur 15 1/2 iku), regarded as „cultivated land“ (gana2 uru4-a) (ASJ 3, p. 56 no. 5, o. iii 1-7, Šu.36.12.00; Maekawa 2016b: 61-64). On the other hand, the „fields under sesame cultivation in Susa“ (gana2 ĝeš-i3 uru4-a) corresponded to an area of 271.71 ha in the same year Šulgi 36 (CTPSM 1 112). Hence, the area of the sesame fields corresponds to ca. 24 % of the cultivated (domain) land in Susa, whereas, in Ĝirsu, the sesame fields correspond instead to „only“ 6-7 % of the cultivated domain land (Dossier A.1.1.03). This discrepancy might be explained by the fact that the fields in Susa were better suited to the cultivation of drought-resistant sesame than that of cereals due to their overall lower quality compared to those in Girsu. Indeed, the allotment holders in Susa received fields marked as „badly drained“ ((gana2) a uš2-a) and/or with a low expected barley yield of only 10 gur per bur, whereas the yield usually expected was 24 gur per bur in Ĝirsu (ASJ 4, p. 118 no. 19, Šu.36.00.00; Maekawa 2016b: 61). Moreover, the previously mentioned balanced account registers double the seeding rates for the cultivated land in Susa compared to what is usually known for cultivated fields in Ĝirsu (ASJ 3, p. 56 no. 5, o. iii 1-7, Šu.36.12.00; Maekawa 2016b: 64). Accordingly, Maekawa 2016b: 64 concludes that the quality of the fields in Susa was lower than those in Girsu. Unfortunately, as with other provinces, we lack information on crop yields from sesame cultivation in Susa. For the sowing rate of these sesame fields in Susa, see instead Dossier A.1.1.04.

Sesame cultivated by the Ĝirsu branch in the Susa plantation was transported via boat: „sailor working gangs (and) personnel taken over, who punted sesame boats from Susa” (erin2 ma2-laḫ5 [dumu]-dab5-ba / ma2 ĝeš-i3 šušinki-ta gid2-da-me) (TCTI 2 03682, ŠS.08.01.00, Ĝirsu; see also parallel attestations in Ĝirsu: RT 18 72-73 017, AS.04.00.00; MVN 06 447, Šu.43.10.00; MVN 08 181 ([…].00.00; in Ĝaršana: CUSAS 06 1531 r. 3-4, AS.05.10.00; see Maekawa 2016b: 54-57). While these sources register the workforce deployed in transportation and their provisions, only one of them indicates the quantity of sesame transported. Sesame was loaded onto ships, each with a load capacity of 60 gur (= 18,000 litres); 6 ships are registered, for a total of 360 gur (= 108,000 litres) (RT 18 72-73 017, AS.04.00.00). Furthermore, the transport of sesame from the Susa branch to Ĝirsu was very likely supervised by a certain Šār-ilī during the last decades of Šulgi’s reign (Maekawa 2016b: 59-66).



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