Animal Fats, Fish Oil

The flesh of mammals and fish contains fat and thus the intake of meat and fish was the basic way how fat was consumed in early Syro-Mesopotamia. Evidently, this aspect is not explicitly reflected in the cuneiform texts.

Fat was furthermore gained from animals, and tallow from sheep and, more frequently, lard from pigs feature prominently in the textual record. These fats were added to foodstuffs, used in craftsmanship and served for anointing. It is noteworthy that lard was a homemade product that was bought up by the merchants of the governor.

The rivers and marshes of Iraq abound with fish, and fishermen provided the urban centres with a part of their catch. These shipments regularly included fish oil, a needed lubricant and sealant for objects in contact with water like ropes or boats (A.2.4.01, A.2.4.03).

Other animal fats appear in the scholarly lexical lists, but not in the archival record documenting economic transactions. Therefore, they did not play a substantial role in the production and consumption of fats.