General Information

Vegetable oils and animal fats, denominated together as i3 in Sumerian, šamnum in Akkadian, are well-documented substances in cuneiform texts from Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Syria in the Early and Middle Bronze Age (3000-1600 BCE). The geographic map offers an overview with a list of sites known either as the provenance of artefacts or from the contents of the cuneiform texts or the discussions.

The date of texts or collections is indicated both by the historical label (such as „Sargonic“,  or „Early Old Babylonian“), and an absolute date according to the Middle Chronology (Ḫammurāpi of Babylon 1792-1750 BCE). During the Ur III and Old Babylonian periods (2100-1600 BCE) numerous archival texts are dated exactly by their year dates.

For the Old Babylonian period, the correlation between year dates and the absolute chronology can be found here.

But also for earlier periods, a tablet or a collection can quite confidently be dated to a few decades. For this project, we were the first to compile a comprehensive chronological table for third-millennium ‚archives‘ and it can be accessed here.

The bulk of evidence comes from archival texts, administrative texts from institutions, legal documents and letters. A most relevant factor is the range of an archive, i. e. the ancient institutional collection of cuneiform texts. Dossiers are files discussing textual sources pertaining to a specific topic at a certain place and time. Glossaries of Akkadian and Sumerian terms and indexes of personal names provide information for the specialist.

Archival documents indicate precise quantities for the various substances and objects dealt with in the texts; an overview of early cuneiform metrology and the corresponding values in modern metric units is provided here.