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Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology



Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
[email protected]

--- The Assyrian state in upper Mesopotamia changed during the second millennium as a result of shifting political and economic conditions. The exact nature of this evolution is hard to pin point as the textual sources and the archaeological evidence are lacking. The fully developed narrative forms of Assyrian art, which are so informative in the later empire, were not yet omnipresent in the palaces. And the royal annals which characterize so much of kingship in Mesopotamia are not as well preserved or numerous.

The nature of Old-Assyrian kingship is difficult to determine. Before Assur's self-governance it was a merely one of many cities ruled by monarchs from the Ur III city-states to the south. It's rulers did not take the title of "king" but instead were governors under other kings as well as the god of the city Assur. During the end of the Ur III period a famine is recorded in the south and during the next political incarnation the city of Assur is no longer present in the records. This suggests that contact, or rather dominance, was lost during this period and the city gained its own native rulers no longer under the yoke of southern cities.

Traditionally however studies of the Assyrian empire start in the Middle-Assyrian period, circa 1400 B.C.E. (Postgate 1992) and neglect to try and bridge the gap between the city-state of Assur and the empire itself. A few connections are present in the literature. Postgate mentions the 're-deployment' of old families from the OA period in the governing of new centers (Postgate 1992, 252). I think much of this transformation has to do with elevating the god from being a traditionally cult based deity into one that is experienced in the main temple in Assur but also present and omni-present throughout the 'land' itself. The conversion of the god in this manner allows for Assur to travel with the king and oversee foreign expeditions and building projects. Tukultī-Ninurta's impetus for building a new capital is to spread Assur out into the countryside and in doing so make the land fertile (A.0.78.23:88-108).

This interest in making the land fertile fits in well with the readings we did in climate change during this same period. If the climate data indicates that at the end of the second millennium there was a warming event it would have had an impact on the viability of the Assur (at the southern limits of rain-fed agriculture) to produce its own food (Neumann & Parpola 1987). Tukultī-Ninurta's recounting of the building of Kar-Tukultī-Ninurta puts emphasis on the watering of land and the creation of fertile farm land, which can provide offerings to the god Assur. I think that the creation of more farmland was in fact the principle goal of this building project and that it was part of an overall program of land reclamation or improvement going on around the empire. This is one project that survives in the written record because Tukultī-Ninurta choses this particular place to build a city as well after defeating the Kassite king Kaštiliašu.