Women of Aššur and Kaneš: Texts from the Archives of Assyrian Merchants

par Cécile Michel

Collection: Writings from the Ancient World 42, SBL, Baltimore, xxx+570 p., 20 figures, ISBN 9781628372823

Vivid sources for reconstructing the lives of Assyrian women

In this collection Cécile Michel translates into English texts related to wives and daughters of merchants and to their activities in nineteenth-century BCE Aššur and Kaneš. Discovered in excavations of the Old Assyrian private archives at Kültepe (ancient Kaneš) in Central Anatolia, these letters sent from Aššur reflect the preeminent role of Assyrian women within the family and in the domestic economy, as well as their contribution to long-distance trade. Contracts and other legal texts excavated at Kültepe attest to Assyrian and Anatolian women as parties in marriage and divorce contracts, last wills, loans, and purchase contracts. These unique finds paint a vivid portrait of women who aspire to be socially respected and provide a rare opportunity to reconstruct their daily lives as both businesswomen and housewives.


  • More than three hundred letters and documents transliterated and translated with commentary
  • An overview of the study of women and gender in Assyriology
  • A reconstruction of women’s roles as textile producers, investors, and creditors within a long-distance commercial network

Table of contents

– History of Women and Gender in Assyriology
– Old Assyrian Archives and Women
– Role of Women in Society and Economy
– Chronology, Calendars, and Metrology
– Old Assyrian Eponym System
– Old Assyrian Kings
– Old Assyrian Months, Half-Months, and Weeks
– Anatolian Dating System
– Old Assyrian Weights and Measures

  1. Marriage and Divorce
    – From Betrothal to Marriage
    – Monogamy and Bigamy
    – Divorce
    – Widowhood and Remarriage
  2. Women and Family
    – Women and Inheritance
    – Women Protected against eir Father’s or Husband’s Creditors
    – Women in Debt
    – Women and Family Responsibility for Debt
    – Female Slaves
  3. Housewives
    – Motherhood
    – Raising Children
    – Provisioning and Food
    – Heads of the Household
    – Women at Home
    – Farming Activities of Anatolian Women
  4. Businesswomen
    – Weaving as a Remunerative Profession
    – Separate Assets for Men and Women
    – Women Lend, Buy, and Invest
    – Women Representing eir Husbands
    – Women, Archives, and Seals
    – Women and Writing
  5. Religion and Social Mores
    – Women’s Feelings and Advice on Behavior
    – Women’s Religion and the Spirits of the Dead
    – Women Consecrated to Gods
  6. Portraits of Assyrian and Anatolian Women
    – Akatiya and Šimat-Suen, Sisters of Uur-ša-Ištar
    – Ahaha, a Woman Consecrated to the God Aššur
    – Taram-Kubi, Wife of Innaya, and Her Sister, Šimat-Aššur
    – Ištar-bašti I, Wife of Imdi-ilum, and Her Daughter, Ištarbašti II/Zizizi
    – Kunnaniya, a Lonely Anatolian Woman
    – Šišahšušar, a Housewife Owning Cattle
    – Hatala, a Woman Involved in Trade
    – Anna-Anna, Married to Ennum-Aššur

Texts Edited

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