In This Article Nuzi (Nuzi Tablets)

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Studies and Document Collections
  • Chronology
  • Excavations
  • Geography
  • Military and Political History
  • Prosopography

Biblical Studies Nuzi (Nuzi Tablets)
by
Mark W. Chavalas
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 October 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 February 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0014

Introduction

More than 6,500 cuneiform texts and fragments have been discovered in northeastern Iraq in the vicinity of modern Kirkuk (ancient Arrapha) and from the excavations at Yorghan Tepe (ancient Nuzi) and Tell al-Fakhar. Excavations at the modest Mitanni-period town of Nuzi have exposed various types of settlements, including the main urban, administrative, and religious centers. Portions of suburbs that were more than three hundred meters north of the walled town were also excavated, which revealed a number of socially and economically diverse houses. Cuneiform archives (both public and private) came from all of these areas, providing a rich context for understanding a relatively modest-sized ancient Near Eastern town in the second millennium BCE. The population of the town of Nuzi (including suburbs) has been estimated to be about 1,500–2,000 people, according to Maidman 1995 (cited under General Overviews). Nuzi was a city in the kingdom of Arrapha, vassal to the larger kingdom of Mitanni, a confederation of Hurrian states in Upper Mesopotamia. Although the city of Nuzi did not have a king, a mayor is mentioned who answered to the king of Arrapha. Documents describe the fact the Nuzi had relations (both economic and military) with other kingdoms, such as Kassite Babylonia and Assyria. Nuzi was probably destroyed by the Assyrians (c. 1350 BCE), a fact that is implied textually and attested archaeologically by massive destruction levels.

General Overviews

General overviews of the city and culture of Nuzi are understandably few, but noteworthy. Speiser 1953 is one of the earliest attempts at placing the Hurrians in the context of world history. Maidman 1995 provides the best overall study of the site itself, as well as its political, legal, economic, religious, and social structures. Morrison 1992 is equally useful and provides a critique of the value of Nuzi to biblical studies. Maidman 2010 is more detailed and is written for a general audience. The writer carefully selected nearly one hundred Nuzi texts that help in the reconstruction of the political and social history of the region. A brief article, Stein 1997 concentrates on the archaeological features of Yorghan Tepe. Other studies provide information concerning Nuzi in a larger cultural and historical environment. Wilhelm 1989 and Freu 2003 both survey the history of the Mitanni kingdom and feature much information from the Nuzi texts. A succinct survey of the history of Nuzi studies can be found in Wilhelm 1999.

  • Freu, Jacques. Histoire du Mitanni. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2003.

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    Historical work on the kingdom of Mitanni and Nuzi in French. Unfortunately, it is of limited value.

  • Maidman, Maynard P. “Nuzi: Portrait of an Ancient Mesopotamian Provincial Town.” In Civilizations of the Ancient Near East. Vol. 2. Edited by Jack M. Sasson, 931–947. New York: Scribner’s, 1995.

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    Perhaps the best brief introduction to the site of Nuzi, covering political history, the site itself, economy, social classes, women, and law.

  • Maidman, Maynard P. Nuzi Texts and Their Uses as Historical Evidence. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2010.

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    The best overall survey of the site in the Society of Biblical Literature’s Writings from the Ancient World series. Maidman surveys the history and culture of Nuzi by selecting five significant themes; war between Arrapha and Assyria, mayoral corruption at Nuzi, the ilku (perhaps a tax obligation), a study of the Tehip-tilla family history, and a long-standing land dispute.

  • Morrison, M. A. “Nuzi.” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 4. Edited by David N. Freedman, 1156–1162. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

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    Solid overview discussing Nuzi archives, history, archaeology, ethnicity, socioeconomic structure, religion, law, and possible connections with the Bible.

  • Speiser, E. A. “The Hurrian Participation in the Civilization of Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine.” Journal of World History 1 (1953): 244–269.

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    There is a very brief section on Nuzi and its Hurrian population in this general article on the Hurrians.

  • Stein, D. “Nuzi.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East. Vol. 4, META–SEPP. Edited by E. Meyers, 171–175. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

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    Best succinct survey of the archaeology, ceramics, seal impressions, art, and architecture of Nuzi.

  • Wilhelm, Gernot. The Hurrians. Westminster, UK: Aris & Phillips, 1989.

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    Most important overview of the Hurrians and their political history. Provides an excellent context in which to study Nuzi’s importance.

  • Wilhelm, Gernot. “Recent Trends in Nuzi and Hurrian Studies.” SCCNH 19 (1999): 3–11.

    E-mail Citation »

    Thoughtful reflection on the state of Nuzi/Hurrian studies by a leading figure in Hurrian studies.

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