Jules Jallet-Martini

Title:  Inheritance Practices and Family Strategies in Mesopotamia During the 2nd Millenium BCE

University: Université Paris-Panthéon-Assas

Supervisor: Sophie Démare-Lafont

Abstract: This PhD dissertation examines a previously unexplored legal hypothesis suggesting distinct inheritance practices between the north of Mesopotamia where testaments or wills were likely prevalent, and the south of Mesopotamia where ab intestat successions were the prevailing legal custom. 

In order to test this hypothesis, a rigorous legal analysis and systematic comparison of various types of deeds (inheritance divisions, wills, adoptions, gifts…) and documents (letters, litigations…) is carried out, focusing specifically on the question of succession and inheritance practices. These deeds are standardised documents containing clauses regulating the division of the estate, whose differences and similarities help us to better understand the overall inheritance system. Remarkably, a single deed could combine different models of succession, incorporating, for instance, the eldest son’s preferential share to immovable property and an equal division for movable property. 

Strategies adopted by the de cujus or their heirs to preserve the family’s patrimony within the lineage are studied. The inheritance issues addressed in these documents also highlight the importance of assisting elderly or surviving parents in matters of inheritance rights. 

The significance of this work lies in its exploration of the geographical distribution of customary inheritance practices throughout Mesopotamia during the 2nd millennium BCE. 

Through meticulously analysis of legal and non-legal documents spanning the entire millennium, this research aims to enhance the understanding of the intricate and evolving legal systems of these regions and offers insights into the social norms and customs that governed inheritance.

Keywords: legal history; inheritance; Old Babylonian; Emar; Nuzi; Old Assyrian

Contact: jules.jallet-martini@u-paris2.fr

Mathilde Touillon-Ricci

Title: Individuality and Identity in Writing: Personalising Cuneiform Documentation in the New Sumerian and Old Assyrian Periods (21st and 19th Centuries BCE)

University: SOAS-University of London and The British Museum

Supervisors: Dr Mark Weeden and Dr Jon Taylor


Inscribed objects, beyond their documentary content, materialise the writing process and the context in which it was performed. This research aims to further our understanding of the material aspects of cuneiform writing beyond its documentary and historical nature and to develop our insight into literacy and writing practices.

Writing, as a conception as well as a process, being a combination of rules and standards performed by individuals: can identity and individuality be revealed in writing? Over its long and diverse history, cuneiform adapted and evolved while maintaining characteristically consistent features: what freedom did scribes have to express variations? Cuneiform objects display a variety of sizes, shapes and writing styles, revealing their social, geographical, and chronological contexts of production: how does cuneiform writing also reflect on literacy and writing practices?

Individuality and identity in cuneiform are analysed by investigating two contrasting corpora: the institutionalised cuneiform production of professional New Sumerian scribes at the epicentre of state bureaucracy in Southern Iraq; the practical literacy of Old Assyrian merchants’ documents produced along the trading routes between Mesopotamia and Anatolia.
Considering the artefactual value of inscribed objects, this research applies palaeographic and diplomatic analysis to provide new sources to support existing archaeological and historical knowledge of ancient Mesopotamia. Reaching new layers of information through the study of features such as manufacturing techniques or character forms and formation, this project provides new evidence about literacy and idiosyncrasy in writing in the New Sumerian and Old Assyrian periods, as well as new methodologies of investigation.

This research is conducted in partnership with the Department of the Middle East at the British Museum and the Department of History at SOAS-University of London, as part of the Collaborative Doctoral Awards scheme supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council UK.

Keywords: palaeography, diplomatics, materiality, writing practices, New Sumerian,  Old Assyrian

Contact: mtouillon-ricci@britishmuseum.org

Anita Fattori

Title: Tissage de la Trame Sociale : Femmes et Réseaux Commerciaux dans L’ancienne Mésopotamie

University: Universidade of São Paulo/Université Paris 1

Supervisors: Prof. Cécile Michel and Prof. Marcelo Rede


Pendant la période paléo-assyrienne, plus précisément au début du IIe millénaire avant-J.-C., les Assyriens ont occupé une place importante dans la scène du commerce à longue distance. Organisés en firmes familiales pour commercialiser des étoffes et de l’étain en échange d’or et d’argent, les marchands assyriens sont partis d’Aššur avec pour destination principale Kaneš, en Anatolie, où ils se sont installés pendant des longues périodes. Dans ce projet, je traiterai le cas spécifique de l’action sociale des femmes assyriennes dans ce réseau commercial, initialement par l’analyse d’environ 80 lettres destinées à ces femmes ou envoyées par ces femmes. Je pense l’action sociale des femmes assyriennes en termes de human agency, un concept produit dans la théorie sociale pour rendre compte de la relation dialectique entre la structure cognitive de l’action et la production, la reproduction et les transformations de ces structures dans le domaine de la pratique. Mon objectif est de conduire une recherche historique basée sur l’analyse du contexte discursif de la période paléo-assyrienne. De cette façon, je réaliserai une lecture du cadre social de la période à partir de la perspective de genre, afin de comprendre non seulement les aspects sociaux de ces femmes dans ce contexte mais aussi d’appréhender leur place dans la société par comparaison avec celle tenue par les hommes.

Keywords: historiography, social history, Old Assyrian, gender studies, genre studies

Contact: anitafattori2@gmail.com