Kepa Martinez Garcia 

Title:  Inter-urban Relations and Territorial Articulation of the Mesopotamian Floodplain During the Early Bronze Age (ca. 3100 – 2334 BC).

University: University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU)

Supervisor: Josué Justel Vicente

Abstract: The purpose of this dissertation is to analyse how relations between the urban communities of Lower Mesopotamia influenced the territorial organisation during the Djemdet-Nasr and Early Dynastic periods. The hypothesis to be tested is that the holistic study of Sumerian sphragistics makes it possible to determine the identity of each urban community and to identify various types of functional relationships between them.

The topic of identity invites us to revisit the term ‘kalam’. This word could reflect a cultural unity that was not so much the achievement of a “Sumerian” identity as the result of the coexistence of several local identities, which came into conflict or complemented each other according to the social, cultural, religious or political needs of the time. Reconstructing the evolution of the identities of these urban centres and the cognitive maps they generated will allow for various historical interpretations: hierarchy of centrality, connectivity of urban centres, social relations, cultural appropriation of spaces and symbols, etc.

In order to determine the identity traits of these communities, cylinder seals from four urban centres (Uruk, Ur, Girsu and Nippur) will be thoroughly analysed. Seals will be treated as prestige items that allowed certain individuals, social groups and institutions to distinguish themselves, to show their status in public and to arrange self-representation strategies in the many relations with other communities. The social reading of indicators such as technical operational chains, function, semiotics and reception will allow a better understanding of this period and the formation of the discourse of power in early monarchies.

Keywords: Early Dynastic, Cylinder Seals, Identities, Inter-urban Relations


Anna Glenn

Praise of Kingship: Širgida-Hymns in the Old Babylonian Liturgical Tradition

Johns Hopkins University

Prof. Dr. Paul Delnero

Sumerian hymns to deities, sung by professional musicians in the framework of ritual, represent a significant portion of the literary record of the early second millennium BCE, corresponding to the Mesopotamian Old Babylonian period (ca. 2000–1500). Although the words of these hymns, along with the clay tablets on which they were recorded, represent one of the most direct sources of evidence for ritual practice during this period, the hymns’ performative setting has only rarely been the focus of Assyriological scholarship. Instead, Sumerian cultic hymns are studied as works of literature, more closely aligned with compositions learned in scribal schools than with other liturgical material. Hymns are regularly classified according to criteria imposed on them by the requirements of modern scholarship, despite the fact they typically bear native labels (“subscripts”) classifying them according to features of performance. This dissertation aims to shift the scholarship on Sumerian hymns towards understanding their role as performed liturgical pieces, taking as a case study one group of hymns as defined by a native performative label: hymns classified with the label širgida.
A starting thesis of this dissertation is that (1) the significance of the text of Sumerian cultic hymns cannot be appreciated without taking into account their extra-textual, non-verbal elements of performance, and (2) consideration of such texts in light of their performative setting can offer important insights on second-millennium ritual. I test the hypothesis that natively defined hymnic groupings, such as širgidas, can be productively investigated as corpora, and that this approach will allow us to access otherwise obscure performative elements.
Investigating the širgida corpus, I present evidence for their general Sitz im Leben, clearly linking them to ritual performance and royal ideology (Chapter 2); identify patterns in the language of the hymns, considering their potential impact in ritual settings (Chapter 3); more fully explore kingship in the širgidas, arguing that they directly involve the Mesopotamian ruler (Chapter 4); explore the implications of the hymns’ references to material ritual elements (Chapter 5); and demonstrate that, in addition to kingship, the themes of prayer and offering play an essential part in the širgidas’ performance.


Daniel Sánchez Muñoz

Analysis of two terms related with Music in Ancient Mesopotamia: nam-nar and nārūtu(m)

University of Granada

Prof. Dr. Antonio Martín Moreno (Professor of Musicology)

Sumerian and Akkadian texts show us a very rich musical terminology whose meaning, however, is not always pretty clear for scholars dealing with the Mesopotamian music. One of the most controversial terms is the Sumerian nam-nar together with its Akkadian equivalent nārūtu(m). Certainly, this term has been previously defined in many several and different ways, like “(professional) condition of the nar-musician”, “musicianship”, “art of the singing”, “hymnic music” even as “Music”.

In this PhD Project, we will try to prove that, even if the meaning of this couple of terms experimented some changes throughout the long Mesopotamian history (an evolution not previously kept in mind in the previous research), its main meaning was “Music” in a broad sense as sound art and social condition, like in our current concept of “Music”.

For that purpose, we will analyse all the mentions of these two terms in our current Mesopotamian textual documentation, having a group around 50 texts from the Second Dynasty of Lagash until the Late Hellenistic Period of many typologies: administrative, lexical and literary (with different subdivisions: myths, praise hymns and songs, literary letters, astronomical texts, etc.) Many of these texts (some of them recently published) had not been analysed in the previous comments of nam-nar/nārūtu(m), mainly based in the Old Babylonian textual evidence.

Those texts will be individually analysed in this project starting from own editions based in the consultation of current copies/photographs in addition to the consultation of the cuneiform manuscripts in their museums. Later, we precise the context of each mention of these terms by a philological/lexicographical study of the most relevant terms in that excerpt with a final commentary indicating what it might be the best definition for nam-nar/nārūtu(m) in this text.

To prove that the main meaning of these two terms is “Music” is highly relevant, since such type of term is not at all common in the past and current musical cultures of the world, which normally have terms for specific manifestations of the musical activity, like the singing, the instrumental music or some types of recitation which Western people might consider as “music”. Certainly, many of the current terms for “Music” derive, as a last resort, from the Greek mousike (even the Arabic al-musiqa!) However, some Greek texts show that Pythagoras learned “The Arithmetic, the Music (=mousike) and the other Mathematical disciplines” with the magicians from Babylonia (Iamblichus, Pythagora’s Life, 4, 19). In this sense, to have a Sumerian or Akkadian term for “Music” might explain also these Greek texts and, therefore, the evolution of our musical history.

This PhD Dissertation will be the first one in the history of my University. In order to prepare a good project, I have previously taken courses on Assyriology in Spain through the CEPOAT (= Centro de Estudios del Próximo Oriente y Antigüedad Tardía) with Drs. Josué and Daniel Justel, Bárbara Solans and Erica Couto. Concerning my international training, I have previously taken courses in Würzburg (with Prof. Dr. Daniel Schwemer, PD Claus Ambos, Dr. Greta van Buylaere, and Dr. Dahlia Shehata) and Leiden (with Dr. Bram Jagersma, Dr. Jan Gerrit Dercksen, and Dr. Melanie Gross) in addition to studying with Dr. Anne-Caroline Rendu Loisel (Université de Strasbourg) through the Diplôme d’Université de Langues Anciennes (DULA).