Cuneiform Lives. Katrin de Graef, Lancaster Literacy Research Centre

Cuneiform Lives. Katrin de Graef, Lancaster Literacy Research Centre

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Lancaster Literacy Research Centre are delighted to welcome Katrin de Graef to discuss Cuneiform Lives

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This Lancaster Literacy Research Centre event will be a talk from Dr Katrin de Graef , "Cuneiform Lives. Mapping Old Babylonian Society through Prosopography"


When people think of ancient Babylonia, the first thing that comes to mind is Hammurabi and his famous codex, Gilgamesh’s epic quest for immortality, or Sargon’s victory in the battle of Ulai. Important and interesting to history as these literary sources are, they do not tell us much about the day-to-day life of the ordinary Babylonian. To get a bottom-up idea of Babylonian society as it was 4000 years ago, we need to study the documentary sources: day-to-day administrative, economic and legal documents and letters, written in cuneiform writing on clay tablets. Given the abundance of this kind of sources, this is done through a prosopographical database containing data on all persons attested in the more than 9200 documentary sources from the city of Sippar dated to the Old Babylonian period (ca. 2000-1600 BCE) developed at Ghent University. In this paper, I will elaborate on how to approach these sources through close reading and prosopography in order to reconstruct ancient archives, family trees and ultimately to gain insight into the daily life of the well-to-do citizens of Sippar, presented through a case study.

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Katrien De Graef is associate professor of Assyriology and History of the Ancient Near East at Ghent University (Belgium). Her research focusses on the socio-economic history of the Old Babylonian period (ca. 2000-1600 BCE), with an emphasis on interrelationships between State, temples and urban elites (the role of credit within Palace/Temple and private economy), gender (role of women in the economy) and seal praxis, and the relationship between Babylonia and Elam (political history, multiculturalism and multilingualism).

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