Abu Salabikh

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Abu Salabikh
Abu Salabikh is located in Iraq
Abu Salabikh
Shown within Iraq
LocationAl-Qādisiyyah Governorate, Iraq
Coordinates32°16′00″N 45°05′00″E / 32.26667°N 45.08333°E / 32.26667; 45.08333Coordinates: 32°16′00″N 45°05′00″E / 32.26667°N 45.08333°E / 32.26667; 45.08333
FoundedMiddle of the third millennium BCE

The low tells at Abu Salabikh, around 20 km (12 mi) northwest of the site of ancient Nippur in Al-Qādisiyyah Governorate, Iraq mark the site of a small Sumerian city state of the mid third millennium BCE,[1] with cultural connections to the cities of Kish, Mari and Ebla.[2] Its contemporary name is uncertain: perhaps this was Eresh.[3] Kesh was suggested by Thorkild Jacobsen before excavations began. The Euphrates was the city's highway and lifeline; when it shifted its old bed (which was identified to the west of the Main Mound by coring techniques), in the middle third millennium BCE, the city dwindled away. Only eroded traces remain on the site's surface of habitation after the Early Dynastic Period.[4] The site consists of several mounds, the 12 hectare wall enclosed Main (Early Dynastic), the 10 hectare Uruk, the West, and the 8 hectare South.


Abu Salabikh was excavated by an American expedition from the Oriental Institute of Chicago led by Donald P. Hansen in 1963 and 1965 for a total of 8 weeks. The expedition found around 500 tablets and fragments, containing some of the earliest ancient literature.[4]

The site was a British concern after 1975, under the direction of Nicholas Postgate for the British School of Archaeology in Iraq (1975–89), after which excavations were suspended with the Invasion of Kuwait (1990); "plans to resume fieldwork have now been abandoned in the light of current political conditions" Postgate reports.[5] The city, built on a rectilinear plan in the early Uruk period, revealed a small but important repertory of cuneiform texts on some 500 tablets, of which the originals were stored in the Iraq Museum, Baghdad, and were largely lost when the museum was looted in the early stages of the Second Iraq War; fortunately they had been carefully published. Texts, comparable in date and content with texts from Shuruppak (modern Fara, Iraq) included school texts, literary texts,[6] word lists, and some administrative archives, as well as the Instructions of Shuruppak, a well-known Sumerian "wisdom' text of which the Abu Salabikh tablet is the oldest copy. A list of deities includes the oldest known mention of the Semitic god Baʿal.[7] Postgate's interdisciplinary approach was integrated under the broad aim of describing the daily life of a small Sumerian city, down to the lives of the simplest illiterate inhabitants.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Shaw, Ian; Jameson, Robert (2002). "Abu Salabikh". A dictionary of archaeology. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 978-0-631-23583-5. OCLC 963777094.
  2. ^ Moorey, P. R. S. (1981). "Abu Salabikh, Kish, Mari and Ebla: Mid-Third Millennium Archaeological Interconnections". American Journal of Archaeology. 85 (4): 447–448. doi:10.2307/504868. ISSN 0002-9114.
  3. ^ Matthews, Roger (2003). The archaeology of Mesopotamia: theories and approaches. London; New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-25316-1. OCLC 50252068.
  4. ^ a b Biggs, Robert D. (1974). Inscriptions from Tell Abū Ṣalābīkh (PDF). Donald P. Hansen. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-62202-9. OCLC 1170564.
  5. ^ Prof. Nicholas Postgate : Postgate turned his attention to the multiperiod site at Kilise Tepe, in the province of Mersin in southern Turkey.
  6. ^ "We are now able to behold the earliest creative period of Sumerian belles lettres", remarked Mark E. Cohen in 1976 (Cohen, "The Name Nintinugga with a Note on the Possible Identification of Tell Abu Salābīkh" Journal of Cuneiform Studies, 28.2 [April 1976:82–92]). Cohen identifies the contemporaneous name of the city, from the "zà-mì hymns", as Gišgikidu, "Gišgi, the good place".
  7. ^ Toorn, K. van der; Becking, Bob; Horst, Pieter Willem van der (1999). "Baal". Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible: DDD. Leiden; Grand Rapids, Mich: Brill : Eerdmans. ISBN 978-90-04-11119-6. OCLC 1005995268.
  8. ^ Postgate summarized the discoveries at Abu Salabikh in the relevant article in J. Curtis, ed., Fifty Years of Mesopotamian Discovery(London) 1982:48–61.

Further reading[edit]

  • [1] Matthews, R. and Matthews, W. (2017) A palace for the king of Eres? Evidence from the Early Dynastic City of Abu Salabikh, south Iraq. In: Heffron, Y., Stone, A. and Worthington, M. (eds.) At the dawn of history. Ancient Near Eastern studies in honour of J. N. Postgate. Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake, pp. 359–367. ISBN 9781575064710
  • Robert D. Biggs, The Abu Salabikh Tablets. A Preliminary Survey, Journal of Cuneiform Studies, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 73–88, 1966
  • Postgate, J. N., and Moorey, P. R. S., 1976. Excavations at Abu Salabikh, Iraq, vol. 38, pp. 133–69, 1975
  • Nicholas Postgate, "Excavations at Abu Salabikh 1976", Iraq, vol. 39, pp. 269–299, 1977
  • Nicholas Postgate, "Excavations at Abu Salabikh 1977', Iraq, vol. 40, pp. 89-100, 1978
  • Nicholas Postgate, "Excavations at Abu Salabikh 1978-79", Iraq, vol. 42, no. 2, pp. 87–104, 1980
  • Nicholas Postgate and J.A. Moon, "Excavations at Abu Salabikh 1981", Iraq, vol. 44, no. 2, pp. 103–136, 1982
  • Nicholas Postgate, "Excavations at Abu Salabikh 1983", Iraq, vol. 46, pp. 95–114, 1984
  • R.J. Matthews and Nicholas Postgate, "Excavations at Abu Salabikh 1985-86", Iraq, vol. 49, pp. 91–120, 1987
  • Nicholas Postgate, "Excavations at Abu Salabikh 1988-89", Iraq, vol. 52, pp. 95–106, 1990
  • Susan Pollock, Caroline Steele and Melody Pope, Investigations on the Uruk Mound, Abu Salabikh, 1990, Iraq, vol. 53, pp. 59–68, 1991
  • S. Pollock, M. Pope and C. Coursey, "Household Production at the Uruk Mound, Abu Salabikh, Iraq," American Journal of Archaeology, vol. 100, no. 4, pp. 683–698, 1996
  • Nicholas Postgate, “Early Dynastic burial customs at Abu Salabikh”, in Sumer 36, pp. 65–82, 1980
  • Postgate J.N. and Moon J.A., Excavations at Abu Salabikh, a Sumerian city, National Geographic Research Reports: 1976 projects, vol. 17, pp. 721–743, 1984
  • Abu Salabikh Excavations:
    • Volume I - J.N. Postgate, "The West Mound Surface Clearance",Oxbow Books, 1983 ISBN: 0903472066 PDF [2]
    • Volume II - H.P. Martin, J. Moon & J.N. Postgate, "Graves 1 to 99", Oxbow Books, 1985 ISBN: 9780903472098 PDF [3]
    • Volume III - Jane Moon, "Catalogue of Early Dynastic Pottery", Oxbow Books, 1987 ISBN: 9780903472111 PDF [4]
    • Volume IV - A.N. Green, "The 6G Ash-Tip and its Contents: Cultic and Administrative Discard from the Temple?", Oxbow Books, 1993 ISBN: 9780903472135 PDF [5]

External links[edit]