ARCHIVES
   Since the majority of cuneiform documents deal with bureaucratic matters, they were often kept together in the form of archives for future reference. They belonged in the main to the large institutions of Mesopotamia, the temple and palace, and detail expenditure and income, personnel, and hours worked by laborers, as well as legal contracts and correspondence. From the third millennium B.C. are examples from Shuruppak, ancient Fara, that date from the 24th century B.C. The tablets date from a single year and detail the economic dealings of a large organization involving some 9,660 donkeys and 1,200 men. From about the same time are the archives of Girsu, the capital of the city-state Lagash, which furnished details about the centralized economy of the city-state. Particularly well known are the palace archives of Mari from the 19th century B.C. They entail the voluminous correspondence between the ruler and his various dependents and allies and thus form one of the main sources for the history of the Middle Euphrates region of the period.
   From the time of the Third Dynasty of Ur, temple archives, especially from Ur and Nippur, as well as from provincial centers such as Puzrish-Dagan, often contained thousands of tablets and reveal the complex workings of these institutions.
   With the Old Babylonian period, private archives belonging to private entrepreneurs begin to appear, alongside rarities such as the records of the “cloister” at Sippar, where unmarried and well-born women lived in seclusion to pray and look after their investments (see NADITU).
   Of great historical importance are the state archives from Assyria, which preserved royal correspondence, especially from the time of the Sargonids (seventh century). They contain letters from scholars and diviners, astrologers and exorcists, as well as those pertaining to the administration of the empire. From the Neo-Babylonianperiod, no comparable records survive, but there are important archives from temples such as that of the sun god at Sippar.
   During the late period of Mesopotamian history, when Babylonia was ruled by the Persians and then the Seleucid kings, the main cuneiform sources come from the archives of large commercial firms, such as the Egibi or the Murashu families, who managed temple land, lent silver, and liaised with the crown. The very last archive collections come from the temple estates of Uruk.
   See also ADMINISTRATION.

Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. . 2012.

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