“Keeping Home and Hearth Together”: A Scribe’s Adaptation of Adoption and Inheritance Division Templates from Old Babylonian Nippur Scribal Schools

  • Susandra J. van Wyk North-West University
Keywords: inheritance, division, adoption, scribal school, Nippur, Old Babylonia


In Old Babylonian Nippur, inheritance divisions and adoptions were distinctive and customary agreements. Sometimes the involved parties obtained the services of a scribe to conceptualise the orally agreed arrangements into a recording. A recording was drafted from a template that was learned during a scribe’s scribal school education. Reading the scribal construction through the lens of OB Nippur’s customary and distinct agreements, a case study from the so-called Ur-Pabilsa?a Archive seems to mirror a complex agreement. The scribe ingeniously merged and adapted two templates, an inheritance division and ana aplutim adoption, in one abridged recording. I have proposed that the case study represented a sui generis adoption-inheritance division wherein the adoptive parties reinstated their artificially created family relationship due to their unique arrangements in the redistribution of their initial inheritance awards. Instead of an inheritance division that would have established sole ownership, they agreed that each held a proportionate co-ownership in the awarded properties. For the remainder of their lives, neither one could alienate an award, and either could be the ultimate owner of the adoptive family estate with the demise of the other.

Author Biography

Susandra J. van Wyk, North-West University

Post-doctoral fellow

Faculty of Humanities, School of Basic Sciences