The Mystery Women of the Assyrian Empire

An article published in the National Geographic recently reported that archaeologists are translating clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform writing that describe everyday life in the Assyrian Empire 3,000 years ago. These clay tablets were unearthed in the summer of 2009 in an ancient Assyrian palace located in present-day southeastern Turkey.

One interesting set of information provided by the translation of these clay tablets is what the tablets reveal about a group of women working for the Assyrians. The following is an excerpt from the article:

Mystery Women

So far, the team has deciphered lists of names of 144 women on the tablets who were likely employed by the palace as agricultural workers or laborers at its granary.

Yet while the tablets were written in the Late Assyrian language, the women’s names are not Assyrian.

That means the women may have been from local indigenous populations, or part of a mass relocation of people conquered by the Assyrians in another part of the empire.

“The Assyrians deported large numbers of people—hundreds of thousands—from one part of the empire to another in order to break up local power structures and to move agricultural workers where they needed them,” he said.

“It’s an intriguing possibility that these women may have been one group that was involved in these deportations.”

The files can help explain how, as a political entity, the empire controlled and administrated their large territories.

“It will be very interesting to see what the role of women in this economy was, and also [perhaps] what the hierarchy was—were there Assyrian overlords, or was it all locally managed?”

The information above was provided by Timothy Matney, an archaeologist from the University of Akron, who is leading a team of archaeologists in the excavation of the massive mud brick palace, once inhabited by the Assyrian governor of the empire’s Tushhan Province.

Further studies of these tablets may help scholars gain a better understanding of what life was like in the Assyrian Empire.

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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This entry was posted in Archaeology, Assyria, Women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Mystery Women of the Assyrian Empire

  1. >I wonder how helpful will this be in helping us understand Tiglath-Pileser III's Assyria.Jerry


  2. Anonymous says:

    >so what are the names?


  3. >Dear Anonymous,Unfortunately, I do not know the names of the women and the report did not provide them. I will try to find out their names and if I do, I will post themClaude Mariottini


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