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Irisaĝrig (also Urusagrig, Iri-Saĝrig, and in the Akkadian language Al-Šarrākī) was an ancient Near East city in Iraq whose location is not known with certainty but is currently thought to be at the site of Tell al-Wilayah, on the ancient Mama-šarrat canal off the Tigris river, near the ancient site of Kesh, Tulul al-Baqarat. The city was occupied during the Early Dynastic, Akkadian, Ur III, and early Old Babylonian periods. While cuneiform tablets from the city had appeared from time to time, the flood of artifacts entering the private market from looting which followed the 2003 war in Iraq included a large number from Irisaĝrig. This spurred interest by archaeologist in finding the site. The city became of popular interest because of the Hobby Lobby smuggling scandal. While there were a number of significant temples in the city, the titular deity is not known though the Isin-Larsa period literary composition Lament for Eridu names the goddess Aruru in that role. It has also been suggested that there were temples of Ashgi and Alla.[1] There is known to have been a temple of Ninisina and one of Nergal of Eresh in Irisagrig in the Ur III period, at least back to the reign of Shu-Suen and Amar-Sin respectively, and continuing under the rule of Malgium.[2]

An alternate name for Ursagrig during the Akkadian Empire and Ur III periods has been identified as Šarrākum (possibly a variation of Al-Šarrākī).[3][4] This suggestion has been contested.[5]


In 1992, Douglas Frayne proposed the site of Umm al-Hafriyyat (Umm al-Hafriyyat) as the location based a) on it being 4 rowing days upstream from Umma on the Iturungal Canal off the Euphrates river, suggested by an early itinerary, b) on it being the largest mound north of Adab with known Early Dynastic and Sargonic remains and c) on reports of the quality of tablet making clay at the site.[6] After more consideration, in 2001, Piotr Steinkeller judged that the site had to lie off the Tigris river and not the Euphrates and must lie north of Adab. He suggested several unnamed mounds as possible locations for Irisaĝrig.[7]

More Ur III texts became available on boat journeys between Irisaĝrig, Nippur, and Umma, combined with better information of ancient watercourse in there are, allowed refinement on the distances involved. Additionally, satellite photographs of looting activity were correlated with the appearance of tablets from the site on the private market. Surface surveys also were checked to match the periods when the city was known to be occupied. The result was a proposal that Irisaĝrig was located at one of two sites 1) Site #1032 - 80 kilometers upstream of Umma, and 2) Site #1056 - 76 kilometers upstream of Umma on the Adams survey.[8][9]

Further work negated an assumption of earlier researchers that Irisaĝrig was near to Nippur, actually being somewhat further away. Excavation at Tulul al-Baqarat showed it to be the site of Kesh. Irisaĝrig and Kesh were known from inscriptions to be very near to each other with the later acting as a cult site under the control of the former. Tulul al-Baqarat is about 6 kilometers from Tell al-Wilayah. They are also connected by a canal. Irisaĝrig is known to have been quite large and the proposed Tell al-Wilayah site is a sizable 64 hectares. Surface surveys and brief excavations by Iraqi archaeologists at the site have also shown it to have been occupied at the proper times. This all has led to the current proposal that Tell al-Wilayah is Irisaĝrig.[10] This is not without some scholarly dissent. Steinkeller has stated that Tell al-Wilayah is definitely not Irisaĝrigis but may actually be ancient Anzagar.[11] Another proposed location is at Tell Jidr.[12]


While Irisaĝrig has not yet been excavated (or definitely located) thousands of cuneiform tablets from there are available as a result of looting.[13] The majority are from the Ur III period. The large number of tablets allows analysis such as the determination of the calendar system in use in Irisaĝrig, one only found in Sargonic tablets from Tell al-Willayah. A unique rationing system was also in place in the city. The tablets also document numerous visits by the Ur III rulers for reasons as yet unclear but possibly related to the presence of three temples to deified rulers of that dynasty in Irisaĝrig.[14][15][16][17]


The city of Irisaĝrig is known through a number of cuneiform inscriptions dating back into the Early Dynastic IIIb period.[18] It was also occupied during the Sargonic period. Two year names of Akkadian Empire rulers mention Urusagrig ie "Year in which Il the temple official of Urusagrig was seized" and "Year in which the ensi of Nippur allied? with Urusagrig ...".[19] From a seal the name of one governor under the Akkadian Empire ruler Naram-Sin is known, prince and son of Naram-Sin Šaratigubišin (earlier thought to be either a son of Shar-Kali-Sharri or the son of a Gutian king):[20]

dNa-ra-am-dSuen / LUGAL / ki-ib-ra-tim / ar-ba-im - NaramSuen, king of the Four Quarters of the World
Sar-a-ti-gu-bi-si-in / ENSI2 / Uru-sag-rig7ki / DUMU-su - Šaratigubišin, governor of Urusagrig, his son[11]

During the time of the Ur III empire it was a major provincial capital and transportation hub. It was also closely linked in this period with the unlocated ancient city of Garšana and known to be a transshipment point for goods to Der.[21][22] Thanks to the numerous records produced by that empire much is known about the city, its daily life, and its interactions, especially trade related, with other parts of the empire. One ensi (governor) under Ur, Lubanda, is known from a seal of Shulgi.[23]

An example of daily life would be the woman Ninsaga, daughter of governor under Ur rulers from Amar-Sin (year 7) through Shu-Sin up to Ibbi-Sîn (year 9) Ur-mes, who managed her large estate in the city. The estate included hundreds of male and female slaves.[24][25] Two other governors are known to have followed Ur-mes, Ilalum and Dadani.[26] In a text found at nearby Kesh another governor, la-ra-ra dumu is-[gar], is mentioned.[27]

Another example would be the merchant Turam-ili, known from an archive of tablets from the private market which have now been assigned to Irisaĝrig.[28][29] And a scribe, Ilum-asu, who along with his father Bibi and brothers Mašum and Ašgi-ibra handled the administration of rations for a number of workers in Irisaĝrig.[30]

With the Ur empire in decline the city of Malgium conquered Irisaĝrig roughly after year 10 of Ibbi-Sin (c. 2028–2004 BC), the last ruler of the Ur III empire. Tablets showed that six rulers of Malium ruled over Irisaĝrig. They left the existing Ur III administrative system in place while changing to the calendar of Malgium.[31][32]

See also


  1. ^ [1]Nicolet, Grégoire, "Old Babylonian god-lists in retrospect: A new edition of TH 80.112", Syria. Archéologie, art et histoire 99, pp. 9-78, 2022
  2. ^ Notizia, Palmiro, and Ammar M. al-Taee, "Sealed Bullae and Livestock Management at Irisaĝrig in the Early Old Babylonian Period", Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und vorderasiatische Archäologie 113.2, pp. 169-192, 2023
  3. ^ Frayne, Douglas R., "The Early Dynastic List of Geographical Names", Vol. 7400, American Oriental Society, 1992
  4. ^ Steinkeller, P., "Seal of Išma-Ilum, son of the Governor of Matar", Vicino Oriente 6, pp. 27-40 + Addenda et corrigenda, 1986
  5. ^ Lecompte, C., "Listes lexicales et representations spatiales des époques archaïques à la période paléo-babylonienne", Ph.D. dissertation, Université de Versaille St-Quentin-en-Yvelines / Université de Genève, 2009
  6. ^ Frayne, D. R., "The Early Dynastic List of Geographical Names.", American Oriental Series 74. New Haven: American Oriental Society, 1992 ISBN 978-0940490741
  7. ^ Steinkeller, P., "New Light on the Hydrology and Topography of Southern Babylonia in the Third Millennium", Zeitschrift für Assyriologie 91, pp. 22-84, 2001
  8. ^ Molina, Manuel. "On the Location of Irisaĝrig"., From the 21st Century B.C. to the 21st Century A.D.: Proceedings of the International Conference on Neo-Sumerian Studies Held in Madrid, 22–24 July 2010, edited by Steven J. Garfinkle and Manuel Molina, University Park, USA: Penn State University Press, 2021, pp. 59-88, 2010
  9. ^ [2] Adams, R. McC., "Heartland of Cities. Surveys of Ancient Settlement and Land use on the Central Floodplain of the Euphrates.", Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981
  10. ^ [3] Viano, Maurizio., "On the Location of Irisaĝrig once again.", Journal of Cuneiform Studies 71.1, pp. 35-52, 2019
  11. ^ a b Steinkeller, Piotr. "Two Sargonic Seals from Urusagrig and the Question of Urusagrig’s Location", Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und vorderasiatische Archäologie, vol. 112, no. 1, pp. 1-10, 2022
  12. ^ Powell, Marvin A., "Karkar, Dabrum, and Tall Ǧidr: An Unresolved Geographical Problem", Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol. 39, no. 1, pp. 47–52, 1980
  13. ^ M. Molina, "The Looting of Ur III Tablets after the Gulf Wars", in: W. Sommerfeld (ed.), Dealing with Antiquity: Past, Present & Future. RAI Marburg. AOAT 460. Münster, pp. 324–35, 2020
  14. ^ Gerstenblith, Patty. "Hobby Lobby, the Museum of the Bible and the Law: A Case Study of the Looting of Archaeological Artifacts from Iraq." Antiquities Smuggling in the Real and Virtual World. Routledge, pp. 59-95, 2022
  15. ^ Sigrist, Marcel, Gabbay, Uri and Avila, Mark. "Cuneiform Tablets and Other Inscribed Objects from Collections in Jerusalem"., The First Ninety Years: A Sumerian Celebration in Honor of Miguel Civil, edited by Lluís Feliu, Fumi Karahashi and Gonzalo Rubio, Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, pp. 311-336, 2017
  16. ^ Owen, David. "The Archive of Iri-Saĝrig / Āl-Šarrākī: A Brief Survey." in From the 21st Century B.C. to the 21st Century A.D.: Proceedings of the International Conference on Neo-Sumerian Studies Held in Madrid, 22–24 July 2010, edited by Steven J. Garfinkle and Manuel Molina, University Park, USA: Penn State University Press, pp. 89-102, 2021
  17. ^ [4] Zwaid, Wafaa H., and Eric L. Cripps. "Some Ur III Texts from Irisagrig in the Iraq Museum." Akkadica 141.2, pp. 97-114, 2020
  18. ^ Edzard, D. O., and Farber, W., "Die Orts und Gewässernamen der Zeit der 3. Dynastie von Ur", Répertoire Géographique des Textes Cunéiformes 2. Wiesbaden: L. Reichert., 1974
  19. ^ Marcel Sigrist and Peter Damerow, "Mesopotamian Year Names", Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative, 2001
  20. ^ Suter, Claudia E., "On Images, Visibility, and Agency of Early Mesopotamian Royal Women", The First Ninety Years: A Sumerian Celebration in Honor of Miguel Civil, edited by Lluís Feliu, Fumi Karahashi and Gonzalo Rubio, Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, pp. 337-362, 2017
  21. ^ Owen, David I.. "A Tale of Two Cities: New Ur III Archives and their Implication for Early Old Babylonian History and Culture". Diversity and Standardization: Perspectives on ancient Near Eastern cultural history, edited by Eva Cancik-Kirschbaum, Jörg Klinger and Gerfrid G. W. Müller, München: Akademie Verlag, pp. 99-112, 2014
  22. ^ Saadoon, Abather Rahi, "Archive of the Sumerian city, Irisagrig (Al-Sharaki)(A study in the light of cuneiform texts)", ISIN Journal, iss. 3, pp. 93-109, 2022
  23. ^ Sigrist, Marcel, and Tohru Ozaki. "Tablets from the Irisaĝrig Archive.", Vol. 40. Penn State Press, 2019 ISBN 978-1-57506-726-1
  24. ^ Owen, David I., "Cuneiform Texts Primarily from Iri-Sagrig/Al-Šarraki and the History of the Ur III Period. Nisaba 15/1 and 15/2.", Two volumes, Bethesda: CDL Press, 2013 ISBN 9781934309452
  25. ^ Lafont, Bertrand. "Women at Work and Women in Economy and Society during the Neo-Sumerian Period". The Role of Women in Work and Society in the Ancient Near East, edited by Brigitte Lion and Cécile Michel, Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, pp. 149-173, 2016
  26. ^ Lafont, Bertrand. "Game of Thrones: the Years when Šu-Sin Succeeded Amar-Suen in the Kingdom of Ur", The First Ninety Years: A Sumerian Celebration in Honor of Miguel Civil, edited by Lluís Feliu, Fumi Karahashi and Gonzalo Rubio, Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, pp. 189-204, 2017
  27. ^ Abd, B. J., "Unpublished cuneiform texts from the site of Tulul Al-Baqarat", [in Arabic], Journal of Studies in History and Antiquities 64. Baghdad, pp. 3–26, 2018
  28. ^ Garfinkle, Steven J. “Turam-Ili and the Community of Merchants in the Ur III Period.” Journal of Cuneiform Studies, vol. 54, pp. 29–48, 2002
  29. ^ Garfinkle, Steven J., "Family Firms in the Ur III Period", Tradition and Innovation in the Ancient Near East: Proceedings of the 57th Rencontre Assyriologique International at Rome, 4–8 July 2011, edited by Alfonso Archi, University Park, USA: Penn State University Press, pp. 517-524, 2021
  30. ^ [5] Widell, Magnus, "Ilum-asu. A Scribe from Irisagrig." Archiv orientální 90.1, pp. 25-39, 2022
  31. ^ Ozaki, Tohru, Sigrist, Marcel and Steinkeller, Piotr., "New Light on the History of Irisaĝrig in Post-Ur III Times", Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und Vorderasiatische Archäologie, vol. 111, no. 1, pp. 28-37, 2021
  32. ^ Colonna d’Istria, L., "Noms d’annés de rois du Malgium sur quelques étiquettes", NABU 2020/10, 2020

Further reading

  • Ahmed, Ali Mohammed (2022). "Two New Cuneiform Texts from Iri-Sağrig Including Akkadian Formulas" (PDF). Athar Alrafedain. 7 (1): 239–253.
  • Al-Jubouri, Ali Yassin, "Unpublished Ration texts from Iri-Sagrig (iri-sag-rig7 ki)", Athar Alrafedain 8.2, pp. 3-25, 2023
  • L. Feliu, "An Ur III Tablet from Urusagrig", AuOr 24, pp. 149, 2006
  • Kleinerman, Alexandra. "The Barbers of Iri-Saĝrig". In: From the 21st Century BC to the 21st Century AD: Proceedings of the International Conference on Neo-Sumerian Studies Held in Madrid, 22–24 July 2010. Edited by Steven J. Garfinkle and Manuel Molina, University Park, USA: Penn State University Press, pp. 89–102, 2021
  • Lambert, Maurice, "La ville d'Urusagrig", Revue d’Assyriologie et d’archéologie Orientale, vol. 47, no. 1, pp. 11–15, 1953
  • Liu, Changyu (2020). "An Edition of Twelve Ur III Administrative Cuneiform Tablets from United States Collections". Archiv orientální. 87 (1): 33–57.
  • Martos, Manuel Molina. "Textos cuneiformes sumerios de la antigua ciudad de Irisaĝrig". In: Ex Baetica Romam: homenaje a José Remesal Rodríguez. Universitat de Barcelona, 2020.
  • Owen, David I., "The Cosmopolitan Society of Iri-Saĝrig", The Third Millennium, Brill, pp. 585-594, 2020
  • Owen, David I. “New Iri-Saĝrig Ration Distribution and Related Texts.” Over the Mountains and Far Away: Studies in Near Eastern History and Archaeology Presented to Mirjo Salvini on the Occasion of His 80th Birthday, edited by Pavel S. Avetisyan et al., Archaeopress, pp. 371–80, 2019
  • D. I. Owen, "New Additions to the Iri-Saĝrig/Al-Šarrākī Archives", in: P. Corò – E. Devecchi – N. De Zorzi – M. Maiocchi (eds.), Libiamo ne’ lieti calici. Ancient Near Eastern Studies Presented to Lucio Milano on the Occasion of his 65th Birthday by Pupils, Colleagues and Friends, AOAT 436 (Münster 2016), pp. 337–362, 2016
  • Owen, D. I., "A New Iri-saĝrig “Sacristy” Inventory Text in the Lanier Theological Library", RA 113, pp. 39–44, 2019
  • Ozaki, Tohru., "On the calendar of Urusaĝrig.", Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und vorderasiatische Archäologie 106.2, pp. 127–137, 2016

External links[edit]

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