The Meaning of Color in Ancient Mesopotamia 9004415378, 9789004415379

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Table of contents :
The Meaning of Color in Ancient Mesopotamia
Color Metalanguage, Signs and Convention Used
List of Figures and Plates
1 Color Semantics
1 What is Color?
1.1 Color and the Elements
1.2 Light and Paint
1.3 Color Sense in Mesopotamia
2 Color Vision and Language Gladstone, Magnus, Allen and the Puzzle of Color Vocabularies
3 Color Categories and Names Relativity and Universalism
4 Scope and Nature of the Present Study
2 Abstract Colors
1 Talking about Color in Akkadian
1.1 Terms that Describe a Process of Coloring or a State of Being Colored
1.2 Verbal Colors
1.3 Non-verbal Colors
2 Abstract Color Words
2.1 Basic Versus Abstract Colors
2.2 Analytic Method in Present Study
3 Aspects of Color
4 Terminology for the Process of Coloring and the State of Being Colored
4.1 Basalu
4.2 Samatu
4.3 Ṣarāpu
4.4 Tarapu
5 Terminology for Abstract Color Terms
5.1 Arqu (Pale+Yellow/Green)
5.2 Barmu (Multihued, Versicolored)
5.3 Daʾmu (dark+red/Brown)
5.4 Ebbu, namru (with ellu) (Lustrous, Dazzling)
5.5 Eklu, eṭû (with adru) (Dark, Dim)
5.6 Ḫelû (Shining, Translucent)
5.7 Ḫ/ruššû (Glowing+Orange)
5.8 Pelû (Light Orange/Red, Copper Red)
5.9 Peṣû (Light+White)
5.10 Samu (Vivid+Red)
5.11 Ṣalmu (Dark+Black)
5.12 Tarku
3 Material Colors
1 What are Material Colors?
2 Materials and Colors in Parts of Speech and in the Archaeological Record
3 Abstraction
4 Colored Materials
4.1 Wool and Leather
4.1.1 Coloring Fabrics and Garments
4.1.2 Coloring Leather
4.1.3 Colored Embellishments
4.1.4 Conclusion
4.2 Pigments
4.3 Glass
4.3.1 Overview of the Archaeological Evidence
4.3.2 Overview of Glass Colorants
4.3.3 Conclusion
4.4 Metals
5 Terminology for Fabrics, Stones and Glass
5.1 Argamannu and takiltu (Red-purple and Blue-purple)
5.1.1 Etymology & History of Attestation
5.1.2 Orthography & By-forms
5.1.3 Characterization
5.1.4 Color
5.2 Duḫšu (Calcite-colored, Yellow)
5.2.1 Etymology & History of Attestation
5.2.2 Orthography & By-forms
5.2.3 Characterization
5.3 Ḫaṣartu (Green)
5.3.1 Etymology & History of Attestation
5.3.2 Orthography & By-forms
5.3.3 Characterization
5.4 Ḫašḫūru/ḫatḫūru (Apple-colored, Red)
5.4.1 Etymology & History of Attestation
5.4.2 Orthography & By-forms
5.4.3 Characterization
5.5 Ḫašmānu (Amethyst-colored, Red-purple)
5.5.1 Etymology & History of Attestation
5.5.2 Orthography & By-forms
5.5.3 Characterization
5.5.4 Color and Cultural Meaning
5.6 Kinaḫḫu (Red?)
5.6.1 Etymology & History of Attestation
5.6.2 Characterization
5.7 Makrû (Red)
5.7.1 Etymology & History of Attestation
5.7.2 Characterization
5.8 Šuratḫu (Beige/brown?)
5.8.1 Etymology & History of Attestation
5.8.2 Characterization
5.9 Tabarru and nabasu (Red, Rose, Reddish Orange, Reddish Brown)
5.9.1 Etymology & History of Attestation
5.9.2 Orthography & By-forms
5.9.3 Characterization
5.10 Tamk/qarḫu (Unknown)
5.10.1 Etymology & History of Attestation
5.10.2 Characterization
5.11 Uqnû (Lapis Lazuli Colored, Dark+Blue)
5.11.1 Etymology & History of Attestation
5.11.2 Orthography
5.11.3 Characterization
6 Terminology for Dyes, Pigments and Colorants
6.1 Ḫi/enzūru, ḫi/enzurību, inzurātu (Unknown Red Dye)
6.1.1 Etymology & History of Attestation
6.1.2 Orthography
6.1.3 Characterization
6.2 Ḫurātu (Madder)
6.2.1 Etymology & History of Attestation
6.2.2 Orthography & By-forms
6.2.3 Characterization
6.3 Ḫurḫurātu (Kermes+madder)
6.3.1 Etymology & History of Attestation
6.3.2 Orthography
6.3.3 Characterization
6.4 Kalgukku (Lead Yellow)
6.4.1 Etymology & History of Attestation
6.4.2 Orthography
6.4.3 Characterization
6.5 Kalû (Ochre)
6.5.1 Etymology & History of Attestation
6.5.2 Orthography
6.5.3 Characterization
6.6 Kasû (Safflower?)
6.6.1 Etymology & History of Attestation
6.6.2 Characterization
6.7 Sarsarru (Red Pigment)
6.7.1 Etymology & History of Attestation
6.7.2 Characterization
6.8 Urṭû/uriṭû (Unknown Plant-dye)
6.8.1 Etymology & History of Attestation
6.8.2 Characterization
6.9 Zagindurû (Light Blue, Turquoise Vitreous Material)
6.9.1 Etymology & History of Attestation
6.9.2 Orthography
6.9.3 Characterization
7 Terminology for Metals
7.1 Ḫurāṣu (Golden)
7.1.1 Etymology & History of Attestation
7.1.2 Orthography & By-forms
7.1.3 Characterization
4 Colorful Matter
1 History of Scholarship on the North-West Palace
1.1 Excavations at Nimrud
2 The Polychromy Then and Now
3 Museology
3.1 Acquisition and Display of the Assyrian Reliefs at Yale University
3.2 Conservation
4 Egyptian Blue on the Assyrian Reliefs at Yale University a Study by Visible-induced Luminescence Imaging
4.1 Egyptian Blue and VIL-imaging
4.2 VIL-imaging on the Yale Reliefs Analysis and Discussion
5 The "Colorful Matter" of Assyrian Architecture
Epilogue Making Sense of Color
5_Other Abbreviations
Appendix A
Appendix B
General Index
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The Meaning of Color in Ancient Mesopotamia

Culture and History of the Ancient Near East Founding Editor M.H.E. Weippert Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Stökl Editors Eckart Frahm W. Randall Garr B. Halpern Theo P.J. van den Hout Leslie Anne Warden Irene J. Winter

volume 104

The titles published in this series are listed at

The Meaning of Color in Ancient Mesopotamia By

Shiyanthi Thavapalan

leiden | boston

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Thavapalan, Shiyanthi, author. Title: The meaning of color in ancient Mesopotamia / Shiyanthi Thavapalan. Other titles: Culture and history of the ancient Near East ; v.104. 1566-2055 Description: Leiden ; Boston : Brill, 2020. | Series: Culture and history of the ancient Near East, 1566-2055 ; volume 104 | Includes bibliographical references. | Summary: “In The Meaning of Color in Ancient Mesopotamia, Shiyanthi Thavapalan offers the first in-depth study of the words and expressions for colors in the Akkadian language (c. 2500-500 BCE). By combining philological analysis with the technical investigation of materials, she debunks the misconception that people in Mesopotamia had a limited sense of color and convincingly positions the development of Akkadian color language as a corollary of the history of materials and techniques in the ancient Near East”-- Provided by publisher. Identifiers: LCCN 2019030662 (print) | LCCN 2019030663 (ebook) | ISBN 9789004415379 (hardback) | ISBN 9789004415416 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Colors, Words for. | Color--Terminology. | Akkadian language--Semantics. | Akkadian philology. | Material culture--Iraq. Classification: LCC PJ3189 .T43 2020 (print) | LCC PJ3189 (ebook) | DDC 892/.1--dc23 LC record available at LC ebook record available at Typeface for the Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic scripts: “Brill”. See and download: ISSN 1566-2055 ISBN 978-90-04-41537-9 (hardback) ISBN 978-90-04-41541-6 (e-book) Copyright 2020 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands. Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints Brill, Brill Hes & De Graaf, Brill Nijhoff, Brill Rodopi, Brill Sense, Hotei Publishing, mentis Verlag, Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh and Wilhelm Fink Verlag. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher. Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use is granted by Koninklijke Brill NV provided that the appropriate fees are paid directly to The Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Suite 910, Danvers, MA 01923, USA. Fees are subject to change. This book is printed on acid-free paper and produced in a sustainable manner.

Contents Acknowledgements  ix Color Metalanguage, Signs and Convention Used  x List of Figures and Plates  xi 1 Color Semantics  1 1 What is Color?  1 2 Color Vision and Language: Gladstone, Magnus, Allen and the Puzzle of Color Vocabularies  7 3 Color Categories and Names: Relativity and Universalism  12 4 Scope and Nature of the Present Study  17 2 Abstract Colors  20 1 Talking about Color in Akkadian  20 2 Abstract Color Words  27 3 Aspects of Color  36 4 Terminology for the Process of Coloring and the State of Being Colored  42 4.1 Bašālu  42 4.2 Šamātu  47 4.3 Ṣarāpu  55 4.4 Tarāpu  63 5 Terminology for Abstract Color Terms  65 5.1 Arqu  65 5.2 Barmu  79 5.3 Da ʾmu  89 5.4 Ebbu, namru (with ellu)  96 5.5 Eklu, eṭû (with adru)  107 5.6 Ḫelû  118 5.7 Ḫ/ruššû  122 5.8 Pelû  128 5.9 Peṣû  133 5.10 Sāmu  141 5.11 Ṣalmu  154 5.12 Tarku  162 3 Material Colors  167 1 What are Material Colors?  167




Materials and Colors in Parts of Speech and in the Archaeological Record  169 3 Abstraction  172 4 Colored Materials  175 4.1 Wool and Leather  175 4.2 Pigments  194 4.3 Glass  199 4.4 Metals  221 5 Terminology for Fabrics, Stones and Glass  224 5.1 Argamannu and takiltu  224 5.2 Duḫšu  244 5.3 Ḫaṣartu  264 5.4 Ḫašḫūru/ḫatḫūru  266 5.5 Ḫašmānu  269 5.6 Kinaḫḫu  284 5.7 Makrû  289 5.8 Šuratḫu  291 5.9 Tabarru and nabāsu  294 5.10 Tamk/qarḫu  308 5.11 Uqnû  310 6 Terminology for Dyes, Pigments and Colorants  326 6.1 Ḫi/enzūru, ḫi/enzurību, inzurātu  326 6.2 Ḫurātu  331 6.3 Ḫurḫurātu  338 6.4 Kalgukku  342 6.5 Kalû  346 6.6 Kasû  350 6.7 Šaršarru  352 6.8 Urṭû/uriṭû  355 6.9 Zagindurû  355 7 Terminology for Metals  367 7.1 Ḫurāṣu  367 4 Colorful Matter  374 1 History of Scholarship on the North-West Palace  375 1.1 Excavations at Nimrud  375 2 The Polychromy Then and Now  381 3 Museology  387 3.1 Acquisition and Display of the Assyrian Reliefs at Yale University  388 3.2 Conservation  392




Egyptian Blue on the Assyrian Reliefs at Yale University: a Study by Visible-induced Luminescence Imaging  403 4.1 Egyptian Blue and VIL-imaging  403 4.2 VIL-imaging on the Yale Reliefs: Analysis and Discussion  404 The ‘Colorful Matter’ of Assyrian Architecture  412

Epilogue: Making Sense of Color  415 Bibliography  419 Appendix A  463 Appendix B  472 Plates  475 Indices  504 General Index   507


Acknowledgements The present book grew out of the doctoral thesis I submitted to the ­Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Yale University in 2017. I warmly thank my teacher and mentor Benjamin Foster, without whom I could not have brought this project to fruition. Eckart Frahm encouraged me to combine my intellectual strengths with my interests and supplied the necessary nudges to get the manuscript to Brill. Over the years, I have received help and guidance from many people and it is a pleasure to record my gratitude to them. Jens Stenger and Carol Snow from the Yale University Art Gallery joined me on the search for Egyptian blue on the Nimrud reliefs and I thank them for their energetic optimism. For permission to work in the gallery I gratefully acknowledge Susan Matheson, Aniko Bezur and Lisa Brody. Betsy Ruppa granted me access to the mineral collection at the Rhode Island School of Design Nature Lab and the beautiful photographs of rocks and gems are owed to the skill of Stefan Baumann. The happy years I spent at the Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Studies in Tübingen lent new direction to my research. I express my heartfelt gratitude to Konrad Volk for his careful reading of my thesis and for encouraging me to trust my instincts to ask the right questions. By drawing my attention to the significance of colors for the history of science and the senses, John Steele, Matthew Rutz and Yannis Hamilakis at Brown University helped me define the broader context for this work. For his original studies on color and for his generosity with ideas, time and criticism, I am indebted David Warburton. I am fortunate to have marvelous friends near and far who have encouraged and supported me during my years of graduate study. Thorsten Carstensen and I spent many hours in the woods of Connecticut and the streets of Berlin talking about colors. Mary Frazer, Shana Zaia, Nicholas Kraus, Elizabeth Payne, Raphaël Chevrier and Stefan Baumann provided valuable help as I pieced this work together. Finally, I owe my greatest thanks to my family: my mother Jayanthi, my father Thavapalan and my brother Varoon. In Colombo, Markham, New Haven and Tübingen, you have supported my every endeavor. Shiyanthi Thavapalan Providence, April 2019

Color Metalanguage, Signs and Convention Used Adapted from Biggam 2007, 183; 2012. Hue Saturation Tone

E.g. red, yellow and blue, refers to chromatic primaries. vivid—mild—pale Achromatic: white—pale grey—medium grey—dark grey—black Chromatic: dull—medium—dark Brightness Light-emission: dazzling—shining—glowing Reflectivity: shiny—lustrous—matt Surface illumination: well-lit—poorly lit Space illumination: brilliant—dim—unlit Transparency: transparent—translucent BOLD CAPITALS E.g. RED, indicates the concept, as opposed to the form of a color word used in a particular society. Italics E.g. sāmu, indicates color words in languages other than English and Sumerian. -(hyphen) E.g. yellow-green, indicates an equal mixture of both hues. /(slash) E.g. yellow/green, indicates the range of colors that may be denoted by either hues (in this case, shades of yellows, greens as well as a mixture of both). +(plus) E.g. red + shiny, indicates a color category in which both features are combined and inseparable, but that do not form a macro-category.

Figures and Plates Figures 2.1 2.2 2.3 3.1 3.2 4.1

Typology of Akkadian color terminology  40 Fragment of ivory plaque with remnants of paint. Neo-Assyrian, 8th–7th centuries BCE (MET 58.31.11)  45 Ivory furniture element with remnants of gold foil. Probably from Acemhöyük, 18th century BCE (MET 36.152.3)  46 List of temple dedications, The Hall of the Annals Relief, Karnak  218 Baskets of lapis lazuli, turquoise and colored glass. List of temple dedications, The Hall of the Annals Relief, Karnak  219 North-West Palace, plan of the state apartments with locations of the Yale reliefs  379

Plates 1a 1b 2a 2b 3a 3b 4a 4b 5a 5b 6a 6b

Carnelian (Private collection). Source: unknown. H. 1.8 cm; W. 2.4 cm  475 Red jasper (Private collection). Source: unknown. H. 5.4 cm; W. 13.3 cm  475 Baltic amber (Nature Lab RISD: Geo 3C). Source: unknown. H. 3 cm; W. 4.5 cm  476 Amber (Nature Lab RISD: Geo 3A). Source: unknown. H. 4.2 cm; W. 7.6 cm  476 Wulfenite and mimetite in barite (Nature Lab RISD: Geo 145I). Source: Rawley mine, Arizona. H. 3.2 cm; W. 4.5 cm  477 Pyrite (Nature Lab RISD). Source: unknown. H. 3 cm; W. 5 cm  477 Cinnabar (Nature Lab RISD: Geo 37C). Source: Almaden (Spain). H. 6.2 cm; W. 8.3 cm  478 Hematite (Nature Lab RISD: Geo 73E). Source: unknown. H. 6 cm; W. 11 cm  478 Copper pellets (Nature Lab RISD: Geo 39D). Source: unknown. H. 2 cm; W. 1.5 cm  479 Antimony (Nature Lab RISD: Geo 9A). Source: Chihuzhuz (Mexico). H. 1.3 cm; W. 2 cm  479 Shell with blueish cosmetic pigment from Ur, c. 2600–2400 BCE (B17186)  480 Shell with greenish cosmetic pigment from Ur, c. 2600–2400 BCE (31-17-93.1)  480


Figures and Plates


Erythrite (Nature Lab RISD: Geo 56A). Source: Bou Azzer (Anti Atlas, Morocco). H. 5.2 cm; W. 5.9 cm  481 Gypsum (Nature Lab RISD: Geo 68G). Source: unknown. H. 6.5 cm; W. 12.5 cm  481 Cobaltean calcite (Nature Lab RISD). Source: unknown. H. 3.1 cm; W. 5.5 cm  482 Cobaltean calcite (Nature Lab RISD: Geo 38D). Source: unknown. H. 4.9 cm; W. 5 cm  482 Calcite, yellow with white striations (Nature Lab RISD). Source: unknown. H. 6.5 cm; W. 9.3 cm  483 Calcite, pink and green (Nature Lab RISD: Geo 26N). Source: unknown. H. 5 cm; W. 6.9 cm  483 Cylindrical jar from Ur, yellow calcite with white striations (B17128)  484 Vase from Ur, yellow calcite with white striations (B17111)  484 Calcite jar from Ur with reddish-pink striations (B17104)  485 Oval calcite bowl from Ur, translucent green (B17166)  485 Quartz amethyst, purple with notes of orange and red (Nature Lab RISD: Geo 118B5). Source: unknown. H. 6.4 cm; W. 6.5 cm  486 Quartz amethyst, purple (Nature Lab RISD: Geo 114A). Source: unknown. H. 7.4 cm; W. 14.5 cm  486 Lapis lazuli with pyrite (Nature Lab RISD: Geo 85.A). Source: unknown. H. 1.9 cm; W. 5 cm  487 Lapis lazuli (Nature Lab RISD: Geo 85.A). Source: unknown. H. 1.9 cm; W. 5 cm  487 Stibnite (Nature Lab RISD: Geo 130A). Source: unknown. H. 14 cm; W. 4.4 cm  488 Fluorite (Nature Lab RISD: Geo 59K). Source: unknown. H. 7.2 cm; W. 8 cm  489 Sulfur (Nature Lab RISD: Geo 133A). Source: Beja, California. H. 3.9 cm; W. 4.2 cm  489 Azurite (Nature Lab RISD). Source: Silver City mine (Pima County, Arizona). H. 4.3 cm; W. 4.5 cm  490 Azurite with malachite (Nature Lab RISD). Source: unknown. H. 6.2 cm; W. 6.5 cm  490 Chrysocolla (Nature Lab RISD). Source: Grandview Mine (Coconino Co., Arizona). H. 2.5 cm; W. 3.2 cm  491 Turquoise: one greenish, one blueish (Nature Lab RISD: Geo 7.31). Source: unknown. H. 2.2 cm; W. 4.7 cm, H. 2 cm; W. 3.8 cm  491 Sodalite (Nature Lab RISD). Source: unknown. H. 8.8 cm; W. 12 cm  492 Galena (Nature Lab RISD). Source: unknown. H. 9.5 cm; W. 16.3 cm  492

7b 8a 8b 9a 9b 10a 10b 11a 11b 12a 12b 13a 13b 14 15a 15b 16a 16b 17A 17b 18a 18b

Figures and Plates


19a Malachite (Nature Lab RISD: Geo 94H). Source: unknown. H. 5.4 cm; W. 8.2 cm  493 19b Malachite with azurite (Nature Lab RISD: Geo 94F). Source: unknown. H. 7.2 cm; W. 10.2 cm  493 20 Paint box containing pigment cakes (yellow ochre, Egyptian blue, calcium carbonate, hematite, hematite mixed with calcium carbonate), c. 1302–1070 BCE (RISD 1997.82A)  494 21a Visible light image of controls  494 21b Visible-induced luminescence image of controls  495 22 Image locations, YUAG 1854.1  496 23 Image locations, YUAG 1854.2.1  497 24 Image locations, YUAG 1854.4+5  498 25a YUAG 1854.1 L1  499 25b YUAG 1854.2.1 L1  499 26a YUAG 1854.1 L3  500 26b YUAG 1854.1 L14  500 27a YUAG 1854.1 L15  501 27b YUAG 1854.2.1 L7  501 28a YUAG 1854.2.1 L6  502 28b YUAG 1854.4+5 L11  502 29 YUAG 1854.2.1 L4  503 30 YUAG 1854.2.1 L5  503

Chapter 1

Color Semantics I sense a scream passing through nature. I painted…the clouds as actual blood. The colour shrieked. edvard munch (about The Scream)

Color is a part of the natural world. Everyone perceives it, experiences it. All languages have words to describe it. As such, it is an ideal window into the relationship between human biology, cognition, language and culture—­between mental experiences of the world and representation of it. For the historian of ancient Mesopotamia, studying color offers a chance to understand how people lived and thought and expressed themselves though physical and semantic codes. Although we may not realize it, surprisingly few colors lie behind our dayto-day visual experiences. Electronic technologies such as television, computers, video and digital cameras that use the RGB-model produce hundreds of color stimuli by mixing only three—red, green and blue—lights. Standard CMYK-printing can likewise achieve images of multiple hues and shades by combing only four types of ink: cyan, magenta, yellow and black (called key). One might be tempted to think that such efficiency is modern, and yet, the idea that a few colors combined in various proportions could produce many others has a history that can be traced back to the ancient world. In many cultures, as in ancient Mesopotamia, color was not a conceptual isolate but was rather linked to materials, the environment and cosmological principles, which in turn, affected how it was categorized, denominated and valued. 1

What is Color?

1.1 Color and the Elements Since Newtonian physics, it seems impossible to think of color as anything other than a property of light. Yet the essential nature of color has been subject to theorizing by many, in the ancient world and in recent history. Early Greek philosophers, beginning with the mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2020 | doi:10.1163/9789004415416_002


Chapter 1

in the sixth century bce, and especially Aristotle in the fourth century bce, whose arrangement of colors in tonal sequence had an impact on human color systems for centuries, attempted to explain color from a physical standpoint. In his poem On Nature, Empedocles (c. 490–430 bce) elaborates on how all perception, thought, activity and processes in the world are linked to the four classical elements: air, water, earth and fire. Heavily influenced by Pythagorean ideas of harmonic ratios governing natural phenomena, Empedocles also subscribed to the idea that colors were produced by the juxtaposition of fire and water, embodied by the sun and sea respectively. Love and Strife cause the elements to unite and separate during various stages of the cosmic cycle. The two “simple” (hapla) colors were white (leukón), from the brightness of fire and black (mélan), from the darkness of water.1 As Ierodiakonou put it: Empedocles holds that, when human beings perceive the world with their eyes, they primarily see colours, because colours are effluences from the objects commensurate with the pores of the eyes. And we see the colour white because an overwhelming proportion of fiery particles are emitted from a white object and are commensurate with the pores of fire in our eyes; and we see the colour black because an overwhelming proportion of watery particles are emitted form a black object and are commensurate with the pores of water in our eyes. Finally, the way we see all other colours depends on the proportions of watery and fiery particles emitted from the objects around us.2 The significance of Empedocles’ undertaking is that he was among the first philosophers who attempted to explain both why objects in the world are colored as well as why they appeared colored to us.3 Democritus (c. 460–370 bce) understood color as the visual experience produced in us by the atomic surface structure of objects.4 The four (not two)5 simple colors are perceived as they are, according to him, because of the shape and geometric arrangement of an object’s atoms: “white is what is smooth. For whatever is not rough or shadowy or difficult to penetrate, anything like that is 1 2 3 4 5

Ierodiakonou 2005a. Ierodiakonou 2005a, 34. Ierodiakonou 2005a, 2. Ierodiakonou 2005b. For the relationship between the writings of Empedocles and Democritus, see Ierodiakonou 2005a, 10–11 and n. 15.

Color Semantics


bright.”6 White objects also allow light to pass through and have “spherical ­atoms positioned obliquely in pairs, in an arrangement which is practically uniform overall.” Black things, conversely, are rough, uneven and do not allow light to penetrate them. Black things cast shadows. Connecting it to the element of fire, Democritus characterized red (eruthrón) objects as being composed of large, hot atoms. Greenish-yellow (khlōrón) materials contained a combination of “solid and void” particles; thus, the hue may vary according to their position and arrangement. All other colors are produced by a mixture of these elemental properties. Democritus’ observations in medicine and painting may have influenced his theory of colors.7 Like those of the Presocratic philosophers, Plato’s (c. 428–348 bce) and Aristotle’s (384–322 bce) conceptions of color have Pythagorean underpinnings. Plato spoke of “the law of proportion” through which colors are formed, although he concluded his Rational Theory of Colors8 by stating that any attempt to discover this principle was beyond human capacity. In addition to black, white and red, Plato considered bright (lamprón) or brilliant (stílbon) to be a fourth basic color.9 By contrast to Democritus, for whom color was a convention, Plato defined color as something that was objectively real.10 In On Sense and Sensibilia, Aristotle explains that black(dark) and white(light) mixed in harmonic ratios alone generate chromatic colors.11 It is unclear which exact colors he considered unmixed and how these corresponded to the elements. Based on his observations of rainbows and halos, he wrote that the rainbow is three-colored and these three—red (phoinikoûn), green (prasinón) and purple (alourgón)—are the chromatic medians between light and dark.12 In other works, however, he seems to consider yellow (or golden) as the only simple color apart from white and black.13 The spectrum, in which he arranged colors 6

Most of what is known of Democritus’ ideas is owed to Theophrastus, who was Aristotle’s successor at the Lyceum. Theophrastus commented on Democritus’ theory of colors in his work On Senses (Taylor 1999, 73–76). 7 Gage 1993, 12. 8 In his poem on creation Timaeus 67c4–68d7, quoted in Gage 1993, 12; Ierodiakonou 2005b. 9 Plato, Timaeus 67e6–68b1, see Ierodiakonou 2009, 125. As we shall see, terms for brightness (lightness and darkness) constitute an important part of the color vocabulary of many ancient languages (see Chapter 2). 10 Ierodiakonou 2005b, 230. 11 On Sense and Sensibilia 439b 18ff., see Ierodiakonou 2009, 121; Kuehni and Schwarz 2008, 31. 12 Aristotle Meteorology, 374b 10–14, 28. 13 In On Colors, for instance. The author of this work, either Aristotle or Theophrastus, elaborates on the relationship between only three simple colors (white, yellow and black) and


Chapter 1

in a linear, tonal sequence from white (brightness) to black (darkness), remains the most influential aspect of Aristotle’s theories on colors:14 leukón xanthón phoinikoûn alourgón prasinón (white) (roughly (roughly (roughly (roughly orange) crimson) violet) leekgreen)

kyanoûn mélan (roughly (black) deep blue)

This system of modeling color based on brightness remained fundamental until Isaac Newton’s discoveries about light, and was adopted by all others who theorized about the nature of color. For example, the Persian physician, mathematician and philosopher Avicenna (c. 1015) whose treatise on the soul in the Kitāb al-Šifāʾ includes a chapter on color and light, comments on the Aristotelean seven-color scale.15 De colore, by the English natural scientist and philosopher Robert Grosseteste (c. 1170–1253), was also clearly influenced by Aristotle. Grosseteste translated Aristotle’s works into Latin. The same may be said of De iride and Tractatus de coloribus by Theodoric of Freiberg (c. 1250–after 1310), Robert Fludd’s (1574–1637) Utriusque cosmi and Medicina catholica and many other fundamental works on color until the 17th century.16 The association between color and the elements of the universe is by no means unique to early Greek thought. By the late Shang period (c. 1300–1046 bce), a system of five colors (wu se) with cosmological, phenomenological and geo-political links was in place in China:17

14 15

16 17

the elements: “Simple colors are those which belong to the elements, i.e., to fire, air, water and earth. Air and water in themselves are by nature white, fire (and the sun) yellow, and earth is naturally white. The variety of hues which earth assumes is due to dyeing, as is shown by the fact that ashes turn white when the moisture that tinged them is burned out…Black is the proper color of elements in the process of transmutation. The remaining colors, it may easily be seen arise from blending by mixture of these…” (Quoted in Kuehni and Schwarz 2008, 32). Kuehni and Schwarz 2008, 31–33. Although he did not dispute the seven-color spectrum, Avicenna’s empirical observations of light and fire led him to conclude that the path from white to black has more trajectories than what the Aristotelian model permitted (Kuehni and Schwarz 2008, 34 and references therein). See Kuehni and Schwarz 2008, 32–42. Gradually, the five elements (wood, fire, soil, metal, water) and their colors were correlated with every category of things in the universe, including human psycho-physical functions, sources of happiness, tastes, smells, planets, weather, animals, internal organs and affective states (Bogushevskaya 2016, 229 Table 1).


Color Semantics

Water Black (hei) North Winter Metal White (bai) West Autumn

Soil Yellow (huang) Middle End of summer, period of ripening grain

Wood Green+blue (qing) East Spring

Fire Red (chi) South Summer Victoria Bogushevskaya has posited that the origin of this theory is actually much older and should perhaps be attributed to Huang Di, the Yellow Emperor (c. 2698–2598 bce).18 In her view, the links between seasons, elements, cardinal points and color may have empirical underpinnings. For instance, the association of metal with the west might be related to memories of the metal weapon-bearing barbarian hoards from the west and the color associations might stem from the ceremonial clothes worn during particular seasons. Similar systems, with colors correlating to the seasons, cardinal directions and geopolitical realities, were in place among the Maya,19 the Navajo Indians20 and in ancient Hindu21 thought. 1.2 Light and Paint In the 17th century, Sir Isaac Newton’s experiments demonstrated to the world that the human eye perceives color when white light is refracted. A prism, for instance, could produce an array of colors, which Newton called a “spectrum.” Color was a matter of the wavelength of light or energy and depended on our perceptual interpretation of this phenomenon.22 The German poet and 18 19 20 21 22

Bogushevskaya 2016. Hopkings and Josserand 2011 apud Bogushevskaya 2016, 230. Dubois 2007, 622–623 apud Bogushevskaya 2016, 230. Hausman 2001, 27 apud Bogushevskaya 2016, 230. Newton expressed his ideas about vision and light in a brief address to the Royal Society entitled New Theory and Light and Colors (1672) and then in greater detail in


Chapter 1

i­ ntellectual Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) developed an alternative to the Newtonian model by characterizing color as arising from the interplay between darkness and light. Not distinguishing color from pigment, Goethe’s experiments attempted to show that additive mixing (mixing light) and subtractive mixing (mixing paint) produced color in comparable ways.23 While defining the nature of color and determining how to order it was indeed a vital agenda for many early thinkers, other conversations, about the beauty and changeability of color, its relationship to music and numbers, the use of color in art as decorative or life-giving, the ideal palette of the painter, the effect of color in stimulating sensual delight, to cite just a few, were taking place as well.24 1.3 Color Sense in Mesopotamia Not only does this brief overview highlight some common trends in the history of human ideas about color, such as the link between individual colors and elements in the universe, but it draws attention to a particular methodological complication faced in the present study: there are no Akkadian treatises that articulate in abstract terms how ancient Mesopotamians understood the nature of color. And yet, the written sources make it abundantly clear that they viewed it as an essential quality of natural and artificial substances. Color was considered an important aspect of the outward appearance (šiknu) of things, which explains its presence as a descriptive category in the handbooks for herbs (Šammu šikinšu), stones (Abnu šikinšu) and snakes (Ṣēru šikinšu) as well as in word lists.25 The substances recorded in the šikinšu texts are also found in

23 24 25

Opticks. Or a Treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflections and Colours of Light (1704). Goethe (1810) 1957. See Gage 1993, 14–15; Kuehni and Schwarz 2008, 8–10. cad Š ii, 436–439. Reiner thought šiknu was better understood as the “nature” of an object because, she argued, the medium itself was essential to its identity and the values associated with it. In the case of stones, for instance, “it is the material, the substance, the nature of the stone—its šiknu—that gives its power…” (1995, 119–120. Italics mine). Medieval European handbooks of the same type similarly describe the natura (if in Latin, or its equivalent if in translation) of substances, she pointed out. Postgate also took šiknu to mean “nature” because upon comparing the archaeological and textual record, he found that the Mesopotamians were aware of the conceptual distinction between the natural properties of a substance (to which color belongs), its function and its class (1997). Rochberg observed that Babylonians made a distinction between the characteristics or properties of things endowed by divine decree (šimtu) and those acquired by virtue of its having been put there (šiknu): “The Akkadian šikinšu texts selected and described stones and plants that had medicinal use. The focus there seems, however, to be less in terms of how properties come to inhere in a body and more to do with how to recognize them by their appearance.” (Rochberg 2016, 90–92).

Color Semantics


the encyclopedic list of words known as UR 5-RA: ḫubullu, but are those that have been selected because they are relevant for Babylonian medicine; these texts constitute the knowledge of the exorcist (āšipu) and the physician (asû).26 Color had function (in medicine, ritual, architecture, design, etc.) as well as value. The Mesopotamians consciously procured polychrome gemstones, pigments and dyes, often from distant lands and at great cost, in order to beautify their bodies and enliven their surroundings (see Chapters 3 and 4). Spectrums not unlike Aristotle’s and Newton’s, in which individual colors are organized into linear sequences, are articulated in the omen compendia (see Chapter 2). Color was recognized as an abstract quality that could be transferred onto media through dyeing, painting and various pyrotechnologies, for instance. As the production of colored substances flourished in the second millennium bce, Akkadian developed a highly-nuanced vocabulary to characterize these processes (see Chapter 3). Finally, as in ancient Greece and China, color was a part of various systems of thought and categorization, although its meanings were less regular and dependent on context. For example, the four colors black, white, red and yellow/green were linked to certain planets as well as to the cardinal points.27 Despite its ubiquitous presence in the archaeological record, which testifies to the obvious fascination color held for the Mesopotamians, it has been observed that cuneiform languages are woefully inadequate in encoding this sensory experience: that there is a dissonance between the use of colors and the expressions for them in written documents.28 For this reason, scholarly attention on color in ancient Near Eastern cultures has fixated on language and the issue of whether or not perception and color naming in ancient times differs from today. As we shall see, linguists have taken an especially keen interest in the meaning of color words because they believed them to hold the key to understanding the structure and development of languages. 2

Color Vision and Language: Gladstone, Magnus, Allen and the Puzzle of Color Vocabularies

Classical and contemporary debates about color can be said to revolve around four major topics: 26 27 28

Tablet sixteen lists plants, seventeen stones and fourteen reptiles, including snakes (Rochberg 2016, 87–88). Rochberg-Halton 1998, 57; Verderame 1999; Sallaberger 2000, 248–251; Brown 2001, 143– 144 and n. 363. E.g. Landsberger 1967, 139.


Chapter 1

Biology: what is the ‘organ of color’? Perception: how do our minds understand color as a sensory experience? Language: how do we talk about color? Culture: what is the context of color?29 As the research traditions generated around these topics form the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of the present study, it is worth briefly outlining their trajectory and impact. Modern inquiry into color semantics began with William Ewart Gladstone (1809–1898). Gladstone is best known for having served as Prime Minister of Great Britain under Queen Victoria but he was also a scholar of Classical literature. The crowning achievement of his academic career is a three-volume work entitled Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age, which he published in 1858. In the first section of this book, “Achais,” Gladstone discusses the relationship between the various “races”—the Arcadians, Graians, Ionians, etc.—who take part in the action of the Iliad and the Odyssey. “Olympus,” the second part, is a study of Greek religion and its parallels with the religion of the Hebrew Bible. Gladstone’s aim for the last of the three tomes, “Aoidos,” was to reconstruct the culture and mentality of the Greeks based on Homer’s lexicon, and in this sense, his work is a pioneering study of ethnolinguistics. A sense of beauty, number and color were the three aspects he chose as the building blocks for his characterization of the Homeric world-view and it is his conclusions about this final element, color, that received the most attention. Gladstone began his study with the assumption that color terms in the English language, based on Sir Isaac Newton’s spectrum, may serve as a point of comparison with which to evaluate another culture’s color system. As he tried to correlate Greek color terms with English ones and with the objects or phenomena they referred to in poetry, he found Homer’s use of color extremely puzzling. For one, he recognized that ancient Greek color words may describe a quality other than hue (prismatic color), such as red or yellow. Porphureos, which he translated as “violet,” was used to describe blood, dark clouds, turbulent waters and textiles, but also death and a brooding mind.30 This led him to conclude that the color vocabulary of the ancient Greeks was imprecise: So again with wine-colored oxen, smutty thunderbolts, violet-colored sheep, and many more, it is surely conclusive against taking them for 29 30

Dedrick 2015, 272. Gladstone 1858 iii, 461–462; Hickerson 1983, 33.

Color Semantics


d­ escriptions of prismatic colors or their compounds, that they would be bad descriptions in their several kinds.31 For another, Gladstone observed that although Homer made use of a large repertoire of descriptive words that seemed to imply color, very few of these could be translated unambiguously into definite English color terms. This suggested to him that the ancient Greeks did not see the hues for which they had no name, perhaps due to the state of development of color vision among ancient peoples. In other words, he postulated that the ancient Greeks had an inferior sense of color than modern Europeans: “I conclude, then, that the organ of color and its impressions were but partially developed among the Greeks of the heroic age.”32 Published only a year before Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859), Gladstone’s thesis provoked the first great debate in the new field of Color Studies: what was the relationship between color cognition and color naming and did evolution play a role in determining either? A German professor of ophthalmology by the name of Hugo Friedrich Magnus (1842–1907) and a Darwinian writer with an interest in science and psychology, Grant Allen (1848–1899), were stimulated by Gladstone’s thesis to ­respond to it in different ways.33 Magnus’s experiments on vision persuaded him to agree with the proposal that the human color sense evolved over centuries. According to his Die geschichtliche Entwickelung des Farbensinnes (1877), this process of development may be modeled in four stages. First, highly intense or luminous colors (lichtstarke Farben) were recognized. This is followed by the ability to distinguish between red and yellow. Subsequently, mediumintensity colors (Farben mittlerer Lichtstärke) such as shades of green, and then finally, low-intensity colors (Farben geringer Lichtstärke) like blues and violets, were perceived.34 Galvanized by this support within the scientific community, Gladstone wrote “The Colour-Sense” in 1877. There, he applied Magnus’ typology to his researches on the ancient Greek color lexicon to arrive at the 31 32 33


Gladstone 1858 iii, 487. Gladstone 1858 iii, 488. Magnus and Allen were by no means the only scholars Gladstone’s pioneering study interested. Others followed with similar investigations based on different languages. See, for instance, Furrell 1885; Gatschett 1879 (color terminology in Indian languages); Hopkins 1883 (in the Vedas); Kirschoff 1879 (among Nubians) and Mead 1899 (in Old English poetry). By the end of the century, various theories—biological, psychological, cultural— had been offered to explain the development of color terminology. For an overview of these early ideas, see Woodworth 1910, 92. Magnus 1877; Biggam 2012, 12–13.


Chapter 1

c­ onclusions that Homer only recognized light, dark, red and perhaps orange as color categories.35 Gladstone’s theory of ethnolinguistics in this second paper was attacked on many fronts, but no one group repudiated his claims as strongly as the Darwinists, who criticized him for ignoring the theory of natural selection in his study. Grant Allen, a leading figure in this debate, pointed out that natural selection favors species with a high level of color perception and that this faculty would have been developed early in the evolutionary process. The ability to see colors, he argued following the leading naturalists of his time, was common to humans and animals alike. In addition to biological evidence, Allen made his case utilizing extensive cultural and linguistic evidence gathered through the study of ancient and modern civilizations. He wrote: A visit to the Ethnological Room at the British Museum will show that the Polynesians, North American Indians, Mexicans, and Peruvians, have or had the power to distinguish red, yellow, green, and blue. Furthermore, to go back in time, the Egyptian wall-paintings, papyri, mummy-cases, &c., are decorated with an infinite number of shades and mixed colors, which reach their highest development under the xviiith and xixth Dynasties (surely quite early enough for Mr. Gladstone), and become less intense and varied at a later date…I think nobody can look at the Egyptian remains in the British Museum—still less at the great collections of ­fac-similes—without recognizing not only color-perception in a high degree, but also remarkable taste in blending and delicacy of hue.36 He even consulted Assyriologists of his time so that he could consider the recently excavated polychrome materials from the ancient Assyrian city Nimrud and Akkadian color terminology: Of the enammelled bricks dug up in this city Sir A.H. Layard says, “The colors (sic) have faded, but were probably once as bright as the enamels of Khorsabad. The outlines are white, and the ground a pale blue and olive green. The only other color used is a dull yellow.” In many of these cases blue figures occur on a green ground, which clearly shows that the two colours were accurately discriminated. The pigments consist of an antimoniate of lead for the yellow; and oxide of tin for the white; a copper for the blue; a sub-oxide of copper for the red. Of Babylonian bricks 35 36

Gladstone 1877; Biggam 2012, 13. Allen 1878, 130–131.

Color Semantics


the same authority observes, “The principle colours are a brilliant blue, red, a deep yellow, white and black.” The Rev. A.H. Sayce, the distinguished Assyriologist, writes to me as follows:—“The Assyrian language seems to have had no word for ‘green.’ Sometimes ‘green’ is represented by arku, ‘yellow,’ but more commonly by ʾsamu or ʾsihmu ‘blue’ (like the Welsh glas). But the enamelled bricks show that both the colours blue and green were known and used.” An inspection of the existing remains in the Louvre and the British Museum will sufficiently prove to the most sceptical that the colour-sense of the Assyrians was essentially identical with our own.37 Allen’s The Color-Sense marks the first real attempt to delineate clearly between color perception and color naming. Allen also drew attention to the fact that many of the vagaries in the Greek color vocabulary that to Gladstone had seemed inaccurate or odd were cases of the poet’s figurative use of language: “Has Mr. Gladstone never heard of red blood, red skies, red bricks and red Indians? Do Englishmen never talk of a green old age?”, he questioned.38 Differences in context and not differences in physiology, he proposed, explained the differences in color language. These criticisms led Magnus to revisit and eventually revise his ideas. In Untersuchungen über den Farbsinn der Naturvölker (1880), which presented data on the color vocabularies of several peoples from European colonies, Magnus concluded that after all, an absence of certain color terms in a language does not indicate the inability of the speakers of that language to see those colors.39 The notion that human color sense follows a biological and social evolutionary trajectory resurfaced in the Assyriologist Benno Landsberger’s essay on Sumerian and Akkadian color terminology, which remains the only in-depth study about this topic to date.40 Landsberger’s focus was on the ancient written sources and he seems to have been unaware of the debates about color vision, perception and naming that were taking place in other fields. Finding no abstract word for blue in either Akkadian or Sumerian, for instance, he concluded that the speakers of these languages must have been blind to the color.41

37 38 39 40 41

Allen 1879, 213–214. Allen 1879, 267. Magnus 1880. Landsberger 1967. He speaks of “Blaublindheit” and “Gelbblindheit” among speakers of Akkadian and ancient Hebrew in the very first page of his essay (1967, 139).

12 3

Chapter 1

Color Categories and Names: Relativity and Universalism

In the first decades of the 20th century, color semantics faded as a research agenda. It was not until anthropologists began using stimulus materials like colored paper or wool to test native speakers that this interest was renewed. Ethnolinguists were now desirous to know the process by which languages acquired color terms. In the case of the present study, this line of inquiry could answer such questions as: did the way Akkadian-speakers talked about color affect the way they thought about it? Are some Akkadian color words more important than others? And if so, why? Historically, the debate surrounding this issue has been divided into the relativist and the universalist positions. Proponents of the former emphasize the influence of culture in shaping cognition and language, while in the view of the universalists, color categories are based on human vision and certain prototypical features of the environment. Initially, anthropologists carried out their field research testing subjects by asking them to identify, match, recall and discriminate between colors, presupposing cultural and linguistic relativity. Known as the “Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis” after its two namesakes, Edward Sapir (1884–1939) and Benjamin Lee Whorf (1897–1941), the theory of linguistic relativity proposes that different languages classify, structure and express reality in different ways.42 Sapir was an anthropologist-linguist and a student of Franz Boas, whose work on Native American languages during his tenure at Columbia University earned him the reputation of being the father of American anthropology. Whorf worked as a fire prevention engineer at an insurance company, but he studied linguistics under Sapir’s tutelage at Yale University. According to the theory these two developed by studying North American languages, words in two languages are not merely different labels expressing the same reality, but may communicate two altogether different world-views. A mild reading of the Sapir-Whorf ­Hypothesis would imply that language influences thought, while a more extreme reading would suggest that language determines thought. By the latter notion, a speaker of a language with no word for the hue blue, for instance, would have no cognition of the concept of blueness in her or his world-view.43 Summarizing the research conducted in linguistics between the 1920s and 42 43

In fact, the idea that languages play a role in shaping the way their speakers think was articulated much earlier in Germany, by Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803) and Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835). See Sapir’s essay on “The Status of Linguistics as a Science” (in Sapir 1961) and Whorf’s re-formulation of the theory in “Science and Linguistics” (in Whorf 1956); Biggam 2012, 18; Dedrick 2015, 274–275.

Color Semantics


1960s, Robert E. MacLaury wrote, “The relativity of language had become a crusade with color as its banner.”44 The first substantial challenge to relativism came with the publication of Brent Berlin and Paul Kay’s Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution (1969). On the basis of data gathered from numerous languages, these University of California anthropologists suggested that, “color words translate too easily among various pairs of unrelated languages for the extreme linguistic relativity thesis to be valid.”45 In their view, a definite number of universal color categories are to be found in all human cultures and the terms for these ­develop in a fixed seven-stage progression. They also contended that the number of color terms in a language correlates to the social and technological development of that society: “All the languages of highly industrialized European and Asian peoples are Stage vii, while all representatives of early Stages (i, ii, and iii) are spoken by people with small populations and limited technology, located in isolated areas.”46 The key to understanding the implications of these conclusions is Berlin and Kay’s research procedure. First, native speakers of ninety-eight languages were questioned with the view of eliciting the so-called Basic Color Terms (hereafter BCTs) in their language. Colors that reoccur often and in different contexts, which are not restricted in application and which form the core color terminology of a language are BCTs.47 Specialized and technical vocabulary, metaphorical color terms (e.g. English “navy” from the color of a uniform) and words borrowed from other languages are non-BCTs. Following their identification of the BCTs in a particular language, the informants were asked to map them out on standardized “stimuli boards,” which were made up of 329 colored chips arranged according to the Munsell System (i.e. by hue, value (lightness or tone) and chroma (saturation)). After repeating the procedure with speakers of all the languages included in their study, Berlin and Kay compiled their data to show that color categorization and naming are far from random. In fact, there were only eleven Basic Color Categories (hereafter BCCs) universal to all 44 45 46 47

MacLaury 1997, 20. Berlin and Kay 1969, 2. Berlin and Kay 1969, 16; Kay and Maffi 1999, 746. Berlin and Kay established four abstract criteria to establish the BCTs of any languages. First, a BCT is monolexemic: the color may not be predicted from the parts of the word (e.g. red is monolexemic but lemon-colored is not). Second, the meaning of a BCT may be not included in another word (e.g. blond is contained within the meaning of yellow). Third, its application must not be restricted (e.g. blond chiefly refers to the color of hair, wood and beer). Fourth, it must be psychologically salient. BCTs are often mentioned first when speakers are asked to list color words (Berlin and Kay 1969, 5–6).


Chapter 1

Table 1.1  The sequence of color category acquisition (after Berlin and Kay 1969)

Stage I

Stage ii Stage III

Stage IV

Stage V

Stage VI

Stage VII






+ PURPLE and/or PINK and/or ORANGE and/or GREY


cultures and these were named with BCTs. Moreover, they perceived that although the number of BCTs a language has may vary, the sequence in which these terms accumulate is universal. When there are fewer than eleven BCTs present in a language, it means that the speakers map the entire color space with these fewer terms. The conventions used by Berlin and Kay in this table require some explanation: words in bold capitals represent concepts (i.e. BCCs) and not the form of the color word adopted in a language (i.e. BCTs). Thus, a language at Stage i of the evolutionary sequence, where only WHITE and BLACK are recognized, will have the BCT white, representing all light hues, and black, representing all dark hues. RED includes English reds, oranges, yellows, browns, pinks, purples and violet. At Stage iii either YELLOW or GREEN emerges as a new category. GREEN includes yellow-greens, greens, blue-greens, blues, blue-purples and sometimes tans and light-browns. YELLOW indicates light greens, tans and light browns. Depending on which category developed in the previous, either YELLOW or GREEN is further distinguished in Stage iv. RED, by this time, signifies reds, yellow-reds, purple and purple-reds. Blues, purples and violets emerge from the GREEN at Stage v, while the latter is circumscribed to only green. At this point, BLACK and WHITE are reduced to achromatic values. At Stage vi brown breaks off from the scope of RED and YELLOW, and finally, at Stage vii, there is what Berlin and Kay called a “rapid expansion” to incorporate the remaining BCCs.48 As anthropological linguists pursued further research into the color vocabularies, the 1969 evolutionary sequence was revised several times. Kay presented another version in 1975, introducing the category GRUE at Stage iii, which included blues and greens. In this s­ equence, 48

Berlin 1969, 17–20.

Color Semantics


the values of Stage i were also reconsidered. Thus, WHITE now covered white, very light shades of all colors and all warm colors, whereas BLACK allowed for black, some dark browns and purples, and all cool colors except their lightest shades.49 In 1999, Kay and Maffi published yet another sequenced based on the immense body of data gathered by the World Color Survey project, directed by Kay, Berlin and Merrifield. Simplifying the process of color category acquisition to five stages, this sequence allowed for different paths or trajectories in which languages move from one stage to another.50 The work of Eleanor Rosch conducted among the Durgum Dani people of Indonesian New Guinea explained the linguistic universality of color terms by citing psychological universalities. Certain natural prototypes—objects or experiences that best represents a color category—serve as cognitive anchors for the BCTs, which according to her explains their cross-cultural regularity:51 There are perceptually salient colors which more readily attract attention and are more easily remembered than other colors. When category names are learned, they tend to become attached first to the salient stimuli, only later generalizing to other, physically similar, instances. By this means these natural prototype colors become the foci of organization for categories.52 Given the attributes of focal colors—their occurrence as exemplars of basic color names, their linguistic codability across language, and their superior retention in short- and long-term memory—it would seem most economical to suppose that these attributes are derived from the same underlying factors, most likely having to do with physiology of primate color vision. In short, far from being a domain well suited to the study of the effects of language on thought, the color space would seem to be a prime example of the influence of underlying perceptual cognitive factors on the formation and reference of linguistic categories.53 Rosch’s research on prototypes combined with Berlin and Kay’s idea about basic color terms had widespread implications for theories on cognition and on the relationship between thought and language, also in ancient civilizations.54 49 50 51 52 53 54

Kay 1975. Kay and Maffi 1999. Rosch Heider 1972; Rosch Heider and Olivier 1972; Rosch 1975. Rosch 1975, 184. Rosch Heider and Olivier 1972, 20. E.g. Brenner 1982 (Hebrew); Baines 1985 (Egyptian); Foulger 2006 (Sumerian).


Chapter 1

Accordingly, the colors that appear in fixed number and sequence in Mesopotamian lexical lists—peṣû, ṣalmu, sāmu, arqu and barmu—have been interpreted as the basic color terms in Akkadian. Having a single word to signify both YELLOW and GREEN positions Akkadian at Stage iii in the Berlin and Kay scheme, a point at which an abstract word for BLUE, for instance, is not yet conceivable. Only recently has this view been challenged and alternative models for understanding Akkadian color terminology been forwarded.55 Since 1969, many aspects of Berlin and Kay’s research methods and conclusions have fallen prey to criticism. Anna Wierzbicka defends the position that COLOR itself is not a universal concept, which would situate any investigation that seeks to find universal color categories upon a false premise.56 Besides this, many researchers considered aspects of the Berlin and Kay methodology and model Anglocentric because they are based “on the assumption that all languages can be legitimately described and compared in terms of such English words [that is, the names of BCTs in the Berlin and Kay sequence].”57 The Munsell array, used by field researchers to interview native speakers, is the prime subject for this criticism. These color chips can only display limited features of color—namely hue, saturation and brightness. Saunders and van Brakel challenged the assumption that these features are universally understood and prioritized as the most important qualities of color, pointing to the Dani people of New Guinea, for example, whose idea of color includes properties of softness, glossiness and fluctuation.58 English color terms tend to be hue-based. The difference between green and blue, for instance, is greater than dark blue and light blue, which both fall into the semantic range of “blueness.” The speakers of Hanunóo language in the Philippines, on the other hand, emphasize categories of lightness and darkness over hue. Consequently, the word mabīru may be translated into English black, dark green, indigo, violet and blue. Another dimension of Hanunóo color terms is the distinction made between wetness or succulence (malatuy) and dryness or desiccation (marara’).59 Surface texture, whether an object is smooth or lumpy, transparency and even aspects of non-appearance such as edibility, symbolism and emotion are all qualities that may be considered a part of a language’s color system.60 Anthropologists have developed several alternatives to the fieldwork methodology adopted by Berlin and Kay and a selection of these projects have been d­ iscussed 55 56 57 58 59 60

Warburton 2010 and 2016; Thavapalan, Stenger and Snow 2016, 199–201. Wierzbicka 1990 and 2008. Wierzbicka 2006, 2. Saunders and van Brakel 1988, 364; Biggam 2012, 86–87. Conklin 1955, 339–344, especially 341; Biggam 2012, 52–55. Biggam 2012, 3–6 and references therein.

Color Semantics


by Biggam.61 As these methodologies involve the participation of native speakers, and as such are not relevant to this study of Akkadian colors, they will not be dealt with here. 4

Scope and Nature of the Present Study

The existing body of scholarship in the fields of cognitive science, linguistics and anthropology serves to highlight a number of complications as regards the topic of color, of which the present study is mindful. Color is a cultural construct as well as a natural phenomenon. Although it adopts methodologies used in anthropology to reconcile these two truths, this book is not concerned with the biological underpinnings of color categorization or naming in human societies. This study cannot draw on “live” data gathered from native speakers through interviews or by observing them in their own environment; this adds greatly to the danger of misunderstanding the “dead” data entirely or misinterpreting it in an anglocentric way. Linguistic anthropologists have shown that LIGHT and DARK are important dimensions of color in several languages. This being the case in Akkadian as well, the expressions for these concepts are considered as proper colors (see Chapter 2). Unlike in the fields of Classics,62 Egyptology,63 Aegean64 and Hebrew Bible studies,65 Assyriology has no comprehensive work devoted to the subject of color. The essays by Benno Landsberger66 and Maria Bulakh67 collect and discuss individual color words, but do not venture far beyond lexical analysis. Other studies touch on the appearance of color terms in specialized text genres, such as in omens or within certain craft industries, but again, they offer

61 62 63 64 65 66


Biggam 2012, 86–108. E.g. Lyons 1999; Villard 2002; Beta and Sassi 2003; Cleland, Stears and Davies 2004; Rouveret, Dubel and Naas 2006; Bradley 2009; Carastro 2009; Grand-Clément 2011. E.g. Schenkel 1963 and 2007; Baines 1985; Ragai 1986; Warburton 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2016. A collection of essays on The Value of Colour: Material and Economic Aspects in the Ancient World is in preparation by Warburton and Thavapalan. Blakolmer 2000. E.g. Brenner 1982 and 1999; Aster 2006; Bulakh 2006. Landsberger simply collected all the words that appear to be have been used as color terms in Sumerian and Akkadian written sources and tried to translate them with modern German equivalents (1967). See also Foulger 2006 (unpublished M.A. thesis) for a very brief overview of the BCTs in Sumerian and Warburton 2007, which contextualizes Akkadian terminology with Egyptian color words. Bulakh 2003.


Chapter 1

no interpretation of what color meant as a cultural signifier.68 An exception to this is Elena Cassin’s La Splendeur divine (1969),69 which examined the ­symbolic meaning of certain Akkadian color terms indicating luminosity and brightness. The present study seeks to address this deficit. For the sake of coherence and precision, the linguistic analysis is restricted to Akkadian. It is hoped that the issues and agendas presented here will serve as a springboard for future discussions about colors in Sumerian and other cuneiform languages. As its title purports, this book is about the “meaning of color” and it thus attempts to understand how people used and talked about color in ancient times. To this end, it provides the first systematic and comprehensive investigation of the words and expressions for colors in the Akkadian language. Possible cognates in Hurrian, Egyptian, Hebrew, Mycenaean and Classical Greek are discussed and historical and archaeological sources from Egypt, the Aegean, the Biblical world and the Talmud are consulted, to cover gaps in the Mesopotamian evidence. The semantics of Sumerian color terminology deserves a separate study and lies beyond the scope of this book. Chapter 2 begins with a discussion of how the idea of “(to be) colored” is expressed in Akkadian and follows with a study of abstract color terms. Colors that take their names from materials, namely precious stones and metals, as well as colorful substances like dyes and pigments are studied in Chapter 3. References from various types of text genres—lexical lists, administrative documents, historical and literary texts—are offered for the individual words discussed in Chapters 2 and 3, so as to give the reader as complete a lexical history of each entry as possible. Translations of the texts are my own, unless otherwise indicated. Given how extensive the Akkadian textual corpus is, every single attestation of each color term, is of course, not quoted. However, the selected citations are meant to represent the frequency of use and semantic range of the term under investigation.70 Finally, a note about data analysis and presentation. Even though this investigation avails itself of approaches used by linguistic anthropologists, I have ­chosen 68

69 70

E.g. Verderame 1999; Hirvonen 2016; Oppenheim 1943 and 1949; Noonan 2012. For the names for colored fabrics in various periods of Mesopotamian history, see the articles by Waetzoldt (Ur-iii), Lassen (Old Assyrian), Vigo (Hittite), Villard (Neo-Assyrian) and Joannès (Neo-­Babylonian) in Michel and Nosch 2010. For color in the Akkadian glass texts, see Oppenheim et al. 1970 and Thavapalan forthcoming. See also the essays by Winter (1999), which examines the aesthetic and symbolic values of lapis lazuli, and by Durand (2015), which contends that color was less important than form and materials for conveying social meaning. Dates follow those given in Oelsner 2007a-b and Quack 2007. Second millennium dates are based on the Middle Chronology.

Color Semantics


not to provide statistical analysis, owing to the incomplete nature of the archaeological and textual record. At this point in the life of Assyriological scholarship, such forms quantifiable data would only lead to a misreading of the evidence. Chapter 4 turns to material culture, which anchors the preceding philological study in the real world and offers yet another window into the mentalité or situation as a whole that lay behind Mesopotamian color sense. Many people today are unaware that Babylonian and Assyrian statues and reliefs were once brightly painted, to the extent that modern treatments of such artifacts normally illustrate and discuss them as colorless—a serious distortion of ancient reality.71 Chapter 4 traces the history of modern “chromophobia” with respect to ancient Near Eastern art and demonstrates how the treatment of these artifacts as decontextualized, isolated museum pieces in European and North American Collections have affected the image of “oriental art” fixed in the public consciousness. It advocates the importance of collaborating with conservators and museum scientists to help change how modern viewers perceive ­Mesopotamian art and built spaces. In its approach and content, the present book is best described as a historical anthropology of Mesopotamian color sense. It focuses on culture and is interested in the existential and experiential aspects of life in this ancient ­civilization. It considers the material foundations of culture—architecture, art, clothing and jewelry—as keys to the way people lived and thought. It seeks to understand the collective mentalities in a culture and sees language as the mirror reflecting these mentalities. 71

Recent studies that have sought to rectify this include Nunn 2010; Nunn, Jändl and Gebhard 2015; Thomas 2015 and 2016; Thavapalan, Stenger and Snow 2016.

Chapter 2

Abstract Colors When we deal with color names, we do not know what chromatic effects these names refer to, and thus we deal with a cultural puzzle, filtered through a linguistic system. umberto eco (‘How Culture Conditions the Colours We See’)

The Akkadian language has color words, words that are essentially materials but sometimes refer to colors (e.g. stones) and also words that relate to colors but are strictly speaking not colors (e.g. pigments, dyes). Predictably, each category of terminology functions differently and is therefore distinguishable on the level of language. The terminology studied in this chapter are the abstract words for colors. They belong to the oldest layers of the Akkadian language and have a wide semantic range. Concrete or material colors that are related to substances are examined in Chapter 3. Of chief concern here are the following questions: (I) What was COLOR for the ancient Mesopotamians? How did Akkadian speakers conceptualize, categorize and denominate this sensory experience? (II) What are abstract color terms and which criteria can we use to distinguish them from the material-based concrete color terms, discussed in Chapter 3? What is the relationship between the abstractness and basicness (in the Berlin and Kay tradition) of colors? (III) Which aspects of color (e.g. hue, brightness, saturation, variability, surface patterns) do the abstract color terms in Akkadian focus on and/or delineate? Is it possible to establish a typology for them? 1

Talking about Color in Akkadian

Many languages do not have an equivalent for the English word “color.”72 It is nonetheless possible to talk about and even invoke colors in these same 72

For example, in the languages spoken in Australia, Papua New Guinea and Asia (see Goddard and Wierzbicka 2014 for further references). As discussed in Chapter 1, linguistic anthropologists divide among those who consider color to be a universal concept in human societies and those who do not. By the word “color” in English, I mean “the property

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, ��20 | doi:10.1163/9789004415416_003

Abstract Colors


l­ anguages. The near similarity73 of human sensory experiences, which are manifestations of biological responses, may be one reason for this. Another may be certain common human encounters in the environment, such as the sun, the sky or the earth. Informed by research in the cognitive sciences,74 some linguists have come to recognize links between visually salient prototypes in the ­environment—objects or experiences that best represent a color category— and the color concepts developed by people who live there. While the prototypes vary cross-culturally, certain trends may still be observed: the category WHITE is frequently connected to the idea DAY/LIGHT, BLACK to NIGHT/ DARK, RED to FIRE or BLOOD and YELLOW/GREEN to GROW.75 Sometimes, this connection between the prototypical referent and color is “forgotten” as the language evolves, while, at other times, it remains synchronically alive. Russian goluboj “sky-blue,” for example, is etymologically related to the word for pigeon, although this association is no longer conscious in present-day Russian. On the other hand, in the Australian language Warlpiri, most color words—e.g. yalu-yalu “red” but literally “blood-blood,” yukuri-yukuri “grassgrass” and kunjuru-kunjuru “smoke-smoke”76—explicitly name their prototypes. The assumption that a direct and close link exists between perception and language is not universally accepted:77 even if human beings perceive color in the same manner and even if the referents of color words are cross-­ linguistically stable, how they manifest in each language need not be exactly the same since the same referent may be conceptualized differently.



75 76 77

of physical entities and substances which is describable in terms of hue, luminosity (or brightness) and saturation and which makes it possible for human beings to differentiate between otherwise perceptually identical entities and substances, and more especially between entities and substances that are perceptually identical in respect of size, shape and texture” (Lyons 1999, 42). Humans and most other primates are generally thought to have trichromatic vision, as they possess three cone cells in the retina of the eye to mediate daylight color vision. It should be noted, however, that approximately ten percent of the human population, mostly males, are said to have impaired trichromatic vision, while some females have four or even five cone cells (Kuehni and Schwarz 2008, 2). Especially the work of psychologist Eleanor Rosch on prototypicality (Rosch Heider and Olivier 1972; Rosch Heider 1972; Rosch 1974 and 1975). Rosch argued that conceptual categories (including color categories) form in relation to the psychological salience of certain natural prototypes. For instance, the Durgum Dani people had only two focal colors and two BCTs; however, Rosch’s experiments demonstrated that the Dani were nonetheless able to identify and remember colors for which they had no names based on these prototypes. Goddard and Wierzbicka 2014, 85. Wierzbicka 1990, 139; 2014, 86. Wierzbicka 1990 and Goddard and Wierzbicka 2014, 80–101.


Chapter 2

In Akkadian, as in many living and dead languages, it is not possible to ask “what color is X-object or Y-material?”78 Nor is there a silent grapheme in the form of a determinative that classifies COLOR and distinguishes it linguistically from other cognitive categories. In the absence of a word or structural mark for “color,” it is not demonstrable that Akkadian speakers thought in terms of COLOR. Rather, the written sources suggest that the experience of color is denoted in terms of visually conspicuous characteristics that are observed on the exterior or surface of things. The neutral anchors SEE + SURFACE are useful for modeling this concept.79 This is why, for instance, “variegated” and “dazzling” are important abstract colors.80 The closest one can come to talking about “color” in Akkadian is by describing a person or thing’s appearance (zīmu, šiknu) or else by referring to a particular coloring process such as dyeing, staining or painting. Like English “appearance” or “look,” zīmu (Sum. MÚŠ) is multivalent and can encompass both literal (e.g. hue, luster, brightness) and figurative (e.g. high or low spirits) impressions.81 In the following examples, color is the subject: [DIŠ ina ITI].KIN d30 a-dir IGI.MEŠ-šú zi-im KÙ.SI 22 GAR-nu… (K 3563+: rev. 1; Rochberg 2010, 101) ‘[If in the month] of Ulūlu (August-September), the moon is dark (or eclipsed), its features assume the appearance of gold…’ [ÉN ina] ˹e˺-ri-du kiš-ka-nu-ú ṣal-mu ir-bi ina áš-ri el-lu ib-ba-ni [zi]-mu-šu uq-nu-ú eb-bi šá a-na ap-si-i tar-ṣu (Utukkû lemnūtu XIII–XV ­95–96; Geller 2016, 460–461) ‘[Incantation: In] Eridu, a black kiškanû-tree grew, it was created in a pure place; its appearance was lustrous lapis lazuli, which was stretched across to the Apsu.’ a-na 1 MA.NA 3 GÍN zu-ku-ú ša SU KÙ.SI 22 ša-ak-nu 3 GÍN AN.ZAḪ [NÍTA/MUNUS] 3 GÍN ka-al-gu-ga ma-an-[…] (Oppenheim et al. 1970, 51; Tablet D §L: 22´-25´) 78

79 80

How information about COLOR is elicited in individual speech communities can help us model variant conceptualizations of this idea. For instance, in Austronesian language Mbula spoked in Papua New Guinea, one must ask “what eye is object-X?” (instead of “what color is X?”). Warlpiri-speakers of Australia ask, “what is it like?” (For further examples see Wierzbicka 1990 and 2008). Adapted from the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (nsms) model developed by Wierzbicka, which attempts to pursue cross-linguistic comparisons in an un-biased way (Wierzbicka 1990). Many languages have a word describing this mixed aspect of what they see (Wierzbicka 2008, 414). Barmu in Akkadian means a combination of different hues; it does not refer to a particular pattern like “flecked” or “striped” (see 2.5.2).

Abstract Colors


‘For one mina three shekels of zukû(-glass), which has the appearance of gold, three shekels of [male/ female] anzaḫḫu(-glass), three shekels of kalgukku(-mineral)…’ Šiknu (Sum. GAR) refers to the outward appearance of an object or substance. Its semantic range includes physiognomic aspects, such as color, shape and structure, as well as abstract qualities like beauty or dullness.82 The entries in the lists of stones (Abnu šikinšu), herbs (Šammu šikinšu) and snakes (Ṣēru šikinšu) imply that the ancient Mesopotamians considered brightness, saturation (i.e. chromatic purity), patterns and hue to be important qualities for describing and perhaps also classifying phenomena in the natural world. Whereas statements about color made with zīmu are primarily adjectival, those made with šiknu may be adjectival or verbal: NA 4 GAR-šú GIM AN-e za-ku-ti na4aš-pu-u MU.NI (Abnu šikinšu 76; Schuster-Brandis 2008, 30) ‘The stone whose appearance is like a clear sky, its name is ašpû.’ DIŠ ši-kìn ši-ri-šú BABBAR GE 6 ŠUB-u (amt 15 3: i 16) ‘If the appearance of his flesh is unevenly colored83 (with) white and black (spots)…’ i-ki-lu ši-ki-in-šu-un šal-pu-ut-ta-šú-nu lu-mu-un-tú ud-diš zi-me-šú-nu uk-ku-lu-tu ú-šá-an-biṭ (Esarhaddon 681–669 BCE; rinap 4 104: iv 12–15) ‘(The gods and goddesses of the Esagil), whose appearance had become dark, I repaired their ruined, woeful (state). I brightened their darkened looks…’ This is comparable to the way the term iwn “color, skin” is used in ancient Egyptian:84 ỉwn dšr ‘red color’ (said of a mountain where gold is found) ỉwn=f m nb(.w) ‘its color consists of gold’ ỉwn=f m ḥrs.t ‘its color consists of carnelian’ ỉwn n(.i) nšm(.t) ‘its color is like green feldspar’ 81 82 83 84

cad Z 119–121; AHw iii 1528. cad Š iii 436–438. For this technical meaning of nadû, see Scurlock and Anderson 2005, 217. See Schenkel 2007, 215–216 for text citations.


Chapter 2

1.1 Terms that Describe a Process of Coloring or a State of Being Colored While there is no unique abstract word equivalent to “color,” there are several ways to refer to the process of coloring in Akkadian, most of which are tied to activities in specific craft industries (see 2.4). It is possible “to mark/paint” (šamātu) something and thereby make the colors of a form stand out against the background or else to decorate the surface of wooden or leather objects. A specific color is not signified by the noun šimtu. Akkadian has several words for “to dye/stain.” Ṣarāpu, bašālu and ṣab/pû each describe a method of manipulating the external appearance of materials, generally cloth or leather, in order to make them more visually appealing—colorful, brighter, more vivid. With the verb tarāpu it was possible to talk about patterned coloration on an object’s exterior. Ebēru indicates inking or darkening facial features by going over them with pigment. Barāmu describes the appearance of an object with a combination of visual markers on its surface. Etymological analysis suggests that the color-related meanings are generally secondary to the semantic development of these terms. Originally meaning “to heat/burn,” the verb ṣarāpu was adopted to characterize vat dyeing because this process required heat. In the case of ṣarāpu, a further development in meaning occurred: outside the textile industry, it took on the meaning “to be colored” or “to be suffused with color” (see 2.4.3). Explicit statements about colors can be made verbally and non-verbally in the Akkadian language. 1.2 Verbal Colors Occurring in different tenses and stems, verbal color terms are more versatile than concrete ones. The Gt-stem shows no discernable difference in meaning from the basic stem. Color verbs in the D-stem describe the action brought about by an agent (factitive) or is derived from a noun (denominative). G- and D-stem stative forms of color verbs appear to be more or less semantically equivalent.85 Traditionally, it was held that the doubling of the second radical in the D-stem symbolized an intensification of the action expressed by the ­G-stem and that the “causative” function of the D-stem derived from this basic character.86 More precisely, the so-called “intensifying” function of gemination has to do with an increase in number (plurality of subject and/or object), in 85


As Kouwenberg noted, the D-stative is preferred when: 1) the D-stem is lexicalized and has a meaning that is unpredictable from the corresponding G-stem; 2) the subject is plural and/or is highly salient. Both are used interchangeably if the D-stem is a factitive of the G-stem; in such cases, the D-stative expresses the result of an action (1997, 352–357). See Kouwenberg 1997, 4–15 for a summary of these views.


Abstract Colors

duration (habituality, permanence) or in salience.87 The causative Š-stem and the N-stem, which has an ingressive meaning, are rarely attested. Kouwenberg’s proposal that a strong association exists between the D-stem and adjectives may explain why color verbs so infrequently occur in the Š-stem.88 An overview of the verbal character of each color term discussed in this chapter is given here: Table 2.1  Verbal character of Akkadian color terms G-stem








(w)arāqu barāmu


– X

X –


– –

X –

– –

X –

da ʾāmu ebēbu ekēlu eṭû ḫelû ḫ/rašāšu namāru pelû peṣû sâmu ṣalāmu tarāku


– – – – X – X – X X – –

– – X X – – – – – – X –

X – X X X X(?) X – X X X –

– – X X – – X – X – X –

– – – – X – X – – – X –

– – – – – – X – – – – –

X(?) – – – – – X X – – X(?) X

Adjectival use of color verbs is typical and attested in all periods (e.g. urpatu ṣalimtu “black cloud,” šurānu arqu “yellow cat”). The adverbs magal and mādiš indicate degrees of coloration, especially in omens. Thus, the diviner may describe the colors of a planet as magal sām “very/considerably red,” mādiš sām “intensely red” or mādiš ekil “intensely dark.” A careful study of objects and the color adjectives attributed to them indicates that not all color adjectives are informative about perceptual reality. Like English “Red Indian” or “white coffee,” Akkadian color adjectives may be used to classify as well as to describe and so their meaning may be figurative and literal.

87 88

Kouwenberg 1997, 16. See Chapter 11 in Kouwenberg 1997.


Chapter 2

1.3 Non-verbal Colors The afformative -ān- generally imparts a particularizing force to verbal nouns (e.g. nādin-ān “the particular seller”), pronouns (e.g. ayy-ān “in which (place), where”) and invariables (e.g. warkī-ān-ūm “at a particular point behind, i.e. later on”). With primary nouns, -ān- generally forms personal names (e.g. qaqqād-ān “someone with a particular head”).89 In the bilingual lexical list UR5-RA: ḫubullu, varieties of lapis lazuli are distinguished by color with this affix: karānānû “wine-colored” (from karānu “wine”)90 laptānu “turnip-colored” (from laptu “turnip”)91 sirrimānu “wild-ass-colored” (from sirrimu “wild-ass”)92 This manner of referring to color, however, is not typical in day-to-day speech; the only other terms that fit this pattern are epirānu “earth-colored,”93 aw/ murriqānu “jaundice-colored,” samānu “red-colored disease” and perhaps ḫašmānu “amethyst-­colored” (from Egyptian ḥsmn + -ānu). More commonly, color is evoked by ­referring to an object or substance of the relevant color with similes and metaphors: NA 4 GAR-šú GIM IGI TU.GUR 4mušen NA 4 KI.ÁG.GÁ MU.NI (Abnu šikinšu 40; Schuster-Brandis 2008, 28) ‘The stone whose appearance is like the eye of a turtledove, aban râme is its name.’ DIŠ TA UGU-nu MUL.MAR.GÍD.DA! MUL SUR-ma GIM ZA.GÌN.DURU 5 ana 15 NA DIB-iq NA BI TI-la ur-rak (Bab. 7 pl. 17: ii 20; Langdon 1922/1923) 89

Buccellati 1996, 140; von Soden observed further functions of the afformative: “…dient zur Hervorhebung bestimmter, oft individueller Vertreter der durch das Grundwort bezeichneten Art oder Gattung…In anderen Fällen löst sich das Wort mit -ān bedeutungsmässig weitgehend vom Grundwort (z.B. šulmānum „(Begrüßungs-)Geschenk“ von šulmum „Heil, Gruß“). Bisweilen hat -ān auch hypokoristisch-diminutiven Sin angenommen (z.B. mīrānum „kleines Tierchen; junger Hund“)…” (gag § 56 r). 90 Ḫḫ xvi 62 [msl 10 6]: NA 4.ZA.GÌN.GEŠ.TIN: ka-ra--nu-ú. Ḫḫ xvi Ras Shamra 47 [msl 10 39]: NA 4.ZA.GÌN.GEŠ.˹TIN˺.NA: ka-ra-na-nu. 91 Ḫḫ xvi 61 [msl 10 6]: NA 4.ZA.GÌN.LU.ÚB: lap-ta-nu-ú. 92 Ḫḫ xvi 63 [msl 10 6]: NA 4.ZA.GÌN.ANŠE.EDIN.NA: sír-ri-ma-nu. Abnu šikinšu 3; Schuster-Brandis 2008, 24: na4ZA.GÌN BABBAR [tukk]-up [na4]ZA.GÌN. [AN]ŠE ?.EDIN.NA MU.NI. 93 A relatively late attestation, dating to reign of Darius; epirānu is said to be the color of donkeys, cows and two other unidentified animals (Dar. 232; Weszeli 1996, 466–468).

Abstract Colors


‘If from above Ursa Major a star flares and passes to the right of a man (looking) like turquoise-blue glass, that man will have a long life.’ DIŠ KÀŠ-šú GIM kuš/na4duḫ-ši-e NA BI NA 4 G[IG] (bam 114: 8 with parallel in 161: iv 2′-3′) ‘If his urine is like duḫšu-leather/stone (in color), he is s[ick] with stones.’ si-ḫi-ir-ti É.GAL šá-a-tu né-bé-ḫu pa-áš-qu ša na4ZÚ na4ZA.GÌN ú-še-piš-ma ú-šal-ma ki-li-liš (Esarhaddon 681-669 BCE; rinap 4 1: vi 23–25) ‘All around the perimeter of that palace, I had the cornice and coping made of obsidian and lapis lazuli(-colored brick) and I encircled (them) around (it), like a wreath.’ Material-based or concrete color terms such as the ones in the examples above are studied in Chapter 3. 2

Abstract Color Words

Several scholars have attempted to provide methodological frameworks to distinguish the primary color words in ancient Near Eastern languages and what meanings they encode. Landsberger came to the conclusion that Akkadian had only five primary color words (Grundfarben) based on his interpretation of the lexical literature, in which white (BABBAR, peṣû), black (GE 6, ṣalmu), red/ brown (SA 5, sāmu), variegated (GÙN, barmu) and yellow/green (SIG 7(.SIG 7), (w)arqu) are listed together and qualify various types of objects.94 These five terms, frequently in the same sequence, also appear in other types of texts ­organized by the same list-principle, such as omens.95 This suggested to Landsberger that they were the most important color words in Sumerian and Akkadian and that they somehow belonged to a special conceptual and semantic category. The conclusion of his seminal study was that Mesopotamian languages had a poor and indefinite color vocabulary, in which single words often refer to multiple colors. Akkadian sāmu, for instance, is both red and brown, 94 95

In the canonical bilingual lexical list UR 5-RA: ḫubullu and several other lists such as the list of domestic animals (msl 8/1) and the list of stones (msl 10) (Landsberger 1967). Hirvonen 2016, 97–98. The “paradigmatic set” for color was very likely adapted from the older Sumerian word lists to the Akkadian word lists and other genres of texts organized in the same manner (Thavapalan, Stenger and Snow 2016, 200 and n. 11).


Chapter 2

arqu is yellow, green and, for the Sumerians, SIG 7.(SIG 7) could also be the color of the sky.96 Writing about ancient Egyptian, Schenkel argued that abstract colors must have a verbal form.97 This left Egyptian with four abstract terms for specific colors: white (ḥḏ), black (km(m)), red/yellow/brown (dšr) and green/blue (wȝḏ). Warburton, on the other hand, observed that it made little sense to exclude adjectival and nominal forms since they obviously play an important role as linguistic expressions of color in Egyptian.98 When anthropologists Berlin and Kay proposed that BCTs evolved in a standard sequence in all languages and that WHITE and BLACK + RED + GRUE (green/blue) were the first colors to evolve in the spectrum, the ancient evidence studied by Schenkel and Landsberger seemed to corroborate their theory. By Berlin and Kay’s definition, BCTs were abstract, not related to materials, not restricted in use and the most psychologically salient colors in a particular society.99 Hence, it has been taken for granted that peṣû, ṣalmu, sāmu and arqu are the Akkadian BCTs. How they relate to other abstract terms, such as those designating shaded or tonal variations of color, and words that describe luster, brightness or other aspects of the interplay of light on objects, is an issue that has not been addressed. The status of barmu “multihued/versicolored,” which appears with these four terms as a set in the lexical literature but does not fit with the Berlin and Kay theoretical scheme, has likewise been ignored.100 2.1 Basic Versus Abstract Colors That Sumerian and Akkadian have a limited number of BCTs is an idea that has become accepted in scholarly literature of the ancient Near East.101 Moorey, for instance, wrote: Both Sumerian and Akkadian (like ancient Egyptian) possessed four basic colour terms: black, white, red, grue (green/blue), with a term for ‘­variegated’…They are given in the canonical bilingual lexical lists in this order with ‘variegated’ between red and grue, possibly pointing to the later inclusion of the latter.102

96 97 98 99 100 101

Landsberger 1967, 145; Foulger 2006, 53. Schenkel 1963 and 2007. Warburton 2008, 216. Berlin and Kay 1969; Kay and Maffi 1999. E.g. Baines’ 1985 discussion reprinted in 2007; Foulger 2006. E.g. Baines 1985, 283–284; Foulger 2006. Warburton rejected the Berlin and Kay paradigm and has stressed the importance materiality for understanding the meaning of ancient color terminology (2012, 2016). 102 Moorey 1994, 322.


Abstract Colors

The cad speaks of sāmu “as one of the four basic colors.”103 And yet, while certain colors are sometimes called basic and at other times abstract, no clear methodology has been forwarded for determining whether an Akkadian color term is basic or abstract or both. For her study of Biblical Hebrew color terminology, Brenner defined BCTs in Semitic languages by their: 1) morphological simplicity, i.e. lexemes that consist only of a consonantal-vocalic root (primary nouns) or else of a consonantal root and vocalic transfix; 2) hyperonymity, i.e. the meaning of a BCT cannot be contained within the meaning of another word (e.g. since crimson and scarlet are contained within the meaning of red, they are hyponyms, whereas red is a hyperonym); 3) unrestricted applicability. Accordingly, she established the following BCTs in the Hebrew Bible:104 Table 2.2  Basic Color Terms in the Hebrew Bible (after Brenner 1979)




ʾādōm “red” lābān “white” ʾādōm “red” lābān “white” šāḥōr “black” yārōq “green” ṣāhōb “yellow”

Exilic and post-exilic

Bulakh added the morphological pattern of the lexeme (C1āC2ōC3, in the case of Biblical Hebrew) as an additional criterion for regarding a given term as a BCT.105 Schenkel argued that BCTs and non-BCTs in ancient Egyptian and Coptic may be distinguished on the basis of their role in parts of speech: BCTs are abstract and therefore verbal, whereas concrete color terms (e.g. colors that take their names from stones) are non-verbal. The present study proposes that most important, abstract color words in Akkadian are monolexemic hyperonyms (with the exception of pelû, whose meaning is tied to sāmu). Morphology is not a suitable criterion for distinguishing a color’s abstractness in Akkadian because color terms follow the 103 cad S 131. 104 Brenner 1979, 55–77. Yārōq and ṣāhōb are attested less frequently but were nonetheless considered BCTs by Brenner. 105 Bulakh 2006, n. 1. The only Hebrew BCT that does not follow this morphological pattern is lābān.


Chapter 2

Table 2.3a

Beer Celestial bodies Divine and demonic body parts Earth Fabrics Fauna Figurative meaning Fire Flora Glass Glassmaking process Human body parts Man-made spaces Metallurgical process Metals Painted surfaces Rainbow Sky (and clouds) Stones Textile industry Water, oil Wine

Semantic range of the verbal color terms in Akkadian



da ʾāmu






– X X

– X X

– X –

– – –

– X X

– X X

– – –

X – –

– X X X

– X X X

X X – X

– – X X

– – – X

– – – X

– – – X

– X X X

– X X X

– X – –

X – – –

– – X –

– – – –

– – – –

– – – –

– X – X









X X X X X – X –

– X X X X X – –

– X X X – – X –

X – – – X – – –

X – – X – – – –

– – – X – – – –

X – – – – – – –

X – – – – – – –

g­ eneral pattern for verb-based adjectives: C1a/eC2VC3 + case ending. The second short vowel, generally an /i/, disappears because of the case endings in the masculine forms but is retained in the feminine (ṣalmu/ṣalimtu, pelû/pelītu, daʾmu, raššu, ʾebbu). As in ancient Egyptian, non-metonymic color terms in ­Akkadian are verbal. However, the number of verbal color terms in Akkadian is much higher than what Schenkel reckoned for Egyptian or Coptic. According


Abstract Colors

to Berlin and Kay’s definition, a BCT should come to the fore of a person’s mind when the subject of color is mentioned. I have used the following criteria for evaluating this “psychological salience” of the Akkadian color terms discussed in this chapter: 1) derivational morphology, i.e. suffixes/prefixes (e.g. daʾummiš “brownish”) and nominal forms (e.g. pūṣāya “launderer”); 2) frequency; 3) ­occurrence in literary texts; and 4) in embedded expressions (color similes, ­metaphors, idioms). Tables 2.3a–2.3b provide an overview of the referents a­ ssociated with each abstract term, which speaks to the context and salience of the color in the extant corpus of Akkadian texts. Table 2.3b

Semantic range of the verbal color terms in Akkadian

Beer Celestial bodies Divine body parts Earth Fabrics Fauna Figurative meaning Fire Flora Glass Glassmaking process Human body parts Man-made spaces Metallurgical process Metals Painted surfaces Rainbow Sky (and clouds) Stones Textile industry Water, oil Wine







– X X – – X X

– X X – – X –

X X – X X X X



– X – – X – –

X X X –

X X – –

X X – X

X X X –

– X – –

– – – –







X –

– –

– –

– –

– X

– –

X – X X X – ? –

– – X – X – X –


X X X X X – X X

– X – X X – – –

– – – – – X X –


Chapter 2

While the semantic range of the four colors peṣû, ṣalmu, sāmu and arqu is notably broader, it is nonetheless clear that all the color terms included in this chapter may be applied in unrestricted contexts. They do not describe a narrow class of objects in the way that the material-based color terms do. Some linguists argue that it should be possible to apply a BCT to both natural and human artifacts (“combinability”).106 This function too is fulfilled by the Akkadian terms examined in this chapter. Finally, it should be noted that while the present study distinguishes abstract color terms from concrete ones, it does not argue that a select number of these abstract terms are also BCTs since material-based terms are vital to the language of color in Akkadian. 2.2 Analytic Method in Present Study Color words are used in three essential ways in the Akkadian language: 1) to characterize; 2) to designate; 3) figuratively or symbolically. For the purpose of this study, a distinction is made between characterizations, which are statements about the visual qualities of an object, and designations, which define an object in terms of a particular visual category but do not necessarily communicate information about what colors people actually saw.107 Expressions such as egg white, black coffee, Red Indian or red, white and green wine are examples of English terms being used to designate color. In such cases, the color words do not relate empirical information; rather, each object is classified within a color system that is referent-specific. Red Indian, to elaborate on one example, derives from the 18th century Color-Race Model developed by the Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778), who classified the human species based on geography and skin tone. In Linnaeus’ scheme, white, yellow, red and black are associated with Europeans, Asians, Americans and Africans, respectively. These and other color models, both ancient and modern, cannot be taken as comprehensive or decisive statements about color. The bilingual lexical list UR 5-RA: ḫubullu makes use of a five-color system to classify objects, beings and materials from the real world. As Veldhuis and others have demonstrated, however, this does not reflect an early form of scientific classification of the perceived world as whole. Nor does the classification system used in word lists speak to a collective cultural world-view. The lexical lists are organized by linguistic principles and therefore must be

106 Rakhilina and Paramei 2011. 107 This distinction is also made by Schenkel for Egyptian color terms (2007, 221).

Abstract Colors


­ nderstood within the context of what Veldhuis called the “Science of Writu ing,” not as an early form of Natural Science: Lists such as Plants or Vessels are hardly inventories (or classifications) of all plants and vessels—they are both less and more…The kinds of things that are treated in the lexical corpus do not describe a universe in any accepted sense of the word.108 In other words, the five reoccurring colors function as color categories in ­U R 5-RA: ḫubullu. The vocabulary in the list cannot be used as evidence to understand perception and many more words were used to describe color experiences in regular speech. Color designations are also found in texts concerning diverse craft industries and medicine, wherein they often function as technical terms. In terms of morphology, two trends are observable: either regular verbal and adjectival forms of color terms take on extended meanings or nominal forms are generated for use within the particular technical corpora. The phrases “red blood cell” and “white blood cell” in English illustrate the first phenomenon. Rather than operating as color adjectives, red and white carry meanings that only apply to the field of medicine here: “red” refers to the fact that these cells carry the hemoglobin molecules responsible for giving blood its characteristic color whereas “white” alludes to the coagulated appearance of these cells after blood undergoes centrifugation. Peṣû, meaning “unnaturally blanched” when it appears as a diagnostic color of human skin, is an example of when an Akkadian color term takes on a technical significance. An English language example to illustrate the second trend would be the term albino. Deriving from Latin albus, this refers to a congenital absence of pigmentation in the skin, eyes and hair. In the same way, Akkadian sūmu, meaning “red spot,” is a noun that only appears in medical and divinatory texts. Not all references to color in the medical corpus operate as technical terms. Color was a vital diagnostic tool in Babylonian and Assyrian medical practice. Like modern doctors, the āšipu carefully noted abnormal discoloration in his patients’ bodies and observed the appearance of swellings, blisters, scars, the color of blood, urine and other bodily discharges. The main source of information for the color-related medical symptoms that are discussed in this chapter is the Babylonian Diagnostic-Prognostic Series (dps), sakkikû, which contains some three thousand entries in the format, “If symptom X is present, then 108 Veldhuis 2014, 55. See also Rochberg 2016, 93–94.


Chapter 2

d­ iagnosis Y and/or prognosis Z.”109 Of special interest is the second subseries of the dps, entitled ana marṣi ina ṭeḫêka,110 where observations of symptoms on individual body parts, organized from head to toe, are recorded. Color is the first symptom that is registered here and it plays a decisive role in the āšipu’s subsequent diagnosis and prognosis. The main colors cited in the dps are sāmu, arqu, ṣalmu, tarku and daʾmu, generally in the same fixed order. Heeßel noted that variation in the color spectrum in the second subseries is rare. Color words also appear in the first subseries of the dps (tablets 1–2), in which observations made by the exorcist on his way to the patient’s house are recorded. Four colors, peṣû, ṣalmu, sāmu and pelû, are cited there in connection with various domestic animals. Curiously, arqu and barmu, two abstract color words routinely associated with animals in lexical lists and omens, do not appear there. Many scholars of Babylonian medicine take the view that the diagnostic omens have empirical underpinnings.111 Consequently, they may be useful for determining the specific focus of certain color terms. The slight variations in the color spectrums associated with each type of referent observed by Heeßel support the view that such medical observations were indeed made on the basis of perceptual evidence. Lastly, it should be mentioned that the symbolic meanings associated with colors in the apodoses of divinatory texts are not straightforward and it is difficult to determine general patterns of significance.112 This reveals perhaps that in Mesopotamian thought, for colors to be imbued with certain intrinsic or characteristic values, they had to have a cultural context. Characterizations, as defined in this book, are statements about color that describe perceptual experiences. These then are useful for understanding what meaning the color word had within a particular textual tradition. Similes that take images from daily life are of particular value, as they tell us about a color term’s focus. Based on statements such as “his skin was ṣalmu like pitch” or “the river water is peṣû like milk,” it is possible to say that ṣalmu was ideally akin to the black color of pitch and peṣû to white milk.113 By considering the different 109 The forty-tablet series was redacted and compiled in the 11th century bce by the Babylonian scholar Esagil-kīn-apli. The first attempt at a full edition of the work was by Labat (1951 = tdp). Heeßel’s re-analysis of the tablets and their arrangmenet into subseries in 2000 led to a new labelling system, which explains the incongruences between tdp and dps numbers. In the same work, Heeßel edited tablets 15–33 of the series. Tablets 1, 4, 9, 13, 16, 26, 33 and 40 were edited in Heeßel 2010b. Editions of dps tables 3–40 are given in Scurlock 2014. 110 dps 3–14 (corresponds to tdp tablets 7–17). 111 E.g. Fincke 2000; Scurlock and Anderson 2005. 112 Vederame 2004; Koch 2015, 235, 276, 284; Hirvonen 2016, 99–105. 113 This is not to be confused with the statement about the river’s color itself, which is from a terrestrial omen; in that context, peṣû is a designation.

Abstract Colors


realities expressed in such comparative statements as a whole, it is possible to arrive at a definition of the Akkadian color word. Understanding the semantic boundaries of color words is just as important as knowing their foci. In a hypothetical situation, given a Munsell color array and asked to circle the region corresponding to the word sāmu, an Akkadian-speaker would probably place the word in about the same part of the array as an English-speaker would red or Polish-speaker would czerwony. However, if the semantic boundaries114 of each word were compared, sāmu might include hues, shades and perhaps other (non-)visual qualities that neither red nor czerwony are capable of connoting. Finally, color is also a part of figurative language in Akkadian and can signify abstract ideas and had symbolic meanings. English is a language that is rich with color idioms. Frozen expressions like “white-knuckle ride,” “blackmail,” “red tape,” “green room” and “in the black,” whose culturally specific meanings are not evident from the individual words, cannot be translated literally into other languages. Akkadian, conversely, seems to have very few such idioms. Two examples are ṣalmāt qaqqadi “black-headed ones” meaning “humankind,” borrowed from Sumerian, and šiṭir burūmê “writing of the versicolored thing (i.e. starry sky)” meaning “constellation.” Colors nevertheless constitute a very important part of the poetics of Akkadian literature. A preliminary investigation indicates that colors are used: 1. Functionally: to covey something essential to the narrative 2. Decoratively: to express striking detail and to allude 3. Formulaically: in repeated phrases and clichés (e.g. kīma ūmi nummuru “to brighten like daylight” or kīma qitmi/ittî ṣalim “black like pitch”) 4. Cumulatively: several colors appear in a cluster, often signaling crucial psychological or emotional moments (e.g. the “light-and-dark portraits” constructed through the antagonistic use of namru/ḫelû and eklu/eṭû, see 2.5.4 and 2.5.5)115 The aspect of brightness was especially significant for Mesopotamian religious thought, in which the gods were conceptualized as numinous beings imbued with an active radiance that elicited a sensation of awe in their human subjects. This image found varied expression in written and visual culture.116 ­Akkadian religious poetry, for example, is richly laden with language that 114 As discussed in Chapter 1 (see 1.3), that Berlin and Kay’s methodology relied too heavily on Munsell charts was a criticism leveled at them early on: “… whole level of analysis is missing from the basic color term tradition, namely, no attention whatsoever is paid to what the various terms actually mean in the sense of what they typically refer to, their characteristic referential range” (Lucy 1997, 335. Italics mine). 115 Categories adapted from those developed by Edgeworth 1992. 116 Thavapalan 2018b.


Chapter 2

e­ mphasizes both the visual (namrirrū) and psychological (melammu, puluḫtu) aspects of this divine brilliance.117 In their cosmic forms—as the sun, moon, stars and planets—the gods communicated with human beings by illuminating or obscuring themselves. Lightness and darkness, especially in the form of eclipses, were thus important portends that revealed the gods’ intentions. When they featured as anthropomorphic beings in mythological compositions, the splendor of the gods was articulated through elements in the physical world. Thus, for instance, dramatic weather described using similes and metaphors replete with vocabulary of contrasting brightness often set the stage for cosmic battles. Lastly, in everyday practice of religious worship, the concept of godly radiance found visual expression through the bright and colorful metals, gemstones and dyed fabrics with which cult statues and spaces were fashioned. Links between the language of color and emotions are found in almost every language. In Akkadian, colors express human emotions, moods and mental states, often without an overt tie as in English “green with envy.” Brightness and saturation, not hue, are what lend meaning to the metaphors, yet another indicator of the semantic primacy of these aspects. Anger and fear are expressed in terms of a person’s face turning ṣalmu- or arqu-colored, for example, because anger was imagined as kind of darkness that casts a shadow upon a person and the image of a blood-drained face was thought to embody the sensation of alarm. Table 2.4 provides a summary of the psycho-emotional values associated with the color terms discussed in this chapter (specific examples supporting these claims are discussed under the individual entries). 3

Aspects of Color

The extensive linguistic data gathered by anthropologists have demonstrated that speakers of many languages distinguish between colors using aspects other than hue. Brightness was recognized as a key feature of color in certain languages in the earliest research into color semantics. In his 1899 study of Old English color terms, Mead drew attention to “the great variety of terms expressing light and darkness” that existed in Anglo-Saxon poetry. Mead’s separation of such terms, which according to him are “in the strictest sense colorless,” from what he calls “genuine color words,” provoked discussions on how “color” should be defined in Old English, what exactly he meant by “brightness” and if he was justified in semantically distinguishing the two terms.118 117 Oppenheim 1943; von Soden 1960; Cassin 1968; Winter 1994; Foster 2005, 31–32. 118 Mead 1899, 174–176.


Abstract Colors Table 2.4  Colors and emotions in Akkadian

Color Tag (w)arqu Pale Yellow Green barmu da ʾmu ebbu

Multihued Versicolored Dark Maroon/brown Shining Lustrous Polished




Fresh Growing Peaceful Secure Beautiful (of eyes)

Sickly (jaundiced) Putrid Fear Shock –

Trustworthy Proper Pure Clean –


Dark Dull




Translucent Shiny Glowing orange


Death Despair Foreboding Doom Gloom Misery Confusion –

Numinous Divine Royal Dynamic Clear Fair (just) Life-affirming –

Fair (beautiful) Warm

Empty Bleached

Healthy (flushed) Aroused Luxurious Powerful Fear-inspiring Fertile

Abnormal Barren Old Feverish

Death Apprehension

ḫ/ruššû namru

Dazzling Brilliant


Light orange/red Copper red White Blanched

peṣû sāmu

Vivid Red


Black Bruised



Gloom Obscured –


Chapter 2

Lerner continued Mead’s line of inquiry to conclude that, “a study of AngloSaxon color words in their contexts will show, I think, that the authors were much more interested in brightness than we are.”119 Subsequent investigations have revealed that color terms gradually shifted from brightness to almost exclusively hue concepts between the Old (c. 600–1150) and Middle English periods (c. 1150–1500).120 In the opinion of MacLaury and other anthropologists, this trend, in which the importance of brightness gradually gives way to that of hue, may be observed in the development of most languages’ color systems.121 Support for MacLaury’s idea may be found in ancient languages as well. It has been established that in Mycenaean Greek, color is bound up with notions of luminosity and movement. The word kosuto in Linear B texts (Greek xouthós), for instance, communicates the idea of quickness and agility as well as blondness.122 “Faster” colors were lighter than “slower” ones in Archaic and Classical Greek. Thus, Homer’s description of a “silver-pawed” (pódas argos) dog refers to the fact that it is a hunting hound.123 The goddess Thetis is swift not silver-footed (argyrópeza) and Apollo is quick to draw his bow (argyrótoxos).124 Brightness, saturation and hue are the key aspects of the Akkadian color system.125 Because modern English uses a hue-based color vocabulary, one-toone translations from the Akkadian are neither possible nor useful. MacLaury and Casson126 have established a typological framework that describes the relationship between brightness and hue in color language. Although it was conceived to describe the nuances in English terminology and how they have changed over time, this typology may be adapted to model how the Akkadian color system functions as a whole.127 Because it does not entirely explain the meaning of Akkadian color words, for which the category saturation is also a 119 Lerner 1951, 247. 120 According to Casson, “[h]ue was only minimally conceptualized in Old English, and did not become salient in conceptualizations of color until the Middle English period (c. 1150– 1500). The set of Old English terms that evolved into English basic color terms followed the same pattern: they were predominantly brightness terms in the Old English period and almost entirely hue terms in the Middle English period.” (Casson 1997, 224). 121 MacLaury et al. 1992. 122 Manzelli 1994, 44. 123 Iliad xviii: 578; Schwarzenberg 2000, 22. 124 Schwarzenberg 2000, 22 and n. 40. 125 Hinted at by Durand, although he offered no systematic analysis of the terminology (2015, 25). 126 Casson 1992, 1997. 127 Their models and definitions of “brightness,” however, are sightly different. MacLaury’s typology (brightness—brightness with hue—hue with brightness—hue) and conception of brightness was tied to the Munsell color chart and consequently, to the surface

Abstract Colors


defining aspect, it was necessary to supplement MacLaury and Casson’s typology with two additional categories (Types 5 and 6): Type 1: pure brightness terms denote light-emission, light-reflection, illumination and transparency (e.g. namru, eklu, eṭû). Type 2: brightness-dominated terms focus on specific hues, but primarily indicate a level of brightness. Like English “gold” and “silver,” ­Akkadian color words that belong to this category do not always distinguish sharply between brightness and hue (e.g. peṣû, ṣalmu, ḫurāṣu and r/ḫuššû). ­Although it is technically inappropriate to include achromatic colors like peṣû and ṣalmû within a category that covers hue, I nonetheless classify them as brightness-dominated terms since they specify “white” and “black” in addition to “light” and “dark.” When material-based terms (studied in Chapter 3) allude to color, they focus on brightness and hue. Type 3: hue-dominated terms focus on specific hues and secondarily indicate a level of brightness and/or saturation (e.g. barmu, pelû). It is difficult to distinguish these from Type 2 color words in Akkadian. Type 4: pure hue terms focus exclusively on chroma. I have not detected such terms in the Akkadian color vocabulary. Type 5: saturation-dominated terms focus on the level of purity of the hue and secondarily indicate the nature of the hue and/or the level of brightness (e.g. sāmu, arqu). Type 6: pure saturation terms focus only on the purity of the hue. I have not detected such terms in the Akkadian color vocabulary. Modern English has relatively few words to describe brightness and so translating the Akkadian terms that prioritize this aspect presents difficulties. In order to minimize ambiguity, the definition of brightness/lightness developed by Carole P. Biggam as well as her standardized terminology is used in the ­present study. According to Biggam and my own analyses of the Akkadian

appearance of colors. Casson’s definition of brightness included light-emission and reflection: pure-brightness terms, he wrote, “…ranging from light to dark and including quantity of luminescence (from light sources) and degree of reflectivity (from reflecting surfaces)” (Casson 1992, 325).


Chapter 2 barmu “multihued, versicoloured”


pelû “light orange/red”

adru “dark”

e û “dim”

elû “shining, translucent”

ellu “shining” tarpu “mottled”

eklu “dark”


ebbu “lustrous”

namru “dazzling” sāmtu “carnelian”

stones uqnû “lapis lazuli”


pe û “light+white” almu “dark+black”


urā u “gold”

ašmānu “amethyst”

sāmu “vivid+red”

du šu “calcite”

textiles arqu “pale+ yellow/green”

type 1: pure brightness type 2: brightness-dominated type 3: hue-dominated type 4: saturation-dominated type 5: pure hue type 6: pure saturation

metals tarku “bruised”

da’mu “maroon/brown”

/ruššû “glowing+orange”

6 5

Figure 2.1 Typology of Akkadian color terminology

­ aterial, the category “brightness” describes one or more of the following m qualities: Light-emission: dazzling—shining—glowing—dark Reflectivity: shiny—lustrous—matt Surface illumination: well-lit—poorly lit Space illumination: brilliant—dim—unlit Transparency: transparent—translucent128 128 Biggam 2007, 183.

Abstract Colors


What do the linguistic peculiarities of Akkadian color language say about what the Mesopotamians thought about this phenomenon? Some linguists consider the issue of whether or not a language has the ability to encode the abstract concept COLOR, which distinguishes this quality from others such as SHAPE, SIZE, PATTERN etc., culturally significant because it speaks to a certain classification of knowledge.129 As we have seen, while it is possible to describe, evoke and allude to colors in various ways in Akkadian, the speakers of this language chose not to have a separate word for it. Zīmu and šiknu refer to various aspects of an object’s appearance, color being one among them. Given the fascination technologies of color held for the Mesopotamians, this lexical gap in Akkadian is especially curious. As one anthropologist observed, societies interested in producing and manipulating colored materials usually also have a special word for “color”: The concept of ‘colour’ emerges in a language when people become interested (often, because of new technologies) in distinguishing purely ‘chromatic’ aspects of appearance from other aspects, such as, for example, darkness, shininess, vividness, or brightness, which may have more to do with visibility or visual conspicuousness than with specific prototypes. It is not an accident that languages which have no word for ‘colour’ have no specific ‘colour words’ either. They may of course have words which, from the point of view of English, are ‘words for colours,’ but these words do not include the concept of ‘colour’ in their meaning. When ‘colour words’ emerge in a language a word for ‘colour’ emerges too (often by borrowing).130 The effect technologies of color like dyeing and glassmaking had on the Akkadian language is explored further in Chapter 3. Finally, it is the thesis of this study that Akkadian has a rich and varied color vocabulary with much more than just five abstract words, as it has generally been assumed. Because colors in this language tend to have brightness- and saturation-oriented color foci, they may have a fuzzy hue-focus. Hence arqu is both yellow and green and sāmu both red and reddish orange. Realizing that the origins of colors in Mesopotamia are found in the idea of brightness is essential for appreciating color as an aesthetic feature of art and architecture. For instance, pure-brightness terms feature prominently in Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian records about royal building projects (see namru, eklu, 129 Wierzbicka 2008, 419–421. 130 Wierzbicka 2008, 410.


Chapter 2

eṭû). The significance of this linguistic reality can only be grasped in light of the archaeological evidence for palaces and temples from this period, which reveal that these spaces were luminously colored with shimmering glaze, translucent stone and inlays of metal and glass (see Chapter 4). Through linguistic (e.g. etymology, loanwords) and cultural (e.g. the impact of new technologies) analysis, this chapter also inquires if this idea of brightness is ­abstract as some scholars contend131 or if it stems from the perception and ­interpretation of certain natural prototypes, such as precious materials.132 Knowing this is highly relevant for appreciating the symbolic meanings constructed around the concept of brightness and more generally around color. 4

Terminology for the Process of Coloring and the State of Being Colored

4.1 Bašālu With respect to color, the verb bašālu can mean “to dye” (fabrics and leather), “to glaze” (primarily bricks) and “to stain” (ivory). 4.1.1 Etymology & History of Attestation The root bšl is attested in several Semitic languages with a primary meaning “to cook/boil.”133 This is also the case in Akkadian, in which bšl is attested in the G- and Š-stems, the latter being transitive.134 The adjective bašlu also has the sense “ripe” or “mature” (said of fruit, legumes, animals and wine), “fused” (glass) and “melted” (metals, wax, bitumen), which is not related to color. Šu/ abšulu “to dye, glaze” is attested from the Middle Babylonian period onwards. 4.1.2 Characterization To Glaze The idea of glazing bricks a particular color may be conveyed in several ways, including with the Š-stem of the verb bašālu. The more common verb for it is šaḫāt/ṭu, which basically means “to smear/wash.”135 In his study of brickwork

131 E.g. Bulakh 2007. 132 E.g. Warburton 2012. 133 E.g. Hebrew (“to boil”), Aramaic (D-stem: “to ripen, boil”), Arabic (“to ferment, grow sour, stink”; A-stem: “to cook”), Tigré (“to ripen, boil, grow up”), Mehri (preserved as bhl: “to (be) cooked, baked”; H-stem: “to cook, prepare”), Geʿez (bsl: “ripened, cooked”), see Murtonen 1989, 122–123 and Leslau 1987, 109. 134 cad B 135–137 and 140–141; AHw I 111–112. 135 cad Š i 84–85 (šaḫātu A). Here are two examples from the Neo-Assyrian period:

Abstract Colors


in Mesopotamia, Salonen demonstrated that when na4agurru136 is followed by a metal or color word, the expression signifies “glazed X(-colored) brick.” For example, na4agurri kaspi ebbi means “shining, silver(-colored) glazed brick.”137 In accounts of royal building projects in Neo-Assyrian inscriptions, glazing is described in this manner, i.e. with metonymic color words rather than with a specific verb: i-na a-gúr-ri na4ZÚ na4ZA.GÌN us-si-ma si-il-lu né-bé-ḫi ù gi-mir pa-as-qí-šiin (Sennacherbin 705-681 bce; rinap 3/1 16: vi 66–68) ‘With baked brick (glazed the color of) obsidian and lapis lazuli did I fittingly adorn the arches, friezes and all the copings (of the rooms).’ Salonen further observed that the verb šubšulu means “to glaze” when it is associated with baked bricks.138 In the first example quoted below, the G-stem stative is used: 30 a-gur-re-tù ša bá-aš-lu (Nuzi, hss 14 548: 1–2) ‘Thirty baked bricks that were glazed’ a-gúr-ri ina na4ZA.GÌN ú-šab-šil a-na e-le-na KÁ.MEŠ-ši-na ú-ki-ni (A.0.101.30: 32 [rima 2 290]) ‘I (Ashurnasirpal ii) glazed the baked bricks with lapis lazuli(-colored glaze) and laid (them) above their doorways.’ na4 To Dye It is only in the written sources from Nuzi that the verb bašālu signifies the process of dyeing wool. Either the G-stem adjective bašlu or the Š-stem verb ša/ubšulu is employed for the purpose within this corpus:139

136 137 138 139

saa 10 368: rev. 6–7: ù LÚ uruak-kad-u-a e-bir-˹tú˺ i-šàḫ-ḫu-˹ṭu˺ i-sa-ak-ki-[ru] “(They are transporting bitumen from the land of I[tuʾu] to the city of ˹Akkad˺.) Moreover, the citizens of Akkad are glazing and firing baked bricks.” saa 13 168: rev. 13–15 (a report concerning restoration work at the Esagil): re-˹eḫ˺-[ti] lú ­ú-ra-si e-bir-[tú] ša TÙR.MEŠ ša É.SAG.[ÍL] li-iš-ḫu-ṭu “(The king of Babylon has told us the following: ‘You should work on the permanent enclosure wall of the Esagil. You should also work on the temple of Bēlet-Bābili.) Let the remain[ning] masons glaze the baked bricks for the enclosures of the Esagg[il].’” Šaḫātu can also mean “to apply” or “to paint,” as in: tam-šil ma-šak […] ma-šak KÙ.SI 22.ḪUŠ.A iš-ḫu-ut-ma (Esarhaddon r. 681–669 bce; rinap 4 33: obv. ii 21). “In the likeness of (real) skin, he applied a skin of reddish-gold (on the statue).” Agurru is a kiln-fired brick, paving stone, slab or tile (cad A i 160). Salonen 1972, 147–158. Salonen 1972, 179–180. Lewy 1959, 9–11 and n. 2.


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1 TÚG ba-aš-lu ša ta-bar-ri-a-an-[ni] (hss 13 225: 2) ‘One shirt, dyed tabarru(-color).’ 3 ku-du4-uk-tu4 SÍG a-na tu-uḫ-ši-we a-na ša-ab-šu-li a-na Ia-mu-ur-qa-assà na-ad-nu ù la i-din-na 3 ku-du4-uk-tu4 SÍG a-na tu-uḫ-ši-we a-na ša-ab-šu-li a-na Iti-ir-wi-ni-el-li na-ad-nu ù la i-din-na NA 4 Iti-ir-wi-ni-el-

  • NA 4 Ia-mu-ur-qa-as- (hss 13 302) ‘Three kuduktu-measures of wool to be dyed duḫšu(-color) were given to Amur-qāssa and she did not give (it back yet). Three kuduktu-measures of wool to be dyed duḫšu(-color) were given to Tirwinelli and she did not give (it back yet). Seal of Tirwinelli, seal of Amur-qāssa.’ It is unclear why the scribes at Nuzi preferred bašālu to the more common Akkadian verb for “to dye,” ṣarāpu (see 2.4.3). It is not possible to say, for instance, if this linguistic choice reflects variations in regional dyeing practices. In Old Assyrian texts, the adjective šinītum (from šanû “to soak” in liquid) is used to denote dyed fabrics.140 Ṣab/pû, with the primary meaning “to soak,” was employed during the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian periods. A curious exception to this general trend is the Sippar Dye Text (7th century bce), where bašālu is used to describe the vat dyeing process: Recipe for blue-purple wool by double-dyeing pre-mordanted blue wool with a red colorant: [SÍG.ZA.GÌN tal-qu u] na4˹ga˺-[bu]-ú mál-ma-liš LÁ ina A.MEŠ IZI ŠEG 6-šal 140 Lassen 2014, 258–259. Larsen’s discussion of two Old Assyrian letters containing the verb šubšulu in the context of textile transactions should be compared with the use of the verb in the Nuzi. kts 1 2b is a letter from a man to his brother wherein he provides instructions for settling certain accounts. In bin 6 30, a father reproaches his son for not completing the sale of an earlier shipment of textiles: šu-ma kà-ru-um i-sà-ni-kà um-ma a-ta-ma KÙ.BABBAR a-šu-mì a-bi4-a-ma ù-ša-abša-al (kts 1 2b: 13–16; Larsen 2002, 59) “If the colony puts pressure on you, just say: ‘I shall deal with the silver on behalf of my father.’” 1 me-at 90 TÚG.ḪI-tí ì-lí-a-lúm ù a-šùr-ta-ak-la-ku ù-ša-áb-ší-lu-ni-kum (bin 6 30: 30–32; Larsen 2002, 34 and n. 32). “Ili-ālum and Ashur-taklāku have dealt with one hundred and ninety of my textiles on your behalf.” Larsen rejected the translation “to dye/melt” in bin 6 30 in light of kts 1 2b, where silver is the object of ušabšal. With some hesitation, he concluded that the form is an idiomatic commercial term pertaining to the handling of goods (Larsen 2002, 33–35 and 59–60).

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    EN A.MEŠ IDIM ḫa-at-˹ḫu˺-re-tu4 SÚD SÍG.ZA.GÌN mál-ma-liš LÁ ina A.MEŠ ina IZI ŠEG 6-šal tuš-kin7-ma SÍG.ZA. GÌN.KUR.RA (BM 62788+82979: rev. 6´-8´) ‘[You take (blue) uqnâtu-wool and] you measure the corresponding amount of alum. You heat (the wool and alum) in water over fire. You pulverize ḫatḫurētu in spring water. You measure the corresponding amount of (blue) uqnâtu-wool. You heat (the mordanted wool and decocted dye) over fire in (regular) water. You let (it) fix and (it is) takiltu (-colored) wool.’ Since bašālu with this meaning is otherwise only attested in written sources from the late second millennium bce, its appearance in this manuscript is anachronistic and suggests that the recipes originally belonged to a late Bronze Age scribal tradition. To Stain Bašālu also has the meaning “to stain” ivory and related materials like bone, horn and shell. Most of the references to colored ivory in Akkadian written

    Figure 2.2 Fragment of ivory plaque with remnants of paint. Neo-Assyrian, 8th-7th centuries bce (met 58.31.11) Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Rogers Fund, 1958


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    Figure 2.3 Ivory furniture element with remnants of gold foil. Probably from Acemhöyük, 18th century bce (met 36.152.3) Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gift of Mrs. GEORGE D. PRATT, in memory of GEORGE D. PRATT, 1936

    documents are from the Amarna corpus—these are to finished ornaments sent to Mesopotamia as gifts from Egypt. For instance, column four of an inventory of gifts from Amenhotep iv to the Babylonian king Burnaburiaš records nineteen individual stained ivory (šinni pīri bašlu) items, including containers for oils and cosmetics, jewelry, combs and small figurines.141 If ivory products were imported “pre-finished” with color, this explains the silence in the Akkadian textual record about the technical details about ivory decoration. Because of the poor state of the surviving archaeological evidence, very little is known about the material aspects of ivory and bone coloration.142 Even 141 EA 14: iv 1–19 (Moran 1987, 34). 142 For the Assyrian ivories and their coloration, see Herrmann 1986, 58–60, 266 and 1992, 26. In Herrmann’s estimation, most of the Assyrian style ivories and statuary were brightly colored in the first millennium. Gold foil overlays were used regularly but as yet, there is

    Abstract Colors


    when vestiges of pigment are visible on the surface, reconstructing the original decoration is a complicated issue. Gold and silver leaf overlay occasionally cause the surface underneath to stain purple over time (fig. 2.3). When ivories were decorated with glass or stones, the inlay was usually set on red (iron ­oxide), blue (Egyptian blue), green and yellow (yellow ochre) bedding material. Cut out or incised portions could also be highlighted with pigment (fig. 2.2).143 Stained and painted ivories are well attested in New Kingdom Egypt. Even though particularly good examples were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen (c. 1332–1323 bce), much is still unknown about the coloring substances and techniques employed by ancient craftsmen.144 The general use of the verb bašālu and of ṣarāpu in the letter quoted below suggests, however, that like dyeing cloth, the process of staining ivory required heat: GIŠ ša ši-in-ni li-il-pu-tu4 ù li-iṣ-ru-ú-pu ša-am-mi ša ṣe-e-ri ša a-na a-ḫami-iš ma-aš-lu ša ši-in-ni li-il-pu-tu4 ù li-iṣ-ru-pu-ú-ma li-il-qu-ni (Letter from Burnaburiaš to Amenhotep iv; EA 11: rev. 11–12) ‘They should carve145 and stain a tree (made) of ivory. They should carve matching wild flowers (made) of ivory and they should stain (them) and bring (them) along.’ Heat ensures that the colorant penetrates the pores of ivory, especially if the surface is etched beforehand with an acidic solution like vinegar. Buffing afterward will restore luster. 4.2 Šamātu The noun šimtu is sometimes cited as the closest Akkadian word corresponding to English “color.”146 However, šimtu refers only to color achieved synthetically, by painting or branding/tattooing and never to the natural coloration of a person or thing.

    no evidence for inlays of glass and stone (for an example with traces of gold foil, see no 87 on plate 13 in Herrmann 1992). 143 See Moorey 1994, 127 and references therein. 144 Krzyszkowska and Morkot 2000, 329–330. 145 Following Moran (1987, 21). “Paint” does not seem likely since staining is mentioned. The cad has “fashion” for lapātu in this context. The common ancient Near Eastern practice of covering ivory with gold and silver sheet is generally described with uḫḫuzu. 146 E.g. AHw iii 1238: “Kennzeichen; Farbe; Marke.” The cad provides three basic meanings for the word: 1) paint, glue, varnish; 2) mark, marking; 3) branding iron (cad Š iii 9–11).


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    4.2.1 Etymology & History of Attestation Šimtu, from the root šmt “to mark, color”147 and s/šimtu, from wsm “to be fitting, suitable,”148 may be distinguished by the fact that the former is frequently attested as the object of the verb šamātu. The root šmt is not known in other Semitic languages.149 The earliest attestations of both the verb and noun date to the Old Babylonian period. The meaning of the dual form of the noun (šim(i) tān), only found in lexical lists, is unclear.150 In Middle- and Neo-Babylonian documents, the verb šamātu has the specialized meaning “to brand/tattoo”151 Šimtu indicates a mark placed on a temple oblate or animal in Neo-Babylonian administrative texts but it is not clear how this imprint was made—whether by branding or by using paint or dye. 4.2.2 Orthography & By-forms The noun is typically written logographically, as (kuš)ŠE.GÍN or (kuš)ŠE.GIN 7 (at Mari), but the syllabic spellings šimtu and šind/tu are attested as well.152 4.2.3 Characterization The nature of the substance šimtu has been debated since the 1930s and the word has been variously understood as wax,153 varnish,154 pigment,155 paint,156 glue,157 and brand158 in scholarly literature. 147 148 149 150

    CAD Š i 307–308. CAD A ii 328–329. Which is why von Soden preferred to derive šimtu from (w)asāmu. CAD Š iii 9. Referring to a mark (zi-ib: ZIB: ši-im-ta-an (Ea ii 224 [msl 14 257])) and the evening (AN.USAN: ši-mi-tan (Nabnītu iva 350 [msl 16 91])). 151 CAD Š i 308. 152 Ḫḫ xi 284–287 [msl 7 137–138]: KUŠ.ŠE še-gi-in GÍN: ši-in-du KUŠ.ŠE še-gi-in GÍN.SIG 5.GA: MIN da-mi-iq-ti KUŠ.ŠE.GÍN.ZALAG.GA: MIN na-mir-tum KUŠ.ŠE.GÍN.KÙ.SI 22: MIN ḫu-ra-ṣu Referring to a branded mark: Ḫḫ xi 360 [msl 9 202]: [U]RUD.NÍG.IZI.TAG.GA: šim-[tum]. 153 Based on his study of some one hundred documents from the early Isin period (20th centuries bce) that refer to ŠE.GÍN and A.ŠE.GÍN, Crawford was able to demonstrate that it was primarily carpenters (lúNAGAR) and tanners (lúAŠGAB) who made use of this product. He translated the terms as “wax” and “liquid wax” respectively and also made a list of the products they were applied on to (Crawford 1948, 34–43). 154 Scurlock and Anderson 2005, 100. 155 Thompson proposed that šimtu was the base of ancient paints. Distinguishing between the meaning “brand” or “mark” in contexts where it is described as being on the body of an animal and attestations where šimtu is measured and distributed to craftsmen, Thompson identified the latter as realgar. Realgar is a yellowish red arsenic sulfide m ­ ineral

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    49 Pigment, Paint or Binder? When associated with wood or leather products, šimtu can refer either to an adhesive or to paint containing a binding agent, typically hide glue. Some adhesives occur naturally, while others have to be manufactured artificially. Organic adhesives include glue (made from animal collagen), gum (plant exudate),159 sugars, beeswax, oils and fats and resin. Clay, gypsum, natron and solder are examples of inorganic adhesives used in the ancient Near East.160 Hide glue is produced by boiling scraps of animal skin, bones and tissue until the collagen within deteriorates. The viscosity and adhesiveness of the mixture depends on how much water is added to the solution and how long it is heated. When the desired gel state is achieved, the residue may be strained, cooled, dried and cut into pieces or ground into powder. Stored in such a dried state, hide glue may be re-wetted, heated and applied with a brush



    158 159


    that frequently occurs in association with orpiment. This led Thompson to the idea that šindu ḫurāṣu (ŠE.GÍN.KÙ.SI 22) was orpiment. The basis for his arguments is the Greek word for realgar, sandaraca, which Thompson took to be a garbled form of Akkadian šindu arqu “yellow paint” (Thompson 1936, 46–48). Ingenious though it is, this idea is untenable, since šindu arqu (ŠE.GÍN.SIG 7.SIG 7) is not attested in the written sources. Salonen collected attestations of šimtu applied on to woodwork and presented them in his volumes on doors and furniture in Mesopotamia. In his view, ŠE.GÍN is best understood as “pigment” or “paint” because it is used for decorative work. He suggested that the substance ZÌ.ŠE.GÍN may be the binding agent in paints (Salonen 1961, 115–120 and 1963, 259–261). Levey thought šimtu was animal glue produced with leftover pieces of leather (Sum. ZAG.BAR), which was subsequently mixed with pigments to decorate leather, furniture, doors and chariots (Levey 1959, 77–78). His analysis of the use of ŠE.GÍN in Ur-iii economic documents led Sigrist to conclude likewise that it must be glue. Like Levey, he pointed out that scrap pieces of hide that were not tanned and used as leather were processed into glue. The phrase KUŠ ŠE.GÍN-ŠÈ, which appears in documents from Umma, would then be “hides (for the purpose of making) glue” (Sigrist 1982, 157–159). Joannès pointed out that šimtu is one of the most important materials distributed among craftsmen at Mari in the Old Babylonian period. Because the Sumerian word ŠE “barley” form part of the word, he proposed that ŠE.GÍN originally referred a vegetable-based gum. kuš ŠE.GÍN, in his view, is hide glue (Joannès 1984, 134–136). Based on the range of products it is applied to at Isin (20th century bce), van de Mieroop too thought šimtu means “glue.” He further noted that leather objects are often re-glued after being in use (van de Mieroop 1987, 151–152). See also Frahm, for this substance in a Middle Assyrian text (spelled (kuš)ŠE.ŠEN) being used in the production of wooden bows (Ass.2001.D-2218: obv. 2´; Frahm 2002, 79). Dougherty 1923. Species of gum producing plants native to Iraq include the Gum tragacanth and A. Gossupinus. The gum is harvested by wounding the trunk or roots of these small shrubs. On average, one tragacanth plant can produce up to 16.12 grams of gum in a single season (Newman and Serpico 2000, 476–480). Newman and Serpico 2000, 475.


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    onto wood and leather.161 A reference to dry and wet šimtu, clearly glue in this instance, is found in a late third millennium text from Isin: 2 MA.NA ŠE.GÍN.ḪÁD162 2 SÌLA A.ŠE.GÍN U4.7.KAM MU gišIG-ŠÈ (bin 9 157; van de Mieroop 1987, 152) ‘Two minas of dry glue and two silas of liquid glue for the door, on the 7th day of the year.’ The Akkadian written sources do not explicitly state which hides were used to make glue;163 today, cow, horse and rabbit skin (more rarely) are employed for the purpose.164 The translation of šimtu as “paint” or “color” must be understood in the context of the ancient practice of using (animal) glue or (plant) gum as a binding agent for paint. When pigment cannot be applied onto the wet surfaces al fresco, such as on wet lime-coated walls, a binder is necessary to ensure that it adheres. This then explains the necessity for šimtu when decorating wood and leather products such as the furniture, doors, chariots, ships, belts and shoes mentioned in Akkadian written sources. Šimtu is one of the most important materials distributed among wood and leatherworkers at Mari in the Old Babylonian period. Although it is always quantified, exactly how šimtu was utilized is never described in the Mari sources. It is only generally mentioned, as either “for work” (ana šipir165) or “for painting/gluing” (ana šamāti). Based on the quantities alone, it is not possible to say if the substance in a particular context is paint or glue. Neither the final color-effect nor individual pigments are mentioned, except in the following rare instance:

    161 Newman and Serpico 2000, 475. See also Masschelein-Kleiner 1985, 66–69 and Hubbard 1990. 162 Cf. Salonen for the reading ŠE.GÍN.BÁBBAR instead (1961, 117). 163 The production of hide glue is only alluded to vaguely, as in: CT 56 11:1: 1 GUN KUŠ gi-il-du a-na ši-in-du “One talent animal hide for (making) glue” (sent to the leather worker). yos 17 65: 2: 30 GUN KUŠ TAB.BA.ME a-na KUŠ ši-in-du “Thirty talents of hide stripped for (making) hide glue.” 164 The exact source for Egyptian animal glue is not known either (Newman and Serpico 2000, 475). Glue can also be made using casein—acidified skimmed milk. It is possible that Akkadian kisimmu (GA.ḪAB) refers to casein glue. 165 E.g. 2 MA.NA 15 SU ŠE.GIN 7 a-na ši-pí-ir giš nu-ba-lim “Two minas fifteen shekels of glue/ paint for work on a chariot.”

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    ½ MA.NA ŠE.GIN 7 a-na ṣa-ra-ap 2 pa-ti-in-ni ša ḫa-aš-ma-nim ŠU.TI.A a-bi-sa-ma-[á]s (arm 21 305: 1–6) ‘Abi-Sam[a]s received half a mina of paint to color (lit. dye) two sashes of purple (lit. amethyst-color).’ The association of šimtu with the verb ṣarāpu is atypical since this verb otherwise refers to dyeing wool and leather within the Mari corpus. As there is no determinative, we can only guess that the purple sash was made of leather and that šimtu-paint was applied as surface decoration. In this medical omen from the first millennium, on the other hand, in which the appearance of urine is compared to šimtu, glue is clearly meant: [DIŠ NA] KÀŠ-MEŠ-šú GIM ŠE.GÍN ḫi-li-ti (bam 112 i 16′; Scurlock and Anderson 2005, 100) ‘If a man’s urine is like shining glue (he is sick with mūṣu-discharge).’ Šimtu can hardly be paint here, since a particular color (or perhaps consistency166) is being evoked by the simile. Sometimes the verb reveals that šimtu is glue: 1/3 MA.NA ŠE.GIN 7 a-na ra-ka-ás 1 pa-áš-tim ša dSU.EN ŠU.TI.A ri-imeš4-tár lú.ŠUR (arm 23 200: 1–5) ‘Rim-Eštar the oil presser received one third mina of glue to glue (lit. attach) the double-headed axe of Sîn.’ When šamātu is used, however, only a guess based on context is possible: 1 MA.NA kušŠE.GIN 7 a-na ša-ma-at giški-gal-lim š[a d]LAMA sà-[ḫ]i-ir-tim ŠU.TI.A dUTU-na-ṣi-ir (arm 21 307: 3–8) ‘Šamaš-naṣir received one mina of (hide glue-based) paint to color the pedestal of the Lama-deities, all around.’ 1 MA.NA ŠE.GIN 7 ana ša-ma-at ḫa-al-li ša ŠAGIN167 ŠU.TI.A ab-du-malik (arm 21 304: 1–5) 166 The description appears as part of a spectrum that includes several other color and consistency terms: cloudy, reddish, wine-colored, yellow-green, dark, watery, like kasû-juice or glue, milky, yellowish like duḫšu-stone/leather and like beer/wine dregs (i.e. containing sediments). It is thus possible that the allusion is to the viscosity and transparency (ḫelû, see 2.5.6) of glue. 167 For this term at Mari, see Durand 1983, 296 n. 2.


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    ‘Abdu-malik received one mina of (gum-based?168) paint to color the crotch area of (the statue of a) šakkanakku.’ In the following text from Til Barsip, šimtu is listed alongside alum and ­madder—raw materials necessary for dyeing; in line four, the glue is specified as a product of Egypt: 30 MA.NA kušŠE.GÍN 17 MA.NA uzuSA.MEŠ 3 MA.NA gišBAR si-iḫ-pu 3 MA.NA kušŠE.GÍN kurmu-ṣur-ru …˹x+12˺ MA.NA gišḪAB.MEŠ 10 MA.NA na4 ga-bi-i 6 MA[.(NA)] kušŠE.GÍN (T12: 1–4, 11–13; Dalley 1996, 79–80) ‘Thirty minas of hide glue; seventeen minas of sinews; three minas of (inner) bark of kiškanû-tree;169 three minas of Egyptian hide glue; …; x + twelve minas of madder; ten minas of alum; six minas of hide glue.’ Painted wood and leather artifacts from Mesopotamia are not well enough preserved for proper analysis of the binding agent. Better visual and archaeological evidence has been found in Egypt, where such perishable materials have survived due to the dry climate and soil. Egyptian woodworkers used animal glue for veneering and for painting.170 A wall painting from the tomb of an 18th Dynasty official at Thebes depicts a couple of carpenters veneering a yellow plank of wood to a red. Beside one craftsman, a pot of glue stands atop an open fire; his companion applies the glue with a brush onto the wood.171 As precious timber—especially cedar, for which Egyptians had to travel to ­Lebanon—was costly, making plywood by gluing together sheets of less costly wood was a common carpentry technique in ancient times.172 Animal glue and plant gum have also been detected on several Egyptian wall paintings and painted wooded artifacts.173 168 Joannès made a distinction between animal- and plant-based (without the KUŠ determinative) adhesives at Mari (1984, 134–136). 169 Kiškanû-wood was used to make bows in Mesopotamia. Wood types exploited for this purpose in antiquity include poplar, ash, maple, yew and acacia (Frahm 2002, 79; Gale et al. 2000, 335, 352). 170 See Newman and Serpico 2000 for a comprehensive discussion of ancient Egyptian adhesives and binding materials. 171 TT100, Tomb of Rekhmire (Davies 1943, 51 pl. lv). 172 According to one expert on the Egyptian furniture collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “[v]eneering of fine over less valuable wood was often practiced; thick veneer was pegged on, thinner glued.” (Scott 1965, 131; Cf. Gale et al. 2000). 173 Among the examples provided by Newman and Serpico are the murals from the 19th Dynasty tomb of Nefertari at Thebes (polychrome pigment + gum), an outer mummy case dating to the Third Intermediate Period (blue pigment + glue; black pigment and

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    Documents concerning the Isin leather industry in the 21st and 20th centuries bce are rich with information about curing and tanning practices in Mesopotamia. During the curing process, Isin craftsmen stained their products black (with IM.KÙ.SI 22 or with pomegranate), green (with copper) or red (with madder) and treated them with oil (sesame, Ì.GIŠ or mutton fat, Ì.UDU) to prevent hardening. Ornamental paint (šimtu) was applied at the final stage.174 Evidence from Egypt indicates that, apart from staining and dyeing, artisans employed sophisticated decorative techniques such as arranging pre-dyed strips of leather, appliqué, mosaic and open-work, to achieved color in leather. According to van Driel-Murray, Presumably, the explanation for the persistence of such laborious methods is that colours could only be applied to complete skins and that the complex method of staining and gilding (on the more intractable vegetable tanned leather), common in the Coptic period, were unknown ­[earlier]. Instead, patterns were achieved by cutting, arranging and timeconsuming stitching or gluing.175 The rosette design mentioned in the Kassite-period text below was most likely painted but it is also conceivable that separately fabricated ornaments were applied with glue: 1/3 MA.NA kušŠE.GÍN a-na gišNÁ ša IdNUSKU-ib-ni giša-a-ri GIŠ.ḪUR a-na na-de-e Ie-ṭi-rum NAGAR im-ḫur (be 14 74: 1–7) ‘Eṭīrum the carpenter received one third mina of (hide glue-based) paint to place rosettes (as a) design on Nusku-ibni’s bed.’ The substance šimtu is rarely mentioned outside the leather and wood industries. Adhesives were commonly used to thicken medicines and perfumes in ancient times, which explains the use of heated šimtu as a salve on a patient’s wound in one prescription.176

    gum + sugar) and a Ptah-Sokar-Osiris from the Late Period (blue pigment and glue + gum). The adhesives used in the Egyptian material at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts were analyzed in detail by matching each binder’s amino acid profile to those of modern samples. These artifacts are listed in Table 19.4 in Newman and Serpico (2000, 490). I know of no analogous study done for Mesopotamian wall painting or painted artifacts. 174 Van de Mieroop 1987, 33. 175 Van Driel Murray 2000, 306–307. Italics mine. 176 bam 393: 17; Newman and Serpico 2000, 476.


    Chapter 2 Mark or Brand Šimtu may only be understood as “mark”—created either by branding or by tattooing—when the referent is either an animal or a person.177 No particular color is meant in such cases but the shape of the mark was important in the case of branding. For instance, the širkūtu and animals of the Eanna temple in the Neo-Babylonian period were branded with a “star” (kakkabtu), whereas those belonging to Marduk and Nabû of the Ezida in Borsippa were marked with a spade or reed stylus.178 Placed (nadû, šamātu) with an “iron stamp” (šindu parzilli), the slave marks were apparently also gender distinctive (šindu amūti versus šindu amēlūti). Tattooing, by depositing pigment into the dermis, was also widely practiced in the ancient Near East although it is not always possible to distinguish this type of body marking from branding in the textual record. When the skin is said to be inscribed (šaṭāru), as in the two examples quoted below, tattooing rather than branding is probably meant: [I]aq-re-e-a ḫal-qu šá kuraš-šurki šu-ú pa-ni-šú u ˹rit˺-ti-šú šaṭ-ru a-ši-pu-útu ma-aʾ-diš i-le-ʾe-e a-˹na LUGAL EN˺-[ía x] ṭa-a-bu (saa 10 160: rev. 10–12) ‘Aqrea is a refugee from Assyria. His face and his hands are inscribed, (but/and) he is a highly capable exorcist. He will be satisfying to the king, my lord.’ kak-kab-ti rit-ta-šú tal-te-mi-it ù ša-ṭa-ri i-na UGU ri-ti-šú a-na dNa-na-a ta-al-ta-ṭár (AO 19536: 13–15; Arnaud 1973, 147) ‘(The slave girl) had branded her (lit. his) wrist (with) a star and moreover, had written (i.e. tattooed) an inscription on her wrist: “for Nana.”’ An Old Babylonian lexical list that records judicial phrases equates Sumerian TAB.GÍR, generally understood as “to brand” with Akkadian ṣarāpu + qabû “to state by scorching/ dyeing.”179 In view of the association between ṣarāpu and dye in the textile and leather industries, the reference here is probably to tattooing. Neither tattooing ink nor implements are mentioned in the written sources and the extant archaeological evidence, primarily from Egypt, is scant.180 177 For an overview of the evidence for branding and tattooing in Mesopotamia, see Ditchey 2017. 178 Ditchey 2017, 11–12 and references therein. 179 ana ittišu 6 iv 23 [msl 1 87]: TAB.GÍR.E.DA BÍ.IN.E.EŠ: ṣa-ra-pa iq-bu-ú. 180 Ditchey 2017, 18.

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    4.3 Ṣarāpu There are several verbs that describe the process of artificially coloring fabrics, each of which emphasizes a different aspect of the dyeing process. In the written documents from Nuzi, the verb bašālu is used to characterize the process of steeping wool in heated liquid containing the decocted dye. Ṣab/pû, which essentially means “to soak,” is commonly used in Neo-Assyrian and Neo-­ Babylonian texts. Ṣarāpu, however, is the common term for “to dye.” It too alludes to the heat necessary for dyeing, as the basic meaning of this verb is “to heat/scorch.” 4.3.1 Etymology & History of Attestation The cad distinguishes between ṣarāpu A “to refine” (metals)/ “to fire” (bricks, earthenware)/ “to burn” (as a medical symptom or emotional response) and ṣarāpu B, which refers to either tanning or the action of steeping leather in tannin or dye.181 Von Soden, who preferred to see a common root, understood the verb to basically mean “to heat (with fire).” According to him, the association between the verb ṣarāpu and the color red (e.g. red-dyed wool and leather) derives from the color of fire—thus his translation “feuerrot.”182 Indeed, the root ṣrp/b is attested in many Semitic languages with the primary meaning “to burn.”183 In the cuneiform record, the verb is attested from the Old Babylonian period onwards. 4.3.2 Orthography & By-forms Both nominal forms ṣirpu and ṣirpāni refer to the colored appearance of wool. Ṣiriptu, perhaps “burn,” refers to a disease.184 The adjective ṣarpu is attested in texts referring to tanned and dyed leather and as a medical symptom. Although the expected form is ṣirpu, Landsberger argued that ṣirpāni should be understood as the plural form of ṣirpu “dyed wool” because the expression šīpāt ṣirpāni seems to function as a kind of summary caption “(these are) the colored wools” in certain lists.185 This view is difficult to reconcile with the fact 181 cad Ṣ 102–104 and 104–105. 182 AHw iii 1083–1084. 183 E.g. In Hebrew and Aramaic (“to scorch, burn” and “to purify” in the D-stem), Syriac (“to smelt, burn, dye red”), Arabic (“to burn” with fire or with emotion, “to refine” (silver)). According to Murtonen, ṣrp and ṣrb are variants of the same root (1986, 367). 184 See cad Ṣ 207 for references. 185 In the Practical Vocabulary of Assur, SÍG ṣirpāni is the last entry of colored wools, which is why Landsberger understood it as a caption: “these are the colored wools.” (220; Landsberger and Gurney 1957/1958, 330). In a Neo-Assyrian commodity list, “ṣirpāni” functions as a summary of red (tabarru) and blue-purple (takiltu) wools, much like ṣirpū does in a Middle Babylonian list of red-purple (argamannu) and blue-purple (takiltu) wools (Landsberger 1967, 147–148).


    Chapter 2

    that the regular plural form (ṣirpū) is also attested. Grammatically, ṣirpāni is a noun containing the additional denominal afformative -ān-, which generally imparts a particularizing force to the subject.186 Admittedly, the translation “the particular dyed wool” makes little sense in the context of the lexical list or commodity record discussed by Landsberger. On the other hand, the expression ṣirpāni ḫaṭṭa ubarrumū in a Neo-Assyrian ritual can be easily understood as “they made the stick multicolored with the particular dyed wool.”187 4.3.3 Characterization A Color? The evolving meaning of the verb ṣarāpu and the color value it acquired in the second millennium bce is a good example of how cultural circumstances and social activities, in this case the technology of dyeing, effected change on the level of language. In order to understand ṣarāpu’s place in the Akkadian color vocabulary, we must consider the following: 1) Why was it chosen to communicate the meaning “to dye”? 2) Does it refer to a particular hue? 3) How do we translate ṣarāpu when it is used to describe color outside the dyeing industry? Based on etymological parallels, Landsberger demonstrated that the root ṣrp primarily meant “to burn” and secondarily “to dye.” In his view, however, the adjectives and nouns derived from ṣarāpu do not necessarily refer to red, as the dictionaries proposed.188 Indeed, ṣarāpu is linked with several other colors. At Mari, it describes yellow-colored duḫšu-wool.189 Elsewhere in an omen, the unusual white coloration of an ox, perhaps due to albinism, is described with the verb.190 In the synonym list, dyed wools (šīpāt ṣirpi) and ZA.GÌN.NA-wool are explained as blue (uqnâtu) wool.191 Rather than specifying a hue, Landsberger thought the adjective ṣarpu expressed an intensification of color, especially red, because of the original association of the root with fire and burning.192 That the color value of ṣarāpu is tied more closely to the dyeing industry than 186 187 188 189

    Buccellati 1996, 148. kar 33: 5: ṣir-pa-a-ni gišĜIDRU ú-bar-ri-mu. Landsberger 1967, 148. M 12814: i 12, 20; ii 12, 21 (Durand 2009, 96): 3 GÚ ṣí-ri-ip DU 8.ŠI.A “Three necklaces dyed duḫšu(-colored).” When the luxury commodity ṣirip tuḫšim is attested with clear reference to a type of textile, Durand suggested that it should be understood as “dyed to look like tuḫšu(-colored) wool.” All the attestations of ṣirpum, ṣirip tuḫšim and ṣirpum + šakānu in the Mari administrative documents have been collected by Durand (2009, 96). For the color of duḫšu, see 3.5.2. 190 SB Ālu; CT 40 31 (K.8013: rev. 10): [DIŠ G]U4 ṣí-ir-pa pe-ṣa-[a ṣarip/šakin] “If the ox is [colored] (abnormally) white.” 191 Malku: šarru vi 183–184 (Hrůša 2010, 134). 192 Landsberger 1967, 145.

    Abstract Colors


    to the association with fire is likelier. Ṣarāpu describes the color-saturated brilliance of fabrics that were dyed with madder, woad, kermes and murex. This is why when it means “colored” figuratively (i.e. stained or suffused with color), it does not describe the natural coloration of an object or material. In medical prognoses too, the word characterizes discoloration or unusual pigmentation. A Process? Several words related to the verb ṣarāpu appear in the context of the leather and textile industries, which firmly establishes its meaning “to dye.” In the administrative records from Mari, alum and madder are specified as the commodities used for dyeing (ana ṣarāpi) wool tabarru-red: 4 MA.NA na4ga-[bi-im] a-na ṣa-ra-ap GÚ.È.A da-ba-ri ŠU.TI.A a-na-aḫ-ì-lí (arm 23 145: 1–5) ‘Anaḫ-ili received four minas of al[um] for dyeing naḫlaptu-cloaks tabarru(-colored).’ 15 MA.NA ḫu-ra-[tum] a-na ṣa-ra-[ap] GÚ.È.A da-[ba-ri] ù 4 gu-s[a-ni] ŠU.TI.A a-na-aḫ-ì-[lí] (arm 23 148: 1–5) ‘Anaḫ-ili received fifteen minas of mad[der] for the dyei[ng] of a ta[barru](-colored) naḫlaptu-cloak and four leather gus[ānu]-sacks.’ As Sanmartín Ascaso193 and van Soldt194 have shown, the so-called “dyer’s stone” (abn ṣrp) in Ugaritic texts is alum, a mordant commonly used as a 193 By comparing alphabetic (ktu 4.626) and syllabic (rs 16.110 [pru 3 208]) texts, Sanmartín Ascaso demonstrated that abn ṣrp was the Ugaritic term for na4 KA.BI (aban gabê) “alum,” a commonly listed commodity. He likewise considered whether the gild of craftsmen called yṣḥm mentioned so often at Ugarit (in ktu 4.47:7; 4.68: 67; 4.99: 19; 4.105: 2; 4.126: 10; 4.147: 5; 4.151 ii 2; 4.207: 5; 4.609: 9; 4.626: 1) may be associated with Akkadian lú.mešṣāripūtu. His conclusion that these men were bronze workers makes little sense given that according to ktu 4.626, their activity includes the use of linen, madder, alum and copper (Sanmartín Ascaso 1987). It is more likely that the yṣḥm were in fact dyers. 194 Van Soldt’s corpus for his discussion of textile terminology at Ugarit constitutes the texts from the southwest archive of the royal palace at Ras Shamra (c. 1250-1175 bce). He began his article with an examination of the spelling na4KA.BI for aban gabê in the Akkadian texts. Sanmartín (1987) had understood the latter as an unorthodox syllabic spelling (aban ka-bi or ga14-bé) since the expected Sumerogram for aban gabê was IM.SAḪAR.NA 4.KUR.RA (Ḫḫ xi 313 [msl 7 140]). Van Soldt suggested instead that the Ugaritic scribe attempted to connect his native abn ṣrp with the Akkadian aban gabê by means of an invented learned spelling, where na4ZÚ (KA) is the reading for ṣurru, and BI is its phonetic complement, yielding aban ṣurru-pí, a rebus spelling for abn ṣrp (van Soldt 1990, 324–325).


    Chapter 2

    f­ixative during the dyeing process. Akkadian naṣraptu is either a crucible or dyeing vat.195 Like the yṣḥm in Ugaritic texts, who employ dyeing materials like alum, madder, and wool, the lú.mešṣāripūtu mentioned in Hittite and Ugaritic documents must be dyers. The association of the ṣāripūtu-men with argamannu-wool raises the possibility that they specialized in the production of redpurple cloth.196 The high value of these individuals and royal interest in controlling their activity are reflected in the written sources. In RS 20.03, a group of lú.mešṣāripūtu are attested as travelling from Hatti to Ugarit and in RS 25.461, the craftsmen are qualified as belonging to the king.197 Elsewhere in RS 20.03, the Hittite prince warns the king of Ugarit that they are not to be kidnapped (for ransom), while in the Manapa-Tarhunta letter, the sender complains that the king of Wilusa and his son-in-law had successfully done just that!198 The lú.meš ṣāripūtu are not attested in the written sources from Mesopotamia. Weaving artificially colored wool was the task of the lúišpar birme199 and in the

    195 cad N ii 50–51. 196 Singer 2008. Singer’s study focuses on the Manapa-Tarḫunta Letter, published as cth no.191 (= vat 7454 + Bo 2562 + KBo 19.79), which belongs to a corpus of letters concerning the so-called Aḫḫiyawa, who may be the Mycenaeans. In the letter, Manapa-Tarḫunta writes to Mursili ii (c. 1321-1295 bce) explaining his failure to join the Hittite campaign to the land of Wilusa. According to him, a certain Piyamaradu, king of Millawata, had attacked the Land of Lazpa (the island of Lesbos) and taken a group of prisoners described as lú.mešṣāripūtu, and had given them to his son-in-law Atpa. This group of craftsmen, who belong to the Hittite king, had appealed to Atpa, saying “We are persons subject to tribute (Hitt. arkammanališ), [and] we have come over the sea. We want [to deliver] tribute (Hitt. arkamman)…” (Beckman, Bryce and Cline 2011, 142–143). A Hittite force arrives and secures the release of the lú.mešṣāripūtu. Following Lackenbacher’s interpretation of lú.meš ṣāripūtu in Ugaritic texts, Singer preferred to see the group of craftsmen abducted by Piyamaradu as “purple dyers.” This interpretation was also accepted in the most recent edition of the text (see Beckman, Bryce and Cline 2011, 140–145). 197 In a letter from the Hittite prince Šukur-Tešub to Ammistamru ii (RS 20.03), the former claims that he is sending lú.mešṣāripūtu from the land of Panešta(yu) to Ugarit, that they may “MÁŠ.DA.RI.A ana epēši.” Furthermore, the prince specifies that these men were not to be molested (ul u-ḫa-ab-bá-at) as they voyage through the mountain passes. Nougayrol had previously translated the phrase MÁŠ.DA.RI.A ana epēši as “pour faire les offrandes perpétuelles” based on the Hittite trilingual lexical list from Boğazköy, in which MÁŠ.DA.RI.A is equated with Akkadian ir-bu and Hittite ar-kam-ma-aš “tribute” (­Nougayrol 1968, 93 no. 5). Citing another unpublished letter to the Hittite king that mentions the delivery of wool “for dyeing” (a-na ṣa-ra-pi), Lackenbacher proposed that the lú.meš ṣāripūtu-men were tasked with the specific mission of making purple wool (Lackenbacher 2002, 95–96 and n. 276). 198 Sanmartín Ascaso 1987 and above. 199 Lassen proposed to translate the term as “tapestry weaver” when they occur in texts dating to the second millennium bce. By the Neo-Babylonian period, the term had taken on a more general meaning and may be understood as “textile worker” (Lassen 2010, 279).

    Abstract Colors


    s­ econd millennium, the fuller (lúašlaku) dyed wool and leather. By the NeoAssyrian and Neo-Babylonian periods, dyeing was performed by the lúṣārip (kuš)dušê,200 who manufactured colored leather.201 It is generally only wool and animal skins that were dyed in ancient Mesopotamia. However, Reiner recognized the curious parallel between the NeoAssyrian king Sargon ii’s (721-705 bce) claim of dyeing the king of Hamath’s skin after flaying him alive and the similar fate the Roman Emperor Valerian is said to have suffered at the hands of Shapur i. The exact phrase used by Sargon is “(I am) the one who dyed the skin of the usurper Ilubi’di nabāsu-like” (ša mašak Ii-lu-bi-iʾ-di ḫa-am-ma-ʾi-i iṣ-ru-pu na-ba-si-iš).202 Lactantius’ record (c. 320 ce) of the event reads, “He (Valerian) was flayed, and his skin, stripped from the flesh, was dyed with vermilion (infecta rubro colore), and placed in the temple of the gods of the barbarians, that the remembrance of a triumph so signal (sic) might be perpetuated.”203 It is, of course, possible to understand Sargon’s statement less literally, as “the one who colored the skin of the usurper Ilubi’di nabāsu-like,” i.e. bloody red, by flaying him alive. If, however, the statement alludes to the actual practice of reddling the defeated enemy’s skin, it is a unique reference.204 Reiner conjectured whether the memory of this tradition persisted until the fourth century: Unexpected parallelisms in civilizations remote in time and culture should teach us something about the transmission of ideas or motifs. It seems to me that Lactantius’s mention of this detail about dyeing red the defeated enemy’s skin implies either that it corresponded to the truth, or that there were, in his time, some memories or stories about the cruelty of oriental kings manifesting itself precisely in dyeing the flayed skin of their enemies. Such a story could have been one of the no doubt numerous topoi that circulated in late antiquity…205 Medicine The verb ṣarāpu is frequently found in medical omens, wherein it appears to describe unusual pigmentation or (dis)coloration of the dermis. Generally, it is embedded within a frozen simile that alludes to wool-dyeing: 200 For Dalley’s argument that this craftsman produced faience, glass, and beadwork, see duḫšu (3.5.2). 201 Joannès 2010, 405. 202 Sargon cylinder 4: 25; Fuchs 1994, 35. 203 Reiner 2006, 326 and n. 4 for Latin translation. 204 Several Assyrian kings mention flaying (kâṣu, šaḫāṭu) the enemy’s skin but none mentions dyeing it afterward (Reiner 2006, 327–329). 205 Reiner 2006, 329.


    Chapter 2

    DIŠ SÍG SAG.DU-šú GIM na-ba-as-si ṣar-pat (Alamdimmû II 89; Böck 2000, 80) ‘If a man’s head hair is dyed (red) like nabāsu-wool, (contentment shall be determined for him).’206 Natural red (e.g. auburn) hair is described with the more common word for red, sāmu: DIŠ bi-rit SAG.DU-šú sa-mi (DPS 3 32b = TDP 20: 23; Scurlock 2014, 14) ‘If the (hair on the) center of his head is red, (he was touched in the steppe).’ DIŠ SÍG S[AG.DU-šú] SA 5 GAM : DIŠ SÍG S[AG.DU-šú] SA 5 u saḫ-[rat GAM] (DPS 3 122 = TDP 30: 112; Scurlock 2014, 18) ‘If the hair of [his] he[ad] is red, he will die. If the hair of his head is red and is cur[led, he will die]’207 Given that the practice of coloring hair, skin and nails reddish orange with henna has a long history in the Middle East, India and in African countries, it is conceivable that the phrase “dyed like (red) wool” refers to hair that was literally dyed.208 Elsewhere, however, the meaning of the verb is clearly figurative and must be understood as “stained” or “colored”: [BE M]UR ZAG SA 5 ṣa-rip [BE MU]R GÙB SA 5 ṣa-rip [BE MUR] SA 5 ṣa-rip [BE MUR (x)] SA 5 ṣa-rip-ma ina ZAG MUR ù GÙB MUR bu-bu-a-tu ŠUB.MEŠ (KAL 5: 34′-37′; Heeßel 2012, 206) ‘If the right lung wing is stained red, (you shall not cross the river…).

    206 For the red color of nabāsu/tabarru-wool and further examples of this simile, see 3.5.9. 207 Scurlock and Anderson interpret these two medical omens as signs of malnutrition or some other metabolic disease. Red hair is a bad sign, in their view: “a person with hair as red as red-dyed wool, nabāsi ṣarpat, was expected to do poorly whereas one with black hair would find food to eat” (Scurlock and Anderson 2005, 708). This, however, is not the case with the physiognomic omen; there we are told that a person with hair dyed like red wool is said to have contentment determined for him (ŠÀ.BI DU 10.GA GAR-šú). 208 For the identification of Akkadian úkamantu and Ugaritic kpr as henna, see Scurlock 2007 and Watson 2004, 122 and n. 120 respectively. Cognates for the Ugartici word are known in Hebrew (koper) and Greek (kupros and also ku-pa-ro in Linear B texts).

    Abstract Colors


    If the left lung wing is stained red, (the enemy army shall cross the riv[er]). If the lung is stained red, (the god against whom you commit sacrila[ge…]). If the…lung is stained red and if blisters appear on the right and left wings of the lung, (the god, for whom you do go[od…]).’ In the medical omens, the intensity of ṣarāpu-discolorations is sometimes specified: magal sūma ṣarip ‘greatly stained red’ kalûšuma sūma ṣarip ‘completely stained red’ sūma tirku ṣarip ‘stained in red streaks/patches’ kīma damī ṣarip ‘(the river) is stained as though (with) blood’ These examples demonstrate that the color-effect described by the verb ṣarāpu was not considered a uniform visual phenomenon but was variable: ṣarāpucoloration can be partial, complete or intense (magal). Given that its meaning is bound to the dyeing industry, it is conceivable that Akkadian-speakers thought of ṣarāpu as an additional layer of color, i.e. color that was not an inherent property of the referent. The English verb “to stain” conveys this sense to some extent. Between the end of the 14th and mid-17th centuries, the word “stain,” derived from Old French desteign, was used to express the idea of one agent eclipsing or overshadowing another. It is possible that Akkadian ṣarāpu, which implies a suffusion of color on the surface of objects or materials, likewise characterizes this idea of alteration by obscuring, either during contact or by application (of dyestuff, for instance). It is not only the color red that is associated with ṣarāpu in medical omens. In the following case, a newborn’s eyes are described as “stained yellow,” perhaps due to jaundice: [BE iz-bu IGI]-šú šá 15 SIG 7 ṣar-pat KI.ḪUL ina KUR NUN ŠUB-di [BE iz-bu IGI]-šú šá 150 SIG 7 ṣar-pat KI.ḪUL ina KUR KÚR GÁL-ši : ŠUB-di (Izbu X 22–23; De Zorzi 2014, ii 612) ‘[If the newborn’s] right [eye] is stained yellow, there will be mourning in the land of the prince.’ ‘[If the newborn’s] left [eye] is stained yellow, there will be mourning in the land of the enemy.’ Leichty translated the expression urqa ṣarip as “flecked with yellow,” while both Fincke and De Zorzi rendered it as “colored yellow-red.” Leichty’s ­translation is based on the meaning of ṣirpu “colored spot” given in the


    Chapter 2

    cad.209 As discussed above, ṣarāpu need not imply red. If nominal forms like ṣirpu, ṣirpāni and ṣiriptu frequently denote a reddish hue, it is because, red dyes and pigments were so widespread in ancient times—red was the most common and salient dye color. 4.3.4 Extended Meaning When ṣarāpu is used figuratively, it means brilliantly/ intensely + unusually colored. A particularly good example of this combined meaning of the word is found in a historical inscription of Tiglath-Pileser iii (745-727 bce). The Assyrian king claims to have received purple-fleeced sheep and purple-feathered birds as booty from his vassals in Cappadocia and Syria: mim-ma aq-ru ni-ṣir-ti ˹LUGAL˺-ú-ti UDU.NÍTA.MEŠ bal-⸢ṭu⸣-[ti ša SÍG.MEŠ-šú-nu] ar-ga-man-nu ṣar-pat iṣ-ṣur AN-e mut-tap-ri-šú-ti šá a-gap-pi-šú-nu a-na ta-kil-te ṣar-pu ANŠE.KUR.RA.MEŠ ANŠE.GÌR.NUN.NA.MEŠ GU 4.NÍTA.MEŠ ˹ù ṣe˺-[e-ni ANŠE.A.AB.BA.MEŠ] MUNUS.ANŠE.a-na-qa-a-te a-di anšeba-˹ak˺-ka-ri-ši-na am-ḫur (rinap 1 15: 3–5) ‘(Gold, silver, tin, iron, elephant hide, elephant ivory, multicolored (woolen) garments, linen garments, blue-purple wool, red-purple wool, ebony, boxwood), every precious item of the royal treasure, li[ve] sheep [whose wool] is colored red-purple (argamannu), flying birds of the sky, whose wings are colored blue-purple (takiltu), horses, mules, oxen, and she[ep and goats, male] (and) female camels, together with their young, did I receive.’ Although argamannu and takiltu are both color terms that are tied exclusively to the textile industry, context makes it clear that ṣarpū does not signify “dyed” here.210 One explanation for the scribe’s intriguing choice of words is that whatever their actual coloring, the remarkable appearance of the exotic animals was such that it brought to mind colors the Assyrians only knew in dyed 209 Fincke 2000, 259–260; Leichty 1970, 122; cad Ṣ 208. 210 Tadmor proposed that a Phoenician king, who “apparently went to great lengths to please the Assyrian emperor by inventing these extravagant presents” supplied the booty (Tadmor 1994, 69). In his view, the sheep’s wool and the bird’s feathers were artificially dyed purple because this color was fascinating to the Assyrians and because the Phoenicians were so actively involved in the shellfish dyeing industry in the early first millennium bc. The vassal cities named in the inscription, however, are situated in Syria and Cappadocia.

    Abstract Colors


    fabrics. Just as in the medical omens then, the coloration implied by ṣarāpu is special. 4.4 Tarāpu Tarāpu does not refer to a particular process of coloration like the other verbs studied in this section but rather to a type of coloration. It describes the irregular or patterned coloration that may appear on diverse parts of the human body as well as on the surface of inanimate objects (e.g. minerals, walls of a house). It does not indicate a specific hue. Since the exact nature of the coloration is not known, the present study offers the neutral translation “to be mottled (with color)” for the term. 4.4.1 Etymology & History of Attestation Akkadian tarāpu is connected either to the Semitic root trp i “to be numerous” or to the related trf “to be left behind/over, be spared, be in plenty/excess/­ superfluous,” discussed by Leslau.211 Trp ii meaning “to lay snares, set traps” is unrelated.212 The verb is attested sporadically in Mesopotamian written documents: in the G-stem (infinitive and stative forms) from the Old Babylonian period onwards and in the D-stem (stative form), which appears only in Standard Babylonian omens. The noun tiriptu is attested only once. 4.4.2 Characterization Color or Pattern or Both? The cad understood this rarely attested verb as “to be discolored,” because it generally indicates an abnormal form of pigmentation. In the following terrestrial omen, for example, the walls of a mudbrick house are stained black in some manner: DIŠ ina É SIG 4.MEŠ É GE 6 tur-ru-pa (SB Ālu; CT 38 15: 50) ‘If black patches (?) mottle the bricks of the house’ Von Soden preferred the translation “to be coated with color,”213 which reflects the idea that the pigmentation covers the surface of the referent. His definition, like that of the cad’s, draws attention to the fact that tarāpu is never linked with a particular hue.214 In a rare attestation of the word in a daily 211 212 213 214

    Leslau 1987, 579. AHw iii 1325; Leslau 1987, 580. cad T 207, 489; AHw iii 1325; von Soden 1991. Except in a badly preserved astrological commentary, where it is associated with maroon/ brown:


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    ­context, tarāpu describes the sickly appearance of a young boy suffering terrible pain:215 LÚ.TUR ṣe-eḫ-ru-um ša Ibe-la-a[s-s]ú-nu ta216-ru-up-ma i-na na-še-šu a-aḫ-šu i-na ḫu-up-pí-im iš-[š]a!-ḫi-iṭ (obtr 124: 4–6; von Soden 1991) ‘The (face of the) young servant of Belasunu was mottled (with color); when he was carried away, his arm was dislocated at the socket (lit. hole).’ Etymology and the association of word with colors like black and red217 speak in favor of understanding tarāpu in these contexts as characterizing an excess, as opposed to a dearth, of color in the victims’ faces. Based on how it is used in medical omens, Scurlock and Anderson proposed that tarāpu refers to a pattern rather than a color.218 Although not suitable for the contexts above, their translation “sprinkling of (X-)color” explains why the verb is sometimes qualified with an abstract color term and sometimes not: DIŠ kar-ši U.MEŠ-šú GE 6 tur-ru-pa (DPS 11 56´ = TDP 98: rev. 56; Scurlock 2014, 86) ‘If the undersides of his fingers are mottled with dark spots (he will die).’ DIŠ GEŠTU 15-šú [t]ur-ru-pat (DPS 8 4 = tdp 68: 4; Scurlock 2014, 64) ‘If his right ear is mottled (his illness will be prolonged but he will recover).’

    [IM(?).DARA 4]: ˹da˺-aʾ-mu [(x)].DARA 4: ta-ra-pu (ct 26 43: viii 2–3). 215 Von Soden 1991, 37. Pain is also the cause of the clouded face of a woman who died in childbirth, remembered in this Neo-Assyrian elegy: ina U4-me ḫi-lu-ia-a e-tar-pu-u pa-ni-ia ina U4-me ú-la-di-ia it-ta-ak-ri-ma IGI.ii-ia (saa 3 15: obv. 7–8; George 2010, 208) “(On the day I conceived, how happy I was! I was happy, my husband was happy.) On the day of my labor pains, a shadow fell across my face; on the day I gave birth, my eyes darkened.” However, the verb in question here is erēpu not tarāpu, as it is sometimes understood. 216 The phrase in question was previously understood as šarup-ma, a mistake for šarip-ma “was burned,” however, von Soden confirmed to reading tarrup-ma after collation (von Soden 1991). 217 While tarāpu is primarily associated with black in omens, it can also describe lighter and brighter colors like peṣû, arqu and sāmu: TBP 50: rev. 32–35: DIŠ ana IGI-šú e-ri-mu BABBAR (SIG 7/ GE 6/ SA 5) tur-ru-up “If the mole on his face is mottled with white (yellow/black/red) spots(?)” 218 Scurlock and Anderson 2005, 218.

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    DIŠ tu-ru-up DINGIR-ni ‘If (his face) is mottled the gods (are with him).’ (Alamdimmû VIII 100; Böck 2000, 114) It is not possible to say with certainty what pattern—e.g. flecks, streaks, blotches, patches, stipples—is meant by tarāpu. In an omen concerning the appearance of fevered person’s hair and the Old Babylonian letter regarding the purchase of blue stones, the term seems to imply an intermittent streaking: DIŠ MIN-ma SÍG-su SA 5: tár-rip-at ‘If ditto (his face is burning with fever) and his hair is red: (var.) his hair is streaked, (then the hand of god will seize him once, and the hand of the king will seize him once).’ (Alamdimmû VIII 85; Böck 2000, 112) a-šu-mì na4ḫu-sà-ri- ša a-šur-be-el-a-wa-tim ḫu-sà-ra-am am-ra-ma šu-ma za-ku-ma pu-ṣú-um ù tí-ri-ip-tum lá i-šu ší-im-šu gu5-um-ra (Ankara 9-245-82: 3–9; unpublished, cited in von Soden 1991) ‘Concerning the ḫusāru-stone of Aššur-bēl-awātim: inspect the ḫusārustone. If it is pure and does not have white flecks or streaks (?), then purchase it at full (price).’ That na4ḫusārum is a blue stone and not hematite, as von Soden thought, was demonstrated by Michel.219 The reference to white flecks is good evidence for identifying it here as either lapis lazuli or lazurite, a variety of hauynite that imbues lapis its characteristic blue color. Since both minerals generally contain white calcite and brassy-yellow pyrite crystals in the form of streaks and flecks, it is also possible that the noun tiriptu refers to such brassy-yellow markings in this context (pls. 13a-b and 18a). 5

    Terminology for Abstract Color Terms

    5.1 Arqu (Pale+Yellow/Green) Arqu refers to pale (i.e. low-saturation) colors primarily in the yellow/green range of the chromatic spectrum. This abstract, verbal color term does not mean yellowish green, as it is sometimes understood, but refers rather to both

    219 Michel 2001.


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    pale yellow and green—the connection between the two colors almost certainly has to do with the cycle of vegetation, which changes seasonally.220 More vivid shades of yellow and green may have been conveyed metonymically, through the word for a mineral. Arqu is complementary to sāmu “vivid+red” and is a saturation-dominated (Type 5) color term. 5.1.1 Etymology & History of Attestation Akkadian (w)arqu is clearly related to the proto-Semitic root wrq. This root can  be traced in Ugaritic (yrq “greenish-yellow, gold”221), Hebrew (yǝraqraq ­“yellowish-green, pale”222), post-Biblical Hebrew (yārōq “light-colored, yellow or greenish”223) and Judeo Aramaic (yǝraq is “to be light-colored, pale, green yellow”224). The ancient Egyptian abstract color term for “green” (wȝḏ) is also related to wrq.225 Bulakh observed that the adjective yellow-bright often replaces the main term for gold in Semitic languages.226 In Arabic, the root wrq is not the primary color word for yellow or green; instead, it is tied to the concept of vegetation.227 This is also the case in Syriac and Old Aramaic (yarqā “herb,” yrq “verdure, vegetables”).228 Arabic has two distinct words for yellow and green: ʾaṣfar “bright+yellow/orange/brown” and ʾaḫḍar “dark+green/blue.”229 Generally speaking, ʾaṣfar describes natural yellows such as the color of sand, horse and camel coats, ivory, the early morning 220 As already suggested by Michalowski, for instance: “In both Akkadian and Sumerian this term covers a spectrum range which in other languages would be divided into yellow and green.” (Michalowski 1981, 8). Landsberger consistently translated the word as yellowgreen and proposed that the same word signifies both colors. At the same time, he seemed to imply that the word primarily means green because of its association with vegetation: Die Gelbblindheit kommt kraß zum Ausdruck im Geltungsbereich der Wurzel ṵ(ḭ)rq mit ihrer undurchdringlichen Synthese der Elemente “Pflanze” und “Grün”: Sie umfaßt sowohl die frischgrüne Pflanze (vgl. etwa arqūssu = “(Pflanze) im grünen Zustand,” cad A/2, S. 302) wie die Gelbsucht (akk. amurriqānu; hebr. įerāqon) (Landsberger 1967, 139). 221 dul 982. 222 halot 441. 223 Jastrow 1926, 595. 224 Jastrow 1926, 597. 225 Schenkel 2007, 225. 226 For instance, Ugaritic yrq is “greenish yellow” but also a quality of gold; thus, yrq ḫrṣ is “glitter of gold” (dul 982). The same is true in Hebrew and in Epigraphic South Arabic (Bulakh 2003, 8–9; Leslau 1987, 618). In Akkadian, arqu and ḫurāṣu are given as synonyms in malku: šarru v 165 (Hrůša 2010, 118). 227 E.g. waraq “leaf, foliage, sheet of paper” wariq “verdant, leafy,” warraqa “to sprout, burst into leaf” (Wehr 1994, 1245; ael 3051–3052). 228 Hoftijzer and Jongeling 1995, 471. 229 Fischer 1965, 237 and 381.

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    sky, butter and the shininess of gold (al-ṣafrāʾ).230 It is also a disease, probably jaundice.231 ʾaḫḍar has the meanings “dark” and “fresh.” As a color term it can refer to green, blue, grey, tawny-brown and sometimes black.232 The additional meaning “fresh, moist, succulent” for the Arabic root ḫḍr and its phonological similarity to ḫḍl “be moist, wet” was also recognized by Borg.233 Leslau considered the association of wrq with vegetation and foliage in Arabic a secondary development, deriving from the original meaning, “green.”234 This is contrary to how most linguists consider the development of abstract color terminology in languages, whose origins are thought to reflect man’s early desire to describe phenomena in the natural world.235 (W)arqu is attested as a color term from the Old Babylonian period onwards. It is unclear if the personal name á-ru-kum from the Sargonic period is related to the color word studied here.236 5.1.2 Orthography & By-forms The verb (w)arāqu is attested in the G-, Gtn- D-, Š- and N-237stems of the Akkadian verbal system. The nouns urqu “vegetable,” urqītu “green plant” and marqītu “vegetation,” which is a late, secondary form of (w)arqītu influenced by the spelling of marqītu “hiding place” (< raqû), are also attested.238 Amurriqānu is “jaundic(ed).” The suffix -ūtu added to the adjective in arqūtu/ irqūtu denotes the abstract quality of green/freshness as well as the color of naturally pigmented yellow wool and leather. 5.1.3 Characterization Green The primary real-world referent characterized by the color arqu is (green) vegetal matter. For Akkadian speakers, grass, leaves, gardens and especially the leek vegetable was prototypically arqu-colored: 230 231 232 233 234 235

    Borg 2007, 284. Leslau 1987, 42. Borg 2007, 283; ael 755. Borg 2007, 283. Leslau 1987, 618. E.g. Wierzbicka 1990; in his 1963 article, Schenkel proposed that daylight, soil, the desert and plants lay behind the four most important Egyptian abstract color words: white, black, red and green. 236 mad 3 (= Gelb 1957), 66. 237 The form nāraqu was recognized by von Soden (AHw iii 1464) but not by the editors of the cad. The only attestation known to me is from the Gilgamesh Epic (i-ri-qu pa-nu-šu “his (Enkidu’s) face became pale,” quoted in n. 234). 238 See marqītu B (cad M i 284–285).


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    NA 4 GAR-šú GIM GA.RAŠ sar SIG 7 ti-ik-pu-šú NU [x] u sa-di-ri i-šu NA 4 BI na4 ḫu-si-gu MU.NI (Abnu šikinšu E 11´-12´; Schuster-Brandis 2008, 33) ‘The stone whose appearance is green like the leek, its spots…and has veins, this stone’s name is ḫusīgu.’ DIŠ KI.MIN IGI.ii.MEŠ-šú GIM si-ka-a-ti ana GA.RAŠ sar SIG 7.ME (DPS 16 91´; Heeßel 2000, 180) ‘If ditto (his days are long) and his eyes are green like the “sprout” on a leek, (he will die).’ The common leek is a two-tone vegetable—the long cylindrical base is white at the bottom and light green at the top, while the leafy head is dark green.239 In the Rabinic tradition240 and especially in Classical antiquity, the color green was so intimately linked with this vegetable that, …one adjective was constructed from its name in Greek (prasinos), and two in Latin (prasinus and porraceus). All of them express the idea of a loud, garish green, corresponding more or less to the modern French expression vert épinard, spinach green.241 If sikkatu refers to the pyramidal, top part of the leek in the medical omen above, then a dark shade of green is meant here too, although this is difficult to reconcile with the reference to the discoloration of a sick person’s eyes.242 In royal inscriptions from the Old Babylonian period, kings speak of clothing the temple towers that stood upon ziggurats arqu-colored (warqi labāšu). Given that Sumerian inscriptions speak of groves (TIR) planted around the gigunûs, the color very likely refers metaphorically to greenery here too: ki-ku-un-na-a-ak lu-ša-al-bi-iš wa-ar-qá-am (Westenholz 1997, 197) ‘I (Naram-Sîn of Ešnunna) will clothe your holy dwelling (the Emeslam of Erra and Laz) green.’ 239 The species indigenous to the Near East, known as the Egyptian leek (Allium kurrat), is similar to but not the same as the European garden leek (Allium porrum). For Sumerian and Akkadian terminology for the leek and related plants, see Stol 1987, 62–65. 240 Mishnah Berakhoth 1: 2 and Sukkah 3: 6. 241 Pastoureau 2014, 30. 242 For this meaning of sikkatu, see cad S 251. A connection between greenery and the leek is also made in a passage in Sargon’s Eighth Campaign (tcl 3 28; Mayer 2013, 98): KUR.MEŠ bé-e-ru-te ša ur-qit-su-nu úkar-šu ŠIM.GAM.MA i-ri-šu DÙG.GA “remote mountain ranges whose verdure is pleasant-smelling (like) leek and ṣulmlalu-aromatic (did I, Sargon, traverse).”

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    mu-ša-al-bi-iš wa-ar-qí-im gi-gu-ne daja mu-ṣi-ir É É.BABBAR ša ki šu-baat ša-ma-i (CH ii 28–31) ‘(Hammurabi), who clad the gigunû (in Sippar) green for Aja, who decorated (with paintings or reliefs) the temple of Ebabbar, which is like the seat of heaven’ Less likely is a scenario where the temple’s façade was decorated with polychrome brickwork or textile hangings. Glaze was not yet known and green pigments and dyes were relatively uncommon in this early period.243 Yellow Arqu can also describe the yellow color of ochre and the sky tinged by the rays of the rising sun.244 The comparison to ochre occurs in descriptions of the demonness Lamaštu, who menaces children and pregnant women. She is depicted as a hybrid beast in visual representations—with the body of a lioness, the ears and teeth of a donkey and long claw-like fingernails and talons. The appearance of her skin is also described: šin-nu ANŠE šin-na-a-šá pa-an UR.MAḪ da-pi-ni pa-nu-šá šak-nu GIM PIRIG.TUR tuk-ku-pu BIR.MEŠ-šú [k]i-ma ka-le-e TE-sa ar-qat (Farber 2014, 100–101) ‘(Lamaštu), teeth (like) donkey’s teeth, a face (like) the face of a mighty lion, the small of her back is speckled like a leopard, her cheek is pale like ochre.’245 Ochre is a natural earth pigment, ranging from yellow to deep orange or brown in color. The substance takes its name from the Greek color word okhrós, 243 Although labāšu can mean “to paint” when it refers to garments simulated with paint on clay figurines (cad l 18). Green pigment had to be produced artificially (ground up green frit). Malachite is very rarely attested in the Near East. Alternatively, green paint could be produced by mixing yellow (ochre) and blue (Egyptian blue). Green-dyed textiles were uncommon (see 244 kub 4 63: i 9: [DIŠ d UTU ina] È-šú SIG 7 “If the sun is yellow as its rising, …” Leibovici 1956, 14: [DIŠ dUTU] ina È-šú IM.SI.SÁ ana IGI-šu ur-ri-iq “If, when the sun rises, the north(ern sky) facing it turns yellow...” 245 Ochre is also mentioned in connection with some deadly illnesses that Lamaštu brings little boys as she visits them at night: “with his [h]eart [blood] she smears her own face. [Hi]s […] she spreads out like yellow ochre, befitting death” (Farber 2014, 156). Note that in a fragmentary incantation on an OB tablet, Lamaštu’s appearance is likened to a red rather than yellow pigment. See OB 4 3´-4´; Farber 2014, 282: “Like a fish, [the small of her back] is speck[led]. Like šeršerru-pigment, [her] cheek is pale(?).” For šeršerru see 3.6.7 and 3.4.2.


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    ­ eaning “pale, wan, sallow” and “pale yellow.” In passage above too, it is the m sallow, unhealthy yellow or pale brown color of Lamaštu’s looks that ochre evokes; healthy faces are described as “ruddy” with sāmu (2.5.10). In medical omens, uneven ochre-coloration of a patient’s skin was considered a deadly symptom: DIŠ IGI.MEŠ-šú IM.GÁ.LI ŠUB-ú NUNDUN.MEŠ-šú ši-ši-tu DIRI.MEŠ IGI.ii-šú SIG 7 ŠUB.ŠUB-a u IGI-šú šá 15 i-ṣap-par (DPS 9 29 = TDP 74: 29; Scurlock 2014, 67) ‘If his face is unevenly colored (as if with) ochre, his lips are full of pustules, both his eyes are persistently (colored) pale+yellow and his right eye squints, (he will die).’ DIŠ IGI.MEŠ-šú SIG 7.MEŠ dDIM 11.ME DAB-su (DPS 9 11 = TDP 72: 11; Scurlock 2014, 67) ‘If his face is pale+yellow, Lamaštu afflicts him.’ According to Scurlock and Anderson, the second omen describes the symptoms of liʾbu-fever, which may accompany jaundice.246 Grue (blue+green) According to the model of the universal evolution of BCTs proposed by Berlin and Kay, many languages at an early developmental stage have a single conceptual category to designate both GREEN and BLUE—GRUE. Following the emergence of BLACK, WHITE and RED as basic color categories (Stage iii), either GRUE or YELLOW will appear. The latter encompasses English light greens, light browns and tans, while GRUE mainly covers pale greens but also the blue-green, blue and blue-purple range of the chromatic spectrum. Whichever category failed to develop previously will emerge in Stage iv.247 In other words, since the evolution of GREEN and YELLOW were divided into two stages, the color category GREEN-YELLOW did not exist in the 1969 version of the Berlin-Kay model. This was soon contested and YELLOW-GREEN was established as a BCC by the 1980s.248 As of 1991, the World Color Survey recog246 They proposed that typhoid or typhus was the actual illness personified by Lamaštu. Both can cause a fever and develop into jaundice (Scurlock and Anderson 2005, 32). 247 Berlin and Kay 1969, 18–19. For GRUE see: Kay 1975, 260–261; Kay and McDaniel 1978, 639; Turton 1980. Examples of languages with the color category GRUE cited in these papers include the term yaš in the Mexican language Tzeltal, zẹdẹ in the Daza langauge of eastern Nigeria and ouŋ in the Kung Bush language of South Africa. 248 Kay, Berlin and Merrifield 1991 and especially MacLaury 1986, who argued that even when BROWN and PURPLE emerged as BCTs in the language (Stages vi and vii respectively), a single category often covers both green and yellow.

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    nizes a YELLOW-GREEN-BLUE category in at least the following contemporary languages: Tifa (Papua New Guinea), Lele (Chad), Agta (Philippines), Mundu (Sudan), Chacobo (Bolivia), Campa and Ucayali Campa (Peru), Apinaye (Brazil), Yacouba (Ivory Coast), Kuku-Yalinji (Australia).249 Significantly, the widely-attested linguistic phenomenon GRUE strikes a dissonant cord with neurological research on color perception. The Hering Model for vision physiology proposes that human beings interpret information about color based on opposing signals from cone and rod cells in the eye. This “opponent process” has three channels—red versus green, blue versus yellow and black versus white, which is why it is not possible to perceive an object as ­reddish-green or bluish-yellow, for instance. How then can it be possible to have a single linguistic expression signifying both blue and yellow? MacLaury took this pairing of “neurally antagonistic colors” as proof that brightness, not hue was the defining element in color words of languages with a GRUE category.250 Do the languages of the ancient Near Eastern have the color category GRUE? In his 1963 article on Egyptian color terms, Schenkel suggested that wȝḏ should be understood as blue-with-green since it is occasionally used to describe the sky and sea (e.g. wȝḏ wr “the great green”).251 Observing that wȝḏ typifies the color of malachite (and other green stones), green eye paint and plants, especially the papyrus, Schenkel revised this notion in his 2007 study, where he stated that the focus of wȝḏ lies in the green range.252 Deeply influenced by the Berlin and Kay theoretical model, Baines, in his study of Egyptian and Coptic color words, suggested that wȝḏ corresponds to GRUE with its focus in green. In Coptic, the medieval successor of Egyptian, wȝḏ becomes wōt. Baines did not cite specific cases wherein wȝḏ describes blue-colored objects or materials, yet argued that it is the least “stable” of the Egyptian BCTs as its semantic range includes “fresh” and “papyrus.” Just as there are blue-green and red-yellow alternations in Old Kingdom art, “in normal usage,” he wrote, “yellow would probably be described by the same word as red, and blue by the same as green.”253 Both Schenkel and Baines did not accept ḫsbḏ “lapis lazuli” as a color word, though for different reasons (see uqnû 3.5.11). Like Schenkel’s, Warburton’s investigation of Egyptian words for color showed that although there is more than one word for blue, these are tied to concrete objects. With regard to GRUE, he confirmed that wȝḏ is not used describe the color of the 249 250 251 252 253

    MacLaury 1992, 138. MacLaury 1992, 141. Schenkel 1963, 142. Schenkel 2007, 223, 226. Baines 1985, 284–286.


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    sky, whereas the words for lapis lazuli (water and the night sky) and turquoise (dawn sky) are.254 In her study of Sumerian color terms, Foulger seems to identify SIG 7(.SIG 7) as GRUE by suggesting that it can mean green-yellow or blue, depending on the referent. With regard to animals, she observed, the term has a wide chromatic range, specifying light brown with quadrupeds (e.g. cows, sheep, goat, calf, oxen, dogs) and either green, yellow or blue with birds and snakes.255 The sky is often SIG 7-colored and sometimes lapis lazuli (ZA.GÌN)-colored in Sumerian, which is not the case in Akkadian (see uqnû 3.5.11).256 Only the dawn sky, gardens, field, fruits and vegetables are described as both arqu in Akkadian and SIG 7 in Sumerian. Rushes (ḫabburu, niplu, udittu), the harvest (ebūru) or the cedar tree (erēnu) are never explicitly linked with the Akkadian color term as it is in Sumerian. Likewise, while comparisons between temples and SIG 7colored mountains are common in Sumerian hymns, the simile does not borrow into Akkadian. Mountains (ḫursānu) are described as wide, distant, inaccessible and untamed but never arqu-colored. The only connection between temples and color is the reference to greenery that may have been planted outside the gigunû. Equally interesting are the emotions linked to the color in either language: a SIG 7-colored face in Sumerian literary texts generally signifies grief and weeping,257 whereas in Akkadian, arqu is a sign of fear or agitation (see below). From the written sources alone, there is no evidence to suggest that arqu signifies blue in addition to green and yellow. Unlike the Egyptian wȝḏ wr “the great green” (i.e. the Red Sea), the color of the sea (tâmtu) is never described in Akkadian.258 When the river is described as arqu-colored, the reference is to putridness or discoloration. According to the instructions given in a first millennium ritual text, water is to be represented with black pigment upon a white ground,259 which suggests that the color associated with water was dark rather than blue or green. This said, it is probably best to understand the colors of such schematically-produced figurines as having symbolic meaning rather than mimetic value. Aside from the reference to dawn, the sky (šamû) is likewise rarely characterized as a particular hue in Akkadian. The sky may be pure 254 255 256 257

    Warburton 2008, 230–231. Foulger 2006, 51. For the Sumerian text citations, see Foulger 2006, 53. The connection between grief and fear made by Foulger is based on the Akkadian references (Foulger 2006, 53). 258 Common descriptions of the sea include broad (rapšu), heaving (gallatu, only in the plural) and pure (ellu). 259 KAR 298: 6: mû ina IM.GE 6 uṣṣur (on the ūmu-apkallu figurine from Nippur and Eridu).

    Abstract Colors


    (ellu), clear (zakû), dark (eklu), dim (eṭû) or appear like carnelian (kīma sāmti) or water (kīma mê) but it is never blue or green. The only connection between SIG 7(.SIG 7)/arqu and the color blue is a case where a textual citation can be correlated with physical evidence. The ritual šēp lemutti ina bīt amēli parāsu describes in great detail the proper way to fashion protective figurines that ward off evil from the house. Amongst these is a set of five protective dogs, corresponding exactly to the clay dogs excavated at the North Palace at Nineveh.260 Based on its name, “The one who bites his foe” (mu-na-ši-ku ga-ri-šu), the kalbu arqu261 in the ritual, may be correlated with the Nineveh figurine BM 30004, as the same words are impressed upon the dog’s back. Traces of blue paint, almost certainly Egyptian blue, are still visible on the clay model today. Is this physical evidence for GRUE among Akkadian speakers? Probably not. Green pigment was produced in Assyria by mixing Egyptian blue and yellow ochre—the pigments were either mixed dry, or the color was achieved by painting in layers. In the case of BM 30004, the yellow pigment, which was probably layered on top of the blue, must have disintegrated over time, leaving traces of the latter only. The fact that arqu does not cover BLUE is highly relevant to the debate of whether Akkadian-speakers filled this semantic slot with the word for lapis lazuli (uqnû). Blue plays a prominent role in Mesopotamian art, architecture and fashion, a reality that somehow must have found expression in language.262 5.1.4 Designation According to the five-color model used in UR 5.RA: ḫubullu, which attempts to classify the appearance of everyday objects and living beings, the category arqu covers all that is not achromatic (i.e. not black or white), polychromatic (i.e. not mixed) and that does not lie within the parameters of the vivid+warm color range of sāmu. Consequently, all unmarked, blond haired or furred mammals as well as yellow and green reptiles and insects are simply described as arqu. Naturally pigmented beige or tan wool is designated as SÍG.SIG 7. Yellow gold (ḫurāṣu arqu) doubtless refers to an alloy of gold that does not contain too much copper (ḫurāṣu sāmu) or silver (ḫurāṣu peṣû).263

    260 In Room S door d. Currently housed in the British Museum (BM 30001–30005). See Gadd 1922 and 3.4.2 for further discussion on the individual pigments in the text. 261 Written UR SIG 7.SIG 7 (line 203 of the ritual, see Wiggerman 1992, 14–15). 262 Warburton 2008, 215. 263 Ḫḫ xii 255–257 [msl 7 167].


    Chapter 2

    Technical Term


    In medical texts, arqu can represent the pallor of a sick person or the yellowish, sallow skin of a person infected by jaundice. As a diagnostic color, it frequently appears in descriptions of human anatomy and of bodily discharges. Like ṣalmu “dark+black,” this color was generally an unfavorable sign and was considered a form of discoloration. With reference to the skin, yellow might be symptomatic of liver disease such as hepatitis or jaundice. It can describe the appearance of bleeding under the dermis, in which case the skin will initially appear blue-purple and then turn yellow before healing.264 The technical phrase arqu nadû describes an uneven pattern of yellow discoloration on the skin, such as spotting or streaking, whereas arqu malû indicates yellow patches (e.g. amt 12 6: 7).265 Unlike with red (sūmu) or white (pūṣu), there was no technical term for “yellow spot.” With regard to healthy human eyes, arqu, perhaps green, is one of the four “normal” colors of irises.266 An unhealthy person’s sclera might be generally arqu-colored or have filaments (gû arqu). The phrase urqa ṣarāpu, again in association with the sclera, might indicate a more intense yellowing, though Fincke understands it as “yellow-red colored.”267 Jaundice

    The Akkadian name for jaundice, aw/murriqānu, is derived from the color term arqu because of the symptomatic yellow discoloration of the skin and sclera that is a consequence of this disease. Incidentally, the English word for the illness stems from a color word too, French jaune. DIŠ NA SU-šu SIG 7 pa-nu-šú SIG 7 ši-ḫat UZU TUKU-a a-mur-ri-qa-nu MU.NI (bam 578: iii 7; Scurlock 2014, 513) ‘If a man’s body and face is yellow and his flesh is wasting away, the name (of the disease) is jaundice.’ According to another text, the discoloration is especially noticeable in the patient’s eyes—a fact that corresponds with the reality of jaundice.

    264 265 266 267

    Scurlock and Anderson 2005, 538. Scurlock and Anderson 2005, 217. CT 28 33; Landsberger 1967, 143. Fincke 2000, 259 and n. 1934.

    Abstract Colors


    DIŠ NA IGI.[S]IG 7.SIG 7 GIG-ma GIG-su ana ŠÀ IGI.ii-šú E11-a ŠÀ IGI.MEŠ-šú GU.MEŠ SIG 7.MEŠ ud-du-ḫu ŠÀ.MEŠ-š[ú n]a-šu-u NINDA u KAŠ ú-tar-ra NA BI IM.DÙ.A.BI GIG ú-za-bal-ma BA.ÚŠ (bam 578: iii 4–5; Scurlock 2014, 513): ‘If a person is sick with jaundiece (amurriqānu) and his illness rises to the inside of his eyes, the inside of his eyes is covered with yellow filaments, his insides are swollen, he regurgitates bread and beer, (and) that person is sick with pitqu-disease. He will linger and then die.’ In one Old Babylonian incantation that equates a patient’s symptoms with the supernatural world, the lord of the Underworld is imagined drooling yellow saliva: i-za-an-na-an ki-ma ša-me-e el-li-at dNERGAL el-li-tu-šu ki-ma še-le-pí-im li-i-r[i-qa] i-na a!-wu-ri-[qá-nim] ši-pa-a-a[t] a-wu-ri-qá-n[im] (uet 5 85: 1–9; Veldhuis 1999, 37–38) ‘Nergal’s saliva is raining down as if (from) the sky. May his saliva become yellow like a turtle because of jaundice. Incantation against jaundice.’ Turtle shells can have yellow markings, which would explain the simile. In UR 5.RA: ḫubullu, moreover, the Sumerian word for turtle contains the element “golden,” which again confirms that a yellow color is imagined here.268 If a yellow turtle shell was used as part of the ritual that accompanied this incantation, it may have been utilized as a magical conduit to extract the infecting yellow saliva from the patient’s body, thus ridding him of the disease.269 Jaundice, as were most diseases in Mesopotamia, was personified and associated with divine beings like the Lamaštu demoness. Because of its particularly damaging effect on the eyes and owing to the strong association with color, the disease was also imagined as a blind gardener: MIN(IGI.SIG7.SIG7) nu-ka-ri-˹bu˺ GAL-[ú š]á da-nim ina qa-ti-š[u KÙ.]MEŠ a-ra is-suḫ-ma (Utukkû lemnūtu XIII–XV 128–129; Geller 2016, 471) ‘Jaundice, the great gardener of Anu, tore off the date palm frond with his pure hands.’ d

    U4.5.KAM ana gišKIRI 6 la ur-rad dIGI.SIG 7.SIG 7 lúNU.GIŠ.KIRI 6 den-líl SÌG-su (kar 177: rev. i 22–23): 268 Ḫḫ xii 350 [msl 7 169]: NÍG.BÚN.NA.KÙ.SI 22: še-lep-pu-u. 269 Velhuis 1999, 38 n. 12. For turtle shells in rituals, see cad Š 272.


    Chapter 2

    ‘On the fifth day, he should not go into the garden, (for Jaundice) the gardener of Enlil will attack him.’ The Sumerian expression IGI.SIG 7.SIG 7 is also attested in the myth of Enki and Ninḫursag. As Steinkeller argued, in the passage where Enki disguises himself as a gardener, the compound verb should read IGI.SE 12.SE 12, from ṣuḫḫutu “to tear out.”270 Thus, Enki does not apply green or yellow makeup nor does he turn pale. Rather, he blinds himself in order to play the role of the gardener and woo Ninḫursag. Both graphic and semantic puns link the color arqu to jaundice, gardeners and blindness. Yellow and green may have been associated with vision problems in general, since excessive consumption of the prototypically arqu-colored leek vegetable was thought to cause eye diseases.271 This may explain why the hemerological text from Assur quoted above goes on to prescribe that the patient should not eat cress and leek (kar 177: rev. i 24). ­ Elsewhere, bile extracted from arqu-colored frogs constitutes the main ­ingredient in an eye salve. In contrast to English “frog green,” the archaeological evidence suggests that frogs were typically represented as yellow in Mesopotamia.272 5.1.5 Extended Meaning Freshness As a color term arqu covers the green and yellow ranges of the chromatic ­spectrum—a bivalence that also transfers to the figurative meanings constructed secondarily around the term. Because of the link to vegetation and growth, arqu has the metaphorical meaning “fresh” in the way that English “green” can stand for youth or inexperience. In the following Old Babylonian letter, for instance, the sender insists that green wood ought to be felled:

    270 Lines 168–169: dEN.KI.KE 4 IGI.NI IM.MA.AN.SIG 7.SIG 7 GIDRU ŠU BÍ.IN.DU 8 “Enki blinded himself and took a staff in his hands” (Steinkeller 2013, 69–71 and n. 1 for previous translations, including “applied green makeup,” and “beautified his face”). 271 bam 1 iii 38, 46 and 318 iii 22. 272 For arqu-colored frogs (BIL.ZA.ZA.SIG 7/ muṣa ʾirānu arqu) in medicine, see: bam 3 iv 24; amt 36 1: 4, amt 12 2: 5. For BIL.ZA.ZA.SIG 7.SIG 7, perhaps muṣaʾirānu urruqu “dark green(?),” see amt 37, 20: 6. A number of frog amulets are known from excavated contexts. Those formed of hematite and lapis lazuli, hard stones that were chosen for their beauty in general rather than to specifically imitate color, are not as useful to this inquiry of color as the faience amulets from Ur and Girsu. For these, see Moorey 1994, 175. For clay exemplars glazed yellow, see University of Pennsylvania Museum nos. 31–43–311 and 31– 43–314; BM nos. 1931, 1010.201 and 1010.202, from Ur dating to the Ur-iii period.

    Abstract Colors


    GIŠ ša ina gišTIR-šu mi-tu la i-na-ak-ki-su GIŠ wa-ar-qá-am-ma li-ik-ki-su (LIH 72: 20–22) ‘They should not cut down dead wood from the grove, rather, they should cut down green wood!’ Elsewhere, a therapy against witchcraft calls for fresh ingredients using the same adjective:273 DIŠ LÚ k]a-šip an-nu-ḫa-ra a-ru-uq-tú ḫa-ši-i [ar-q]u-ti úIN.NU.UŠ a-ruuq-tú i-kal-ma T[I] (CMaWR 2.3: 112´´´´-113´´´´; Abusch and Schwemer 2011, 89, 93) ‘If a man is bewitched, he shall consume fresh annuḫaru-alum, [fr]esh ḫašû-plant (and) fresh maštakal-soapwart and reco[ver].’ Unlike the English color word, however, arqu only has this meaning with botanical and mineral referents. As a mental state and emotion, by contrast, it conveys the idea of discoloration or pallor. Decay and Distress Just as peṣû and ṣalmu make up a complementary pair, both visually and psychologically, so do sāmu and arqu. In Akkadian written sources, sāmu is related to images of things that are saturated (with color)—the human body flushed with blood, wool dyed with madder—and is consequently linked to good health, joy and beauty. The idea of yellow discoloration and sallowness, perhaps interpreted as the absence or even reversal of sāmu, may lie behind the negative significance of arqu when the color is linked to disease, decay and distressing emotional situations. As we have seen, jaundice, liver and kidney diseases as well as blindness were connected with the color arqu and the appearance of the death-harboring demonness Lamaštu was imagined with a sallow or pallid face. In figurative language, arqu signifies the paleness caused by extreme fear or agitation.274 It describes the loss of blood and color in the face, a common physical reaction in human beings in moments of sudden shock. Such is the emotion felt by Ereškigal, for instance, when she hears of her sister Ištar’s descent to the Netherworld:

    273 For a similar example see, CT 23 26: 2: NUMUN úEME.UR.GE 7 SIG 7.SIG 7-su-nu tu-pa-ṣa “you squeeze fresh seeds of ‘hound’s tongue’ (and strain their juice into a bowl).” 274 Dossin 1931; Streck 1991.


    Chapter 2

    ki-i ni-ki-is bi-i-ni e-ri-qu pa-nu-š[a] ki-ma ša-pa-at ku-ni-i-ni iṣ-li-ma ša-pa-tu-š[a] (CT 15 45: 29–30; Streck 1999, 70–71) ‘Like a severed tamarisk branch, her (Ereškigal’s) face became pallid; like the rim of a vat,275 her lips darkened.’ While arqu expresses her fear and shock, the darkening of Ereškigal’s lips signifies anger, that her realm should be thus intruded upon. Exactly the same image of a pallid face is found several times in the Gilgamesh Epic276 and in Nergal and Ereškigal.277 The allusion to color is made indirectly in Atraḫasis, through a reference to the tamarisk,278 whereas the tamarisk is left out altogether by the poet in this passage from Gilgamesh, when he describes Enkidu’s unwillingness to face Humbaba in battle: k[i-ma na-a]k-sí-⸢im⸣ i-ri-⸢qù⸣ pa-[n]u-[šu] i-r[u-ub a-d]i-ir-tum a-na [l]i-ib-[b]i-š[u] ⸢d⸣GIŠ i[t-b]a-⸢la-am⸣ pa-ni-šu iz-⸢za-aq-qá⸣-r[a-a]m-ma a-na den ⸢am-mi-ni ib-ri i-ri⸣-qù pa-nu-k[a] ⸢i⸣-r[u-u]b a-di-ir-tum a-n[a l]i-ib-bi-⸢ka⸣ (OB Schøyen2: rev. 63–67; George 2003, 237) ‘[His] face turned pale, like a severed (tamarisk), terror entered his heart. Gilgamesh took pity on him, saying to Enkidu: “Why, my friend, did your face turn pale, and terror enter your heart?”’ In the Poem of the Righteous Sufferer, the pallor of the face is linked more explicitly to fear: uṣ-ṣal-lim pa-ni-ía a-di-rat ŠÀ-bi-ia

    275 The exact nature of the reference is unclear. Kunīnu may refer to a vessel covered with bitumen (cad K 539; Streck 1999, 71). 276 OB Gilgamesh, the Pennsylvania Tablet iv 165; George 2003, 178: a-na sí-iq-ri eṭ-li-im i-ri-qu pa-nu-šu “at the man’s words, his face became pale.” This passage describes Enkidu’s anger (not fear) when he hears that Gilgamesh beds the women of Uruk on their wedding nights. 277 At the moment when Namtar becomes afraid upon learning of Nergal’s entrance into the realm of the Netherworld (8th century Sultantepe manuscript, b iii 21´). 278 Atraḫasis i 93, 95; Streck 1999, 98: den-líl bi-nu bu-nu-ka ma-ru ra-ma-ni-ka mi-in-šu tadu-ur “Enlil, your features are tamarisk, they (the Igigi) are your children, why are you afraid?”

    Abstract Colors


    UZU.MEŠ-˹ia˺ ú-tar-ri-qu pi-rit-tum u ḫat-tum (Ludlul 1: 111–112; saact 7 18) ‘My face became black (with) the apprehension of my heart; fear and panic turned my flesh pale.’ Magic Yellow/green does not play as important a role in Mesopotamian magic as white, black and red. And yet, the following extract from an incantation against gall hints at how the polyvalence of Akkadian color words may be exercised in a genre of text that is both poetic and performative: ÉN ÙZ ar-qá-at a-ruq [SI]PA.TUR-ša a-ruq lúSIPA-ša a-ruq na-qid-sa ina e-ki SIG 7 Ú.MEŠ SIG 7.MEŠ ik-kal ina a-tap-pi a-ruq-ti A.MEŠ SIG 7.MEŠ i-šat-ti (bam 4 578: ii 45–46). Various meanings of arqu are invoked in this spell to bring about the cure. The play on words is lost when the puns are rendered transparent: “Incantation: the she-goat is tawny-hued, inexperienced is its shepherd boy, youthful is its shepherd, aged is its herdsman, it eats fresh grass on a verdant plot (ikû), it drinks sallow water from a canal.” The extensive linguistic data gathered by Berlin and Kay demonstrated that color terms focus on rather than delineate hue. At the same time, it is clear that hue was not the defining feature of all colors and arqu is a good example of this case. In Akkadian, arqu describes both yellow and green. The focus of the color term is “pale” in the sense of being desaturated, from whence the symbolic associations of the word spring. Akkadian-speakers thought of and often described arqu as leek-green. While this linguistic choice may seem anomalous to speakers of languages that clearly distinguish between GREEN and YELLOW, linguists have traced this phenomenon in the color terminology of many languages, both ancient and modern. 5.2 Barmu (Multihued, Versicolored) 5.2.1 Etymology & History of Attestation Several of the languages of the ancient Near East and Mediterranean world have words to express the idea “variegated” or “mixed” with respect to color279 but Akkadian barāmu is not etymologically related to any one of them. 279 Examples include Sumerian GÙN.A (Landsberger 1967; Foulger 2006, 19), Egyptian sȝb (Baines 1985, 283), Linear B po-ki-ro (Blakolmer 2000, 225), Classical Greek poikilós


    Chapter 2

    Because both verbs essentially describe the creation of a contrast, Cassin argued that barāmu I/A “to seal (up)” and barāmu ii/B “to be variegated, multicolored” are one and the same: En réalité, barâmu, au sens d’imprimer un sceau ou un cylindre sur l’argile, et barâmu : rendre polychrome, bien que différenciés quant à leur sumérogramme, sont, à l’origine, un seul et même verbe exprimant la même action, qui a pour effet de créer, dans un cas, grâce au relief, une réalité diversifiée qui se distingue de ce qui l’entoure, dans l’autre cas, de créer cette réalité, non plus par le relief mais par des traits ou des taches de couleurs différentes.280 However, owing to the different logographic writings attested for each verb and their entirely distinct semantic contexts, the present study follows the Akkadian dictionaries and separates the meaning of the two verbs.281 Barāmu ii/B is attested from the Old Babylonian period onwards. 5.2.2 Orthography & By-forms Written syllabically or with the logogram GÙN.A. The verb barāmu “to be multihued, versicolored” is attested in the G- (stative only), Gt- and D-stems. Derived nominal forms include birmu “multicolored trim” (attached to a textile), burmu “iris,” burūmītu “a speckled stone (possibly dark blue in color),”282 burummu “a multicolored bird,”283 burmu “pied mouse,”284 and burūmû, an idiom

    (Schwarzenberg 2000, 18–19), and Geʿez ʿesuq (Leslau 1987, 73). The Semitic root ḥbr, which is related to Akkadian ebēru “to be made-up, painted (with cosmetics),” can mean multicolored in Arabic (as in ḥābara “variegated (cloth)”) and Soqoṭri (ḥobir “multicolored”). In Syriac ḥabrā is “ink,” and in Geʿez ḥǝbrä sämay is the “color of sky.” Geʿez nāqil (and ḫ/ḥǝbra nāqil) is “speckled, variegated,” perhaps from Arabic naġīl “tainted, defective” (Leslau 1987, 224 and 400). 280 Cassin 1968, 117. 281 cad B 101–103: barāmu I/A (RA) “to seal”; cad B 103: barāmu ii/B (GÙN.(GÙN).A) “to be multicolored, speckled, pied, variegated.” AHw i 105: “bunt, mehrfarbig sein” versus “siegeln, versiegeln.” 282 Lexical only: na4ZA.GÌN.BUR.UM.«UT».TUM: bu-ru-mi-tum (Ḫḫ xvi 65 [msl 10 6]). 283 [BU]RU 5.GÙNmušen: bur-ru-um-tú: dar-ru (Ḫg to Ḫḫ xviii 262 [msl 8/2 168]) and also in a terrestrial omen (K 3240+: 8; CT 41 6). 284 PÉŠ.IGI.GÙN.GÙN.NU: bar-mu (Ḫḫ xiv 195 [msl 8/2 22]), see Falkenstein 1938, 7 and Heimpel RlA 7: 606–607.

    Abstract Colors


    meaning “starry sky.” The Gate-of-the-Glittering (sky) (bāb burūmê) is a temple gateway in the city of Assur. 5.2.3 Characterization Color Term or Not? Foulger did not include GÙN.(GÙN.A) in her study of Sumerian BCTs because she did not consider it to belong to the semantic category COLOR. In her view, the word was something in between a color term and the word for the abstract concept “color.”285 Bulakh too excluded barmu/burrumu in her essay on the etymology of Akkadian terms, although she provided no explanation for the omission.286 While observing that it is a consistent member of the spectrum expressed in lexical lists and certain omens, Landsberger nevertheless neglected to address the issue of whether barmu/burrumu is a proper color term and if not, what its status was with respect to other abstract colors.287 Cassin distinguished barmu/bitrumu from other color terms by suggesting that it, like uqnû, refers to a kind of brightness. While uqnû refers to pure brilliance (i.e. without reference to hue), bitrumu is a speckled kind of brightness, she proposed, arising from the combination of colors.288 It is argued here that the verb barāmu describes the variability of color and can be understood as “to be multihued”289 or “to be versicolored”—it describes the contrast of several hues visible on the surface of an object as well as the apparent changeability of color, depending on the source and angle of illumination. Barmu is a hue-dominated (Type 3) term. As discussed in the introduction to this chapter, the manner in which individual colors are discussed and described in the extant written sources suggests that Akkadian-speakers 285 She wrote: gunu3 ist weder selber eine Farbe, noch bezeichnet es den abstrakten Begriff, „Farbe,“ sondern steht irgendwo dazwischen. Es wird adjektivisch oder verbal verwendet, kommt häufig vor, und scheint mit einer Vielzahl von Sachen kombinierbar zu sein… gunu3 wird in der Regel als „farbig,“ „bunt,“ „mehrfarbig“ oder „gesprenkelt“ übersetzt und würde sich dementsprechend auf etwas beziehen, wo mehrere Farben miteinander vorkommen oder nicht nur eine dominiert (Foulger 2006, 19). 286 Bulakh 2003. 287 Landsberger 1967. 288 In her words: “Bitrâmu, de même que poikilos, désigne un éclat d’un type probablement différent de ZA.GÌN : uqnû. Ce sont le chatoiement et l’iridescence produits par l’assemblage de couleurs différentes qu’il tend à définir plutôt que l’éclat pur et simple.” (Cassin 1968, 117). 289 This definition was already proposed in the dictionaries. According to the cad, “The qualification of burrumu seems to refer to a mixture of two colors” (cad B 103).


    Chapter 2

    thought of COLOR in terms of a visually conspicuous aspect observable on the surface of a given object (2.1). By this definition, the qualities multicolored and versicolored belong to the same semantic category as the other abstract color terms included here. Multihued The objects of the verb barāmu in Akkadian written sources are contextually unrestricted and span animate, inanimate, synthetic and natural categories. When it describes the pied coloration of animals, such as the body of a wild dove or a turtle’s shell, the reference is to the multiplicity of distinct hues visible and the contrasting effect produced: 2 na-at-tu[l]-la-[t]um ša KUŠ ša ki-i a-r[a]-aš-ša-an-ni bur-ru-mu (EA 22: i 22) ‘Two leather reins, multihued like a wild dove.’ bitrāmu: šeleppu ‘turtle’ (Malku: šarru v 59 [Hrůša 2010, 112]) Combinations of achromatic colors may also be characterized by the word, again, as long as a visual contrast was observed. Thus, baskets made with darkand light-hued reeds could be barmu-colored.290 As the following Old Assyrian letter suggests, “multihued” and “dyed” were not necessarily the same thing: TÚG ba-ru-ma-am u ší-ni-tam la ta-ša-a-ma-nim (tcl 19 69: 21–22) ‘Do not purchase multicolored or dyed garments.’ Yarns could be uniformly dyed in a single hue while naturally pigmented fleece of different hues could be woven together to produce multicolored textiles. In Waetzoldt’s opinion, the heavy GÙN.A-textiles mentioned in Ur-iii administrative documents were likely produced by mixing light- and dark-colored wools.291 The D-stem of the verb (burrumu) also conveyed the idea of polychromy, the art of painting a surface with several colors:292 tam-šil mu-ra-še-e šá IM DÙ-uš ina IM.BABBAR Ú.BIL.LÁ tu-bar-ram (namburbi ritual; lka 112: 6–7; Maul 1994, 333) 290 hss 15 132: 10: 3 gišsussulkannū “three multicolored baskets.” Color was primarily achieved in basketry through technique—coiling, weaving, twining, plaiting, looping and piecingand-binding of naturally pigmented plant material to contrasting effect (Wendrich 2000). 291 Waetzoldt 2010, 202. It is unclear if the textiles were garments because they are often quite heavy, weighing between 4.5 and 5.5 kilograms. 292 Akkadian also had specific words for “to apply paint/cover with pigment” (see discussion in 2.4.1-3).

    Abstract Colors


    ‘(For the evil of a wildcat which persistently wails, moans and hisses in a man’s house:) You make a likeness of a wildcat out of clay, you make it multihued using gypsum and charcoal.’ […] i-ban-na-a gišGU.ZA dé-a dnin-ši-kù [me-eḫ-rat] KÙ.BABBAR IM.BABBAR ú-taq-qa me-eḫ-rat na4ZA.GÌN na4ZA.GÌN.DURU 5 ú-taq-qa [me-eḫ-rat] KÙ.SI 22 IM.GÁ.LI IM.KAL.GUG ub-tar-rim (Nergal and Ereškigal, SbTU 1 17–118: 7′-10′; Foster 2005, 515) ‘He [Nergal] built…a throne (of) Ea, the prince. [In imitation of] silver, he painted it with gypsum. In imitation of lapis lazuli, he painted it with Egyptian blue (pigment). [In imitation of] gold, he (made) it polychrome with ochre and lead-yellow.’ As we have seen, barāmu typically characterizes a multiplicity of hues or their contrasting effect. So, the final reference to blending two types of yellow pigments to create the golden effect on Nergal’s throne is interesting because it suggests that in addition to describing an array or juxtaposition of hues, at least in the context of polychromy, barmu can also mean a mixture of hues. In this sense, it differs from Greek poikilós, which as Wersinger argued, does not refer to techniques of mixing that would neutralize the diversity of colors.293 Cassin’s suggestion that like poikilós Akkadian barmu means “variegated” with respect to color as well as texture is not demonstrable from the extant evidence.294 Barmu also does not appear to describe contrasts or combinations in brightness.295 The only exception to this is the idiom burūmû meaning “starry sky,” which is discussed further below. For these reasons, barmu is categorized as a hue-dominated (Type 3) color term. Versicolored Closely related to the concept “to be multihued” is another of barāmu’s possible meanings, “to be versicolored,” which refers to changeability of color in

    293 As she puts it, “…la technique est non pas celle du mélange qui neutraliserait aussitôt la diversité, mais celle de la juxtaposition, comme pour le tissage de fils colorés, auqel correspondent les touches du peintre, ou les tessels de la mosaïque” (Wersinger 2001, 38). 294 Cassin 1968, 117. 295 Perhaps because it is less common to observe the visual aspects of brightness combined or simultaneously contrasted in the natural world. The sun is never dazzling (namru) and dark (eklu) at the same time any more than a polished stone or metal is both lustrous (ebbu) and dim (eṭû).


    Chapter 2

    different lights and angles. This nuance is only attested in the Gt-stem of the word (bitrumu) and only when it describes the appearance of eyes.296 An Old Babylonian hymn in praise of Ištar implies that her many hued and iridescent eyes are part of the love goddess’s striking beauty: [ša]-ap-ti-in du-uš-šu-pa-at ba-la-ṭú-um pí-i-ša si-im-ti-iš-ša i-ḫa-an-ni-i-ma ṣi-ḫa-tum šar-ḫa-at i-ri-mu ra-mu-ú re-šu-uš-ša ba-ni-à-a ši-im-ta-à-ša bi-it-ra-a-ma i-na-ša ši-it-a-ra (AO 4479: obv. 9–12; seal ‘She (Ištar) is sweetness in lips, vitality in her mouth, Laughter blooms in her features, She is splendid, love beads set upon her head, Her colors are beautiful, her eyes versicolored297 (and) iridescent.’ Parallels from Sumerian literature suggest that bitrumu refers to the scintillating, changeable quality of the colors in the iris, rather than to the multiplicity of hues. As Falkenstein observed, IGI.GÙN(.GÙN.NA) should be understood as titʾaru/ šitʾaru, “iridescent” with respect to eyes, rather than burrumu “multihued,” said of the face.298 The expression occurs, for instance, in the opening line of a letter to the moon god from a Sumerian ruler: “To my king, the bull (with) iridescent eyes, one who bears a lustrous, dark+blue (lit. lapis lazuli) beard.”299 Thus, when divine beauty is associated with eyes in Sumerian literature, the reference is to the variation and movement of color and light in the iris. In the Old Babylonian hymn quoted above, the scribe has elaborated on this borrowed motif: now Ištar’s complexion300 is beautiful and her eyes appear to change color (bitrumu) and sparkle (šitʾaru). Elsewhere in an Assyrian hymn to Ištar of Nineveh, the versicolor of her eyes is connected with farsightedness: 296 Fincke found only five attestations of the adjective barmu/bitrumu as a quality of eyes in Akkadian written sources: two related to humans and three to animals (Fincke 2000, 44). 297 Previous translated include “farbig” (Hecker 1989, 722), “buntschillernd” (Edzard 2004, 511), “full-ranging” (Foster 2005, 85) and “splendid” (Streck and Wasserman in seal 298 IGI.GÙN.GÙN.NA: ti-it-a-rum (bin 2 22: 106) IGI.GÙN: ši-it-ḫa-rum IGI.GÙN.GÙN: ši-it-ḫa-rum (Sag A v 10 [msl SS 1 25]). See Falkenstein 1938, 4–7 for a summary of the textual attestations of the phrase in Sumerian literature. 299 W 16743a: obv. 1–2: LUGAL GUD.IGI.GÙN SUM 4 na4ZA.GÌN.LÁ.MU.ÚR Ù.NA.A.DU 11 (Falkenstein 1938, 1). 300 Šimtu, literally “paint” in the last line, may refer to cosmetics that adorn Ištar’s face or, taken less literally, her natural coloring.

    Abstract Colors


    IGI.ii-a-a bit-ru-ma-ma ul ú-ṣab-ba-a […] ul ú-šá-qa-a a-na e-le-ni pa-an qaq-qa-ri [a-na-ṭa-al] (Ashurnasirpal i; BM 81-2-4, 188+80-7-19, 152: rev. 69–70; von Soden 1974–1977, 42) ‘(Thus I dispense with the joys of living!) My eyes are versicolored but they cannot see from afar…They cannot raise, [I gaze at] the face of the earth. (For how long, mistress of the land, have you afflicted me with this interminable illness?).’ The verb of active vision ṣubbû fundamentally means “to look at from a distance” and according to Dicks, “[i]nsofar as it denotes vision from a superior vantage point, ṣubbû(m) also connotes comprehensiveness (“to look over” or “to survey”) and authority (“to look after” or “to supervise”)”.301 Ashurnasirpal’s complaint then, is that although his eyes are colorful and hence beautiful and lively, they are incapable of seeing in the authoritative, far-reaching manner befitting a king. Elsewhere in a hymn, a person’s versicolored eyes are said to be full of sleep, as though the two concepts were incompatible.302 This suggests that in Mesopotamian thought, beautiful and colorful eyes were discerning and alert. Bitrumu is also linked to zarriqu, yet another term that describes the quality of eyes.303 In a commentary to the omen series Šumma izbu, bitrumu “versicolored” and burruqu “flashing”304 or “reddish (face/hair)”305 are given as synonyms for the term: [BE] iz-bu IGI.MEŠ-šú za-ar-ri-qa: [za]-ar-ri-qu: bur-ru-˹mu˺ (Commentary on Izbu X 46; De Zorzi 2014, ii 609) Var: BE iz-bu IGI.ii-šú za-ar-ri-qa: ˹za˺-ar-ri-qa: bur-ru-qu (SpTU 2 37: 69–70) It is difficult appreciate the difference in nuance between the two terms except when they are used together, as in the following omen about the behavior of a sacrificial sheep:

    301 Dicks 2012, 221. 302 kar 1 4 158 (vat 10101 7: 42): bar-ma-a-tu IGI.MEŠ-ia im-tá-la ši-it-ta “my iridescent eyes are filled with sleep.” 303 Adult human beings, newborns and animals can have zarāqu-eyes. See Fincke for an overview of the textual attestations linking the two words (Fincke 2000, 250–251). 304 cad B 103. 305 cad B 332.


    Chapter 2

    DIŠ UDU mi-na-a-ti gup-pu-uš IGI.ii-šú za-ar-ri-qá SÍG UDU.GUKKAL bit-ru-um (CT 31 30: 5) ‘If a sheep is enormous, its eyes are iridescent and its hair, (like that) of a fat-tailed sheep, is multihued, …’ Here, bitrumu characterizes the multiple hues of the animal’s hair whereas zarriqu was thought to be more suitable as a quality of the eyes. Landsberger observed an etymological connection between Akkadian zarriqu and Arabic ʾazraq “blue,” but originally “shimmering” with respect to the eyes.306 However its color value evolved over time, the lexical evidence suggests that in Akkadian at least, zarriqu was linked to reddish hues like sāmu and pelû: [IGI].SU 4: za-ar-ri-qu IGI.SU 4.SU 4: za-ar-ri-iq-tú SU 4: pe-lu-u SU 4.SU 4.A: pe-li-tu (Erimḫuš ii 310–313 [msl 17 43]) [su-ú]: ˹SU 4 (SI-gunû)˺: sa-a-mu, pe-e-lu-u, [z]à-ar-ri-qum, [bi]-˹it-ra˺-mu (Proto Aa 183: 1–4 [MSL 14 96]) [su-ú]: [SU 4 (SI-gunû)]: [z]a-ar-ri-qum, [s]a-mu-ú, [p]é-lu-ú, [pé]-˹e˺-li-atum, [si-in]-nu-ur-bu-um (Secondary Proto-Ea/Aa 14:III´ 1´-5´ [MSL 14 136]) As Fincke pointed out, zarriqu’s connection to pelû and sinlurmâ might lay in the fact that both terms were used to describe the reddening of the sclera or conjunctiva of a diseased eye. She concluded that zarāqu refers to a reddish discoloration of the eye that causes it to appear multicolored.307 5.2.4 Designations Along with peṣû, ṣalmu, sāmu and arqu, barmu/burrumu is one of five terms that appear as part of the fixed sequence of colors in the canonical bilingual lexical UR 5.RA: ḫubullu as well as in certain divinatory texts that are also formatted as lists. In these cases, the term functions either as a color category or else as a technical term and so does not necessarily disclose empirical information. In UR 5.RA: ḫubullu, the color is associated with animals (e.g. oxen, sheep, horses, cats, dogs, pigs), mottled minerals, plants and foodstuff.308 “Multihued” 306 Landsberger 1967, 139. In this respect, zarriqu/ʾazraq brings to mind the Greek term glaukon, used in Homeric epics to describe the color of Athena’s eyes, variously understood as bluish-gray, gray, light blue, grayish green and flashy. 307 Fincke 2000, 251. 308 See Table 2.3.a for an overview of the referents associated with the color.

    Abstract Colors


    is part of the fixed colors spectrum in Šumma ālu and Enūma Anu Enlil, although it was sometimes replaced by dark+red/brown (da ʾmu) in the latter series.309 The omission of “multihued” in the oil omens that feature iridescences (called rainbows by the ancient scribes) is not surprising since they are concerned with the division and order of the individual colors and not the “rainbow’s” appearance as a whole. Barmu is also not one of the diagnostic colors in medical omens or in the physiognomic omen series, very likely because it was too vague to serve as a useful observation about the color of a diseased person’s anatomy. Specific technical terms were employed to describe patterns of coloration within the medical corpus.310 Idioms A number of idiomatic expressions based on the verb barāmu are known. Burūmû “starry sky”311 takes its meaning from the visual contrast between the darkness of the sky and the brightness of the glittering stars. The related expression šiṭir burūmê “writing of glittering (sky)” refers to constellations.312 Color terms also serve to designate the parts of the eye in Akkadian. Just as in the English language, the phrases “black of the eye” (ṣulum īni) and “white of the eye” (pūṣi īni) referred to the pupil and sclera respectively. The “multihued/ versicolor of the eye” (burmi īni) denoted the iris, alluding either to the fact that it can be many-hued or that its colors appear to vary.313 The strongly ­pigmented part of the human iris can range in hue between brown, hazel, green and blue depending on the amounts of eumelanin (black/brown ­melanin 309 Rochberg-Halton 1988, 56. E.g. following the colors white, red, black and yellow/green: MAN ina GU GÙN IGI LUGAL šá-ni-na NU TUK (eae 28 77; van Soldt 1995, 103) “If the sun is visible in a multicolored net, (the king will have no rival, he will have mercy).” 310 For example: Spots: generally with tikpu but various specific colors could also be described. E.g. “white spot” (pūṣu), “red spot” (sūmu), “dark, bruise-like spot” (tirku) and “opaque, shadow spot” ṣillu. Flecks or streaks: tarāpu. Bruise-like coloration: tarāku. Unnaturally intense coloration, appears dyed: ṣarāpu. 311 Von Soden’s translation “(funkelnder) Sternhimmel” comes closer to explaining the use of the color term for this idiom than does “firmament (of the heavens),” given in the cad (B 344). 312 See cad B 344–345 for textual citations. 313 Technically, the appearance of the iris is caused by Rayleigh and Tyndall scattering (the scattering of light when it travels through liquid, colloidal and transparent particles) and not iridescence (goniochromism, i.e. the differential refraction of light that causes surfaces to appear to change color).


    Chapter 2

    pigments) and pheomelanin (red/yellow melanin pigments) present. In Mesopotamia, this colorful part of the eye was thought to be the source of tears.314 Technical Term Within the context of the textile industry, the noun birmu denotes a fringe or trim that was made by weaving together several dyed wools and was subsequently attached to textiles.315 This is analogous to the terms po-ki-ro-nu-ka in Linear B administrative documents, which means “with multicolored fringes” and poikilia in Archaic and Classical Greek texts.316 Alternatively, birmu may designate a more elaborate and costly piece, such as a multihued woven design, braiding or even embroidery, which was manufactured by the specialist known as the “weaver of birmus” (lúišpar birme), a professional attested in the written record from the mid-second millennium onward.317 Whether it was a trim, fringe or a more complex design, the birmu is generally mentioned as a separate, detachable part of textiles.318 It was affixed to wraps (ḫullānu), cloaks (naḫlaptu), loincloths (burku), ḫaraussuḫlu-garments, sandinnu-garments, elaborate kusītu-garments, tapestries (mardātu), cushions (nūšabu), covers (nakmazû) and also on to leather products like sandals.319 Daily economic records describe the allocation of precise quantities of precious purple, blue, red and yellow (dyed) wools for the fabrication of birmus: 1 MA.NA ta-ki-il-tù 1 MA.NA šu-ra-at-ḫa a-na bi-ir-mu MEŠ (hss 15 221: 6–8) ‘One mina of takiltu(-colored) wool and one mina of šuratḫu(-colored) wool to make multihued trims.’

    314 E.g. IM 58424: obv. 18: bu-ur-mi-ni-ia (< burmi-īnīja) di-ma-tum i-za-nu-un pa-ar-sà-at “The irises of my eyes, which rain tears, are cut off” (an OB prayer to Ištar); K. 1296: obv. 19–20: bur-mi i-ni-ía di-im-tam ú-ma-al-li “He filled the iris of my eyes with tears.” See Fincke 2000, 129 and 22 for further discussion about the source of tears. 315 cad B 257: “trim woven of several colors (used to decorate garments).” AHw i 129: “bunter Stoff.” Landsberger questioned the idea of birmu denoting a multicolored trim on the grounds that the amount of dyed wool allocated for its manufacture was too much. In certain cases, at least, entire garments and not just their embellishments must have been woven with dyed wool, he argued (Landsberger 1967, 160–161 n. 106). Grammatically, birmu is a pirs nominal form that generally takes on a passive meaning and may thus be understood as “the thing that is multihued.” 316 del Freo, Nosch and Rougemont 2010, 348; Grand-Clément 2015, 408. 317 Oppenheim 1967, 246–247; Bongenaar 1997, 308; Barrelet 1977, 59–83. 318 E.g. ḫullānu itti birmīšu “a ḫullānu-wrap with its multicolored trim” (hss 13 18: 11). 319 E.g. šēnu ša GADA GÙN.A (EA 22: ii 35).

    Abstract Colors


    bi-ir-me-šu-nu ša ku-si-ti ša ki-na-aḫ-ḫu ša ta-wa-ar--we ša ta-am-kaar-ḫu u ša šu-ra-at-ḫu (jen 314: 4–6) ‘The multihued trims on the kusītu-garment is of kinaḫḫu-, tabarru-, tamkarḫu-, and of šuratḫu-(colored) wools.’ Visual evidence for birmus may be sought in Neo-Assyrian wall paintings and relief sculpture, where high officials and royalty are depicted wearing garments with fringes and elaborate embroidery, both of which were probably multihued. Remains of paint on the relief sculptures and wall paintings from Khorsabad indicate that tasseled fringes on garments were colored red and blue. The many ways in which clothing and textiles were colored are discussed further in 5.3 Da ʾmu (Dark+Red/Brown) Da ʾmu is a brightness-dominated (Type 2) color term. On the one hand, it describes the absence of light, which is why it is connected to eklu “dark” in the written sources. On the other, it is sometimes associated with red (sāmu) and sometimes with black (ṣalmu), suggesting that its chromatic focus lay in the red to brown range. While it is convenient to translate the term as “dark red” in certain contexts, it should be noted that da ʾmu is not a shade of sāmu but a separate color entirely. For this reason, the translation “maroon” is used here. Contrary to what Landsberger proposed, it is argued here that da ʾmu is primarily a color term and only secondarily does it take on the figurative meaning “dull, gloomy.” 5.3.1 Etymology & History of Attestation Steinkeller connected DARA 4, the preferred logographic writing for da ʾmu, with Sumerian DARAḪ “wild goat” and suggested that the color sense of this term may have originated in the appearance of this animal’s dark red hide.320 This idea was rejected by Sjöberg based on the argument that DARAḪ and its older reading DURAḪ (DÀRA) borrowed into Akkadian as turāḫum.321 The etymology of da ʾmu has since been securely established as Semitic. In her reconstruction of the proto-Semitic color system, Bulakh recognized the root ʾdm as the basic color verb for “to be red.” Other Semitic languages that preserve this root include Hebrew (ʾādōm “red”), post-Biblical Hebrew (ʾādōm “red”), Judaic Aramaic (ʾǎdimmā “red”), Ugaritic (ʾdm “become red, turn red in

    320 Steinkeller 1989. 321 Sjöberg 2000, 411 n. 9.


    Chapter 2

    color, put on red makeup”), Arabic (ʾdm “be red/brown, have tanned skin”), and Geʿez (ʾaddāmāwi).322 Taken as a whole, the etymological evidence focuses on the aspect RED rather than DARK of the root ʾdm, although as we will see presently, this is not true of the color da ʾmu in Akkadian.323 Moreover, contrary to its status as a BCT in later Semitic languages, sāmu and not da ʾmu is the regular, more salient word for RED in Akkadian. Both the adjective (da ʾmu) and verb (da ʾāmu) of color are attested from the Old Babylonian period onwards. 5.3.2 Orthography & By-forms The adjective da ʾmu is written syllabically and logographically, with KUKKU 5/ KU 10.KU 10,324 DARA 4325 and MUD,326 depending on the context. When describing the appearance of skin, DARA 4 is used; for the color of blood, mud is used. The verb and adjective are attested in the G- (da ʾāmu, da ʾmu) and D ­ -stems (duʾummu, da ʾummu). The adverbial form da ʾummiš is rarely attested. Several derived nominal forms, including da ʾummatu “darkness” (a)da ʾmātu “a reddish-brown pigment,327 naturally-colored brown wool” and adamu “red garment,”328 are also attested. Presumably, (a)dāmu “blood” is related to this color word as well, albeit representing a metathesis of the first two consonants.329 5.3.3 Characterization In Sumerian lexical lists, DARA 4 denotes the color of animal hides and (woolen) textiles. Cows (ÁB), calves (AMAR), oxen (GU 4) and bulls (AM) are 322 For references, see Bulakh 2007, 25; Leslau 1987, 8. 323 Bulakh suggests that Akkadian dʾm may be the result of a “contamination of the reflexes” of Proto-Semitic ʾdm “to be red” and dhm “to be dark.” (Bulakh 2006, 198). 324 Established in: OB Diri Nippur 43, 43a-c [msl 15 13–14]: ku-uk-ku: GE 6.GE 6: ek-le-tum, da-aḫ!-˹ma˺[tum], ú-⸢ku?⸣-lum?, du-ḫu-mu-um Diri i 253–257 [msl 15 112–113]: ku-uk-ku: GE 6.GE 6: e-ṭu-tu, ek-le-tu, uk-lu, uk-ku-lu, ta-ra-[nu?], da-a ʾ-mu, du-uʾ-mu izi: išātu H Appendix: 1–4 [msl 13 209]: KU 10˹ku-ku˺.KU 10: e-˹ṭú˺-tu, ek-le-tu, da-a ʾ-mu, du-a ʾ-mu. 325 Established in: Ea i 210 [msl 14 187]: da-ra SÍG.AŠ: MIN (si-ki): MIN (di-lu-u): da-a ʾ-mu Ḫḫ xix 92 [msl 10 130]: SÍG.DARA 4: da-a ʾ-ma-a-tum Ḫg to Ḫḫ X 139a [msl 7 114]: IM.DAR[A4]: [ḫa]-a-pu: [da-ma-tu] Antagal vii 166–167 [msl 17 166]: IM.DARA 4: [da-a ʾ-mu]; IM.DAR 4.RA: [ḫa-a-pu]. 326 Reciprocal Ea A F 9´ [msl 14 532]: MIN (mu-ud): BAD: ba-˹aṭ˺-ṭu: da-a-mu. 327 See the discussion on pigments in 3.4.2. 328 Malku: šarru vi 73b-74 (Hrůša 2010, 126): ḫuš-šu-ú, a-du-mu (var. a-du-um-na): lu-ba-šú sa-a-mu. See cad A 95. 329 Bulakh 2006, 197–200.

    Abstract Colors


    DARA 4-colored in the Early Dynastic Animal List A and so is a type of aquatic creature, written with the sign lak 777-KU 6, in the Early Dynastic Fish List 10 (mee 3 98). There are no references to DARA 4 as the color of animals outside the lexical tradition. The only exception to this is found in the literary composition Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta, in which DARA 4 appears with other Sumerian color words (GE 6, BABBAR, SU 4, SIG 7.SIG 7 and GÙN.A) to describe an unearthly dog that the fabled king Enmerkar must produce to win a contest for the goddess Inanna’s favor. The poet was clearly inspired by the color spectrum in the Early Dynastic Animal List (mee 3) and included DARA 4 even though it is ill-suited for the context.330 While the translation “dark, gray”331 or “dark red”332 relies on the later equation of DARA 4 with da ʾmu in the bilingual lexical tradition, it should be noted that da ʾmu is never attested as the color of animal skins or hairs in Akkadian texts.333 In Akkadian written sources, daʾmu is the color of the sun, sky, blood, fire, wool (only in the lexical tradition334), red stones and human body parts such as the face, lips, nipples and iris. The semantic range of this color term does not extend to plants or animals.335 The Akkadian dictionaries emphasize the meaning “dark” for da ʾmu for two reasons: first, because the word sāmu was thought to adequately cover the semantic field RED and second, because the misconception that Akkadian has a rudimentary color vocabulary implied that it could not have a distinct term to encode the concept BROWN.336 At the 330 Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta 458: UR NA.AN.SU 4.E UR NA.AN.DARA 4.E. Later in the text, the same color spectrum appears in connection with a garment (line 472: TÚG NA.AN.SU 4.E TÚG NA.AN.DARA 4.E). DARA 4 is only part of the color spectrum for domestic animals (in the ED Animal List A) and not for wild animals, which includes “dog” (second part of ED Animal List B). The Old Babylonian Nippur list of wild animals does not include colored dogs but the first millennium version from the same city does. One unprovenienced OB list (ybc 11118: 9–13) also inclues the colored dogs (Veldhuis 1997, 125–126). For the relationship between lexical and literary texts, see Curtis and Hallo 1959, 136; Veldhuis 1997, 125–126 and 2014, 220–222. 331 Krecher 1983 (when it qualifies objects in a word list from Ebla). 332 Steinkeller 1989; Waetzoldt 2007 (against his position “matt” when the color refers to wool in 1972, 278). 333 For the Sumerian evidence, see Sjöberg 1993, 10; 2000, 411; Foulger 2006, 41–43. PientkaHinz understands DARA 4 as “(lang)haarig, lockig” in the Archaic Cattle List from Uruk because the early form of the sign is very like that for SÍG “hair, fleece” (Pientka-Hinz 2011, 340–341). 334 The reference to SÍG.DARA 4: da-aʾ-ma-a-tum “dark red/brown wool” in Ḫḫ xix 92 (msl 10 130) may refer to a natural shade as opposed to the two preceding entries, SÍG.ḪUŠ.A and SÍG.RUŠ.A, which are dyed wools (Sjöberg 1993, 10). 335 Already observed by Landsberger 1967, 148. 336 The cad distinguishes between the verb da ʾāmu “to become dark” and da ʾmu “dark-­ colored” or “dark red” (cad D 1 and 74). AHw i 158: “dunkel.”


    Chapter 2

    same time, Landsberger’s alternate proposal, to understand da ʾmu tonally, as “matt,” “dull” or “gray”337 cannot be reconciled with the frequent association of this term with objects that are red and brown. The following discussion will demonstrate that da ʾmu is a brightness-dominated (Type 2) color term. When it describes darkness, da ʾmu appears as a synonym of eklu and eṭû and as an antonym of namru. When it describes a hue, da ʾmu appears in connection with red (sāmu) and black (ṣalmu). Dark Red or Brown? Whether da ʾmu refers to maroon (i.e. dark red) or brown is an issue that cannot be settled based on the extant written sources since the referents associated with the term could be either color. In the following two examples, da ʾmu characterizes the appearance of fire and of blood, which suggests that it focuses on maroon rather than brown: [DIŠ IZI I]ZI.GAR.A-šá da-aʾ-mu (SB Ālu; CT 39 37: 12) ‘[If the flame] of the fire is dark red,…’ The mineral pigment named after this color term, (a)da ʾmātu, is equated with the red plant dye ḫurḫurātu in the lexical literature, suggesting that it too was employed to produce a reddish effect on materials.338

    337 Landsberger 1964–1966, 52 n. c, d; 1967, 148. This is because he thought that da ʾmu fundamentally meant “dull” with respect to the senses and only secondarily indicated a color. His argument was based on the following passage, which describes a victim suffering from the attack of a demon: lip-ti-iá ú-da-i-mu ḫa-si-si-iá iṣ-ba-tú di-ig-li-iá ú-šam-ṭu “(the demons) have dulled my sense of touch, taken my hearing, diminished my sight” (kar 80 (vat 8276): rev. 33–34). He wrote: Das Verständnis dieser Stelle wäre den beiden Wbb. nicht verschlossen geblieben, wenn sie die Bedeutung von da ʾmu schärfer erfaßt und es von eṭû, eklu („dunkel“ = „finster“) einerseits und von ṣalmu, tarku („dunkelfarbig“) abgegrenzt hätten. Wenn auch tangentielle Berührung mit dem ersteren (nicht dem letzteren!) zuzugeben ist, so ist die Bedeutung von da ʾmu als „düster“, „trüb“, als „matt“ (von Licht und Farben), englisch „dull, dim, gloomy“ anzusetzen; einer Nuance, der nur cad D 123 sub da ʾummatu Rechnung getragen ist, wo neben darkness auch gloom, pall geboten wird. Mit dieser Grundbedeutung müssen auch die Vorkommen in Einklang sein, wo d. auf eine konkrete Farbe geht (z.B. von Wolle, farbige Paste), ob dies nun ein Gelb (so AHw 156 im Anschluß an Meissner, BAWb i 47), ein Rot (cad D 74) oder eine dritte Grundfarbe sei [kann hier nicht untersucht werden] (Landsberger 1964–1966, 52 n. d). 338 For further discussion on the pigment and dye, see Sections 3.4.2 and 3.6.3 respectively. The lexical evidence is as follows: IM.GÙN.GÙN.NU: da-a ʾ-ma-tum; IM.SIG 7.SIG 7: da-a ʾ-ma-tum (Ḫḫ xi 317–318 [msl 7 140])

    Abstract Colors


    Elsewhere, da ʾmu appears to be a dark brownish color, sometimes associated with black. In omens describing human physiognomy, da ʾmu is the color of a person’s face,339 lips340 and a pregnant woman’s breast veins,341 nipples and nails.342 In one case, a pregnant woman’s nipples are said to be both black and da ʾmu-colored: DIŠ MUNUS KIR 4 tu-li-šá da-a ʾ-mu DIŠ MUNUS KIR 4 tu-li-šá GE 6 u da-a ʾ-mu (Šumma sinništu qaqqada rabât 166–167; Böck 2000, 161) ‘If a (pregnant) woman’s nipples are brown, (she will not carry her pregnancy to term).’ ‘If a (pregnant) woman’s nipples are black and brown, (she will not be successful, grief will befall her).’ This detail offers a point of correlation to reality: beginning around the twelfth week of pregnancy, it is common for a woman’s nipples and areola to darken due to a temporary increase in melanin production in the body. In this context then, the color referred to by da ʾmu must be brown. While it is not possible to say whether the translation “maroon” (i.e. dark red) or “brown” more accurately describes the chromatic focus of daʾmu, it is nevertheless clear that for Akkadian-speakers, sāmu and daʾmu were two entirely distinct colors. This is why they appear together as part of the fixed sequence of colors in divinatory texts.343 This is also the case with Sumerian SU 4

    339 340

    341 342 343

    IM.ÙN.NU: da-ma-[a ʾ]-tum: ḫur-ḫ[u-ra-tum] (Ḫg to Ḫḫ X 143 [msl 7 114]) Ú ŠIM.BI.SIG 7.SIG 7: úda-ma-tú, da-ma-tum: ḫur-ḫu-ra-[tú]. (Uruanna iii 490–491) IM.DARA 4: [da-a ʾ-mu]; IM.DARA 4.RA: [ḫa-a-pu] (Antagal vii 166–167 [msl 17 166]). Alamdimmû ii 79; Böck 2000, 78: DIŠ SÍG SAG.DU ki.min(ap-par-ri)-ma pa-ni dara 4 “If the head hair is shaggy and his face is dark/brown, (his days are near, he will take booty).” Alamdimmû v 35–37; Böck 2000, 98: [DIŠ NUN]DUM.MEŠ-šú BAB[BAR …] [DIŠ] NUNDUM.MEŠ-šú du-[ʾ-mu …] DIŠ EME-šú nam-ra[t …] “[If his li]ps are blan[ched (lit. white), …]” “[If his li]ps are bro[wn, …]” “If his tongue is brigh[t, ….]” Šumma sinništu qaqqada rabât 172; Böck 2000, 162: DIŠ MUNUS SA KIR 4 UBUR-šá duuʾ-ú-mu “If the veins of a woman’s nipples are dark/brown, (she will have sorrows. Var. she will have a son).” Šumma sinništu qaqqada rabât 245; Böck 2000, 168: DIŠ (UMBIN ŠU.SI.MEŠ GÌR.ii-šá) da-ú-mu “If (her toenails) are dark/brown, (she will not have a friend or helper).” Examples are discussed under the section DESIGNATIONS.


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    and DARA 4. Although their chromatic boundaries overlap, these colors are not hyponyms of one BCT as the misleading English translations “red” and “dark red” suggest. In languages both ancient and modern, it is not uncommon to find more than one abstract color term for what is subsumed under a single word in English. Hungarian, for example, has two types of red (vörös and piros). Both Polish and Russian have two types of blue but Polish niebieski and granatowy are different from Russian goluboj and sinij.344 Schenkel observed that a partition between deep red and light red occurred in the latest stages of the Egyptian language; this conceptual partition is evident at a much earlier date in Egyptian visual media, wherein red paint (hematite) is distinguished from dark red/brown (hematite mixed with calcium carbonate) in the artists palette (pl. 20).345 Dark Daʾmu can also describe the darkness resulting from the absence of light and in this regard, it can function as a near synonym of eklu: [U4-m]u-šu ú-te-ek-ki-lu ša-mu-ú id-da-[uʾ-u-mu] (OB Anzu; RA 46 96: 76) ‘His [day]light turned to darkness, the sky grew dark’ DIŠ ina U4 NU ŠÚ dIM is-si ú-me la er-pi da-uʾ-um-ma-tú ina KUR GÁL-ši (SAA 8 43: obv. 4–5) ‘If Adad roars on a day without clouds, there will be darkness in the land.’ Even when it is referring to darkness, da ʾmu still delineates hue, which distinguishes this term from pure brightness terms like eklu and eṭû. For this reason, the semantic range of the color da ʾmu is much broader than that of eklu or eṭû. In Enūma Anu Enlil, da ʾmu is used in lieu of eklu and eṭû to describe the darker shades of the rainbow because being essentially achromatic they are unsuitable for the purpose. Whether daʾmu should be translated as “dark” or “maroon/brown” in descriptions of celestial phenomena depends a great deal on context. In the omen quoted below, it is clear that the quality “dark” is the focus of the expression agê da ʾummati because the rainbow is said to have a “crown of illumination” (lit. “crown of the sun” AGA dUTU) in the subsequent entry: 344 Wierzbicka 1990, 100. 345 Schenkel 2007, 222–223. Baines observed that pink and brown function as distinct colors in New Kingdom art (c. 1540–1070 bce).

    Abstract Colors


    [DIŠ] MIN AGA da-um-ma-ti ú-kal (EAE 47: 9′; Gehlken 2012, 139) ‘[If] ditto (the rainbow) wears a crown of darkness,…’ Elsewhere in the same omen series, the expression mādiš da ʾmu appears in a spequence with “intensely red” (mādiš SA 5) and “intensely yellow/green” (mādiš SIG 7), which suggests that hue is important in this case: DIŠ e-nu-ma dIŠKUR GÙ.DÉ.DÉ dTIR.AN.NA šá MÚŠ-šá ma-diš da-aʾmu TA dUTU.È ana dUTU.ŠÚ.A GIB (EAE 47: 16′; Gehlken 2012, 56) ‘If a rainbow whose appearance is intensely dark red spans from east to west when Adad roars continuously, (the gods who had mercy on the land will withdraw from the interior of the land).’ 5.3.4 Designation Da ʾmu is found more frequently in the color omens relating to celestial phenomena than in (medical) diagnostic or physiognomic texts, which may be an argument for categorizing it as a brightness-dominated (Type 2) term rather than a hue-dominated (Type 3) one. The standard color sequence for celestial phenomena in Enūma Anu Enlil is light+white, dark+black, vivid+red, pale+yellow/green and variegated with maroon/brown (da ʾmu) occasionally replacing variegated in the scheme.346 Although it is not one of the salient diagnostic colors in medical omens, da ʾmu is found in a few passages qualifying the appearance of blood (dāmu). In these cases, it is written with the logogram MUD and designates an abnormal, darker color of blood, which was invariably a sign of impending death: DIŠ KI.MIN-ma ina DU 10.GAM-šú šá 150 SÌG-iṣ u ina KA-šú MÚD MUD ŠUB-[di] (DPS 15 60´; Heeßel 2000, 154) ‘If ditto (he is sick one day) and he is struck on his left knee and maroon blood pours from his mouth, (he will die).’ DIŠ KI.MIN-ma MÚD MUD iz-zi (DPS 16 10; Heeßel 2000, 172) ‘If (he is sick one day) and he vomits maroon blood, (he will die).’ Da ʾmu is also one of the four regular colors of the human iris (kakkulti īni or burmi īni). In this context, it seems to designate a dark shade of brown, as 346 Rochberg-Halton 1988, 56.


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    ­opposed to sāmu, which is perhaps light brown. The two other eye colors are namru, “dazzling(-blue)” and arqu “pale+green.”347 5.3.5 Extended Meaning Like many of the abstract color words in Akkadian, the semantic value of daʾmu extends to abstract dimensions. The connotation “dull” of sense, already remarked upon by Landsberger, is due to its association with darkness and is discussed in the entries for eṭû, eklu (see 2.5.5). In a short commentary to Enūma Anu Enlil, “darkness” (da ʾummatu) is explained as “gloom” and “to weep” because of the general association between darkness and gloom and perhaps also owing to the phonetic link to dīmātu “tears”: I.SI.IŠ: da-um-ma-tú: ba-ku-u (CCP 3.1.u91 = Sm 0009: rev. v′ 26–27; Jiménez 2014) ‘ISIŠ means “gloom,” “to weep”’ 5.4 Ebbu, namru (with ellu) (Lustrous, Dazzling) The three colors ebbu, ellu and namru are discussed together because they function as near synonyms in Akkadian. They are pure-brightness (Type 1) terms. Ebbu describes light-reflection—the lustrous, glowing sheen characteristic of polished metals, minerals, woods and the shining effect of glazed and enameled objects. No particular hue is associated with the term ebbu. Namru is a measure of light-emission and primarily characterizes the brightness of celestial bodies and of fire. A survey of the types of referents typically associated with namru suggests that it describes bright white and light-colored ­objects. Ellu, primarily meaning “pure,” functions as a color term due to its ­association with ebbu and namru and can describe the sparkling quality of a person’s eyes, of gemstones and of light. 5.4.1 Etymology & History of Attestation Ebbu Ebbu meaning “shining, lustrous, polished” is attested as an adjective of color from the Old Assyrian and Old Babylonian periods onwards.348 In verbal form (ebēbu), the early meaning of this term is “to be(come) clean” in a physical

    347 Fincke 2000, 257 and n. 1916, although she translated namru traditionally, as “bright.” 348 cad E 1–4 (ebbu) and 4–8 (ebēbu); AHw i 180–181: “hell leuchtend” with references to metals, stones and wood.

    Abstract Colors


    sense—e.g. by washing, polishing, changing clothes and so on. The logographic writing of the word, which links it to the bright appearance of the sun, suggests that “trustworthy, proper” and “(ritually) clean” are extended meanings that were built secondarily around the adjective. Ellu The adjective ellu and the verb elēlu are attested from the Old Babylonian period onwards,349 occasionally referring to color. Ellu as an adjective in personal names from the Old Akkadian and Ur-iii periods is probably to be understood as “pure,” instead of as a color term.350 Namru Akkadian naw/māru is clearly linked to the Semitic root nwr “to be lit, illuminated, sparkle.”351 Its Semitic etymology, how it is used in Akkadian and the logographic writing ZÁLAG (a graphic variant of the UD-sign) all indicate that the primary meaning of this word is related to the brightness of sunlight. The adjectives naw(i)ru (G-stem) and numurru (D-stem) and the noun nūru “light” feature in many personal names from the Old Akkadian and Ur-iii periods.352 5.4.2 Orthography & By-forms Ebbu The word is written syllabically or with the logograms DADAG (UD.UD) and ḪÁD (UD) in Akkadian written sources.353 Nominal (tēbibtu) and adverbial (ebbiš) forms refer to (ritual) cleanliness, not to color.354 Ellu Written syllabically or with the logogram KÙ or SIKIL. The verb elēlu, attested in the G-, Gt-, D- and Dt-stems, primarily means “to be(come)/make pure.”355 349 Related to the meaning of the Semitic root ṭhr through lexical evidence from Ugarit: [SIKIL]: [ellu]: ši-ḫa-la-e: ṭu-ú-ru (< ṭhr “to be pure, sparkling”) (dul 888). 350 mad 3 (= Gelb 1957) 40. 351 In manifests in Ugaritic (nr “sheen, gleam” [dul 642]), Hebrew (nyr, nr “light, lamp” [halot 697, 723]) and Arabic (nūr “light,” nār “fire” nayyir “luminous” [Wehr 1994, 1183; ael 2865–2966]), for instance (Leslau 1987, 401, 410). 352 See mad 3 (= Gelb 1957), 192–193. 353 Diri i 108–110 [msl 15 108–109]: da-˹da˺-[ag]: [UD].UD: el-lu, eb-bu, nam-ri. OB Diri Nippur 34–36c [msl 15 12]: [d]a-da-ag: UD.UD: ˹el˺-lum, eb-bu-um, na-am-ruum, ub-bu-ù-um, ul-lu-lum, nu-wu-ru-um. 354 See cad E 1 and T 304. 355 cad E 80–82 and 102–106.


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    Ellu “clean person (in the cultic sense)” is derived from the same root. Šamnu ellu “pure oil” refers to sesame oil of a particular quality. Namru Both syllabic and logographic (ZÁLAG) writings of this term are attested.356 Derived nominal forms include nūru “light, daybreak” and namrūtu “sparkling stuff,” an ingredient in glassmaking recipes that probably signifies a limestone compound.357 The metaphoric concept namrirrū, an awe-inspiring splendor associated with royalty and divinity, takes its meaning from the quality of brightness. Personal names containing a form of this term are attested as early as the Old Akkadian period.358 The verb is attested in the G-, Gt-, D-, Dt-, Š-, ŠD- and N-stems. 5.4.3 Characterization Ebbu When it functions as a color word, ebbu is associated exclusively with inanimate referents that fall into three main categories: stones (primarily gemstones like lapis lazuli but also alabaster), metals (silver, gold, ṣarīru-gold, bronze, ešmarû-alloy, zaḫalû-alloy) and wood.359 Ebbu frequently appears as a color term in Neo-Assyrian royal inscriptions. Metal plating and inlaid glass captured and played with light, imbuing sculpture and built spaces with radiance that was considered particularly attractive in ancient times. In this description of the special architectural features designed to flood Esarhaddon’s (681-669 bce) palace with color and light, ebbu and namru are used to capture this brightness: All around the perimeter of that palace, I had the cornice and coping made of obsidian and lapis lazuli(-colored brick) and I encircled (them) around (it), like a wreath. I surrounded all the gates (with) an arch (and) vault, like a rainbow. I drove into them pegs of shining silver and bright bronze (sik-kàt KÙ.BABBAR eb-bi u ZABAR nam-ri ú-rat-ta-a qéreb-ša). (RINAP 4 2: v 42–48)

    356 E.g. NA 4.ZÁLAG: nam-rum (Ḫḫ xvi 207 [msl 10 10]). 357 Oppenheim et al. 1970, 34. 358 E.g. uṣî-nawir “He-is-bright-(at his) Rising,” possibly a birth name. For other examples, see cad N 212. 359 Only in a lexical list: GIŠ.TIR.ŠEN.ŠEN.NA: MIN (qiš-tum) eb-bé-tum (Ḫḫ iii 179 [msl 5 107]).

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    Elsewhere Tiglath-Pileser iii (745-727 bce) and Ashurbanipal (668-627 bce) speak of the shininess of silver alloys used to plate wood and stone with the same words: IG.MEŠ gišEREN gišŠUR.MÌN tu-aʾ-ma-te mu-na-aḫ-ḫi-šá e-ri-bi-ši-na ˹e˺-re-˹si˺-na i-ziq-qu lib-bu i-na me-sér za-ḫa-le-e ù eb-bi ú-rak-kis-ma e-ma KÁ.MEŠ-ni ú-rat-ti (rinap 1 47: rev. 28´-29´) ‘I attached bands of shinining zaḫalû-silver and on double doors of cedar (and) cypress, which make those who enter (through) them prosperous, whose fragrance wafts (into the) heart, and I hung (them) wherever there were gates.’ giš

    2 tim-me MAḪ.MEŠ pi-tiq za-ḫa-le-e eb-bi ša 2 LIM 5 ME GUN KI.LÁ-šú-nu man-za-az KÁ É.KUR ul-tu man-zal-ti-šú-nu as-suḫ-ma al-qa-a a-na KUR AN.ŠÁRki (rinap 5 9: i 52–54) ‘(From Thebes and Heliopolis) two mighty obelisks (that) stood at the gate of the temple, cast with shining zaḫalû-silver, whose weight was two thousand five-hundred talents, I tore from where they were erected and took (them) to Assyria.’ While the color adjective ebbu is never linked with any particular hue, as a substantive, it occasionally refers to a type of material used to decorate luxury ware like banquet tables and chariots.360 The suggestion made by the editors of the cad to understand ebbu as a type of gold in such cases is based on the equation eb-bu: ḫu-ra-ṣu in an astronomical text.361 Elsewhere, in the apodosis of a physiognomic omen, a man with “ox feet” is said to receive ebbu, which is explained as silver in parallel manuscripts and in a late ṣâtu-commentary:362 DIŠ GÌR.ii GU 4 GAR [Š]E u eb-bu TUKU-ši (Böck 2000, 286–287 and n. 899) ‘If a man has “ox feet,” he will receive [gra]in and silver.’ In the lexical literature, ebbu is also used to describe the shining appearance of red garments embellished with metal sequins.363 These were made of both 360 For references, see cad E 2. 361 ltba 2 2: 278. 362 K 2166+ rev. 9 has eb-bu whereas K 10901+ ii 1 and BM 38597 obv. 9 have KÙ.BABBAR. The commentary is in SpTU i 83: 51–52. 363 Ḫg B v 12 to Ḫḫ xix 11 [msl 10 138]: [TÚG.R]UŠ.A: ru-uš-šu-u: MIN (lu-bar sa-a-mu) eb-bi.


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    gold or silver in ancient times (see In brief, while ebbu primarily functioned as a color adjective meaning “polished (wood),” “lustrous (stone)” and “shining (metal),” by the first millennium, it seems to have taken on the additional meaning “shining thing,” referring to silver or gold. Ellu Ellu essentially means “(ritually) clean” or “pure” but can metaphorically refer to the shining quality of celestial bodies and facial features (zīmu, būnu). When it alludes to color, it is often associated with the colors ebbu and namru. Namru As a color word, namru primarily characterizes the brilliance of light-emitting objects. It was a visual quality particularly associated with the rising sun and daylight, but also with fire and other celestial bodies such as stars and the moon.364 In the examples quoted here, the bright appearance of certain objects is compared to the radiant (namru) sun: NA 4 GAR-šú GIM U4-me na-mir na4ZÁLAG MU.NI (Abnu šikinšu 45; Schuster-Brandis 2008, 28) ‘The stone whose appearance is dazzling like daylight, its name is zalāqu-stone.’365 ù ki-ma ṣe-e-ta dUTU-ši KUR.KUR gab-bi ina ṣe-e-ti-ka nam-ru (Governor of Barhalza to the Assyrian king, saa 16 29: obv. 14) ‘And like the rising of the sun, all the lands are dazzled by your radiance’ DIŠ MUL SUR-ma ṣi-ri-ir-šú GIM U4.DA nam-ir (rma 200: 1) ‘If a star flares up and its flare is dazzling like daylight…’ When associated with objects and materials that are themselves not sources of light, namru refers to bright white or light shades of color. In the Old Babylonian extispicy omen below, for example, the feathers of a bird are described with the adjective: 364 E.g. in saa 8 9: obv. 3–5: DIŠ 30 ina IGI.LÁ-šú ZÁLAG-ir KUR URU ki  ŠÀ-šá TI-uṭ ZÁLAG-ir ERIM-ni ḪÉ.NUN IGI- ˹mar˺ “If the moon is dazzling at its appearance: the center of the land of Akkad will live in brightness; my troops will s[ee] plenty.” 365 This stone has not been identified. It is a light-colored, bright gemstone used whole as an amulet and pulverized, in medical salves (Schuster-Brandis 2008, 456).

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    DIŠ ku-ta-al-li MUŠEN ZI na-wi-ir (yos 10 53: 20) ‘If the rear part of the bird is bright white on the right side,…’ Elsewhere, namru is typified as the color of gypsum and alabaster, both whitish minerals exploited for building in the Near East: DIŠ KA.TAR pa-nu-šu GIM IM.BABBAR nam-ru DIŠ KA.TAR pa-nu-šu GIM U4.DA nam-ru (SB Ālu; CT 40 18: 87–88) ‘If the surface of the katarru-fungus (on the wall of the house) is bright white like gypsum’ ‘If the surface of the katarru-fungus (on the wall of the house) is dazzling like the day.’ GIM na4GIŠ.NU 11.GAL nu-ri lim-mir i-dir-tú a-a ar-ši (šuila-prayer to Marduk; bms 12: 69) ‘May my radiant mood (lit. light) dazzle like alabaster, may I not be worried.’ Emmer wheat, typically light yellowish brown in color, is also described as namru-colored.366 In each of these cases, namru describes the behavior of light when it interacts with a bright white or light-colored surface, giving the impression that the material itself was illuminated. Synonyms and Antonyms In the earliest lexical lists, Akkadian ebbu, ellu and namru are associated with the UD-sign, which designates the sun and means “white” when read ­BABBAR/ peṣû. Akkadian speakers used these terms to describe the photogenic properties of light, which was a part of their color system. All three terms are presented as related in the lexical tradition: da-˹da˺-[ag]: [UD].UD: el-lu, eb-bu, nam-ri ḫa-⸢aḫ⸣-ḫad: UD.UD: MIN (el-lu), MIN (eb-bu), MIN (nam-ri) ra-ra: UD.UD: MIN (el-lu), MIN (eb-bu), MIN (nam-ri) (Diri I 108–110 [msl 15 108–109]) 366 In the bilingual incantation series NAM.ERÍM.BÚR.RU.DA: ˹ZÍZ x˺ KÙ.GA GIM IGI.A.NI ḪÉ.EN.ZALAG.ZALAG.GA: ˹ki˺-ma ˹ku˺-un-ši el-le-te pa-nu-šu ˹li-mi-i˺r (ND 5577: 40; Knudsen 1959, 55) “[May] his face dazzle [li]ke shining emmer.” Later in the same incantation, emmer is qualified with ebbu and ellu.


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    [d]a-da-ag: UD.UD: ˹el˺-lum, eb-bu-um, na-am-ru-um, ub-bu-ù-um, ul-lulum, nu-wu-ru-um (OB Diri Nippur 34–36c [msl 15 12]) eb-bu: el-lu (Malku: šarru vi 215 [Hrůša 2010, 136]) Wood, perhaps a variety of poplar:367 il-dag: GIŠ.A[M]: MIN (a-da-ru), il-dak-ku, el-lu, eb-bu, nam-ru. (DIRI II 230–234 [MSL 15 128–129]) In the bilingual lexical lists, light blue glass is explained as “clear” (ellu), “lustrous” (ebbu), “dazzling” (namru) lapis lazuli,368 not because the genuine stone did not have these properties but because the very nature of glass lent itself to such a description. Outside the lexical tradition too, ebbu, ellu and namru frequently appear as a cluster. In such cases as the ritual texts discussed below, it is not always clear if the author of the text intended the terms to function as adjectives of color—describing visual qualities like luster, brilliance and brightness—in an abstract sense—meaning purity and cleanliness—or both: ú-ṣu-ra-tu-ši-na el-la eb-ba ina me-e-šú el-lu-ti eb-bu-ti (Bīt rimki 21–22; Borger 1967, 11) ‘Their designs (of the ritual bathing house) are pure (and) shining; in its pure (and) clear water, (do the Annunaki cleanse themselves).’ ÉN Ì el-lu Ì eb-bu Ì nam-ru (Maqlû vii 31; Meier 1967, 47) ‘Incantation: shining oil, clear oil, bright oil, (oil that purifies the body of the gods, oil that soothes the sinews of mankind, oil of the incantation of Ea, oil of the incantation of Asalluhi).’ When they are used together, the difference in meaning between namru and ebbu should be noted. Akkadian speakers clearly discriminated between namru, which primarily concerns the discharge of radiance from light-emitting sources such as from fire or the sun, and ebbu, which refers to how surfaces reflect light. When namru appears as a diagnostic feature in omens, it f­ unctions as the complementary color of tarku “dark” (lit. bruise-colored). The referents associated with this color are wide ranging, from the appearance of ­sacrificial

    367 cad A 120; cad i 70. 368 Ḫḫ xvi 54–56 [msl 10 6]: NA 4.ZA.GÌN.DURU 5: MIN(uq-nu-ú) el-lu; MIN(uq-nu-ú) eb-bu; uq-nu-ú nam-ri.

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    animals and their organs,369 oil poured on water,370 and the ­physiognomy of human beings.371 In the following extract from a ritual concerning a sacrificial animal, left/right and light/dark operate as dualities in the semiotic system of divination: [r]e-eš UDU i-mi-tam li-wi-ir šu-me-lam li-it-ru-uk (AO 7031: obv. 1) ‘May the right side of the sheep’s [he]ad be bright and the left dark.’ 5.4.4 Extended Meaning In poetic language, as in divination and rituals, the colors ebbu, ellu and namru carry positive valences. Each term is used slightly differently. Ellu typically qualifies inanimate objects, although the abstract sense of the term, “pure, clean (ritually),” also describes people and deities. Ebbu has the meaning “trustworthy” and “proper,” with regard to people’s behavior or when garments are concerned.372 Expressions with namru, which are highly developed in Akkadian literary language, are concomitant of joy, beauty and agreeableness. In this letter to the crown prince Ashurbanipal, for example, a magnate who is out of favor at court speaks of his graceless situation in terms of being cut off from the king’s radiance: ù ki-ma ṣe-e-ta dUTU-ši KUR.KUR gab-bi ina ṣe-e-ta nam-ru ù a-na-ku ina ŠÀ e-ṭu-ti kar-rak me-me-ni a-di pa-an LUGAL la-a ú-qarrab-an-ni (saa 16 29: obv. 14–15) ‘And like the rising of the sun, all the lands are dazzled by your radiance. I, however, have been cast into darkness; no one brings me before the king.’ 369 E.g. yos 10 42: ii 31: DIŠ re-eš li-bi na-wi-ir “If the epigastrium is bright, …” (following ta-ri˹ik˺ “dark” in line 29) and tcl 6 4: rev. 5: BE KI.MIN (ZÉ 2-ta KÁM.MEŠ ŠUB.MEŠ)-ma AN.TA-tu4 ZÁLAG-át KI.TA-tu4 GE 6-át “If ditto (there are two erištu-marks on the gall bladder) and the upper one is bright (and) the lower one dark,…” 370 And also as the complementary color of ṣalmu “dark+black.” E.g. CT 3 2: 7: DIŠ Ì i-mi-tum iṣ-li-im-ma šu-me-lam i-wi-ir “If the oil becomes dark on the right and light on the left.” Similarly, CT 3 4: 59: “If an erištu-mark appears out of the main body (of the oil) and it is bright (na-am-ra-at).” Tarāku consistently appears as the opposite of nawāru in the Old Babylonian oil omens. See Pettinato 1966, 212 for a complete list of the occurrences of tarāku. 371 E.g. Alamdimmû v 37; Böck 2000, 98: DIŠ EME-šú nam-r[at …] “If his tongue is bright, …” 372 cad E 4: “In reference to metals, stones and certain types of wood, ebbu describes a surface quality, “shining,” “lustrous,” etc. In reference to garments, however, it is a synonym of zakû.” In the Old Babylonian period, ebbu also signifies a moral quality of persons and may be translated as “trustworthy” or more literally, “clean (of guilt).”


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    Brightness and luminosity are also metaphors for life and good health.373 Shining (ellu) or dazzling (namru) eyes of a god were a sign of divine favor: [šá d15 šá URU.LÍMMU.DINGIR] ina ni-iš IGI.ii-šá nam-ra-a-ti tu-ut-tušu-ma (rinap 4 48: obv. 26) ‘(Esarhaddon) [whom Ištar of Arbela], with the raising of her shining eyes, selected and…’ e-nu-ma aš-šur EN GAL-ú ina ku-un ŠÀ-šú ina IGI.ii.MEŠ-šú KÙ.MEŠ ud-da-ni-ma a-na SIPA-ut KUR aš-šur ib-ba-a[n-ni] (Shalmaneser iii r. 859-824; A.0.102.1: 11 [rima 3 8]) ‘When Ashur, the great lord, appointed me in his steadfast heart (by g­ azing at me) with clear eyes and named me for the shepherdship of Assyria’ As Dicks demonstrated in her dissertation, in their anthropomorphic guises, Mesopotamian gods affect the world with “outward-oriented visual action.” Specific verbs of gazing are chosen in Sumerian and Akkadian to communicate this active form of perception.374 Such is also the case when gods select or assign (watû, idû) with bright eyes—like a propitious gaze, shining eyes ensured a favorable destiny for the subject, replete with good health, fortune, fame and general well-being. In Aristotelian thought, the eye was said to release rays that met the light from the sun or from fire mid-way, on the surface of objects. Thus, the eye itself was capable of transmitting light.375 Although such a notion is never made explicit in Akkadian texts, one wonders what exactly the Mesopotamians meant by “bright eyes” that held the power to affect its object so forcefully, since namru elsewhere describes the emission of light. Dazzle with Joy, with Splendor Much of the imagery behind namru is connected to sunlight. The idiom “to dazzle like daylight” (kīma ūmi nummuru) is a conventional simile in Akkadian literature; it describes the external change in one’s countenance that signals a positive change of mood.376 The face (pānu), heart (libbu), mind (kabattu), eyes (īnān) and appearance (zīmu) of gods and human beings are described in 373 As already observed by von Soden in his discussion about the imagery of lightness and darkness in Sumerian and Akkadian prayers: “das Licht ist der positive Wert, mit dem Leben und Heil verbunden ist” (1960, 648). 374 For instance, in Sumerian, a benevolent divine gaze is most commonly expressed with IGI.(ŠI).BAR and in Akkadian with naplusu (Dicks 2012, 365–372). 375 Schwarzenberg 2000, 27–28. Unlike in ancient Greek texts, the distinction between dark, sharp, penetrating eyes and pale, unseeing eyes is not made in Akkadian. 376 According to Streck “Licht aufgehen lassen” equals “Positives schaffen” (Streck 1999, 125– 126, 133).

    Abstract Colors


    this way. In this Old Assyrian letter, the writer uses the turn of phrase “your heart shall dazzle” to express the idea of pleasure: KÙ.BABBAR ma-lá ma-áš-kà-tí-kà ù ma-áš-ká-tí-a a-na-ší-a-ma li-ba-kà i-na-me-er (tcl 19 13: rev. 1–4) ‘I shall bring with me silver enough for your deposit and mine so that your heart shall rejoice.’ ki-ma u4-mu im-me-ru zi-mu-šú ma-aʾ-diš (Enūma eliš 6: 56; Lambert 2013, 112) ‘Like daylight, he (Marduk) rejoiced greatly (lit. his appearance dazzled).’ zi-i-me nam-ru-ti šá bu-un-na-ni-e šu-tu-ru (kar 104: 3) ‘(Marduk, noble one, with head held high, with) dazzling face and extraordinary features.’ Buildings and their architectural features—wooden doors with metal plating, walls and daises with intricate stone and glaze inlays—, on the other hand, shine with beauty and splendor. Assyrian and Babylonian kings of the first millennium frequently describe their construction works using imagery of light rather than with the words for hues like red or blue. Esarhaddon writes, “(with the booty captured from my enemies) I had the shrines of the cult centers of Assyria and Akkad built and I decorated (them) in silver and gold; thus, I brightened (nummuru) them like daylight”377 and Sennacherib uses the same vocabulary of brightness to describe his renovations of the squares, streets and alleys of his royal city, Nineveh.378 Order and Justice In Akkadian epic poetry, luminosity and light (namirtu, nūru) stand as a metaphor for peace, order and justice, in opposition to darkness, which symbolizes confusion and evil. In the Epic of Anzu, the eagle-like bird steals the Tablet of Destinies, robbing the gods of their authorities and creating disarray in the world. When Bēlet-ilī elects Ninurta to destroy Anzu and bring back order, she commands, “make light appear for the gods I have created.”379 It is her hope 377 rinap 4 1: v 38–39: eš-ret ma-ḫa-zi ša KUR aš-šurki  u KUR URI ki ú-še-piš-ma KÙ.BABBAR KÙ.SI 22 uḫ-ḫi-zu-ma ú-nam-me-ra ki-ma U4-me. 378 rinap 3/1 1: 91: ul-tu šip-ru É.GAL be-lu-ti-ia ú-qat-tu-ú ú-šá-an-di-la re-ba-a-ti bi-re-e-ti su-qa-a-ni uš-par-du-ma ú-nam-mir GIM U4-me “After I completed the work on my lordly palace, I broadened the squares, (and) illuminated the alleys (and) streets, thus making (them) as bright as daylight.”


    Chapter 2

    that Ninurta’s brilliant glow, radiance and awe-inspiring sheen will bring about Anzu’s downfall—a bright day that turns to gloom for him.380 Because it illuminates unseen and unclear things, light was also associated with justice in Mesopotamian thought, which is why the sun god is considered a judge. This curse formula in Esarhaddon’s succession treaty paints a particularly evocative image of this idea: UTU nu-úr šá-ma-mi u qaq-qar di-in ket-ti a-a i-di-in-ku-nu ni-ṭil IGI.ii.MEŠ-ku-nu li-ši-ma ina ek-le-ti i-tal-la-ka (saa 2 6: obv. 422–424) ‘May Šamaš, the light of heaven and earth, not judge you truthfully (and) . May he take away your eyesight. Walk about in darkness!’ d

    The violator of the terms of the oath is denied justice, which is imagined as the power to see light, and is hence condemned to lead a life in darkness. The connection between justice, truth and light has a long life in history of human ideas and endures today, preserved in the English word “fairness,” for instance. The light and brilliance associated with ebbu, ellu and namru symbolize the opposite of darkness as well as the emotions associated with it—anger, gloom and death. When Gilgamesh becomes preoccupied with the nature of his mortality, he describes life and death in terms of light and the absence of it: ˹i˺-na-ia ša-am-ša-am! li-iṭ!-ṭú-la-a-ma na-wi-ir-tam lu-uš-bi re-˹qé-e˺-et ek-le-tum ki ma-ṣi na-wi-ir-tum ma-ti-[ma] mi-˹tum˺ li-mu-ra-am ša-ru-ru dUTU-ši (vat 4105+BM 96974: i ­13´-15´; George 2003, 277) ‘(I shall lie asleep down all the years) but now let my eyes see the sun that I may have my fill of life (lit. light). How far is death (lit. the gloom), how little life (lit. light) (there is left)! When shall a dead man see the rays of the sun?’ Indeed, since the sun’s rays did not enter the gloomy halls of the Netherworld, which is sometimes called the House of Darkness (bīt eklēti), Gilgamesh’s portrayal is almost literal. Evidently, BRIGHTNESS was an important component of the Mesopotamian color system and Akkadian has a highly developed vocabulary to express various aspects of this domain. Namru and ebbu and in certain cases ellu, are colors that describe the effect and interplay of light in the natural world. That they are verbal, are linked with a wide range of referents, are part of embedded expressions and take on extended metaphoric meaning in figurative language 379 SB Anzu ii: 2: a-na DIGIR.MEŠ šu-ut ab-nu-u na-mir-ta šu-uṣ-ṣi. 380 Anzu ii 16: U4-mu nam-ru ana da-ʾu-um-ma-ti li-tur-šú.

    Abstract Colors


    indicates a high level of abstraction. On the cultural level, the vocabulary of lightness is associated with positive ideas just as the words for darkness generally had negative significance—such a clear-cut duality is not expressed by the colors “light+white” (peṣû) and “dark+black” (ṣalmu), both of which had positive and negative values.381 5.5 Eklu, eṭû (with adru) (Dark, Dim) Eklu and eṭû are discussed together because they are lexically and semantically linked in Akkadian written sources. Despite what the English translations “dark” and “dim” for each term suggests, eklu and eṭû are not shades of a primary hue but are themselves abstract colors.382 Both are pure brightness (Type 1) terms and are achromatic (i.e. hue is not a property of either color). Eklu refers to the darkness that results from the absence of light. Describing poorly lit passages in buildings without windows and the appearance of the sky without the sun, the color term eṭû is a measure of space illumination. Both eklu and eṭû have the secondary meaning “dull” or “dim” with respect to vision. The color value of adāru “to be dark,” also treated briefly here, is secondary and derives from the meaning “to be obscured,” said of celestial bodies. When it does function as a brightness term, adāru also characterizes the absence of light. 5.5.1 Etymology & History of Attestation Eklu Von Soden related Akkadian ʾkl to Arabic ḥkl “to be dark, doubtful,” a root that is not recognized by Leslau.383 A commentary to a polyglot vocabulary from Ugarit, on the other hand, links Akkadian eklētu to Ugaritic ǵlm(t) “concealment, darkness.”384 Older and more versatile as a color verb than eṭû, ekēlu is attested in the G-, Gt-, Gtn-, and D- and Dt-stems from the Old Babylonian period onwards. Eṭû A Semitic word, perhaps related to Ethiopic ġ/ʿṭū “to veil, erase”385 or Arabic ġḍy “to close the eyes.”386 The verb is attested in the G-, Gtn-, D- and Dt-stems and in one case the ingressive N-stem in Standard Babylonian texts.

    381 For the symbolic meaning connected to Akkadian brightness terminology, see Thavapalan 2018b. 382 “Dark red” or “dull green” would not be expressed as sāmu eklu or arqu eṭû, for instance. 383 AHw i 193; Leslau 1987. 384 Sa  Voc. 198.8 [Ug. 5 137: iii 15′]: (Sum.) [IDIM ?]: (Akk.) [eklētu?]: (Hur.) […]: (Ugar.) ḫu-ulma-tu4 (Huehnergard 1989, 164–165; dul 320–321). 385 AHw i 266. 386 Leslau 1987, 75.


    Chapter 2

    5.5.2 Orthography & By-forms Eklu Written syllabically with either e or i as the initial vowel. It is linked to ṣalmu and eṭû through the logogram KÚKKU (= KU 10.KU 10), written with the reduplication MI-sign.387 The adjective e/iklu is only attested lexically. The noun ikletu “darkness” is an appellation for the Netherworld. The adverbial form ekliš is also attested. Eṭû Generally written syllabically but has the logographic reading KÚKKU/ KU 10.KU 10 (MI.MI).388 Derived forms include adjectives (eṭû, nenṭû) and the noun eṭûtu “darkness.” 5.5.3 Characterization Eklu Eklu describes the darkness of celestial bodies, demons, human facial complexion, and on one occasion, the dullness of tarnished jewelry. This last reference occurs in the first tablet of the Erra Epic, when the god of war and ­pestilence travels to Babylon to ask Marduk about the neglected state of his cult image and ornaments. Marduk explains that his image and jewelry have become sullied because the deluge he caused by his forsaking his dwelling at an earlier point in time had led to the destruction of mankind, who sustained his cult: šu-ku-ti šá ina a-bu-bi ud-da-ʾi-pu-ú-ma i-ki-lu ši-kin-šà ana šu-un-bu-uṭ zi-m-[i]-ia u ub-bu-ub ṣu-ba-ti-ia dGIRRA um-ta-ʾi-ir (Erra and Ishum i 140–141; Cagni 1969, 72) ‘As to my jewelry, which had been struck by the deluge so that its outward appearance became tarnished (lit. dark), I commanded the fire god to make my looks shine and cleanse my clothing.’ The verb ekēlu describes the šiknu and zīmu of Marduk’s jewelry—both terms that mean “outward visual appearance” but can also specifically refer to color (see 2.1). In this particular context, eklu functions as the semantic opposite of ebbu “lustrous,” a term that characterizes the light-reflecting quality of ­polished 387 IZI: išātu H Appendix: 1–4 [msl 13 209]: KU 10˹ku-ku˺.KU 10: e-˹ṭú˺-tu, ek-le-tu, da-a ʾ-mu, du-a ʾ-mu. 388 Established in: Diri i 253–257 [msl 15 112–113]: ku-uk-ku: MI.MI: e-ṭu-tu, ek-le-tu, uk-lu, uk-ku-lu, ta-ra-[nu?], da-a ʾ-mu, du-uʾ-mu.

    Abstract Colors


    stones, metals and wood. Generally speaking, the darkness denoted by eklu is a result of the absence of light, as revealed by the contrast between a dark day and a bright day in a lexical list.389 Eklu is also the term used by Marduk to characterize the Utukkû-demon, whose body is impervious to light: ur-ru-up ṣil-la-šú uk-ku-ul ina zu-um-ri-šú nu-ú-ru ul i-ba-áš-ši (Utukkû lemnūtu xii 16; Geller 2016, 402) ‘(The Utukkû-demon’s) shadow is sombre, he is very dark, there is no light in his body.’ Eṭû When an object or space is not illuminated properly and therefore appears unclear or dim, this visual quality is characterized by eṭû. Referents associated with the term include unlit spaces, the sun, the day, a demon’s appearance and the Netherworld. The terrestrial omen is about how much sunlight reaches the open roof space above the house, whereas the sheltered area beneath the roof is what concerns Sennacherib: DIŠ É ta-ra-an-šu ina ŠÀ-šú ZÁLAG-ir DIŠ É ta-ra-an-šu e-ṭú (SB Ālu vi: 9, 15; Freedman 1998, 111) “If the roof(ed space) of a house, at its center, is bright, (its inhabitants will be happy).” “If the roof(ed space) of a house is dim, (its inhabitant will be persistently disturbed. Var: will be happy).” ṣu-lul ta-ra-a-ni ša qé-reb ba-rak-ka-a-ni e-ṭu-su-un ú-šaḫ-la-a U4-mì-iš uš-nam-mir sik-kàt kar-ri kas-pi ù URUDU qé-reb-šin ú-šal-me i-na SIG 4.AL.ÙR.RA na4ZÚ na4ZA.GÌN us-si-ma se-el-lum né-bé-ḫi ù gi-mir pa-áš-qí-ši-in (Sennacherib 705-681 bce; rinap 3/1 17: vi 37–44) ‘I illuminated the dimness of the covered ceilings that (hang) over the corridors, I made (them) shine like daylight. I encircled their interiors (with) knobbed pegs of silver and copper. I fittingly adorned the arches, friezes and all the copings with obsidian(-colored) and dark+blue bricks.’ 389 Kagal G 242–243 [msl 13 258]: [U4.KU 10].KU 10: u4-mu-um ek-lum; [U4.ZALAG.G]A: u4-muum na-am-rum.


    Chapter 2

    Neo-Assyrian wall reliefs generally depict urban architecture of the period with flat roofs made with a thick layer of earth and wooden beams, which would not have allowed much sunlight to enter buildings.390 Reflective whitewash or more elaborate decoration such as the lustrous metal and glaze overlays described by Sennacherib in this passage would have served to dispel some of this gloom and bring light into built spaces. Synonyms and Antonyms Like the pure-brightness terms ebbu and namru, both of which are written with the UD-sign, eklu and eṭû are established as related terms in the lexical literature: IZI: išātu H Appendix: 1–4 [msl 13 209]: KU 10˹ku-ku˺.KU 10: e-˹ṭú˺-tu, ek-letu, da-a ʾ-mu, du-a ʾ-mu. Diri i 253–257 [msl 15 112–113]: ku-uk-ku: MI.MI: e-ṭu-tu, ek-le-tu, uk-lu, uk-ku-lu, ta-ra-[nu?], da-a ʾ-mu, du-uʾ-mu.391 Furthermore, they frequently occur together in opposition to namru “dazzling” as in the following hymn to the sun god, where the literal and figurative effects of light shining upon a dark space are described: UTU muš-te-šir ik-le-ti šá-kin nu-ri a-na ni-ši dUTU ina e-re-bi-ka ZÁLAG ni-ši ú-ta-aṭ-ṭi dUTU ina a-ṣi-ka i-nam-mi-ra kib-ra-a-ti (NA purification ritual; kar 184 (vat 8242): rev. 21–22) ‘O Šamaš, the one who lights up the darkness, who establishes light for mankind, when you set, mankind’s light dims, O Šamaš, when you rise, the corners of the world illuminate.’ d

    When they are used together, the semantic difference between eklu and eṭû should be noted: Akkadian speakers utilized eklu to characterize the absence of radiance from light-emitting sources and eṭû to describe the manner in which a space is poorly illuminated. 390 Whether or not houses had windows to let in light is uncertain. Neo-Babylonian domestic houses, which were built as a series of self-contained suites surrounding an unroofed central courtyard, typically did not have them. Light and air entered through a doorway to the courtyard (Baker 2012, 926; Miglus 1999). 391 Cf. Malku: šarru iv 207 (Hrůša 2010, 104): uk-ku-lu: uš-šu-ṭu.

    Abstract Colors

    111 Adru Although adāru is not primarily a verb of color, it can nevertheless refer to the darkness of the day and of celestial phenomena when their light is obscured. An eclipse day, for instance, was called a “day of darkness” (ūmu ša tādirti).392 5.5.4 Designation Eklu and eṭû Because they do not designate hue, pure brightness (Type 1) colors like eklu, eṭû and adru rarely feature in the more-or-less fixed color sequences of divination texts and word lists. The standard colors for the celestial phenomena recorded in Enūma Anu Enlil are light+white, dark+black, vivid+red, pale+yellow/green and variegated, with dark+maroon/brown (da ʾmu) occasionally replacing the latter in the scheme.393 Likewise, pure brightness terms are hardly ever used to describe the anatomical parts of human beings and animals or the appearance of medicinal plants and stones. The only exception to this general rule is namru, which in this context means “bright/light.” Dark skin or body parts in the physiognomic omens, extispicy and medical texts are described either with ṣalmu “dark+black,” da ʾmu or tarku “bruise (-colored).” Tarpu meaning “mottled (with color)” sometimes appears in opposition to namru. In the face of this, the attestation of eklu designating the color of a person’s face in the physiognomic omen series Alamdimmû is unique and deserves explanation. There, the D-stem stative form of the verb appears alongside ten other colors in the following order:394 sāmu—ṣalmu—peṣû—arqu—duʾūmu—ukkulu—turrupu—pelû— namru—puʾuru—šūru Previously, scholars have attempted to make sense of this sequence as a composite whole, assuming that each term represents a unique color and that ­together they express a linear spectrum. Böck, for instance, thought duʾūmu and ukkulu indicated two variant degrees of darkness and so translated the terms “to be dark” and “to be very dark” respectively.395 Since Landsberger 392 saa 10 75: obv. 7: U4-mu šá ta-di-ir-ti šu-ú ka-ra-bu la áš-pu-ra “(To the king, my lord, (so says) your servant Nabû-aḫḫe-eriba: Good health to the king, my lord!). (Since) this is an eclipse day, I did not send the (customary) blessing.” 393 Rochberg-Halton 1998, 56; Fincke 2016, 121–122. 394 Alamdimmû VIII 95–97, 99–104; Böck 2000, 114–115. 395 Böck 2000, 115. Her translation also incorrectly presumes that the D-stem has an intensifying force. For the meaning of the D-stem of color verbs, see Verbal colors under 2.1.


    Chapter 2

    ­understood da ʾmu/ duʾūmu tonally, as “matt,” this allowed him to translate eklu/ukkulu as “dark.”396 Table 2.5  Color and meaning in the physiognomic omens

    Akkadian Color Term

    Color Focus

    Meaning in Context


    sāmu (SA 5)


    Healthy, flushed

    The gods (are with him), riches, his wealth will grow

    ṣalmu (GE 6)


    Unhealthy, black Loss of wealth, no goodwill Variant: shorter days

    peṣû (BABBAR)


    Unhealthy, blanched

    Poverty, depression

    arqu (SIG 7)

    Pale+yellow/ green

    Unhealthy, pale or jaundiced

    Scattered house, guaranteed goodwill, short days, end of days, death by a curse Variant: death from guilt

    duʾummu/ duʾūmu (du-um)

    A maroon/brown Unnaturally dark Death from thirst thing Variant: death by a curse Variant: long life

    ukkulu (uk-kul)

    A dark thing

    Unnaturally dark Discord, end of days

    turrupu (tu-ru-up)

    Mottled all over with color

    Uneven or blotchy complexion

    pelî (pe-li)

    Light+orange/red Unnaturally bright red

    Short days

    namru (na-mi-ir)



    The gods (are with him)

    puʾuru (pú-ur)

    Boiling (?)

    Inflammed (due to acne?)

    Sated by bread

    šūru (šu-ur)





    a AHw ii 837. b For this interpretation, see discussion under šuratḫu (3.5.8). 396 Landsberger 1967, 148.

    The gods (are with him) Variant: death from starvation

    Abstract Colors


    In order to understand the meaning of the colors in this particular context, a few general observations must be made. First, this is an unusually complex sequence that is made up of several unique color terms operating outside of their usual semantic context. Puʾuru (< pâru) and šūru, for example, are otherwise unattested as colors, and as discussed above, eklu is not suitable for describing skin tone because it is achromatic. This fact and the number of variant apodoses given for each omen suggests that the sequence is very likely the product of scribal elaboration—empirical impossibilities incorporated into the text to satisfy certain divinatory conventions.397 Moreover, the individual terms are not organized by any discernable principle and hence should not be interpreted as a coherent color spectrum. The expected set of colors— vivid+red, dark+black, light+white, pale+yellow/green and dark+maroon/ brown (in lieu of variegated)—appears at the beginning but not in the regular, fixed order. These are followed by other colors that are listed in a sequence that is unattested elsewhere in omens or in the lexical literature. For these reasons, it makes little sense to understand the color terms literally, as if they were describing all the colors the āšipu actually saw in his patients’ faces in ancient times. At the very most, given their respective apodoses, the colors may be operating as technical terms. Table 2.5 offers an overview of the colors and their possible meanings in this unique sequence. Adru Adru is not a diagnostic color in divinatory texts. In Enūma Anu Enlil, the verb adāru does not refer to color but means “to be eclipsed/obscured” In the omens quoted below, which are from the 29th aḫû tablet of the series, the varying colors of darkness (adir), i.e. the eclipsed moon, are described: DIŠ ina ITI.NE U4.12.KAM d30 a-dir IGI.MEŠ-šú GE 6 u SIG 7 tuk-kup GIM ur-pi (K.3563+: obv. 48; Rochberg 2010, 99) ‘If on the twelfth day of the month of Abu (Jul.-Aug.) the moon is dark (lit. eclipsed), its features are flecked black and yellow/green like a cloud’ DIŠ ina ITI.KIN.dINNIN lu-u U4.13.KAM lu-u U4.14.kam U4-me EN.NUN d 30 a-dir EN.NUN DU-ma a-dir IGI.MEŠ-šú GIM na4ZA.GÌN (K.3563+: obv. 59–60; Rochberg 2010, 99)

    397 For a discussion of color and other impossible phenomena in omens, see Rochberg 2011, especially p. 262.


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    ‘If on either the thirteenth or the fourteenth day of Ulūlu (Aug.-Sept.), the moon is dark (lit. eclipsed), the watch passes and its features are dark (lit. eclipsed) like lapis lazuli’ DIŠ ina ITI.APIN U4.13.KAM EN.NUN DU-ma d30 a-dir IGI.MEŠ-šú GIM IZI KI.A.dÍD (K.3563+: rev. 12; Rochberg 2010, 101) ‘If on the thirteenth day of Araḫsamnu (Oct.-Nov.), the watch passes and the moon is dark (lit. eclipsed), its features are like sulfur-fire’ DIŠ ina ITI.GAN U4.13.KAM d30 a-dir EN.NUN DU-ma EN BAR GE 6 ­a-kim IGI.MEŠ-šú GIM qut-ri (K.3563+: rev. 20; Rochberg 2010, 102) ‘If on the thirteenth day of Kislīmu (Nov.-Dec.) the moon is dark (lit. eclipsed), the watch passes and it is hazy398 until midnight, its features are like smoke’ As Rochberg-Halton and others have observed, color omens were compiled as thematic units in the Neo-Assyrian period and therefore tend towards scribal elaboration. But unique similes such as the ones here may have been inspired by empirical observations. In fact, these colors correspond surprisingly well to the French astronomer André-Louis Danjon’s five-point scale for measuring the hue and luminosity (L) of the moon during a total lunar eclipse, at which point various shades of darkness, brightness and redness are visible. The Danjon Scale is summarized below:399 L=0 L=1 L=2 L=3 L=4

    Very dark eclipse. Moon is almost invisible. Dark eclipse, gray or brownish in color. Details of moon may be distinguished with difficulty. Deep red or rust-colored eclipse. Very dark central shadow, relatively bright outer edge of umbra. Brick-red eclipse. Umbral shadow had a bright or yellow rim. Very bright copper-red or orange eclipse. Umbral shadow has a very bright, bluish rim.

    Roughly speaking, the eclipses that appear “like lapis lazuli” and “sulfur fire,”400 may be rated at L4 of the scale since both suggest a bluish hue. The one “like 398 See cad A 259 for this meaning of the verb akāmu. 399 Proposed in Danjon 1921. 400 Sulfur is a yellow mineral (pl. 15b) that when burned, emits a blue flame best observed in the dark. Rochberg-Halton suggested that “like sulfur fire” might also refer to a dark color since the term da ʾmu describes the color of fire in Šumma ālu (CT 39 35: 74; RochbergHalton 2010, 93).

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    smoke” probably refers to a very dark eclipse of a grayish color, perhaps at L1. Clouds, fog, mist, dust and atmospheric haze through which the eclipsed moon may pass as it traverses the sky can further affect the observed color.401 5.5.5 Extended Meaning Aside from being a visual and physical property of light and describing the way it behaves as it interacts with objects, the concept of darkness was intimately connected with certain abstract notions in Mesopotamia. Like English dull, gloomy and sunny, Akkadian brightness terms signified psycho-emotions values, which in literary texts are frequently conveyed through the antagonistic use of complementary colors. Operating in clusters, these “light-and-dark portraits” in poetry were particularly effective for describing certain intangible human experiences such as emotions (e.g. despair, good cheer, euphoric joy), mental states (e.g. confusion, gloom, suffering, pleasure) and intuitions (e.g. impending doom or triumph). Examples of formulaic motifs that make use of the image of brightness include: Misfortune, suffering: daylight turning to darkness; the sun is obscured; eclipses Good fortune, happiness: a god or king gazes with shining eyes; a person comes into contact with divine/royal radiance Gloom: light is obscured for a person/in a place; a shadow is cast; a space is dark because of the absence of light Good cheer: a person or place is illuminated with light Confusion: dim or dark vision Gloom and Doom Just as brightness of the visage was a sign of radiant joy, divine favor and wellbeing, a dark complexion expressed melancholia and misfortune. The near synonyms ekēlu and eṭû regularly appear together with namāru or ḫelû to denote this opposition. For example, The Poem of the Righteous Sufferer, which tells of a nobleman who is driven to disgrace and sickness by the unfathomable will of the god Marduk, is replete with words and images of brightness and darkness. As the victim lies near death in the course of this poetic monologue, he describes how his misfortune affected all those connected to him, through the image of a darkening day:

    401 Rochberg-Halton 1998, 56.


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    iš-me-e-ma ḫa-du-ú-a im-me-ru pa-nu-šú ḫa-di-ti ú-ba-as-si-ru ka-bat-ta-šá ip-per-du i-ṭi U4-mu šá gi-mir kim-ti-ia šá qer-bi mu-de-e dUTU-su-un i-ri-im (Ludlul 2: 117–120; Oshima 2014, 411–412) ‘When my (male) ill-wisher heard, his face dazzled, They informed my (female) ill-wisher (and) her mood became radiant. The day became dim for my entire family, For (my) relatives and acquaintances, their cheer (lit. sun) became shrouded’ The topos of “dark” (eklu) or “dim” (eṭû) days standing for an unfavorable ­destiny is also found in curses, which tend to make use of highly evocative imagery: U4.MEŠ-ku-nu [lu] e-ṭu-u MU.MEŠ-ku-nu lu ek-la ek-le-tú la na-ma-a-˹ri˺ a-na šim-ti-ku-nu li-ši-imu (curse formula in Esarhaddon’s Succession Treaty; saa 2 6: obv. 485–486) ‘May your days be dim; may your years be dark. May darkness which cannot be brightened be decreed as your fate. (May your life end in exhaustion and sleeplessness).’ Anger is also signified by dark colors. When a person is displeased, his features are said to turn dark, which is to be distinguished from a black or pale face that signals fear: DUMU Ibi-bi-e man-nu iḫ-bíl-an-ni bu-un-ni-ka nam-ru-u-te man-nu ukkil (NA letter; saa 3 29: rev. 1) ‘Who has taken Bibie’s son from me, who has darkened your bright countenance (i.e. who has made you angry)?’ uṣ-ṣal-lim pa-ni-ía a-di-rat ŠÀ-bi-ia UZU.MEŠ-˹ia˺ ú-tar-ri-qu pi-rit-tum u ḫat-tum (Ludlul 1: 111–112; saact 7 18) ‘My face became black (with) the apprehension of my heart; fear and panic turned my flesh pale.’ In prayers and hymns, the gods are often described as radiant beings, who by shedding light upon dark places and things, demonstrate their goodwill

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    ­towards mankind.402 The Evening Star Ištar illuminates darkness (eklēti) and is thus a propitious sign for all mankind.403 Ninurta brightens darkness (eklēti) and lights up gloom (eṭūtu).404 By contrast, malevolent spirits like demons were imagined as dark forces, whose bodies could not be penetrated by light. Dull or Dim Vision When light does not reach the eye because it is either literally or figuratively obscured, the resulting dim or cloudy vision may be described with eṭû or less frequently with eklu.405 In the following medical text, a person’s sight is said to gradually diminish as a membrane covers the eye: DIŠ i-na ši-[ši-ti ú-ka-la-m]a i-te-né-ṭa-a NA.BI KIN-šú TIL-ma IGI.ii-šú ip-pa-a… (bam 6 515: i 54′; Fincke 2000, 79 n. 608) ‘If the eyes [are confined by a mem]brane and they continually become dimmer, if that man stops his work because his eyes are cloudy, (to cure him…).’ In this context, the meaning of eṭû is slightly removed from its original color value since the reference is to a physical state rather than to the visual quality of an object. This extended meaning of eṭû and eklu is found outside the medical corpus as well. The expressions īnā eklā “dark eyes” and īnā ītanakkilā “the eyes keep darkening” appear in two Old-Assyrian letters, both with negative implications. In the first, a brother plotting to outmaneuver his sibling in a commercial venture is said to have sinister “dark” eyes.406 In the second, the eyes of the wife of an Assyrian merchant become ever darker in desperation and despair because she cannot feed her family.407 Malevolent forces like the utukkû- and sagḫulḫaza-demons and eṭemmu-ghosts, whose bodies were dark 402 Von Soden 1960. 403 K 3447: 5: ga-šír-tum šá šá-ru-ru-šá uš-nam-ma-ru ek-le-ti it-tum SIG 5-tum šá ka-lu ab-ra-ati (Ebeling 1953, 128). 404 jras Cent. Supp. pl. 2: 2: [mu-ša-a]ḫ-li ek-le-ti mu-nam-mir e-ṭu-ti. 405 Fincke 2000, 79 and 103; Scurlock and Anderson distinguish between eṭû, which refers to a severe darkening of eyes, and barāru “dimming” (2005, 186). 406 ttc 27: rev. 30–34: “You brother’s eyes are dark (a-ḫu-kà e-na-šu ek-lá). After he receives instructions from the prince, he should most certainly come here” (Lewy 1960, 34–35 and n. 3). 407 nbc 6610: 14–16 = bin 6 183: a-na ú-ku-ul-tí-a ù ú-ku-ul-tí ṣu-uḫ-ri-im e-na-a i-ta-na-ki-lá “My eyes keep darkening (trying to find) food for myself and food for my children.” Both texts are discussed briefly by Fincke 2000, 40 n. 269–271.


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    and impervious to light, had the power to take away one’s vision, leaving their victims in a state akin to death.408 And lastly, because brightness, the sun god Šamaš and his justice were interlocking concepts in Mesopotamian thinking, dimmed vision also signified confusion and a life without access to the law: UTU nu-úr šá-ma-mi u qaq-qar di-in ket-ti a-a i-di-in-ku-nu ni-ṭil IGI.ii.MEŠ-ku-nu li-ši-ma ina ek-le-ti i-tal-la-ka (saa 2 6: obv. 422–424) ‘May Šamaš, the light of heaven and earth, not judge you truthfully (and) . May he take away your eyesight. Walk about in darkness!’ d

    As a point of comparison, we may note that in contrast to the Greek notion of blind (i.e. unbiased) justice, the Mesopotamian image of this ideal was one of a clear, penetrating brightness. 5.6 Ḫelû (Shining, Translucent) The color ḫelû describes light-reflectivity and translucency.409 Like ebbu “lustrous,” this term is sometimes associated with namru “dazzling” and is thereby used to characterize the appearance of the sun and moon. In figurative language, ḫelû and namru function as near synonyms, both carrying positive meanings. Light that shined upon a person signaled divine or royal approval whereas to glow from within was concomitant with joy. Ḫelû does not delineate hue and is a pure-brightness (Type 1) term. 5.6.1 Etymology & History of Attestation The etymology of ḫelû is unclear. The earliest attestations of ḫelû as a verb and adjective of color appear in Standard Babylonian omens, whereas it is attested with the meaning “to be bright (as in cheerful)” in Old Assyrian and Old Babylonian texts. This would suggest that ḫelû only secondarily refers to brightness, perhaps due to its association with other terms that characterize the behavior of light such as namru, eklu and eṭû. 5.6.2 Orthography & By-forms The word is typically written syllabically and not with the logogram zal. The verb is attested in the G-, Gt-, D- and Š-stems, generally in the finite form. 408 E.g. The utukkû-demon is said to cause its victims to go deaf and blind (i-ni-šú ú-ta-aṭṭu-u) (Utukkû lemnūtu vi 89; Geller 2016, 235). 409 Previously, the term was simply incorporated into the already crowded semantic category BRIGHT. See cad Ḫ 169: “to shine, be/make brilliant”; AHw i 339: “hell, heiter sein.”

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    ­ erived nominal forms are not attested. It is possible that the Sumerian D ­personal name NIN.NI should be understood as bēlet-ḫelî “shining/cheerful lady.”410 5.6.3 Characterization When it functions as a color word, ḫelû is associated with both animate and inanimate referents. It primarily denotes the reflective quality of light hitting polished or bright surfaces but it can also describe the transparency of liquids. Eklu “dark” and eṭû “dim” often function as antonyms of ḫelû, and namru “bright” as a synonym. Because of its association with brightness, ḫelû can metaphorically mean “to be happy” and “to be in/make love.” Although ebbu was the more common term for “gleaming, lustrous,” ḫelû too could characterize the sheen of polished metals. The appearance of the golden shields mounted in the Urartian god Haldi’s shrine, for example, are described by Sargon’s (721-705 bce) scribes with this word: [6] a-ri-at KÙ.SI 22 ša i-na at-ma-ni-šú im-nu ù šu-me-lu et-ʾu-la-a-ma iḫtal-la-a šá-ru-riš [ù] SAG.DU lab-bi na-ad-ru-te ṣur-ru-ši-in a-ṣu-nim-ma 5 GUN 12 MA.NA sa-a-mu ru-uš-šu-ú ti-iṣ-bu-tu KI.LÁ (tcl 3 370–371; Mayer 2013, 134) ‘[Six] golden shields, which were hung in his (Haldi’s) cella to the right and left and which gleamed radiantly, with the heads of raging lions emerging from their centers, which contained red gold weighing five talents and twelve minas (…these things did I plunder).’ Unlike namru and ebbu, the color ḫelû does not appear in similes, although the adverbial ending -iš added to the referent in the following case functions similarly, likening the appearance of the brilliantly decorated entryways to a celestial body: né-reb-ši-na dŠEŠ.KI-re-eš ú-šaḫ-l[i] (AO 21371 = Lyon Sar. 24: 28–29; Fuchs 1994, 50): ‘(With the ingenuity of Ninzadim, did I Sargon fashion animals of the mountain and sea out of solid rock and brought them in to the palaces and in so doing,) I made their entrances shine like the moon.’ In one medical text, ḫelû is the light color of a sick person’s extremities: 410 In str 68: 3 = ucp 9/2 249, an Ur-iii seal impression.


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    …ap-[pa]t U.MEŠ ŠU.ii-šú u GÌR.ii-šú ḫul-la-a (dps 22 23; Heeßel 2000, 253) ‘[If] the tips of his fingers and toes have been made shiny, (hand of an oath).’ Since it is not one of the regular diagnostic colors in the dps, in extispicy texts or in the physiognomic omen series, the scribal choice of ḫelû in this particular omen is difficult to explain. Namru would have been the expected term to signify a brighter, lighter color of the skin.411 In the face of no other viable alternative, we are left to interpret ḫelû as a synonym of namru in this context. In another medical omen, ḫelû qualifies the appearance of animal glue, to which the color and consistency of a sick person’s urine is compared: [DIŠ NA] KÀŠ.MEŠ-šú GIM ŠE.GÍN ḫe-li-ti NA BI mu-ṣa GI[G] (bam 112: i 16′; bam 114: 4; Scurlock and Anderson 2005, 100): ‘[If a person’s] urine is like shining glue, that person is si[ck] with mūṣa-disease.’ In liquid form, animal glue is thick, translucent and amber-colored (pl. 2a-b). Given the other referents associated with ḫelû—the golden shield and the gleaming moon—we may assume that the shining translucency of the glue is what is being referred to here. Other transparent or translucent liquids mentioned in the same sequence for urine colors include “like beer foam” (kīma šuršumme šikari), “like wine foam” (kīma šuršumme karāni) and “like juice of the kasû-plant” (kīma mê kasî). 5.6.4 Extended Meaning Illuminating the Unknown and Inhospitable Because of its association with namāru “to be radiant (with joy),” the symbolic meanings associated with ḫelû ought to be positive. In the following sequence of omens, however, in which negative signs are interpreted positively, a shining heart (libbu + ḫelû), like a sick or disturbed one, is something bad: DIŠ ŠÀ-šú da-li-iḫ i-ḫad-du ina-me-er ‘If his mood is disturbed, he will rejoice, he will be radiant’ DIŠ ŠÀ-šú ma-ru-uṣ PUZUR 4-ti ŠE.GA ‘If his heart is sick, (his) secrets will be heard’ 411 The verb ḫelû is certainly not related to the noun ḫalû “black mole/spot,” which does ­appear in omes (see cad Ḫ 53 for attestations).

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    DIŠ ŠÀ-šú ḫe-lu ku-ba-tu IGI-[mar] ‘If his heart is shiny, he will experience honors’ DIŠ ŠÀ-šú a-di-ir i-ḫad-du ‘If his heart is obscured, he will rejoice’ (K 6214: obv. ii 22–25; CT 37 38) Analogous to pānu/libbu + namāru, we might expect libbu + ḫelû to signify something like “to be merry” but the logic of this particular sequence clearly calls for a negative in the protasis. In many of the world’s spoken and dead languages, the link between color and emotions lay in facial complexion.412 It is not only a person’s face but also his heart, eyes and appearance as a whole that could be colorful in Akkadian. And so, a bright heart, pale face and dim eyes conveyed, respectively, cheerfulness, fear and misery. Broadly speaking, bodily experiences, in particular the manifestation of emotions in facial color, serve as the basis for metaphors that focus on hue and saturation. One pales (arqu) in fear when the blood drains from the face and appears flushed (sāmu) when it is healthy and full of color. The imagery behind brightness-oriented emotions, on the other hand, is related to the behavior of heavenly bodies. Thus, a person’s radiant countenance can darken in anger, like the moon or the sun. As discussed elsewhere, brightness was considered both a physical and metaphysical property of light-emitting celestial beings in Mesopotamia (see 2.5.4 and 2.5.5). These opening lines of a Neo-Assyrian hymn to Šamaš exalt the god’s ability to penetrate and thereby reveal (namāru, ḫelû) even remote areas.413 Unknown and non-Mesopotamian regions of the world are imagined as a vast darkness (eklu) or shadow land (eṭû): muš-na-m[ir…] šá-ma-mi mu-šaḫ-li e[k-le-ti…] ⸢e⸣-liš u šap-liš … [saḫ]-pu ki-ma šu-uš-[k]al-l[i…šá-]ru-ru-ka [šá] ḫur-šá-a-ni bi-ru-ti e-ṭ[u-ti-š]u-nu tuš-par-di (Schollmeyer 1912, no. 16 i 1–2, 5–6; bwl 126, 1–2 and 5–6)

    412 Steinvall 2007. 413 Von Soden argued that the early Sumerians preferred to venerate the secretive and wise light of the moon, whereas at the end of the third millennium, Akkadian hymns and prayers favoring the direct and penetrating gaze of sunlight began to appear (1960). In my view, there is not enough evidence to make such a broad and sweeping cultural argument. For the meanings of brightness in art and architecture, see Winter (1994, 1999), Shepperson (2012, 2017) and Thavapalan (2018b).


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    ‘The one who lights up […] the heavens, he who makes the darkness shine…in the upper and lower regions…like a battle net, your rays cover […], you illuminate the gloom of the vast mountains.’ The same cluster of metaphors is employed in Neo-Assyrian royal inscriptions to develop the portrait of the king as a radiant and enlightened being. Descriptions of imperial palaces dwell on the brilliance of polished wood, metal and stone decorative elements that illuminated these built spaces and enchanted all those who entered. Sennacherib’s scribes employ particularly rich color language that emphasizes how certain innovative architectural and artistic ­features of his Palace-Without-Rival permitted controlled lighting effects that penetrated the interior of the building, thus dispelling obscurity: ṣu-lul ta-ra-a-ni ša qé-reb ba-rak-ka-a-ni e-ṭu-su-un ú-šaḫ-la-a U4-mì-iš uš-nam-mir sik-kàt kar-ri kas-pi ù URUDU qé-reb-šin ú-šal-me i-na SIG 4.AL.ÙR.RA na4ZÚ na4ZA.GÌN us-si-ma se-el-lum né-bé-ḫi ù gi-mir pa-áš-qí-ši-in (Sennacherib 705-681 bce; rinap 3/1 17: vi 37–44) ‘I illuminated the dimness of the covered ceilings that (hang) over the corridors, I made (them) shine like daylight. I encircled their interiors (with) knobbed pegs of silver and copper. I fittingly adorned the arches, friezes and all the copings with obsidian(-colored) and dark+blue bricks.’ Ḫelû and eṭû function as antagonistic forces in the imagery developed in this passage, simultaneously describing colors as well as the atmosphere they effected. We are told that Sennacherib transformed the previously unappealing and gloomy state of the palace through the brilliance of color—red and blue glazed friezes and metal fittings. The simile “to dazzle like daylight,” a common epithet of the gods, reinforces the idea that Assyrian palaces were gilded spaces akin to the heavens. As tangible, visual expressions of light and color then, Assyrian palaces alluded to the monarch’s far-reaching ingenuity and expressed his imperial power. 5.7 Ḫ/ruššû (Glowing+Orange) 5.7.1 Etymology & History of Attestation Borrowing from Sumerian ḪUŠ.A, Akkadian ḫ/ruššû functions as a color term from the Middle Babylonian period onwards. The orthographic alternation

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    ­between ḫ- and r- in the initial consonant reflects variant pronunciations of the Sumerian word.414 Sumerian ḪUŠ.A = ḫ/ruššû is different from ḪUŠ, which is ezzu “angry.”415 5.7.2 Orthography & By-forms The verb rašāšu “to glow orange” is generally attested in the G-stem, with one uncertain instance of the D-stem in a prescription for making glass.416 Adjectival (masc.: ruššû/rūšu; fem.: ruššītu) and adverbial (rūšiš) forms of the verb are attested as well. 5.7.3 Characterization The referents associated with ḫ/ruššû in Akkadian texts are different from those linked with ḪUŠ.A in Sumerian. Animals (frequently with bull and lion, but also dog, wild cow, ox, dragon and panther), body parts (eye, neck, head, forehead, face, arm), a storm, various weapons, metals and textiles are described as ḪUŠ.A-colored in Sumerian texts.417 With the exception of pigs in a lexical list,418 Akkadian ḫ/ruššû is never a color for animals. The adjective ḫ/ ruššû seems to chiefly describe the glow associated with gold and certain amber-colored translucent liquids like beer,419 honey420 and urine.421 Fruit (inbu), ripe grain (ašnan) and part of a plant are also ḫ/ruššû-colored.422 Both Landsberger423 and Waetzoldt preferred to think of ḫ/ruššû as primarily characterizing a glowing quality, rather than a particular hue. Even so, the word had associations with the color yellow for Waetzoldt, who translated it as “gold+yellow” or “shining gold” (goldglänzend) when referring to the metal and “bright yellow” (leuchtendgelb) when referring to textiles.424 Many of the referents associated with ḫ/ruššû—urine, grain, the mušḫuššû-dragon depicted on the on the Ištar Gate—point to it being a yellowish rather than reddish color, he argued.425 Prioritizing the lexical evidence, the dictionaries forwarded the 414 Landsberger 1967, 150. 415 Krecher 1978, 398. 416 Oppenheim et al. 1970, 73. 417 Foulger 2006, 46–49. 418 Ḫḫ xiv 167–168 [msl 8/2 20]. 419 Ḫḫ xxiii frag. f 10´ [msl 11 70]: [KAŠ.Ḫ]UŠ.A: ḫu-uš-šu-ú. 420 Ḫḫ xxiv 9 [msl 11 78]: LÀL.MAR.ḪUŠ.A: ḫu-šu-ú. 421 amt 74: rev. 2 with dup. bam 124 2: 36. 422 See cad R 428. 423 Landsberger 1967, 149–150 and references to older scholarship therein. 424 Waetzoldt 1985, 9. 425 Waetzoldt 1985, 9.


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    translation “red”426 for ḫ/ruššû, mainly because of the connection to sāmu in ḪAR-gud and the synonym list:427 [TÚG.Ḫ]UŠ.A: ŠU-u: MIN (lu-bar sa-a-mu) [TÚG.R]UŠ.A: ru-uš-šu-u: MIN (lu-bar sa-a-mu) eb-bi (Ḫg B V to Ḫḫ XIX 11–12 [msl 10 138]) ḫuš-šu-ú: lu-ba-šu sa-a-mu, TÚG sa-a-mu (Malku: šarru VI 73 and VIII 57 [Hrůša 2010, 126 and 140]) It is argued in what follows that ḫ/ruššû, meaning “glowing+orange,” delineates hue but primarily characterizes brightness. Like “gold” and “silver” in the English language, these two aspects of the word are not differentiated in this color. Glass and Metal Important evidence for understanding the chromatic focus of ḫ/ruššû is found in the Akkadian recipes that describe the production of turquoise, blue, red and yellow glasses. In this corpus, the verb rašāšu is used to describe the color of molten glass, as it is heated in the kiln: [IZI ṭa-ab-ta la qa-t]ir-ta [ta-šár-rap a]-di NA 4 i-raš-šu-šu KÁ ku-u-ri la DUL-tam [ul-tu ir-taš]-šu KÁ ku-u-ri D[UL-ma] a-di i-ḫar-ra-ṣu ma-la-ni ina pa-ni-ka ta-bi-iḫ-ḫiš (Tablet A §3: 38–41; Oppenheim et al. 1970, 34) ‘[You maintain a good], smoke[less fire.] You do not close the flue (lit. door of the kiln) until the mass (i.e. the molten glass) glows orange. [Once (the mass) has glowed oran]ge, you [clo]se the flue and as it is turning golden, you wind it once towards you.’ These instructions are from a recipe for making the copper-based glass called zagindurû (3.6.9). The ingredients are heated in an open, smokeless fire (i.e. an oxidizing environment) in order to achieve the desired light blue-green color. Once the glass melt had heated sufficiently to glow orange, the glassmaker is told to cut off the air supply, creating a reducing environment inside the kiln, 426 The dictionaries observe a difference in meaning between the verb rašāšu (cad R 191: “to glow”; AHw ii 960–961: “heiß, glühend werden”) and its adjective ruššû (cad R 427: “having a reddish sheen”; AHw ii 996: “rot”) but provide no explanation for this apparent semantic distinction. 427 cad Ḫ 261–262; AHw i 361.

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    and to lower the heat. Subsequently, the molten glass was transferred into a pan and allowed to anneal. Although the science behind the process described here is not entirely clear, it is nonetheless apparent that ancient craftsmen used color to estimate the temperature of the glass melt and thereby also the quality and appearance of the resulting product. In the same recipe, the changing color of heated copper, which imbued glass with its bluish color, is also described with the same verb: IZI dan-na-[ta] la [qa]-tir-ta ta-šár-rap [a-di URUDU].ḪI.A i-ra-áš-šu-šu (Tablet A §5: 51–52; Oppenheim et al. 1970, 37) ‘You maintain a strong, smokeless fire [until the copper] compound glows orange’ Here too, the color ḫ/ruššû functions as a diagnostic tool, signaling to the glassmaker that the desired temperature had been achieved in the heated metal and that it was time to add the other raw ingredients. The color-based temperature spectrum given in the Akkadian glass recipes—arqu, ḫurāṣu, ruššû, karānu bašlu—is comparable to the one described by Theophilus Presbyter (c. 1070–1125) in his De diversis artibus (Book ii 7–8). There, the glass melt changes from saffron yellow, after three hours of heating, to reddish purple, after more than six hours: saffron yellow (croceum colorem) > light saffron yellow ­(croceum leue) > reddish saffron yellow (croceum rubicundum) > tawny, like frelsh (fuluum colorem…qui carni similis est) > light purple (purpuream leuem) > reddish purple (purpurea rufa et perfecta)

    pale yellow (arqu) > gold (ḫurāṣu) > glowing orange (ruššû) > ripe grape (karānu bašlu) Interestingly, this sequence of colors differs from the one given in the Šumma ālu omens for fire, which includes only maroon/brown (daʾmu), light+white (peṣû) and vivid+red (sāmu). Nevertheless, the evidence of the glass texts confirms that while ḫ/ruššû refers to a glowing quality, it also describes a hue that is between gold and red.


    Chapter 2

    This idea accords well with the fact that the adjective ḫ/ruššû also qualifies gold in Akkadian written sources. Ḫ/ruššû-gold (KÙ.SI 22.ḪUŠ.A) is the most valuable variety of this metal and probably refers to pure gold, which is actually yellow with a slight reddish tone. The scribes in ancient Mesopotamia distinguished ḫurāṣu ḫ/ruššû from the coppery-red tone of gold that is alloyed with copper (ḫurāṣu sāmu).428 There is also ḫ/ruššû-colored bronze (siparru ḫ/ ruššû) but no copper or silver.429 The fact that the adjective ḫ/ruššû is never used to describe silver indicates that the reddish orange hue associated with the word was an important part of its color value. The brilliance of silver is captured instead with ebbu “lustrous, shining,” a word that does not have a specific hue-focus. Textiles Mentioned in the lexical lists430 as well as in economic documents dating to the end of the third millennium bce, ḪUŠ.A-wool was mainly used to make textiles for the cult as well as garments for royalty. Waetzoldt thought that a term which originally had been used to describe the color of gold was then adopted to designate an expensive, dyed fabric of similar, shining appearance: Obviously, the most precious wool was the shining-yellow one (ḫuš-a), since this is also the colour of pure gold. It is attested only in the capital Ur and is only mentioned in the texts in small quantities of about 1–7kg. The best and finest wool is used exclusively for this colour. From this wool was produced a particular type of fabric (túg-nì-lám). Fabric made from this wool was probably reserved for the use of the king.431 It is possible that the lamaḫuššu (Sum. LAMAḪUŠ), a ceremonial outer-garment made of wool, was also ḫ/ruššû-colored. This garment is mentioned in texts dating to the Old Akkadian period (e.g. in nbc 11441). According to Foster, the lamaḫuššus and other fine garments were part of the wealth extracted from local producers and sent to Agade, the royal capital.432 428 Waetzoldt 1985, 1–9. 429 See cad S 297 for references from the early second millennium onward. 430 Ḫḫ xix 90–91 [msl 10 130]: SÍG.ḪUŠ.A: (šipātu) [ḫu-uš-š]á-a-tum; SÍG.RUŠ.A: (šipātu) ru-uš-šá-a-tum. Ḫḫ xix 173–174 [msl 10 132–133]: TÚG.ḪUŠ.A: (lubāru) ḫu-uš-šu-ú; TÚG.RUŠ.A: (lubāru) ru-uš-šu-ú. 431 Waetzoldt 2010, 202. 432 Foster 2010, 140; Waetzoldt 1972, 51.

    Abstract Colors


    Whereas SÍG.ḪUŠ.A designates an expensive, dyed wool in Ur-iii economic documents, it should be noted that ḫ/ruššû is never attested as the natural or dyed color of wool in Akkadian texts from the second and first millennia.433 Only finished garments are described with this adjective. This suggests that the ḫ/ruššû-color effect was achieved at the final stage of the garment’s fabrication, perhaps by the addition of faience or metal embellishments. Written sources, visual evidence and finds from the Queen’s Tombs in Nimrud confirm that large quantities of gold, silver and glass sequins in various shapes (rosettes, disks, squares, rings and even animal forms) were sewn onto red- and purple-dyed ceremonial garments in the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian periods.434 Much earlier at Mari too, TÚG.ḪUŠ.A-garments were very expensive and were reserved for royalty.435 Taking his cue from Oppenheim, Durand suggested that such fabrics had ornamental pieces attached to them: “En mot à mot, l’expression signifie «habit en lin (tissu résistant) à (applications d’)or rouge. »…Le terme de huššum fonctionne dès lors comme notre « brocard ».”436 The fact that gold sequins were generally only attached to red- and crimsondyed garments explains the connection between “red garments” (lubāru sāmu) and “ḫ/ruššû-garments” (TÚG ḫ/ruššû) made in the lexical literature. In summary, its verbal nature, relatively broad semantic range and salience establish ḫ/ruššû as an abstract color word. It falls into the category of brightness-dominated (Type 2) terms, as it primarily describes the light-reflective quality of certain warm-toned metals like gold and bronze, the glow of molten glass as well as the translucence of honey, beer and urine. These very referents likewise confirm that ḫ/ruššû delineates hue, namely yellow-orange colors with reddish tones. It can therefore be understood as glowing+orange. In that sense, it is comparable to English “amber,” which like ḫ/ruššû, also designates varieties of beer and honey.

    433 On this, see arm 23 134: 1–5: 1/3 MA.NA na4ga-bi-i a-na ša-ka-an zi-mi ša TÚG.ḪUŠ.A ŠU.TI.A a-na-dsu’en-ták-la-ku “Ana-Sîn-taklāku received one third minas of alum to set the color (i.e. red dye) of a ḫ/ruššû-garment.” At Mari, alum was used to dye wool red with madder. In this case, we are told that a dyer received the mordant necessary to dye the wool destined for a TÚG.ḪUŠ.A. Alternatively, the phrase ana šakān zīmi may refer to the fact that a finished TÚG.ḪUŠ.A was being re-dyed. 434 Oppenheim 1949 and see discussion of Colored embellishments in Section 435 Attested in arm 18 28: 7: 1 GADA ḫi-rum ša ḫu-ši-i (beside turbans, gloves, linen garments and first quality hauberks in a rush-order for the king). arm 22 324: iii 23–24: 1 TÚG. ḪUŠ.A ša zi-mi / 1 TÚG.ḪUŠ.A (a palace inventory of fabrics, garments and equipment made of linen and leather). 436 Durand 1983, 415; Durand 2009, 172–173.


    Chapter 2

    5.8 Pelû (Light Orange/Red, Copper Red) Pelû is a shade of the red color denoted by sāmu. It frequently appears in color spectrums with the two other abstract terms: sāmu and daʾmu. In light of this, we may guess that it is a hue-dominated (Type 3) color term, focusing primarily on the idea RED and secondarily on a level of brightness or saturation. Its verbal nature, wide semantic range and morphology establish pelû as an abstract color term. Because it is a hyponym of sāmu, however, it cannot be considered a BCT in the Berlin and Kay tradition. 5.8.1 Etymology & History of Attestation The etymological origins of pelû are unknown.437 The color term does not seem to be related to either pe/alû (Sum. NUNUZ) “egg”438 or pīlu (Sum. na4 NA.BUR) “limestone.”439 Von Soden considered that it might be linked to Geʿez falḥa “to bubble, to boil,”440 although this connection is not recognized by either Bulakh or Leslau.441 The color adjective is attested from the Old Babylonian period onwards but the verb is only known from Standard Babylonian omens. 5.8.2 Orthography & By-forms The regular logographic writing for pelû is SU4 (SI-gunû), whereas sāmu “red” is written with SA5 (SI.A). A commentary to Enūma Anu Enlil explains that SUD should also be understood as pelû/pelītu, clearly because of the connection between pelû and zarāqu (Sum. SUD) established in the lexical literature: DIŠ SI.MEŠ-šú ud-du-d[a-m]a SUD.MEŠ U4.1.KAM U4.14.KAM ina IM.DIR pe-li-tú IGI-ma: SUD: pe-lu-ú (tcl 6 17: rev. 16–17; Hunger 1995, 107) ‘If its (the moon’s) horns are pointed and they are SUD (means) on the first day (and) on the 14th day, it appears in a pelītu-cloud: SUD (means) pelû.’ Proto Aa 183: 1–4 [msl 14 96]: [su-ú]: ˹SU 4 (SI-gunû)˺: sa-a-mu, pe-e-lu-u, [z]à-ar-ri-qum, [bi]-˹it-ra˺-mu.

    437 438 439 440 441

    Landsberger 1967, 145 n. 29. cad P 319–321; AHw ii 854. cad P 380. AHw ii 853. Bulakh 2003, 11; Leslau 1987, 159.

    Abstract Colors


    Secondary Proto-Ea/Aa 14 iii´ 1´-5´ [msl 14 136]: [su-ú]: [SU4 (SI-gunû)]: [z]aar-ri-qum, [s]a-mu-ú, [p]é-lu-ú, [pé]-˹e˺-li-a-tum, [si-in]-nu-ur-bu-um. Generally speaking, the color term is written syllabically. The verb is attested in the G- (only in the stative form) and N- (with ingressive meaning) stems. Verbal adjectives are known the G- and D-stems. 5.8.3 Characterization A Type of Red or a Shade of Red? In Akkadian written sources, pelû is the color of blood, ripe fruit, animals (e.g. oxen, pigs, donkeys, dogs, lizards, ants), carnelian, parts of the human body (e.g. face, skin, hair, moles), clouds, rainbows and the moon. The range of referents associated with this color term is more extensive and different from daʾmu, which is never linked to plants or animals. The adjective pelû describes the appearance of objects that are typically red in color and it also frequently qualifies sāmu, the regular word denoting “vivid+red.” In one Neo-Assyrian report about the appearance of the moon, possibly a quotation from the astrological commentary Šumma Sîn ina tāmartīšu, pelû and sāmu are given as synonyms of each other: DIŠ 30 ina ITI.DIRI.ŠE.KIN.KU 5 ina IGI.LÁ-šú SI.MEŠ-šú ud-du-da-ma pe-el NUN KALAG.GA-ma KUR ú-kan-áš ˹SA 5˺: pe-lu: ˹SA 5˺: sa-a-mu (saa 8 252: 1–4) ‘If at its appearance in the intercalary month Addaru (February-March), the moon’s horns are pointed and (the moon) is pelû(-colored), the prince will become strong and subdue the (enemy) land. SA means ‘pelû’ SA means “red.”’ As discussed above, pelû is also linked to sāmu and zarriqu in the lexical lists.442 While it is evident from these facts that pelû is somehow related to the color red, it remains unclear if pelû is a separate term belonging to the category RED, or if it is a shade of the color sāmu. In previous scholarship, the word has been variously translated as “red,”443 “red-yellow (brown),”444 “pale/bright red,”445 “coppery red”446 and “dark orange.”447 442 443 444 445 446 447

    The connection to bitrumu and zarriqu is discussed under barmu (2.4.6). AHw ii 853–854: “rot,” “rot sein.” RlA 3 19. Landsberger 1967, 145; Böck 2000. Rochberg-Halton 1988, 55–56. For the color she means, see pl. 5a. Verderame 1999, 329.


    Chapter 2 Sāmu and pelû As Landsberger observed, the color signified by the term pelû is different from sāmu in almost every textual attestation. At the same time, pelû often qualifies sāmu and seems therefore to be a variation of that color: DIŠ MIN (IZI.GAR) BABBAR DIŠ IZI.GAR.A SA 5 pi-i-lim DIŠ MIN (IZI.GAR) da-a ʾ-mu DIŠ MIN (IZI.GAR) SIG 7 (SB Ālu; CT 39 35: 74–77) ‘If the flame of the fire is bright+white or red (that is) pelû or maroon/ brown or yellow’ NA 4 GAR-šú GE 6-šú SA 5 pe-lu-ú-ti ú-kal na4KA.GI.NA DAB (Abnu šikinšu E 14′; Schuster-Brandis 2008, 33) ‘The stone whose black (surface) contains red (flecks?) of pelû(-shade), šadānu ṣābitu is its name.’ From this, Landsberger concluded that pelû signified either a lighter or brighter shade of the red color denoted by sāmu. Ṣarāpu, he thought, had the effect of intensifying the normal coloration of pelû.448 Pelû is also given as the color of carnelian in UR 5-RA: ḫubullu, which in reality can range from yellow to orange to various shades of red.449 Important evidence for understanding the expression “its red is pelû” (sūmšu peli) is found in omens concerning lunar eclipses. Based on how light behaves as it filters through the earth’s atmosphere during this celestial phenomenon, Rochberg-Halton suggested that the difference between sāmu and pelû lies in tone rather than brightness. In her view, pelû signified a duller, coppery variation of red450 rather than a lighter or brighter one: Even a totally eclipsed moon rarely becomes invisible to the eye, since the earth’s atmosphere refracts sunlight to the surface of the moon. The refraction of light produces the various oranges and reds than can be seen during a lunar eclipse: blue and violet light are absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere while yellow and red reach the moon, giving it a generally coppery cast. These facts are reflected to a degree in the protases of eclipse omens, but the possibility of meteorological factors affecting the 448 Landsberger 1967, 145. 449 Ḫḫ xvi 122 [msl 10 8]: [NA 4.GUG].GÙN.NU: pe-li-tú. 450 This fact was already observed by Landsberger (1967, 142).

    Abstract Colors


    color of the moon during an eclipse, such as clouds or mist, must also be considered in interpreting the omens of the eclipse texts.451 According to the Danjon Scale, which measures the hue and luminosity of the moon during lunar eclipses, various shades and tones of red may become visible, including dull, rusty, coppery reds and brighter, orangey reds.452 If daʾmu covers the darker and duller regions of the chromatic boundaries of RED, this would leave pelû to cover the lighter orangey red areas. Daʾmu and pelû: Like “maroon/brown” (daʾmu), pelû “light orange/red” characterizes the color of blood. However, just as each color is distinct from one another, so too are the conditions and portents about the future they signified. Expelling pelû-colored blood was not necessarily a bad sign, for instance, whereas vomiting daʾmucolored blood invariably meant death:453 DIŠ U4.5.KÁM U4.10.KÁM GIG-ma EGIR-nu MÚD pe-lu-tu ina KIR 4-šú GIN-ku (DPS 16 55´; Heeßel 2000, 177) ‘If he is sick for five, ten days and afterwards, light orange/red blood runs from his nose, (he will recover).’ …ina KIR 4-šú MÚD pe-la-a ŠUB.ŠUB-a (DPS 16 78–79; Heeßel 2000, 179) ‘(If he is sick for one, two months and his sickness leaves him and then returns and) light orange/red blood keeps dripping from his nose, (he is suffering from kiṣṣatu-disease, he will recover).’ DIŠ KI.MIN-ma MÚD MUD iz-zi (DPS 16 10; Heeßel 2000, 172) ‘If (he is sick for one day) and he vomits maroon/brown blood, (he will die).’ The two shades of blood red also appear in a set of terrestrial omens concerning the river and, in that context, too, the apodosis for each color varies.454 It is significant to note that pelû never qualifies the dark maroon color signified by daʾmu just as daʾmu never qualifies sāmu. This tells us that daʾmu and sāmu 451 Rochberg-Halton 1988, 55. 452 See 2.5.5 for the other colors in the scale. 453 But sometimes, it could mean death: DIŠ GIG-ma GIG-su ŠUB-šum-ma ina KA-šú MÚD pe-la-a i-šal-la-a (dps 17 43; Heeßel 2000, 199) “If he is sick, his sickness casts him down and he vomits light orange/red blood from his mouth, (he will die on the same day).”


    Chapter 2

    were distinct colors in Akkadian. The relationship between Akkadian sāmu and pelû is analogous to that between English red and crimson. The meaning of sāmu is included in pelû, just as crimson belongs to the category red. In linguistic terms, this means that sāmu is a hyperonym and pelû a hyponym. With Other Colors Pelû very rarely appears in association with colors other than red. In one extispicy omen, the side of a sacrificial animal’s gall bladder is described as “white (and?) pelû-colored,”455 although it is unclear what this means. Elsewhere in a weather omen, a rainbow’s yellow/green is said to be pelû-red: [DIŠ] MIN SIG 7-šá pe-li i-ta-tu-šá SIG 7 u GE 6 ŠU[B.ŠUB] (EAE 47: 6′; Gelken 2012, 138) ‘If ditto (the rainbow) its yellow/green (part) is light orange/red (and) its edges are unevenly colored with yellow/green and black…’ Vederame took this to mean that the yellow/green part of the rainbow tended towards a reddish shade.456 What is more likely is that the omen describes a situation in which the regular sequence of the rainbow’s colors is inverted. This can occur when two rainbows appear at the same time.457 Thus, the expression aruqša peli in this context refers to the fact that the typically yellow/ green part of the rainbow now appears reddish to the observer because of this inversion. 5.8.4 Designation The color term pelû is not a part of any embedded expressions such as idioms, metaphors and similes in Akkadian. Its appearance in the complex sequence of color referring to facial complexion in Alamdimmû is discussed in the entry for eklu (2.5.5). 5.8.5 Extended Meaning Unlike the other abstract words related to the category RED, ḫ/ruššû, daʾmu and sāmu, figurative and symbolic values were not constructed around the color pelû. This, the lack of frozen expressions related to the term as well as the 454 SB Ālu; CT 39 14: 2–3: DIŠ ÍD GIM MÚD pe-li-i; DIŠ ÍD GIM MÚD da-a ʾ-mu su-ma bal-lu “If the river is like light orange/red blood; If the river is like dark+red blood (and) mixed with red spots.” 455 K.3946+: 11; CT 30 41: DIŠ ZÉ bu-da-a-šá BABBAR pe-la-a. 456 Verderame 1999, 329. 457 Gehlken 2012, 138 n. 23.

    Abstract Colors


    fact that it is a hyponym of sāmu speak against understanding pelû as an BCT in Akkadian. 5.9 Peṣû (Light+White) 5.9.1 Etymology & History of Attestation Some uncertainty surrounds the etymology of peṣû. Following Dietrich,458 Leslau connected it with the proto-Semitic root byṣ “be(come) white, yellow,”459 which appears in Arabic as byḍ (ʾabyaḍ “bright, white,” bāḍa “to grow yellow” and bayyaḍa “make white”) and Ethiopic (bäyyäṣa “be bright, be brilliant”).460 According to Leslau, the noun “egg” derives from this root in several Semitic languages (e.g. Arabic bayḍa, Hebrew beṣā). Bulakh derived Akkadian peṣû from proto-Semitic f/pṣḥ “to be cheerful, happy,” which has a secondary meaning relating to brightness/whiteness. This root is attested in Hebrew (pṣḥ “to be cheerful, happy”), Judeo-Aramaic (pṣaḥ “to burst open, to sparkle, be bright”) and manifests in Arabic as fṣḥ.461 Another proto-Semitic root lbn forms the basis of the basic word for white in Hebrew and Ugaritic.462 Hebrew lǝbānā “white one (i.e. full moon),” Phoenician lbn “white,” and ʾābīb lābōn “white flower (i.e. lily),”463 Judeo-Aramaic lābān “white,”464 Arabic laban “milk” are all related to this root. Both the adjective and verb peṣû are attested from the Old Babylonian period onwards.465 5.9.2 Orthography & By-forms Peṣû (Ass. paṣû) is attested in the G-, Gt-, D- and Dt- stems. Derived nominal forms of this verb include pūṣu “white spot (or mark/fleck)” pūṣi īni “sclera (lit. white of the eye)” and pūṣāya (lúTÚG.BABBAR) “launderer (bleacher).”

    458 459 460 461 462

    Dietrich 1967, 294. Leslau 1987, 116 (byṣ iii). Fischer 1965; Leslau 1987, 116. Bulakh 2003, 4–5. dul 490; Bulakh 2006, 185–192. The color is used to describe the appearance of cattle (Genesis xxx 35), peeled branches of trees (Genesis xxx 37), manna (Exodus xvi 31), skin (Genesis xiii 3), horses (Zechariah i 6), teeth and it is compared with milk (Genesis xlix 12). For further attestations, see Bulakh 2006, 185–187. 463 Bulakh 2006, 186. 464 Jastrow 1926, 690. 465 The reference to a white TÚG.NÍG.LÁM garment mentioned in mad 3 (= Gelb 1957), 218 is from the Cruciform Monument, which is now known to date to reign of Nabonidus in the sixth century bce and not to the third millennium (CT 32 4: xi 22–23: 1 TÚG.NÍG.LÁM pi-ṣi-tum).


    Chapter 2

    The “white plant” (úBABBAR) is an unidentified ingredient in glassmaking and medical texts.466 An adverbial form of this color verb is not attested. 5.9.3 Characterization Peṣû is the basic Akkadian word for “to be light+white” Comparison to objects with a consistent white color, such as milk, alabaster and gypsum, clearly establishes its hue: DIŠ ÍD ina ILLU A-ša GIM GA pe-ṣu-ú (SB Ālu; CT 39 20: 134) ‘If the water in a river at the flood is like white milk’ DIŠ KA.TAR pa-nu-šu GIM IM.BABBAR nam-ru (SB Ālu xii 87–88; Freedman 1998, 198) ‘If a fungus’s surface is bright like white clay (i.e. gypsum)’ [BE MUNUS] Ù.TU-ma MIN(ul-la-nu-um)-ma GIM na4GIŠ.NU 11.GAL BABBAR (Izbu IV 12; De Zorzi 2014, ii 442) ‘[If a woman] gives birth and (the newborn) is already white like alabaster (end of the reign; omen: a king of the world).’467 The stones known as pīlu and parûtu, probably limestone and a type of alabaster respectively, are also commonly characterized as being peṣû-colored. In bilingual lexical lists, pīlu (na4NA.BUR) is explained as “white stone” (na4peṣû).468 Neo-Assyrian kings claim to employ pīlu peṣû and parûtu to fashion monumental art in their royal inscriptions—a statement that is substantiated by the extensive use of limestone and gypseous alabaster in palace architecture at Kalḫu, Khorsabad and Nineveh. By the late second millennium, parûtu also became a color word, referring to a shade of opaque white glass469 and painted or glazed brick.470 466 Oppenheim et al. 1970, 72 n. 91. 467 The term gišnugallu refers to any bright, white stone that was used for building and statues (Schuster-Brandis 2008, 412). This would explain why a limestone monumental inscription dating to the reign of Shalmaneser iii (859–824 bce) describes the stone upon which it is carved as gišnugallu, traditionally understood as “alabaster” (Kinnier Wilson, 1962). Likewise, a magnesite building inscription from Khorsabad dating to Sargon ii’s (721-705 bce) reign describes the same stone as gišnugallu (Bjorkmann 1987, 93–96). 468 Ḫg B iv to Ḫḫ xvi 133 [msl 10 34]: NA 4.NA.BUR: pi-i-lu: NA 4 pe-ṣu-u. 469 E.g. Recipe §K is for the production of “Assyrian parûtu” (Oppenheim et al. 1970, 50). Since the recipe calls for the addition of lead-antimonate containing tuzkû, it must have had a yellowish tinge. 470 A.0.87.10: 65–67 [rima 2 54]: ˹É.GAR 8˺.MEŠ-te-ša ù na-mé-ri-ša ú-ša-q[i]-ma i-na a-gúr-ri NA 4.MEŠ na4ṣur-ri na4ZA.GÌN na4BABBAR.DILI na4pa-˹ru˺-te ki-ma tam-li-te ú-re-ki-is

    Abstract Colors


    Other real-world referents associated with this color include the cucumber seed, turnip bulb and a gecko: BE 6-šú MU.NI GIŠ.TUKUL 15 GIM […] GIM NUMUN UKÚŠ pe-ṣi […] (bārûtu 8 kakku D; K 2092: rev. ii 8-9; ­Nougayrol 1974, 63) ‘If—sixth lesson—the weapon on its right side is…(meaning): it is white like a cucumber seed,…’ GIM ŠE.SA.A pi-ri-ʾi-šú GIM NUMUN lap-ti lip-ṣu-u pa-nu-šú (NA incantation; CT 23 10: 19) ‘May his offspring be (sterile) like roasted barley, may his face become as white as a turnip…’471 In the Standard Babylonian curse cited above, the scribe has made a play on words between laptu (ŠE.SA.A) “roasted barley” and laptu “turnip.” The fact that roasted barley cannot produce a sprout is mentioned in a previous line in the same curse formula (CT 23 10: 17). A blanched face is mentioned in the physiognomic omen the prognosis of which is unfortunately broken.472 The humerous comparison between a women’s fair complexion and the color of a gecko is made in the so-called Love Lyrics: tap-pat-ti a-mur-ma ḫa-ma-ku dan-niš pe-ṣa-ti-ma ki pi-zal-lu-ur-[t]i maš-ku nag-lat ki-ma di-q[a-ri] tu-uḫ-tan-nab tu-uḫ-ta[š šá-áš] (K 6082+ 81-7-27+ 241 b: 14–17; Lambert 1975, 120) ‘I saw my beloved and was completely overwhelmed, (saying) you are fair like a gecko, your skin is glowing473 like a bowl,474 you are exuberant, you are made [happy].’

    “I raised its (the palace’s) walls and towers and I fitted them with baked bricks (the color of ) obsidian (i.e. shiny black), lapis lazuli (i.e. dark+blue), pappardillu (i.e. white with one black stripe), ala[ba]ster (i.e. white) as though with (precious stone-) inlays.” 471 The same expression is used in CT 23 10: 14 (kīma zēr lapti lipṣû pānūka). 472 Alamdimmû VIII 27; Böck 2000, 110. 473 AHw ii 709: nagālu “gleißen, glühen.” 474 A diqāru is typically an earthenware bowl that can be used for heating, so the poet may be comparing the woman’s skin to how it glows when set upon a fire (cad D 157–158).


    Chapter 2

    Overall, the real-world referents associated with the color white in Akkadian written sources are more diverse than those in Sumerian texts, which chiefly constitute animals.475 5.9.4 Designation When it is used to classify rather than to describe color, peṣû may also be associated with objects and materials that are not purely white, designating all LIGHT+WARM colors such as flesh tones, light pinks, oranges and yellows. Among the animals mentioned as white in the lexical lists are cats, dogs, horses, pigs, oxen and moths. The hundreds of white camels mentioned in a NeoAssyrian letter most likely refers to a light-haired variety of the creature, since albino camels are rare.476 White wine (karānu paṣû477) and white ale (šikaru paṣû478) are mentioned in administrative texts. White and black barley was also known.479 Idioms The frozen expression “white of the eye” (pūṣi īni) was used to refer to the sclera just as “shadow of the eye” (ṣulul īni) referred to the pupil and “wine of the eye” (karān īni) meant its rim.480 In the following omen from the terrestrial omen series Šumma ālu, the sclera is simply designated as “the whites”: [BE GU]D IGI.ii-šú BAL-ma BABBAR ú-kal-lam (CT 40 32: rev.17) ‘If an ox’s eyes roll back and the whites show’ Akkadian-speakers intuitively understood the conceptual metonymy expressed in a statement such as “If the whites of the eyes are red,”481 where the word “red” stands for the redness of the sclera meaning tiredness or disease of the whole eye. There was no ambiguity between a phrase such as “his eyes are brown,” meaning the color of the irises, and “the whites of his eyes are yellow” 475 In Sumerian, Foulger noted the following things described as white (BABBAR/ BÁBBAR): animals (SILA 4 “lamb,” AM “bull,” MÁŠ “goat,” ÁB “cow,” ŠILAM “cow,” U8 “mother cow,” GU 4 “ox,” UR “dog,” BURU 5mušen “flock of birds”) (Foulger 2006, 29). 476 saa 11 162: rev. 4: PAP 1 ME 25 ANŠE.gam-mal-MEŠ pa-ṣu-u-te “Total: one hundred and twenty-five white camels.” 477 One of the earliest references dates to the Old Akkadian period (mcs 9 247: 6). 478 E.g. in gcci 1 182: 1; tcl 12 1: 1; CT 57 162: 2. 479 E.g. uṭṭatu peṣîtum (obt Tell Rimah 331: 1 and 332: 1). 480 Fincke 2000, 19. 481 K. 130; Fincke 2000, 256 n. 1913: BE BABBAR IGI.ii-šú SA 5.

    Abstract Colors


    because it was clear that two separate aspects of color were being discussed in each statement: the appearance of the iris remained constant, whereas the “white of the eye,” an idiom that in itself imparts no perceptual information, can change color. Lighter Shade and Bright White When peṣû qualifies the appearance of metals and stones that are not white in color, it signifies a lighter shade of the material’s original color. In this way, its meaning differs from namru (ZÁLAG), which describes the dazzling quality of a brighter material. Thus, the substance na4duḫšu peṣû, mentioned as a product of one of the glass recipes, is a lighter shade of yellow glass.482 Likewise, na4zagindurû peṣû mentioned by Sargon ii refers to light blue glass: na-as-qu si-mat LUGAL-ti ša G[I]M! na4ZA.GÌN.DURU 5-i pe-ṣa-[…] (Ann. 229; Fuchs 1994, 130 and 325) ‘(Ammun, a mountain, (which) (lies) before…, (yields) exquisite BAR.GÙN.GÙN.NU-stone), choice befitting royalty that is like light blue glass (or faience).’ White copper,483 white tin,484 white gold485 and white silver all probably refer to alloyed metals that may have appeared lighter than the original color of the metal. Peṣû can also describe the appearance of whitish light-emitting objects such as planets and stars. In Enūma Anu Enlil, Jupiter is designated as the “White Star”: MUL.BABBAR MUL.SAG.ME.[G]AR MUL.SA 5 dṣal-bat-a-nu MUL.SIG 7 d dil-bat MUL.GE 6 dSAG.UŠ: dGUD.UD (K.2346+3904+8725: 54; Reiner and Pingree 1998, 249) ‘The white star is Jupiter, the red is Mars, the yellow star is Venus, the black is Saturn: (variant) Mercury.’

    482 §J and §K; Oppenheim et al. 1970, 50; Thavapalan forthcoming. 483 E.g. Old Assyrian administrative text KTS 1 18: 9: [x] MA.NA URUDU pá-aṣ-am “x minas of white copper.” 484 E.g. mrs 12 155: 7: [x] GÍN KÙ.BABBAR.MEŠ AN.[N]A BABBAR.MEŠ “x shekels of silver (expended for) white tin.” For the reading of AN.NA BABBAR, see Landsberger 1965. 485 E.g. Old Babylonian administrative text arm 21 219: 16–17:


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    Even though Venus is the “Yellow Star,” its appearance varied, depending on atmospheric factors: MUL dil-bat AGA BABBAR ap-[rat dSAG.U]Š ina IGI-šá DU-ma (K.148: rev. 11; Reiner and Pingree 1998, 59): ‘If Venus we[ars] a white crown (and) [Satur]n stands in front of her’

    Technical Meaning

    Textile and Glass Industries

    Several terms related to the verb peṣû take on technical meanings when they appear in written sources concerning the textile industry. Within this context, the adjective peṣû designates either undyed or bleached wool and linen (see The verb puṣṣû means “to bleach” or “to launder” and the launderer was called the lúpūṣāya. Pūṣammūtu “the craft of laundering,” is only attested in Neo-Babylonian texts.486 In this document from Nuzi, dyed cloth is differentiated with undyed or bleached cloth: 3 pu-ra-[ku].MEŠ bá-aš-lu-tu4 2 pu-ra-[ku] pè-ṣa-tu4 (hss 14 616: 26–27) ‘Three dyed purāku-fabrics and two undyed purāku-fabrics.’ Among the many ceremonies that took place in Babylonian temples was the “Cleaning of the Temple” (puṣṣû ša bīti) ritual, which according to one NeoBabylonian text from the Ebabbar, was performed by a potter. Not much else is known about this ritual except that flour offerings were made for it.487 Finally, in the glassmaking recipes, the verb peṣû is used to describe the first stage of heating the powdered silica, potash and calcium. Oppenheim thought this referred to sintering—the process of heating a mixture of materials until they become a coherent mass.488 6 SU KÙ.SI 22 BABBAR KI.LÁ.BI 4 ḪAR.ŠU 1/3 M[A].NA 5 SU KÙ.BABBAR-šú- 2 SU KÙ.SI 22 BABBAR 8 SU KÙ.BABBAR-šú ša tu-di-na-tim “Six shekels of white gold, the weight of four bracelets worth twenty-five shekels of silver, two shekels of white gold, worth eight shekels of silver, for fibulas.” For further references, see cad P 333. 486 cad P 538. Cleaning was referred to with zukkû. For laundry, see Waerzeggers 2006 and Payne 2007, 100, 108–109, 111–112. The extant evidence is mainly from the Neo-Babylonian period. 487 For the text and discussion, see Bongenaar 1997, 122 and n. 136. 488 Oppenheim et al. 1970.

    Abstract Colors



    Peṣû is infrequently attested as a diagnostic color in medical texts.489 Not surprisingly, it is not used to designate the color of human eyes or blood.490 In the urine scale, at least two shades of white are described: peṣû meaning “cloudy” and kīma šizbi “milky”: [šu]m4-ma KÀŠ-šú BABBAR-ma e-ba-a NA BI NA 4 šá-ḫi-ḫ[u] GIG (amt 58 4: 3; Scurlock and Anderson 2005, 101) ‘If his urine is cloudy (lit. white) and thick, that person is sick with ˹excreted˺ stones’ DIŠ KÀŠ.MEŠ-šu GIM GA (dps 14 122; Scurlock 2014, 123) ‘If his urine is like milk (he will get well).’ Human urine may appear white or milky due to the presence of calcium phosphate crystals or to certain parasitic diseases.491 Pūṣu is a medical term meaning “white spot,” probably caused by localized loss of natural pigmentation in the skin.492 It is typically a negative symptom.493 DIŠ ŠU.ii-šú SIG 7.MEŠ u IGI.ii-šú pu-ṣa ŠU[B…] (dps 11 B11; Scurlock 2014, 83) ‘If both his hands are yellow and both his eyes are unev[enly colored] with white spots…’ The example of a woman giving birth to an infant that is “white as alabaster” quoted above probably refers to a case of albinism. Fair skin caused by severe anemia is described in Akkadian medical omens as “disfigured with white” (peṣû + nakāru).494 Aside from these cases, peṣû seems to refer to the normal, healthy coloration of a person’s skin. The prognosis for a person with a peṣû-colored nose, for 489 Heeßel 2000, 44. 490 It is, however, included in the color spectrum for the blood of a sacrificial sheep (CT 41: 10–13, 17–19 and Landsberger 1969, 144). 491 Scurlock and Anderson 2005, 100–101. 492 Scurlock and Anderson 2005, 218. 493 Fincke cautiously cited Labat’s interpretation of yellow hands and white spots in the eye as symptoms of jaundice (Fincke 2000, 137). Scurlock and Anderson observed that more generally, a loss of normal skin pigmentation may be related to reduced pain and touch sensation (Scurlock and Anderson 2005, 218). 494 Scurlock and Anderson 2005, 392–393.


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    i­nstance, was very positive.495 Unnatural blanching could be described with the phrase magal peṣi. With reference to the sclera of the eye, peṣû meaning “normal” appears in between dark brown (da ʾāmu) and light brown (pelû). Peṣû can also signify something blanched or colorless but not necessarily white. In the following commentary to a physiognomic omen, for instance, it refers to a person’s bloodless lips: DIŠ ˹SAG˺.[DU U]GA(Ú.N]AGA)mušen GAR U4.MEŠ-šú GÍD.MEŠ im-man-gar [šá SÍG ?] SAG.DU-šú GE 6-ma NUNDUM.MEŠ-šú BABBAR.MEŠ (vat 10493 + 10543: iv 7–8; Heeßel 2010a, 147, 151) ‘If he has a raven-head: his days will be long, his prayers will be answered. (Meaning) his head [hair] is black and his lips are blanched.’ 5.9.5 Extended Meaning Blank The English word “blank” takes its meaning from the French color word blanc. So too in Akkadian, the idea of emptiness can be related to colorlessness in certain contexts. For instance, peṣû can designate emptied lands and agricultural plots, as in the following Old Assyrian legal document: 1 šu-bat LÁ 1/6 GÍN q[a-ki-r]i pá-ṣí-ú-tim (mah 15.962: 2; cad Š 185) ‘One šubat minus one sixth of a shekel, empty land’ Likewise, in this Middle Assyrian will, two vacant plots of land within the city limits are designated with the same term: É ep-šu a-di 2 gišIG.MEŠ-šu u qa-qu-ru pa-ṣi-ú-tum ša qa-bal URU (kaj 174: 3) ‘A built house (or in good repair?) with two doors and empty plots in the Inner City’ Because black and white were considered complementary colors, ṣalmu took on the extended meaning “fertile” when paired in opposition with peṣû, which probably refers to the salinization of the soil in the poetic reference below: 495 dps 6: 1–2. A red nose is also a positive sign whereas a black or a maroon colored nose was a sign of death (Scurlock 2014, 51).

    Abstract Colors


    GE 6.MEŠ lip-ṣu-ú A.GÀR EDIN pal-ku-ú lu-li-id id-ra-nu (SB Atraḫasis 4: 47–48; Lambert and Millard 1969, 108)496 ‘Let the fertile (lit. black) meadows turn white, let the broad steppe bear potash!’ 5.10 Sāmu (Vivid+Red) 5.10.1 Etymology & History of Attestation Akkadian sāmu is not etymologically linked to words for “red” in other Semitic languages. The root ḥmr “to be(come) red,” attested in Arabic, Epigraphic South Arabic, Post-Biblical Hebrew and Ethiopic, is related to Akkadian emēru “to be(come) red.” In addition to ʾ aḥmar the common word for red, Arabic has qanāʾa “to be(come) intensely red.”497 Writing about the origins of abstract color terms in languages, one anthropologist observed: It seems to be a universal feature of languages that color perceptions are described, at some stage, in terms of locally salient referents, such as certain characteristically-looking minerals, animals or plants.498 In Akkadian, however, the word for the “red stone” carnelian (na4GUG/ sāmtu) seems to derive from the abstract color word. The sāmtu-stone is attested in written sources from the early second millennium onwards, whereas the color adjective is found earlier, in Old Akkadian texts. The earliest attestations of the verb “to be(come) red” (sâmu) are found in Old Babylonian texts.499 An omen500 from the Old Babylonian period, which interprets a red spot (sūmu) on the sacrificial lamb as a divine desire for carnelian (erišti sāmti), plays with this connection between the terminology for color and stone as well as the strong visual and cultural link between the two. Ugaritic šmt, clearly a cognate of sāmtu, is both a type of red wool (equated with Akkadian tabarru) as well as a precious red stone.501 According to van Soldt, the latter meaning is probably

    496 Written syllabically in manuscript D (Lambert and Millard 1969, 78): ṣa-al-mu-tum ip-ṣú-ú ú-g[a-ru] ṣe-ru pa-ar-ku ma-li id-r[a-na]. 497 ael 2623 and 3093. For instance, in Arabic, šay ʾaḥmar al-qāni would be “a thing intensely red.” 498 Wierzbicka 1990, 138. 499 cad S 121–124 for sāmtu A and 126–131 for sâmu. 500 yos 10 52: col. ii 24. 501 Van Soldt 1990, 343.


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    the original sense of the word. A connection between Akkadian sāmu and Hebrew šōham, a precious stone, was posited by Goetze.502 In Bulakh’s view, however, this is untenable since the Ugaritic word for carnelian does not have the medial /ḫ/. Unable to find a satisfactory etymology for sāmu, Bulakh concluded with von Soden and Landsberger that the word for the stone is derived from the color.503 The pronunciation of the Sumerian word connected with Akkadian sāmu in the bilingual word lists—probably /süa/ or /sā/—suggests the possibility that sāmu is connected to a Sumerian rather than a Semitic lexical tradition. Landsberger discussed the logographic readings for red504 based on the following lexical passages: 1. Proto-Ea 183 indicates that SI-gunû had the pronunciation su (hence the value su4). 2. Ea 200 connects SI-gunû, pronounced su, with the Akkadian word sāmu. 3. In the Sumerian forerunner of UR 5.RA: ḫubullu, red is written SU 4.A (= SI-gunû.A), while the canonical version uses the DIRI sign (i.e. with the value SA 5).The secondary branches of Proto-Ea/Aa (22: ii´´ 31´ [msl 14 144]) also indicate a /sā/ pronunciation for the word. 5.10.2 Orthography & By-forms The verb is only attested in the G-, Gt- and D-stems. Derived nominal forms include: sāmtu “carnelian,” sūmu “redness, red glow, red spot” from the Old Babylonian period onward and sāmūtu “red cakes.” An adverbial form is not attested. Personal and divine names containing a form of the word are known from the Old Babylonian period onwards.505 5.10.3 Characterization Sāmu describes warm, vivid (i.e. high in saturation) hues like red, brown and red-orange but focuses in the red range of the chromatic spectrum. It is categorized as a saturation-dominated (Type 5) color term in the present study. As mentioned already, the Akkadian word for carnelian (na4GUG, sāmtu), a semi-precious gem that ranked second only to lapis lazuli as the preferred stone for beaded jewelry and amulets in Mesopotamia, takes its name from this color word. Color is what links the protasis and apodosis of the omen from

    502 503 504 505

    Goetze 1958, 149. Bulakh 2003, 7–8; AHw ii 1019; Landsberger 1967, 150. Landsberger 1967 n. 10–11. cad S 129.

    Abstract Colors


    the Old Babylonian period quote below, in which the appearance of a red spot on a sacrificial lamb’s tongue is interpreted as a request for red gemstones: šum-ma lu-uḫ-ḫi MUŠEN uš-ba-al-ki-it-ma i-na li-ša-nim su-mu-um na-di e-ri-iš-ti sa-am-tim šum-ma li-ib-bi li-ša-nim pu-ṣa-am na-di e-ri-iš-ti KÙ.BABBAR-im šum-ma li-ib-bi li-ša-nim wa-ru-aq na-di e-ri-iš-ti KÙ.SI 22 (yos 10 51: ii 23–28) ‘If he opened up (lit. overturned) the bird’s throat and there is a vivid+red spot on the tongue, a desire for carnelian.’ ‘If the middle of the tongue is bright+white, a desire for silver.’ ‘If the middle of the tongue is pale+yellow/green, a desire for gold.’ The visual qualities of carnelian, which is a red, reddish orange or reddish brown, translucent variety of chalcedony, are not uniform—the exact shade, sheen and level of transparency varies depending on the source. Therefore, identifying sāmu with this stone alone is not enough to pinpoint the exact color meant by this word. The connection to blood in these two Old Babylonian omens establish that sāmu denotes a reddish hue: DIŠ [UDU] i-na ṭa-ba-ḫi-šu da-mu-ú-šu su-um-mu (yos 10 47: 22) ‘If the [sheep’s] blood is red when it is slaughtered’ [DIŠ] UDU da-mu-šu ki-ma il-lu-ri sa-a-mu (copy from Assur, vat 9518: 7; Ebeling 1931, 42) ‘If the sheep’s blood is red like the anemone flower, (the prince will grow old on his throne).’ ša pa-a-ri Ida-šur-le-ʾi lúEN URU-šú-nu il-lu-ri-iš ú-si-mu-ma (Sargon cylinder 33; Fuchs 1994, 37) ‘I (Sargon), who reddened the skin of Aššur-lēʾi the ruler of their city like (the color of) the anemone’ The D-stem of abstract color verbs generally takes on factitive meaning but the stative form in the first omen makes this grammatically impossible. As there is no plurality, the D-stative here appears to be semantically equivalent to the G-stative in the second omen. Sargon’s claim to have reddened his enemy’s flayed skin is connected to the image of blood as well. Essentially an intense, warm color, the chromatic range of sāmu accommodates a variety of red, red-brown and red-orange shades. The appearance of


    Chapter 2

    fire,506 the morning sky,507 a clay tablet508 and textiles dyed with madder are all described as sāmu-colored. Sāmu is also the characteristic color of certain fruit and flowers, including the illūru-plant (likely the Anemone coronaria flower that grows abundantly in the Middle East) and the olive, both of which are known to have red varieties: NA 4 GAR-šú GIM ed-de-ti na4˹GUG˺ MU.NI (Abnu šikinšu 5; SchusterBrandis 2008, 24) ‘The stone whose appearance is like (the berry of) the boxthorn(?), its name is carnelian.’ SA 5 ša GIM bu-la-li IGI.ii-šú ta-pa-aš-ša-aš (amt 16 3: col. i 9) ‘You shall rub his eyes with the red stone which is like (i.e. as red as) the bulālu(-plant).’ na4

    Nabnītu xxii 229–230 [msl 16 198]: GUG: sa-am-tum, GI.RI.IM: MIN (sa-am-tum) Ḫḫ iii 231–232, 235 [msl 5 112]: GIŠ.GI.RIM: in-bi “fruit,” il-lu-ru “anemone,” si-ir-du “olive” This flexibility in the hues it delineates as well as the fact that it is the complementary color of arqu “pale+yellow/green” are both reasons to categorize sāmu as a saturation-dominated (Type 5). Excursus, Sāmtu Carnelian is a variety of chalcedony, the natural coloration of which ranges from yellow to orange- and brown-red (see pl. 1a and compare its color to red jasper, pl. 1b). The red hue is due to the presence of iron oxide impurities in the chalcedony, usually in the form of hematite.509 Roasting yellow chalcedony at temperatures between 250° and 350° Celsius will result in a more vivid red hue in the stone, then called carnelian. It is possible that the ancient Mesopotamians imported chalcedony of various colors from Iran and the Indian subcontinent and “processed” them locally in this manner, just as Harrell has argued 506 CT 39 35: 34: DIŠ IZI IZI.GAR.A-šá sa-a-mu “If the flame of the fire is sāmu(-colored).” The color appears between daʾmu and peṣû. 507 saa 8 266: rev. 4: DIŠ 20 KUR-ma AN-ú i-si-mu MU.MEŠ dam-qa-a-ti LUGAL i-dan-nin “If the sun rises and the sky turns sāmu(-colored), good years, the king will become strong.” 508 BM 35163; Wiseman 1974, pl. 56 rev. 2: IM.GÍD.DA ṣir-pa sa-a-mu “‘long tablet’ stained sāmu(-color).” From a tablet containing omens about Kassite kings written in 553 bce. 509 Moorey 1994, 97–98; Aston, Harrell and Shaw 2000, 25–27.

    Abstract Colors


    the ancient Egyptians did.510 Given the strong association of carnelian with the color red, however, it is more likely that the majority of the stones were treated in the east and sent red to Mesopotamia. Several varieties of carnelian are differentiated by their colorful markings in Abnu šikinšu: ‘The stone whose appearance is like (the berry of) the boxthorn(?), its name is carnelian.’ ‘Carnelian (with) white speckles, its name is Meluḫḫa carnelian.’ ‘Carnelian (with) kasû(-colored) speckles, its name kasû-carnelian.’ ‘Carnelian (with) dark/black speckles, its name kasû-carnelian.’ ‘Carnelian (with) yellow speckles, its name Marḫaši-carnelian.’ ‘Carnelian (with) ṣurru-speckles, its name is ṣurrānītu.’511 In the Akkadian glassmaking recipes, carnelian-colored glasses are distinguished by geo-political designations: Assyrian carnelian (na4GUG aš-šurki), synonymous with Assyrian alabaster (na4pa-ru-te aš-šurki) Elamite carnelian (na4GUG e-lam-me-te) Akkadian carnelian (na4GUG ak-kà-di-ti) Marhashian carnelian (na4GUG mar-ḫa-ši-tu) Of these, only “Marḫaši carnelian” can be correlated with an entry in the stone list. In this case, the geo-political tag may refer to Bronge Age centers of glass production, whereas in the stone list, Meluḫḫa and Marḫaši were where the Babylonians thought genuine carnelian came from. No other type of glass— e.g. duḫšu, uqnû and pappardilû—is classified in this manner, an indicator, perhaps, of the special statue of red glass in ancient times owing to the difficulty involved in its production.512 While sāmtu “carnelian” primarily refers to the gemstone or its imitation in glass, it occasionally functions as a color word. In the following extract from a 510 Harrell 2012, 5; 2016. 511 NA 4 GAR-šú GIM ed-de-ti na4 GUG MU.NI NA 4 GUG BABBAR tak-pat na4 GUG me-luḫ-ḫa MU.NI NA 4 GUG GAZI sar tak-pat na4GUG.GAZI sar MU.NI NA 4 GUG GE 6 tak-pat na4 GUG.GAZI sar MU.NI NA 4 GUG SIG 7 tak-pat na4 GUG mar-ḫa-ši MU.NI NA 4 ˹GUG˺ Z[Ú t]ak-p[at] na4 ˹GUG˺ ˹ZÚ˺ [M]U.[NI] (Abnu šikinšu 5–9a; Schuster-Brandis 2008, 24–25). 512 See for how red glass was manufactured in ancient times.


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    hymn, for instance, the reddish glow of the moon rising against a dark blue sky is described with the terms for precious stones: 30 ta-at-ta-ṣa-a ina na4GUG KÙ u n[a4ZA.GÌN] (K 3794+K 2792+K 7973; Perry 1907 5a: 7) ‘(Sîn, shining, dazzling one…) O Sîn, you come forth with (colors of) pure carnelian and [lapis lazuli].’ d

    Elsewhere in celestial omens, calcite, carnelian and lapis lazuli are used to allude to the yellow, red and dark blue colors of shooting stars:513 DIŠ MUL ana na4DUḪ.ŠI.A / na4GUG / na4ZA.GÌN GUR (K 139+4363: rev. 33–35 ; Fincke 2013, 188) ‘If a star turns lapis lazuli/ yellow calcite/ carnelian (in color)’ Red and Yellow “Carnelian” Glass In the Akkadian glassmaking recipes, sāmtu refers not only to opaque red but also to yellow glasses. The Middle Babylonian glass text (BM 12096) is the only real recipe for producing copper-based opaque red glass named “carnelian,” after the hue and luster of the well-known, precious gemstone. The ingredients recorded there—a soda-lime-silica base (zukû or anzaḫḫu), lead, copper and antimony—are exactly what is to be expected for opaque red glass. The two primary “carnelian” glasses featured in this multi-step recipe are of two varieties: the first kind, “Assyrian carnelian” (A.BÁR514), contains high levels of both lead and copper, whereas the second, “Akkadian carnelian,” seems to be a lowlead glass. As to the procedure, Brill and Cahill summarize it succinctly, in the following manner: The sections describing the preparation of red opaques specify the use of copper, closed containers, smoky fires, long firing times, and the need for cooling the glass while still within the kiln. Moreover, they describe ritual processes which suggest the difficulty and perhaps somewhat chancy nature of the processes.515 513 Written in Neo-Assyrian ductus, this unusual sequence of omens is preserved in manuscripts from Nineveh and Ḫuzirīna (Fincke 2013, 184). The other colors mentioned are metallic (silver, gold and copper); shapes (e.g. crescent, sun-disk) and forms (e.g. “penis of a lion,” louse) appear in the sequence as well. 514 Perhaps a pun on the fact that the Assyrian carnelian is a high-lead (abāru) glass. 515 Brill and Cahill 1988, 18–19.


    Abstract Colors

    All of the other so-called “carnelian” glasses named in the glassmaking recipes are actually yellow in color and not truly red. The maškantu-type recipes for Assyrian, Elamite and Marḫašian carnelian glasses omit copper as an ingredient, the coloring agent for red glass. Instead, these three varieties of carnelian glasses contain extremely high levels of lead. The lead is incorporated into the glass as a raw material (abāru) and as part of a lead-containing primary glass (tuzkû). This can only yield a mustard-yellow colored glass. Table 2.6 summarizes the ingredients for the production of the various “carnelian” glass types discussed above: Table 2.6  Ingredients for producing carnelian glass



    maškantu-list Tablet D §J and §K in Oppenheim et al. 1970, 50 ybc 9834A (Frag. A rev.)

    Assyrian carnelian glass (na4GUG aš-šurki) = Assyrian alabaster (na4pa-ru-te aš-šurki) One mina lead-containing light-yellow glass (duḫšu peṣû) Fifteen shekels lead-antimonate primary glass (tuzkû) Elamite carnelian glass (na4GUG e-lam-me-te) One mina basic glass (zukû) Fifteen shekels lead-antimonate primary glass (tuzkû) Ten shekels lead (abāru) Elamite carnelian glass (na4GUG e-la-me-te) One mina basic glass (zukû) Sixteen shekels lead-antimonate primary glass (tuzkû) Ten shekels lead (abāru) Half shekel antimony compound (KÙ.ÁG) Marhašian carnelian glass (na4GUG mar-ḫaši-tu) [x] mina two shekels plant ash (aḫussu) [x] mina of unwashed antimony-­ containing compound (anzaḫḫu) Half mina yellow lead-based colorant (IM.SIG 7.SIG 7)

    maškantu-list Tablet D §I in Oppenheim et al. 1970, 50 ybc 9834A (Frag. A obv.) maškantu-list Tablet D §Q in Oppenheim et al. 1970, 53

    maškantu-list Tablet D §N in Oppenheim et al. 1970, 53


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    Table 2.6 Ingredients for producing carnelian glass (cont.)



    Middle Babylonian Glass Text Assyrian carnelian glass (na4GUG A.BÁR) §i in Oppenheim et al. 1970, One mina basic glass (zukû) 63 Ten shekels lead (abāru) Fifteen shekels copper (URUDU) Half shekel antimony-containing compound (anzaḫḫu) Half shekel antimony compound (KÙ.ÁG) Middle Babylonian Glass Text Akkadian carnelian glass (na4GUG ak-kà-di-ti) §ii in Oppenheim et al. 1970, One mina basic glass (zukû) 63 One sixth shekels lead (abāru) Ten shekels copper (URUDU) One shekel antimony compound (KÙ.ÁG) One shekel antimony-containing compound (anzaḫḫu) In brief, although the Akkadian word for carnelian derives from the verb “to be red” (sâmu), within the context of the glass recipes at least, sāmtu also seems to refer to yellow-colored glasses. On the one hand, this reveals that the Mesopotamians were familiar with the fact that the natural coloration of chalcedony ranged between yellowish-orange and red and that heat treatment imbues the mineral with a a more vibrant red. On the other, we must also assume that since both yellow and red varieties of carnelian were imitated in glass, the Mesopotamians were not only interested in red varieties of chalcedony but also the yellow. 5.10.4 Designation Sāmu is one of five terms that appear as part of the fixed sequence of colors in the canonical bilingual lexical UR 5.RA: ḫubullu as well as in certain omen and medical texts that are also formatted as lists.516 In these cases, the term functions either as a color category or else as a technical term and so does not necessarily disclose empirical information. 516 For the various plants, animals, foodstuff, minerals, metals and other substances from the natural world are qualified with the adjective sāmu, see Table 2.3B.

    Abstract Colors


    Technical Meaning Textile Industry

    Within the textile industry, SÍG sāmu “red wool” operates as a technical term and refers to naturally pigmented red-brown fleece. It is deliberately distinguished from artificially colored red wools that are either specified as dyed or else are associated with a particular colorant.517 Aside from this convention in terminology within the industry, undyed wools may also be differentiated from dyed ones based on the fact that they are cheaper and mentioned in much larger quantities. For instance, in Old Assyrian texts, red-dyed makrû-wool is mentioned in amounts ranging from 5–10 kilograms, whereas undyed “red wool” (sāmum) appears in much larger quantities—up to 600 kilograms in one text.518 Medicine

    Forms of the color verb sâmu appear in connection with almost every type of bodily referent in the medical corpus and in the physiognomic omens. The related word sūmu (or summu) is a technical term meaning “red spot,”519 which may manifest on the skin or on bodily organs. The expression sāmu + nakāru refers to abnormal skin discoloration in a general sense, whereas sāmu + nadû describes an uneven pattern of coloration, perhaps red patches or streaks.520 Fluctuations in the patient’s appearance—change from ruddy (sāmu) to pale (arqu) or dark (ṣalmu) were also noted. With respect to the appearance of warts and scars, Landsberger observed a distinction in color intensity between sāmu and sūma ṣarip, which he translated as “red” and “burning-red,” respectively;521 in fact, the expression is better understood as “dyed red.” Except in the case of testicles (Alamdimmû XIV), nipples (Alamdimmû XII) and hair (Alamdimmû II), sāmu was considered an unfavorable symptom in connection with a person’s external anatomy.522 With urine (šinātu), on the other hand, sāmu was considered a normal, healthy color.523 If this is to be reconciled with medical reality, sāmu cannot be understood as red or brown here; rather, it probably indicates the light pink hue

    517 Thavapalan 2018a. 518 Lassen 2014, 258–259. See cct 4, 47a: 30–33, quoted in Michel and Veenhof 2010, 214. 519 E.g. a-na su-um-mu ra-šá-na SIG 5-iq “(the salve) is good for red spots (and) hair loss” (BM 79244: 19–20; Scurlock and Anderson 2005, 219). 520 Scurlock and Anderson 2005, 217. 521 Landsberger 1967, 144. 522 Landsberger 1967, 142–144. 523 See Scurlock and Anderson 2005, 99–100 for urine colors; Landsberger 1967, 144.


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    a­ ssociated with good health in modern urine charts. The unhealthy kind of red urine was designated with the term ruššû.524 As mentioned already, sāmu was closely associated with the color of blood. Thus, it is not surprising that of the three technical color terms used to describe the appearance of human blood in the diagnostic series—pelû, daʾmu and sāmu—only the last was considered normal.525 Sāmu also appears as one of the four regular colors of the human iris (kakkulti īni or burmi īni). Here, it indicates a light shade of brown, as opposed to daʾmu, which is probably dark brown. The other two eye colors are namru, “shining-(blue)” and arqu “green.”526 5.10.5 Extended Meaning Flushed and Healthy, Flushed with Joy Like many of the verbal color terms in the Akkadian language, certain abstract ideas were associated with sāmu, which imbued it with figurative meaning and symbolic value. One such meaning can be traced to the idea that like dark+black (ṣalmu) and light+white (peṣû), the two colors vivid+red (sāmu) and pale+yellow/green (arqu) were seen as a complementary and antithetical pair. It is very probable that this notion is based on empirical observations. In the following omen, sāmu and arqu are mentioned as a couple because red and yellow are the most visible colors of the rainbow: DIŠ Ì a-na me-e i-na na-de-ia su-ma-am ù ú-˹ur˺-qá-am ki-ma pa-ni maan-ṣí-a-at ša [x-x] it-ta-di-a-am (OB oil omen; CT 3 2: 6; Pettinato 1966, 61) ‘If when I pour oil on water it results in red and yellow, like the appearance of a rainbow of…(Adad is in attendance).’ This color combination was also observed on plants.527 As the opposite of arqu, sāmu was bound with the idea of vitality, health and consequently ­happiness and beauty. In the therapy to counter witchcraft quoted below, 524 Medieval physicians developed urine color wheels, usually containing about twenty colors, to diagnose metabolic diseases. Two examples of such scales include the 14th century Rosenbach urine circle and Pinder’s urine circle in his 1506 work Epiphanie medicorum (Rosenbach Ms 1004/29 fol.9, currently housed in the Rosenbach Museum and Library, Philadelphia; see Kuehni and Schwarz 2008, 33). 525 Pelû- and daʾmu-colored blood from the nose are both symptoms of death (dps 23: 9–10; Heeßel 2000, 272). 526 Scurlock and Anderson 2005. However, see Fincke 2000, 257 n. 1916, who translates namru more traditionally as “bright.” 527 Uruanna i 216: Ú za-mar sa-mu MIN (za-mar) ár-qu: Ú MIN (ak-tam) šá mar-ḫa-ši “The plant that is sometimes sāmu(-colored), sometimes arqu(-colored): this is the aktamplant from Marḫaši.”

    Abstract Colors


    sāmu should be understood as “full of color” or “flushed” as opposed to arqu, which means “pale”: DIŠ NA GU 7 NAG-˹ma˺ ana UZU.BI NU i-ṭe4-eḫ-ḫe za-mar SIG 7 za-mar SA 5 pa-nu-šú iṣ-ṣa-na-al-li-mu ú-ta-ad-dar ˹uš-ta-na˺-aḫ (amt 86/1 ii 12– 18; Abusch and Schwemer 2011, 86) ‘If a man eats, drinks, but (the food) does not reach his flesh, (and if his) appearance is in turn pale and feverish, his face becomes ever darker, it becomes gloomy, he becomes depressed…’ Elsewhere, a letter writer in the Neo-Assyrian period describes his emotional state using the same color terms: ŠÀ-bi it-ṭi-ba-an-ni ib-tal-ṭa am-mar ša GU 4.MEŠ in-ti-ṣi pa-ni-ia er-qu-tú i-sa-a-mu (saa 10 227: rev. 6–8) ‘(When I heard what the king had done) my heart grew happy and revived, it became as strong as a bull’s, my pale face flushed (with joy).’ Although the presence of red features (marks, swellings, spots) on the skin and on organs was thought to be unhealthy, generally speaking, red is a positive color in divinatory texts. For instance, in the following series of omens about the overall color of a person’s internal organs, it is a sign of good health: DIŠ ŠÀ.MEŠ-šú SA 5.MEŠ TI ‘If his internal organs are sāmu(-colored), he will live.’ DIŠ ŠÀ.MEŠ-šú SIG 7.MEŠ na-kid ‘If his internal organs are arqu(-colored), it is critical.’ DIŠ ŠÀ.MEŠ-šú GE 6. MEŠ ÚŠ ‘If his internal organs are ṣalmu(-colored), he will die.’ (TDP 120: 35–37; Geller 2007, 192) Likewise, in Šumma ālu tablet 120, which records omens concerning appearance of Marduk’s cult statue as it was carried out in procession during the Akītu-festival, red is the only color with a positive apodosis.528

    528 Sallaberger 2000, 248–251. Marduk’s complexion had the following associations (Ālu 120: 8–11): Dark+black: eclipse; Erra; south wind; hunger. Light+white: hunger, short life for the king; north wind, death. Pale+yellow/green: setbacks; west wind; setbacks. Vivid+red: attainment of riches; east wind; rejoicing among people.


    Chapter 2 Red Magic Is the symbolic value of red tied to its association with blood, fire and other objects used in rituals as cultural historians argue? Early modern Englanders, for instance, believed that applying red paint representing blood on their doors and windows kept demons at bay. Even today, red garments are worn at feasts of the Apostles and Martyrs in orthodox churches because it symbolizes the Pentecostal fire and the Holy Spirit.529 In ancient Mesopotamia, vividly dyed red garments were a mark of beauty and prestige with associations to divinity. This is why red fabric is presented as a gift to the newly purified cult statues of Ea, Šamaš and Asalluḫi, the so-called “Triad of White Magic,” in a universal namburbi-ritual.530 It is unclear how exactly the gifted cloth was used—either it was worn as garments or, as Walker and Dick suggested, divine statues, standards and symbols were placed on thrones covered with red cloth.531 In other rituals too, the color red had powerful, positive and protective valences. Afflictions induced by divine or demonic anger were imagined as a garment or second skin that wrapped itself around the victim in ancient Mesopotamia.532 Purification rituals seeking to “unwrap” evil from a person’s body therefore frequently incorporate actions of dressing and undressing.533 Incantations that accompany rituals also contain figurative language revolving around this theme.534 Essentially, clean, bright white garments symbolized a return to health and rebirth while black meant disease. Red, perhaps due to associations with the gods, was considered protective. The choice of red for the exorcist’s vestments reveals that the color was thought to have apotropaic powers, at least in the Neo-Assyrian period.

    529 Gage 1993, 30. 530 Maul 1994, 300–302 (Text viii.2.8 “Ein Universalnamburbi”). For the presentation of white, green, red and perhaps dark red (jdmj) linen to the gods during the Daily Cult Ritual in Egypt, see Goebs 2011, especially 65–70. 531 Walker and Dick 1999, 131–135. 532 Maul 1994, 40, 72. 533 Take, for example, the cleansing procedure prior to a namburbi-rite: the patient is to wear a bright white or a black garment over his clothes, which is subsequently removed as the ritual proceeds. In this case, the garments underneath stands for the divine anger, while the one above contains the effects (Maul 1994, 235 and 250 [Text viii 1.2 and 1.3]). 534 Similar to the effect of spells on human beings, the “clothing” of figurines and cultic statues too was an important aspect of their identity. Wiggermann observed that the potency of apotropaic figurines lies partly in their colored tillû-uniforms. A figurine’s tillû might be constructed out of fabric or else simply painted. The lubūšu “underwear” of wooded figurines were painted (Wiggerman 1992. See 3.6.5).

    Abstract Colors


    ­ elonging to the highest echelons of the social order, the āšipu’s535 sphere of B ­expertise was wide ranging. He diagnosed diseases, performed purification and consecration ceremonies,536 rituals to ward off demons and evil spirits537 as well as certain prayers—all activities that exposed him to malevolent, otherwordly forces. According to a passage in the Utukkû lemnūtu incantation series, the exorcist’s red clothing shielded him from these dreads: na-aḫ-lap-ta sa-an-ta šá pu-luḫ-ti aḫ-ḫa-˹lip˺-[ka] ṣu-ba-ta sa-a-mu⁠ ṣu-bat nam-ri-ir-ri ˹zu-mur KÙ⁠ ú-lab˺-[biš-ka] (Utukkû lemnūtu VIII 35–36; Geller 2016, 298). ‘I (the exorcist) am wrapped in a red cloak of terror against you (the demon), ˹I dressed (my) pure body˺ [against you] in a red garment, a garment of awe.’ Historical evidence for this custom is found in a Neo-Assyrian letter dating to the seventh century bce, in which a certain Marduk-šakin-šumi describes the ritual accompanying the ḪUL.GÁL ḪÉ-ME-EN-incantation to king Esarhaddon (681-669 bce): MAŠ.MAŠ TÚG SA 5 il-lab-biš ˹TÚG˺.DÙL SA 5 iš-šak-kan a-[ri-bumušen ina] ˹ZAG˺-šú ŠÚR.DÙ mušen ˹ina˺ [KAB-šú] (saa 10 238: obv. 14–15) ‘The exorcist is clothed in a red garment and puts on a red cloak; (he holds) a ra[ven in] ˹the right˺, a falcon ˹in˺ [the left].’ lú

    In the mīs pî-ritual, which concerns the restoration and re-animation of cult statues, red and white fabric are part of the ceremonies in the bīt mummi “The House of the Craftsmen,” where the exorcist negates all human agency involved in the creation of the statues. After the statue’s mouth is washed, a red cloth is placed before the god and a white cloth is positioned to the right.538 In his edition of the text, Ebeling interpreted the colors as representing death and rebirth respectively.539

    535 Or mašmaššu, the terms were used interchangeably in the Neo-Assyrian period (Jean 2006, 195). 536 E.g. mīs pî and takpertu. 537 E.g. NAM.ÉRIM.BÚR.RU.DA, Utukkû lemnūtu and Šēp lemutti. 538 BM 45749 obv 1–2; Walker and Dick 2001, 77. 539 Ebeling 1931, 100.


    Chapter 2

    5.11 Ṣalmu (Dark+Black) 5.11.1 Etymology & History of Attestation Bulakh posited an etymological link between Akkadian ṣalmu and the protoSemitic root ṭlm/θʾlm, whereas Leslau reconstructed the form as ẓ/ṣlm.540 In Leslau’s view, ṭlm/θʾlm is primarily a color or dye, which may be related to the root ẓ/ṣlm.541 Whatever its original form, the root means “to grow dark, be dim, black” but also “to be enveloped in mist, grow blind (said of eyes)” or “be obscured (said of the face, celestial bodies).”542 It manifests in Ugaritic (ẓlmt/ “darkness”543) Hebrew (ṣelem “black, dark” and ṣalmāwet “gloom, pitch, ­darkness”544), Arabic (ẓalima “to be obscured, covered by darkness”), and Geʿez (sʾallim “black”545). The basic word for black in Hebrew, Syriac and Aramaic derives from a different root, šḥr (as in Hebrew šāḥōr “charred, black”).546 The Arabic word for “dark, black” (ʾaswad) is also not related to the Akkadian.547 The color adjective ṣalmu is attested as early as the Old Akkadian period; the verb only appears in written sources from the Old Assyrian, Old Babylonian periods onwards. 5.11.2 Orthography & By-forms As an adjective, the color is written with logogram GE 6 or GE 6.MEŠ. The reading tarku for GE 6 in omens is supported by phonetic complements (e.g. GE 6ku/ki) and the substantive tirku “dark marking/spot” or “darkness” (said of nightfall on the mountains). GE 6.MEŠ can be read either as ṣallamu or as turruku. Ṣallamtu is a black stone, according to the editors of the cad, perhaps basalt. It is also a plant, bird and snake (MUŠ.GE 6).548 Other nouns derived from this root include ṣalmu “blackness” (i.e. night) and ṣulmu “dark/black spot” or “tuft of hair.”549

    540 541 542 543 544 545 546 547 548 549

    Bulakh 2003, 5–7; Leslau 1987, 556. Leslau 1987, 591. Leslau 1987, 556; Bulakh 2003 and 2006. dul 1003, 1004. Bulakh 2006, 183 n. 3. For further citations, see Bulakh 2007, 254–255; Leslau 1987, 556. Brenner 1982; Borg 2007; Bulakh 2006, 195–196. Fischer 1965. cad Ṣ 73. cad Ṣ 240–241.

    Abstract Colors


    5.11.3 Characterization Akkadian ṣalmu is the primary color word for “dark+black.” It captures the qualities of the various black materials present in nature as well as the shades of the color used by artisans. Common real-world referents that characterize the color ṣalmu include forms of petroleum—naphtha (napṭu),550 asphalt/­ bitumen (kupru) and pitch (iṭṭû)—naturally occurring black minerals (qitmu) and soot (ṭikmēnu). For example, in the physiognomic omen below, the unusually dark color of a man’s hair is compared to the appearance of qitmu (IM.SA ḪAR.GE 6.KUR.RA), a common black colorant used to dye leather from the Old Babylonian period onwards:551 DIŠ SÍG SAG.DU-šú GIM qit-mi ṣal-mat (Alamdimmû ii 88; Böck 2000, 80) ‘If a man’s hair is black like qitmu(-mineral), (he will be given bread by his god).’ Esarhaddon describes the dark skin of the Nubian pharaoh of Egypt by likening it to the appearance of bitumen: DAM.MEŠ-šú DUMU.MEŠ-šú ù DUMU.MUNUS.˹MEŠ˺-[šú…] [šá] ˹ki˺-ma šá-šú-ma GIM ESIR ṣal-mu UZU.MEŠ-˹šú˺-[nu…] (rinap 4 1019: obv. 22–23) ‘(The Egyptian pharaoh at Memphis) his wives, sons and daughters…who like his own, their skin was black like bitumen.’552 As a point of correlation to visual culture, one can observe that in Egyptian art too, Nubians from the south are painted black. Egyptian natives were portrayed with a red-brown complexion, Syrians or Asiatic peoples from the north and 550 Naphtha is a general term referring to a variety of flammable (liquid) hydrocarbon compounds, including petroleum. Evidently, the English form of the word goes at least as far back as Akkadian napṭu, which borrows into other Semitic languages like Hebrew and Arabic. 551 See 3.4.2. It also refers to tarnish on metals (e.g. with gold in armt 13 18: 6) and appears in medical prescriptions. 552 There is a further reference to black bitumen and naptha in a curse formula in one of Esarhaddon’s succession treaties. There, the blackening alludes to the idea of burning skin or flesh and death: UZU.MEŠ-ku-nu UZU šá MUNUS.MEŠ-ku-nu ŠEŠ.MEŠ-ku-nu DUMU.MEŠ-ku-nu DUMU.MUNUS.MEŠ-ku-nu˹ki-iqi˺-ruku-up-rinap-ṭilu-ṣal-li-mu(saa 26:obv.585–587). “Your flesh and the flesh of your women, your brothers, your sons (and) your daughters, may they blacked (it) ˹like˺ hot pitch, bitumen (or) naphtha.”


    Chapter 2

    east were shown in pale tones and Libyans from the west were represented in white.553 Elsewhere in Akkadian written documents, the simile for facial complextion occurs with pitch and soot554 replacing bitumen as the object of comparison. In The Netherworld Vision of an Assyrian Prince, Kumaya, perhaps to be identified as the crown prince Ashurbanipal, describes the terrifying dark figure he encounters in his second dream: DIŠ-en eṭ-lum zu-mur-šú ki-ma it-te-e ṣa-lim…ina GÙB-šú gišBAN na-ši ina ZAG-šú nam-ṣa-ru ṣa-˹bit˺ (von Soden 1936, 17) ‘(In a dream, I saw) a single youth, his body was black like pitch…in his left hand he held a bow, in his right, he grasped a sword’ Appearing as early as the Old Babylonian period555 and as late as the Seleucid period,556 the evocative simile “black as bitumen/pitch/soot” has an unusually long history in the Akkadian language. No other color-related simile has such a protracted or well-established history that traverses so many text genres. Kupru557 (ESIR/ESÍR.ḪI.A) is technically a fine bitumen that is the result of a refining process. In Mesopotamia, it is used as a kind of mortar for building projects. Ittû/iṭṭû (ESÍR, A.ESÍR) is crude bitumen.558 The translation “pitch” above is based on the fact that ittû is used for caulking and sealing walls. One significant difference between kupru and ittû is that only the latter was used to make small objects like magical figurines.559 The word for “soot” or “ashes” in Middle and Standard Babylonian texts is ṭikmēnu, although it remains unclear how it differs from ummīmu, also “soot, ashes.” In any case, these comparisons all indicate that as a color, ṣalmu covers the black to dark brown and gray range of the chromatic spectrum. Dark Although there are several verbal colors in Akkadian that effectively describe the absence of light, ṣalmu can also describe darkness. For this reason, it is 553 This color scheme for the four “races” of humankind is used in the Tomb of Seti i (19th Dynasty, Valley of the Kings, Thebes), for instance. 554 E.g. Maqlû vi 31; Abusch 2015, 77: [li-ṣal-l]i-mu-ši ki-ma di-ik-me-en-ni “may they make her (the witch) black like soot.” 555 OB Izbu yos 10 12: 1; Leichty 1970, 207: DIŠ še-ru-um ap-pa-šu ki-ma i-di-im ṣa-li-im “If the child’s nose is like black bitumen (your army will be encircled).” 556 E.g. In a kettledrum ritual from Uruk, the body the sacrificial bull is said to be black as pitch (iṭṭû) (tcl 6 44: i 4). 557 Hebrew kōfer. cad K 553–555. 558 cad i 310–312. 559 For more on the differences, see Forbes 1936.

    Abstract Colors


    categorized as a brightness-dominated (Type 2) color term in the present study. Unlike words like “dark” (eklu) and “dim” (eṭû), which are pure-brightness (Type 1) terms, the color value of ṣalmu incorporates hue (i.e. blackness) with darkness. Hence, it is paired in opposition to both white (peṣû) and bright (namru) in divinatory texts: DIŠ Ì i-mi-it-tum iṣ-li-im-ma šu-me-lam i-wi-ir (OB Šamnu; CT 3 1: 7; Pettinato 1966, 62) ‘If the oil turns dark on the right and light on the left’ DIŠ i-pe-eṣ-ṣi u i-ṣa-lim (stt 1 89: 202) ‘If he becomes alternately blanched and dark (of complexion)’ In the following passage from the Gilgamesh Epic, the poet captures both nuances of the word as he describes how a black storm cloud darkens the sun’s radiance before the onset of the deluge: mim-mu-ú še-e-ri ina na-ma-ri i-lam-ma iš-tu i-šid AN-e ur-pa-tum ṣa-lim-tum d IŠKUR ina lìb-bi-šá ir-tam-ma-am-ma (SB Gilgamesh xi 97–99; George 2003, 708) ‘At the very first light of dawn, a dark cloud rose from the horizon, Adad rumbled continually within it’ Likewise, in this sâṭu-commentary on Enūma Anu Enlil 52 or 53 K, the verb ṣullumu describes the progressive weakening of a star’s light that will eventually result in blackness: DIŠ MUL.ZUBI zi-mu-šu uṣ-ṣa-na-la-mu (vat 7850+tcl 6 18: 23; StOr 1: 356) ‘If the Gamlu-star becomes darker and darker (i.e. if its glow becomes weaker and weaker).’ 5.11.4 Designation As a color category, ṣalmu is used to designate objects and beings that are not necessarily black in color. Animal (e.g. cow, dog, pig, snake, crow), botanical (e.g. kiškanû-tree, date fruit) and mineral (e.g. obsidian) referents are covered by its color value, which indicates that ṣalmu designates all DARK+COOL colors such as black, dark greys, browns and purples. The word for basalt (ṣallamtu)


    Chapter 2

    derives from this color term in the same way that carnelian (sāmtu) derives from the word for red (sāmu). Stones and minerals were gendered in Mesopotamia and there is some evidence to suggest that darker varieties were considered “male” and lighter ones “female.”560 In an inventory of treasure found at Kar-Tukulti-Ninurta (13th century bce), small quantities of “Blackwood” (gišṣallumu) are mentioned as being used for inlays on statuary: vat 16462: ii 8: concerns thirteen bison, their manes are of real lapis lazuli, their horns are of silver, their eyebrows…are of blue glass and their hooves are of blackwood (GIŠ.GE 6). vat 16462: iv 6: concerns eye-inlays of a figurine (written gišṣa-al-lu-mu) vat 16462: iv 10: concerns gazelles made of wood and plated with gold. Their horns are made of blackwood (GIŠ.GE 6) and gold plates are added to create a banded pattern. Just as Sequoiodeae, commonly known as Redwoods, are not literally or exclusively red but rather range in color from orange to red to various shades of brown, the Akkadian Blackwood tree was obviously not pure black. The botanical identity of gišṣallumu remains unknown but its designation as dark/ black and the fact that it was a valuable, ornamental wood may point to the African black/ironwood or ebony (Dalbergia melanoxylon Guill. and Perr.). Ancient Egyptian ebony (hbny) was partly or wholly dark brown.561 Idioms Ṣalmāt qaqqadi, literally “black-headed ones,” is a poetic expression for mankind in Akkadian, borrowed from the Sumerian expression SAG.GE 6. In malku: šarru, ṣalmāt qaqqadi is equated with nīšu.562 The idiomatic phrase appears in divine and non-divine epithets from all periods,563 in hymns, royal inscriptions and literary texts.564 Like English “black sheep” or “white elephant,” ṣalmāt qaqqadi is an idiom—whatever semantic association to color it may have originally had, this meaning is no longer conveyed in the frozen 560 E.g. in this ṣâtu commentary on a therapeutic text, SpTU 1 51: rev. 6: PIŠ 10.dÍD GE 6: kib-rit zi-kar ‘black sulfur: means “male sulfur.”’ (ccp 4.2.G; Jiménez 2015). Likewise, “male, red alum” (na4gabû SA 5 NÍTA) is an ingredient in the glassmaking recipes (cad G 7). 561 Gale et al. 2000, 338–339. 562 Malku: šarru i 182a (Hrůša 2010, 42). 563 E.g. Enlil is the Lord of mankind (bēl ṣalmāt qaqqadi) and Šamaš and Ištar are both called “Shepherd of mankind” (rē’î ṣalmāt qaqqadi). Kingship is sometimes described as the “Shepherd-hood of mankind” (rē’ût ṣalmāt qaqqadi) in Mesopotamia.

    Abstract Colors


    form. The so-called “Land of the black(-skinned) ones” (māt ṣallāmūti), which appears between the Land of the Rising Sun (nipiḫ dšamši) and Hatti (māt Ḫatti) in a geographic commentary to UR 5: ḫubullu, may refer to a region populated by dark-skinned people.565

    Technical Meaning

    Textile and Metallurgical Industries

    Within the textile industry, naturally pigmented dark or black fleece was designated as ṣalmu. Artificially colored wool, linen and leather were typically referred to by dyeing material or else specified as dyed (e.g. ṣarpu). The technology of vat dyeing made definite progress in the ranges of red, blue and purple in the mid-to-late second millennium, which led to their increased use in fashion. Black wool and linen, on the other hand, are very rarely mentioned in the written sources. In metalworking as in glassmaking, color was an important visual cue for craftsmen to measure the temperature of substances being heated. The verb ṣalāmu /ṣullumu was employed to designate the process of tempering, which induces strength and reduces the brittleness of metals.566 Medicine

    Almost always an unfavorable symptom, ṣalmu567 is a frequently cited diagnostic color in Mesopotamian medical texts. In the urine scale, there are two terms reserved for what must refer to shades of dark brown: ṣalmu568 and tarku.569 Both colors are signs of serious disease. Dark, blackish warts, testicles and breasts were considered signs of impending death.570 The phrase ṣalmu malû, literally “filled with black,” may refer to the appearance of dark

    564 For numerous references, see cad Ṣ 75–76. 565 K.8811: 5 (cad Ṣ 74). 566 E.g. OA letter, tcl 20 107: 3–4: 17 MA.NA URUDU ṣa-lá-ma-am te!-zi-ba-am “You left me seventeen minas of tempered copper” 567 Medical texts routinely make use of logograms; in the cases where GE 6 appears as a symptom, it is sometimes unclear if the reading ṣalmu “black” or tarku “dark” was meant. Syllabic writings, as in—DIŠ SA kak-kul-ti IGI 15-šú tar-ku […] “If the the veins on his right eyeball are dark…” (tdp 52: iv 17)—exist as well. 568 [DIŠ K]ÀŠ.MEŠ-šú GE 6.MEŠ TAG ÚŠ TAG-it GAM “[If] his [ur]ine is black, he was touched by the touch of death, he will die (dps 14 113; Scurlock 2014, 123). 569 DIŠ KÀŠ.MEŠ-šú tar-ka GAM “If his urine is dark, he will die” (dps 14 114; Scurlock 2014, 123). 570 Landsberger 1967, 142–143.


    Chapter 2

    b­ irthmark-like patches known as “café-au-lait macules” in today’s medical terminology.571 With regard to a person’s skin, ṣalmu may also describe the dark purplish-blue discoloration caused by bruising, subcutaneous bleeding and also the signs of septic shock gangrene, as in the following case:572 DIŠ IGI.MEŠ-šú GE 6.MEŠ-ma GIM šá-lam-ti ib-šu-ú IGI.MEŠ-šú i-te-eb-ṭú NUNDUN.MEŠ-šú ma-diš ik-tab-ra IGI.MEŠ-šú iš-ta-na-an-nu-ú mu-du-šú ul GIG-ma i-qab-bi (dps 9 21–24 = tdp 72: 21–24; Scurlock 2014, 67) ‘If his face turns dark and becomes like (that of) a corpse, his face has sunk, his lips have significantly thickened, his face keeps changing, someone who knows him says “he is not sick” (it is the nuggatu-disease. He will die).’ DIŠ IGI.MEŠ-šú SA 5.MEŠ u GE 6.MEŠ TIL-ma EGIR-šú MAN-ma (dps 9 6 = tdp 72: 6; Scurlock 2014, 66) ‘If his face is flushed and is dark, it recovers and afterwards he changes (for the worse), (he will die).’ DIŠ IGI.MEŠ-šú GE 6.MEŠ EME-šú SA 5 GIG-su GÍD-ma (dps 9 16 = tdp 72: 16; Scurlock 2014, 67) ‘If his face is dark, his tongue is red, his illness is prolonged, (he will die).’ Ṣalmu could also describe the overall appearance of a person near death, as in this therapy to counter witchcraft: DIŠ NA GU 7 NAG-˹ma˺ ana UZU.BI NU i-ṭe4-eḫ-ḫi za-mar SIG 7 za-mar SA 5 za-mar pa-nu-šú iṣ-ṣa-na-al-li-mu ú-ta-ad-dar ˹uš-ta-na˺-aḫ (amt 86/1: ii 12–18; Abusch and Schwemer 2011, 86) ‘If a man eats, drinks, but the (food) does not reach his flesh, (and if his) appearance is in turn pale and feverish, his face becomes ever dark, it becomes gloomy, he becomes depressed…’ 5.11.5 Extended Meaning Vexation Like the other abstract color verbs studied in this section, ṣalmu too carries emotional and psychological associations. Operating in opposition to both 571 Scurlock and Anderson 2005, 217. 572 Scurlock and Anderson 2005, 214–215.

    Abstract Colors


    “dazzling” (namru) and “light+white” (peṣû), ṣalmu primarily had negative connotations. A “black face” means annoyance and disapproval, which is slightly different from a “dark face” that signified anger (see 2.5.5). For instance, in the following letter to his son Yasmah-Adad (early 18th century bce), ŠamšiAdad writes that he should ensure that the battalion set to enter Bedouin country should have no grounds for dissatisfaction on account of their provisions: [ù aš-šum UZ]U GEŠTIN pa-nu-šu la i-ṣa-al-li-mu-ma (arm 1 60: 21) ‘(The troops must have all their meat and wine.) They should not be vexed [on account of the me]at and wine.’ Likewise, in an Old Assyrian letter, the sender begs, “when you come, do not show me a vexed (lit. black) face.”573 When her sister descends to the Netherworld and intrudes into her realm, Ereškigal’s face becomes pale (arqu) with fear and her lips blacken in annoyance. Death Death and the color black are connected in many cultures, both in antiquity and in modern times.574 In ancient Egypt, the darkness of black was associated with the underworld and of the deities associated with funeral rites, which is why the mortuary god Anubis is usually depicted with this hue.575 In Mesopotamia, this link is made explicit in divinatory texts. According to Jeyes, 80% of the Old Babylonian omens whose protases contain words for blackness and darkness (ṣalāmu, tarāku and ḫalû “black spot”) have an apodosis of death.576 In Akkadian poetry, by contrast, it is the terms for darkness and not black that were used by the poet to create the required mood. The Netherworld is described as a house of darkness,577 whose residents are deprived of light in the Gilgamesh Epic;578 those who enter cannot see light and must live in darkness.579 The following case, when black weather sets the stage for the battle between Gilgamesh and Humbaba, is a rare example of this color foreshadowing a character’s impending doom: 573 574 575 576

    cct 4 8a: 14–16: i-na a-lá-ki-ká ṣú-lu-um pá-ni lá tù-kà-lá-ma-ni. See Pastoureau 2009 for a cultural history of this color. Regai 1986. Jeyes 1980, 112. Predictions of death—either of the individual taking the omen or of his enemy—account for approximately 40% (= 1000–1100) of the apodoses. 577 vii 184; George 2003, 644: É ek-le-ti. 578 vii 187; George 2003, 644: ⸢a⸣-na É šá a-ši-bu-šu zu-um-mu nu-ú-ra. 579 vii 190; George 2003, 644: ù nu-⸢ú⸣-[r] la im-ma-ra-ma ina e-ṭu-ti áš-ba.


    Chapter 2

    iṣ-ṣa-lim ur-pa-tum pe-ṣi-tum mu-tum ki-ma im-ba-ri i-za-an-nun UGU-šú-un (Gilgamesh v 135–136; George 2003, 608) ‘The white cloud darkened, death rained down upon them like a mist.’ 5.12 Tarku Tarāku “to be bruise(-colored)” is a brightness-dominated (Type 2) color term. When it describes darkness, it functions as a synonym of “dim” (eṭû) and as an antonym of “dazzling” (namru). When it describes a hue, it is frequently associated with “dark+black” (ṣalmu). 5.12.1 Etymology & History of Attestation It is unclear how the primary meaning of the verb tarāku “to beat” is related to its use as a color term in omens from the Old Babylonian period onwards.580 Landsberger’s idea of understanding the tarāku as essentially “to be bruised,” i.e. blackish blue from being beaten, is attractive because the word generally indicates a discoloration of the skin in medical texts.581 The root ṭrq with the sense “to beat, strike” is attested in other Semitic languages, although the secondary link to color is unique to Akkadian.582 5.12.2 Orthography & By-forms As a color verb, tarāku is only attested in the stative or as an adjective. Because it is written with the logogram GE 6 in omens, it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between “dark+black” (ṣalmu) and this term. The noun tirku appears to refer to a pattern of (dis)coloration and is can be understood as “bruise(colored) spot/fleck.” The adverbial form tarkiš is known from a broken commentary to Šumma ālu.583 5.12.3 Characterization Bruise-colored (i.e. dark blue or purple) In Akkadian written sources, tarku is the color of various parts of human and animal bodies (e.g. skin, eye, heart, face, internal organs, teeth), an izbu-foetus/ newborn, urine, oil and the moon. Together with sāmu, arqu, ṣalmu and daʾmu, 580 cad T 203–205: 1) To switch a whip/tail/weapon, wield a tool; 2) to throb/ pound; 3) to become dark-colored; 4) to beat (textiles) in the D-stem (203–205 and 234–235). AHw iii 1324: “schlagen, klopfen”; Stative “ist dunkel.” 581 Landsberger 1967, 150; Heimpel 1997, 3. 582 See ṭrq ii in Leslau (1987, 597). 583 CT 41 25: rev. 5: [(PI) GE 6-iš ik-k]a-šu: tar-ki-iš ikḫi-pí eš-šú.

    Abstract Colors


    tarku is one of the main diagnostic colors in the second subseries of sakkikû, in which symptoms of disease and trauma on individual parts of the human body are systematically recorded. Since it is distinguished from daʾmu and ṣalmu in this spectrum, it is apparent that tarku does not refer to either ­maroon/brown or dark+black. Because it is so frequently a symptom of traumatized skin, subcutaneous bleeding and tissue death, Scurlock and Anderson proposed that tarku refers to a dark bluish color in medical texts.584 In the following case, for instance, the term seems to describe the discoloration of the dermis around the eye caused by trauma—a “black eye”: DIŠ IGI 15-šú tar-kàt-ma NU BAD (dps 5 15´; Scurlock 2014, 45) ‘If his right eye is bruise(-colored) and he cannot open (it).’ Elsewhere, in an extispicy report sent from Išme-Dagan to Yasmah-Addu, the discoloration of coagulated fat and the heart of a sacrificial animal is described with the same word: ša-ma!-an li-ib-bi-im i-mi-tam-ma ta-ri-ik li-ib-bu-um šu-ú im-mi-tam ù šu-me-lam ta-ri-ik ˹ù˺ ši-it-ḫu-um ša-ki-in ˹ti˺-ri-ik šu-me-lim pí-qa-at ú-ul ú-ka-al-ka (arm 4 54: 8–14) ‘The fat around the heart on the right side is bruise(-colored), the heart itself is bruise(-colored) on the right and left sides and moreover, there is a šitḫu. The bruise(-colored) spot on the left does not concern you.’ Like most of the verbal color terms that feature in medical omens, it was possible to describe the pattern,585 amount or intensity586 of tarāku. 584 Scurlock and Anderson 2005, 214–216. Note that the authors consider tarku and ṣalmu as essentially meaning the same thing, “dark” in these cases. 585 E.g. Alamdimmû VIII 18–19; Böck 2000, 110: DIŠ tir-ku MIN (DIRI.MEŠ) “If bruise(-colored) patches cover (his face), (his days will be long)” DIŠ MIN (IGI-šú) SA 5.MEŠ BABBAR.MEŠ GE 6.MEŠ MIN (tir-ku) “If his face is covered with vivid+red, light+white, dark+black or bruise(-colored) patches, (he will be killed by a weapon).” 586 E.g. mādiš tarik “intensely bruised/ dark blue” (yos 10 41: 29).


    Chapter 2 Synonyms and Antonyms Tarāku can also describe the appearance of light-emitting or light-reflecting materials. The fact that it appears as a near synonym of dark+black (ṣalmu) and dim (eṭû) and an antonym of dazzling (namru), reveals the importance of the aspect BRIGHTNESS for the color sense of this term. In the Old Babylonian izbu-omen here, for instance, tarāku and ṣalāmu operate as distinctive yet related terms: DIŠ iz-bu-um ta-ri-ik-ma ṣa-li-im (OB izbu, yos 10 56: ii 32; Leichty 1970, 205) ‘If an anomaly is bruise(-colored) or dark+black, (the progeny of the cattle will decrease).’ Although this reading is not established in the lexical literature,587 several omen commentaries explain that the logogram GE 6 may be understood as tarāku.588 In two such Neo-Assyrian period-texts concerning divination, tarāku is distinguished from “to be dark+black” and “to be dim”: […] ˹GE˺ ka-a-nu GE ta-ra-ku GI šá-˹la-mu˺ (Commentary to Sîn ina tāmartīšu; ccp 3.2.u1.A.b: 3′; Wainer 2016) ‘[…] (the sign) GE (means) “to be stable,” GE (means) “to be dark/ bruised(-colored),” GE (also means) “to be peaceful” (said of the moon).’ [GE₆: ṣa]-˹la˺-mu:. GE₆:. ta-ra-ku:. GE₆ ˹:.˺ [e?-ṭu?-ú?] (Commentary to a ritual of the diviner; ccp 7.2.u32: 3′; Jiménez and Gabbay 2015) ‘[GE₆ (means) “to be] black,” GE₆ (means) “to be dark/bruised(-colored),” GE₆ [means “to be dim”].’ Tarāku and namāru operate as a complementary pair in omens in the same manner as black and white (ṣalāmu and peṣû). This combination is especially striking in the Old Babylonian oil omens:589 587 OB Diri Nippur 43, 43a-c [msl 15 13–14]: ku-uk-ku: MI.MI: ek-le-tum, da-aḫ! -˹ma˺-[tum], ú-⸢ku?⸣-lum?, du-ḫu-mu-um. Diri i 253–257 [msl 15 112–113]: ku-uk-ku: MI.MI: e-ṭu-tu, ek-le-tu, uk-lu, uk-ku-lu, ta-ra[nu?], da-a ʾ-mu, du-uʾ-mu. izi: išātu H Appendix: 1–4 [msl 13 209]: KU 10˹ku-ku˺.KU 10: e-˹ṭú˺-tu, ek-le-tu, da-a ʾ-mu, du-a ʾ-mu. 588 E.g. Ṣâtu commentary on Izbu IV 6: gi-eGE 6: ta-ra-ku, ṣa-la-mu (De Zorzi 2014, ii 439). 589 The combination is not restricted to the lecanomancy texts and is also found in OB extispicy omens. E.g. yos 10 53: 12–13, 15–16:

    Abstract Colors


    DIŠ i-na li-ib-bi um-ma-tim e-ri-iš-tum ú-ṣí-a-am-ma na-am-ra-at ma-anza-az dgu-la ù šum-ma tar-ka-at ma-an-za-az dMAḪ (OB Šamnu, CT 3 4: 11; Pettinato 1966, 66) ‘If an erištu-mark appears out of the main part (of the oil) and it is bright, “station” of Gula; if it is dark, however, “station” of Maḫ.’ DIŠ ki-bi-ir Ì a-na pa-ni dUTU na-wi-ir DIŠ ki-bi-ir Ì a-na IGI dUTU ta-ri-ik (OB Šamnu, CT 3 2: obv. 15, 19; Pettinato 1966, 62–63) ‘If the edge of the oil towards the sun is bright’ ‘If the edge of the oil towards the sun is dark’ Tarāku and darkness are linked more concretely and on a cultural level in one oil omen, in which a dark crown atop the oil mass is said to foreshadow a lunar eclipse: DIŠ Ì me-e i-na na-de-ka a-ga-šu ta-ri-ik nam-ta-al-le dEN.ZU (OB Šamnu, CT 5 5: rev. 1; Pettinato 1966, 20) ‘If when you place water (on it) the crown of the oil is dark, a lunar eclipse.’ 5.12.4 Designations Tarāku had a special meaning within the context of the textile industry. In the D-stem, the verb (turruku) could refer to part of the fulling process that involved kneading, stomping, beating and pounding cloth in wet and warm conditions until its surface is matted. This makes the fabric denser and more ­waterproof. With a stone or a piece of glass, the fabric can then be smoothed to DIŠ ni-ši SAG MUŠEN ZID na-wi-ir DIŠ ni-ši SAG MUŠEN ZID na-wi-ir DIŠ ni-ši SAG MUŠEN GUB na-wi-ir [DIŠ ni-ši] SAG MUSEN GUB ta-ri-ik “If the nīš rēš of the ‘bird’ is bright/dark on the right/left side.” 590 Fulling was done near the final stage of textile production—after the fibres were dyed, woven into cloth and washed and before decorative ornaments were sewed on (Andersson Strand 2010, 20–21). We gain some insight into ancient Mesopotamian fulling practices from AO 7026, an Old Babylonian text that records the various methods of “finishing” the cloth for expensive and heavy garments. Cardering (mašārum), detangling (puššurum), cleaning (zukkûm) and weaving (kamādum) are among the work mentioned aside from beating (turruku), for which as much as six days were sometimes necessary (Lachenbacher 1982, 129–149).


    Chapter 2

    achieve a shining sheen (this is especially true of linen).590 The large uṣûmgarment qualified as terku591 in a Mari text refers then to this aspect of fulling and not to the color of the textile. 5.12.5 Extended Meaning As Heimpel showed, the expression tirik šadîm does not evoke the color of the evening sky, as it was previously thought, but is better understood idiomatically, as “crack of dawn.” The phrase occurs in two Old Babylonian letters from Mari: in one we learn of workers sent out to collect ice before this point of the day and in the other, a representative of Zimri-Lim complains that while he could not access the court of Atamrum in Andarig, the Babylonians kept entering at “the crack of dawn.”592 591 T.407: iv 9: túgNIG.BARA GAL ša ter4-ki-im “a large uṣûm-garment of terku-technique” (Durand 2009, 124 and 603: “un mode de tissage en référence à tarâkum ‘frapper’”). 592 arm 26 210: 7 and arm 26 438: 16′-17′; see Heimpel 1997 for previous literature on the subject.

    Chapter 3

    Material Colors 1

    What are Material Colors?

    In the digital world we live in, we tend to think of colors as individual and uniform phenomena. A printer or a projector, for instance, can produce a swatch of yellow or magenta that is unvarying in hue, saturation and tone no matter how large or small the colored surface. Such pure expressions of color were unknown in the ancient world. Tied as they were to real-world materials, colors were inherently variable. Nuances in shade, texture and pattern were immutable aspects of material-based colors as well as abstract ones, since they too had to be realized with paint or dyes. The words studied in this chapter are primarily substances—precious stones and metals, organic dyes and mineral pigments—whose meanings have implications for the topic of color. My examination of these material color terms involves analyzing the grammatical forms, etymologies and semantic ranges of individual words in order to differentiate them from the abstract, verbal terms presented in Chapter 2. The purpose of this philological analysis is to highlight the importance of precious stones and metals in the language of color and to dispel the misconception that Akkadian had a limited color vocabulary containing just four abstract terms. By emphasizing its materiality, this chapter also draws attention to the economic and social values of color. A third value of color in human activity, the visual quality of color—its hues, tones and tints—and how they found expression in ancient times, will be explored further in Chapter 4. Individual cases studied in this chapter capture how color operated internationally across the Near East. Discussions about the Mediterranean mollusk and its relationship to the Babylonian dyeing recipe from Sippar, the cobalt-blue glass workshops at Tell Amarna and their connection to the glass ingots found in the Uluburun shipwreck and the Nippur glass axe-heads, the relationship between Iranian banded calcite in the late third millennium and the Akkadian name for yellow glass in the second, draw attention to just how coveted colors were in ancient times, both as a commodity and as a cultural concept, and to how long and complex their histories are. Issues of labor, capital and technical expertise in the manufacture, application, circulation and consumption of dyes, pigments, glass, stones and metal colors are explored with the objective of demonstrating

    © koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2020 | doi:10.1163/9789004415416_004


    Chapter 3

    that color was a culturally mediated, culturally rooted phenomenon. As Michel Pastoureau points out, “It is society that ‘makes’ color, defines it, gives it its meaning, constructs its codes and values, establishes its uses and determines whether it is acceptable or not.”593 So how was color embedded into social practices in Mesopotamia? How were aspects of identity such as class, status and gender created and negotiated through the acquisition and display of colorful exotic goods? The genderassociations of certain colored stones are discussed (e.g. under uqnû) and the use of color in cosmetics and fashion is likewise examined (e.g. under kalû, guḫlu). The history of certain valuable dyes of the Near East like madder, kermes, woad and murex reveals much about human ingenuity and early technological endeavors. New techniques to create brighter, more durable and more colorful cloth were painstakingly and gradually developed by craftsmen and by tracing this history, we can also gain insight into such social dimensions as the value of dyed purple, red and blue garments for the Babylonian and Assyrian nobility, as well as its significance in religious contexts. By underscoring the technical complexities involved in color production—whether in wool, leather, glass or metal—it is argued further that the manufacture of new colored materials, their commercial exchange and the transfer of knowledge and techniques, bear significance for the social meanings attached to color. Sections on blue, and yellow glasses (uqnû, duḫšu) and purple dyes (argamannu, takiltu, ḫašmānu) take up the question of whether or not color technologies were developed with the intention of fabricating cheaper forms of rare and precious natural substances. In the discussions about red wool (tabarru/nabāsu and makrû), the impact of the dyeing industry on the literary language of the time is considered. Several of the individual case-studies in this chapter highlight the fact that color naming is a language game. In some instances, the terminology for material colors hints at efforts to “brand” substances and thus imbue them with certain cultural values. For instance, opaque, yellow glass was deliberately named duḫšu, because it was used to produce decorative banding on glass vessels reminiscent of the banding on yellow calcite from Iran. That the word sign for lapis lazuli was used to designate various shades of purple wools at Ugarit does not mean that people in ancient times could not distinguish perceptually between the colors purple and blue. Rather, it tells us that blueness and brightness seem to have been the two most prized qualities of purple colored wools in the ancient Near East. In other cases, the color name can evoke certain ideas, 593 Pastoureau 2001, 10.

    Material Colors


    such as the origins of a substance (e.g. Marḫaši carnelian, Ionian takiltu-purple wool) or a particular physical property (e.g. red alum, meaning ­cobalt-containing alum). The broader lines of inquiry this chapter is concerned with are: (I) Do the words for certain materials also function as color terms in Akkadian? (II) If yes, do they ever become abstract color terms? What roles do the ­exchange of materials and ideas and the development of new color technologies play in this process, if any? (III) Do these terms focus on a particular aspect of color, such as hue, brightness, saturation, surface patterns, etc. and does this focus change over time? (IV) How does the Akkadian evidence compare to other ancient languages? 2

    Materials and Colors in Parts of Speech and in the Archaeological Record

    Many colors in Akkadian are based on names for precious substances such as stones and metals. While these terms are linked to colors, they generally do not function as abstract color words. They are not verbs and their range of use in language is more restricted than the verbal colors discussed in Chapter 2. In Akkadian, materials can refer to colors in several ways. Sometimes the names of substances function as adjectives. In such cases, only context can reveal if the color or the material itself is being described. For instance, the adjective uqnītu (fem. sing.) can be understood as “lapis lazuli-like” or as “lapis lazuli-colored,” i.e. lustrous blue. However, given that the form is only ever attested in female personal names such as “Lady Uqnītum” (ZA.GÌN-ni-tum NIN), it is more probable that the reference here is to the stone. In other cases, color is clearly the focus; for instance, the adjective uqnâtu (fem. pl.) is used as a noun to designate dark blue wool and the plant dye associated with its color. Adjectives can be attributive (“the lapis lazuli-colored glazed bricks”) or predicative (“the glazed bricks are lapis lazuli-colored”) in Akkadian, which sometimes presents problems in translating. Material-based color terms are hardly ever verbs. One rare example is the word “gold” (ḫurāṣu), which behaves like a verb in the Neo-Assyrian glass recipes. For ancient Egyptian, Schenkel has argued against understanding materialbased adjectives as abstract colors because they were not used verbaly. For him, this was a sign that the notion of color had not separated from the ­material. Quirke and Warburton accept that the Egyptian word for lapis lazuli


    Chapter 3

    (ḫsbḏ) is a color word meaning “blue”594 whereas Baines, while admitting that it occasionally means blue, still argued against understanding ḫsbḏ as the Egyptian abstract word for “blue.”595 It is proposed in the present study that with the advent of certain color-related technologies in the second millennium bce, a number of terms for precious stones become abstract to a certain degree: their range of use in Akkadian expands, and occasionally, they even seem to function like abstract color words. When they are not used as adjectives, materials can also refer to colors through the simile “like” (e.g. kî/kīma na4duḫši “like duḫšu-stone”) and through the phrase “x-referent has the appearance of y-material” (i.e. x zīm/pān y), a phenomenon that is not unique to Akkadian. Berlin and Kay’s study demonstrated that speakers of several so-called “primitive” modern languages distinguish various shades of colors using the names of concrete substances in this manner.596 However, in those cases, the substances did not always refer to colors, which brings us to the first and most important question posed in this chapter: while it is clear that precious stones and metals can frequently refer to color, does this necessarily make them color terms? This issue has been debated among Egyptologists on philological, empirical and theoretical grounds. In the color-rich world of ancient Egypt, materials and color overlap in two domains: in poetic language and in painting. In hymnic language from the second millennium bce, precious materials like lapis lazuli, turquoise, gold and silver evoke the luminous colors of nature and the gods. The sun is described as “rising as the golden one” (wbn m nb.w) in a “field of turquoise” (sḫ.t mfkȝ.t), which may refer to a realm in the Heavens. In another example, the sun shining its rays upon the land is described as “flooding the land with gold.”597 In his analysis, Schenkel argued against understanding gold and turquoise as color terms in these instances, because for him, their meaning was symbolic; ultimately, it was the material—not color—he argued, 594 Quirke suggested that ḫsbḏ in Egyptian is “a term translatable as blue” (2001, 187). Warburton observed that “…lapis lazuli frequently means blue” and that “[i]n Classical Greek, the adjective kyaneos was primarily ‘dark blue,’ and the link to lapis lazuli thereby largely severed. However, the Akkadian word uqnu could not be severed from ‘lapis lazuli,’ and it did not mean simply ‘blue.’ Thus, the Greek is abstract whereas the Akkadian is not—­ being the precious material itself” (Warburton 2012, 196 and 188). 595 Schenkel 2007 and Baines 1985 (reprinted in 2007). The debate and the arguments have been summarized by Schenkel (2007, 222–227). 596 Berlin and Kay 1969; Kay and Maffi 1999. 597 Assmann 1983, 117, 53 and 11 and Warburton 2008, 224–225. “The one who fills the earth with gold dust” (mḥ tȝ m nḳr) is a common epithet of solar gods like Horus Behdety­ (­Wilson 1997, 551; lgg iii, 364a and 369b-c). Baumann assumes this term describes the morning sun breaking through the fine mist at dawn (Baumann 2018, 92 n. 498).

    Material Colors


    that was being invoked. Baines, following Schenkel and highly influenced by the Berlin and Kay model, in which materials are disqualified as colors, was of the same opinion.598 Warburton, on the other hand, has repeatedly stressed that precious materials were used as color terms by the Egyptians: I contend that the actual materials filled in the gaps left by ‘abstract’ verbal terms, but contributed in a significant fashion to the emergence of the abstract terminology. I do not contend that the colour terms represented by the names of these materials in ancient Egypt are abstract, but merely argue that the materials were decisive for the development of ­abstract colour terminology.599 He pointed to cases of painting and writing, where there are ancient references to texts being written with lapis lazuli or gold, but which in reality are painted with Egyptian blue or yellow pigment.600 The same is true of Mesopotamia (see Chapter 4). The results of the present study indicate that while substances can refer to colors, they are not color words in themselves. This is true of the terminology for both mineral pigments and plant and animal dyes. Because the aspect of color never fully separated from the material in the meaning of such words, it is not unusual for the color effect of a pigment or dye to be described in a different manner entirely. Thus, the colorful appearance of both madder- and kermes-dyed wools is called tabarru, which in turn designates the macro-category RED with regard to textiles. Various shades of tabarru-colored wool were then further qualified by specifying the dyestuff (e.g. SÍG tabarru ša ḫurāti “red-wool [dyed with] madder”) or through the use of an abstract, verbal color term (e.g. tabarru peṣû “bright/light tabarru-red”). The Akkadian words for dyes and pigments are non-verbal. While the names for materials generally do not functions as color designations, certain precious stones and metals pose notable exceptions to this trend. It is not coincidental that precisely those substances that are historically- and culturally-speaking most important—lapis lazuli, Iranian calcite, amethyst, carnelian, gold, silver—are also the ones that expand their meaning beyond their immediate material-basis and thus become color terms. Color is also a reality of the lived world. The archaeological record confirms what we learn from written documents: the Mesopotamians used an extensive 598 Schenkel 2007 and Baines 1985 (reprinted in 2007). 599 Warburton 2008, 216 and 2012. 600 Warburton 2008, 225 and Baines 1985 (reprinted in 2007).


    Chapter 3

    range of pigments and dyes to decorate their bodies, possessions and built spaces. Throughout this chapter, the relevant physical evidence is examined in conjunction with, and sometimes in contrast to, the textual sources. Such an approach makes it clear that it is not always methodologically sound to seek one-to-one correlations between samples of ancient coloration and terminology extracted from written texts. The primary reason for this is a striking discrepancy: there are more colors used in Mesopotamian craftworks than there are expressions for them in the Akkadian language.601 Moreover, descriptions of polychromy in textual sources frequently do not match the reality of the physical evidence. This latter phenomenon has to do with the fact that descriptions of colored artifacts and materials in texts are affected by what the material in question intends to mean in the physical world. Because glass was supposed to emulate and mimic precious stones, for instance, the two media were not always distinguished in the texts. Warburton has summarized the implications these facts have for the history of color usage and for the development of color language in the following manner: “…societies used materials with colours before using BCTs [basic color terms], and where they employed recognized BCTs, they used more colours than BCTs.”602 3 Abstraction In a series of articles Warburton has tried to demonstrate that not only do the names for precious materials frequently refer to colors in ancient Egyptian but that the dispersal of these materials (and ideas about them), through trade and other mechanisms of exchange, played a role in a process of abstraction. What role the acquisition of loanwords from other languages played in the semantic evolution of color-related words in Akkadian is not yet clearly and comprehensively documented. As Warburton observed, metaphoric expressions of color inspired by the natural environment—the sky, earth, water, sun—are rare in the earliest writings from the ancient Near East: “instead of using the surrounding cosmos as the point of departure, the ancients described the sun as being ‘gold’ or the sky as being ‘lapis lazuli’ or ‘turquoise.’”603 Thus, for him, the origins of abstraction in thought and meaning about color should be sought in certain precious materials (jade, lapis lazuli, carnelian, turquoise, silver, gold),

    601 The same was observed by Schenkel 1963 and Baines 1985 for ancient Egypt. 602 Warburton 2012, 192. 603 Warburton 2012, 186.

    Material Colors


    which were known and moved as prestige goods from the late Neolithic and Bronze Age onwards.604 Diffusion and the exchange of these materials and words between cultures in contact play a key role in the process of abstraction: as substances (as well as the ideas associated with them) were moved around, the meaning of words and colors evolved accordingly. Warburton demonstrated this with two English words for blue, “cyan” and “azure,” both of which can be traced back to older words for lapis lazuli. Cyan derives from Greek kuáneos, which in turn may be connected to Akkadian uqnû. Both kuáneos and uqnû denote a dark blue color, whereas when the term entered the English language in the 19th century, it took on the meaning greenish-blue. The etymology of English “azure,” from French azur “light/bright blue” of a clear sky, can be traced back through Spanish and Arabic to the Persian word lāžward.605 Thus, although originally derived from the same material, the meaning of both color words changed over time as they followed different trajectories in the history of language contact and consequently accrued new values unique to the people who spoke those particular languages.606 The exchange of words and ideas throughout the Near East in the third, second and first millennia bce certainly had implications for the language of color in Akkadian. In the case of amethyst, it seems that when Egyptian ḥsmn entered the Akkadian vocabulary as ḫašmānu in the early second millennium, it displaced the older, native word for the stone, saggilmud. This displacement also led to an expansion in the term’s semantic range: from then on, the name of the stone was also used to describe the appearance of reddish-purple dyed wool, linen, leather and the color of flashing lightening (in an omen). That color and not the material is being referred to in these cases can be demonstrated with some certainty. Some of the administrative documents concerning the textile industry at Ugarit are written in Akkadian, while others are in Ugaritic. The very same dyed wool that is designated as “amethyst” (ḫašmānu) in the Akkadian texts is given as “glowing coal/ember” (pḥm) in Ugaritic ones. This variation tells us that the scribes were primarily concerned with designating the particular color of wool and not with alluding to a particular material; it also reveals that the convention in Ugaritic to describe this color was different than in Akkadian and that this difference was preserved in each language community despite contact between the two. It may be that when the word ḫašmānu entered the Akkadian language as an Egyptian loanword in the early 604 Warburton 2012. 605 Skeat 1888, 47. 606 Warburton 2012, 193.


    Chapter 3

    second millennium, this borrowing somehow activated the process of abstraction. This is not to say that “amethyst” was a regularly used abstract color word in Akkadian. Outside the textile and leather industries, and aside from a handful of references in omens, ḫašmānu is rarely functions as a color term. Contact and exchange of materials on the physical level likewise had a notable impact on color language. When Iranian yellow calcite (duḫšu) was brought into Mesopotamia in large quantities through trade and as war spoils at the end of the third millennium, the significance of the word increased tremendously. Duḫšu is attested as a stone but is also the color of tanned and dyed leather in Sumerian documents; in the second millennium, as dyeing techniques for wool and linen advanced further and when the technology for producing yellow glass was discovered, duḫšu was also used to describe the color of these media despite the fact that less and less yellow calcite was being used in Mesopotamia at this time. In the written sources from the first millennium, “(yellow) calcite” is obsolete as a term for wool, although other yellow-colored wools are attested. By then, the meaning of the term duḫšu (spelled dušû in this period) had narrowed significantly, now referring only to inflatable goatskin rafts. It is possible that the prestige of yellow textiles and yellow glass waned due to contemporary tastes and fashions607 and that this loss of prestige is reflected in the usage of the color term as well. The earliest use of color cannot be traced in language, and the earliest system of color categorization, for instance in painting, was not based on language.608 However, the evidence collected in this chapter also suggests that the increased use of color, especially in technologies that manufactured and manipulated new types of colored material, had a definite impact on the level of language. Whereas Warburton does not believe that materials became abstract color words in antiquity, I argue that by providing stimulus for the emergence of new colors and color schemes in crafts and arts, late Bronze Age technologies like glass-making/working, glazing and dyeing played a critical role in the gradual abstraction of Akkadian words for stones and metals that become color words. These technologies for producing color artificially, on a scale and in forms not known before, acted as a spur to expand the semantic range of words that 607 Most of the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian references to textiles focus on red and purple garments, and Iron Age glassmakers were interested in producing deliberately ­decolorized, transparent glass. 608 The disconnect between the colors used in painting and the vocabulary of color is a topic explored by many (E.g. Landsberger 1967 and Thavapalan, Stenger and Snow 2016 for Mesopotamia; Baines 1985 and Quirke 2001 for ancient Egypt, Blakholmer forthcoming for the Aegean).

    Material Colors


    previously had concrete and restricted meanings. For instance, as dyers began exploiting woad and murex to produce blue wool, this fabric was given the name SÍG uqnâtu “lapis lazuli(-colored) wool” precisely because the color of the wool emulated the color of the stone. Likewise, “Egyptian blue field,” “amethyst lightening,” “obsidian bricks” and “golden moon” are all expression of color inspired by human experiences with these substances. The phrase šammi uqnâti, which does not refer to a blue plant but rather to the source of blue dye, is interesting because cognitively, it testifies to a further degree of separation between the original material and its characteristic color. The sharing of terminology through the vehicle of color was also accompanied by a transfer of cultural meaning, from one medium to the other. The prestige and value of uqnâtu-blue wool, to take the previous example, was inevitably linked to that of the lapis lazuli stone. In Akkadian, it seems that when material-based color terms are used symbolically, their symbolic meaning is frequently connected to the original substance and not the (abstract) notion of color. In other words, the color of a substance could exist as an idea that was separate from but nonetheless related to its material point of reference. This is also the case in ancient Egyptian, for instance, where dark blue and light blue are both present as the material colors lapis lazuli (ḫsbḏ) and turquoise (mfkȝt), each of which also has symbolic meaning despite the fact that neither of them correspond to the abstract color term “blue.”609 4

    Colored Materials

    4.1 Wool and Leather The earliest textiles were made from flax (which was cultivated in the ancient Near East beginning around 9000 bce) and other vegetal fibers. Animal fibers, wool especially, only rose in importance with the domestication and breeding of sheep in the Ubaid period (late fifth to early fourth millennia bce). Largescale textile production in institutional settings began in Mesopotamia during the last centuries of the third millennium.610 While Sumerian documents confirm that wool was colored artificially in the third millennium bce,611 extensive dyeing only began in the second millennium. The impact of this technology is visible in the cuneiform record as new words enter the Akkadian vocabulary to describe these colors and as existing 609 Warburton 2008, 230–231. For symbolism, see Kees 1943, 430. 610 Waetzoldt 1972. 611 Waetzoldt 2010.


    Chapter 3

    words take on new meaning to capture the diverse color-related processes associated with the textile industry, such as bleaching, dyeing, staining, weaving and the final designing and ornamentation of the piece. At each stage, a different specialist might have been employed, as shown by Zawadzki from the NeoBabylonian documentation from Sippar.612 4.1.1 Coloring Fabrics and Garments Craftsmen of ancient Mesopotamia and Syria deliberately and painstakingly found ways to color their clothing and accessories. The history of colored textiles does not merely tell us about how people liked to adorn themselves in ancient times. It also informs us about the movement of precious commodities through trade, exchange and as spoils of war and reveals how the valuable and sometimes exotic nature of colored garments was used to create social meaning. As we shall see, artificially colored fabrics had a market among the wealthy and in cultic institutions. Certain garments and colors were worn only by gods and kings or in specific ceremonial contexts. Unless it is bleached, fleece is naturally pigmented, and its colors were distinguished with special terms in ancient times. Lighter shades of undyed wool were called “white wool” (SÍG.BABBAR, peṣâtu) and blackish or darker shades were called “black wool” (SÍG.GE 6, ṣalmātu). Similarly, the terms “red wool” (SÍG.SA 5, sāmtu) and “yellow wool” (SÍG.SIG 7.SIG 7, arqātu) do not describe specific shades but rather delineate a range of colors that fall into each ­category. Needless to say, the natural reddish, brownish, beige and yellowish coloration of wool was less vibrant than the brilliant hues achieved through dyeing. ­Polychromy in fleece was referred to as “mixed” (SÍG.GÙN.NU, barmātu).613 612 Zawadski 2006, 57–66. Technical operations of the textile industry involved shearing (gazāzu), spinning (ṭamû), weaving (kaṣāru, šapû, maḫāṣu), bleaching (pūṣu), dyeing (ṣab/pû in the Neo-Babylonian period). 613 Landsberger argued that the sequence of terms appearing in Ḫḫ xix 23–28 [msl 10 128] represents natural wool colors because they are listed separately from the dyed wools (1967, 145 and 155–156). In the order given in the lexical list and as he understood their meanings, these are: peṣâtu “white,” išarātu “normal,” ṣalmātu “black,” barmātu “manycolored,” ḫabšanātu “many-colored,” and arqātu “yellowish.” The artificial colors are given later on in the list: nabāsu, tabarru, uqnâtu, takiltu (Ḫḫ xix 78–79a [msl 10 129]) and ḫuššātu, ruššātu, and da’mātu (Ḫḫ xix 90–92 [msl 10 130]). Landsberger’s observations, which were entirely based on the lexical evidence, require some modification. In administrative documents, “red” (SÍG.SA5, sāmtu) wool also refers to naturally pigmented wool. This argument was made by Waetzoldt for the Ur-iii period (2010) and by Lassen for the Old Assyrian period (2014, 259). The adjective sāmu is generally only used to describe the natural coloration of objects (e.g. of stones, mineral pigments, gold, flowers and fruit and animal pelts, see cad S 127–129). Both the large quantities of fabric and the fact that they are never associated with the raw materials necessary for dyeing indicate that these terms

    Material Colors


    Waetzoldt suggested that this term might mean instances when light and dark wools were combined.614 This chapter focuses on the terminology for dyed wools in particular because 1) being poorly understood, there is need for a comprehensive, diachronic study of these words; and 2) this terminology has special implications for Akkadian color language in general. Dyed wools are attested in the written sources dating from the early second millennium onwards. As Landsberger observed, these wools are separated from naturally pigmented ones in UR 5-RA: ḫubullu.615 In administrative records, artificially colored wools are either specified as “dyed”—the exact ­terminology varies according to period and region—or else are given the names of precious substances. For instance, the names of valuable stones are given to the wools called “calcite(-colored)” (SÍG.DUḪ.ŠI/ŠÚ.A, duḫšu), “lapis ­lazuli(-colored)” (SÍG.ZA.GÌN, uqnâtu) and “amethyst(-colored)” (SÍG.SAG. GIL.MUD, ḫašmānu) because such fabrics were dyed in manner that evoked the vivid hue and luster of these costly and prestigious minerals. Carnelian (na4GUG, sāmtu) was never used as the name for dyed wool because the word for this stone derives from the abstract, verbal term “red” (sāmu). As discussed above, these verbal color words had been well established within the textile industry as the terms for naturally pigmented wool since the last centuries of the third millennium. Shades of red and reddish-orange are not named after minerals but are rather associated with certain vegetal and animal dyes. Typically colored with locally available species of madder, ­although the dye source changed from the second to the first millennium,­ ­tabarru-red wool (SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.DA) remained the most popular if not the most valuable dyed fabric in ancient Mesopotamia and Syria. It is unclear whether “apple-wool” (SÍG.ḪAŠ.ḪUR, ḫašḫūru), another type of red fabric attested from the early second millennium onwards, takes its name from the color of the fruit or because the dye originated from the apple tree. A few unique Hurrian terms for dyed cloths that appear in texts from Nuzi—kinaḫḫu, šuratḫu and tamkarḫu, for instance—are unattested elsewhere. Generally speaking, it is the words for shades of red, blue and purple fabrics that abound in the

    denote naturally pigmented wools. According to the editors of the cad, the word ḫabšānû may refer to a quality other than color, like “shredded” (cad Ḫ 18). The cad understands the adjective išarātu (SÍG.BABBAR.SI.SÁ) as “natural wool” (cad I 224). Given that the primary meaning of the verb ešēru is “to straighten,” it is also conceivable that the term describes undyed light-colored wool that is straight and in good shape. 614 Waetzoldt 2010. Another possibility is that several classes of wools were mixed, in which case the term has no implications for the issue of color. 615 Landsberger 1967, 145.


    Chapter 3

    ­ ritten sources from all periods of Akkadian, a clear indication that the people w of the ancient Near East were particularly fascinated with these colors. Staining and Dyeing While many plants are capable of coloring fabrics to a certain degree, only certain ones yield stable, non-fugitive dyes. Akkadian written sources indicate that both plant- and animal-based dyes were used to color wool, linen and leather in the ancient Near East. Although chemical analysis has confirmed that certain mineral pigments such as ochreous earth were used to stain cloth in ancient Egypt,616 this practice is not attested in the cuneiform record or in the meagre textiles finds from Syria and Mesopotamia. However, it should be noted that as rich as the Akkadian sources for the Bronze and Iron Age textile industry are, they ultimately only tell us about the colored garments manufactured specifically for the ruling class and the cult. Locally available, colorfast and cheap vegetal dyes were undoubtedly used in households, concurrent and in parallel with the textile industry. For this reason, an overview of the local plant and animal dyes exploited in the Middle East, from antiquity to relatively modern times, is given in what follows. Red

    Madder (Akk. ḫurātu; Rubia tinctorum) was the main dye for red wool. The sections on tabarru-red wool (3.5.9) and ḫurātu (3.6.2) discuss the importance of this plant-based colorant in the leather and textile industries from the early second millennium onwards. While madder produces soft, warm shades of red and orange in wool, kermes and cochineal/carmine yield vibrant, cool, almost bluish reds. Today a threatened species, the insect known as dyer’s kermes (Kermes vermilio) only lives on the kermes oak (Quercus coccifera L.), which is found around the Mediterranean and eastern Adriatic shores of France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Croatia, Greece, Crete and Turkey. According to Cardon, the kermes oak used to grow in Lebanon and Israel.617 Beside shades of red, kermes was historically also used to produce luxury gray and black cloth in combination with mordants and other dyes.618 Some scholars maintain that the tōla’at 616 Vogelsang-Eastwood 2000, 278. E.g. Germer reported textiles colored with ochreous earth in finds from the Workman’s Village at Amarna (1992, 66–67). 617 Cardon 2007, 611. The more common species of kermes that lives on the holm oak (Quercus ilex L.), on the other hand, contains no red colorants and hence only yields poorquality pinkish beige-browns. According to Cardon, this may have been a substitute for the more expensive product (Cardon 2007, 610–611). 618 Cardon 2007, 614.

    Material Colors


    šanī “worm that shines” mentioned in Isaiah I 18, perhaps the same as the tūltu sāmtu “red worm” mentioned in Uruanna (iii 237), refers to kermes (discussed further under ḫurḫurātu, 3.6.3).619 The colorant in Armenian cochineal (Porphyrophora hameli), now called Armenian carmine or crimson, is the carmic acid present in the cochineal insect. Today, it is found in the dry steppes and semi-desert environments of central Asia, and especially in the Araxes river plain along the frontier between Armenia and Turkey.620 According to the ninth century Arab essayist al-Jaḥiẓ, the plant on which the insects feed and grow was itself harvested in antiquity, a fact that might explain why insect-dyes were sometimes referred to as plants in Akkadian texts. The prestige and commercial value of this substance is due as much to the superb colors it yields as to the labor involved in acquiring the raw product. An enormous quantity of insects is required for dyeing with carmine.621 While it has been tentatively identified on Egyptian and Nubian textiles dating from 5th to 7th centuries CE,622 Armenian carmine has yet to be identified on fabrics from the Bronze or Iron Ages. Lac, imported from India and produced from another species of insect (Kerria lacca Kerr.), was only used in the Middle East after the mid-16th century. Several color words for shades of red in Indo-European and Turko-Mongol languages originate from the ancient Indo-European word kwrmi, meaning “larva, worm.” Examples include, Sanskrit kwṛmija “worm-made” referring to the lac insect, Persian and Arabic qirmiz, Spanish kermes and carmesino, French kermès and carmin, English carmine and crimson. The term “vermilion” derives from Latin vermiculus “small worm,” which goes back to Indo-European kwrmi.623 In medieval times, kermes dye was known as “scarlet,” which also refers to high quality woolen cloth. Thus, “white scarlet” designates high quality cloth that has not yet been dyed with kermes.624 None of the Akkadian words for red dyes appears to function as stand-alone color words.

    619 Landsberger 1967, 169. 620 Cardon 2007, 648. 621 About forty dried female adults yield one gram of Armenian carmine, according to Cardon’s experiments (Cardon 2007, 649). 622 Taylor 1987, 145. Madder, kermes and indigo were used to produce the beautiful colors in Coptic linen and wool tapestries from the Early Byzantine-Ummayyad period (c. 500s– 600s). According to Trojanowicz et al. 2004, madder was combined with kermes at a ratio of 95: 5 to produce red dye in this period. 623 From the Proto-Indo-European root wer meaning “to turn, bend” (Skeat 1888, 142–143; Cardon 2007, 608–609). 624 Cardon 2007, 614.


    Chapter 3

    The Akkadian words for safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) and henna (Lawsonia alba or Lawsonia inermis), which were commonly available in the ancient Near East and which have been detected on linen from ancient Egypt,625 have not yet been identified. With its bright orange florets, the spiny safflower plant is native to the Near East and was cultivated in the eastern Mediterranean from ancient times. Safflower is ideally used for dyeing wool pink. In concentrated amounts, however, it can also produce darker shades of bright red. While dyeing with safflower does not require a mordant, the decocted dye is alkaline and must be activated with an acid like vinegar or lemon juice.626 An unidentified dyestuff called tanubātum and pomegranate (Punica granatum L.), a popular dye in several Mediterranean civilizations, are both mentioned in the context of dyed wool in a text from Mari.627 It is mainly the rinds of the dried, ripe fruit that are utilized for dyeing, although the roots, branches and bark of the pomegranate shrub may also be harvested for the purpose.628 With alum as a mordant, pomegranate-dye would imbue wool with a rich, golden yellow color, whereas with iron, shades of grey or black could be achieved.629 Since iron is not attested as a mordant at Mari, we can only guess that the madder and pomegranate-dyed wool was fixed with alum, to produce a bright, orange-colored fabric. A recipe for producing “false purple” with a decoction of pomegranate blossoms, alum, lichen purple and orchil is given in the fourth century Stockholm Papyri.630

    Purple and Blue

    While the Akkadian written sources frequently allude to the raw materials necessary for dyeing wool red, similar information is scarce in the case of yellow, green, blue and purple wools. Perhaps the most precious wool color in early antiquity, the animal dye sources for purple wool, are never explicitly stated in Akkadian texts. This might be because murex-dyed wools were imported into

    625 Germer 1992; Vogelsang-Eastwood 2000, 279. Germer was unable to substantiate the claim that Egyptain mummy wrappings dating to the mid-third millennium bce were dyed yellow with safflower. The earliest attestations of this dye are from much later, during the 21st Dynasty (c. 1050 bc). 626 Cardon 2007, 53–60. 627 For tanubātum see arm 21 354. Twenty liters (2 sutu) of pomegranate (nurmû) are mentioned in combination with three liters (3 qa) of madder for the production of half a mina (250 grams) of šutû-quality wool in arm 21 316. 628 Cardon 2007, 481. 629 Cardon 2007, 483. 630 No. 95 in Caley 2008, 70–71.

    Material Colors


    Mesopotamia from the West.631 Red- and blue-purple wools are discussed under argamannu and takiltu (3.6.1). We may suppose that “amethyst purple” (ḫašmānu) wool was dyed with vegetal matter, since two locally available plants, urṭû and ḫi(n)zarību, are associated with ḫašmānu in the lexical literature (see 3.5.5).632 Several other plants native to the Middle East could have been used for dyeing cloth purple in ancient times. The root of alkanet or dyer’s bugloss (Alkanna tinctoria), for instance, contains alkannin, a purple-red colorant that yields a range of colors from lilac to violet to grey and grey-violet, depending on the mordant used.633 Alkanet grows wild in most of the modern Middle East. The species found in Anatolia, the Syrian Desert and northern Iraq is known as A. hirsutissima in scientific literature.634 Alkanet is mentioned in the Leiden Papyrus X (recipes 96–100, c. 4th century CE) as a cheaper substitute for shellfish purple, although no Bronze or Iron Age textile dyed with alkanet has yet been found. In the recipe quoted here, the wool is first treated in alkaline water and the alkannin-colorant in the plant is dissolved with acid: P.Leid X 96: ‘Dyeing with Purple’635 Wet lime with water and let it stand for one night; having decanted, place the wool into the liquid for one day. Take it out and dry it. And after wetting alkanet with vinegar, put it to boil and throw in the wool; it will come out dyed purple. Boiling in water and natron releases the purple colour. Then dry the wool and dye it further in the following manner: boil seaweed with water and when it has been exhausted, throw in a bit of copperas [green vitriol] by the judgement of your eye to develop the purple, and then dip the wool and it will be dyed. If you add too much copperas, it will become darker.

    631 This is assumed because the archaeological evidence lies to the West, along the Levantine coast. Recent excavations at the site of Khor Ile-Sud in Qatar reveal that the Gulf region may have supplied Mesopotamia with murex dye in the Late Kassite period (c. 13th–12th century bce). The issue of purple-wool production is discussed in detail in the entry for argamannu and takiltu (3.6.1). 632 In Malku: šarru vi 179–187 (Hrůša 2010, 132–133) and the Practical Vocabulary of Assur 207–209 (Landsberger and Gurney 1957/1958, 330), where the urṭû-plant is associated with ḫašmānu and two other wools: “apple wool” (SÍG.ḪAŠḪUR) and SÍG ḫinzirību. Landsberger considered inzurātu-dye as distinct from (ḫ)inzurību-dye, since they are mentioned as distinct entries in the Practical Vocabulary of Assur, entries 205 and 209 (1967, 156). 633 Cardon 2007, 62. 634 Cardon 2007, 60–61. 635 Trans. Humphrey, Oleson and Sherwood 1998, 362.


    Chapter 3

    Although primarily associated with the color blue, a range of greens, blues and violets could be obtained from the indigotin-containing leaves of the woad plant.636 Two species of woad—Indigofera spp. and Isatis spp.—are native to the Middle East and were very probably exploited in ancient times. The identification of the “lapis lazuli plant” as woad is discussed under uqnâtu (3.5.11).

    Yellow and Orange

    Shades of yellow and orange can be achieved with turmeric, the root of the barberry plant, with “Persian berries,” weld or dyer’s mignonette and saffron. The Persian berry or buckthorn fruit (Rhamnus Lycioides L.) is a shrub that grows on rocky, calcareous soil in the Aegean and Mediterranean regions, including the coasts of Egypt, Asia Minor and Israel. Golden yellow, orange and green shades of dye may be produced from the fresh or dried fruit of the plant. The dye of the buckthorn berries has not been detected on any ancient textile.637 Weld (Reseda luteola) used to be cultivated in Anatolia, Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean coast. Its leaves and fruit contain the colorant. Both weld and madder are said to have been cultivated in what is Palestine today in the Mishna (c. 1st–2nd century). In Coptic textiles dating between the third and tenth centuries, weld was used to achieve yellow, orange (combined with madder) and green (combined with indigotin from woad or indigo). The olive shade of weld-dyed fabrics may have been achieved by mordanting with iron.638 Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) probably derived from the wild crocus (C. cartwrightianus Herb.) that grows in Greece and Crete.639 The strong, water-soluble yellow colorant found in the dried stigmata of this plant could be used for dyeing. So strong is this dye that just one part saffron in 100,000 parts water suffices to achieve yellow hue.640 According to ancient Greek sources, Cilicia and the foothills of the Taurus mountains were two key centers for the production and international trade of saffron, which was subsequently exported through the Egyptian Red Sea ports. As saffron has been used extensively in gastronomy since ancient times, it is uncertain how much of it was used for dyeing textiles. Saffron has been detected in the textile fragments found in the Cave of Letters in Israel (c. 132–135 ce). Alone, it was used to color linen and wool yellow; combined with madder, it was used to produce orange. Green was 636 637 638 639

    Cardon 2007, 373–374. Cardon 2007, 187–191. Cardon 2007, 169–177. Arabic (zaʿfaran), Hebrew (karkom), Sanskrit (kunkuma). See Cardon 2007, 302–307. A wall painting from Akrotiri depicts young women harvesting saffron/ the wild crocus but it is not clear if it was used as a spice or for dyeing. 640 Cardon 2007, 304.

    Material Colors


    achieved by mixing saffron with indigo and black with saffron, indigo and madder.641 Turmeric (Curcuma longa), perhaps to be identified with Akkadian kurkānû on the basis of the Arabic word kurkum, is a fruitless herb that is thought to originate in South Asia. The fresh or dried and ground powder of the plant’s lateral rhizomes or “fingers” yields a beautiful golden yellow dye. Turmeric-dyed silk and cotton are known from India (Vedic period, c. 1000–500 bce) but it has not been detected on Middle Eastern textiles.642 Like safflower, turmeric is a direct dye that does not require a mordant but must be activated in an acidic bath. While it was considered medicinal, there is no indication in the Akkadian sources that the kurkānû-plant was exploited as a dye.643 Green

    Stol proposed that leather was dyed green in Mesopotamia with the copper compound known as verdigris, Akkadian šuḫtu.644 As discussed above, however, material evidence from later periods suggests that shades of green were achieved by double-dyeing or overdyeing: combining yellow dyes with indigotin from woad or indigo. Recipes in the Sippar Dye Text Of special relevance to the question of purple-, blue- and red-dyed wools, the dyestuff used to achieve these colors and their relative commercial value in the ancient Near East is the so-called Sippar Dye Text (BM 62788+82979), which was discovered in the city of Sippar, located some thirty kilometers southwest of Baghdad.645 The reverse side of the tablet contains instructions for producing shades of red and purple wools utilizing plant-based colorants. The seventh century bce manuscript of this unique text may be a product of an older scribal tradition. Like the recipes found in the Leiden and Stockholm Papyri, it is supposed that the Sippar Dye Text offers inexpensive alternatives for achieving the appearance of highly esteemed fabrics that were traditionally colored with costly and locally unavailable dyes. Recipes for producing all the three shades of purple wool considered in the present study, takiltu, argamannu and ḫašmānu, are given there. The recipe for ḫašmānu-wool appears to head the text, although the passage is broken. 641 Cardon 2007, 305 and the reference to the 1963 study by Abrahams and Edelstein therein. 642 Cardon 2007, 319–321. 643 cad K 560–561. 644 Stol 1980–1983, 534. 645 Edition in Leichty 1979. Translation by Finkel in Reifarth and Völling 2013, 34.


    Chapter 3

    A ­reconstruction based on structural parallels and what is known about ḫašmānu-wool from elsewhere suggests that the color of the wool was achieved by overdyeing mordanted blue wool with the crushed elements of a red dyestuff. The name of the dye is unfortunately not preserved but the fact that alum is required to fix the dye onto the wool suggests that a plant-based source was used (rev. 2–5).646 The color of takiltu-wool is likewise achieved through a process of overdyeing, although in this case, the name of the red dyestuff, ḫatḫurētu, is preserved (rev. 6–8). Some scholars take ḫatḫurētu to be a variety of madder (ḫurātu)647 while others relate it to the apple tree (gišḫašḫūru).648 The recipe for argamannu-wool calls for the use of either the kasû-plant (rev. 9–10) or the aforementioned ḫatḫūru (rev. 11–13) with mordanted undyed white wool. 4.1.2 Coloring Leather The art of converting skins and hides to leather has been discussed in detail by Stol649 and more recently by Scurlock.650 According to the latter, three types of leather-making processes may be discerned from the Akkadian written sources: 1) chamoising: treating the hide with oil in order to replace the lost animal fat; 2) tawing: treating the skins with alum, salt and flour in order to increase its pliability and softness. Generally, it is the skins of small animals like sheep, goats and pigs that are tawed. Tawed leather that is undyed appears whitish in color; and 3) tanning: soaking larger cattle and ass hides in a vegetable tannin such as gallnuts, sumach or acacia bark and then dyeing and burnishing it. A mordant is generally utilized during the dyeing process and of primary interest to the present discussion are the colorants exploited to this end. Colorants According to Akkadian sources, the chief colorants employed to dye leather were madder (ḫurātu), which was ubiquitously used,651 and kalgukku-mineral, 646 Based on the assumption that ḫašmānu-wool was blue-green in color, Finkel and Granger-­ Taylor assume that the missing dyestuff is pomegranate (Finkel, Granger-Taylor and Cardon 1999–2000). Overdyeing woad-blue wool with the yellow dye extracted from pomegranate would yield a greenish colored wool. Cardon’s citation of the use of pomegranate for dyeing in Mesopotamia is based on this chain of reasoning (Cardon 2007, 483). 647 Reifarth and Völling 2013, 34. 648 cad Ḫ 149. 649 Stol 1980–1983, 527–536. The raw materials used in the process are described on pp. 532–536. 650 Scurlock 2007. 651 In the Old Babylonian period, madder is attested in the archives from Isin (van de Mieroop 1987, 31 and 154), at Mari (Joannès 1984, 150–169) and at Karana (Dalley 1977, 156).

    Material Colors


    attested only at Mari (see 3.6.4).652 At Isin in the 21st–20th centuries, tanned leather was produced in four colors: undyed light (KUŠ.BABBAR), dark (KUŠ.GE 6), dyed red (KUŠ.Ú.ḪÁB) and dyed yellow (KUŠ.DUḪ.ŠI.A). The raw materials necessary for making black leather were pomegranate (NU.ÚR.MA), a substance called “gold earth” (IM.KÙ.SI 22 = illūr pāni/kalû) and oil. Pomegranate was used as a tanning agent and the oil was applied after tanning and dyeing, perhaps to ensure the leather remains supple or else for waterproofing.653 The phrase “darkened with IM.KÙ.SI 22” (IM.KÙ.SI 22 BAGE 6) confirms that this substance was a dye.654 Yellow duḫšu-leather was produced with a copper compound (see 3.5.2 for further discussion). Other leather colorants like turmeric (kurkānû), pomegranate (nurmû), grape leaves, verdigris (šuḫtu), vitriol (copper sulfate) were also available, but based on the written evidence, it is not possible to say if they were exploited for this purpose in ancient times.655 The “pomegranate skin” mentioned in one ­Sargonic text from Girsu suggested to Levey that the rinds of this fruit were used for dyeing in this early period; however, the text itself does not make any reference to this.656 Tannins Among the vegetal matter employed by ancient craftsmen to tan leather were gallnuts, sumach and pomegranate. Because of their relevance for producing colored leather, the Akkadian terms for each substance and their use are dealt with briefly here. The gallnut grows abundantly in Asia Minor and Iraq. Levey’s suggestion that the “alum of Hatti” (IM.SAḪAR.NA 4.KUR.RA ša kurḪatti) refers to the gallnut from Turkey657 makes little sense given that the Middle Assyrian ritual text in which it is mentioned describes a tawing (i.e. with alum), not tanning (i.e. with vegetable tannins) process.658 Scurlock has recently proposed to­ ­identify kibiš dušî “the dušî(-leather) fungus” as the Akkadian term for gallnuts 652 653 654 655 656

    Joannès 1984, 144. van de Mieroop 1987, 30–31. bin 9 198, bin 10 83 and 150. Scurlock 2008, 175–176. Levey 1955, 129 n. 19. itt 5 6905, 4: 3 (AŠ) 1 (BARIGA) 5 (BÁN) KUŠ NU.ÚR GUR. The text purportedly dates to the Sargonic period; however, it was published by de Genouillac with a group of Ur-iii tablets. 657 The Aleppo oak is found from the highlands of Asia Minor to Iraq and the eastern Mediterranean. The gallnuts of the Aleppo oak (Quercus infectoria Oliv.) yield black dye and are likewise a good source of tannin (Cardon 2007, 414–417). 658 Levey 1955, 129 and n. 5.


    Chapter 3

    because of its association with duḫšu-leather and sumach, another important tannin employed by leather-workers in ancient times, and because gall growths are often caused by fungi in reality.659 In conjunction with an iron mordant, gall extract can produce blue-black colors on fabrics.660 In the Leiden and Stockholm Papyri, several procedures for producing “fake” purple make use of gall with an iron or copper mordant, as in the following case: P. Leid X 100: ‘Another (Procedure for Dyeing with Purple)’661 Take the juice of the upper part of the alkanet and a solid gallnut roasted in the oven. Having ground it with the addition of a little copperas, mix with the juice, boil, and make the purple dye. Many species of sumach (Rhus coriara L.) grow wild and are cultivated in northern Iraq. Its leaves yield tannic acid, which is used to make soft and pliable “morocco leather.” Given its tannic nature, it also possible to dye directly with sumach without a mordant. The berries produce a burgundy color, the leaves grays and blacks, whereas the inner bark can yield bright yellows in leather. The identification of the Akkadian word for sumach is still a matter of debate.662 Scurlock recently proposed that kammu is sumach because the plant is attested in the context of leather-working (úkamme aškappi) in the plant list and in various medical omens.663 The fact that it is mentioned with verdigris in Uruanna suggested to her that sumach was used as a tannin and not necessarily as a colorant. However, given that it is cited as the plant responsible for the appearance of duḫšu-wool (šammu ša pān duḫšê) in Uruanna ii 364, which is known to be yellow-colored, we should not exclude the possibility that sumach was employed as a dye in ancient times. Vitriol (sulfate of copper) in combination with tannin matter, such as sumach or gall, will produce a dark blackish dye. This fact explains the simile “an ox that is black as kammu 659 Scurlock 2007, 174. 660 In Hellenistic and early Roman times, Aleppo was famous for its production of gallnuts. In Arabic and Armenian texts from the fifth century ce, southern Armenia is said to be an important export center of galls from which black-dyed linen veils were produced (Cardon 2007, 417–418). 661 Trans. Caley 2008, 40. 662 The various earlier proposals made by Thompson (amīku, ṣa/ipru) and Farber (ḫurātu), which have subsequently been refuted, are summarized in Stol (1980–1983, 533). Levey’s idea that Akkadian ṣipru, which he understands as sumach, is connected to the Arabic word for yellow, ʾaṣfar, is unsubstantiated (1955, 129). 663 Uruanna ii 364 ff.: Ú kám-me AŠGAB: Ú šá IGI duḫ-ši-[e]: Ú šuḫtu. Many examples for the uses of kammu ša lúAŠGAB, in an emetic, for a suppository, for an eye salve, are quoted in cad K 125.

    Material Colors


    on copper” (alpu ṣalmu kīma kamma ina muḫḫi erî), which appears in a medical text.664 It is unclear what exactly the phrase kamme agurri “baked-brick kammu,” only found in lexical lists, refers to.665 Vegetable matter was never employed in the manufacture of colored enamels and analysis of glazed ceramics and tiles demonstrates quite clearly that only metallic colorants, generally in the form of metals or mineral pigments, were ever used for this purpose (see 3.4.2 for list of colorants and full discussion).666 Stol observed that pulverized pomegranate rinds are still used by Bedouine women to treat sheep and goatskins.667 This seems to have been the case at Isin in the late third millennium, as van de Mieroop noted.668 In one text, the fruit rind (KUŠ.NU.ÚR.MA) is attested in context with alkali and chalk; in this case, the pomegranate is very likely a mordant.669 Mordants Mordants help improve the intensity and fastness of plant and animal dyes. Both acidic (gall, sumach) and metallic (alum, natron, iron vitriol) mordants were known in the ancient world.670 Mordants react chemically with dyes and the fibers of the textile to bind each to the other. They may be added to the substrate before, during or after dyeing. Apart from ensuring the color-fastness of dyed fibers, mordanting was also a means to alter the shade or hue of certain dyes. For instance, madder yields several colors on wool, depending on the mordant employed (see table 3.10 in Section 3.6.2).

    Alum, alluḫaru, qitmu and natron

    Given its transparent crystalline form, it is not surprising that alum (na4gabû) was considered a stone in ancient times. In the Old Babylonian period, other as yet unidentified mordants like alluḫaru and qitmu671 were also employed for

    664 amt 12 4, 6. See Scurlock 2007, 174 and n. 44 and Stol 1980–1983, 534. 665 Uruanna iii 363b and iii 332 (cad K 125). 666 Contra Scurlock 2007, 174 and n. 47. The source of the alkaline detected in the Neo-­ Assyrian tiles from Nimrud is the plant ash, an essential ingredient for producing the base of the glaze. 667 Stol 1983, 532. 668 Pomegranate kernels (PEŠ!.GIŠ.NU.ÚR.MA) and moist pomegranate (GIŠ.NU.ÚR.MA.DU RU5), both of which may be used for tanning, are referred to in bin 10 24 (van de Mieroop 1987, 32). 669 tut 121 vi 10; Stol 1983, 533. 670 Goffer 2007, 367; Stol 1983, 533–534. 671 Alluḫaru “white dust of the mountain” and qitmu “black dust of the mountain” are described as varieties of alum in the lexical tradition:


    Chapter 3

    dyeing.672 Eventually, however, alum seems to have displaced all other substances for that purpose. In the mid-to-late second millennium, Asia Minor was a source of alum (NA 4.KUR.RA ša kurḪatti/ IM.SAḪAR.NA 4.KUR.RA ša kur Ḫatti).673 By the first millennium, trade patterns had changed, for according to Neo-Babylonian temple documents from Uruk, alum was acquired from Egypt (na4gabû ša kurmiṣri) and Kašappu (na4gabû ša kašappi) in this period.674 The textual sources make it abundantly clear that the ancient Mesopotamians knew how to fix madder dye with alum onto wool and leather (see tabarru/nabāsu 3.5.9 and ḫurātu 3.6.2). It was also known that mordanting could be done at any stage of the dyeing process with each method yielding varying results. The practices of pre-mordanting and simultaneous mordanting are attested in the Sippar Dye Text. A further use of alum for producing color in vitreous materials was also known in ancient times. Glassmakers used cobalt-containing pink alum, called “male red alum,” to achieve an intense dark blue color in glass and faience (see cobalt in Section Since it is mentioned in the context of locally produced “fake” purple wools and alum, it is reasonable to assume that the unique reference to ten talents (approximately 300 kilograms) of natron from the Neo-Assyrian period has to do with its use as a mordant in this period.675 Elsewhere, natron is mentioned as an ingredient in medical prescriptions.676 4.1.3 Colored Embellishments Both the textual sources and the material record confirm that fabrics were embellished with embroidery, woven patterns, painted motifs and appliqué in Ḫḫ xi 311–313 [msl 7 140]: IM.SAḪAR.BABBAR.KUR.RA: a-nu-ḫa-ru; IM.SAḪAR.GE6.KUR .RA: qit-mu; IM.SAḪAR.NA4.KUR.RA: NA4 ga-bu-ú. Ḫg to Ḫḫ X 134a [msl 7 113]: IM.SAḪAR.G[E6.KUR.RA]: ˹qit˺-mu: [NA4 ga-bu-ú]. 672 In a text from Mari, a royal agent informs the king Zimri-Lim about his efforts to purchase alluḫaru and qitmu (arm 13 43). It is revealed in the text that both substances were consumed in large quantities there, although we are not told to what ends. According to Durand, the land of Suḫum was the source for both minerals (Durand 2000). 673 E.g. kar 60: rev. 7. 674 Egypt is mentioned in gcci 1 327 and Kašappu in yos 19 287. Both are mentioned in ncbt 632: obv. 6, 9. Payne 2007, 136 and n. 242. 675 saa 16 82: rev. 5–10. Marduk-šarru-uṣur complains to the king (Esarhaddon or Ashurbanipal) that he has not received payment for the following items: thirty-one talents of twined linen (ṭi-bu GADA), eighty talents of red-purple wool of the (foreign) land (SÍG.SA5.KUR to be read argamannu), seven talents of dark purple wool of the (foreign) land (.GE6.KUR to be read takiltu), thirty talents of alum (na4ga-bu-u) and ten talents of natron (na4ni-ti-ru). The wool was apparently dyed locally and then sent to the capital, Nineveh. The wool colors are discussed under argamannu and takiltu (3.5.1). 676 cad N 299.

    Material Colors


    a­ ncient times. In a detailed early study that took the visual evidence—on cylinder seals, murals and reliefs—as well as the textual sources into consideration, Oppenheim showed that large quantities677 of rosettes (ajāru), disks (nipḫu), squares (tenšia),678 rings (ḪAR, qudāšu, a/inṣabtu) and animal679 forms made of gold were attached onto garments in the N ­ eo-Babylonian period.680 The hundreds of gold clothing ornaments discovered forty years later in the “Queen’s Tombs” at Nimrud confirmed his ideas.681 These ornaments were sewn (elû, ḫatû) onto linen and red- and purple-dyed wool. They could be taken off (šūrudu) for cleaning.682 The tēdiqu-, muṣīptu-, pišannu- and kusītugarments embellished with golden sequins were mainly ceremonial in the Neo-Babylonian period, reserved for the gods and royalty.683 References to sequins made of silver also exist684 and we should imagine that leather and leather-coated objects were also decorated in a similar manner.685 The written testimony for appliqué clusters in documents from the seventh and sixth centuries; however, there is enough evidence to suggest that ring-shaped golden bracteates were used in the Sargonic and Ur-iii periods and also in the second millennium, where scattered references are found in the texts from Nuzi, in the Amarna letters and in Hittite texts.686 677 E.g. gcci 2 133, 1–6: 561 a-a-ri 560 te-en-ši-ia PAP (napḫar) 1121 a-a-ri u te-en-ši-ia 8 5/6 MA.NA 2 GÍN KÙ.SI22 a-di-i TÚG mu-ṣip-ti KI.LÁ.BI-šu-nu “Five hundred and sixty-one rosettes, five hundred and sixty tenšia-ornaments, total one thousand one hundred and twenty-one rosettes and tenšia-ornaments, their weight, together with the (pertinent) muṣiptu-garment, is eight minas, fifty-two shekels of gold.” 678 The form of the tenšia-ornaments was discussed in detail by Oppenheim: “The term tenšia could refer to the characteristic form of these [square] bracteates but also to the ornaments or representations appearing on them, even to their function. Since no etymological connection for this word (perhaps of Aramaic origin: tenšia, Akkadianized tenšû/ê) can be established, the problem of its interpretation has to remain without a solution” (1949, 176). 679 E.g. gcci 2 133: 7–9, where seventy large UR.GU.LA.MEŠ and twenty-five small UR.GU.LA.MEŠ are mentioned. 680 Oppenheim 1949. 681 Hussein 2016. 682 See Payne for a group of texts from the Eanna archive in which washermen (ašlāku) are given garments with gold sequins to clean before and after divine clothing ceremonies (2007, 87 and n. 153). In her view, it was most likely the washermen’s responsibility to attach the gold sequins onto the sacred garments, since aside from goldsmiths, who produced, cleaned and repaired the ornaments, they are the only individuals mentioned in the texts in association with the sequins (2007, 93, 208). 683 Oppenheim 1949, 180. 684 Oppenheim 1949, 177 and n. 16; bin 1 145: 1–6. 685 Oppenheim 1949, 176. 686 Oppenheim 1949, 179.


    Chapter 3

    Representations of garments decorated with rosettes begin to appear in the 12th century bce in Assyria and Babylonia. In Assyrian iconography of the ninth and eighth centuries, rosettes and square bracteates are prevalent.687 Even within these two broad types, finer distinctions in design are apparent upon careful examination of the rosettes found in the Nimrud tombs.688 Metallic decorative elements were also applied to expensive textiles in ancient Egypt, where there is, comparatively speaking, much more physical evidence. Many of the textiles in Tutankhamun’s tomb, to take one famous example, were decorated with gold bracteates and stars and faience rosettes and cartouches.689 Painted motifs of the kind attested in Egypt are perhaps also to be expected on Mesopotamian garments.690 Let us now turn briefly to faience and glass appliqué. Faience and glass beadneck collars and bead-net dresses that were attached to linen garments are well known from Egypt. However, like the gold and silver sequins discussed by Oppenheim, faience beads were also sewn onto cloth and occasionally even woven into the material to create colorful patterns. The three examples of this technique discussed in what follows suggest that this style was widespread and popular among the many cultures of the ancient Near East and Mediterranean world. The first is the case of a textile found in the funerary temple of Mentuhotep ii (2046–1995 bce) at Deir el-Bahri. Light blue faience beads have been woven in rows into the linen cloth of this garment, perhaps a shawl.691 687 Oppenheim 1949, 181–186. 688 The gold clothing ornaments were found in: Tomb ii (sarcophagus): property of queens Yabâ, Ataliya and Banītu (Hussein 2016, 21–22; see Svärd 2015, 40–41 for the debate over the identity of the bodies). Aside from the 777 rosettes (ND 1989.116, Baghdad, Iraq Museum), eight-pointed stars, hemispherical buttons (ND 1989.118), triangles composed of raised hemispheres (ND 1989.119) and ten-spoked wheel ornaments (ND 1989.62) were also found in Tomb ii, albeit in lesser numbers (Hussein 2016, pl. 77–80). Tomb iii (coffin two): property of queen Ḫamâ (Hussein, Altaweel and Gibson 2016, 37). Some of the rosettes have granulated centers (ND 1989.367) while others have recessed centers (ND 1989.368) or spheres (ND 1989.365). Yet another variety has dangling elements (ND 1989.369). See Hussein 2016, pl. 151–152. For a portrait of female royal dress based on the material from these tombs, see Spurrier 2017 and Gansell 2018. 689 Vogelsang-Eastwood 2000, 280 and in general 279–281. 690 E.g. Designs painted on linen, on secular garments and on funerary shrouds, are known from the New Kingdom onwards (Vogelsang-Eastwood 2000, 281). Jones reported the discovery of painted votive clothes dedicated to the goddess Hathor from the 11th Dynasty (21st century bce) temple at Deir el-Bahari (Jones 2013, 2). 691 The piece is housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (vat. 729–1907). For discussion, see Vogelsang-Eastwood 2000, 280.

    Material Colors


    In a textile found at Acemhöyük in central Anatolia (19th century bce), the same kind of tiny blue faience beads were found. According to the excavator N. Özgüç, “the textile resembled a white linen. On one side, it has a decoration of dark and light blue faience beads sewn on with gold thread.”692 As Lassen noted, the origin of the garment itself is not known. If the cloth was imported from Assyria, as we would expect in the context of the Old Assyrian trade, it is more likely that this fragment represents part of a woolen garment. On the other hand, the use of faience beads and gold thread suggests that the decorative work was inspired by Egyptian textile work.693 Five hundred years later, it seems that beads were being used to embellish garments in the same manner. Among the commodities discovered on the Uluburun shipwreck (c. 1320 bce) were thousands of tiny faience beads similar to those attached onto the much earlier Deir el-Bahri and Acemhöyük textiles. In their current state of preservation, the beads have accreted into a large lump on what seems to be a cloth bag.694 It has been shown that the dark blue glass ingots on the ship were produced at Amarna, using raw materials from Egypt;695 it is unclear if these red-orange faience beads were likewise produced in one of the large glass workshops in Egypt. Whatever their origins, the evidence of the beads on the Uluburun merchant vessel indicates that such multicolored beads were made and traded in mass quantities in the Late Bronze Age, in this case by Levantine merchants. Craftsmen could then attach them onto linen or wool garments to suit local fashions.696 It was possible to create unique and colorful patterns with beads and ­sequins made out of metals, faience and glass. Moreover, as they caught and reflected light, the lustrous surfaces of these materials would have imbued garments with a brilliant, shimmering effect. Thus, these garments were valuable 692 Özgüç 1966 quoted in Lassen 2014. 693 Lassen 2014, 258–263. 694 A similar lump of some 8,000 glass beads were found inside a broken Canaanite jar, which could have originally held up to 26,000 beads. The faience beads number to approximately 69,000 and were not in any vessel, which suggests that they were transported in a cloth bag (Ingram 2014, 235–236). 695 Jackson and Nicholson 2010. 696 According to Ingram, “[f]or both KW 8 (small glass beads) and KW 7 (tiny faïence bead), the jumbled orientation of the beads within the concretion strongly suggest that these beads were carried loose in their containers. There is evidence that luxury textiles were carried on the ship, allowing for the possibility that some of the tiny or discoid faïence beads found loose at the site may have been sewn onto cloth or garments originally (Pulak 2008, 296–297; Wachsmann 1998, 306). There is, however, no direct evidence of this, and while it remains a possibility, it can be said with certainty that many such beads were not incorporated into textiles” (Ingram 2014, 236). In other words, the beads were themselves traded loose.


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    both on a commercial (labor, high cost of the materials, maintenance) as well as on a symbolic (unique visual and psychological effect) level. Only the gods, goddesses and the nobility of the ancient world ever wore such beautiful, colorful clothes. 4.1.4 Conclusion An overview of the colored wools and dyeing materials studied in this chapter are given below. Table 3.1

    Colored wools and dyeing materials in daily records (2nd-1st millennium bce)

    Wool peṣâtu (SÍG.BABBAR) undyed or bleached ṣalmātu (SÍG.GE 6) undyed sāmtu (SÍG.SA 5) undyed arqātu (SÍG. SIG 7.SIG 7) undyed ḫ/ruššû (SÍG.ḪUŠ.A) birmu tabarru (SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.DA) SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.DA.KUR.RA nabāsu (SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.DA) makrû ḫašmānu (SÍG.SAG.GIL.MUD) ḫašḫūru/šaḫšūru (SÍG.(GIŠ). ḪAŠḪUR) duḫšu (SÍG.DUḪ.ŠI/U.A) kinaḫḫu šuratḫu tamkarḫu takiltu (SÍG.ZA.GÌN.(KUR.RA)) SÍG.ZA.GÌN ḫandalātu SÍG.ZA.GÌN dupašši takiltu ša pî ruqqi/ KA ŠEN b takiltu ša Jamanî

    Ur-iii a OA OB, Nuzi MA MB Ugarit EA NA NB Mari X

























    X (rare)



    X X – – – – – –

    X X – – – X – –

    X X X – X – X X

    X X X – – – X –

    X X – – – – X –

    X X – – – – – –

    – X X – – – X –

    X X X – – – – –

    X X – – – – – –

    X X X X X – – X

    – – – – – – – – –

    – – – – – – – – –

    X – – – X – – – –

    X X X X X – – – –

    – – – – X – – – –

    X – – – X – – – –

    – – – – X X X – –

    – – – – X – – – –

    – – – – X – – – –

    – – – – X – – X X


    Material Colors

    Wool takiltu ša ebir nāri uqnâtu (SÍG.NA 4.ZA.GÌN.MEŠ/ ZA.GÌN.MEŠ/ NA 4.ZA.GÌN.NA)c ḫaṣaš/rtu argamannu (SÍG.ZA.GÌN.SA 5) b/parittannue ÌR.Ú.MA.MEŠ f (unknown)

    Ur-iii a OA OB, Nuzi MA MB Ugarit EA NA NB Mari – –

    – –

    – –

    – X

    – X

    – X

    – X

    – –

    – –

    X –

    – – – –

    – – – –

    – – – –

    X(?) – – –

    – – – –

    – – – –

    X Xd – –

    – – – –

    X X – –

    X X X X

    – – –

    X – –

    X – –

    – – –

    – – –

    X – –

    – – –

    X – –

    – X X

    – – – – – – X – – –

    X X – X – X – X – –

    – – – X – X X – – X

    – – – – – – – – – –

    – – – – – – – – – –

    – – – X – – – – – X

    – – – – – – – – – –

    – – X – – – – – – X

    – – – X – – – – X –

    – – –

    – – –

    – – –

    – – –

    – – X

    – – X

    – – –

    – – X

    X X X

    Raw Materials (dyes, tannins, mordants) na4 gabû “alum” – na4 gabû ša miṣri “Egyptian alum” – na4 gabû ša kašappu “alum from – Kašappu” alluḫaru (a mordant) – qitmu (a mordant) – na4 niṭiru “natron” – ḫurātu “madder” – tanubātum unknown – urṭû unknown – šūru “walnut” or “gall oak” – nurmû “pomegranate” – ḫinzurriwe (= inzaḫurētu) uknown – ḫuruḫurāti ša tulti/ ḫuḫurātu – “kermes+madder” ḫaš/tḫurētu “apple+madder(?)” – ú kasû “safflower(?)” – ú uqnâtu “woad” –

    a Based on Waetzoldt 2010. b E.g. NCBT 632: obv. 5, 16 and YOS 19 74: obv. 1–2. Literally “from the mouth of the cauldron” perhaps meaning “fresh from cauldron,” according to Payne (2007, 137 and n. 245). One can imagine that this refers to a darker shade of the blue-purple color of the wool. c Landsberger 1967, 158. d Uncertain, one attestation, see 3.6.1. e CAD B 112: a color of horses, perhaps denoting a light color since it is mentioned with white and brown horses. It is mentioned in a partially preserved dowry list in connection to textiles and seems to refer to the color of wool: 1-EN šam-tu4 pa-ri-it-ta-nu “one šamtu-garment of parittannu(-color)” (BM 76136: 6’; Zawadzki 2010, 415 and 420). f Discussed in Payne 2007, 135 n. 231. Connected with apple(-colored) wool in Neo-Babylonian texts.


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    Needless to say, the day-to-day reality behind the dyeing industry was much more complex than what this table suggests and what is described in Akkadian sources. I have proposed elsewhere697 and emphasize here that a one-to-one correlation between wool color and dye source did not exist in ancient times. The tabarru-red color of wool could be achieved with a range of plant- and animal-based dyes. Anthropological research and experimental archaeology have demonstrated, moreover, that by using a mordant and in combination with tannins, a wide array of colors could be achieved with a single dye source. The concentration of the dye, the pH of the dye-bath and in the case of vegetal dyes, the provenance and age of the plant used also affect the final color of the fabric. Thus, while takiltu and argamannu may refer to blue- and red-purple shades of wool colored with murex dye in certain historical contexts, these are ultimately color terms and do not refer to a particular technical process or to a quality/type of fabric. Takiltu and argamannu could also refer to purple wools dyed with cheaper, plant-based colorants. The dye sources exploited in the Bronze Age differ from those employed in the Iron Age. Diachronic studies of the terminology for artificially colored wools and their dyestuffs indicate that contemporary fashions, in addition to access to raw materials, governed the market for luxury textiles. Long-distance trade and exchange of ideas about textile techniques and current fashions were an integral aspect of the history of color language within this industry. Dyestuffs, faience beads and colorful wool and linen garments were just a few of the items exchanged among distant regions. 4.2 Pigments The pigments used to color stone, clay, wood, ivory, leather and other surfaces were typically inorganic, mineral substances qualified with the determinative IM “clay” (ṭīdu). Most such materials were found in the natural world except for blue and perhaps also green frit, which were produced synthetically. Natural colorants had to be treated before application based on their individual properties. Several difficulties stand in the way of a comprehensive study of pigments used in Mesopotamia. First, there is the issue of the physical evidence. Unlike in the case of neighboring Egypt, for instance, very few painted objects survive from Mesopotamia. And so, it is not easy to reconstruct the ancient craftsman’s palette and is impossible to know what kind of symbolic meaning polychromy may have conveyed. Lexical lists match a few words for pigments with the ideal color they produced. While this information brings us closer to understanding 697 Thavapalan 2018a.

    Material Colors


    how ancient Mesopotamians perceived and used colored materials, it does not aid in the identification of individual substances. Literary and historical texts describe the colorful effect of painted works rather than record the raw materials employed. Very little can be gleaned about the cost or sources of the pigments from administrative documents. The craftsmen who actually worked with the pigments left no written testimony. We can only guess which pigments were acquired locally and which were imported, how they were extracted, stored, prepared and applied. With regard to the economic, technological and aesthetic dimensions of painting, we must assume a great degree of variation, depending on period, region, artistic school, tastes, the surface being colored, whether it would be exposed to weathering or not and so on. Occasionally, it is possible to make guesses about the special properties of certain pigments based on how they are used in chemical and medical texts. Pigments function as technical terms in Akkadian—their meaning is closely tied to their materiality. They are hardly ever used as color terms, although they can refer to color, visually but also in written sources. Examples of the latter are found in omens, a genre of text that often makes use of real-world objects to describe phenomena (e.g. Alamdimmû ii 88: “If the hair on his head is black like qitmu(-paste)”). The equivalences between coloring agent and color given in the bilingual lexical lists suggest that the words for pigments generally designated a single, ideal color and material: Sumerian IM.BABBAR = Akkadian gaṣṣû = calcium carbonate = white However, this is clearly not always the case. Several words can refer to the same color and may have been used interchangeably. There is also some overlap between yellow and red, very likely because these colors are linked in the environment and through natural processes. Red colored realgar (As4S4), for instance, distintegrates to yellow-gold orpiment (As2S3). Heating yellow ochre causes it to oxidize and turn red. Yellow massicot (orthorhombic PbO) and wulfenite (PbMoO4) are frequently found with red minium (Pb3O4). Pigments were important elements in rituals. According to written descriptions, the application of paint, which is often characterized as metaphorical clothing, seems to “activate” the magical efficacy of figurines just as dyed textiles imbued divine statues with powerful auras. Without their colors, these objects were incomplete and ineffectual. While ritual texts imply that certain pigments had certain symbolic values associated with them—whether due to their colors or to other material properties—there is no general treatise that explains these meanings clearly. It is only possible to make inferences based on individual ritual activities and their intended outcomes. As an example, based


    Chapter 3

    on how paint was used in the ritual Šēp lemutti ina bīt amēli parāsu, Wiggerman observed that darker colors like red and black were reserved for “activating” gods, whereas brighter colors like white and yellow were used on sages and monsters.698 Table 3.2 offers an overview of the most frequently cited pigments in Akkadian written sources. In many cases, their identification is not secure. Table 3.2  Pigments in Akkadian daily records (2nd-1st millennium bce)



    da ʾmātu (IM.GÙN. GÙN.NU/IM.SIG 7. SIG 7)

    (Dark) Hematite(?) yellow to Pl. 4b red to brown


    Yellow(?) Uncertain

    gaṣṣu (IM.BABBAR)


    Calcium carbonate whitewash made of limestone Pl. 20

    guḫlu (IM.SIG 7.SIG 7)

    Dark brown/ black

    Galena(?)a Pl. 18a Stibnite(?) Pl. 14

    698 Wiggerman 1992, 54–55. See 3.6.5.

    Mineralogical Literature Identity cad D 74: dark-colored earth. AHw I 156: dark yellow paste. Thompson 1936, 116: yellow clay, orpiment. cad E 366: yellow dye or paste. ahw I 257: yellow mineral. Thompson 1936, 54: yellow collyrium. cad G 54: gypsum, whitewash. AHw I 283: gypsum. Harris 1961, 91: Egyptian ḳd “gypsum” is a New Kingdom loanword from Akkadian gaṣṣu. cad G 125: antimony. Thompson 1936, 116: perhaps antimony. Brill in Oppenheim et al. 1970, 117–118: perhaps galena (lead-sulfide).


    Material Colors



    Mineralogical Literature Identity

    Cinnabar(?) Pl. 4a Minium(?)

    Moorey 1994, 139: galena (if it is lead-based) or pyrolusite (if it is an oxide of manganese). Wasserman 2015, 606–607 n. 19: generic word for dark cosmetic paste and aromatic gum. cad I 88: rouge. AHw I 373: rouge. Bimson 1980, 77: red cosmetic pigment found in the “Royal Tombs” of Ur was hematite (the mineral that gives ochre its red color).

    illūr pāni (IM.KÙ.SI 22)


    kalû (IM.KAL)

    Yellow to Ochre red

    cad K 94–95: any earth or ore of a specific yellow color. AHw I 428: a paste. Wiseman 1955, 5–6: orpiment. Oppenheim et al. 1970, 52 n. 58: ochre or similar mineral. Stol 1998, 347–348: ochre. Volk 1999, 286 and n. 61: yellow ochre.

    kalgukku (IM.GÁ.LI.GUG)

    Yellow to Lead-based. orange to Bindred heimite(?) Wulfenite(?)b Pl. 3a

    cad K 73: mineral or clay of a reddish color. AHw I 425: a paste. Oppenheim et al. 1970, 52 n. 58: ochre or similar mineral.


    Chapter 3

    Table 3.2  Pigments in Akkadian daily records (2nd-1st millennium bce) (cont.)



    Mineralogical Literature Identity

    lēru(IM.ŠIM.NA 4. SAḪAR)

    Uncertain Uncertain

    qitmu(IM.SAḪAR. GE 6.KUR.RA)

    Black, dark


    šaršerru (IM.SA 5)


    Hematite(?) Cinnabar(?) Pl. 4a and b

    šīpu (IM.ŠIM.KÙ.SI 22)

    Antimonycontaining Pl. 5b

    Thavapalan forthcoming: lead-based, naturally occurring yellowishorange mineral. cad L 147–148: perhaps orpiment. AHw I 546: gold paste. Thompson 1936, 48: hard, friable material that produces golden-yellow color. Landsberger 1967, 169: gold paste. Oppenheim et al. 1970, 42 n. 52: ochre or orpiment. Stol 1980–1983, 531: orpiment. cad Q 281: black dye, used by leather-workers at Mari and often paired with the substance annuḫaru/alluḫaru. AHw ii 924: black powder. cad Š ii 124: red clay or paste. AHw iii 1191: red paste. Thompson 1936, 19: red clay. Brenner 1982, 153: red minium. cad Š iii 93: orpiment. AHw iii 1247: a yellow paste. Stol 1980–1983, 531: orpiment.


    Material Colors



    zagindurû (Light) (na4ZA.GÌN.DURU 5) blue

    Mineralogical Literature Identity Egyptian blue

    cad Z 11: greenish shade of lapis lazuli. AHw iii 1502: a type of lapis lazuli. Reade 1963, n. 25: blue frit. Landsberger 1967, 165: a variety of lapis lazuli. Michel 2001, 431: a brilliant variety of lapis lazuli. Schuster-Brandis 2008, 455 and n. 987: a blue stone. Marchetti 2009: blue, veined marble. Arkhipov 2010: a pigment. Thavapalan, Stenger and Snow 2016: Egyptian blue.

    a The color of the eye-paint and pigments made with galena varied depending on whether it was treated with heat and on which other pigments it was mixed with (Eastaugh et al. 2004, 163). b Wulfenite (PbMoO4) is also known as yellow lead ore and occurs with other lead-rich minerals like galena, vanadinite, mimetite and cerussite. See pl. 3a. It was identified by Bimson among the cosmetics found in the “Royal Tombs” at Ur (Eastaugh et al. 2004, 398; Bimson 1980, 77). Chiriu et al. 2017 reported the presence of two lead-based yellow pigments, bindheimite (Pb2S2O7) and crocoite (PbCrO4), applied onto the surface of cuneiform tablets dating to the mid-third millennium bce, possibly to highlight the writing.

    4.3 Glass Glass offers a unique opportunity to correlate the lexical and physical evidence for color because there are ancient glass recipes that record the colorants used to achieve artificially the visual appearance of precious stones—information that can be compared to archaeological finds and chemical analysis. 4.3.1 Overview of the Archaeological Evidence The earliest ancient glass appears in the archaeological record around the midto-late third millennium bce in Mesopotamia (at Nuzi/ Yorghan Tepe, Ešnunna/ Tell Asmar, Eridu/ Abu Shahrein, Ur/ Tell el-Muqayyar) and in Syria (Tell ej-Judeieh in the Amuq plain). Most of the objects recovered from this early period are small objects like glass beads and pinheads that are either dark blue or turquoise in color. A lump of low quality, dark blue translucent glass


    Chapter 3

    was found at Eridu in levels dating to the late Akkadian or early Ur-iii period, a discovery that might point to the earliest glass-making site known in the region.699 A pale, blue-green glass rod associated with the Akkadian palace (c. 2200 bce), again suggesting a site of glass production, was discovered at Ešnunna.700 From the third and mid-second millennium onwards, glass production underwent rapid development in the Near East. In place of small objects that were limited in color appeared sophisticated polychrome decorative ware and ornamental pieces. The major colored glass finds from this period are from Nagar/ Tell Brak, Alalakh/ Tell Atchana, Ugarit/ Ras Shamra,701 Karana/ Tell alRimah, Assur/ Qal’at Sherqat and Nuzi. At Karana (c. 1500–1200 bce) glass and frit molded plaques and masks were found alongside core-formed and mosaic vessels. The plaques are mainly of a dark blue color whereas white, yellow, redbrown and blue chunks of glass were used for the mosaic vessels.702 At Alalakh, where recent excavations have uncovered the remains of a large-scale glass factory, glass plaques of nude female figurines, bottles, bowls, goblets dating between the 16th and 13th centuries were found, alongside three pieces of glass ingots.703 A spectacular hoard of glass, including numerous fragments of glass vessels, some sixteen thousand beads, small objects such as mace heads, amulets and molded figures, as well as glazed objects (clay nails, figurines, vessels) was discovered at Nuzi (c. 1500–1200 bce).704 The glassy glaze on the clay vessels at Nuzi is thought to represent the first attested use of green glaze from the Near East,705 but according to Eremin, the green color visible today has discolored from what was originally translucent blue.706 Glass ingots have been 699 Beck 1934, 9; Garner 1956. Chemical analyses of the lumps were undertaken by Garner, who suggested that the sample was plant-ash based and that it was colored by cobaltite or erythrite arsenical cobalt ores. The low manganese content favors the arsenic cobalt ore option (Garner 1956, 147–148). 700 Beck 1934 no. 7 figs. 2–3; Barag 1970, 133. Found in fill room E 16:16 (see Beck 1934, no. 7 fig. 2). 701 It should be noted that among the twenty thousand-some pieces of vitreous material uncovered at Ugarit, eighteen thousand are faience and only one thousand are true glass objects. 702 Oates 1965, 62–68; Pollard and Moorey 1982. 703 Woolley 1955, 369. Recent excavations by Yener and Dardeniz (Dardeniz 2018). 704 The vitreous material at Nuzi has been studied by Kirk (2010). The glass pin head found in grave 5A of pit L4 was attributed to the Old Akkadian period (Stratum iv) by the excavators (Starr 1939, 515). 705 Drower 1973. 706 Eremin 2016. She also noted that based on style, workmanship and chemical c­ omposition, many of the polychrome beads previously assigned to lba levels should be r­ e-assigned to the late Roman or even Sassanian periods. According to Eremin, the only glass objects

    Material Colors


    discovered at Nuzi,707 Nagar (late 15th-early 14th centuries),708 Kar-­TukultiNinurta/ Tulul ul Aqar, Ugarit (15th-14th centuries)709 and Terqa/ Tell Ashara (14th–13th centuries).710 Taken as a whole, the archeological record suggests that by around 1600 bce, the technology of glass production had spread to three major centers: Egypt, Syria and Mesopotamia. So far, evidence for glassworking in the Bronze Age has been found in Egypt, at Tell el-Amarna (mid14th century), Malkata (14th century), Qantir (13th century), and in Syria, at Alalakh (14th century, pre-dating Amarna by a few decades). Major colored glass finds dating to the first millennium include those at Kalḫu/ Nimrud (in the Burnt Palace of Sargon and Fort Shalmaneser, late 8thearly 7th century), Nippur/ Nuffar (8th-7th centuries), Babylon/ Hillah (uncertain date), Dilbat/ Dulaim (8th-4th centuries) and Kish/ Tell al-Uhaymir. As Moorey remarked, the evidence for glass from this period, especially the highquality, transparent, molded cut glass bowls from Kalḫu, reflects a change in taste and approaches to production: …it is only in the Neo-Assyrian period that the idea of clear, translucent glass, imitating cut stones like rock crystal, became the primary goal in the workshops of the Assyrian and Achaemenid courts. The colours included blue, notably a turquoise blue, red, yellow, green, brown, black, and white; the transparent colours were blue and purple. The early clear glass is, unintentionally, tinted green or yellow.711 4.3.2 Overview of Glass Colorants Color is achieved in glass by the addition of controlled amounts of a chemical colorant. Such coloring substances may be introduced into the glass melt in several forms. Adding unrefined mineral ores that contain quantities of the that can securely to dated to the lba at Nuzi are the eye beads and marvered vessels. The vessels are generally made of a translucent blue body (colored with copper) and have yellow and white trailed decoration. A few of the core-formed vessels are amber colored. There is no BA red glass at Nuzi and only a few samples of yellow glass. 707 Three lumps and seven chips of translucent, deep blue glass, all from same ingot, were found in C62, but this locus is not marked on excavator’s plans (Barag 1985, 107–113; Moorey 1994, 202–203). Two small lumps (1930.82.62b-c) of colorless glass were also found; no other such example exists in the BA, which suggests that this type of glass must have been imported (Kirk 2010, 147). 708 Oates et al. 1997, 28–29, 85 figs. 124 and 89. For evidence of glassworking, see: pp. 28, 85– 86; Shortland and Eremin 2006; Shortland et al. 2007. 709 Matoïan 2000, 333–346. 710 Matoïan and Bouquillon 2007, 187–197. 711 Moorey 1994, 201.


    Chapter 3

    desired colorant in addition to other compounds is a straightforward but uncontrolled method of coloring. It is also possible to use purified mineral ores that have been crushed, washed and roasted beforehand. Employing this technique has the advantage of reducing the amount of metallic impurities that end up in the glass. For instance, copper may be introduced into the heated glass in the form of an ore, such as malachite, but also as copper or bronze filings. Using frit, cullet (broken pieces of glass), cakes or rods of highly-colored prepared glass instead of raw materials allows the glassmaker more control over the resulting color. In addition to the form of the colorant, the heating temperature, the method by which the colorant is introduced into the batch, as well as the gaseous atmosphere inside the kiln at different stages of the heating cycle all play a role in determining the final appearance of glass.712 The ­soda-lime-silica glasses from the ancient Near East are translucent (and transparent) unless they contain an opacifier, which causes glass to reflect certain wavelengths of light instead of transmitting them, thus making them appear opaque. The presence of such crystalline opacifiers can affect the color of glass too. Common opacifiers detected in Near Eastern vitreous material dating from the mid-second millennium bce through the fourth century ce, include lead-antimonate (Pb2Sb2O7) and calcium-antimonate (Ca2Sb2O7 and Ca2Sb2O6). While the latter is found in white, turquoise, blue and green glass and glaze, it should be noted that lead antimonate is associated only with yellow glass and glaze.713 In his edition of the Akkadian glass texts, Oppenheim observed that certain substances appear as final products of certain recipes while in others, they feature as a raw ingredient. In many cases, these “primary” or “intermediary” glasses were introduced into the basic glass batch in order to imbue it with color. Outside the glass texts, certain “primary glasses” such as anzaḫḫu, būṣu and mekku were also used to make small objects.714 The glass working site in 712 Henderson 1985, 2013. 713 Henderson 2013, 77. 714 E.g. Mekku-beads are mentioned in two texts from Assur (kar 213 iv 3 and AS 16 332f.: 13, 19). na4Būṣu is mentioned alongside carnelian (or red glass) and lapis lazuli (or blue glass) for inlaying in small ornaments in the Middle Assyrian inventory from Kar-­TukultiNinurta (vat 16462). For instance, two gold rams are embellished with silver (ears) and various colored glasses including būṣu. The legs of two stags are decorated with blue glass and būṣu (vat 16462 lines 17–30). The earliest reference to būṣu known to me is from an Elamite text from Haft Tepe (c. 1445 bce) in southwestern Iran (HT 25). There, ten shekels of the substance are mentioned in three separate entries. I thank N. Bahrami, Tübingen University for this information. Anzaḫḫu is attested in the Ur-iii period administrative texts from Drehem (TCL 2 5529) and was commonly used as an amulet stone (cad A 151–152).

    Material Colors


    Area four at Alalakh (early 14th century bce) confirms the reconstruction that the colorant was added to frits, which were subsequently incorporated into the glass melt.715 As discussed above, such substances would have taken the form of cullet or glass rods in practice, both of which are attested in the archaeological record of the ancient Near East. Shortland has observed that the chemical composition of the cobalt and copper-based blue frits found at Amarna (mid14th century) do not correlate to the chemical composition of cobalt and copper-based glass from Egypt.716 This might be because these frits were “primary glasses,” such as those listed in the Akkadian glass recipes; since a multiplestage production method was used, in which the “primary glass” (i.e. coloring frit) was melted with additional silica, ash and lime, the difference in composition between frit and final glass product makes sense.717 In the case of the ancient Mesopotamia and Syria, there are three types of evidence concerning glass colorants to correlate: the physical evidence for raw materials discovered at glassmaking sites, the results of chemical analyses of glass objects and the textual sources for glassmaking. Copper: Blue, Green, Turquoise, Red The use of copper as a glass colorant dates to the earliest finds from the third millennium bce. Very little of this substance is required to produce an intense color. There are two stable oxidized forms of copper, each of which produces a different color in glass. The presence of cupric ions (CuO) yields green, turquoise and blue glasses, whereas a reddish color is due to cuprous ions (Cu2O), achieved either by dissolving the copper in the heated glass under reducing718 kiln conditions, by limiting oxygen access to the glass through the use of crucibles with lids or by holding the glass at a temperature below the melting point, i.e. “striking” the glass.719 The bulk of the green, turquoise and blue glass from Mesopotamia and Syria was probably colored using copper. According to Kirk, all the opaque and translucent blue glass excavated at Nuzi, including the fragmented ingot,

    715 716 717 718

    Dardeniz 2018. Shortland 2008, 71–73. Shortland 2008, 73. A reducing atmosphere inside kiln is oxygen-deficient and carbon dioxide and monoxide predominate. This can be achieved by temporarily cutting off the oxygen supply for the heated glass batch. 719 See Freestone for his discussion on the various methods for producing copper-red glass (1987, 183).


    Chapter 3

    c­ ontains copper as the colorant.720 Opaque, light blue glass was formed by ­combining calcium antimonate-based white glass with copper-blue glass.721 The earliest examples of clay artifacts glazed green (perhaps discolored from blue), such as wall nails, small animal and divine figurines and vessels, come from Nuzi. These too were colored using copper. Analysis confirms that the semi-circle blue glass ingot from Terqa, the largest yet found from the ancient Near East (weighing 5.1 kilograms), was likewise colored with copper, as were the blue glass ingots from the Uluburun shipwreck.722 Samples of the blue and green glass from Nippur were analyzed by Peters.723 Copper-colored red opaque glass is less common. Examples may be found in the Near East from the second millennium bce onwards.724 Three pieces of red glass ingots colored with copper were discovered at Alalakh (late 16th-early 13th centuries).725 “Brick-red” copper-colored glass was discovered among the thousands of glass, glaze, frit and faience artifacts found at Nuzi, although this color was less commonly attested than blue, white and yellow-orange.726 The brown (perhaps darkened from red?) vessels from Assur have not been chemically analyzed.727 Curiously, no red glass was found in the massive glass hoard from Ugarit. From the first millennium bce, red glass is attested at Kalḫu (8th7th centuries),728 in the form of cullet and inlays, at Nineveh/ Kuyunjik (8th4th centuries), and at Toprak Kale (8th century, an Urartian fortress built by Rusa I).729 Three partially preserved opaque, dark red-orange ingots were 720 Kirk 2010, 145. Confirmed recently by Eremin, who observed, however, that all the blue glass at Nuzi was translucent and the opaqueness of certain blue vessels was a sign of deterioration (Eremin 2016). 721 Vandiver 1983, 240. 722 Jackson and Nicholson 2010. 723 Peters 1898, 134. 724 The earliest opaque red glass known to be colored with copper is from Tell el-Amarna (Brill 1988, 19). 725 One was an opaque red cupcake-type ingot and another was an opaque red lump covered with surface weathering. The final lump that appeared green due to weathering was also originally red (Bimson and Freestone 1985, 122; Barag 1985, nos. 180, 180A and 180B). The ingots were found in room thirty of the site, in the Palace of Niqme-pa. 726 Vandiver 1983, 244–245. 727 Henderson 2013, 141. 728 A round ingot covered with green surface weathering and blackish deposit, which was discovered in room forty-seven of the Burnt Palace (Barag 1985, no. 166). Another dark red ingot, dating to the 5th-4th centuries bce was also discovered (Barag 1985, no. 167). 729 Barag in Oppenheim et al. 1970; Vandiver 1983; Freestone 1987. In the first millennium bc, red opaque glasses are also attested in the form of two plaques from Hasanlu and Persepolis (Brill 1988, 20).

    Material Colors


    d­ iscovered at Dilbat; these probably date between the eighth and fourth centuries bce.730 Three red glass canes discovered in an artisan’s workshop at Babylon were intended to be broken off and melted down in ancient times to make small objects.731 It seems that from the eighth century bce onwards, opaque red glass is commonly found as inlays, beads and other small objects.732 The production of opaque red glass using copper requires a high level of technical skill. Its color and quality mainly depends on the amount of cuprous oxide in the glass: the higher the concentration, the more intense the shade of red.733 Chemical analyses and experimental reproduction of glass by ancient standards demonstrate that the intentional addition of lead, antimony and iron oxides aids in reducing the copper in glass to the cuprous state required to achieve a red color.734 Freestone noted that the iron and antimony present in the red glasses from Alalakh and Toprak Kale were not intended to be colorants or opacifiers but were rather deliberately added to stimulate the reduction of copper in just such a manner.735 Antimony might have also functioned to partially decolorize the iron, producing a brighter red color.736 It is further known that ancient glass-makers deliberately incorporated lead when manufacturing red glass in order to improve its appearance and quality. Lead not only increases the solubility of copper in the heated glass, thus promoting even coloration, but it also enhances the gem-like quality of the final product and softens the glass, making it easier to cut.737 Generally speaking, red glasses from the second millennium, such as those from Alalakh and Nuzi, are either lead-free or else contain negligible levels of lead; they would have appeared duller and more brownish in color in ancient times. In comparison, first millennium red glasses, including the pieces from Kalḫu and Toprak Kale, would have been a more intense and brilliant shade of red due to their high lead and copper content.738

    730 731 732 733 734 735 736 737 738

    Barag 1985, nos. 168–170. Barag 1985, nos. 173–176. Barag 1980, 109. Some scholars differentiate between low-copper (‘copper-red,’ containing 1–3% copper ions in the makeup of the glass) and high-copper (‘cuprite,’ containing 5–20%) opaque red glasses in their publications (Bimson and Freestone in Barag 1985, 119–120). Freestone 1987, 183–184. Freestone 1987, 184. Brill 1988, 19. Freestone 1987, 187. Freestone 1987, 186; Henderson 1985 and 2013.


    Chapter 3 Copper Colorant in the Written Sources:

    The substances called “slow copper” (URUDU.ḪI.A nēḫu) and “fast bronze” (ZABAR arḫu) in the Akkadian glass texts appear to be colorants. Brill proposed that “fast bronze,” meaning molten bronze, was used to produce red glass whereas “slow copper,” meaning un-melted copper, was used to produce blue-colored glasses. The bronze would have introduced lead and tin, both of which would have helped the copper to develop the cuprous oxide that imbues the glass with its red color. Chemical analysis confirms that many red glasses contain trace amounts of lead; some also contain tin.739 In a Neo-Assyrian letter dating to the reign of Sargon ii (721–705 bce), the term “fast copper” is mentioned as a substitute for blue glass. The sender of the letter, who appears to be tasked with overseeing the production of metal and stone statues, writes: [They] are ask[ing me] about the blue glass (na4ZA.GÌN). Twice, thrice have I written to the king, my lord, (but) it has not been sent to me. Now, if there is no blue glass (na4ZA.GÌN), let the king, my lord, issue an order that they give me a month’s (allotment of) fast copper (URUDU arḫu), just like the one (they gave) Urdu-Nabû, together with whatever is in the storeroom. Let Kulu’u and Mannu-kī-Arbail, the stone carver (lúBUR.GUL), come together. (SAA 13 127: rev. 3–14) The term lapis lazuli must refer to blue glass here since the raw material “fast copper” is asked for in lieu of the final product (i.e. blue glass). “Fast copper” must be related to the “slow copper” mentioned in the glass recipes for producing blue glass. As Oppenheim pointed out, this substance must have been valuable in this period, since it was stored in the royal treasury and appears as part of the war spoils that Sargon extracts from king Midas of Phrygia.740 Cobalt: Dark Blue This metallic colorant produces a deep royal blue shade of glass, glaze and faience popular in late Bronze Age Near Eastern and Mediterranean civilizations.741 Most historians of glass believe that cobalt blue glass was manufactured to imitate the color and luster of lapis lazuli.742 Even white mottling, analogous to that on genuine lapis, is found on cobalt-colored glasses due to 739 See Brill in Oppenheim et al. 1970, 122–123. 740 Oppenheim et al. 1970, 76–77. 741 The earliest cobalt glass from Egypt dates to the reign of Thutmoses iii, 1479–1425 bce (Shortland 2006). 742 Henderson 2013, 69.

    Material Colors


    the microcrystalline phases of vitreous material formed during the fabrication of the glass. In Mesopotamia, blue glasses colored with cobalt, as opposed to copper, are relatively rare. Garner detected trace levels (around 0.15%) of cobalt oxide in the lump of dark blue translucent glass discovered at Eridu (c. 2000 bce), ­making it the earliest known cobalt blue glass, predating the Egyptian pieces by some six hundred years.743 The cobalt ores used were arsenical, most likely from a source in Iran (see below). While cobalt blue glaze and faience were ubiquitous in Egypt in the second millennium, this is not the case in Mesopotamia. Out of the thirty-three samples of glass from Nagar, Nuzi and Karana that Brill analyzed, only one was colored with cobalt.744 Henderson recorded an additional purplish-blue bead (sample Br3) colored with cobalt from the glass found at Nagar.745 The exception to this trend is Nippur. The majority of the blue glass fragments from Nippur, dated to the 14th-13th centuries bce based on engravings left by Kurigalzu ii, Nazi-Maruttaš and Kaštiliašu iv, were colored with cobalt and copper.746 At the same time, the Nippur blue glasses differ from the Egyptian specimens from the same period: the Nippur samples contain twice as much cobalt as the average Egyptian blue glasses and do not contain the characteristic trace elements (aluminum, manganese, nickel and zinc) observed in the cobalteiferous alum from the Egyptian western oases.747 The exact nature of the ore used to produce the Nippur glasses remains unknown. Two further examples of cobalt blue glasses have been reported from Nagar: a blue bead and a vessel, colored with cobalt and copper.748 In both cases, the cobalt sources were (Egyptian) cobalt-bearing alums. Some of the blue glass from Ugarit was colored with a non-Egyptian, non-alum cobalt source, a curious fact given its proximity to Egypt.749 In comparison to the second millennium, cobalt seems to have been used more extensively in the first millennium, especially from the ninth century 743 Garner 1956, 147–148. 744 Brill 1999. 745 Oates et al. 1997, 96–97. 746 The glass was part of a hoard of precious objects found in a wooden box in a Parthianperiod building near the ziggurat. As witnessed by the dedicatory inscriptions left by the Kassite kings, the glass itself is older. For editions of the texts, see Clayden 2011, Appendix A. Walton and his colleagues analyzed forty-seven samples, sixteen of which were from glass axes; the others are pieces of hair panels, rods and horns (Walton et al. 2012, 837–838). 747 Walton et al. 2012, 841. 748 Brill 1999b, 39. 749 Neumann 1927, 1013–1015.


    Chapter 3

    bce onwards.750 Early examples include the ninth century square opaque blue glass inlay plaques with white rosette design in the center from Kalḫu. In ancient times, these were either attached to ivory inlays and applied to furniture or hammered directly on to furniture with bronze tacks. Analyses reveals that the soda source for the cobalt glass from Kalḫu was not plant ash—what is typical of Mesopotamian glass—but rather natron. Furthermore, elevated levels of magnesium, manganese, iron, nickel and zinc indicate that, like the Egyptian cobalt blues, the glass discovered at Kalḫu was colored using an alum source.751 Taken together, this evidence suggests that the blue glass plaques reached the Assyrian palace through trade, tribute or booty, as opposed to being locally produced.752 While it is known that the dark blue color in Egyptian753 and Syro-Mesopotamian glass was achieved using a pigment derived from a cobalt-rich mineral, there are no archaeological traces of this substance as a raw material. Moreover, because so little cobalt is necessary to color glass—as little as 0.02% is enough—it is difficult to detect. In the natural world, cobalt is never found in isolation but rather in association with minerals like copper (e.g. trianite is a copper-bearing cobalt ore), arsenic, nickel (e.g. erythrite; skutterudite contains cobalt with nickel, iron and arsenic), iron, manganese (e.g. in the mineral asbolane) and zinc (e.g. cobaltite is sulpher, arsenic and zinc-bearing). Such trace elements make it possible to associate the cobalt in glass to specific mineralogical sources (see pl. 7a).754 Geological surveys indicate that cobaltiferous alums (hydrated double sulphate of potassium and aluminum) occur in the Dakhla and Kharga Oases of the Egyptian Western Desert. In their raw form, the Dakhla alums appear yellow or pale pink, whereas the Kharga ones are purple inter-growing with white. Pale pink and purple cobaltiferous alums contain a higher concentration of cobalt than the yellow variety (see pl. 8a and b).755 The cobalt-rich alum was most likely purified by roasting before being used as a colorant in glass.756 Alum 750 Brill 1999; Reade et al. 2005. 751 Reade et al. 2005, 24. 752 Reade et al. 2005, 24–25. 753 Kaczmarczyk was the first to realize that the blue glass and glaze as well as the bluepainted pottery from Egypt were colored using cobaltiferous alum. In order to use the raw material, some preliminary preparation was required: the cobalt in the alum needed to be converted from the sulphate, which can be done by dissolving the alum in water and mixing it in an alkali (Kaczmarczyk 1986). 754 Henderson 2013, 69. 755 Shortland et al. 2006. 756 Henderson 2013,70 and references therein.

    Material Colors


    from both these sources was employed to make Egyptian cobalt blues in the second millennium bce. Iran was likely the non-alum source of cobalt for Mesopotamian glasses from all periods, and for Egyptian glasses and glazes dating to the first millennium. There are four known Iranian sources for cobalt-rich minerals. Deposits have been found in the Anakrak mines located in Isfahan province, at Qamsar, again in Isfahan province, in the Baycheh Bagh mines in Zanjan province and at Eqlid, in Fars province.757 Some scholars have claimed that cobalt-containing blue glasses from Mesopotamia and Iran may be distinguished by the presence of arsenic. However, if the ancient glassmaker roasted cobalt-rich minerals to purify them, this would have driven off the arsenic and sulpher, leaving no trace of them in the fabric of the glass.758

    Cobalt Colorant in the Written Sources

    The material evidence correlates well with the textual record in this case. Let us begin with the alum ores of cobalt. Two glass recipes for the production of “fine lapis lazuli” (na4ZA.GÌN merqu)759 mention the use of “male, red alum” (na4gabû SA 5 NÍTA), which undoubtedly refers to the aforementioned pink-topurplish color of certain cobalt-rich alums as they occur naturally. The fact that the color of the alum is specified here tells us that ancient glassmakers were aware that the pink and purple varieties of the substance contain more cobalt than the yellow. It is likewise noteworthy that in the recipes for na4ZA.GÌN merqu (§C and 8 of Tablet A), both copper and alum are introduced into the glass.760 Analysis has shown that in reality too, dark blue glass was sometimes colored with a combination of the two colorants (e.g. the vessel from Nagar mentioned above). As discussed above, the cobalt blue glasses from Eridu and Nippur originated from non-alum ores, possibly from Iran. It is more challenging to identify this compound in the recipes. One possibility is the substance tarabānu šadda, 757 Henderson 2013, 71–72 and references therein. 758 Sayre 1964, 7–8; Henderson 2013, 70. 759 Oppenheim understood uqnû merqu as “fine lapis lazuli(-glass),” a designation that referred to the physical quality of the material rather than a particular shade of blue. He suggested: “one may think of the already mentioned (see p.14) ‘Egyptian Blue,’ a glasslike material of blue color which is a calcium-copper-silicate compound formed in a mold but not completely vitrified, not yet technically a blue glass” (Oppenheim et al. 1970, 42). However, given that the recipe is technically complicated and calls for the addition of (cobaltcontaining) alum, this is hardly likely. 760 Copper via the tersītu-glass and the alum, directly. That tersītu-glass contains copper is known from the recipes for zagindurû, a copper-based light blue glass (Tablets A §1–3, 4–6 and B §1–3, 4–6).


    Chapter 3

    which occurs only in the recipes for dark blue glass, is the non-alum cobalt source. But the large quantity of the substance used—one mina in §C and three minas in §8—speaks against this idea. A more likely source of the cobalt is the golden-colored substance called šīpu (written ŠIM.BI.KÙ.SI 22), which also appears in the recipes for dark blue uqnû merqu, though in smaller quantities. In recipes §C and §8, five shekels of pink cobalt alum and five shekels of šīpu are given as ingredients. Given the small quantities (42 grams) of each used, it is conceivable that both are colorants761 and both sources of cobalt: one is alum-based and the other may designate cobaltite (CoAsS), a mineral ore that naturally appears golden in color and contains traces of arsenic, the signature of Iranian non-alum cobalt in Mesopotamian glass. In the lexical lists, šīpu precedes the mordants and mineral pigments.762 Lead: Yellow Yellow color in glass is achieved with lead. Although there is no definitive archaeological evidence for lead as a raw material in Near Eastern glass-making sites, it is very likely that metallic lead and/or galena ores (lead sulphide) were used.763 Earliest attestations of opaque yellow glass produced with lead oxide colorant is from 18th Dynasty Egypt (1550–1292 bce).764 Lead wire has been found in the same context with glass in the Mitanni Palace at Nagar and in the glass workshop at Alalakh: this suggests that the craftsmen introduced the colorant into the glass melt by adding shavings or powdered metal.765 The process of coloring with lead is described in this early medieval Latin treatise on glassmaking attributed to Heraclius: 761 Oppenheim was uncertain about the nature of this substance and only suggested that it might refer to ochre or orpiment because of the logogram that contains the word for gold (Oppenheim et al. 1970, 42 n. 52). 762 Ḫḫ xi 309 [msl 7 140]: ŠIM.KÙ.SI22: ši-i-pu. Ḫg to Ḫḫ X 140 [msl 7 114]: IM. ŠIM. KÙ.SI22: ši-i-pu: šin-di KÙ.SI22. 763 Brill argued that, “[i]t is certain that most, if not all, of the yellow opaque glasses (and glazes) ranging from both the earliest Egyptian and Mesopotamian cored vessels up through the mosaic tesserae of about the 1st-3rd century a.d.—and all of the yellow decorative glass in between—were colored with this [lead-antimony] pigment” (Brill in Oppenheim et al. 1970, 116 and n. 10). However, no such pigment has been detected in the archaeological record at glass-making sites. 764 The finds are summarized in Henderson 1983, 276. 765 Oates et al. 1997, 90. The glass workshop at Tell Atchana/Alalakh dates to the 14th century. The piece of lead wire was found in square 64.72 (Area 4, in the southern part of the mound) beside a kiln and amongst pieces of copper, bronze, frit, faience and beads. A broken crucible with remnants of a glass batch was also found at the site, important proof that this was a glassmaking site. Like the lead, the copper and bronze were almost certainly used for coloring the glass batch (Dardeniz 2018, 97–98).

    Material Colors


    De Coloribus et Artibus Romanorum (c. 12th–13th century):766 Take good and shining lead and put it in a new jar and burn it in the fire until it is reduced to powder…Afterwards take sand and mix it well with that powder, so that two parts may be of lead and the third of sand, and put it in an earthenware vase. Then do as before directed for making glass, and put that earthen vase into the furnace and keep stirring it until it is converted into glass. In the second millennium, lead-based yellow glass has been found at Nuzi,767 Karana, Kalḫu and Hasanlu, in Iran. Several beakers, generally a white matrix with yellow threaded decoration, are known from Karana (15th century), Nineveh and Alalakh.768 The mosaic-glass fragments from Dur Kurigalzu dating to the 14th century appear in blue, turquoise-blue, red, yellow and white; these are very similar to the mosaic-glass from Assur from levels dating to reign of Tukulti-Ninurta I (1243–1207 bce).769 Analysis of a piece of yellow glass from Nagar (sample 1237) confirmed the presence of lead.770 The technique of lead-isotope analysis has been applied to differentiate yellow opaque glasses from Mesopotamia and Egypt.771 Artifacts from Iran and Mesopotamia have similar lead-isotope ratios, which are distinct from Egyptian ratios. Lead-isotope analysis conducted on glasses and metals from Nagar showed that while the technology for producing opaque yellow glass and its basic chemical composition were similar in Egypt and in Mesopotamia, the sources of the lead colorant were different.772

    Lead Colorant in the Written Sources

    In the glass recipes, opaque yellow glass is named after calcite, na4duḫšu. Aside from the raw materials necessary for producing the basic glass batch, the “­primary glass” tuzkû is present as an ingredient in all the recipes for duḫšuglass, suggesting that it contained the necessary colorant. In a damaged prescriptive recipe for making tuzkû, two mineral pigments associated with ­yellow 766 Quoted in Henderson 1983, 276. 767 The opaque green glass from Nuzi was sometimes achieved with a combination of copper and lead antimonite, a reality that is alluded to in the recipe for turquoise-colored glass, for which (copper) scales/slag (šiqtu) and tuzkû both appear and ingredients. (Oppenheim et al. 1970, 47–48 §18). 768 Barag 1985, 39–44. 769 Barag 1985, 37. 770 Oates et al. 1997, 87. 771 Brill 1970b; 1978; Brill et al. 1993. 772 Brill and Shirahata in Oates et al. 1997, 91–94.


    Chapter 3

    hue—kalû and kalgukku—are listed as ingredients. In the maškantu-ingredient lists for duḫšu-glass, lead (abāru) and tuzkû both appear.773 For detailed discussion of the recipes and the ingredients, see 3.5.2. Manganese: Purple Manganese can be used to color glass purple or to decolorize774 it. Some of the earliest manganese-based purple glasses date to the 14th century bce. Glassmakers of the second half of the second millennium deliberately used small quantities of manganese oxide to make translucent purple glass, whereas calcium antimonite combined with manganese was used to produce opaque purple glass. A manganese-containing mineral such as pyrolucite (MnO2) could have provided the coloring agent in ancient times. Purple glass is relatively rare in the Near East when compared to blue, green, yellow and red glasses. Several opaque purple beads were found at site HH24 at Nagar (c. 1300 bce), which were colored with manganese and copper.775 Velde’s analysis of one translucent purple glass bead, also dating to the 14th century, showed that it was colored with manganese oxide and cobalt oxide; traces of copper were also detected.776 The famous manganese-purple glass ingot found on the Uluburun wreck was found to be chemically similar to a rare purple ingot found at Amarna, which suggests that it was produced in Egypt.777 In contrast to the second millennium, purple glasses are even rarer in the early Iron Age, when it seems that monochrome vessels made with translucent, colorless or light green glasses were preferred.778 The dark purple fragment of a hemispherical bowl found at Kalḫu (late 8th—early 7th century) was probably colored with manganese. According to Barag, this piece is one of some thirtyodd fragments in this color.779 A final piece of evidence is the lump of dark violet glass of an unknown date and provenience from a private collection of seals and other Mesopotamian small objects reported by Barag.780

    773 Recipes §§b, c and d in the Middle Babylonian text (vat 16453). 774 Antimony pentoxide was mainly employed to decolorize Near Easter glasses from the seveth to the first century; only after this did manganese oxide replace antimony as a decolorizer (Henderson 1985, 284). 775 Oates et al. 1997, 87. 776 Oates et al. 1997, 99 sample 4 in table 7. 777 Shortland 2000, 17 table 3.2 and pp. 50, 98 fig. 3.1 778 Barag 1985, 53. 779 Barag 1985, 64 no. 36. 780 Barag 1985, 113 no. 186. It should be noted that the glass contained a label that suggests that it may have been purchased with a lot of items that originated from Upper Egypt and not Mesopotamia. No chemical analysis has been performed on this piece to my knowledge.


    Material Colors

    Manganese Colorant in the Written Sources

    Manganese-containing compounds do not appear to be mentioned in the glass recipes. Based on analogous terminology in the textile industry, in which SÍG.ZA.GÌN SA 5 designates red-purple wool, it is natural to assume that na4 ZA.GÌN SA 5 might refer to purple glass. However, the colorant for this glass is bronze not manganese, which means that the resulting glass would have been red. Given the fact that the purple glass on the Uluburun shipwreck was produced in Egypt, it is possible that the Mesopotamians were simply unaware of this technology and therefore could not include a recipe for it. The opaque glasses and metallic colorants examined in this chapter are given in Table 3.3:781 Table 3.3  Opaque glasses and their colorants

    Sumerian, Hue Akkadian Term


    DUḪ.ŠI.A, Yellow duḫšu DUḪ.ŠI.A SIG 7, Green duḫšu arqu

    Lead (tuzkû) Lead + copper(?)

    Substance to Mimic

    Yellow banded calcite Green-tinted calcite, compared to turquoise GUG, sāmtu Red-­ Copper Akkadian orange(?) (low levels of lead) carnelian GUG, sāmtu Yellow Lead Elamite (tuzkû, abāru) carnelian GUG, sāmtu Orange/ Iron (iii) oxide/ Marhashian amber ferric oxide (from carnelian IM.SIG 7.SIG 7, daʾmātu) GUG, sāmtu Yellow Lead Assyrian carnelian or Assyrian alabaster ZA.GÌN merqu, Dark blue Copper Lapis lazuli uqnû merqu


    Tablet B §§16, 17 Tablet D §O Tablet B §18 Tablet D §E

    MB Glass Text §ii Tablet D §Q Tablet D §N

    Tablet D §K

    Tablet A §§7, 9, 10, 11 Tablet D §B Tablet D §G, H

    781 The names of the recipes follow the conventions in Oppenheim et al. 1970.


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    Table 3.3 Opaque glasses and their colorants (cont.)

    Sumerian, Hue Akkadian Term


    ZA.GÌN merqu, Dark blue Copper + cobalt uqnû merqu Unknown (tarabānu šaddu) Cobaltite(?) (ŠIM.BI.KÙ.SI 22, šīpu) Pink alum (na4gabû SA 5 NÍTA) ZA.GÌN SA 5, Red Fast bronze uqnû sāmu (ZABAR arḫu) ZA.GÌN.DURU 5, Light blue, Slow copper zagindurû turquoise (URUDU.ḪI.A nēḫu)

    Substance to Mimic


    Lapis lazuli

    Tablet D §C Tablet A §8 Fragment b §8

    Reddish bronzea

    Tablet A §12 Tablet A §§13–15 Artificial Tablet A §§1–3 substance. Blue Tablet B §§4–6 frit, Egyptian blue pigment.

    a For reddish bronze (siparru ruššu) see cad S 297. Colored and shining bronze was commonly used to plate furniture and manufactured objects such as musical instruments, weapons, and horse trappings.

    4.3.3 Conclusion Recent chemical analysis on Near Eastern and Egyptian glasses and experimental archaeology, through which certain ancient glass-making procedures were reconstructed, reveal significant points of correlation with the textual evidence examined in this chapter. (I) Colorants such as copper, cobalt and lead appear as ingredients for turquoise-blue, dark blue, red and yellow glasses, just as expected. (II) These colorants were introduced into the batch as raw materials and as highly colored, prepared glass in the form of frits, cullet, cakes and rods; these may be Oppenheim’s so-called “primary glasses.” (III) Blue glass was of key importance, from the advent of glass in the third millennium bce until the end of the first millennium. (IV) Antimony appears as the opacifying agent; as were the colorants, this substance was sometimes introduced as a raw material and sometimes via one or more of the “primary glasses.”

    Material Colors



    The various color changes that are produced in the glass melt as it was heated in the kiln were carefully noted by the ancient glassmaker; these too corresponds to real practices. It is likewise apparent that the advent of glass production as well as innovation in glassworking techniques were closely tied to the visual properties of certain precious stones, just as the names for both media imply. It has long been argued and is by now well established in secondary literature that glass was produced to mimic the appearance of rare and high-demand substances and thereby offer cheaper, locally manufactured alternatives to them.782 Only recently has this paradigm come under question. The ancient Mesopotamian evidence indicates that, as in the case of the “genuine” versus “fake” purple dyes, the question of the relative values of glass and stone is more complex than such a simple economic explanation would first suggest. While it was possible to distinguish between the two media in language— by qualifying the substance as “of the mountain” or else “of the kiln,” phrases that appear in the second half of the second millennium—this was not always done in the written sources, for various reasons and depending on the type of text. In the case of administrative documents, this distinction may not have been necessary because those involved in the activity described in the text would have known which media were meant. In ideologically-laden texts such as the Assyrian and Babylonian royal inscriptions, on the other hand, it served the authors to intentionally evoke the lustrous beauty of the genuine precious materials even when in reality, the imitations were used (see Chapter 4). In the archaeological record too, it is not unusual for glass objects to be found in the same context as stone artifacts of the same color.783 782 Barag observed, “[a]ll Mesopotamian glass of the second half of the second millennium bc, as well as Egyptian New Kingdom and Mycenaean glass of the same period, imitates precious and semi-precious stones. The blues are often similar to lapis lazuli or turquoise, yellow possibly represents an attempt to imitate gold, and white and red-brown imitated stone in these colours” (Barag 1985, 37). Von Saldern similarly noted that, “[w]ith some degree of certainly one can state that practically all glass made up to the time when glassblowing became generally accepted followed, in form and decoration, vessels made of other materials, that is stone (alabaster, etc.), semi-precious stones, precious metals such as gold and silver, bronze and ceramics” (Von Saldern 1991, 112). In summarizing the archaeological evidence for glass in Mesopotamia, Moorey voiced the same idea: “Traditionally, glass in Mesopotamia had imitated the appearance of opaque, precious and semi-precious stones, not only the blues of lapis lazuli and turquoise, but also the varied colours of banded agates” (Moorey 1994, 199). 783 E.g. stone and glass (or faience) were often used together with wood, ivory precious metals for the production of luxury objects. In the royal inventory from Kar-Tukulti-Ninurta (13th century bce), genuine stones and “stones from the kiln” of the same color are mentioned side-by-side. For instance, the bodies of two ram figurines are said to be of gold, the fleece of real lapis lazuli, silver was used for the upperlips, ears, eye rims and the base


    Chapter 3

    Evidence for the prestige and high commercial value of vitreous materials in the greater Near East is scant but suggestive. One piece of evidence is to be found in the Tomb of Rekhmire at Thebes (TT100, 15th century bce). There, a relief in the transverse entrance hall shows vizier Rekhmire receiving tribute from Punt, Nubia, Syria and the Aegean, on behalf of Thutmoses iii. According to Shortland, among the precious wood, metallic and ceramic vessels, two marbleized faience vessels make part of the gifts brought by “the chiefs of Retnu and all the lands of further Asia,” i.e. Syria. A faience vessel of the exact same shape and colors was found in the contemporary tomb for Thutmoses’s foreign wives.784 Style, color and patterning on the objects suggest that they were produced in Northern Syria. As Shortland points out, the scene is important because “[i]t is a rare example of a depiction of technological transfer actually happening, some of the first glass arriving in Egypt.”785 A second source of information about the economic value of glass, contemporary attitudes towards this new commodity, and the mechanisms through which it was exchanged in this period is the so-called “Hall of the Annals” relief at the Temple of Karnak in Thebes, which contains a unique depiction of glass ingots in the Bronze Age.786 The scene in question concerns the dedication of spoils of campaigns to the Levant and Syria as offerings to the god Amun by Thutmoses iii. Dark and light blue glass ingots are among the gifts, appearing in baskets alongside genuine lapis lazuli and turquoise. The glass ingots are marked with the royal cartouche, “Menkheperre (i.e. Thutmoses iii) lapis ­lazuli/turquoise.” This royal branding and the fact that precious metals and other stones are also among the offerings suggests that glass was considered a prestige commodity in the late Bronze Age (see figs. 3.24 and 3.25).787 Based on the evidence of the relief at the Karnak temple, Shortland went so far as to propose that we might be vastly underestimating the value of dark blue glass in the mid-second millennium. His contention stems from the idea that, in the relief, the materials are arranged “in order of prestige and/or value, with the most valuable at the top right and the least at the bottom left…”788 My own understanding of the scene follows Baumann’s analysis: the top five

    784 785 786 787 788

    of the horns and black obsidan for the nostrils. The multicolored wings were decorated with red glass, lapis lazuli, alabaster, and obsidian (vat 16462: i 17–23). At Thebes (Greece), the cache that contained the largest number of lapis lazuli seals known from Greece also included faience seals (Warburton 2008, 221 n. 36). Lilyquist 2003, Cat. 104: pictured on p. 220 and discussed on p. 337. Shortland 2000, 54. Nicholson 2012, 17; Shortland 2001, 2012, 141–145. Nicholson 2012, 17; Shortland 2012, 143. Shortland 2012, 143 and references therein.

    Material Colors


    ­ reserved registers are reserved for gold (registers i–v), the next two show silp ver (vi–vii), semi-precious stones are depicted next (viii) followed by bronze and granite (IX), copper, alabaster and other stones (x). The semi-precious stones in the eighth register are placed in seven baskets, each identified by a label; the stones are painted in the appropriate color. Two of these baskets (labelled 6 and 7), on the far left of the scene, identified as containing carnelian by Shortland, are actually labeled as “jasper” (ḫnm).789 The remaining five baskets contain dark blue and light blue substances, some rounded like ingots while others are irregularly shaped. According to Shortland, the substances represented in the baskets from right to left are: (1) dark blue glass (round ingots) (2) lapis lazuli (irregularly shaped, traces of dark blue pigment) (3) dark blue glass (irregularly shaped, traces of dark blue pigment) (4) turquoise (irregularly shaped, trace of light blue pigment) (5) light blue glass (round ingots, traces of light blue pigment) (6) carnelian (large pieces, traces of red pigment) (7) carnelian (irregularly shaped small pieces, traces of red pigment) Baumann understood basket (3) as containing blue stone and not glass, perhaps a particular variety of lapis lazuli or else another blue stone, because of its irregular shape.790 The fact that dark blue glass is depicted to the right of lapis lazuli indicated to Shortland that it might have been more prestigious than the stone. It might be “a modern bias that lapis lazuli must be more prestigious than glass,” he suggested and went on to argue that “…this is not necessarily so, in this early periods large pieces of dark blue glass could easily be as valuable as lapis if not more so.”791 While serving to remind us of the dangers of imposed modern assumptions onto ancient materials, Shortland’s proposal is nonetheless difficult to accept when one considers the palace waste heaps at Amarna, where large amounts of dark blue raw glass and monochrome and polychrome finished vessel fragments were found discarded.792 Genuine lapis lazuli would never be discarded in this manner in any period of Near Eastern history nor could it be melted down and reused. In the early second millennium, one shekel (8.37 grams) of genuine lapis lazuli cost two shekels of silver in Babylonia and three shekels of silver in Anatolia.793 Albeit from a much later 789 Baumann 2018, 544 and n. 3325. 790 Baumann 2018, 544–545. 791 Shortland 2012, 144. 792 Hodgkinson forthcoming. 793 Warburton 2008, 220–221.


    Copper, alabaster, granite, (glass), Heseg-stone 10

    Bronze, (granite)

    Lapis lazuli, turquoise, glass, jasper, ore



    Chapter 3

    Figure 3.24

    List of temple dedications, The Hall of the Annals Relief, Karnak Illustration: adapted from s. baumann 2018 fig. 33

    Material Colors

    Figure 3.25


    Baskets of lapis lazuli, turquoise and colored glass. List of temple dedications, The Hall of the Annals Relief, Karnak Photo: s. baumann


    Chapter 3

    period, we can compare this to the only price we have for blue glass, which is much lower: in the mid-sixth century, it was possible to purchase ninety shekels (753 grams) of blue glass for a single shekel of silver at Uruk, in southern Babylonia.794 It is also noteworthy that according to this text, the Urukeans were purchasing large quantities of raw blue glass from a western source at this point and not manufacturing their own. Color is of central concern to this issue of value, because it was the artistic form whereby glassmakers expressed their interpretation of nature and, in some ways, surpassed its limitations. Through color they imitated those very aesthetic properties of gemstones—hue, luster, surface patterns, hardness— that had fascinated people since prehistoric times. It was the color of glass, in addition to its greater workability and versatility, that created a market for this substance, which, as large-scale workshops in Egypt and Syria demonstrate and as the cargo of the Uluburun shipwreck confirms, was of paramount importance for the Bronze Age economy. And yet, the relationship between glass and stone cannot simply be understood in the mimetic sense of art imitating nature. With glass, craftsmen were able to create lapis lazuli, turquoise, agate and carnelian, but in larger quantities and in greater varieties. Acquiring the most desirable hue and mottling of “lapis lazuli” was now a matter of technology rather than trade and within the reach of human ingenuity. It was possible to make carnelian redder and more brilliant, through the controlled addition of lead. I have suggested elsewhere that certain color combinations and patterns on Bronze and Iron Age glass ­vessels were inspired by those on genuine stones.795 Thus, colored glass also radically changed traditional relationships between media and form. Suddenly, it was viable and fashionable to produce “lapis lazuli” vessels and 794 In yos 6 168, which dates to c. 550 bc, the price of fifty-five minas of blue glass (na4ZA.GÌN) is given as thirty-six and two-third shekels of silver (Oppenheim 1967, 236–237). Other commodities mentioned in this text include enormous quantities of copper and iron from Yamana (Ionia), iron from Lebanon, alum from Egypt, tin, madder and inzaḫurētudye, various spices and resin. Even when copper and inzaḫurētu-dye are both mentioned twice—probably representing separate purchases—the prices for each remain fixed. Obv. 1–2: 600 minas of copper from Yamana cost three minas and twenty shekels of silver (180: 1). Rev. 4–5: 295 minas of copper from Yamana cost one mina and thirty-eight and onethird shekels of silver (180: 1). Obv. 4–5: thirty-seven minas of tin cost fifty-five and one-half shekels of silver (0.7: 1) Obv. 6–7: sixteen minas and fifteen shekels of takiltu-wool cost two minas and forty shekels (6: 1) 795 Thavapalan forthcoming.

    Material Colors


    a­ xe-heads—­artifacts that were previously difficult to achieve in the genuine material, given its rarity and high commercial value. 4.4 Metals Whereas the names for colored glass and glaze were adopted from those for stones, the words for the principal metals used in Mesopotamia, silver (kaspu), copper (erû), iron (parzillu) and lead (abāru) are not used to identify colors in Akkadian. The notable exception is the word for gold (see 3.7.1). As a verbal color term, ḫurāṣu focus on the quality of brightness but it also refers to hue and should be understood as “shining+reddish yellow.” Both Baines and Schenkel argued that in Egyptian, when gold is used to describe color, the meaning tends to be metaphorical.796 Baines allowed silver, (ḥd) to be the abstract word for “white,” although Schenkel pointed out that it is also “bright.”797 Warburton accepted both as colors, arguing that although they are concrete materials that are not expressed in verbal form—this was Schenkel’s main criteria for abstraction in color terms—gold and silver take on abstract meaning in expressions such as “flooded with gold (i.e. yellow light).”798 With regard to the semantic range of these terms, he wrote: According to my scheme then, in the second millennium bc, Egyptian used gold, silver, lapis lazuli, and turquoise as colour words. I do not claim that any of these words was an abstract colour term. On the contrary, I insist that these were the designations of prestige goods, and that the actual material was decisive. Nor do I contend that the expression of colour relied upon any specific linguistic form: verbs, adjectives, adverbials and nisbe’s served to get the point across.799 The older, more complex connection between colors, metals and the technology of metallurgy is not expressed in Akkadian written sources but can nonetheless be appreciated through ethnoarchaeological and anthropological ­studies. According to some, the earliest metal production may have been driven by human beings’ curiosity to explore the properties of minerals and the 796 Baines 1985, 284; Schenkel 2007, 224 and 226. 797 Baines 1985, 284; Schenkel 2007, 217. 798 Warburton 2008, 237–238 and 2010, 237–239. In Warburton 2010, 238–239, figs. 1 and 2 record the distribution of the terms silver, gold, bright red, green, lapis lazuli, light red, black and turquoise in selected Egyptian literary texts. Silver and gold are the two most frequently attested color terms in this corpus. 799 Warburton 2008, 238.


    Chapter 3

    color-effect they produced when heated.800 As Smith noted, aesthetic curiosity was central to technological invention and development: Enjoyment of color has inspired the development of many alloys—for example the famous Mycenean inlaid dagger in the National Museum in Athens, and the exquisite colored metal inlay of Japanese sword furniture. It is also related to the refining and purification of metals in early times because of the use of corrodants to change the color of native electrum. The color changes in metals, oxides, and sulphides discovered by far earlier artisans permeate medieval alchemy—a dead end of delightful but unproductive theory. The marvelous golds and blues of medieval illuminated manuscripts came from pigments made by processes that foreshadow modern powder metallurgy and the flotation process of ore separation. The desire for pigments, dyes, and cosmetics inspired much mineralogical and botanical exploration, while precious stones, dyes, spices and jewelry formed the first base of commerce, for long range trade did not start with necessities.801 As with glassmaking and dyeing, color played an important role in the human experience of metallurgy, functioning as a diagnostic tool during smelting, refining and alloying. Vinča culture metalworkers in the Balkans (c. 5000 bce), for instance, deliberately selected mixed, green-and-black copper minerals as ores for smelting—a choice that must be understood within the aesthetic context of the bead-making (especially malachite) and pottery (black-burnished and graphite-painted wares) industries in this region.802 Vinča metalworkers also realized early on that these mixed ores, with the right proportion of black, were best suited to yield metal. According to Radivojevic, “[t]hese black-andgreen ores thus remained a smelting ‘recipe’ ingredient prone to the greatest variation and creativity within an otherwise consistent smelting environment.”803 While little is known about the color-choice of raw materials in early Mesopotamian smelting activity, it is clear that craftsmen consciously produced certain colors in metals, as they did in wool, leather and glass. To take the example of gold, the verbal adjectives sāmu, peṣû, arqu and ḫ/ruššu are used in the

    800 801 802 803

    Radivojevic and Rehren 2015. Smith 1977, 146–147. Radivojevic and Rehren 2015; Radivojevic 2015. Radivojevic 2015, 334.

    Material Colors


    l­exical literature and in day-to-day economic documents to qualify the exact color value of this precious metal: [KÙ.SI 22.BÚ]R.RA: MIN (ḫuš-šu-[u]) [x x] [KÙ.SI 22].BABBAR: pe-ṣu-ú [KÙ.SI 22].SA 5: sa-a-mu [KÙ.SI 22.SIG 7].SIG 7: ár-qu (Ḫḫ xii 250: 255–257 [MSL 7 167]) KÙ.SI 22.ḪUŠ.A: ḫuš-šu-[u]: […]804 (Ḫg A ii to Ḫḫ xii 221 [MSL 7 171]) Gold was almost always alloyed in Mesopotamia and according to Moorey, “[m]any of the rare analysis of Mesoptomian ‘gold’ show that it is in fact ­electrum…,” which is a pale, yellow-colored mixture of gold and silver.805 The choice of alloy affects the resulting color of the metal: the reddish color of gold is often due to the addition of copper whereas incorporating silver creates a green-grey tone.806 There is also evidence to suggest that the surface color of metals was manipulated by staining with organic matter, iron oxide (effecting a rose-pink color), and salts.807 Thus, the adjectives ḫuššû, peṣû, sāmu and arqu can provide rudimentary information about the materiality—composition, type and quality—of metals.808 The fact that its colors are carefully recorded in the written sources tells us that this quality determined, to some extent, the value of metals in ancient times. For example, in Ur-iii documents, three qualities of gold are distinguished. Waetzoldt was able to determine their colors and relative values based on their purchase prices in silver; from highest to lowest value they are:809 KÙ.SI 22.ḪUŠ.A: purest quality, yellow-gold in color; cost between fifteen and twenty-one shekels. KÙ.SI 22.ḪI.DA: mixed gold, cost between 9.5 and ten shekels.810

    804 Landsberger restored ḫurāṣu sāmu in this break because he thought ḫuššu was a reddish color (1967, 149). 805 Moorey 1994, 217–218 and references therein. 806 Waetzoldt 1985, 3; Moorey 1994, 218; Limet 1960, 43–45. 807 Further references and discussion in Moorey 1994, 218 and Lucas 1962, 233–234. 808 Color is not an absolutely reliable indicator of the composition of precious metals. For instance, specimens of gold from the “Royal Tombs” at Ur that had different colors sometimes had the same composition (Moorey 1994, 218). 809 Waetzoldt 1985, 2–7. 810 Nabnītu xxi 242 [msl 16 199]: KÙ.SI22.ḪI.DA!: KÙ.SI22 MIN (pi-ṣu-ú).


    Chapter 3

    KÙ.SI 22.SI.SÁ: normal gold, cost between 6.5 and eight shekels; probably appeared whitish to pale yellow-green due to high silver content. In the Akkadian texts from Mari, by contrast, the best gold is designated as “red gold.”811 In other words, whereas the Sumerian phrase KÙ.SI 22.ḪUŠ.A captures its shining quality, Akkadian ḫurāṣu sāmu focuses on the slight reddish tint of pure gold.812 This difference is a fine example of how color naming varies from language to language and demonstrates that the vocabulary for color encodes cultural ideas more so than information about perceptual reality. As a concluding remark, we may observe that metal and metal objects have generally been studied from the perspective of their functionality and as a socio-economic and/or political makers of prestige and power in ancient Mesopotamia.813 Unlike stones and textiles, the colors of metals and their symbolic meanings have yet to arouse proper scholarly interest.814 By highlighting how important the aesthetic qualities of metals were for the ancients, the present study hopes to provoke such a discourse. 5

    Terminology for Fabrics, Stones and Glass

    5.1 Argamannu and takiltu (Red-purple and Blue-purple) As both the textual and archaeological evidence for argamannu and takiltu appear in the same contexts, these terms are discussed together. 5.1.1 Etymology & History of Attestation Cognates for Akkadian takiltu are found in Aramaic (tkiltā) and Hebrew (tĕklēt). Landsberger wrote that in Syriac, tekeltā appears as a synonym for the Semitic root qnʾ, from which various words associated with the color blue ­derive—e.g. qunʾā “sky colored,” qunʾā “woad,” Arabic aḥmar al-qāni “purple.”815

    811 Waetzoldt 1985, 10. In the inventories of Qaṭna, the best gold is called “pure gold” (ḫurāṣu ellu). 812 Waetzoldt 1985, 11. 813 E.g. Limet 1960; Reiter 1997 and Arkhipov 2012. The RlA article on the written evidence for “Metalle und Metallurgie” in Mesopotamia focuses on types, sources, prices and on metallurgical processes (Joannès 1993, 96–112; Muhly 1993, 119–136). E. Salonon studied SumeroAkkadian the terminology for metalwokers and their skills (1970, 97–148). 814 See, however, Cassin (1968) and on the symbolic meaning of metals. 815 Landsberger 1967, 164. One of the earliest erroneous proposals for the etymologies of these two words derived takiltu “fast color” from the verb takālu and argamannu “loud

    Material Colors


    At the same time, he rejected any connection between this root and Greek kuáneos “dark blue” and a valuable stone of that color.816 In fact, the root qnʾ in Arabic refers to a deep red color, not blue.817 Arkamma(n)- or argama(n)- is the Hittite and Luwian word for “tribute,” and is equated with Akkadian irbu “gift” and mandattu “tribute” in the Boğazköy texts.818 The word only rarely appears in Akkadian as in arkammanna-šu “his tribute.”819 Whether there is a connection between this word and the Akkadian-­ Ugaritic homophones argamannu/ argmn, which is a color, is an issue that is debated.820 The three positions taken on the subject are as follows: (1) the ­Hittite-Luwian and Semitic words are related and show a metonymic shift: because argamannu-hued garments were an important tribute item from the mid-second millennium onwards, the Semitic word, which originally referred to the color of garments, was adopted with the specialized meaning “tribute”821 in Hittite; (2) the original meaning of the word was “tribute.” Over time, this meaning became exclusively associated with purple garments. In other words, the meaning “purple” is secondary;822 (3) the Hittite-Luwian word and its Semitic homophones, attested in Akkadian, Hebrew, Biblical Aramaic, Palmyrenian, Syriac (arg(ĕ)wān) and Arabic (urjuwān), are entirely unrelated. This is the most likely case, since red-purple textiles were only a small part of the tribute circulating in the Bronze Age. As we shall see presently, it was blue-purple takiltu fabrics that were in high demand and widely circulated. Finally, Rabin suggested a further link between the Semitic chain and the Persian plant named argawān, which is strikingly similar to the Greek word

    816 817 818 819 820

    821 822

    color” from ragāmu (Haupt 1914, 298–299). Given that the technology of dyeing with ­murex was practiced outside of Mesopotamia, we would expect the terms to be Akkadianized loanwords. This is probably lapis lazuli, according to Theophrastus (On Stones xxxi; Caley and Richards 1956, 124–125). Leslau 1987, 433. Arabic qanaʾa is “to be blood-red, deep-red.” hed 1/2, 143–45. E.g. KBo 1 4: ii 1. This connection was first pointed out by Albright (1933, 13–23). Goetze contributed to this question first in 1951 and then in more detail in 1968. He argued that the original meaning of argamannu “purple” must be traced to the “Syrian coast” and dismissed any connection with the Semitic ragāmu “to call, claim, exact,” which would give the word a sense related to the extraction of tribute. From the Ugaritic manuscript of the Treaty between king Šuppiluliuma and Niqmandu, Dietrich and Loretz demonstrated that Hittite argammanu always corresponds to Akkadian mandattu (1966, 218–219). Thus, in their view, the color term is a secondary and later development. For words moving between Anatolian and Semitic languages, see Watson 2005. Goetze 1968, 18. Dietrich and Loretz 1966, 218–219.


    Chapter 3

    argemōnē “wild poppy” or “wind rose.”823 This plant has yellow flowers and, in Rabin’s view, might have been a source of colorant for dyeing textiles. However, it is now well established that argamannu-garments were dyed from the colorant obtained from the murex snail (see below) and so this phonetic resemblance to the Greek plant must be accidental. Takiltu and argamannu are attested as the names for dyed wools from the Old and Middle Babylonian periods respectively. 5.1.2 Orthography & By-forms The spelling conventions for the terms takiltu and argamannu in the Akkadian textual record vary chronologically and regionally. Modern translations of these terms are inconsistent, especially when it comes to choosing the correct reading for logographic writings. In the Amarna correspondence and in the administrative texts from Nuzi, the word takiltu is consistently written syllabically.824 From the evidence collected by van Soldt, it appears that the scribes at Ugarit distinguish between six colors of wool that belonged to the category of BLUE/PURPLE lapis lazuli-wools: SÍG.ZA.GÌN(.NA.MEŠ) ‘uqnâtu-wool’ SÍG.ZA.GÌN ta-kíl-tu4 ‘takiltu-wool’ SÍG.ZA.GÌN ḫaš-ma-na (also written SÍG.SAG.GIL.MUD) ‘ḫašmānu-wool’ SÍG.ZA.GÌN: ḫandalatu ‘ḫandalatu-wool’ SÍG.ZA.GÌN: dupašši ‘dupaššu-wool’ SÍG.ZA.GÌN: ḫaṣertu ‘ḫaṣertu-wool’ In Middle Assyrian texts, SÍG.ZA.GÌN.GE 6 literally “dark lapis lazuli(-colored) wool” is used to designate takiltu, whereas in Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian texts, SÍG.ZA.GÌN.KUR.(RA), “imported lapis lazuli(-colored) wool,” is the conventional logogram for it. Syllabic spellings of argamannu are only attested in documents from the first millennium. Red-purple wool is designated as SÍG.ZA.GÌN.SA 5 in Middle and Neo-Assyrian texts, although the Akkadian equivalent for this term is not given in the contemporary lexical literature.825 Contrary to what Landsberger claimed, Middle Babylonian and Assyrian SÍG.SAG is not argamannu-colored

    823 Rabin 1963, 116–118. 824 Either as ta-kíl-tu, ta-ki-il-tù or ta-kíl-tu, ta-kil-tu4. 825 Landsberger 1967, 161.

    Material Colors


    wool.826 As van Soldt demonstrated, the first sign is TUK not SÍG; when the second sign is written -ri-iš, the entire word should be read Tukriš.827 In one Neo-Assyrian letter, argammanu is designated in an abbreviated fashion, as SÍG.SA 5.KUR, and takiltu, by analogy, as SÍG.GE 6.KUR.828 5.1.3 Characterization Dyed Fabrics Unworked wool, woolen garments and perhaps also linen are described as takiltu and argamannu-colored in Akkadian texts. As far as the written sources allow us to say, these terms describe two shades of purple colored fabric. ­Takiltu is etymologically linked to Hebrew tĕklēt and other words that mean ­blue(-purple) and so it is thought to denote a darker, bluish shade of purple. Argammanu is considered a reddish purple because its logographic writing contains the word sign for red. In light of the ample and diverse forms of physical evidence for shellfish dyeing in the Near East and Mediterranean—heaps of mollusk shells, remains of dyeing installations and remnants of purple textiles—and because these two terms appear in the written sources beginning at around the mid-second millennium, concurrent with the archaeological evidence, it has been reasonably assumed that takiltu and argamannu refer to murex-dyed wools. A closer look at their relative prices indicate, however, that not all textual references to SÍG takiltu and SÍG argamannu denote purple cloth dyed with genuine murex.829 The genesis of the shellfish dyeing industry and the demand for purple cloth prompted craftsmen of the late Bronze Age to find cheaper alternatives for achieving this color with vegetal dyes. Because of their color, these cheaper purple wools were also designated by the same terms. Wool

    Designated with the determinative for wool (SÍG) or further qualified as “dyed” (ṣarip), the primary context in which the terms takiltu and argamannu are attested is in descriptions of dyed wool in the second half of the second millennium bce. References are also made to finished garments dyed in these two colors (e.g. TÚG ša takilti) in inventories and tribute lists. 826 Landsberger 1967, 160. 827 Van Soldt 1990, 345 and n. 165. E.g. in pbs 2/2 44: 2, where two minas of tukriš-wool and five minas of takiltu-wool are both are qualified as ṣirpu “dyed (material).” 828 saa 16 82, the idiosyncrasies of this letter are discussed below. 829 Thavapalan 2018a.


    Chapter 3

    A unique reference to takiltu-wool from the Old Babylonian period appears in a text from Tell al-Rimah.830 Neither takiltu nor argamannu feature among the dyed wools mentioned in the texts from Mari nor in the Old Assyrian corpus, most likely because shellfish dyeing was not taking place on a large-scale until a few centuries later. Takiltu-wool begins to appear more frequently in Akkadian documents beginning in the latter half of the second millennium, often alongside other dyed fabrics as here: ta-bar-rù ta-kil-tu4 ḫa-ṣar-tu4 MU.BI.IM 12 MA 12 MA Iap-li-id-en-ši-il-tu4 ITI.SIG 4.ÀM U4.10.KAM MU.1.KAM dka-daš-man-dur-[gu] 2/3 MA 2 GÍN ḫa-ṣar-tu4 ŠU Itu-kul-ti-den-líl (HS 145 37) ‘Red (tabarru), takiltu, green (ḫaṣartu) is its name, twice twelve minas (for?) Aplî-īd(i)-enši-iltu. 10th of Simānu (May-June), year ten of Kadašman-Tur[gu]. Two third minas and two shekels (of) green (ḫaṣartu) wool (in the) hand of Tukulti-Enlil.’ Generally speaking, references to takiltu-wool are more frequent than for argamannu-wool in the second millennium. Argamannu-colored wool is never ­attested in the Amarna letters or in the Nuzi records, whereas takiltu-wool is, often in small quantities and for the production of multihued trims (birmu).831 Other articles made with takiltu-wool at Nuzi include tapestries832 and mardātu-textiles for beds.833 A takiltu-colored headpiece, perhaps a wig, is mentioned in a list of votive offerings from Baʾal-malik to Ninurta from Emar (late 13th-early 12th century),834 a clear sign of its precious nature and high value. In documents from Assyria from the same period, both takiltu- and 830 Dalley 1976 no. 128, 6: ták-ki-il-tam. The reference to SÍG uq-ni-a-ti ta-ak-la-tim in an Old Babylonian letter (AbB I 60: 8; Kraus 1964, 50–51) may refer to “blue-purple lapis lazuli (-colored) wool,” similar to the convention used at Ugarit for specified shades of blue/ purple. For further discussion, see Blue-dyed wool under 3.5.11. 831 E.g. hss 15 221: 6–8: 1 MA.NA ta-ki-il-tù 1 MA.NA šu-ra-at-ḫu a-na bi-ir-mu MEŠ “one mina of takiltu(-colored) wool and one mina of šuratḫu(-colored) wool for multihued trims.” Takiltu(-colored) wool is likewise mentioned in hss 15 220: 20, 221: 3 and 316 R: 4. 832 hss 15 222. 833 hss 15 220: 22. 834 blmj 1136: 4, 8, 14–16 (= Text no. 24 in Westenholz 2000, 61): SUḪUR ša SÍG ti-kíl-ti SUḪUR ša-ni-ta ša SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.DA 5 ÍB.LÁ ša SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.DA.MEŠ TÚG ku-ut-mu ša SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.DA ana dWeʾda “A headdress of takiltu(-colored) wool; another headdress of red (tabarru) wool; 5 sashes of red (tabarru) wool, a red (tabarru) cover-cloth for Weʾda.”

    Material Colors


    a­ rgamannu-colored wools are mentioned. In one such record, the color of argamannu, though distinct, is deemed comparable to madder-dyed red wool: 1 MA.NA SÍG.ZA.GÌN.GE 6 ša ŠÀ.URU 1 MA.NA SÍG.ZA.GÌN.SA 5 ki-imu-ú ta-bar-ri ša ana 1 TÚG lu-bár (VAS 19 24: 8′) ‘One mina of takiltu(-colored) wool from the Inner City (of Assur), one mina argamannu(-colored) wool instead of the tabarru(-colored wool) for one lubāru-garment’ As at Nuzi, argamannu is conspicuously absent as a type of colored wool in the texts from Ugarit. The only exception to this may be the following letter, in which the term SÍG.ZA.GÌN.SA 5 appears alongside SÍG.ZA.GÌN, i.e. uqnâtu-wool: […x me-]at SÍG.ZA.GÌN 1 me-at SÍG.ZA.GÌN.S[A5…] […] 1 me-at SÍG.ZA.GÌN.SA 5 […] […x me-a]t S[Í]G.ZA.GÌN.SA 5 a-na LÚ-ḫu-[…] (RS 16.256: 5–7) ‘… x hundred (shekels of) uqnâtu(-colored) wool, one hundred (shekels of) argamannu(?)-wool…x hundred (shekels of) argamannu(?)-wool…x hundred (shekels of) argamannu(?)-wool for the…’ Although SÍG.ZA.GÌN.SA 5 is generally understood as “red-purple wool” and is hence linked to Akkadian argamannu, there are several reasons for objecting to this reading here. First, as mentioned already, this logographic writing SÍG.ZA.GÌN.SA 5 is unique at Ugarit. Second, the word argamannu is not attested in the alphabetic texts from Ugarit, whereas takiltu is. Finally, as within the Nuzi corpus, a different term existed at Ugarit to designated red-purple wool: SÍG ḫašmānu, which is what the SÍG.ZA.GÌN.SA 5 very likely signifies (see 3.5.5). In the Akkadian texts from Ugarit, the word takiltu is generally written syllabically. However, it is also qualified with SÍG.ZA.GÌN, as in the following two examples:835 [(x)] MUNUS.LUGAL [x].MEŠ 5 TÚG.GADA 3 me-at SÍG.ZA.GÌN takil-tu4 […] x [TÚG].GADA 2 me-at na4ḫi-li-ba-a! [x]…[…] a-na šul-ma-ni MUNUS.LUGAL-t[i…] (RS 17.354: 7–10; van Soldt 1990, 330) 835 An exception is RS 12.33 [pru 314], a list of presents for queen Ṭaryelli, where it is spelled SÍG ta-kíl-ta. How ZA.GÌN operates in this context is discussed in detail under uqnû (3.5.11).


    Chapter 3

    ‘…the queen: …, five linen garments, three hundred (shekels of) lapis lazuli-wool of takiltu (shade), … linen garments, two hundred (shekels of) ḫiliba-stone, …as a greeting gift for the queen.’ [10? GU]N SÍ[G.Z]A.[GÌ]N t[a-kí]l-tu4 [10? G]UN SÍG.ZA.GÌN ḫaš-[man]i 10 GUN SÍG.ZA.GÌN ḫa-[sé-e]r-ti 10 GUN SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.[D]A (RS 34.180: 4; van Soldt 1990: 338) ‘[Ten tal]ents of lapis la[zuli-wo]ol of t[aki]ltu (shade), ten talents of lapis lazuli-wool of ḫaš[mān]u (shade), ten talents of lapis lazuli-wool of ḫa[ṣer]tu (shade), ten talents of tabar[ru]-wool.’ This manner of distinguishing the various blue and purple wools at Ugarit—takiltu (bluish), ḫašmānu (reddish), ḫandalātu, dupaššu and ḫaṣertu ­(greenish)—recalls the following passage in Pliny (Natural History xxi 45–46), in which he too is most conscientious about singling out the many shades of purple: I observe that these are the three principal colours: red, as in the coccum [the kermes-insect], which ranges in colour from the elegant grace of dark rose into Tyrian purple, to double-dyed purple, and to Laconian purple, if looked up at [in the light]; the colour of amethyst, which ranges from violet into purple, and which I have labelled ianthinum [violetblue]…The third colour strictly belongs to the purple of the murex [cochylium], with many shades: one in the colour of heliotrope, in some cases light, but usually a darker shade; another in the colour of mallow, tending towards purple; another in the colour of late violet, the most lively of the murex shades.836 Red- and blue-purple wools remained an important, luxury commodity that was imported into Mesopotamia in the first millennium. In Neo-Assyrian royal inscriptions, unfinished takiltu- and argamannu-colored wools are invariably listed as items of tribute or booty alongside precious materials, such as elephant hides, ivory, linen garments, aromatics, expensive wood (boxwood, ­ebony) and valuable metals (bronze, tin).837 The fixed expression “[I took] 836 Trans. Humphrey, Oleson and Sherwood 1998, 359. 837 E.g. Tukulti-Ninurta ii (A.0.100.5: 72, 99 [rima 2 175, 176]), where one talent of takiltuwool (SÍG.ZA.GÌN.GE6) is mentioned. Ashurnasirpal ii mentions taking takiltu (SÍG.ZA.GÌN.GE6) and argamannu-wool (SÍG.ZA.GÌN.SA5) as booty (A.0.101.1: 88, 97 [rima 2 199, 200]). As do Tiglath-Pileser iii (rinap 1 12: 1′; rinap 1 15: 3) and Sennacherib (rinap 3/1 4: 56). Along with gold, fish and birds, Ashurbanipal imposed red-purple (spelled SÍG.SA5) and blue-purple (spelled SÍG.GE6) wool as tribute payment on the coastal kingdom of Arwad (rinap 5 72: rev. 37).

    Material Colors


    multihued (woolen) garments, linen garments, takiltu- and argamannu-wool” (lu-bul-ti bir-me TÚG.GADA SÍG ta-kil-tu ár-ga-man-nu) appears so often in these texts that one suspects it is a standard phrase, simply meaning “precious garments and cloth,” and that it was included by the scribe in the booty and tribute lists as a matter of form. On the other hand, if the inscriptions are taken at face value, it seems that between the ninth and seventh centuries, the Assyrians acquired large quantities of purple wool as tribute, mainly from Phoenician cities like Tyre, Byblos, Arwad, as well as from the city of Patinna, situated near the mouth of the Orontes. Purple wool was also moved along independent trade networks operated by Arab merchants and purchased for money by the Assyrians.838 In the following petition to the king, a certain Marduk-šarru-uṣur claims that the accountants at the royal court at Nineveh have not paid him for his expenses in acquiring a large quantity of pre-dyed purple wool: 31 GÚ.UN ṭi-bu GADA 80 GÚ.UN SÍG.SA 5.KUR 7 GÚ.UN .GE 6.KUR 30 GÚ.UN na4ga-bu-u 10 GÚ.UN na4ni-ti-ru PAP 1 ME 58 GÚ.UN LUGAL be-lí liš-al 1 MA.NA ½ MA.NA TA ŠÀ-bi me-me-ni la i-di-na (SAA 16 82: rev. 5–14) ‘Thirty-one talents of twine of linen, eighty talents of imported argamannu(-colored) wool, seven talents of imported takiltu-wool, thirty talents of alum, ten talents of natron. Total of one hundred and fifty-eight talents. The king, my lord, may ask. Nobody gave me a mina (or even) half a mina (as payment) from it!’ The purchase of alum and natron alongside the wool suggests that the commodities were coming from the west, since the known sources for these substances are in Egypt. After the fall of the Assyrian empire, the Babylonian temples and palaces were the largest markets for dyed wools. These institutions financed and facilitated long-distance trade with merchants.839 In the Eanna and Ebabbar t­ emple archives, purple-colored garments are used to clothe divine statues. A complete study of the textile industry in the Neo-Babylonian period, including the production and circulation of purple garments, has been prepared by Quillien.840

    838 Quillien 2015 and Thavapalan 2018a. 839 Payne 2007; Quillien 2015, 110–113. 840 Quillien 2016.


    Chapter 3


    Although the present discussion has focused on purple wools so far, it is theoretically possible to dye linen and leather in this color as well. Very little written evidence exists to suggest that linen was ever colored purple with the dye of the murex snail in ancient times. A rare instance of “lapis lazuli(-colored) linen” (GADA ZA.GÌN) is alluded to in a letter, probably sent by Rib-Hadda, the king of Byblos in the mid-14th century bce, to pharaoh Akhenaton. Someitme after the murder of ʿAbdi-Aširta, the king of Amurru, the Rib-Hadda writes: i-nu-ma ia-nu SÍG a-na ša-šu-nu ù ia-nu GADA ZA.GÌN na4MAR: bu-bumar a-ma ša-šu! a-na na-da-ni GÚ.UN a-na KUR-mi-ta-na (BM 29827 = EA 101: 6–10; Moran 1992, 174) ‘(Now, the ships of the army are not to enter the land of Amurru, for they have killed ʿAbdi-Ashirta) since they had no wool and no linen (the color of) lapis lazuli or MAR-stone: bubumar to give as tribute to the land of Mittani.’ This document implies that the Mittanians were in the habit of receiving purple cloth from the kingdom of Amurru, which was situated in the northern Levant where the archaeological evidence for shellfish dyeing comes from. The Mittanian king also sent finished garments made of purple wool to the pharaoh of Egypt.841 How exactly the expression GADA eḫ-li-pa-ki should be ­understood—sometimes translated as “dyed purple linen” when it appears in Hittite inventories—is still debated.842 Since dyes do not fix well onto linen, it seems unlikely that a rare and costly dye such as murex would have been employed to color this material in ancient times. Unlike ḫašmānu, which also describes purple-dyed leather, takiltu and argamannu appear to refer only to colored cloth. A possible exception to this appears in an inventory of gifts to the Mittanian king Tušratta (late 14th century bce), where takiltu is given as the color of a pair of leather sandals.843 Given that this association with leather has no other parallel, it seems more likely 841 vat 395 = EA 22: ii 18, 29, 36, 42. A further reference to a blue-purple linen garment (labiš ša TÚG.GADA ta-kil-te) is quoted in the dictionary (cad T 71). 842 E.g. IBoT I 31, obv. 10. For discussion, see Vigo 2010, 295 and n. 47. 843 vat 395 = EA 22: ii 18, 29, 36, 42: ma-at-ru-ú-šu GÙN ša t[a]-kíl-ti “[a dagger…] its handle (with) a multi-colored (trim) of takiltu” 1 ŠU KUŠ.E.SÍR ša ta-kíl-ti “one pair of leather sandals of takiltu” 1 TÚG ša ta-kíl-ti “one garment of takiltu” 1 TÚG SAĜŠU ša t[a-k]íl-t[i] “one cap of takiltu”

    Material Colors


    that takiltu-colored fabric was attached as an embellishment on the sandal. In the same inventory, a pair of duḫšu(-colored) sandals is also mentioned;844 in that case however, it is clear that color of the leather was achieved through dyeing. The duḫšu-leather sandal was apparently further embellished with colorful beads and stone ornaments.

    Dye Sources

    Textual Evidence

    Dyed cloth is generally described by color in Akkadian sources and after the raw materials required to produce the cloth. While texts frequently record the substances necessary for dyeing wool red, similar information is not given for purple wool. One reason for this might be that genuine purple wool dyed with murex was imported into Mesopotamia from the west.845 There is ample archaeological evidence for the practice of large-scale shellfish dyeing in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean beginning in the late Bronze Age (see further below). In contrast to the material record, the art of shellfish dyeing is never mentioned explicitly in any cuneiform document nor is the Akkadian word for the murex snail known. The Ugaritic word for “murex” is ġlp.846 The reference to murex appears in the Epic of Aqhat, where a character is said to rouge (ʾdm) herself “with the (essence of the) ġlp from the sea, whose living space extends over a thousand dawns in the sea.”847 While its exact identification remains uncertain, it is clear that the so-called “sea locust” (erib tâmti) mentioned in connection with the textile industry in certain Old Assyrian and Old Babylonian texts has to do with fulling cloth and not dyeing it.848

    844 vat 395 = EA 22: ii 22: 1 ŠU KUŠ.E.SÍR ša taḫ-ši-a. 845 This is assumed because, as discussed below, the archaeological evidence lies to the west, along the Levantine coast. As Abrahami noted for the mid-second millennium: There is no indication of the origin of the coloured wool and the dyeing product in these [i.e. the Nuzi] documents. It is probable that some of these products came from the Levant as suggested by aasor 16 77 which mentions cedar wood among the products that Ili-ittiya is expected to bring back to the palace. But it should be kept in mind that dyeing could be performed locally with vegetal dyes. This is clearly suggested for instance by CT 51 12 (§ 2.5.1g), jen 125 (§ 2.5.1e) and hss 13 302 (§ 2.5.2) which shows that dyes are available for use in various households which therefore could produce their own dyed wool (Abrahami 2014, 299). 846 dul 321; Dietrich 2010, 44. 847 ktu 1.19 iv: 41–43; Dietrich 2010, 43. 848 The substance is sent to the fuller (lúašlāku) along with acorns in oip 27 6: 5. It also appears in Tell al-Rimah nos. 134 and 204 (see Dalley 1977, 156–157 for discussion).


    Chapter 3

    All of the evidence for SÍG takiltu and SÍG argamannu being murex-dyed wools in the Bronze Age is circumstantial. In the Hebrew Bible, tĕkēlet, which is etymologically related to Akkadian takiltu and Aramaic tkiltā, is specified as the color of wool required to make the tassels of the traditional, four-cornered prayer shawl known as the ṭallît.849 It is said in the Talmud that the one tĕkēletthread that was to be attached to the shawl was colored with the dye from a “sea snail” (ḥillazon) in Biblical times (Tosepta Menachot ix 16).850 According to a Rabbinic commentary to Numbers xv 38–39, the woolen tassel is described as being dyed with qĕlāʾîllān, now thought to be a mixture of kermes and indigo, when authentic tĕkēlet was not longer available.851 That qĕlāʾîllān and tĕkēlet yielded the same color is remarked upon in another commentary: “One should not say, ‘Behold I place dyes and qĕlāʾîllān, and they resemble tĕkēlet, and no one can inform on me’” (Sifre on Numbers xv 41). In the Septuagint, the word tĕkēlet is translated as hyakinthinos, a shade of light blue, which explains why Greek writers call this color of wool hyacinth purple. In Hebrew, Akkadian argamannu manifests as ʾargāmān, which is also mentioned in the Bible as the color of wool.852 This particular shade of red-purple was dubbed “Tyrian purple” by the Romans.853 After the Arab conquest of the Middle East in the midseventh century, the art of dyeing textiles with the hypobranchial gland of the murex and rock shells was forgotten and was only rediscovered again in the 19th century. Does it necessarily follow from this evidence from later periods that the purple wools in Bronze Age Mesopotamia were always dyed with murex? ­Takiltu- and argamannu- purple wools, in contrast to ḫašmānu-purple, are not associated with any dye source in either the lexical literature or the administrative documents from the second millennium, perhaps an indication that this information was not known in Mesopotamia. In one Middle Assyrian text, a large quantity of madder (ḫurātu) appears as a raw material in connection with a takiltu-colored royal throne cover of some sort:

    849 The ṭallît is described in the Book of Numbers: “(God said to Moses) Speak to the Israelites and say to them: “Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a tĕklēt(-colored) cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourself by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes” (Numbers xv 38–39). 850 Herschberg 1924, 267–277; Feliks 1962, 138; Feliks 1981, 18–20. 851 Ziderman 1987a, 28. 852 Ziderman 1987a, 25. 853 Cardon 2007, 554–555.

    Material Colors


    1 ma-ri-nu ša ta-kil-te ˹ša˺ GIŠ.GU.ZA ša LUGAL 14 1/3 MA.NA KI.LÁ 14 MA.NA ḫu-ru-tu 4 2/3 MA.NA KÙ.BABBAR […] ša É.GAL-lì [ša] ŠU Id na-bi-um-EN.PAP [lú]AGRIG [ša U]GU IdUTU-am-ra-ni […] [ša] É.GAL-lì 1 ma-ri-ni ˹ša˺ GIŠ.GU.ZA ša LUGAL a-na ṣa-ra-pé ta-ad-na-áššu ITI a-bu-LUGAL.MEŠ UD.14.KÁM li-mu Imu-šal-lim-d˹IM˺ DUMU d SILIM-ma-nu-UR-SAG (A.305; Donbaz 1988, 72) ‘One marīnu of takiltu(-colored wool) for the king’s throne weighing fourteen and one third minas. Fourteen minas of madder, four and two third shekels of silver…belonging to the palace, from the hand of ­Nabû-bēla-uṣur, the abarakku-official, the responsibility of Šamaš-amranni [the…of] the palace. One marīnu for the king’s throne, given for dyeing. The fourteenth day of the month of Abu-šarrāne, eponym of Mušallim-˹Adad,˺ son of Šulmānu-qarrād.’ If indeed the madder mentioned here was actually used for “dyeing” (ana ṣarāpu) the large quantity of purple cloth in the marīnu-bag,854 this text is the only reference to these substances being employed in such a way. The earliest attested plant dye in cuneiform sources, madder is known to provide a wide array of colors in the brown (in combination with tannins), red, orange and pink ranges, depending on the variety, provenance and age of the plant used, the concentration of the dye, the pH of the dye-bath, and the mordant. Darker shades such as brown and black could also be produced, either in combination with tannins or with indigotin extracted from woad.855 Material evidence for madder-based violet wool imitating true shellfish purple is only known from much later contexts: for instance, among the textiles discovered at the Jewish fortress of Masada (66–74 ce).856 Given its abbreviated nature, we cannot know if the dyer made use of other raw materials such as a blue colorant in addition to the madder mentioned in the text quoted above. Another possibility is that the fabric was originally dyed with genuine murex and was being sent for a “touch-up” because its color had faded. Postgate’s reading of the first line as 1 ma-ri-nu ša ta-ḫap-še! “one leather bag of (undyed) felt” would resolve 854 Marīnu is thought to be a leather bag as it frequently appears after the logogram KUŠ (cad M I 282). It may have been used to carry precious commodities like dyed wool in the same manner as leather gusānu-sacks. 855 Cardon 2007, 114–115 and literature therein. In the Bronze Age Near East, madder has been detected in textiles recovered from Deir el-Bahri (21st century) Amarna (14th century) in Egypt but these were colored red (Germer 1992, 68–70 and 79–80). At Qaṭna, the madderdyed red fabric was found in the same context as the murex purple fragments (James, Reifarth and Evershed 2011, 452, 454 and 460–461). 856 Cardon 2007, 115 and n. 21.


    Chapter 3

    the issue of a dyed cloth being re-dyed but requires a slight emendation of the text.857 Since shellfish dyeing is labor-intensive and technologically complex, the cost of purple wool seems a reasonable indicator of whether it was made with “genuine” or “fake” purple. Tables 3.4A–3.4B summarize the known prices for the two varieties of purple wools under discussion here: At ± 4 shekels of silver for one talent (about 30 kilograms), the price of takiltu-­wool was more or less comparable to that of ḫašmānu-wool at Ugarit in the late second millennium.858 It becomes clear that neither variety of purple could have been dyed with murex in these cases when we consider that the price of one talent of raw wool ranged between two and seven shekels, depending on quality and type.859 Woven wool (Ugaritic šʿrt štt) cost five shekels Table 3.4a Prices for takiltu-wool


    iqnu (i.e. takiltu) takiltu

    Commodity: Amount silver

    Price in silver

    Text (Period)

    562: 1

    3 talents

    16 shekels

    RS 18.28 (Ugarit)

    6: 1

    3 shekels

    ½ shekels

    YOS 17 210 (NB)

    6: 1

    12 shekels (ša šapê)

    2 shekels

    VS 20 15 (NB)

    55 shekels (with sacks)

    9 shekels

    ncbt 758 (NB)

    30 shekels (ša šapê)

    3 shekels

    YOS 19 218 (NB)

    8 minas

    1 mina 8 ½ shekels 1 shekel

    gcci 1, 382 (NB) BM 114552/114555 (NB)

    6: 1: 1 10: 1 7: 1 10: 1

    10 shekels

    857 Postgate 2013, 157. 858 See ktu 4.341: 3. (=RS 18.28); Van Soldt 1990, 345 and Stieglitz 1979, 19. 859 Stieglitz 1979, 19.


    Material Colors Table 3.4b 

    Prices for argamannu-wool


    Commodity: Amount silver


    4: 1 4.5: 1 5: 1

    Price in silver

    Text (Period)

    1 mina

    15 shekels

    bin 1 4 (NB)

    4 ½ shekels

    1 shekel

    2 minas

    24 shekels

    CT 55 360 (NB?) CT 55 862 (NB)

    per talent.860 The association of the various shades of purple-colored wools with alum in the following text also speaks against it being colored with shellfish purple because murex does not require a mordant: a-ma-tum (sic) an-ni-tam GAŠAN-ia li-iš-mi SÍG ZA.GÌN ḫaš-ma-mi SÍG ZA.GÌN: ḫa-an-da-la-ti ù SÍG ZA.GÌN: du-pa-aš-ši ù na4ga-bi ma-aʾ-dì-iš GAŠAN-ia li-še-bi-la (RS 20.19: 8–13; Ugaritica 5 48: 135–136) ‘May my mistress hear this: may my lady send me lapis lazuli-wool of ḫašmānu, ḫandalātu and dupaššu (shades?) and also alum in large quantities.’ The prices for takiltu- and argamannu-wool in the Neo-Babylonian period were much higher—ranging between 6.22 and 10.31 shekels per mina of takiltuwool and twelve and fifteen shekels per mina of argamannu-wool.861 Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that genuine murex-dyed wool is meant in that context. Another essential source for the dyeing practices in Mesopotamia is the socalled Sippar Dye Text (BM 62788+82979), which reveals that the technology for achieving various shades of purple using plant-based colorants was well known in the first millennium bce.862 Recipes for producing both takiltu- and 860 Stieglitz 1979, 19. 861 The price of argamannu-wool is mentioned in bin 1 4 (538–530 bcE), CT 55 360 and CT 55 862 (548 bcE). The price of takiltu-wool is mentioned in yos 17 210 (583 bcE); vs 20 15; ncbt 758; yos 19 218; gcci 1 382; Nbn 1101 (555–539 bcE); yos 6 168 (550 bcE); CT 55 868 (549 bcE). The texts and prices have been discussed by Quillien (2015, 117) and Payne (2007, 139). 862 Edition by Leichty 1979. Translation by Finkel in Finkel et al. 1999, 64–65 and in Reifarth and Völling 2013, 34.


    Chapter 3

    argamannu-purple wools are given in the text. Takiltu purple is achieved through a process of double-dyeing pre-mordanted dark+blue wool with a red colorant called ḫatḫūru (see 3.5.4). The reference to “two vats for dyeing ­takiltu-wool” as the income of Nadin-aḫi, the weaver of colored cloth, suggests that such “fake” purples were produced locally in Babylonia in the sixth century.863 Nadin-aḫi was involved in procuring raw materials for the Eanna through trade and is attested in several mēreštu-consignment texts.864

    Material Evidence Minoan Sites

    One day, as Hercules strolled along the Levantine coast near the city of Tyre, his faithful hound began to worry some snails that lay on the beach. The dog’s muzzle soon stained brilliant violet and, in this way, purple dye was discovered.

    This at least is what is recorded in the writings of Julius Pollux, a second c­ entury Roman myth-collector (Onamasticon I 45–49). Yet contrary to this ­association between purple and the Phoenicians that is so fixed in the Classical tradition, the earliest testimony for large-scale murex dyeing comes from the Late Bronze Age Aegean.865 The archaeological evidence, dating to the MM iii/ LM i period (end of the first half of the 2nd millennium bce), mainly constitutes crushed murex discovered on Crete, at Mallia,866 and Palaikastro,867 on Kouphonisi,868 and on Kythera, at Kastri.869 The shell midden found at Early Minoan Myrtos more 863 tcl 12 84: 16: 2 na-aṣ-ra-pa-a-tú šá SÍG.ZA.GÌN..RA ir-bi šá ISUM.NA-ŠEŠ 864 Payne 2007, 184. 865 For a more complete overview of the archaeological evidence of murex in the Aegean and Near East, see: Lanigan 1982; Reese 1979–80, 1987 and 2010; Karmon and Spanier 1987 and 1988. A complete survey of the archaeological evidence (shells, textiles, pigment) for murex purple in the Mediterrannean basin is in preparation by Reese. The Cretan evidence is summarized in Reese 2019. 866 Vogler 1984 and more recently Reese 2019, 389. The main evidence is the crushed Hexaplex trunculus found with MM pottery at a site northwest of the palace. 867 In multiple contexts and states of preservation, see Reese 2019, 387–388. According to Reese, there is no evidence for purple dye production at Knossos, despite the claim by Hutchinson (1962, 239) and others (personal communication). 868 The crushed and whole murex found on this island situated on the southeastern corner of Crete very likely attest to a purple-dye production in the MM period (Reese 2019, 388–389). 869 Coldstream 1973.

    Material Colors


    likely reflects local diet and not the dye industry. After surveying all the sites in the Aegean where murex has been discovered in the Middle, Late Minoan and Helledic periods, and cataloguing the species of mollusks to determine their significance for the local population (i.e. diet versus dye), Reese concluded that, The archaeological evidence available to date suggests that the shell ­purple-dye industry began in the middle and late MM (c. 1700–1600 bc.) in eastern Crete (Palaikastro, Kouphonisi, Mallia), Keos, and Kythera and possibly was introduced to the Argolid and Aegina late in the Middle Helladic period. The earliest evidence in the Levant is about a century later…870 As Linear A remains to be deciphered, the first certain written attestation for the purple dye in the Aegean only surfaces in the 13th century. In a Linear B administrative tablet found at Knossos (KN x 976+), a text that possibly describes textile allocations, the words pu-pu-re-jo and wa-na-ka-te-ro appear. The first word is clearly related to Greek πορφύρα, porphúra, from which the English “purple” derives and the second means “royal.”871

    The Levant

    Although the Minoans and the Mycenaeans actively traded with settlers along the Levantine coast, there is more than enough archaeological evidence to demonstrate conclusively that by the mid-second millennium, the technology of murex dyeing itself had spread to the Near East. Only the most significant finds of murex or purple textiles from the Near East are discussed in what follows.872 Minet el-Beida, later recognized as a principal port of Ugarit (Ras Shamra), was discovered accidentally in 1928 by the Mission Archéologique Française led by Claude F.-A. Schaeffer. In the stratigraphic level dating to 870 Reese 1987, 206. 871 Ventris and Chadwick 1956, 321 and 405; Blakolmer 2000, 226. 872 For physical evidence of purple textiles in the ancient world, see Pfister 1937, Saltzman 1978 and Aloupi et al. 1990. Recently, three fragments of Roman-period textiles dyed with murex were found in the Wadi Murabba’at caves in the Judean Desert. Analysis revealed that two of the pieces had been double dyed with H. Trunculus and kermes to achieve a reddish-purple hue. A third had been exposed to the sun to attain a greenish shade of blue (Sukenik et al. 2015). The pieces of red and blue woolen textiles found at Timna in southern Israel were dyed with madder and woad (Sukenik et al. 2017, nos: 66–68 and Thavapalan 2018a, fn. 74).


    Chapter 3

    the 15th-14th centuries bce, enormous quantities of crushed murex were ­unearthed, alongside a purple-stained kettle near the remains of small buildings. Schaeffer’s interpretation of this site as a workshop area for dyers is supported by the many textual references to purple dye at Ugarit.873 The textile fragments found with other grave goods in a series of non-royal tombs (T.110, 118, 122, 123, 131) at Chagar Bazar in northern Syria constitute some of the earliest specimens of murex-dyed wool from the Near East (18th-16th centuries bce). Madder (Rubia tinctorum) was detected on four reddish purple colored samples (CB 5235, 5292, 5469, 8019) and the dye of a Mediterranean murex (H. trunculus) was identified on a blue fragment (CB 5139). Both traditionally woven wool as well as a type of netted fabric, made by looping fine thread with a needle (réseau bouclé), were dyed.874 The other key evidence for purple textiles in the reigion comes from Qaṭna (Tell Mishrīfe), which was discovered in 1924 and excavated by a French team led by Rubert du Mesnil du Buisson. It was only in 2002, however, that the royal tombs containing thousands of millimeter-sized fragments of dyed textiles were discovered. The “purple extracts” detected in some samples were found in situ with gold jewelry and beads, suggesting that these remnants represent the garments that once adorned the entombed nobility. Chemical analysis of fifteen samples of this purple has revealed indigoid and brominated indirubin, characteristic markers of the dye derived from the H. trunculus murex species.875 The tombs where the textiles were found were in use for a period of some three hundred to four hundred years, until the Hittites invasion around 1340 bce.876 Qatar

    If the origins of the purple dye industry are on Minoan Crete and if the best physical evidence for it is from sites on the Levantine coast, how did takiltuand argamannu-dyed cloth reached places like Nuzi, Babylonia and Assyria in the mid-second millennium? Certainly, through trade and other forms of exchange. But also worth considering is the discovery of murex in Qatar, which has led some archaeologists to argue that the Minoans and Phoenicians may not have held a monopoly on the purple dye trade.

    873 Schaeffer 1951, 190–192. 874 Breniquet et al. 2018. For a schematic representation of réseau bouclé, see pl. 2.11. 875 James 2009, 1114–1116. 876 Other sites where evidence for large-scale dyeing from murex has been found include Tell Akko (13th century bce) and nearby Tell Keisan (13th or 9th century bce) in Israel, see Thavapalan 2018a.

    Material Colors


    The region of al Khor lies on the north-east coast of Qatar, where the Mission Archéologique Française à Qatar investigated a number of pre-/proto-­ historic and Islamic sites between 1976 and 1982.877 During the 1980–1982 winter seasons, a late Bronze Age site located on a small island off the coast named Khor Ile-Sud made itself particularly interesting to the excavation team. Five rectangular semi-subterranean structures containing pottery, charcoal, ash, a few iron artifacts and the remains of fauna constitute the major finds of the site. But additionally, about ten meters south of the structures, excavators found a large shell midden, measuring 19.9 cubic meters in volume. The midden comprises three stratigraphic layers. Level ii was found to contain small quantity of fifteen varieties of shellfish (mainly of the Tylothais savignyi, Circenita callipyga and Lunella coronata species).878 The intact state of the shells indicates that shellfish found at this level were dumped after being cooked (this is also suggested by the presence of ash and charcoal) and eaten. This level, then, most likely represents a domestic refuse site. Level iii of the midden yielded some 2.9 million individual shells. Exclusively of T. savignyi species, these shells had been crushed in a homogeneous manner in ancient times.879 The enormous quantity and crushed state of the shellfish strongly hint at a connection to the murex dyeing industry. T. savignyi contains a predominance of 6-6' dibromoindigotin, which yields red-purple dye. Unable to use radiocarbon dating to calibrate a reliable chronology for the Khor Ile-Sud finds, archaeologists fell back on correspondences in pottery assemblages for dating. In form, fabric, surface decoration and manufacturing characteristics, Khor Ile-Sud-ware best match the Failaka 4A and Qala’at alBahrain iiib period pottery from the central and western Gulf region.880 When compared to the form of Mesopotamian ceramics, the “straight-sided bowls, band-rim and triangular-rim jars and ribbed deep basins all fit comfortably in the formal repertoire of late Kassite Babylonia,” wrote principal excavator Edens.881 Taken together, these correlations suggest that the site of Khor IleSud dates to a period in 13th-12th centuries bce. If Eden’s interpretation of the finds at Qatar is correct, the Gulf region may have been a significant source of competition for the Levantine dye industry in the late Bronze Age, especially in supplying the Kassites of Babylonia.

    877 878 879 880 881

    Edens 1999. Previous as Thais savignyi, Circe callipyga and Turbo coronatus respectively in literature. Edens 1999, 71–79. Edens 1999, 80. Edens 1999, 82.


    Chapter 3 Excursus: the Re-discovery of Shell-based Dye

    After the Arab conquest of the Levant in the mid-seventh century, the art of dyeing textiles with the stomach contents of the murex snail was gradually forgotten, not to be remembered again until the 19th century. Henri de LacazeDuthiers (1821–1901), the zoologist who is credited with “rediscovering” murex dye, was apparently walking along a coastal village in Spain one day, when he observed a fisherman breaking open a sea-snail’s shell and covering his shirt with its contents. To his fascination, the yellow smudge gradually changed to a brilliant purple color.882 The fisherman’s performance drew up memories of the descriptions of shellfish dyeing in Aristotle and Pliny the Elder for LacazDuthiers and this prompted him to conduct further experiments on sea mollusks. Through them, he was able to isolate the species of mollusks whose secretions from a small gland could produce a range of brilliant hues, from pale pinks and blues to darker blues, violets and black-purple.883 In a world which shortly thereafter was saturated with synthetic colorants cheaply manufactured for mass consumption, Lacaze-Duthiers’ discovery had no practical consequence. Amongst certain traditional Jewish circles desirous to re-create the tĕklēt-colored tassel of the ṭallît prayer shawl in the manner prescribed in the Hebrew Bible, however, it generated immeasurable interest. One attempt to recreate tĕklēt for this purpose is exemplified by the life work of Grand Rabbi Gershon Henokh Leiner (1839–1890). Rabbi Leiner established a dye house in the town of Radzin in Poland and managed to synthesize a blue colorant from what he claimed was the ink of cuttlefish. Declaring this “Radzin Pigment” as authentic tĕklēt, Rabbi Leiner even founded a factory to manufacture prayer shawls numbering in the thousands. Rabbinic authorities later discredited the claims about Radzin Pigment as the authentic Biblical dye, as chemical analysis revealed that the blue of the dye was achieved artificially and not through cuttlefish ink.884 This hunt for the genuine source of tĕklēt may be traced in minute detail through a large corpus of scholarly literature.885 882 Sterman 2012, 5–6. In addition to smearing the matter within the hypobranchial gland of the murex snail onto the textile directly, the dye could also be manufactured by vatting in a saline solution. 883 Sterman 2012, 5–6. 884 The judgment of these authorities was based on the body of Jewish religious laws known as the Halakha, which are explicit and strict as to the organic nature of Biblical tĕklēt. Radzin-tĕklēt was first scientifically analyzed in 1913 and several times after that. The 1964 and 1972 analyses conducted by S.M. Edelstein and his studies showed that in all samples of the dye, the colorant Prussian blue was used to achieve the hue (Edelstein 1987, 13). 885 The most pertinent points of this quest are examined by Ziderman 1987b. In an 1889 publication, the Viennese Egyptologist A. Dedekind was the first to connect the tĕklēt used in Biblical times with the murex H. Trunculus. Rejecting the violet hued dye of H. Trunculus

    Material Colors


    5.1.4 Color By comparing the textual and physical evidence, the present discussion has shown that the words takiltu and argamannu refer to color and not to a particular technological process (i.e. murex dyeing). And yet, unlike some of the other material-based color terms studied in this chapter, takiltu and argamannu hardly ever refer to color outside the textile industry. An interesting exception to the general semantic range of both terms is found in a passage from the annals of Tiglath-Pileser iii (745–727 bce). So impressed by the appearance of the exotic animals he received as tribute from vassals in Cappadocia (the cities Tuḫana, Tunna, Ishtunda, Ḫubishna in the land of Tabal) and from the queen of the Arabs, the Assyrian king describes their wonderous colors: mim-ma aq-ru ni-ṣir-ti ˹LUGAL˺-ú-ti UDU.NÍTA.MEŠ bal-⸢ṭu⸣-[ti ša SÍG.MEŠ-šú-nu] ar-ga-man-nu ṣar-pat iṣ-ṣur AN-e mut-tap-ri-šú-ti šá a-gap-pi-šú-nu a-na ta-kil-te ṣar-pu ANŠE.KUR.RA.MEŠ ANŠE.GÌR.NUN.NA.MEŠ GU 4. NÍTA.MEŠ ˹ù ṣe˺-[e-ni ANŠE.A.AB.BA.MEŠ] MUNUS.ANŠE.a-na-qa-a-te a-di anšeba-˹ak˺-ka-ri-ši-na am-ḫur (rinap 1 15: 3–5) (Gold, silver, tin, iron, elephant hide, elephant ivory, multihued (woolen) garments, linen garments, blue-purple wool, red-purple wool, ebony, boxwood), every precious item of the royal treasure, li[ve] sheep [whose wool] is colored red-purple (argamannu), flying birds of the sky, whose wings are colored blue-purple (takiltu), horses, mules, oxen, and she[ep and goats, male] (and) female camels, together with their young, did I receive. As it is highly improbable that the inhabitants of Anatolia made a practice of dyeing (ṣarāpu) their sheep and birds, the passage is best understood as “live sheep whose wool is argamannu(-colored)” and “flying birds of the sky whose wings are takiltu(-colored).” As far as birds go, this interpretation poses no problems. Blue-purple sheep, on the other hand, are unusual to say the least. The only animal known to me that fits this profile is the mammal known as the bharal or Dwarf Blue Sheep (Pseudois schaeferi). With its bluish-grey coat, this as too dark to satisfy the “sky blue” tĕklēt of talmudic descriptions, Rabbi I. Herzog proposed that a gastropod from the genus Janthina as the source of the dye but this claim has not been verified. J. Feliks, on the other hand, proposed that tĕklēt was, in fact, greenishblue in hue, and that the dye of any mollusk species could be reduced to produce it (Ziderman 1987b, 207–210 and fns. 18–20).


    Chapter 3

    is one of the rarest mammals in the world. Although the natural geographic distribution of the bharal is poorly known, they are only found in the Sichuan province of China today; however, zoologists believe that they once roamed the highlands of Tibet, Nepal, and Pakistan. In 2005, stamps were printed in Tajikistan with images of these animals. 5.2 Duḫšu (Calcite-colored, Yellow) 5.2.1 Etymology & History of Attestation Three proposals have been made to explain the relationship between DUḪ.ŠI.A/DUḪ.ŠÚ.A (Sumerian), tuḫšiwa/tuḫšuwa (Hurrian), duḫšu/dušû (Akkadian) and taḥaš (Hebrew). Liebermann and the Akkadian dictionaries consider the word originally Sumerian.886 At the time of Liebermann’s publication, it was not known that Hurrian city-states were active in the upper Tigris as early as c. 2200 bce. Given this historical context, Dalley suggested that both the Akkadian and Sumerian forms of the word have their origins in the Hurrian language.887 In order to explain the different spellings of the word—one is middle weak and the other, third weak—she proposed a double borrowing. In her view, the Hurrian term with the genitive ending (tuḫšiwa or tuḫšuwa) entered into Sumerian as DUḪ.ŠI.A/DUḪ.ŠÚ.A. Akkadian speakers treated the loanword from Sumerian as a noun with a weak ending (duḫšium > duḫšûm). The medial weak consonant -ḫ- was eventually absorbed into the vowel resulting in the first millennium form dušû, which is how the word is written in the majority of Akkadian dialects. The second borrowing involved the people at Mari. There, Akkadian speakers adopted the term as t/duḫšu, without preserving the Hurrian genitive. This then would explain why there is no long vowel at the end of the word. According t0 Dalley, the Hebrew form taḥaš could be a loanword from either the Hurrian or Akkadian. Recently, Noonan suggested that Hebrew taḥaš is a borrowing from Egyptian tḥs, a type of leather attested from the Old Kingdom onwards.888 Noonan rejected Dalley’s hypothesis of a double borrowing but did not explain whence the Akkadian is derived. In light of its obscure origins, it may be best to understand duḫšu as a Kulturwort, a cross-cultural concept disperced among the many languages of the Near East.889

    886 887 888 889

    Liebermann 1977, 507. Dalley 2000, 8–9. Noonan 2012. This was also Landsberger’s suggestion: “Auch die akk. Entsprechung, die nicht als Lehnwort aus dem Sum., sondern als Kulturwort anzusehen ist, ist duḫ-šu-um, duḫ-še-e etc. zu lesen, wie jetzt durch arm 10, 18: 7 [ḫa-z]i-in-nu ša du-uḫ-ši-im demonstriert wird” (1967, 171).

    Material Colors


    5.2.2 Orthography & By-forms Given the syllabic spellings at Mari and at Nuzi, the Sumerian orthography can be securely established as DUḪ.ŠI.A/DUḪ.ŠÚ.A as opposed to DU 8.ŠI. A/DU 8.ŠÙ.A.890 Both the syllabic (duḫšum, tuḫšum)891 and logographic spellings of the word are attested at Mari. The word is written tuḫšu at Nuzi, although tuḫšiwuḫḫe, preserving the Hurrian adjectival ending -we-eḫ-ḫé, is also attested. In texts from Hattuša the word is written logographically, as DUḪ.ŠÚ.A. The late form of the word in the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian periods appears without the medial -ḫ- and with a long vowel at the end (dušû). 5.2.3 Characterization Color or Technical Process? A variety of referents, objects made of wool, leather, stone and glass are described as duḫšu in the cuneiform textual record beginning in the third millennium bce, suggesting some shared property common to all these materials. The fact that duḫšu-wool is listed with other dyed wools in administrative texts confirms that this likeness is color-based. The characteristic look of duḫšuwool and leather was achieved artificially in ancient times, by the dyer (lúṣārip síg/kuš duḫše). As in many living and dead languages, it is not possible to ask “what color is X or Y” in Akkadian (see 2.1). As the visual world is described in terms of qualities observable on the exterior or surface of things, speakers of this language talked about color by describing a thing’s “characteristic appearance” (zīmu, šiknu) or by using a comparison (kî, kīma). Duḫšu is attested in both these constructions. In two medical omens dating to the Neo-Assyrian period, a man’s urine is compared to the color of duḫšu-leather and duḫšu-stone by means of a simile.892 In a glass recipe entitled “If you want to make duḫšu-colored glass,” the final preserved line reads, “After you see something (forming) and if the (molten glass) is homogeneous and assumes the appearance of (genuine) duḫšu-stone…”893 Thus, how it is used in language also supports the idea that duḫšu refers to a particular color.

    890 Landsberger 1967, 171. 891 Durand noted that it is not to be understood as third-weak d/tuḫšûm (Durand 2009, 153). 892 bam 114: 8 with parallel in 161: iv 2′-3′: DIŠ KÀŠ-šú GIM kuš/na4duḫ-ši-e NA BI NA4 G[IG] “If a man’s urine is like duḫšu-leather/ stone (in color), he is [sick] with stones.” 893 Tablet B 16: 53′ in Oppenheim et al. 1970, 47–48: TA IGI ma-am-ma tam-mar-ma šum-ma NA4 up-pu-u[q] ù zi-im na4DUḪ.ŠI.A it-taš-kin.


    Chapter 3

    Two alternative proposals to understand duḫšu as the product of a particular technological process rather than a color may be mentioned briefly here. Durand suggested that SÍG duḫšu at Mari, perhaps to be kept separate from SÍG dušû in Mesopotamia proper, refers to a special type of wool: La laine n’est pas dite, d’ailleurs, ‘jaune’ mais relevant du d/tuḫšum ce qui semble être un procédé. La notation est donc sans doute par jeu de mots avec le nom de la pierre…Le procédé disparaît avec l’époque amorrite.894 When used for tenting or for furniture, this material might be a kind of waterproofing: “un tissage extrêmement serré et empêchant la pluie de pénétrer,” he thought.895 In Dalley’s view, Duḫšu began as a word for blue frit, faïence and glass, which all have virtually the same chemical composition, and then became used more generally for decorative beadwork in many colors.896 The ṣārip duḫšî was the craftsman who made glass beads and faience.897 The process of heating and melting in the faience-making process accounts for the use of the verb ṣarāpu, she argued, which could be understood as “to refine by heat.”898 Although it has been dismissed in subsequent studies,899 there is some archaeological evidence to support Dalley’s idea. Faience beads destined for embroidery on fabrics and leather are well-known from the Bronze Age Near East and Mediterranean: the two examples known to me from outside Egypt are the textile fragments with blue faience rings discovered at Acemhöyük and the mass of orange faience rings found on the Kaș-Uluburun shipwreck (see Colored Embellishments, The case of the Uluburun faience rings is noteworthy because it tells us that they were manufactured in mass at certain centers and subsequently exported widely. This is reminiscent of the situation at Mari, where local craftsmen anxiously awaited duḫšu from Babylon (see below). Semantic shifts of the type suggested by Dalley, where terminology generated within a specific context changes in meaning, from materiality to 894 895 896 897 898

    Durand 2009, 154. Durand 2009, 154. Dalley 2000, 16. Dalley 2000, 15. The verb ṣarāpu refers to a material being saturated, usually red, with color. When associated with wool or leather, it means “to dye” (see 2.4.3). 899 E.g. Steinkeller 2006, 5 n. 26; Noonan 2012, 585.

    Material Colors


    a­ bstraction over time, are not uncommon in the history of color language. In 10th century Spain, for instance, “purpura” referred to the name of a silk fabric colored with murex dye and not a color. Similarly, in the German-speaking world at around the 11th century, scharlât/scharlach “scarlet” was a fine, expensive shorn woolen cloth. It could be dyed or undyed. But by the 13th century, the same term specifically referred to the bright dye color obtained from the kermes or coccus insect used to dye such wool and eventually, the name of a color.900 What speaks against Dalley’s idea is the fact that duḫšu was evidently a genuine stone known in ancient Mesopotamia. It is also not clear how she understands the term duḫšu when it has the determinative KUŠ and SÍG. If the faience beads were attached to leather or fabric, why is this not evident in the terminology? We would expect the scribe to express this idea as, for instance, kuššiḫtu ša na4duḫši “sheepskin with duḫšu-beadwork” or SÍG tabarru ša na4 duḫši “tabarru(-colored) wool with duḫšu-beadwork.” In brief, given the many different contexts in which it occurs and the fact that it is associated with dyed fabrics and colored glasses, duḫšu must be understood as a concrete (i.e. material-based) color term. Dyed Leather DUḪ.ŠI.A-leather is attested in Sumerian texts from the Ur-iii period, mainly for fabricating luxury footwear.901 In the written sources dating to the early Isin I (20th centuries bce) and early Old Babylonian periods, several kinds of leather products are characterized as duḫšu: footware (šēnu-sandals, šuḫuppatuboots) but also harnesses for horses, leather coverings for boats and small household items. In Middle- and Neo-Assyrian texts, inflatable goatskin rafts of the type depicted on the wall reliefs at Kalḫu and Nineveh, were also designated simply as dušû:902 ar-ki-šu-nu i-na gišMÁ.MEŠ kušDUḪ.ŠI.A ÍD pu-rat-ta lu e-be-er (Tiglath-Pileser I r. 1114–1076 bce; A.0.87.1: v 57–58 [rima 2 23]) ‘I crossed the Euphrates after them (the aḫlamû-Aramaeans) on rafts of dušû-goatskin.’

    900 Gage 1999, 80; Skeat 1888, 530. 901 Salonen 1969, 73–74. 902 This is different from the kušmaškaru, also mentioned in Assyrian royal inscriptions, which is a small, round leather-covered boat comparable to the kuphars used in Iraq until the 19th century (Frahm 1998, 310 and De Graeve 1981, 85–89).


    Chapter 3

    Oppenheim considered duḫšu to be a “goat-leather of a characteristic color.” From the mid-second millennium onwards, he argued, goat and sheepskin were tanned and dyed in a particular process to achieve “a soft leather in the brilliant greenish or yellow color of the dušû-stone.”903 This special “Marocco dressing” would have involved the use of sumach as the primary tanning agent. The duḫšu-leather manufactured in this manner must have been valuable and of a high quality, for it is specifically mentioned in an inventory of gifts exchanged between the Mittannian and Egyptian kings in the 14th century: 1 ŠU kušE.SÍR ša DUḪ.ŠI.A ù dar-da-ra-aḫ-m[a] ša KÙ.SI 22 mu-uḫ-ḫ[u]-ṣu (‘Inventory of Gifts from Tušratta to Amenophis iii,’ EA 22: ii 23; Moran 1992, 53) ‘One pair of šēnu-sandals made of duḫšu-leather and studded with gold dardaraḫ-ornaments.’ Another indication of its high value is the fact that a specialist was tasked with the production of duḫšu-leather. At least in the first millennium, the ṣārip KUŠ dušê “tanner of colored leather” is a person of high status. One such professional is named in a land grant dating to the reign of Adad-narari iii, while two others appear as witnesses: at the top of the list in a slave sale document and in a land contract, beside a scribe and servant of the commander-in-chief (turtānu) of Assyria.904 Craftsmen of this profession were organized in large groups, it seems, for we read that Sangû-Issar, who was the commander of the fifty tanners of colored leather, appeared as a witness in a document in which Sennacherib lists the personnel he dedicates to the newly-built Akītu Temple at Assur.905 In an unpublished Old Babylonian manuscript of UR 5-RA: ḫubullu that lists leather and metal objects, two entries relevant to this discussion appear: KUŠ SIG 7: war-ar-qù and KUŠ SIG 7.SIG 7: duḫ-šu-ú.906 Following the conventions designating colored wools, we can surmise that warqu (KUŠ SIG 7) denotes undyed tawed or tanned yellow leather, whereas dyed and tanned leather was called duḫšu. The doubling of the logogram may indicate that duḫšu-leather was more intensely colored than the undyed variety. 903 Oppenheim 1948, 108. 904 saa 12 1: obv. 5 (IKassupu from the Inner City of Assur), saa 6 1: rev. 10 (ISipparānu from Kalhu) and saa 14 472: rev. 6 (IḪana-Sēʾ from Nineveh). saa 6 29 rev. 5 (Sîn-nāʾid from Kalḫu is a witness in a loan document). 905 saa 12 86: rev. 32. 906 BM 85983: 44–45.

    Material Colors


    In his study of the leather industry in the First Dynasty of Isin, van de Mieroop catalogued all the known texts from this period and city that discuss duḫšu-leather.907 By doing so, he was able to demonstrate that the production of duḫšu-leather was specific to goatskin and generally involved the use of a copper compound for dyeing:908 1 KUŠ MÁŠ.GAL kušDUḪ.ŠI.A.AŠ (BIN 9 13: 2; see also 87: 4) ‘One hide of a full-grown male goat, dyed duḫšu(-color).’ From another text in the same corpus, we learn that between thirty-three and thirty-six grams (four to four and one third shekels) of copper were required to color one skin.909 Stol suggested that the copper compound mentioned in the texts was verdigris, which is not a naturally occurring substance but must be artificially manufactured.910 This naturally leads to the question of whether the ancient Mesopotamians knew how to do this. The following instructions for producing verdigris using vinegar are recorded in the Stockholm Papyrus (c. 4th century ce): P. holm. 74: ‘Preparation of Verdigris for Emerald’911 Clean a well-made sheet of Cyprian copper by means of pumice stone and water, dry, and smear it very lightly with a very little oil. Spread it out and tie a cord around it. Then hang it in cask with sharp vinegar so that it does not touch the vinegar, and carefully close the cask so that no evaporation takes place. Now if you put it in in the morning, then scrape off the verdigris carefully in the evening, but if you put it in in the evening, then scrape it off in the morning, and suspend it again until the sheet becomes used up. However, as often as you scrape it off again, smear the sheet with oil as explained previously. The vinegar is (thus rendered) unfit for use. Using verdigris to color oil-cured and tanned hides could indeed have achieved a green color in leather. Outside the leather industry, verdigris is attested as a mineral pigment in ancient Egypt, the oldest attestation of this date to the 13th

    907 Van de Mieroop 1987; bin 9 nos: 13, 87, 107, 187, 193, 198, 234, 354, 397, 426–429, 434, 436, 439, 454, 455, 460, 470. bin 10 nos: 83, 117, 130. 908 See: bin 9 nos: 107, 187, 455, 46. This was already observed by Crawford, in his unpublished dissertation (1948), and by Stol 1980–1983. 909 bin 9 455; van de Mieroop 1987, 31. 910 Stol 1980–1983, 534. 911 Trans. Caley 2008, 65.


    Chapter 3

    century bce.912 Verdigris pigment has not been found in Mesopotamia. Classical authors like Vitruvius (1st century bce) and Pliny (77 ce) called this substance aeruca or aerugo “copper rust.” Theophrastus (c. 315 bce), who describes verdigris as copper soaked in wine leaves, mainly discusses the medicinal value of this substance.913 Dyed Wool One of the oldest references to duḫšu-colored wool appears in a letter from Tel Hazor, located north of the Sea of Galilee in Israel.914 Because the upper half of the letter is not preserved, the sender’s name and his intentions are not known; what remains is a list of textiles and luxury items. There, three hundred duḫšushirts (5 ŠU-ši TÚG gú-ud-a duḫ-ši-a) are recorded amongst felt, linen, zakûmand sakkum-cloth and various garments, such as lamaḫuššu-robes, uṭuplushawls, shirts and headbands.915 At the end of the missive, the sender, perhaps the king of Hazor, expresses his intention to visit Mari and from thence Ekallatum, a clue that dates the letter to the period before Zimri-Lim (1775–1761 bce). According to the editors of the text, the items mentioned here are too precious to reflect regular commerce and probably represent booty or gifts sent to Šamši-Adad (1808–1776 bce).916 Duḫšu is also attested in the Mari archives, where it is the color of leather, wool and stone. In the documents concerning duḫšu-wool, this precious fabric is generally mentioned in small quantities—a single mina (about 500 grams) cost one shekel of silver.917 In one instance, ten shekels of duḫšu-wool, three minas of mixed wool, two-thirds minas of madder (written ḫawuratu) and ten shekels of alum are given to a weaver to make animal trappings.918 During Zimri-Lim’s reign, a huge quantity of duḫšu-wool was used to make a large tent for royal use.919 According to Durand, duḫšu was the preferred color of wool among Mariotes.920 Although the specialist entrusted with its production 912 913 914 915 916 917

    Eastaugh 2004, 385–86. Eastaugh 2004, 385–86. Hazor 16803 in Horowitz and Wasserman 2000. Hazor 16803 14′. Horowitz and Wasserman 2000, 169. M.8208 (Durand 2009, 296): ½ SU KÙ.BABBAR a-na ši-im ½ MA.NA SÍG.DUḪ.ŠÚ.A ša a-na ši-pi-ir ku-ra-ri ša gišŠUKUR ŠU.TI.A ṣíl-lí-dnu-nu ITI li-li-ia-tim U4 14.KAM MU zi-imri-li-im gišGU.ZA GAL a-na dUTU ú-še-lu-ú. 918 arm 18 30: the objects to be made are a ḫullu “ring(?)” and an appatu “rein” or “lease.” 919 Two amounts are mentioned for this purpose: an astounding one talent forty-two minas (about 21 kilograms) and eighteen shekels = about 51 kilograms (M.10482) and one talent and half a mina = about 30 kilograms (M.10483, M.12217). 920 Durand 2009, 153.

    Material Colors


    (lúDUḪ.ŠÚ.A) appears in Mari texts,921 there is one concrete reference suggesting that the wool was typically imported from Babylonia. In a letter, a royal agent Uṣur-awassu writes to Yasmah-Addu: Since the caravans from Babylon no longer come, duḫšu-wool is scarce in this country. Now, if my lord has duḫšu-wool available, let him send two minas so that I may finish this garment for the arrival of my lord…922 It is unclear if the Mariotes did not have the technology to dye wool duḫšucolored or if they did not have the necessary raw materials, such as a particular quality of wool or the colorant. This passage suggests that the dyed fleece was imported and then worked locally. Like any other wool, several qualities of duḫšu-wool were available at Mari.923 At Nuzi, tuḫšiwe is mentioned amongst other dyed wools in two cases: in hss 13 302 and 431.924 There is not enough evidence within the Nuzi corpus itself to identify the color of the wool. Abrahami’s guess that it was a pale green colored wool is based on Steinkeller’s identification of duḫšu-stone as chlorite (see discussion under stone). Whatever its color, tuḫšiwe-wool was clearly not as popular as kinaḫḫu-, šuratḫu- and tabarru-colored wools at Nuzi, which are attested much more frequently.925 Unlike at Mari in the in the early second millennium or Assyria and Babylonia in the first millennium, tuḫšiwe is not attested as a leather or stone at Nuzi. The duḫšu-colored part of a piece of furniture (nušābu ša tuḫšiwe) mentioned in hss 15 134 refers to cushion upholstered with fabric and not a leather covering.926 921 E.g. arm 25 342: 5 (M.6784): the wool is destined for a tapestry (mardātu). 922 arm 26 285 (M. 5702): 12–17: iš-tu KASKAL K[Á.DINGIR.RA] la i-la-ka SÍG.DUḪ.ŠÚ.A ina ma-a-tim an-[ni-tim] i-ta-aq-{ra}r[a] i-na-[an-na šu]m-ma SÍG.DUḪ.ŠÚ.A i-na qa-at b[e-lí-i]a i-[ba-aš-š]e20-e 2 MA.NA SÍG.DUḪ.ŠÚ.A be-[lí li-iš-pu-u]r-ma [ki-ma] a-na a-la-ak be-lí-ia TÚG š[a-tu] ˹ú˺-[qa]-t[u]. 923 In one text, “first” and “second” quality duḫšu and ḫašmānu(-colored) wool are sent for cleaning before the materials can be used to make four covers for royal furniture (M.15208 1–4; Durand 2009, 400–401: [x M]A.NA 5 SU SÍG.DUḪ.ŠÚ.A SAG [x] MA.NA SÍG ḫa-aš-manim 1 MA.NA SÍG.DUḪ.ŠÚ.A ÚS a-na 4 ma-ás-si-la-tim ša LUGAL). 924 hss 13 302: 1–9: 3 ku-du4-uk-tu4 SÍG a-na tu-uḫ-ši-we a-na ša-ab-šu-li a-na Ia-mu-ur-qa-assà na-ad-nu ù la i-din-na 3 ku-du4-uk-tu4 SÍG a-na tu-uḫ-ši-we a-na ša-ab-šu-li a-na Iti-ir-wini-el-li na-ad-nu ù la i-din-na “Three kuduktu-measures of wool to be dyed duḫšu(-color) were given to Amur-qāssa and she did not give (it back yet). Three kuduktu-measures of wool to be dyed duḫšu(-color) were given to Tirwinelli and she did not give (it back yet).” hss 13 431: 50: TÚG ša tu-uḫ-ši-wa [ša] bi-i[r-mu] (beside TÚG ša kinaḫḫe ša birmu, TÚG ša ḫašmānu ša birmu, TÚG ša tawarriwa ša birmu). 925 Abrahami 2014, 294–299. 926 For furniture at Nuzi, see Schneider-Ludorff 2002, 115–149.


    Chapter 3

    In the Amarna correspondence and the Qaṭna inventories, duḫšu is attested as a precious stone but not as wool. Duḫšu-wool is likewise not mentioned in the Neo-Assyrian or Neo-Babylonian periods, by which time the term referred only to products made of leather. Based on the identification of duḫšu as the mineral chlorite and the information that verdigris was used to color duḫšu-leather, Steinkeller proposed that duḫšu-wool must be a green color (see stone below). While there was no dye that could achieve green directly in the ancient Near East, it was possible to dye textiles green by mixing blue and yellow dyes. In his study of the leather industry, Stol suggested that verdigris (Arabic zinǧar, Persian zingar) was simultaneously a mordant and colorant, the only green dyestuff in the ancient world.927 In the following recipe in the Stockholm papyrus (c. 4th century CE), verdigris is used to modify the base dyestuff, which is the celandine plant: P. holm. 139: ‘Dyeing of Colors’928 By celandine one means a plant root. It dyes (a) gold color by cold dyeing. Celandine is costly, however. You should accordingly use the root of the pomegranate tree and it will act the same. And if wolf’s milk is boiled and dried it produces yellow. If, however, a little verdigris is mixed with it, it produces green; and safflower blossom likewise. Stone In contrast to the case of uqnû (lapis lazuli) and uqnâtu (lapis lazuli-colored wool), where the latter owes its name to the former, it is not possible to say definitely to which material the color duḫšu originally referred. Duḫšu-leather is attested in Sumerian texts929 as early as duḫšu-stone.930 In Abnu šikinšu, the color of the stone is described with reference to the leather.931 On the other hand, according to the glassmaking recipes from the Neo-­ Assyrian period, duḫšu-glass was made to emulate the color of the stone, not

    927 928 929 930

    Stol 1980–1983, 543. Trans. Caley 2008, 65. Salonen 1969, 72. Landsberger was of the same opinion: “Mit Rücksicht auf die weite Verbreitung und das Alter (seit Ur iii, s. cad dušû) des d/tušû-gegerbten Leders ist es nicht so selbstverständlich, daß der Stein duḫšû (analog den Wollen uqnâtu und ḫašmānu) die Priorität hat” (1967, 171). 931 Abnu šikinšu 68; Schuster-Brandis 2008, 29: NA4 GAR-šú GIM kušDUḪ.ŠI.A ši-lip šar-tú x [x x na4DUḪ.ŠI].˹A˺ MU.NI.

    Material Colors


    the leather. One duḫšu recipe ends with the statement, “­when the glass…­ assumes the color of (genuine) dušû-stone” (zīm na4dušê), further confirmation that unlike zagindurû, for instance, duḫšu was a real stone as well as a colored glass. In two medical omens concerning urinary tract stones,932 a sick man’s urine is compared to the color of both the leather and stone.933 Duḫšu-stone is mentioned several times in the administrative documents from Mari. In her discussion of a letter wherein a Mariote is charged with the sale of a block of duḫšu, Michel translated the term as “rock crystal” but offered no further comment.934 It likewise appears in a palace inventory of objects made of precious stones and perhaps glasses.935 In another case, duḫšu and lapis lazuli are used to decorate a socle.936 M.10382 is noteworthy for observing the variant spellings of duḫšu at Mari. In this list of precious stones and ­metals destined for a fancy headdress and band of some sort, the term is spelled ­syllabically twice (na4du-uḫ-šu-um, obv. 5, 16) and logographically once (na4DUḪ.ŠÚ.A, rev. 22).937 As we have seen, duḫšu-colored wool was an expensive luxury commodity in the early second millennium and the same is true of duḫšu-stone. In A.2993+A.4008, a royal agent of Mari by the name of Yassi-Dagan is tasked with selling duḫšu-stone at a certain price fixed by Zimri-Lim and with purchasing tin or lapis lazuli with the silver he receives for it. Yassi-Dagan speaks of the changing price of duḫšu-stone, depending on local availability. It appears that he is purchasing the tin, and perhaps also the lapis lazuli, from a dealer in Ešnunna. This makes good sense since Ešnunna (in the Diyala) is not far from Susa, the hub in Iran through which the lapis from Afghanistan entered Mesopotamia.938 We are not given the exact price of the duḫšu-stone in the text nor are we told where the Mariotes acquired it. However, the text speaks to the high monetary value of duḫšu-stone in more than one way: first, the Mari agent is given strict instructions by the king to negotiate firmly with the dealer in Ešnunna and by any means possible to sell the stone either at or above the set price; second, we can infer that this set price was high enough to purchase lapis lazuli, the value of which was two or 932 This interpretation was offered by Scurlock and Anderson. Based on this, they proposed that duḫšu-stone must have been orange-brown in color (2005, 101). 933 bam 114: 8 with parallel 161 iv 2´-3´: DIŠ KÀŠ-šú GIM kuš/na4duḫ-ši-e NA BI NA4 G[IG]. 934 In A.2993+A.4008: spelled na4DUḪ.ŠÚ.A (Michel 1992, 127–136). 935 arm 21 222: 362. 936 arm 21 231: 10. 937 Another stone name, pappardillû, is likewise spelled in two ways (na4par-par-dili and na4 BABBAR.DILI). 938 Warburton 2008, 221.


    Chapter 3

    three times higher than silver in this period.939 The commercial value of precious minerals tends to drop the closer one gets to the source.940 Warburton has demonstrated this by comparing the price of lapis in the late Bronze Age: at Larsa, one shekel of lapis cost two shekels of silver, whereas in Anatolia, the price rises to three shekels of silver.941 A.2993+A.4008 tells us that duḫšu-stone, probably raw and unworked, likewise had a fluctuating price in silver and that in the mid-18th century bce, the Babylonians were willing to sell lapis lazuli and tin to acquire it. Source

    The ancient Babylonians believed that duḫšu and Marḫaši-stones came from the land of Marḫaši, said to be situated east of Anshan (Tell Malyan), and from the mountain ZAR.DU 8.A.942 Steinkeller, who has devoted a series of articles to the question of the duḫšu-stone, has identified Marḫaši as lying in the region of Halil-rud in Jiroft, where some three hundred tells, some of which are as large as a hundred hectares and feature monumental architecture, have been found.943 According to Steinkeller’s reconstruction of the historical geography of this period, the northern borders of ancient Marḫaši most likely extended to the Halil river valley, which is only about two hundred and fifty kilometers away from coastal Oman (ancient Magan). Through Oman then, carnelian from India, lapis lazuli from Afghanistan and chlorite from Marḫaši were transported to Babylonia.944 As for the duḫšu-stone itself, Steinkeller identified it as chlorite, which is also called steatite, soapstone and serpentine in secondary literature.945 In his view, the textual evidence, which associates the land of Marḫaši with the duḫšu-stone, complements the archaeological evidence, since excavations have revealed that the Jiroft region was a center for the manufacture of chlorite vessels. The Old Akkadian king Rīmuš campaigned extensively in the east, 939 940 941 942

    Warburton 2016, 112. Michel 2001, 349. Warburton 2008, 220–221. Schuster-Brandis 2008, 408. In Hittite texts, na4DUḪ.ŠÚ.A is different from the stone known as paraši (Polvani 1988, 72–73). Polvani did not think that dušû could denote a specific color since the ṣārip dušê uses various dyes and tannins to color leather (Polvani 1988, 135–136). 943 Steinkeller 1982, 2006 and 2012. 944 Steinkeller 2006, 1–2. 945 The fluidity of the term is discussed by Moorey: “As the various members of the chlorite schist family are hopelessly confused in the literature, since they may not be easily distinguished by eye, this term is loosely used in reference to ‘chlorite’ and ‘steatite (talc)’” (1994, 37).

    Material Colors


    f­ocusing on Elam and Marḫaši (Akkadian Paraḫšum).946 Assuming the title “Conqueror of Elam and Marḫaši,” he claims a great victory against a coalition of kings from Zaḫar, Elam, Gupin, Meluḫḫa and indeed Marḫaši. He further claims to have torn out the foundations of Marḫaši and brought back precious metals and stones as booty,947 among them duḫšu-stone: ESI DUḪ.ŠI ù NA 4.NA 4 ša al!-qé-ù SAG NAM.RA.AK pá-ra-aḫ-súmki (E2.1.2.8: 1–5; rime 2 58) ‘Diorite, duḫšu-stone and (various) stones which I took…as booty of Marḫaši.’ Although it only survives on a tablet dating to the Ur-iii period, it is very likely that originally, this inscription was written on a stone object. Steinkeller’s case for connecting Marḫaši with Jiroft and chlorite hinges on the evidence of two vessel fragments that share decorative motifs with Jiroftware and contain an inscription by Rīmuš, claiming to be the conqueror of Marḫaši.948 The minerals belonging to the group “chlorite” vary in color, “from soft green to black with a vitreous luster to pale speckled grey”,949 and so the identification of the stone itself is not overly helpful for knowing which characteristic color was associated with the term duḫšu. For this, Steinkeller turned to the leather industry. Since copper is employed in the process of tanning and/or dyeing duḫšu-colored hides, it must denote pale green or blue-green, he reasoned.950 As for the relationship between duḫšu-stone and leather, he wrote, “it is certain that the word for the leather derives from the name of the mineral, due to the similarity in color or texture.”951 Although the identification of duḫšu as the mineral chlorite and as a pale green color has generally been accepted,952 the following objections may be raised against it. While the Jiroft region was undoubtedly a center for manufacturing soft-stone vessels on a large scale in the second half of the third 946 The two most detailed versions of these campaigns are preserved in Sammeltafel manuscripts dating to the Old Babylonian period: cbs 13972 (Kienast and Gelb 1990, 191–196) and Ni3200 (unpublished). 947 The items are listed in E2.1.2.6: 131–144; rime 2 55. 948 VA 5298 at the Pergamon Museum and U. 231 at the British Museum. Steinkeller identifies these bowls as “chlorite.” Frayne (E2.1.2.17; rime 2 66) describes them as “dark green steatite” and “black steatite,” while Potts simply calls both “soft-stone” (Potts 2005). 949 Moorey 1994, 37. 950 Steinkeller 2006, 4–5. 951 Steinkeller 1972 n. 43. 952 For instance, by Schuster-Brandis 2008, 407–408 and Abrahami 2014.


    Chapter 3

    ­ illennium, it was by no means the only eastern Iranian source for steatite/ m chlorite. In the late 1960s, a chlorite vessel production center was discovered at Tepe Yahya in the Kerman province of Iran. Kohl observed that many of the types of chlorite vessels found in Mesopotamia and the motifs on them were represented at Tepe Yahya in various stages of manufacture.953 But it is not possible to trace the source of the Mesopotamian chlorite to a particular site. X-ray diffraction analyses undertaken by Kohl on roughly one hundred chlorite vessels known to him at the time suggested that various centers were producing identical vessels, using stones from different sources.954 The chlorite used at a particular site could vary in composition and color as well.955 That is to say, even if the two chlorite vessels discussed by Steinkeller were taken as booty from Marḫaši, they could have originated elsewhere. In addition to the difficulties in pinning down the source of Iranian chlorite, the nature and precise use of the copper compound used in the process of tanning duḫšu-colored goat hides must be considered. Even supposing the Babylonians knew how to produce verdigris, an acetate of copper formed by exposing the metal to organic acids, it is unclear how they utilized it and how it would have affected the appearance of the leather. Was the copper utilized as a mineral colorant, like iron? Was it used as a mordant, like alum? There is no textual or physical evidence that speak to these questions. Finally, the most compelling arguments against identifying duḫšu as a shade of green come from the Akkadian glass recipes, which point to it being opaque and yellow in color (see glass below). Oppenheim thought the color of duḫšu-stone and the glass produced in imitation of it must be a greenish-yellow,956 brownish-orange957 or yellow958 because it was used to decorate the sun disk (AŠ.ME, šamšatu/šamšu) also called the šurinnu-emblem of Šamaš,959 which suggests a bright, yellowish color: 5/6 MA.NA 7 2/3 SU KÙ.BABBAR 1/3 MA.NA 7 1/2 SU KÙ.SI 22 1 2/3 SU KÙ.SI 22 ru-šu-um 16 na4ZA.GÌN 1 na4DUḪ.ŠÚ.A pa-ra-aḫ-ši

    953 Kohl 1975, 1978 and 1982. 954 Kohl et al. 1979. 955 Kohl et al. 1979, 146. 956 Oppenheim 1948. 957 Oppenheim 1966. 958 Oppenheim et al. 1970. 959 cad Š I 332–33.

    Material Colors


    ši-ip-rum ga-am-rum ša šu-ri-in dUTU (M. 11561; ARM 25 259: 1–7) ‘5/6 minas and 7 2/3 shekels of silver, 1/3 minas and 7 1/2 shekels of gold, 1 2/3 shekels of red gold, sixteen (pieces of) lapis lazuli, one (piece of) duḫšu-stone from Marḫaši, the completed work of an emblem of Šamaš…’ This line of argument was taken up the editors of the cad, who understand duḫšu to be a yellow or orange colored stone. While there are indeed many references960 to duḫšu-stones being used to decorate the sun disk from the Old Babylonian period, it should be noted that several other types of precious stones and metals were employed for this purpose as well. Take, for instance, the following year formula from the reign of Samsu-ditana: “He (Samsu-­ditana) fashioned various sun disks of duḫšu, the emblems shining like the bright day, he adorned them splendidly with blue gemstones, red gold and purified silver.”961 Steinkeller thought either duḫšu or lapis lazuli served as a centerpiece of the emblem but there is no evidence for this. Oppenheim also observed that duḫšu-stone was employed to make ornaments that mimicked appearance of unripe dates, which in reality are pale yellowish green in color.962 However, as in case of the sun disk, such uḫinnu-ornaments were made with several types of colored stones and metals, among them red and yellow gold, lapis lazuli and banded agate.963 Glass A number of technical recipes concerning the production of duḫšu-colored glass are known from Mesopotamia and combining this information with the results of chemical analyses of ancient glass offers some clues as to the color of this substance. The ingredients recorded for producing duḫšu-glass in the 7th century bce glass recipes from Nineveh are given in Table 3.5.964 Based on this, we learn that in addition to the ingredients necessary to make the basic glass batch—silica from the powdered quartz pebbles, plant-ash and lime—the substance tuzkû (tuškû in Middle Babylonian) was essential for giving duḫšu-glass its characteristic color.965 Like several others named in the recipes such as būṣu, anzaḫḫu and kutpû, the substances tuzkû contains ­antimony, the agent that makes Near Eastern glass opaque.966 Oppenheim 960 Quoted in Steinkeller 2006, 5 and fns. 28, 29. 961 Samsu-ditana 7 quoted in Steinkeller 2006, 5. 962 Oppenheim 1948, 108. 963 cad U 46–47. 964 Oppenheim et al. 1970, 47–48. 965 Oppenheim et al. 1970, 49. 966 Oppenheim et al. 1970, 20–21 and 79–80.


    Chapter 3

    Table 3.5  Ingredients for producing duḫšu-glass

    Tablet B §16

    Tablet B §17

    Tablet B §19

    Tablet D §O

    [x] minas aḫussu (plant ash, flux)

    [x minas of aḫussu] (plant ash, flux)

    60 minas aḫussu (plant ash, flux)

    60 minas aḫussu (plant ash, flux)

    [x] minas immanakku (silica, former)

    [x] minas immanakku 20 minas immanakku 20 minas (silica, former) (silica, former) immanakku (silica, former)

    1/2 mina [tuzkû] [x mina of] tuzkû (opacifier-colorant) (opacifier-colorant)

    1 mina of tuzkû 1 mina of tuzkû (opacifier-colorant) (opacifiercolorant)

    [x shekels] namrūtu 10 shekel namrūtu (lime, stabilizer) (lime, stabilizer)

    10 shekels of namrūtu (lime, stabilizer)

    2 minas of anzaḫḫu 2 minas of (opacifier) anzaḫḫu (opacifier) 5 shekels of lulû (colorant? opacifier?)

    6 shekels of lulû (colorant? opacifier?)

    called these “primary glasses” because they appear as ingredients in complex recipes for making high-quality colored glass and because their main function was to modify the color and/or opacity of the basic glass batch. Būṣu, another important “primary glass,” is necessary for glasses that were colored with copper and range from blue to red in hue.967 But tuzkû only appears as an ingredient for making duḫšu-glass. Chemical analyses of opaque soda-lime-silica type Near Eastern glasses and glazes reveal that Mesopotamian glassmakers employed two varieties of opacifiers—calcium antimonate and lead antimonate. The first is found in white, green and blue glasses. Lead antimonate is only

    967 These are zagindurû = (copper-based) light blue, uqnû = (copper-based) dark blue, uqnû sāmu = (copper-based) red and uqnû merqu = (cobalt-based) dark blue.

    Material Colors


    present in opaque yellow glasses.968 Since būṣu is associated with blue glasses, it must contain calcium antimonate. This leaves us with the likelihood that tuzkû is a lead antimonate containing frit and that duḫšu, the only glass that is produced with this substance, is opaque and yellow in color. Lead and antimony, the chemical signatures of opaque yellow glass, appear as raw ingredients in association with duḫšu-glass in the glass texts well. From the Nineveh corpus, tuzkû, lead (A.BÁR) and antimony (KÙ.ÁG) are found in recipes §I and §Q.969 Fortunately, in addition to the detailed, “procedural” glass recipes from Nineveh, duḫšu glass is also mentioned in the abbreviated “prescription-type” Middle Babylonian glass text. VAT 16453970 contains eight entries listing the ingredients and their measurements for producing two shades—“reddish” (sāmu) and “whitish” (peṣû)—of duḫšu glass. In three of these, lead and tuškû-glass are listed.971 In view of their roles as colorant and opacifier, the small quantities given for each seem appropriate: DIŠ ana SA 5 1 GÍN tuš-ku-ú 2 GÍN AN.ZAḪ 1 GÍN na4PE[Š…] 2 GÍN U5.MUN 5 GÍN na4NAGA 4 GÍN Ú.BABBAR […] 2 GÍN ku-ut-pu-ú 4 GÍN A.BÁR 2 GÍN na4PEŠ.A.AB.BA […] na4 DUḪ.ŠI.A x […] (vat 16453; § c in Oppenheim et al. 1970, 66) ‘For a reddish (shade of duḫšu): one shekel of tuškû-glass, two shekels of anzaḫḫu-glass, one shekel of shells…two shekels of a salt(?), five shekels of aḫussu-plant ash, four shekels of “white plant”…two shekels of kutpûglass,972 four shekels of lead, two shekels of sea shells…(the product is): duḫšu-glass.’ It seems then, that at least two types of duḫšu glass existed. The first, the product of the recipes from Nineveh and Babylon, was a finished substance, presumably of a higher quality, that could be melted and used to make glass ­vessels and ornaments. This glass looked like genuine duḫšu-stone. It was essentially a shade of ochre-yellow, although lighter and more reddish shades 968 Henderson 1985 and 2013; Freestone 1991; Shortland 2002. 969 Oppenheim et al. 1970, 50, 53. 970 Found in a private residence in Babylon and dates to the 12th century or later (edited as §§a-h in Oppenheim et al. 1970, 65–66). 971 §§ b, c and d Oppenheim et al. 1970, 66 972 Kutpû is an antimony-containing “primary glass,” explained in the lexical tradition as a darker variety of anzaḫḫu (Ḫḫ xi 294: na4AN.ZAḪ.GE6). One of the colorants that produces dark brown and black shades in Near Eastern glasses is iron. If kutpû did contain iron and antimony, its presence in this recipe as a colorant and opacifier might have acted to darken the usual yellow color of duḫšu-glass.


    Chapter 3

    could be made as well. In the eyes of the Assyrians, the green-tinged variety of duḫšu (duḫšu arqu) was comparable in appearance to turquoise (na4ÁŠ.GI 4.GI 4, ašgikku).973 The second type of duḫšu was used as an ingredient in the recipes for producing Assyrian “alabaster” and “carnelian”-colored glass.974 Color and Culture In light of the glass recipes, which point to duḫšu being characteristically yellow in color, it is no longer possible to identify genuine duḫšu-stone as green chlorite. I propose instead that duḫšu refers to the characteristically banded, yellow coloring of calcite vessels, produced in and brought from eastern Iran in the second half of the third millennium bce (pl. 10a-b). Light-colored soft stones like calcite, limestone and gypsum were locally available in northern Mesopotamia, occurring in outcrops along the Tigris and Euphrates riverbanks north of Baghdad.975 The use of calcite for small objects and vessels has a long history in this region, spanning prehistoric times to the mid-first millennium bce.976 However, the Iranian calcite brought back as spoils of war in the east held a particular allure for the Babylonians because of its distinctive hues, attractive banding, translucence and, as Potts has argued, its “foreignness”977(see pl. 9a and b). During the Early Dynastic iii period (c. 2600–2350 bce), calcite from Iran displaced darker igneous stones as the preferred material for small vessels deposited graves in the south; this roughly coincides with the earliest campaigns to Iran mentioned by Sumerian rulers. Plain vessels made of banded calcite become the standard divine offering, both by private citizens and royalty, between the Early Dynastic iii and Ur-iii periods (c. 2600–2004 bce). In the first half of the second millennium, calcite vessels are mainly found in temples, although this might be due to chance in excavations.978 Significantly, the archaeological record is marked by an influx of yellow calcite during the reign of the Old Akkadian king Rīmuš (c. 2278–2270 bce), who 973 Recipe B §18 (Oppenheim et al. 1970, 47–48). 974 Recipes §§ K and J in Oppenheim et al. 1970, 50. For carnelian-colored glass, see sāmtu under 2.5.10. 975 Potts 1989, 129 and n. 2. 976 Moorey 1994, 77–78, 81; 74–76 (seals), 21–35 (statuary), 344–345 (terminology in Akkadian). 977 Potts 1989, 143. 978 Potts 1989, 143 and Potts 1993, 387. See also Moorey’s statement that calcite “…was a stone much favoured for vessels in third-millennium Iran and this is the most likely source of much of the calcite used for vessels in southern Mesopotamia in the fourth to early second millennia bc” (Moorey 1994, 37).


    Material Colors

    claims to have conquered Marḫaši, the region associated with duḫšu-stone in the minds of the Babylonians.979 In fact, Rīmuš explicitly claims to have brought back duḫšu-stone as booty from this very campaign. Most of his booty vessels that contain an inscription commemorating the victory at Marḫaši, Rīmuš A in the table below, are made of banded yellow calcite:980 Table 3.6  Stone vessels with dedicatory inscription by Rīmuš (after Potts 1989)

    Rīmuš A

    Rīmuš B

    Rīmuš C

    Rīmuš D



    Chlorite/ steatite

























    Rīmuš E

    979 Moorey observed: It is significant that white and yellow calcite, often banded, is the predominant material among the stone vessels bearing dedications by Rimush (c. 2278–2270 bc) to Enlil “when he had conquered Elam and Parahshum, from the booty of Elam,” found at Tell Brak, Khafajah, Nippur, and Ur. Some of the few vessels bearing Naram-Sin’s (c. 2254–2218 bc) “booty of Magan” inscription are also banded calcite (cf. Potts, T.F. 1989: 126 ff., 131 ff., figs. 12, 13; Potts, D. 1990: i. 139–141). As banded calcite has not yet been associated with [areas away from the littoral regions of the Persian] Gulf areas either as a raw material or as manufactured goods, this reinforces the view that such vessels are products of workshops in eastern Iran or beyond (Moorey 1994, 45. Italics mine). 980 A total of ninety-six inscribed “booty” vessels dedicated as votive offerings in Sumerian cities were collected and studied by Potts (Potts 1989, 149–151). The inscriptions by type are: Rīmuš A: “To Enlil (or Sin), did Rīmuš, king of the world, when he had conquered Elam and Marḫaši, from the booty of Elam, dedicated (this).” Rīmuš B: “For Enlil, Rīmuš, king of the world, conqueror of Elam and Marḫaši.” Rīmuš C: “Rīmuš, king of the world, conqueror of Elam and Marḫaši” Rīmuš D: “Rīmuš, king of the world.” Rīmuš E: Uncertain


    Chapter 3

    The number of calcite vessels with Rīmuš inscriptions may in fact be higher than is indicated here, since the terminology used in the secondary literature to describe calcareous stones is somewhat complicated. According to Potts, All the inscription A vessels that have been inspected or are reliably described are carved from calcite, which may vary in color from white to yellow or pale brown, and is usually attractively banded. This is variously described in the literature as ‘alabaster,’ ‘onyx,’ ‘marble,’ ‘dolomite’ or ‘gypsum.’981 Concerning the resemblance between stone and glass, it is also significant that some of the calcite vessels excavated in southern Mesopotamia and Iran have white, red, and green veins and zones—a reality that may correspond to the color terms duḫšu peṣû, duḫšu sāmu and duḫšu arqu in the glass texts (pl. 11a and b).982 The corpus of inscribed “booty” vessels collected and studied by Potts speaks highly in favour of the idea that calcite and not chlorite is the duḫšu-stone to be connected with Rīmuš’ conquest of Marḫaši. The calcite vessels from his reign far outnumber the chlorite ones and they also contain the inscription stating that they were taken as booty during the Elamite campaign. One possible objection to the identification of duḫšu-stone as yellow calcite is the fact that the writing on the vessels themselves names Elam as their origin. However, in the lengthiest account of the Marḫaši campaign, the battle is described as being fought against a coalition, including Elam, Zaḫara, Gupin and Meluḫḫa, which assembled to confront the Akkadian army in Marḫaši.983 Thus, as Potts The two most common forms of these “booty” vessels, the tall cylindrical vases and subconical bowls, were both manufactured in banded calcite (Potts 1989, 137). 981 Potts 1989, 127. Casanova observed the same about the light-colored stone vessels from Susa (Casanova 1991, 11–15). 982 According to Moorey, “[d]istinctive banded calcite is first used for vessels in the middle of the third millennium bc both at Ur and at Susa. It is sometimes distinguished by its colouring, shades both of red and green. This stone is distinct from a type of gypsum, also tinted red (rose) or green, which had long been used in the region and may have come from sources relatively close to Susa in the Zagros mountains (cf. Morgan 1999: 48ff.)” (Moorey 1994, 45). 983 E2.1.2.8: 1–18; 25–28; RIME 2 57–58: a-ba-al-ga-maš LUGAL pá-ra-aḫ-śumki iš11-ar ù za-ḫaarki ù NIM ki ⸢ù⸣ [g]u-pi-inki ⸢ù⸣ [me]-luḫ-ḫaki i[n qá]b-lí pá-[ra-aḫ]-śumki ⸢a⸣-[na] ⸢REC 169⸣ ip-ḫu-ru-ni-im-ma x […] U4 i[n ba-rí-t]i [a-w]a-anki ù [śu-śi-im]ki in Í[D qáb-l]í-tim s[i-idga]-⸢ù⸣ GÌR.NÍTA [pá-ra-aḫ-śum]ki […] x NIMki ⸢ik⸣-mi … rí-mu-úś LUGAL KIŠ NIMki i-be[al] den-líl ⸢u-kál-lim⸣ “[Rīmuš, king of the world] was victorious over Abalgamash, king of

    Material Colors


    has argued, it is best to understand these vessels as “broadly ‘Elamite’; whether they came from highland Elam-Paraḫšum or from lowland Elam (Susiana) remains unclear.”984 The broader question this study of the term duḫšu has raised concerns the relationship between technological advances and economic forces in the ancient world and its effect on language. It is often taken for granted that the high demand for colored stones imported into Mesopotamia in the third millennium pushed the development of colored glass in the second millennium bce. This appears to be true of blue and blue-green stones such as lapis lazuli, azurite and turquoise. In later periods too, glassmakers clearly tried to imitate the appearance of precious minerals. This art reaches new heights in the Early Imperial Roman period, when stones imported from foreign lands, such as sardonyx and fluorspar, were mimicked with mosaic glass. But as we have seen, in the case of the earliest yellow and red glasses in Mesopotamia, the correlation between the demand for costly minerals and the production of glass is not as clear. While there is ample evidence confirming the high value of and demand for carnelian and calcite commodities as early as the third millennium, the technology for producing a more readily accessible alternative in the form of glass was not yet sufficiently well known at that time. Lead antimonate-based yellow glasses first appear in the archaeological record in mid-second millennium, 18th Dynasty Egypt (1550–1306/1292 bce). The yellow glass from mid-to-late second millennium strata at Mesopotamian and Syrian sites (Nuzi, Karana, Nagar, Alalakh, Dur Kurigalzu and Assur) have a similar chemical composition. At this point in time, however, there is a significant drop in the number of banded calcite vessels being brought into Mesopotamia from Iran. Put otherwise, glass imitating calcite was “invented” when less and less genuine Iranian calcite was available. And yet, it appears that yellow glass was not produced to either satisfy or fill a gap in local demand for yellow stone commodities. It was not used to make popular types of calcite vessels such as tall cylindric vases or sub-conical bowls. Instead, it was mostly used to create trailed and threaded designs on fancy glass vessels, reminiscent of the striations on genuine calcite.

    Paraḫshum. And then, Zaḫara, Elam, [G]upin and [Me]luḫḫa assembled in Pa[raḫ]shum for battle but…he (Rīmuš) captured S[idgaʾu], the general of [Paraḫshum] (and) [the king of(?)] Elam i[n betwe]en (the cities of) [Aw]an and [Susa], by the ‘[Mid]dle Ri[ver]’… (thereby) Rīmuš, king of the world, rule[d] Elam. Enlil showed (him the way).” 984 Potts 1989, 129.


    Chapter 3

    What does this tell us about the sharing of terminology between stone, glass, wool and leather in Akkadian and what meaning this had for the ancient Mesopotamians? The fact that the names of precious stones were deliberately adopted to designate colored glasses is certainly key to the issue of each substance’s relative value in ancient times. But the case of duḫšu also draws our attention to the transfer of cultural significance from medium to medium that accompanied such sharing on the level of language. It is not enough to say that since the material qualities of the stone, especially its hue and luster, are being emulated in glass, the two media are not distinguished in language. It appears, rather, that the name for calcite was adopted for yellow glass because it evoked the “exotic” appeal of Iranian calcite, traditionally a much-coveted and beloved stone, and because the composition of yellow glass lent itself to certain decorative techniques on luxury glass vessels that brought to mind the natural markings on this stone. Thus, it is not from perceptions of color, but rather from materials that characteristically embodied color and the social meanings accrued by those materials as people used them, that Akkadian metonymic color words take their meaning and value. 5.3 Ḫaṣartu (Green) 5.3.1 Etymology & History of Attestation Both the cad and AHw link Akkadian ḫaṣartu (and the variation ḫatartu) etymologically to the Arabic basic color term ʾ aḫḍar “green.”985 Aside from the phonetic similarity, an argument for doing so is the equation of ḫaṣartu with SÍG.KÌR “wool of the nose,” meaning green nasal mucus, in a lexical list.986 Kogan offered two other Semitic cognates for the word—Mehri yǝźǝrā and Jibbali yaẑrε, both meaning “slime.”987 If Kogan’s etymology can be accepted, then the color value of ḫaṣartu is linked first to mucus and only then to wool. Ḫaṣartu is attested as a color term for dyed wool from the Old Babylonian period onwards. 5.3.2 Orthography & By-forms Ḫaṣartu or ḫaṣertu. Variant spellings attested in Hittite texts include ḫa-zar-ti ḫazi-er-ti and ḫa-šár-tu/i.988 The unique reference to SÍG ḫatartu989 at Nuzi

    985 cad Ḫ 130; AHw I 331; Landsberger 1967, 167. 986 Ugumu Bilingual Version B 14 [msl 9 67]: SÍG.KÌR.MU: ḫa-an-za-ar-ti ap-pi-ia. Ugumu is an Old Babylonian list of body parts. For the edition, see Couto-Ferreira (2009). 987 Kogan 2003, 124–125. 988 Landsberger 1967, 159. Landsberger proposed reading ḫa-ḫi-tu/i (i.e. from Ḫaḫḫu) as ḫašár-tu/i, a variant reading of the wool color ḫa-zar-tu (see pp.159–160). 989 hss 15 211: 29.

    Material Colors


    might refer to the same colored wool. In the Neo-Babylonian period, the word is spelled ḫaṣaštu.990 5.3.3 Characterization Dyed Wool Given that it is mentioned with artificially colored wools in middle Hittite and Ugaritic texts, it is very likely that ḫaṣa/ertu is likewise a dyed wool. However, it is very rarely attested in the written sources and is absent from the section on colored wools in the lexical literature. In Hittite texts, ḫaṣartu is one of the four main dyed wools, the others being dark+blue (SÍG.ZA.GÌN), red (SÍG.SA 5) and purple (SÍG ḫašmānu).991 The fact that it is among the tribute items sent to a Hittite queen testifies to its high value in the mid-second millennium.992 At Ugarit, ḫaṣertu is classified as a kind of lapis lazuli wool: [10? GU]N SÍ[G.Z]A.[GÌ]N t[a-kí]l-tu4 [10? G]UN SÍG.ZA.GÌN ḫaš-[man]i 10 GUN SÍG.ZA.GÌN ḫa-[sé?-e]r-ti 10 GUN SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.[D]A (RS 34.180: 4; van Soldt 1990, 338) ‘[Ten talen]ts of ZA.GÌN-wool b[lue-p]urple (shade), [ten ta]lents of ZA.GÌN-wool red-p[urple] (shade), ten talents of ZA.GÌN-wool of ḫaṣertu993 (shade), ten talents of tabarru-wool.’ In written sources from the first millennium too, references to ḫaṣartu-colored wool are rare. In one Neo-Babylonian receipt, an unknown quantity of the substance is issued to a launderer for the production of a paruktu-curtain to hang before the god Kurunnitu in the Eanna.994 Dye Source Van Soldt suggested that if ḫaṣartu-wool was green, it might have been colored with copper acetate, i.e. verdigris (šuḫtu), in ancient times.995 Verdigris is mentioned in connection with leather working (šuḫtu ša aškāpi) and in a

    990 991 992 993

    Goetze 1956, 35 n. 34; Payne 2007, 135. It is mentioned in kub 12 24: i 13; kub 24 14: ii 25; kub 32 129: 9; kub 7 54: ii 18. IBoT 1 31: 10: 2 TÚG ḫa-zar-ti 1 ZA.GÌN 1 GADA eḫ-li-pa-ki SER-ma (Goetze 1956, 32) The reading of the word is uncertain but van Soldt’s reconstruction seems plausible given that ḫa-[an-da-l]-a-ti is not possible (van Soldt 1990, 338 n. 118). 994 ucp 9/2 103 41: 1: [x] MA.NA SÍG ḫa-ṣa-áš-ti it-ti [x] MA.NA [x] GÍN 1 parukti. (Payne 2007, 188) 995 Van Soldt 1990, 149–150 n. 199.


    Chapter 3

    ­ rescription for making an eye salve, but never as a dye for wool.996 The purp pose of the copper mentioned in several Ugaritic documents is not stated; if it was indeed employed in the textile industry, it could have been used as a mordant. It is more likely that the color green in wool was achieved with woad in ancient times.997 Based on phonetic similarity, Landsberger proposed that ḫaṣartu-wool might have been dyed with the ḫasa/irratu-plant.998 Color The dictionaries identified this color as green based on the etymological connection to the Arabic color word ʾ aḫḍar and also on the fact that dry mucus and nasal discharge is described with this term. Laroche demonstrated that ḫaṣartu-wool is the same as SÍG.SIG 7.SIG 7 in Hittite texts, which again suggests that it was either a yellow- or green-hued wool.999 In light of its absence in the Nuzi corpus, Goetze suggested that the term SÍG ḫazartu at Hattuša might refer to the same color as SÍG duḫšu elsewhere. 5.4 Ḫašḫūru/ḫatḫūru (Apple-colored, Red) 5.4.1 Etymology & History of Attestation From Sumerian gišḪAŠḪUR. Ḫašḫūru-colored wool is attested from the Old Babylonian period onwards. 5.4.2 Orthography & By-forms Written šaḫšūru in Middle- and Neo-Assyrian documents.1000 Ḫašḫūru is the color of the wool, whereas ḫaš/tḫurētu is a red dye used in the Neo-Babylonian period. 5.4.3 Characterization Dyed Wool Ḫašḫūru-colored wool appears infrequently in the texts related to the textile industry at Mari in the 18th century bce. In a letter dating to the reign of

    996 bam 510 i 7 = amt 20 2: 5. 997 Cardon 2007, 305. See 3.2.1. 998 Landsberger 1967, 167. This plant has not been botanically identified (cad Ḫ 122). Uruanna I 32–37: úa-ṭár-tum, Ú.A.DAR, Ú.GI.RIN SIG7, úa-ra-an-tum, úe-riš-ti A.ŠÀ, úa-nu-nu-tú : ú ḫa-sa-ar-ra-tum (variants: ḫa-sa-ra-tum, ḫa-sir-ra-tum, ḫa-sa-ma-tu). 999 Based on kub 7 29: 7; kub 9 31: ii 47 and kub 17 8: iv 4 (Laroche 1952, 162 n. 1). Both Goetze (1956, 35) and Landsberger (1967, 160) accepted this suggestion. 1000 AHw I 333. For discussion, see Postgate 1987, 130.

    Material Colors


    ­Zimri-Lim (1776–1761 bce), it is mentioned with several other wool colors, although only ḫašḫūru is specified as dyed: a-na mu-ka-an-ni-ši-im qí-bí-ma um-ma be-el-ka-a-ma ṭup-pí an-né-e-em i-na še-me-e-em 2 ME GÚ.È.A ša da-ba-r[i]-im 1 ME GÚ.È.A ḫa-a[š-m]a-nim 1 ME GÚ.È.A S[U13.A] 1 ME {x} GÚ.È.A GE 6 ù 1 ME GÚ.È.A ṣí-ri-ip {[t]a-[nu]-ba-˹tim˺}1001 ḫa-aš-ḫu-ri-im qa-tam šu-úš-ki-in-ma GÚ.È.A.ḪI.A an-ni-tim ar-ḫi-iš a-na MU.DU li-še-lu-ú a-na na-aš-pa-ar-t[i]-ia an-ni-tim a-aḫ-ka la ta-na-ad-di (arm 18 11 and lapo 16 132) ‘Say to Mukannišum, thus says your lord: upon hearing this letter of mine, undertake (the production of): two hundred red (tabarru-colored) naḫlaptu-cloaks, one hundred red-purple (ḫašmānu-colored) naḫlaptucloaks, one hundred r[ed] (undyed) naḫlaptu-cloaks, one hundred dark (undyed) naḫlaptu-cloaks, one hundred naḫlaptu-cloaks dyed apple (-colored), in order that these cloaks may be quickly handed over for the introduction (of the goddess Ištar in the palace). Do not neglect this message of mine!’ It is also attested in the written sources from the first millennium, although in this period too, it is not one of the more popular dyed wools. A type of woven textile called túgmiḫṣu is recorded as made with ḫašḫūru-colored wool in ncbt 632.1002 In a duplicate of the text (ybc 9030), the túgmiḫṣu is described as being

    1001 The word tanubātum, attested as a dye in arm 21 354: 12, has been erased and replaced by ḫašḫūru in this text (Durand 1983, 466). 1002 ncbt 632 rev. 24; Payne 2007, 128–129: 2/3 MA.NA 7 ½ KI.MIN šá SÍG.ḪAŠ.ḪUR “two-third minas seven and half shekels ditto (i.e. miḫṣu-woven cloth) of apple(-colored) wool.” The first part of the following text records the raw materials received by a weaver and the second, the finished products he delivered. Included among the finished items are woven cloths made of blue-purple, red and apple(-colored) wool.


    Chapter 3

    colored with ḫašḫurētu-dye,1003 confirming the link between wool color and dyestuff. Dye Source That ḫaš/tḫurītu is a vegetal dye can be established from ybc 9431, where it is written with the plant determinative (úḫaš-ḫu-re-e-ti). A significant quantity of the material, ten minas and ten shekels (5.1 kilograms), is mentioned in a list of textiles, dyes, grains, dates and metals from Eanna archive dating to the sixth century (ybc 3990).1004 In the Neo-Babylonian period, the price of ḫatḫurētudye was initially comparable to that of kermes + madder (inzaḫurētu), but later, it was twice as expensive:1005 Table 3.7  Prices for ḫatḫurētu-dye in the Neo-Babylonian period



    Commodity: Amount silver 20: 1 25: 1

    7* minas 15 shekels 2 ½ minas 5 shekels

    Price in silver

    Text (All NeoBabylonian)

    21* ¾ shekels

    yos 19 282

    6 1/5 shekels

    gcci 1 308

    At this price, the thirty-one minas of ḫašḫurētu-dye used to make the tent for Nanaya described in pts 3243, for instance, would have cost one mina and thirty-three shekels of silver (not counting the cost of the other necessary raw materials and labor). The botanical identification of ḫašḫūru (gišḪAŠḪUR) was debated for some while but may now be securely established as “apple,” not “apricot.”1006 Goetze could not see how gišḪAŠḪUR could be “apple tree” given its connection to the 1003 ybc 9030: obv. col. 3 row vi: túgmi-iḫ-ṣu šá ḫaš-ḫu-re-⸢e⸣-tú “twenty-six (minas) and 40 (shekels) of woven miḫṣu-cloth of ḫašḫurētu-dye.” 1004 The words ša ḫašḫurētu also appears in a broken context in ybc 3512, a list of garments from the Eanna archive (reference courtesy of E. Payne, Yale University). 1005 Payne 2007, 138. 1006 See “Apfel” in RlA I: 118; Gelb 1982, 67–82; Postgate 1987, 117–119. Gelb proposal that ḫašḫūru is “apricot” because ḫašḫūru-fruit is dried and strung, according to cuneiform sources (Gelb 1982, 79–80). However, as Postgate has argued, unlike apricots, apples are native to northern Iraq and dried strings of apples were discovered in Puabi’s tomb at Ur as part of the grave goods (Postgate 1987, 118–119). One thing that speaks against the identification of ḫašḫūru as apple is the fact that this fruit is generally cultivated in the mountains of Iraq rather than in the lowland orchards, as suggested by Sumerian texts.

    Material Colors


    dyeing industry.1007 Indeed, neither the fruit, bark nor leaves of the apple tree yields a colorfast dye. Color Previously, apple-colored ḫašḫūru-wool was thought to be a shade of yellowgreen.1008 However, based on the lexical evidence and the administrative documents from the Eanna archive, Payne has demonstrated that it was actually red colored.1009 Further confirmation of this may be found in the version of UR 5-RA: ḫubullu at Ugarit, in which ḫašḫūrītum is equated with red carnelian (or glass): NA 4.GUG ku-gu: ši-im-tum NA 4.GUG.SA 5: ḫa-as?-ḫu-[x]-tum (Ḫḫ xvi Ras Shamra 90–91 [msl 10 41]) Moreover, ḫatḫurētu is specified as the dye source for red (tabarru) colored wool in one case.1010 The ḫašḫurētu-dye mentioned in pts 3243 was used to make Nanaya’s tent at Uruk in the sixth century, which according to yos 17 305 was red.1011 In the Sippar Dye Text too, ḫatḫurītu is used to produce red-purple (argamannu) wool. In brief, there is overwhelming evidence to connect ḫaš/tḫurētu-dye, and by extension ḫašḫūru-wool, with the color red. 5.5 Ḫašmānu (Amethyst-colored, Red-purple) 5.5.1 Etymology & History of Attestation Goetze proposed that ḫašmānu, like duḫšu, tabarru and kinaḫḫu, was originally a Hurrian word. His argument hinges on the attestation of the two personal names ḫašum- and ḫišm- at Nuzi, to which the common Hurrian suffix -an(n)i may then be attached.1012 Despite the phonetic similarity, ḫašmānu is not a cognate of Hebrew ḥašmal, a precious material that is mentioned in the Book of Ezekiel (I 4: 27 and 8: 2). In the Septuagint, the word is translated as ēlektron and in the Vulgate, as electrum “amber.” As Brown-Driver-Briggs,

    1007 Goetze 1956, 34 n. 23. 1008 Landsberger 1967, 172; Waetzoldt 1980–1983, 20. Durand suggested that ḫašḫūru-colored wool is probably red because of its association with the verb ṣarāpu in arm 18 11 (Durand 1983, 377). However, ṣarāpu simply means “to dye.” 1009 Payne 2008, 187–188. 1010 ucp 9/2 85 12: 4–5: […] 1 MA.NA SÍG ta-bar-ri šá ḫa!-at-ḫu-re-e-ti. 1011 Payne 2007, 135 n. 232. 1012 Goetze 1956, 35.


    Chapter 3

    ­ ingsley and Heltzer contended, ḥašmal is more likely related to the Akkadian K word for “amber,” elmēšu.1013 The most recent and most convincing suggestion for the etymology of ḫašmānu traces the term back to Egyptian ḥsmn “amethyst.”1014 Ḫašmānu is attested as a stone and a color term for dyed wool and leather from the Old Babylonian period onwards. It is not found in the administrative records in the first millennium, although ḫašmānu-colored wool features in certain rituals, the exant manuscripts of which date to the Neo-Assyrian period. A recipe for producing ḫašmānu-colored wool is also given in the Sippar Dye Text. 5.5.2 Orthography & By-forms Generally written ḫašmānu and as ḫušmānu at Ugarit. The form ḫašmānuḫḫena at Nuzi is the plural adjective with the Hurrian suffix attached to designate it as a color. 5.5.3 Characterization Much like uqnû and duḫšu, the stone name ḫašmānu functions as a color term in Akkadian. It appears in similes, as in the following entry in the plant list, where the fruit of the unidentified naniqu plant is described as ḫašmānu-colored: Ú na-ni-qu: Ú ka-lu-u tam-liš GIŠ.Ú.GÍR: ka-zi-ri NU TUKU GURUN-šú GIM ḫaš-ma-ni (Uruanna ii 94) ‘Naniqu-plant: kalû-plant (that) looks like boxthorn: (but) it has no fringes; its fruit is like ḫašmānu (-colored stone/-wool/-leather).’ The appearance of ḫašmānu is associated with multiples types of real-world referents as well. Unfinished wool, but more commonly finished woolen garments, especially patinnu-belts and kaballu-leggings,1015 as well as leather products are described as ḫašmānu-colored in Old Babylonian daily written records. Ḫašmānu appears in the Neo-Babylonian dye recipe that concerns the production of plant-based purple-, blue- and red- dyed wools (BM 62788+82979, discussed under wool below). The fact that it does not appear as a color term 1013 Brown-Driver-Briggs (1906, 365), Kingsley (1992) and Heltzer (1997). 1014 Black 2001. 1015 The cad has this to say about this item: “It is uncertain whether the word refers to an integral part of a shoe, possibly some legging reaching up to the knee or higher, or to a separate garment as, for instance, stockings or hose reaching up to the knee or even the waist and kept up by a belt or the like” (cad K 3).

    Material Colors


    in the glass recipes is curious, since otherwise, its semantic range is identical to the other stone-based glass color terms (e.g. uqnû, duḫšu). Stone Ḫašmānu, Sumerian na4SAG.GIL.MUD,1016 is described as a stone in Abnu šikinšu 88 and the stone section in Uruanna iii 169 (msl 10 70), though both passages are badly broken: NA 4 GAR-šú GIM […]˹x˺˹x˺ NI [n]a4SAG.GI[L].MUD MU.[NI] (Abnu šikinšu 88; Schuster-Brandis 2008, 30) ‘The stone whose appearance is like…its name is saggilmud-stone.’ In Assyriological literature, the stone known as ḫašmānu has been identified as amethyst after a study by Black.1017 Thompson was the first to investigate the term ḫašmānu, although he read it as tarmānu and was ultimately unable to explain the word.1018 The correct reading of the word was established later, based on the alternative spellings ḫa-aš-ma-nu and ḫu-us-ma-nu at Ugarit. Virolleaud, who studied ḫašmānu in connection with the textiles at Ugarit, noted its similarity to both Egyptian ḥsmn and Hebrew ḥašmal, which he took to mean bronze or copper.1019 The contexts where Hebrew ḥašmal is attested, mainly similes describing the brightness of objects in the Book of Ezekiel (I 4: 27 and 8: 2), does not reveal the nature of this substance. Eventually, Harris and Sadek were able to demonstrate that Egyptian ḥsmn was amethyst based on the evidence of Middle Kingdom inscriptions found in the Wadi el-Hudi region, situated in the southern part of the Arabo-Nubian massif, which refer to mining operations for this substance. Since the Wadi el-Hudi is only known for yielding amethyst, it seems reasonable to assume that in Middle Egyptian the term ḥsmn was indeed this precious stone.1020 As with the textual attestations,

    1016 This is based on the following pairings in the lexical literature: NA4.SAG.GIL.MU[D]: [ḫaš-ma-nu] (Ḫḫ xvi 329 [msl 10 13]) NA4.SAG.GIL.MUD: ḫaš-ma-nu: sag-gi-li-mud (Ḫg to Ḫḫ xvi 113 [msl 10 33]) 1017 Black 2001, accepted by Schuster-Brandis 2008, 440. 1018 Thompson 1936, 111–113. 1019 Virolleaud 1940, 259 n. 1. 1020 Harris 1961, 121–122. It should be noted that bronze and natron are also written as ḥsmn in Egyptian, although these are apparently separate words (Black 2001, 184). Before the publications by Harris and Sadek, Bottéro had suggested that Akkadian ḫašmānu referred to amber or bronze-color because of the connection to Egyptian ḥsmn and Hebrew ḥašmal (1956, 296–297).


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    the archaeological evidence for amethyst in Egypt is mainly from the Middle Kingdom period (c. 2000–1700 bce).1021 If the phonetic similarity between Akkadian ḫašmānu and Egyptian ḥsmn represents a true etymological link, then this stone can be identified as amethyst in Mesopotamia as well. According to the Akkadian texts, ḫašmānu-stone is comparable to the saggilmud-stone. That is to say, either these two terms represent different names for the same mineral or they are two stones that are similar in appearance (see pl. 12b). As Black suggests, Sum. na4SAG.GIL.MUD/ Akk. saggilmud could have been the native Mesopotamian term for amethyst, whereas ḫašmānu, also amethyst, could have entered the Akkadian lexicon during the Middle Kingdom/Old Babylonian period from Egypt via Syria.1022 Amethyst is attested in the archaeological record of Mesopotamia and Syria beginning in the fourth millennium, although it is better documented from the Old Babylonian period onwards.1023 The amethyst finds reported in publications are typically of small objects like seals and beads. This circumstance in the material record fits with what we learn in the written sources, according to which the ḫašmānu/saggilmud-stone is most frequently attested in connection to beads (for instance, kidney-shaped takpītu-bead pieces, which are stiched or glued on to fabrics), seals (KIŠIB) and gems for charms and amulets (ÉLLAG).1024 A handful of references to ḫašmānu from Mari, however, diverges from this general trend. In addition to being employed to decorate luxury

    1021 Shaw and Jameson summarize the results of a more recent survey as follows: The Wadi el-Hudi region was the primary location for amethyst mining in Egypt from the Eleventh Dynasty until the end of the Middle Kingdom, during which time the use of amethysts in jewellery reached a peak in popularity. During the Old Kingdom, the principal amethyst mines appear to have been located at Toshka in the Western Desert, and while there is some evidence for the continued exploitation of Wadi el-Hudi after the Middle Kingdom, the principal amethyst mines of the Roman period appear to have been located elsewhere (1993, 94). The inscriptions about mining for amethyst from the Wadi el-Hudi region are outlined and discussed in Shaw and Jameson (1993, 94–95). Other amethyst quarries have been located in the Wadi Abu Had (mined during the Pre-Dynastic-Early Dynastic periods), near the Gebel el-Asr (Middle Kingdom, Roman) and Gebel Abu Diyeiba (Roman) (Aston, Harrell and Shaw 2000, 15). 1022 Black 2001, 185. 1023 See Moorey and references therein for the problems in identifying amethyst before the second millennium bce (1994, 94). 1024 See references for saggilmud in cad S 23–24 and in Black 2001, 184–185.

    Material Colors


    items, such as a fancy headdress,1025 ornaments1026 and bead-necklaces,1027 ḫašmānu is also specified as the material used to make larger everyday objects like vases (ARM 21 222 and 223).1028 For this reason, Durand doubted that real amethyst, which would have been considered too precious, was meant here.1029 Durand’s objection also raises the possibility that ḫašmānu-colored glass and not stone is meant in these lists. However, this is unlikely for two reasons. First, there is no archaeological evidence for manganese-based purple glass at such an early period from anywhere in the ancient Near East. Second, the term ḫašmānu does not feature in any of the Akkadian glass texts. What is more likely is that the Mariotes, like the ancient Egyptians, used amethystine quartz, “a compact formation of amethyst, usually streaked and banded with milky quartz” for the production of small vessels and reserved true amethyst for jewelry.1030 According to Moorey, the demand for ḫašmānu in Mesopotamia and Syria swelled in the mid-second millennium: In the second quarter of the first millennium bce evidence for the use of amethyst in jewellery becomes more plentiful and it seems to have reached a peak of popularity (and perhaps accessibility) in the Neo-­ Babylonian and Persian periods.1031 Since it does not occur naturally in either Iraq or Syria, amethyst must have been imported from Egypt, Anatolia or Iran.1032 The textual sources t­ hemselves 1025 M.10382 (Arkhipov 2012, 424): five pieces of ḫašmānu-stone (rev. 23), are mentioned in this list of various stones and metals used to decorate a headdress and band(?), alongside banded agate (na4pappadillû), lapis lazuli (na4uqnû) and yellow calcite (na4duḫšu). 1026 arm 13 12: 10: thirty pieces of ḫašmānu-stone and coral are used to decorate a sagikkumornament. In arm 21 223: 49–50, which is an inventory of palace treasures (weapons, musical instruments, figurines), the passage where ḫašmānu-stone appears is too broken to know what kind of object it refers to. 1027 arm 7 247: 10′ mentions one string of kidney-shaped beads of ḫašmānu-stone. 1028 arm 21 222 is a list of stone vessels; in line 10 “two vases of ḫašmānu-stone set with gold” (2 GAL ša na4[ḫ]a-aš-ma-nim KÙ.SI22 GAR.RA) are recorded. Some of the other stones the scribe refers to include alabaster (na4GIŠ.NU.GAL), obsidian (na4ṣurru), banded agate (na4pappardilu) and Marḫushi-stone. arm 21 223 lists stone and metal ornaments; in line 7 “one ḫurpalum-mace(?) of ḫašmānu-stone” (1 ḫu-ur-pa-lu-um ša na4ḫa-aš-ma-nim) is mentioned. 1029 Durand 1983, 222–223. 1030 Aston, Harrell and Shaw 2000, 50–51. 1031 Moorey 1994, 94. 1032 Moorey 1994, 94; Black 2001, 183.


    Chapter 3

    do not say where the Babylonians and Assyrians thought this stone originated from and Mesopotamian amethyst has not been analyzed to pinpoint its source. Esarhaddon (r. 681–669 bce) calls mount Ḫazû, located in the remote land of Bazu, the mountain of saggilmud-stones.1033 Laconic as the description is, it is unclear if Esarhaddon means that the stones are mined in this region or if the mountain is associated with them for some other reason. Wool and Leather The earliest references to ḫašmānu as a color of wool and leather are from Mari. Goods finished in this color include furniture coverings (massilatum),1034 personal garments (e.g. naḫlaptu-cloaks, uṭuplu-shawls) and leather products (e.g. patinnu-belts,1035 kabālu-shoes).1036 Generally, the process of decorating leather, either with paint (ŠE.GIN 7, šimtu) or some kind of colored appliqué, is described using the verb šamātu at Mari. It is therefore puzzling to observe

    1033 rinap 4 1: iv 53–59. For the location of Bazu, see Ephʿal (1982, 130–137), Potts (1999) and Frahm (2017, 304–305). Ephʿal and Frahm locate it in north-eastern Arabia, west of the Persian Gulf, based on phonetic similarities between the toponyms near Bazu mentioned by Esarhaddon and modern place names in this region. In Frahm’s view, the “land of Ḫasmānu” mentioned by Ashurbanipal as being in the vicinity of Dilmun could well also refer to Bazu, if indeed the region was known to yield the mineral (2017, 305). The only difficulty with this proposal is that there are no known ancient amethyst mines in this part of the Arabian Peninsula. In the cosmological-topographical texts known as the “Sargon Geography,” Bazu is said to be on the road to Meluḫḫa. If Meluḫḫa refers to Nubia/ Ethiopia in the Neo-Assyrian period and not to the Indus Valley, as in the third millennium, then it makes better sense to locate Bazu in north-western Arabia. Potts locates Bazu in eastern Jordan based on his contention that Assyrian Bazu = Latin Basie. The fact that Roman authors mention the province of Arabia Petraea (consisting of the former Nabataean Kingdom in Jordan, the southern Levant, the Sinai Peninsula and north-western Arabia) as a source of amethyst lends further support to this idea (Blanckenhorn 1914, 149). 1034 M.15208: 2 (Durand 2009, 400): ḫašmānu-wool and first and second-quality duḫšu-wool are sent to the bīt-mayāli for cleaning. The quantities are not preserved, but the wool was destined for the production of four massilātum-covers for royal furniture. 1035 E.g. arm 22 314: obv. 2: two patinnu-belts of ḫašmānu-leather; arm 21 365: 8–9: two patinnu-belts and two kabālu-shoes of ḫašmānu-leather. Likewise, in an inventory of textiles and garments, ḫašmānu-colored kabālu-shoes are listed with duḫšu-colored patinnubelts (arm 24 277: rev. 37). 1036 M.12189: rev. 21 (Durand 2009, 299): this inventory of king’s wardrobe includes shoes (kabālu) made with ḫašmānu-colored wool or leather. M.12668 (Arkhipov 2012, 243–248) is a similar inventory, again with the ḫašmānu-colored leather shoes (col. iv 21´) and belts (col. iv 22´).

    Material Colors


    that two minas of paint were used to dye or stain (ṣarāpu) a belt ḫašmānucolored in the following text: 1/2 MA.NA ŠE.GIN 7 a-na ṣa-ra-ap 2 pa-ti-in-ni ša ḫa-aš-ma-nim ŠU.TI.A a-bi-sa-ma-[à]s (ARM 21 305: 1–6) ‘Abi-sam[a]s received half a mina of paint to dye/stain two patinnu-belts ḫašmānu(-colored).’ Ḫašmānu-colored wool was not the most expensive dyed cloth at Mari. Woolen articles of this color are mentioned frequently and the fact that a shawl of inferior quality was reused to make a ḫašmānu-colored cloak in the following example suggests that its value was not overly high: 1 TÚG ú-ṭub-lu ÚS (sic) 1 TÚG ú-ṭub-lu ÚS a-na še-er-ṭì ša GÚ.È.A ša a-na ḫa-aš-ma-nim iṣ-ṣa-ar-pa a-ḫ[u]-wa-qar am-ḫu-ur 1 TÚG ú-ṭub-lu ÚS a-na še-er-ṭì ša 4 GÚ.È.A ša a-na ta-nu-ba-tim iṣ-ṣa-arpa na-bi-ì-lí am-ḫu-ur ITI ḫi-bir5-tim U4.17.KAM (ARM 21 354) ‘I received from Aḫu-waqar one uṭuplu-shawl of second quality, one uṭuplu-shawl of second quality: for (tearing into) strips to be used for a naḫlaptu-cloak, dyed ḫašmānu(-color). I received from Nabi-ili one uṭuplu-shawl of second quality: for (tearing into) strips to be used for four naḫlaptu-cloaks, dyed (with) tanubātum. Seventeenth day of the month of Ḫibirtum (July-August).’ The sheer number of naḫlaptum-cloaks mentioned in the letter quoted below likewise suggests that ḫašmānu-colored wool was at least as commonly available and used as madder-dyed and undyed woolen cloaks: 2 ME GÚ.È.A ša da-ba-r[i]-im 1 ME GÚ.È.A ḫa-a[š-m]a-nim 1 ME GÚ.È.A S[U13.A] 1 ME {x} GÚ.È.A GE 6 ù 1 ME GÚ.È.A ṣí-ri-ip {[t]a-[nu]-ba-˹tim˺}1037 ḫa-aš-ḫu-ri-im (arm 18 11: 5–10 and lapo 16 132)

    1037 The word tanubātum has been erased and replaced by ḫašḫūru.


    Chapter 3

    ‘Two hundred red (tabarru-colored) naḫlaptu-cloaks, one hundred redpurple (ḫašmānu-colored) naḫlaptu-cloaks, one hundred r[ed] (­undyed) naḫlaptu-cloaks, one hundred dark (undyed) naḫlaptu-cloaks, one hundred naḫlaptu-cloaks dyed apple(-colored)’ In the latter half of the second millennium, ḫašmānu is attested at Nuzi, Assyria, Ugarit and Hattuša. At Nuzi, ḫašmānu-colored wool and leather1038 are attested infrequently, at least when compared to kinaḫḫu, tabarru, šuratḫu and duḫšu-wools.1039 It primarily appears alongside other known dyed wools as a component of colored trims. In the following example, the term is also given the pluralized Hurrian suffix -aḫḫe +na and thus functions as a color adjective. 17 TÚG.MEŠ ša ḫa-aš-ma-nu ša [b]i-ir-[mu] 10 {erasure} TÚG.MEŠ ša du-uḫ-ši-wa [ša] bi-i[r-mu] [x]+1 TÚG.MEŠ ša ta-wa-ar-ri-wa ša b[i-irmu] [x]+1 ta-pa-lu ḫul-la-an-nu ša ḫa-aš-[ma-ni] [x]+1 ta-pa-lu ḫul-la-annu ša du-uḫ-š[i-wa] [x] ta-pa-lu ḫul-la-an-nu ša ta-wa-[ar-ri-wa] 5 TÚG. MEŠ ša du-uḫ-š[i-w]a-aḫ-ḫé te-g[i-be] [x]+1 TÚG.MEŠ ša ḫa-aš-ma-[n]uuḫ-ḫe-na te-g[i-be] (hss 13 431: 49–56)1040 ‘Seventeen garments with multihued trims of ḫašmānu(-colored) wool, ten garments with multihued trims of duḫšu(-colored) wool, x garments with multihued trims of tabarru(-colored) wool…x pairs of ḫullānuwraps of duḫšu(-colored) wool, x pairs of ḫullānu-wraps of tabarru(-colored) wool, five garments of duḫšu(-colored) tegibe-sashes, x garments of ḫašmānu(-colored) tegibe-sashes.’ The only attestation of ḫašmānu-colored wool from Assyria in the second ­millennium is from the following letter in the private archive of Bābu-aḫaiddina,1041 where a large quantity of the material (20 minas = 10 kilograms) is mentioned alongside tabarru-wool (25 minas = 12.5 kilograms).1042 This again 1038 hss 14 253: 2: 23 KUŠ.MEŠ ḫa-aš-ma-nu šu-ru a-na tu!-ti-we e-pe-ši “twenty-three ḫašmānu (-colored) hides (dyed with) šūru to make a tutiwe-fastening.” For tutiwe, see cad T 498. 1039 Abrahami 2014, 295. 1040 See also hss 15 168 A: rev. 22, where it appears with tabarru-colored wool and hss 13 431: 25, where it is specified as the color of a taḫapšū-blanket. 1041 An individual active in the city of Assur during the reigns of Shalmaneser I (1274–1244 bce) and Tukulti-Ninurta I (1244–1207 bce). His household stored and produced textiles. 1042 kav 99: 43–45 (Postgate 2014, 413): 25 MA.NA ta-bar-[r]i-ba ŠA.DIR! 20 MA.NA ḫa-á[šm]a-na ul-te-bi-la-ku-nu “I am delivering to you twenty-five minas of tabarru-colored wool…and twenty minas of ḫašmānu(-colored) wool.”

    Material Colors


    confirms the view that while ḫašmānu-colored wool, like all dyed wools, was in demand, it was not the most expensive cloth in Mesopotamia. The terminology for colored wools and dyes in the written documents from Ugarit has been collected and discussed by van Soldt.1043 A peculiarity of this corpus is that ḫašmānu is always given as a type of lapis lazuli (ZA.GÌN)-wool,1044 as in the following letter sent by a certain Ḫebet-azali to her mistress, the queen of Ugarit: a-ma-tum an-ni-tam GAŠAN-ia li-iš-mi SÍG.ZA.GÌN ḫaš-ma-mi SÍG.ZA.GÌN: ḫa-an-da-la-ti ù SÍG.ZA.GÌN: du-pa-aš-ši ù na4ga-bi ma-aʾdì-iš GAŠAN-ia li-še-bi-la (RS 20.19: 8–13; Ugaritica 5 48: 135–136) ‘May my mistress hear this: may my lady send me lapis lazuli-wool of ḫašmānu, ḫandalātu and dupaššu1045 (shades?) and also alum in large quantities.’ Aside from divulging that multiple shades1046 of ZA.GÌN (i.e. purple) wool existed at Ugarit, this document also hints that coloring wool this color required a mordant, namely alum. This information is consistent with the Sippar Dye Text for producing ḫašmānu-wool, for there too, alum is listed as an ingredient (discussed below). ZA.GÌN-colored wool of ḫašmānu-shade is also mentioned in a list of temple offerings from the king of Ugarit to the sun god and his entourage.1047 A rare case where ḫašmānu and takiltu are not qualified in this manner is in the following list of presents for queen Ṭaryelli: e-né-en-na a-nu-ma 1 GAL KÙ.SI 22 1 TÚG !.GADA 1 me-at SÍG ḫu-us-mani 1 me-at SÍG ta-kíl-ta a-na Ia-bi-ma-ni at-ta-din il-te-qa-ki (RS 12.33: rev. 4´-9´; van Soldt 1990, 336) ‘Now, I have given one golden cup, one linen cloth, one hundred (shekels of) ḫašmānu-wool, one hundred (shekels of) takiltu-wool to Abimāni; he has taken (it) to you.’ The evidence from Ugarit corroborates that as at Mari and Assyria, ḫašmānuwool was amongst the more affordable dyed wools, produced in larger 1043 Van Soldt 1990, 321–357. 1044 While the term is usually spelled syllabically, in RS 34.134: 15, it is written as SÍG.ZA.GÌN SÍG.SAG.GIL.MUD. 1045 Ḫandalātu (alphabetic ḫndlt) is a stone that lends its name to a color. It is unclear what dupaššu refers to. 1046 Another shade, ḫaṣertu, is mentioned in RS 34.180: 4. 1047 RS 11.732; Syria 21 258: 3ff.: the various garments are designated as SÍG.ZA.GÌN ḫaš-ma-ni.


    Chapter 3

    q­ uantities. Two hundred shekels (1.7 kilograms) of the commodity are mentioned in a list of precious objects and four thousand five hundred shekels (37.7 kilograms) elsewhere.1048 The quantities of purple ZA.GÌN-wools mentioned in the following text are staggering: [10 GU]N SÍ[G.Z]A.[GÌ]N t[a-kí]l-tu4 [10 G]UN SÍG.ZA.GÌN ḫaš-[ma-n]i 10 GUN SÍG.ZA.GÌN ḫa-[sé?-e]r-ti 10 GUN SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.[D]A? (RS 34.180: 4; van Soldt 1990: 338) ‘[Ten talen]ts of lapis [lazuli-w]ool of t[aki]ltu (shade), [ten ta]lents of lapis lazuli-wool of ḫašm[ānu] (shade), ten talents of lapis lazuli-wool of ḫaṣertu (shade), ten talents of tabarru-wool.’ The prices of wool at Ugarit in the late Bronze Age, including that of ḫašmānuwool, have been summarized by van Soldt:1049 pḥm = ḫašmānu

    1 talent for ± 4 shekels of silver

    iqnu = takiltu

    1 talent for 5 1/3 shekels of KTU 4.341 (=RS 18.28) silver 1 talent for 60 shekels of KTU 4.337.25 silver*Uncertain if wool or carnelian stone is meant here.

    šmt = tabarru

    KTU 4.132: 1–5

    That the cost of ḫašmānu and takiltu is so low in these documents is a further indicator that the purple color of these wools was not achieved with murex dye.

    Dye Source

    Textual Evidence

    While the written sources frequently allude to the raw materials required for dyeing wool red, similar information is scarce in the case of purple wool. Two sources of information concerning this issue are lexical lists and administrative documents. In the lexical literature, the plants known as urṭû and ḫizarību are associated with ḫašmānu-colored wool, which in turn is equated with

    1048 In RS 15.43 and RS 16.01 respectively (Van Soldt 1990, 336, 338). 1049 Van Soldt 1990, 345.

    Material Colors


    ḫašḫūru “apple-colored” wool.1050 This prompted Landsberger to categorize ḫašmānu as one of the “apple-color” wools, the others being ḫašḫūru and urṭû.1051 Based on two nearly identical Neo-Babylonian accounting texts, in which the phrase “tabarru-red wool dyed with ḫatḫūru” in one appears to stand for “ḫašḫūru-wool” in the other, Payne has demonstrated conclusively that applecolored wool must be red.1052 In other words, the dye source used for ­producing red wools like tabarru and ḫašḫūru “apple-colored” wool in the Neo-­Baylonian period was probably also employed to achieve the red-purple color of amethyst-wool. The same can probably be said of the Middle-Babylonian period. Small quantities of urṭû, ḫinzurību and another substance called šūru are mentioned in a receipt for colored textiles from Nuzi (c. 14th century bce), confirming that craftsmen actually employed as dyeing agents named in the lexical literature: 26 GÍN še-le-en šu-ú-ru ˹12˺ G[ÍN] ˹šu˺-ú-ru ur-˹ṭa˺-a-i-ú ù ḫi-in-zu-ur-riwa 25 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR ta-bar-˹ru˺ ù ki-na-aḫ-ḫu (HSS 15 223: obv. 1–7) ‘Twenty-six shekels (worth of) …, twelve sh[ekels] (worth of) šūru, urṭû and ḫinzurīwa(-plant dyes). Twenty-five shekels of silver (worth of) tabarru(-colored wool) and kinaḫḫu(-colored wool).’


    This is a common fabric color in the Old Assyrian corpus. If it is etymologically related to Hebrew šāḥōr “black, coal black,” Akkadian šūru may refer to a black/ grey-colored wool.1053 Šūru is also attested twice in the Nuzi corpus (HSS 14 253 and 15 223); there however, it seems to indicate a dye.1054 In HSS 14 253, a palace text from Nuzi, šūru qualifies the word ḫašmānu in a manner that suggests it is the dye with which the leather is colored: 23 KUŠ.MEŠ ḫa-aš-ma-nu šu-ru a-na tu!-ti-wa e-peš-ši (HSS 14 253: 2) 1050 LTBA I 91: rev. ii 10–11: SÍG ḫaš-ma-nu, SÍG.GIŠ.ḪAŠḪUR: ur-ṭu-u. Malku: šarru vi 179–180 (Hrůša 2010, 132–133): ur-ṭu-u: ḫaš-m[a-nu], ḫi-za-ri-bi: ḫaš-m[a-nu]. Practissscal Vocabulary of Assur 207: SÍG ḫaš-ma-nu, SÍG.GIŠ.ḪAŠḪUR: ur-ṭu-u (Landsberger and Gurney 1957/1958, 330). 1051 Landsberger 1967, 172. 1052 Payne 2008. See 3.6.4. 1053 Bulakh 2003, 13–14; Michel and Veenhof 2010, 244. 1054 Abrahami 2014, 296 and n. 98.


    Chapter 3

    ‘Twenty-three ḫašmānu(-colored) hides (dyed with) šūru to make a fastening.’ Tabarru-wool is often qualified with the name of specific plant dyes much the same manner. The context in which šūru appears in hss 15 223, beside the plant-based colorants urṭû and ḫenzūru, indicates that it is likewise a substance of some sort and not a color. Abrahami suggested that šūru might be an extract from the urṭû-plant or the ḫenzuru-tree based on this text and argued that it denotes a darker shade of ḫašmānu colored wool based on hss 14 253, quoted above.1055

    Urṭû (GIŠ.ŠIM.URI)1056

    Other Dyes Sources

    In both Malku: šarru and the Practical Vocabulary of Assur, which dates to the Neo-Assyrian period, ḫašmānu-wool is linked with the vegetal substance urṭû.1057 The identity of the urṭû plant is unknown. It is attested as an ingredient in medical texts1058 and its appearance is alluded to in a medical commentary in the following manner: “The urṭû plant is like a tamarisk but red.”1059 Dalley proposed that ḫašmānu-wool must be blue-green in color because it was dyed with the woad plant. In Ugaritic, Akkadian ḫašmānu is equated with pḥm “charcoal.” Dalley connected this with the evidence of a Greek papyrus that prescribes how to prepare woad dye, in which Greek anthrax is both “charcoal” and “woad.”1060 Abrahami likewise considered it a shade of blue-green produced by the colorant extracted from the woad plant but did not offer a discussion of the issue.1061 In the Sippar Dye Text, the recipe for achieving ḫašmānu-color prescribes double-dyeing dark+blue wool (SÍG uqnâtu) with an unknown dyestuff: Recipe for red-purple wool by double-dyeing pre-mordanted blue wool with a red colorant:

    1055 Abrahami 2014, 295. 1056 Ḫḫ iii 124 [msl 5 103]. 1057 Malku: šarru vi 179 (Hrůša 2010, 132). Urṭû is likewise paired with SÍG ḫašḫūru “applewool” in the Practical Vocabulary of Assur 208 (Landsberger and Gurney 1957/1958, 330). 1058 The reading for the KINDA-plant is unknown. It is spelled as KÍNDA(URIki) in the first millennium bce (Heeßel 2000, 337). 1059 brm 4 32: 10: úKINDA ki-ma ŠINIG u SA5. 1060 Dalley 1991, 124. 1061 Abrahami 2014, 295, n. 85.

    Material Colors


    [SÍG.ZA.GÌN tal-qu u na4ga-bu-ú mál]-˹ma-liš˺ LÁ ina A.MEŠ ina IZI ˹ŠEG 6˺-[šal] [EN A.MEŠ IDIM…]-˹x˺ GAZ.GAZ ù SÍG.ZA.˹GÌN˺ [mál-ma-liš LÁ ina A].MEŠ A NÍG.ÀR.RA ina IZI ŠEG 6-šal [tuš-kin7-ma] ˹SÍG˺ ḫa-áš-ma-nu (BM 62788+82979: rev. 2´-5´) ‘[You take uqnâtu-wool and] you weigh ˹the corresponding amount˺ of [alum]. You ˹heat˺ (the wool and alum) in water over fire. You pulverize [x-dyestuff in spring water] and then [you weigh the corresponding amount] uqnâtu-wool. [In regular] water and ditch water you heat (the mordanted wool and decocted dye) over fire. [You let (it) fix and] (it is) ḫašmānu(-colored) ˹wool˺.’ If we suppose that ḫašmānu-wool is a shade of purple (like amethyst), it seems reasonable to assume that the unknown dye is a red colorant. Both urṭû and šūru are likely candidates, since they are named elsewhere as the dye source for this wool. According to the recipe’s instructions, the uqnâtu-blue wool is mordanted with alum before it is dyed a second time with the red colorant. 5.5.4 Color and Cultural Meaning Yellowish orange, red, green, blue and purple are among the previous proposals for the color identification of ḫašmānu. The cad entry for ḫašmānu suggests that it is blue-green because the saggilmud stone, identified as azure by the editors, is associated with the sky in a religious text1062 and because

    1062 According to a seventh century speculative text from Assur, one of the levels of the universe is formed from saggilmud/ḫašmānu-stone: AN-ú AN.TA-ti na4lu-lu-da-ni-tú ša da-nim 5 UŠ dí-gì-gì ina ŠÀ-bi ú-š[e]-˹šíb˺ AN-ú MURUB4-ti na4SAG.GIL.MUD ša dí-gì-gì be-lum ina ŠÀ BÁRA.MAḪ ina ŠÀ-˹bi˺ i-na BÁRA na4ZA.GÌN ú-šib gišbu-ṣi- na4el-me-ši ina ŠÀ ú-nam-mir AN-ú KI.TA.MEŠ na4aš-pu-u ša MUL.MUL lu-ma-ši ša DIGIR.MEŠ ina UGU e-ṣir ˹ina libbi˺ [KA]LA.GA KI-tì AN.˹TA˺ zi-qi-qu NAM.LÚ.ÙLU-lu ina šà ú-šar-bi-iṣ (kar 307: 30–34 [vat 8917]; Horowitz 1998, 3) “The Upper Heavens (šamû elûti) are luludanītu-stone. They belong to Anu. He settled the Igigi in its midst. The Middle Heavens (šamû qablūti) are saggilmud-stone. It belongs to the Igigi. Bel sat upon a great dais inside, in a lapis lazuli sanctuary. He made a lamp of amber shine inside. The Lower Heavens (šamû šaplūti) are ašpû-stone. They belong to the stars. He drew the constellations of the gods on them.” The colors of the luludanītu-stone are given as red with white and black markings in the stone list (Abnu šikinšu 14–15; Schuster-Brandis 2008, 26). The ašpû-stone is light blue chalcedony (Abnu šikinšu 76–77; Schuster-Brandis 2008, 401). The cultural significance of each stone is not explained. It is noteworthy that the scribe chose to use the older, native word for amethyst, saggilmud, instead of ḫašmānu, which entered the Akkadian vocabulary later.


    Chapter 3

    ḫašmānu-wool is connected to apple-colored wool in the lexical literature.1063 In the entry for saggilmud, the editors of the cad do not discuss the issue of color.1064 Von Soden identified both ḫašmānu/saggilmud as a blue stone and wool.1065 Initially, Durand considered ḫašmānu-stone to be a shade of blue or carmine based on the word lists and on the later evidence from Ugarit.1066 But more recently, he revised this view to forward another possibility. As it frequently appears in connection with belts and shoes, he proposed that like duḫšu, the term ḫašmānu might refer not primarily to a color but rather a certain treatment of the fabric, to make it stronger: “(un) tissue renforcé et protégé contre une usure trop rapide.”1067 Intriguing though the idea is, there are two key reasons for understanding ḫašmānu as a particular color of dyed wool within the Mari corpus: 1) its association with the verb ṣarāpu “to dye” and 2) it appears alongside other terms for colored wool, namely tabarru and ḫašḫūru. Of great relevance for identifying the color of ḫašmānu-wool are the treaties of Šuppililiuma I (1344–1322 bce) and Muršili ii (1321–1295 bce) from Ugarit, which exist in syllabic and alphabetic form. Based on their evidence, Goetze and Dietrich and Loretz demonstrated that pḥm and iqnu are the Ugaritic words for Akkadian ḫašmānu and takiltu respectively.1068 Ugaritic pḥm is the cognate of Akkadian pēmtu/pēntu and Hebrew peḥam, “glowing charcoal” or “ember,” which suggests that the color of wool denoted by the substance was vivid red.1069 In Goetze’s view, SÍG ḫašmānu is a shade of reddish purple wool.1070 Dietrich and Loretz translated ḫašmānu and takiltu as “light, red-purple” and “dark, blue-purple” respectively.1071 Landsberger’s suggestion that ḫašmānu 1063 1064 1065 1066

    1067 1068

    1069 1070 1071

    cad Ḫ 142. The editors of the cad mistakenly thought apple-colored wool was green. cad S 23–24. AHw I 334. He wrote: “Il doit s’agir d’un bleu moins intense que le lapis, noté uqnum. Il faut donc envisager une pierre qui ait une teinte bleu-tendre…Une pierre violette comme l’améthyste est à exclure, vu que nos textes nous parlent de ‘vases’ en cette matière.” (Durand 1983, 222–223). Durand 2009, 172. Goetze 1956, 35; Dietrich and Loretz 1966, 227–232. The Treaty of Shuppililiuma I is in RS 17.227, 17.330+347+446, 11.772+780+782+802. The Treaty of Murshili ii is in RS 17.380+382 (van Soldt 1990, 354–357). It is of some interest that the wools are mentioned in the reverse order in the Akkadian version of the tribute lists. Van Soldt believes that this is because the Ugaritic version of the Shuppililiuma Treaty follows the order of the Murshili Treaty (van Soldt 1990, 341). Pḥm is used as charcoal in Ugaritic texts too, for references, see van Soldt 1990, 342. Goetze 1956, 35 and n. 36. But Goetze also considered uqnâtu, takiltu, kinaḫḫu and tabarru shades of purple. Dietrich and Loretz 1966, 229–230.

    Material Colors


    d­ enotes either yellow-orange or red-purple is likewise based on the connection between Akkadian ḫašmānu and Ugaritic pḥm.1072 Recently, van Soldt revived the argument that ḫašmānu must refer to a shade of red or reddish purple, both because of the connection to glowing coals and because it is written with the word sign ZA.GÌN.1073 It remains unclear why amethyst-colored wool is categorized as lapis lazuli in the administrative documents from Ugarit but nowhere else. Perhaps the qualification represents a local writing convention. It is likewise unclear why the local Ugaritic word for “glowing coal” was used to designate a particular of color of wool that was described elsewhere in the Near East as amethyst-colored, a stone that is more violet than red-purple in hue (pl. 12a and b).1074 It may be that the ḫašmānu-colored wool at Ugarit was more reddish than at Assyria or Nuzi. The phonetic similarity between Egyptian ḥsmn and Akkadian ḫašmānu, the correspondence between the uses of amethyst (as a gemstone for jewelry, seals) and amethystine (for vessels) objects in the material record from Egypt, Mesopotamia and Syria in the late Bronze Age as well as the philological evidence tying the wool named for this stone to the color purple all point to the strong likelihood that the word ḫašmānu refers to amethyst and its characteristic color. Essentially a translucent, microcrystalline quartz, the light, violet color of this gemstone is due to the presence of ferric oxide. No special symbolic meaning is attached to the color of ḫašmānu-stone or fabric in medical and magical practices. The use of a headdress made of ḫašmānu-wool in certain rituals from the Neo-Assyrian period is not directly related to its color. In a ritual to stop teeth gnashing, the patient is told to take a human skull from a grave and set it upon a chair covered in ḫašmānu-colored wool. Funerary offerings are then made to the seated skull.1075 Another ritual for undoing witchcraft also involves the use of a human skull and ḫašmānucolored wool. In it, the Daughter of Anu is dressed in a headdress (paršīgu) made of ḫašmānu-wool and other precious garments and jewelry and offerings are made to her. If the ceremony is successful, the witchcraft is supposed to descend to the Netherworld with the Daughter of Anu.1076 The connection between both these “head” problems and ḫašmānu-wool does not concern the issue of color but is related rather to the fact that the Sumerian name for the 1072 Landsberger 1967, 172. 1073 Van Soldt 1990, 344. 1074 Red varieties of amethyst are known; however, they do not occur in Egypt, Iran or Anatolia. 1075 bam 30: 14–17. 1076 Schwemer and Abusch 2011, 449; Schwemer 2006, 198–209.


    Chapter 3

    stone begins with the word sign SAG “head.” Schuster-Brandis noted that amulets made of stones whose names begin with SAG are used against illnesses of the head (sagkidabbû) and the mukīl rēš lemutti-demon.1077 5.6 Kinaḫḫu (Red?) 5.6.1 Etymology & History of Attestation Like tamkarḫu and šuratḫu, the wool color kinaḫḫu is only attested in written documents from Nuzi.1078 Speiser suggested that the color adjective kinaḫḫu derives from the ancient name for Phoenicia—Canaan (Hebrew knʿn)—because it was an important production site for murex purple in ancient times. Kinaḫḫuwool is “red-purple,” he contended, because it is listed with tabarru-red and uqnâtu-purple wool at Nuzi and also because it is imported from the West. It follows, Speiser concluded, “that the land-name ‘Canaan,’ the only one to be applied by the Phoenicians to their own country, had become in Mesopotamia an adjective meaning ‘purple dye’ as early as 1500 b.c.”1079 A modern analogy for such a linguistic phenomenon would be muslin cloth, which derives its name from the city of Mosul. Albright, on the other hand, considered kinaḫḫu to be a Hurrian adjective meaning “purple” and proposed that kinaḫḫi/kinaḫni was a Hurrian name for the land of Phoenicia.1080 The crux of the etymological arguments lies in the suffix -ni/-na, which occurs in the form of geographic names used in West Semitic-speaking regions where there was no Hurrian influence (e.g. ki-na-aḫ-ni, ki-na-aḫ-na in the Amarna letters from Tyre and Byblos). Astor took the -n- in these forms to be rare Semitic noun-forming suffix rather than a Hurrian definite article. The non-suffixed form of the place name, kinaʿu, could then be understood as: a qiṭal formation from the West Semitic root KNʿ, normally becoming Kinaḫḫu in Akkadian transcription, with the gemination of the last consonant which frequently took place in the spelling of non-Akkadian words and geographical names…1081

    1077 1078 1079 1080 1081

    Schuster-Brandis 2008, 441. Abrahami 2014, 295. Speiser 1936, 125. Albright 1942. Astor 1965, 347 and n. 11.

    Material Colors


    It should be noted that the root knʿn and its derivatives cannot be linked to the idea of commerce, merchants, dyed wool, murex or anything else related to the purple wool industry in Biblical Hebrew. Astour argued that it means “to be subdued” or “to lower oneself.” Applied to the place name, the word “canaan” probably signifies “Westland,” i.e. the land where the sun sets.1082 Canaan, would by this theory, be the West Semitic equivalent of Akkadian Amurru. Based on early occurrences of the term in documents from Egypt (mainly the Amarna correspondence), Ugarit and Alalakh, de Vaux showed that Canaan and Amurru are not equivalents because they are clearly distinguished as different countries.1083 He observed further that the name Canaan to signifying “Westlands” cannot have been given by peoples who lived further east because it is an indigenous term. De Vaux’s inquiry into the etymology of the word “canaan” led him to conclude that the geographic name is West Semitic1084 but he insisted that there is no evidence to connect it to purple and that “Canaan n’est certainement pas le ‘pays de la pourpre.’”1085 Landsberger pointed out another problem with understanding kinaḫḫu in the Nuzi texts as “from (the land of) Canaan.” The non-suffixed form of the place name kinaʿu should take the ending -aiu and become kinaḫḫaiu, analogous to urṭû > urṭaiu in hss 15 223.1086 He forwarded the alternative possibility that the word is formed with the base qina + the Hurrian adjectival suffix -ḫḫ-, analogous to the form ḫašmānu > ḫašmānuḫḫ-ēna. In his view, qina is the same word as Akkadian uqnû, Ugaritic iqnu and Syriac qenāʿ; qunʿ(ā).1087 A major objection to this theory, as Landsberger himself pointed out, is the fact that takiltu, another word for blue-purple wool, was in use at Nuzi. To this we can now add the addition references to dark+blue uqnâtu-wool in the Nuzi corpus that were unknown to Landsberger.1088 In short, despite the phonetic similarity between the two words, numerous difficulties arise with connecting the palace name Kinaḫḫi, attested in West Semitic and Egyptian sources, with the wool color kinaḫḫu, attested only in 1082 Astor 1965, 347–348. 1083 de Vaux 1968, 25–28. 1084 In his words, “La comparaison de ces différentes graphies ne peut laisser aucun doute: le mot est d’origine ouest-sémitique et il se prononcait avec unʿayin (ainsi en ugaritique et en hébreu) et les Égyptiens l’ont transcrit correctement.” (de Vaux 1968, 23–24). The ʿayin is transcribed with -ḫ- in texts written outside Canaan (Amarna, Ugarit). 1085 de Vaux 1968, 25. 1086 Landsberger 1967, 166. 1087 Lansberger 1967, 166–167. 1088 E.g. in hss 13 225.


    Chapter 3

    Akkadian texts from Nuzi. First, despite Speiser’s certainty, the color of kinaḫḫu-wool cannot be firmly established as a shade of purple. Second, it is unclear why a place name originating in a region with no Hurrian influence should be the basis of an adjective attested in a Hurrian city but nowhere else.1089 Finally, other words for purple wool were used in those very language ­communities—Hebrew, Ugaritic, the Akkadian at Ugarit and in the Amarna letters—where the place name is attested. For these reasons, it seems prudent to keep the term for colored wool apart from the place name. 5.6.2 Characterization Dyed Wool The term kinaḫḫu refers to a shade of dyed wool that is attested exclusively in the Nuzi corpus. Typically, the weavers use relatively small quantities—under two minas (1 kilogram)—of kinaḫḫu-colored wool to make birmu-trims, which could then be attached to various types of luxury textiles.1090 In the following case, an exceptionally large amount of the wool is mentioned with smaller quantities of purple wool: 4 MA.NA ki-na-aḫ-ḫé a-na 2 TÚG.MEŠ ša bi-ir-mi 2 MA.NA ta-ki-il-tù a-na 2 ta-pa-lu ÍB.MEŠ mar-da-tù 1 MA.NA ta-ki-il-tù 1 MA.NA šu-ra-atḫu a-na bi-ir-mu MEŠ (hss 15 221: 1–8) ‘Four minas of kinaḫḫu(-colored wool) for two garment with multihued trims, two minas of blue-purple(-wool) for two sets of woven sashes, one mina of blue-purple(-wool) and one mina of šuratḫu(-colored wool) for multihued trims.’ None of the descriptions permit us to guess the color specified by the term kinaḫḫu. In hss 13 431, for instance, the birmu-trim is created with kinaḫḫu and red-purple (ḫašmānu), yellow (duḫšu) and red (tabarru) colored wools. In jen 314, a kusītu, an elaborate outer garment, is produced with kinaḫḫu, red-tabarru, tamkarḫu, and šuratḫu colors. There is also no direct evidence to show how expensive or rare kinaḫḫuwool was at Nuzi. In the following text, which records the quantities of colored 1089 The meaning of Ugaritic knḫ, which is rarely attested, is not connected to colored wool (dul I 449). 1090 Other texts that mention kinaḫḫu in a similar manner include hss 15 220, hss 13 34 (five shekels), hss 15 222 (thirty shekels), hss 15 223 (various quantities mixed with other dyed wools, ranging from twenty-five shekels to two minas).

    Material Colors


    wools necessary for the production of three pairs of ḫullānu-wraps,1091 we learn that second quality (SIG 5) wool was dyed kinaḫḫu-color:1092 6 GÍN ki-na-aḫ-ḫu S[IG 5-qú nam-]ru 3 GÍN tam-qa-ar-ḫu SIG 5-qú namru 3 GÍN šu-ra-at-[ḫu] SIG 5-qú nam-ru (CT 51 12: 9–12; Abrahami 2014, 296) ‘(As for the work assignment of this year concerning three sets of ḫullānu-wraps): six shekels (worth of) “fi[ne” (quality) bri]ght kinaḫḫu (-colored wool), three shekels (worth of) “fine” (quality) bright tamk­ arḫu(-colored wool), three shekels (worth of) “fine” (quality) bright šuratḫu(-colored wool).’ Since the wools mentioned here are given to an individual who is elsewhere given the title “weaver of the palace,” this text also informs us that the weavers performed dyeing at Nuzi.1093 Made with wool or linen in the Bronze Age, ḫullānu-wraps were typically adorned with a multihued trim. As was the case with most colored garments, such wraps were not affordable for everyone; in one text from a later period (7th century bce), an Aramaean slave woman is said to put on a ḫullānu-wrap and thereby become part of the royal household.1094 In a document recording the oath taken by a witness to a robbery that occurred in the city of Purulliwe, ten shekels (84 grams) of tamkarḫu and kinaḫḫu are mentioned among the stolen items, which includes four sheep, towels, six minas (3 kilograms, undyed?) of wool and caps.1095 The fact that the dyed wool was taken from a private home raises the question of whether it was possible for individuals to purchase dyed wool and perhaps also to sell it locally. The 1091 This record is in the second part of the text; the first part records the wool given to weavers for dyeing. 1092 Allowing for regional variation, the scale designating textile qualities was as follows: LUGAL/ŠÀR “royal/top quality” > SIG5 “good/fine quality (not in Ur-iii texts) > SAG “top, first quality” (not in Ur-iii texts) > ÚS “next, second quality” (followed by 3-KAM ÚS “third quality,” 4-KAM ÚS “fourth quality” and occasionally 5-KAM ÚS “fifth quality in Ur-iii texts), GEN “current, normal quality,” quality” (Veenhof 1972, 203–213). 1093 Abrahami 2014, 296. 1094 saa 16 17: rev. 5. 1095 jen 125: 5–8: 6 MA.NA SÍG 10 GÍN ta-am-qa-ar-ḫu ù ki-na-ḫu 13 pá-ḫu-ús-su 3 MA.NA ˹SÍG˺ šu-ḫu-ul-ḫu šum-ma an-nu-ti…iš-tu É-ti-ia la i[š]-ri-qu “(I swear) that he stole six minas of wool and ten shekels of tamkaruḫu, kinaḫḫu, thirteen paḫussu-headgears, three minas of šuḫulḫu-wool from my house.” Paḫussu is a type of headgear attested at Alalakh and Nuzi (cad P 34). Šuḫulḫu is a wool or textile attested at Nuzi (cad Š iii 210).


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    following contract, which describes the activities of the travelling merchant and palace agent Ili-ittīya, hints that kinaḫḫu was imported to Nuzi from a western source: 1 MUNUS ša É.GAL-lim a-na 5 GÚN URUDU.MEŠ Ii-li-it-ti-ia DAM.GÀR il-qì ù i-na e-re-eb KASKAL-ni-šu ša 5 GÚN URUDU.MEŠ a-na giš EREN.NA.MEŠ a-na giššu-ur-mi-ni-MEŠ a-na gišda-ap-ra-ni a-na giš A.ZI.MEŠ a-na mi-it-ri ù a-na e-et-na-qa-bi-i a-na SÍG na4ZA.GÌN.MEŠ a-na SÍG ki-na-aḫ-ḫi ù a-na ḫu-ru-ḫu-ra-ti ša tu-ul-ti-MEŠ Iili-it-ti-ia ú-uppa-aš-ma ù ina É.GAL a-na Ita-a-a i-na-an-din KUNUK Iili-it-ti-ia DAM.GÀR (AASOR 16 77 [SMN 538]; Zaccagnini 1977, 178) ‘Ili-ittīya, the merchant, took one woman of the palace for (the value of) five talents of copper. Moreover, when his caravan arrives, he will convert five talents of copper into (essence of?) cedar, juniper, cypress, myrtle, mitru-wood(?), etnakapû, in uqnâtu-wool, kinaḫḫu-wool and also in ḫuruḫurāti(-dye extracted) from worms, and will deliver it to the palace to Taya. Seal of Ili-ittīya, the merchant.’ Ili-ittīya was apparently entrusted by the palace with capital, in this case a woman worth five talents (150.7 kilograms) of copper, which he then used to trade for commodities on his expedition. The nature of his purchases suggests that he was operating in the west; upon his return to Nuzi, Ili-ittīya would have settled his accounts with the royal administration. Dye Source and Color Abrahami proposed that the term kinaḫḫu refers to both a dye as well as a color of wool, although he does not explain his reasoning for this idea. It is certainly true that the substance is not always written with the determinative for wool but this is also the case with other dyed wools in the Nuzi corpus. If, as he suggested, kinaḫḫu-wool was a shade of red, then it must have been dyed with a substance other than madder, which was reserved for producing tabarru-red wool. Unlike the terms for certain other dyed wools that are also the names of gemstones (e.g. ḫašmānu-amethyst, duḫšu-calcite, uqnâtu-lapis lazuli), kinaḫḫu is never used as a color word outside the textile industry. While the cad leaves the matter open, it is described as red purple-colored wool in the AHw because of the proposed connection to the place name Canaan. ­Landsberger’s idea that kinaḫḫu might be a purple wool was based on etymological considerations too, although he linked the word to Akkadian uqnû. The ­problems associated with both these theories are discussed in the section

    Material Colors


    on etymology above. No further identification of the dye source or color is possible at this time. 5.7 Makrû (Red) 5.7.1 Etymology & History of Attestation From the Semitic verb makāru “to flood, irrigate (fields), drench.”1096 Gelb and von Soden related it to an Arabic root mkr meaning “to be red”1097 but Landsberger was not completely convinced: “Aber man fragt sich: ‚Wenn ‚rot’ ­schlechthin, warum so überaus selten?’…Wo ist das Subs. *makru, auf das, seiner Bildung nach, makrû zurückgehen muß?”1098 Neither of the two Semitic roots mkr recognized by Leslau characterize a color.1099 This rare adjective for the color red is only attested in Old Assyrian and Standard Babylonian texts. 5.7.2 Characterization Dyed Wool Makrû-wool is mentioned the Old Assyrian corpus a few times.1100 Since this fabric only appears in small quantities—between 5–10 kilograms in the Old Assyrian corpus—Lassen reasoned that it must be a dyed wool. The quantities of makrû-colored wool in the corpus are similar to that of ḪUŠ.A-wool in Uriii period, which are likewise small, ranging between 1–7 kilograms. By contrast, undyed wools like SÍG sāmum and SÍG paṣiʾum appear in much larger amounts—600 kilograms for red/brown and 80 tons for white.1101 It should be conceded, however, that makrû-wool is never specified as dyed (šinītum) in any Old Assyrian text. Dye Source and Color While the colorant for red wool is never recorded in Old Assyrian texts, the typical and most ubiquitous dye in this early period was madder. The color value of the adjective makrû can be established as red based on references outside the textile industry. Mars is described as the “red star” and the “makrû(-

    1096 1097 1098 1099

    cad M I 125; AHw ii 590. Gelb 1935, 29–30 n. 1 and AHw ii 590, citing Arabic makira. Landsberger 1967, 144 n. 24. Mkr I “to advise, exhort, recommend, decise, form a plan, take counsel, determine, propose, make a decision, plot conspire.” Mkr ii “to tempt, try, test, put to the test, examine, choose by testing” (Leslau 1987, 340–341). 1100 oip 27 7: 9: 10 MA.NA SÍG ma-ak-ri-tám “ten minas of red(-dyed) wool.” Also in oip 27 7: 4, 7 and 46b: 3 (Michel and Veenhof 2010, 252). 1101 Lassen 2014, 258–259.


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    colored) star”1102 in the lexical literature and in the synonym list, makrû is equated with erimu, a “(red) mole/mark” and “red berry:” Ḫg B vi to Ḫḫ 28 [MSL 11 40]: MUL.SA 5: ma-ak-ru-ú: dṣal-[bat-a-nu] Malku iv 77–78 [Hrůša 2010, 96]: ḫa-lu-u: um-ṣa-tum, ṣa-lim-tum; ma-akru-ú: e-rim-mu Uruanna I 400: úe-ri-mu: Ú.GI.RIM, úe-ri-mu : Ú.GI.RIM ša gišTIR [ša GU]RUN-šú SA 5 ‘girimmmu of the forest [whose fr]uit is red.’ The adjective makrû is also used to describe everyday objects, such as the stool in the following commentary to a terrestrial omen: ŠÚ.A ma-ak-ri-tum: ul [īdi] (Ālu commentary, CT 41 33: 2)1103 “If he sits on a red stool: [I do] not [know].”


    An interesting parallel between the red color of blood and the verbs makāru and ṣarāpu appears in the literary language of Assyrian royal inscriptions. In the account of his triumph over the forty kings of Nairi-land, Tukulti Ninurta I (1355–1050 bce) employs the verb makāru to evoke the image of a landscape inundated with the blood of his enemies: ÚŠ.MEŠ-šu-nu ḫur-ri ù muš-pa-li šá KUR lu ú-me-kir6 (A.0.78.5: 43–44 [RIMA 1 244]) ‘I flooded the caves and depressions of the mountains with their blood’ This image of blood-soaked hostile territories,1104 here expressed with the verb makāru, seems to be a precursor of the standard motif in later Assyrian royal inscriptions, in which kings describe dyeing the land with enemy blood as though it were red nabāsu-wool (ina dāmīšunu…kīma nabāsi aṣrup).1105 Both expressions were clearly inspired by activities relating to the dyeing industry. When wool is soaked in the dye bath, color saturates the cloth, imbuing it with 1102 Mars is also called the red star (MUL ma-ak-ru-ú) in several celestial omens (see cad M I 139 for references). 1103 For this commentary from Nineveh and others of its type, see Frahm 2011, 40, 50–51, 193 and 200. 1104 Another parallel is appears in the Tukulti-Ninura Epic: “This is the day on which I will soak the steppe (and) arable land with the blood of your people” (an-nu U4 ša da-am UNka ú-ma-ka-ru namê qerbēti) (iii 32; cad M 126). 1105 See 3.6.9 for further discussion of this motif.

    Material Colors


    a vivid shade—this artificial drenching in red evidently served as the ideal ­image to evoke the bloody punishment dealt by the Assyrians to those who opposed them. 5.8 Šuratḫu (Beige/brown?) 5.8.1 Etymology & History of Attestation As a term designating the color of wool, šuratḫu is only attested in the Nuzi corpus. It is a Hurrian loanword.1106 5.8.2 Characterization Dyed Wool The term šuratḫu refers to a tree and at Nuzi, it is the color of a local, dyed wool. Like the other artificially colored fabrics, šuratḫu is used to produce luxury textiles such as mardātu-tapestries,1107 birmu-trims,1108 ḫullānu-wraps1109 and nušābu-cushions.1110 It is invariably used in small quantities together other colored wools, most likely to create woven patterns on fabrics.1111 Dye Source and Color Several factors point to šuratḫu-colored wool being achieved with a plantbased dye. In the Hurrian language, the morpheme -tḫi (which manifests as -tḫu in Akkadian) primarily designates plant species or wooden objects.1112 This is confirmed by the entry in UR 5-RA: ḫubullu, in which šuratḫu is listed as a tree.1113 The šuratḫu-tree is also mentioned by Sargon ii (722–705 bce) in the account of his campaign against Urartu (modern-day Armenia). The reference occurs in a description of the fortified city of Ulḫu:

    1106 AHw 1283; Mayer 1981, 252; Haas 2003, 224. 1107 hss 15 220: 19–24: 2 MA.NA 30 GÍN ta-ki-il-tù ta-bar-ru ki-na-aḫ-ḫa ù šu-ra-at-ḫa a-na marda-tù ša gišNUD.MEŠ e-peš-ši “Two minas and thirty shekels of takiltu, tabarru, kinaḫḫu and šuratḫu(-colored wool) to produce a mardātu(-tapestry) of beds.” 1108 hss 15 221: 6–8: 1 MA.NA ta-ki-il-tù 1 MA.NA šu-ra-at-ḫa a-na bi-ir-mu MEŠ “One mina of takiltu(-colored) wool and one mina of šuratḫu(-colored) wool for multihued trims.” jen 314: 5: bi-ir-me-šu-nu ša ku-sí-ti ša ki-na-aḫ-ḫu ša ta-wa-ar-we ša ta-am-qa-ar-ḫu ù ša šu-raat-ḫu “The multihued trim on the kusītu-garment is of kinaḫḫu, tabarru, tamkarḫu and šuratḫu(-colored wools).” 1109 CT 51 12: 9–12. 1110 hss 15 229: 9. 1111 E.g. with red (tabarru) and kinaḫḫu-colored wools in hss 13 34: 3 and hss 15 226: 2. With blue-purple (takiltu) wool in hss 15 221: 6. 1112 Haas 2003, 224. Examples include aratḫu/araratḫu, ḫabur-a-tḫu, sur-a-tḫu, ganak-i-tḫi (Hittite) and nuran-i-tḫi, all unidentified as trees. See also Mayer 1981, 252. 1113 Ḫḫ iii 247 [msl 5 113]: GIŠ.ŠU.RAT.ḪU: ŠU.


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    A.GÀR-šú ar-bu ša ul-tu U4-um ul-lu-t[i…]-du-ma GURUN ù GEŠTIN kima zu-un-ni ú-šá-az-nin giš dul-ba giššu-rat-ḫu bal-ti É.GAL-lim-[šu…] ki-ma gišTIR UGU ta-mer-ti-šú ta-ra-nu ú-šá-áš-ši (TCL 3 205–206; Mayer 2013, 116) ‘He caused his uncultivated fields, which since days past…to pour down fruit and wine like rain. Plane trees and šuratḫu-trees, the pride of his (Ursa’s) palace…he had form a canopy over its surroundings like a forest.’ Since it is listed after dulbu, the oriental plane (Platanus orientalis), which grows as high as thirty or forty meters, and because it is said to form a canopy, Mayer reasoned that šuratḫu must be a large tree. The only large species of flora that can yield stable dyes are the walnut tree (Juglans regia L.) and Aleppo oak (Quercus infectoria).1114 In the case of the walnut, the fermented husks and leaves as well as the bark of the branches and roots can be used to achieve different tones of fawn and brown. Adding madder to the dye will create richer browns.1115 The Aleppo oak from Syria and Asia Minor carries gallnuts that yield beiges, browns and blacks, depending on the strength of the extract and the mordant used.1116 Curiously, in a commentary to the Sa vocabulary list from Ugaritic, šuratḫu is equated with the local word for “vine blossom” (qiʿilu or qiʿllu): Sumerian [ŠAḪ?]: Akkadian [x]- ˹x˺-rù: Hurrian šu-ra-at-ḫi: Ugaritic qi-ilu (Ugaritica 5 137: ii 27′; Huehnergard 1987, 175). Given its fragmented nature, further interpretation of this passage is not possible. With reference to the color of this wool, an additional piece of evidence to consider is the possible connection between šuratḫu and šūru. As discussed above, šuratḫu is a combination of šura- and the morpheme -atḫu.1117 The word šūru frequently appears as an adjective that qualifies textiles in Old

    1114 Mayer 1981, 247–255. This idea was accepted by Abrahami (2014, 296). 1115 The leaves of the walnut tree contain flavonoids, which yields shades of yellow. The tannins present in the husk darken the color and act as a mordant. Walnut dye is extremely colorfast (Cardon 2007, 74–79). 1116 With an iron mordant, gall extract can produce a blue-black colorant (Cardon 2007, 414–418). 1117 Mayer 1981, 253 and 255.

    Material Colors


    ­ ssyrian and Hittite texts.1118 In the Old Assyrian corpus, šūru-, kutānu- and A “Akkadian textiles” were the three main types of specialty textiles exported to Anatolia in large quantities.1119 According to calculations made by Michel and Veenhof, šūru-textiles were 30–50% cheaper than kutānus and were probably made with coarser wool/threads. These facts suggest that šūru was a type of textile and not a particular shade of dyed wool. The only link between šūru and a color within the Old Assyrian corpus is the reference to a ṣuppu-sheep that is qualified as šūrum.1120 It is conceivable, though not very likely, that this qualification means the sheep had a darker fleece than the regular white, curly variety.1121 In the written documents from Nuzi, šūru is a colorant. In one text, it is cited as the dyestuff for coloring red-purple (amethyst) leather.1122 In another, it is listed beside two other vegetable dyes without any further specification about wool colors: 26 GÍN še-le-en šu-ú-ru ˹12˺ G[ÍN] ˹šu˺-ú-ru ur-˹ṭa˺-a-i-ú ù ḫi-in-zu-ur-riwa 25 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR ta-bar-˹ru˺ ù ki-na-aḫ-ḫu (HSS 15 223: obv. 1–7) ‘Twenty-six shekels (worth of) …, twelve sh[ekels] (worth of) šūru, urṭû and ḫinzurīwa(-plant dyes). Twenty-five shekels of silver (worth of) tabarru(-colored wool) and kinaḫḫu(-colored wool).’ On the basis of etymological comparisons to Hebrew šāḥōr, Bulakh proposed that Akkadian šūru designates a black or gray color.1123 The reference to a person’s šūru-colored complexion in a physiognomic omen1124 would then be analogous to how sun-tanned skin is described in the Hebrew Bible: ‘I am dark (šǝḥōrā) and/but beautiful’ (Song of Solomon I 5; Bulakh 2006, 195) 1118 1119 1120 1121 1122

    Abrahami 2014, 296 and n. 98. Veenhof 1972, 156. ick 1 172: 13. Michel and Veenhof 2010, 244. hss 14 253: 2: 23 KUŠ.MEŠ ḫa-aš-ma-nu šu-ru a-na tu!-ti-we e-pe-ši “twenty-three ḫašmānu(-colored) hides (dyed with) šūru to make a tutiwe-fastening.” For tutiwe, see cad T 498. 1123 In Hebrew and Aramaic, the root šḥr means “to be black” (Bulakh 2003, 13–14; Bulakh 2006, 195–196; AHw 1287). The obvious cognates in these languages relate the word to the appearance of (black) coal and soot (see examples cited in Bulakh 2006, 195). 1124 Alamdimmû VIII 104; Böck 2000, 114: DIŠ (pa-ni) šu-ur (after sāmu, ṣalmu, peṣû, arqu, duʾūmu, ukkulu, turrupu, pelû, namru and puʾuru).


    Chapter 3

    ‘Do not look at me that I am dark (šǝḥarḥōr), for the sun has parched me.’ (Song of Solomon I 6; Bulakh 2006, 195) ‘My skin has become black (šāḥar) upon me, my bones have become white because of dryness.’ (Job xxx 30; Bulakh 2006, 195) Thus, the exact shade of wool characterized by the word šuratḫu in the Nuzi corpus remains uncertain. If indeed šuratḫu-wool was colored with dye obtained from the šuratḫu-tree at Nuzi—whether walnut or gall oak—it would have been beige/brown in color. The substance called šūru at Nuzi very likely refers to this dyestuff. 5.9 Tabarru and nabāsu (Red, Rose, Reddish Orange, Reddish Brown) 5.9.1 Etymology & History of Attestation Tabarru is an Akkadianized form of a Hurrian word.1125 The by-forms tabribu (tabrebu/tabripu) and tabrimu, which appear in Neo-Assyrian texts, represent the intervocalic /w/ in the Hurrian form tawarriwa with /b/ in Assyrian and /m/ in Babylonian.1126 Since it is not attested before the 19th century bce (at Mari), it seems reasonable to assume that the word tabarru entered the Akkadian lexicon at this time. It is equated with the native terms nabāsu and SÍG. ḪÉ.ME.DA in the lexical literature because they too designate red-dyed wools. The case of ḫašmānu, a word borrowed from Egyptian ḥsmn offers a parallel to this situation, in which the loan word eventually took precedence over the native Akkadian term (see 3.5.5). The etymological background of the logogram SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.DA and Akkadian nabāsu/šu remains unclear. Landsberger wondered if ḪÉ.ME.DA derived from Akkadian ḫimētu “ghee.” His suggestion that the name for a colorant lies behind ḪÉ.ME.DA = ḫimētu is unsupported by the textual evidence.1127

    1125 Landsberger 1967; AHw iii 1298; cad T 21; Durand 2009, 120–121. 1126 cad T 31. 1127 Landsberger was most cautious in expressing his proposal: “Im sum. síg.hé.me.da, später auch síg.hé.mid, steckt unverkennbar das akk. ḫemētu ‘Butter.’ Obgleich man durch Auslassen von Butter ein ausgesprochenes Rot erzielt, ist die Erklärung ‘butterfarben’ nicht befriedigend; man wird vielmehr in ḫemeda ein Färbmittel vermuten, auf das der Name ‘Butter’ übertragen wurde” (1967, 168).

    Material Colors


    5.9.2 Orthography & By-forms Always spelled syllabically in documents from Mari, where the initial syllable fluctuates between da-,1128 ta-, and tu-.1129 Texts from the reign of Yahdun-Lim and Yasmah-Addu employ the spelling tu-ba-ru, whereas in Zimri-Lim’s lifetime, a vocalization with /a/ was preferred.1130 It is noteworthy that the doubled -r in Nuzi and Middle Babylonian/Assyrian spellings of the word is not preserved at Mari. Durand offered the following explanation for the evolution in form of this word: tabarrum is an Akkadianization of the Hurrian word with its attached definite article (tabari-ni > tabarri). Such a development is attested in other Hurrian words as well (e.g. šuḫuri-ni > šuḫurri “the life”). At Mari, the word seems to have been borrowed without its article, which accounts for the form dabrum.1131 The Hurrian genitive ending -we is preserved in the forms tawarriwe or tabarriwe in the documents from Nuzi. Sometimes, the logogram SÍG. ḪÉ.ME.DA is used to designate this wool in Middle Babylonian texts. The variant forms SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.TÁ and SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.TA are found in the Amarna correspondence and at Ugarit respectively. Both syllabic and logographic spellings are attested in the first millennium. The Neo-Assyrian spelling of the word is SÍG.ḪÉ.MED/MID. In the lexical literature, the logogram SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.DA is given two Akkadian readings: nabāsu and tabarru.1132 While synonymous in meaning, the context in which both terms are attested varies slightly. Nabāsu is attested in literaryhistorical texts and in omens from the Old Babylonian period onwards but rarely in contemporary administrative documents. It falls completely out of use after the mid-second millennium.1133 Following Landsberger, the editors of

    1128 As Durand points out, the DA sign does not have the value ṭa at Mari (1983, 428). For the spelling ṭabrum, see Stol 2010, 171. 1129 Durand 2009, 121. 1130 Durand 2009, 121. 1131 Durand 1983, 428. 1132 Ḫḫ xix 78–78a [msl 10 129] and Ḫg C ii to Ḫḫ 3–4 [msl 10 139]. 1133 Two notable exceptions are the following: in one Neo-Babylonian administrative document concerning textiles at Uruk, the logogram SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.DA is glossed as nabāsu (yos 19 290 and discussion in Beaulieu 2003, 389). In another, the scribe differentiates nabāsuwool, written SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.DA na-bal-su, from tabarru-wool, written SÍG tabarru (yos 17, 307 and discussion in Beaulieu 2003, 384). In these cases, nabāsu might be a further nuance of the wool’s color or else might be specifying a particular dyeing material or process.


    Chapter 3

    the cad suggest that the logogram SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.DA should be understood at tabarru in administrative texts from the Middle Babylonian period onwards.1134 5.9.3 Characterization The referents associated with the terms tabarru and nabāsu are limited to unfinished wool and to garments made of wool and linen. Unlike certain other wool colors like ḫašmānu and duḫšu, tabarru and nabāsu are not named after precious stones and perhaps for this reason, do not lend their names to denote the color of leather and glass objects. According to the textual record, several types of colorants—vegetal, animal and perhaps also mineral—were employed to produce tabarru- and nabāsu-colored fabrics in ancient times. Color of Wool Tabarru is the most frequently attested dyed wool in the cuneiform record, appearing in the administrative documents from Mari, dating to the first quarter of the second millennium bce, to the Neo-Babylonian temple archives of the sixth century.1135 The designation for dyed red wool differs in Old Assyrian records (see makrû, 3.5.7). At Mari, tabarru-wool was used to make cloaks (naḫlaptum) and various garments of unspecified form (ṣubātum). It is quite certain that the cloth was colored with dye extracted from the madder plant (Akk. ḫurātu, Rubia tinctorum) and fixed with the mordant alum (na4gabû).1136 In the following two receipts, alum is specified as being used for dyeing tabarru-colored garments: 4 MA.NA na4ga-[bi-im] a-na ṣa-ra-ap GÚ.È.A da-ba-ri ŠU.TI.A a-na-aḫ-ìlí (arm 23 145: 1–5) ‘Anaḫ-ili received four minas of al[um] for dyeing naḫlaptu-cloaks tabarru(-colored).’ 10 GÍN na4ga-bi-i-im ŠU.TI.A a-na-aḫ-ì-lí i-nu-ma GÚ.È.A da-ba-ri iš-nu-ú (arm 23 147: 1–5) 1134 Landsberger 1967, 162; cad N 22 (under nabāsu); Beaulieu 2003, 384, 388–389. 1135 This is not to say that wool was not artificially colored red, either with mineral pigments or with organic dyes, prior to this time. The terms SÍG.ḪUŠ.A in Ur-iii texts and makrum in the Old Assyrian corpus both very likely refer to red-dyed wools. 1136 There is no textual evidence to support Soriga’s claim that tabarru was ever achieved with murex (Soriga 2017). The fact that it is mentioned with purple wools in inventories and administrative texts need not make tabarru a murex-dyed wool. Both at Chagar Bazar and at Qaṭna, madder- and murex-dyed textiles were found in the same contexts, suggesting that both dyes were used for the manufacture of expensive garments.

    Material Colors


    ‘Anaḫ-ili received ten shekels of alum when he was soaking the naḫlaptucloaks tabarru(-colored).’ In the first instance, the regular word for “to dye” (ṣarāpu) is employed, whereas in the second, the verb “to soak/rinse” (šanû), which is more commonly found in Old Assyrian texts, is used. It remains unclear if different processes are meant by each verb. With two kilograms (four minas) of alum, it is theoretically possible to dye about ten kilograms of wool.1137 In the following case, the same craftsman receives 7.5 kilograms of madder to dye woolen cloaks and leather gusānu-sacks, which were used to transport wool and precious objects. In this rare case, the color of madder-dyed leather is also called tabarru: 15 MA.NA ḫu-ra-[tum] a-na ṣa-ra-[ap] GÚ.È.A da-[ba-ri] ù 4 gu-s[a-ni] ŠU.TI.A a-na-aḫ-ì-[lí] (arm 23 148: 1–5) ‘Anaḫ-ili received fifteen minas of mad[der] for the dyei[ng] of ta[barru] (-colored) naḫlaptu-cloaks and four gus[ānu]-sacks.’ While the dye material extracted from the madder plant is generally measured by weight (in shekels or minas) in the texts from Mari, it is occasionally also quantified by volume.1138 Madder is mentioned alongside pomegranate (nurmû, written GIŠ.NU.ÚR.MA) in the context of dyeing sutû-type wool of ordinary (qātu) quality.1139 Either the juice of the pomegranate was used for dyeing or its rinds were used for mordanting. Madder (ḫurātu) was also employed to produce nabāsu-wool at Mari, a term that appears a handful of times and seems to differ from tabarru-wool within this corpus. In the text quoted below, nabāsu is specified as the name for wool that was colored with madder, whereas elsewhere, the dye is not tied to any particular wool color:1140 3 MA.NA ḫu-ra-tum a-na ṣa-ra-ap ku-ra-ri ša gišIGI.DÙ.ḪÁ 2 MA.NA ḫura-tum a-na ṣa-ra-ap na-ba-si ŠU.TI.A Ifi-pa-a-da-ḫa-tim (arm 21 306: 1–8)

    1137 Dye specialists estimate that pre-mordanting requires fifteen to twenty-five grams of alum per hundred grams of fiber. Simultaneous mordanting requires twenty grams of alum per hundred grams of fiber (Cardon 2007, 13–14). 1138 E.g. arm 21 310. 1139 arm 21 316. 1140 E.g. The eighteen minas (9 kilograms) of madder received by Ipi-daḫātum in arm 23 149 are simply described as being destined for dyeing cloaks.


    Chapter 3

    ‘Ipā-daḫātum received three minas of madder for dyeing kurārus for lances (and) two minas of madder for dyeing nabāsu-wool.’ In Durand’s view, nabāsu and tabarru represent two different materials at Mari, and both signify dyes as well as dyed wools.1141 In the case of nabāsu, he assumed this because it is attested twice without any determinative,1142 although subsequent entries of wools in the same texts are qualified with the logogram SÍG. In arm 24 175, on the other hand, nabāsu is qualified as wool (SÍG na-ba-su). Despite this irregularity in writing, Durand’s claim makes little sense given that madder is repeatedly mentioned as the primary colorant for both types of wools at Mari. At Nuzi, tawarriwe-wool appears beside other dyed wools like takiltu, kinaḫḫu and šuratḫu, frequently with reference to the production of birmutrims, as here: bi-ir-me-šu-nu ša ku-si-ti ša ki-na-aḫ-ḫu ša ta-wa-ar--we ša ta-am-kaar-ḫu u ša šu-ra-at-ḫu (jen 314: 4–6) ‘The multihued trim on the kusītu-garment is of kinaḫḫu-, tabarru-, tamkarḫu-, and of šuratḫu-(colored wools).’ In another text, the colored trim of a garment is specified as tabarru (ṣubāti ša tawarriwa birmi)1143 and the many colors of a large mardātu-tapestry, which includes tabarru, are listed elsewhere.1144 The names of colored wools are not qualified with a determinative at Nuzi and as at Mari, the term nabāsu is attested infrequently.1145 In the Amarna correspondence, tabarru-colored woolen textiles figure in the royal inventories. Aside from takiltu-purple, tabarru is the only other wool color specified in the inventories, a sign of its popularity and value. A “pair of gloves, trimmed with tabarru-wool” and “a pair of s[as]hes of tabarru-wool” are recorded in the inventory of gifts sent from the Mittanian king Tušratta to

    1141 1142 1143 1144

    Durand 2009, 144 and 120. In M.8612 and A.3632. hss 13 431: 48. hss 15 220: 19–24: 2 MA.NA 30 GÍN ta-ki-il-tù ta-bar-ru ki-na-aḫ-ḫa ù šu-ra-at-ḫa a-na marda-tù ša gišNUD.MEŠ e-peš-ši “Two minas and thirty shekels of takiltu-, tabarru-, kinaḫḫuand šuratḫu-(colored wool) to produce a mardātu(-tapestry) of beds.” 1145 The garment made of nabāsu-wool mentioned in hss 13 152: 15 is one of the rare exeptions.

    Material Colors


    Amenhotep iii.1146 In another inventory of gifts, this time sent from Egypt, “x colored (decorations?) of a kusītu-robe, tabarru, not ami(-colored wool)”1147 is mentioned.1148 Dyed linen is also designated as tabarru in the long record of gifts the Egyptian pharaoh sent to Burnaburiaš, which contains a sub-inventory of linen textiles.1149 Three items—a kusītu-robe (line 27), six pieces of fine tabarru-linen (line 30), and ullu-cloths of linen, which are further specified as tabarru-­ colored and of paqa-quality1150 (line 32)—are listed. Tabarru-wool is mentioned in large quantities (sometimes up to twenty-five minas = 12.5 kilograms) in Middle Assyrian and Middle Babylonian texts. Garments produced with this colored wool are also frequently mentioned in inventories and cult dedications from Emar (late 13th-early 12th centuries bce).1151 Tabarru-colored girdles (TÚG ša MURUB 4), wigs (SUḪUR) and cover-clothes (TÚG kutmu) for the gods are recorded there. At Qaṭna, tabarru-wool (written ḪÉ.ME.DU) is mentioned in an inventory list from the Idadda Archive alongside dark+blue (uqnâtu) wool.1152 Nabāsu is obsolete as a term for colored wool in the administrative records from the first millennium. As mentioned above, the logogram SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.DA should be understood at tabarru from the Middle Babylonian period onwards. Tabarru functioned as the common Babylonian and Assyrian word for “reddyed (wool)” in this period. Among the war spoils taken from Sargon’s campaign to Urartu are “[1]30 items: garments (with) multihued trims, linen, takiltu(-colored), plain as well as tabarru(-colored) garments from Urartu and Habhi.”1153 Alongside, undyed white and takiltu-purple, tabarru-red is the most 1146 “Inventory of gifts from Tušratta” (vat 395 = EA 22: i 46, ii 38): 1 ŠU pí-ti-in-ka-ak SÍG. ḪÉ.ME.TÁ ṣú-up-pu-ru; 1 ŠU TÚG.Í[B.L]A ša SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.TÁ. 1147 According to Moran these are two shades of red wool (amê ṣabi) (1987, n. 45). 1148 “Inventory of Egyptian Gifts” (vat 1651 + 2711 = EA 14: iii 27): [x bu-]ru-ma-at ša ku-sí-ti tabar-ra la a-˹mi˺. 1149 vat 1651 + 2711 = EA 14 iii 11–32. 1150 Moran claims this means “(of) fine (threads)” (1987, n. 47 and reference therein). 1151 Westenholz 2000, nos. 20 (HC7), 22 (HC8) and 24 (C29). 1152 TT 12 rev. 32, 34, 36: 2 TA.PAL SÍG.ZA.GÌN šu-wa-an-na “two pairs of uqnâtu(-colored) wool, šuwanna-type” 3 SÍG.ZA.GÌN ša-ba-ag-gi-na “three pairs of uqnâtu(-colored) wool, šabakki-type” 2 ME-tim SÍG.ZA.GÌN ḪÉ.ME.DU “two hundred uqnâtu(-colored) wool, tabarru(-colored) wool.” 1153 tcl 3 366; Mayer 2013, 134: [1] ME 30 lu-bul-ti bir-me GADA ta-kil-tu ù SÍG.MEŠ lu-bul-ti ta-bar-ri ša kurur-ar-ṭi u kurḫab-ḫi.


    Chapter 3

    frequently mentioned colored wool in the archives of the Eanna and Ebabbar temples.1154 While other dyed fabrics are simply designated by color, individual dye sources are sometimes named in the case of tabarru-wool—e.g. tabarrured wool dyed with inzaḫurētu-dye (tabarru ša inzaḫurētu)—a circumstance that requires explanation. The dyestuffs associated with tabarru-wool in first millennium texts in this manner are ḫatḫūru, inzaḫurētu and ḫurātu.1155 It seems reasonable to infer that the scribe specified the coloring agent for red wools because there were several dyes available for this purpose and because the particular dye employed dictated the wool’s market value. As Payne demonstrated, the price of inzaḫurētu-dye fell drastically between the reign of Nebuchadnezzar (605–562 bce), when the cost ratio for dye and silver in shekels was 15:1 or 20:1, and the reign of Nabonidus (556–539 bce), when it was 40:1.1156 It was possible to purchase between twenty and twenty-five shekels of ḫatḫūru-dye with one shekel of silver during the reign of Nabonidus.1157 In other words, inzaḫurētu-dye cost half as much as ḫatḫūru-dye during the reign of Nabonidus but more or less the same only a few decades earlier. At fifteen shekels of wool per shekel of silver, tabarru-wool was only slightly more expensive than the dyestuff employed to color it. Nonetheless, it was significantly cheaper than takiltu- and argamannu-wools in the seventh and sixth centuries bce.1158 What relevance does the market value of individual dyes have for color? As is to be expected, the prices of dyestuff fluctuated in ancient times, sometimes substantially. Issues of supply rather than demand probably lay behind this phenomenon, since the texts do not indicate that any one dye was preferred over another for producing tabarru-wool. There is likewise no reason to assume that particular dyes designated particular shades of red wool. Certainly, the brilliance and durability of artificially colored wool would have depended on the particular dye and mordant used as well as how craftsman processed the fabric. Madder tends to yield warmer shades of reds that span the red, rose, red-orange, red-brown and brown ranges, whereas with kermes, cooler shades of scarlet and crimson that hint at purple may be achieved. Given that the scribes do not include this information in their records, but by contrast, do

    1154 Payne 2007, 134. 1155 Landsberger 1967; Payne 2007, 135. 1156 Payne 2007, 139. The 15:1 ratio is given in bin 1 162. The 20:1 ratio is given in pts 3348 and GC 2 211. In GC 1 211 the price for 1/3 shekels of inzaḫurētu-dye is given as one shekel; however, this is more likely a scribal error for 1/3 minas of dye, which would fit with the 20:1 ratio elsewhere. The 40:1 ratio is given twice in yos 6 168. 1157 yos 19 282, GC 1 308; Payne 2007, 138. 1158 The price is given in BM 114552/114555.

    Material Colors


    note down prices, we must surmise that the secondary designation of tabarrured wool by dye source is not an explicit indicator of color. Varieties

    Very rarely, the shade of tabarru-wool is further qualified with a color adjective. In the case of the Kassite-period text from Nippur quoted here, an unknown quantity of garments is described as “light/bright tabarru(-colored):” i 6: 17 TÚG KI.MIN su-na-ti ta-bar-rum ‘seventeen garments (with) tabarru(-colored) sūnu-(trims)’ i 10: [x] TÚG KI.MIN qir-ši ta-bar-rum ‘x number of garments (with) tabarru(-colored) qiršu-(trims)’ i 27: [x T]ÚG ta-bar-ri BABBAR ta-kil-[ta …-]pu-us ‘x number of light tabarru(-colored) garments…takiltu(-color)’ ii 17: 31 TÚG KI.MIN (= ḫul-la-an) a-ḫi ta-bar-rum ‘thirty-one ḫulānu-wraps (with) tabarru(-colored) edges/arm coverings(?)’ ii 19: 5 TÚG KI.MIN a-ḫi ta-bar-um ‘five ḫulānu-wraps (with) tabarru (-colored) edges/arm coverings(?)’ (pbs 2/2 135: i 6, 10 and ii 17, 19) This is analogous to the wool color designated as SÍG.ZA.GÌN GE 61159 “takiltu, i.e. dark purple wool” or the glass designated as na4DUḪ.ŠI.A SIG 7 “green (-tinged) duḫšu-glass.”1160 In each case, the abstract color words, peṣû, ṣalmu and arqu, qualify the shade of the concrete color term. Another type of qualification occurs in the phrase “tabarru-earth,” mentioned in a document from Nuzi: 4 MA.NA SÍG.MEŠ ša é-gal-lim a-na ši-mi a-na 2 MA.NA ta-bar-ri-we qàaq-qa-ri a-na ḫa-nu-ka4 lúDAM.GÁR na-ad-nu ù ḫa-nu-ka4 2 MA.NA tabar-ri-we qá-aq-qa-ri a-˹na˺ er-wi-LUGAL lúNÍG.É ˹ta˺-na-din (hss 15 329) ‘Four minas of wool belonging to the palace, as (the purchase) price for two minas of tabarru(-dyestuff, in mineral form) have been given to Hanukka the merchant. Hanukka, you shall deliver two minas of tabarru (-dyestuff, in mineral form) to Erwi-šarri, the palace administrator.’ Qaqqaru is also attested in a document from Ugarit, there too qualifying cloth.1161 Since the word tabarru itself did not designate a dyeing material, the 1159 vas 19 24: 8′. 1160 Tablet B recipe §18; Oppenheim et al. 1970, 47–48. 1161 RS 15 135: 12.


    Chapter 3

    phrase tabarriwe qaqqari here may be understood as a general designation for a mineralized form of the dyestuff for producing tabarru-red color.1162 Iron oxide p ­ igments were routinely used to stain linen and wool red in Egypt and so alternatively, it is possible that this is what is meant here (see below). Abrahami’s suggestion that the expression might designate a particular shade of ­red-tabarru fabric cannot be substantiated.1163 Color of Leather In contrast to the terms duḫšu and ḫašmānu, which take their names from precious minerals and refer to colors of both wool and leather, tabarru and nabāsu hardly ever designate red-dyed leather. This is especially curious since the same dye, madder, was fundamental for dyeing both fabrics and leather. In Egypt, on the other hand, the color red was achieved in leather with iron- or lead-based mineral compounds and also with madder. Van Driel-Murray summarizes the evidence in the following manner: Even the limited amount of evidence from the Dynastic period is consistent with Germer’s findings for textiles:1164 mineral colors predominate until the Eighteenth Dynasty, when vegetable dyes—madder (red), indigo (blue) and pomegranate (yellow and black)—begin to appear.1165 Dyestuff Textual Evidence

    As we have seen, the colorant associated with tabarru and nabāsu-colored wools in the earliest texts from Mespotamia and its periphery is madder (Rubia tinctorum). Madder was used as a dye at Nuzi, although it is not mentioned as often as in the earlier Mari records.1166 Its widespread availability and relative ease of cultivation are reasons for the popularity of Madder red textiles in the ancient Near East. In the first millennium, Mesopotamian craftsmen employed several dye sources other than madder to dye tabarru-wool. Texts from the Eanna and Ebabbar temple archives often specify the dyeing material for synthetically colored wools. Predictably, madder appears frequently in such documents, 1162 Landsberger simply suggested that it was a mineral colorant without offering any identification (1967, 169). 1163 Abrahami 2014, 295–296. 1164 Van Driel 1992, 137. 1165 Van Driel-Murray 2000, 306. 1166 In hss 13 47, madder is measured by volume (27 qa ḫu-ra-tu4).

    Material Colors


    o­ ften in connection with alum,1167 testifying to the continuity of this traditional technique from the early second millennium. A new dye source for tabarrucloth and yarn in this period is the vegetal substance inzaḫurētu, which is ­mentioned as frequently as madder. In some cases, inzaḫurētu is qualified as a plant while at other times it appears without a determinative.1168 More rarely, another material known as ḫaš/tḫurētu is used to dye wool tabarru-­ colored.1169 Landsberger supposed that the Aramaic word zĕḥōrīt, which in the Targum and Mishnah is a scarlet color, is a cognate of Akkadian inzaḫurētu.1170 For ­madder, see ḫurātu (3.6.2) and for kermes, see ḫurḫarātu (3.6.3) and inzaḫurētu (3.6.1).

    Material Evidence

    The material evidence for red-dyed textiles from the ancient Near East is scant but nevertheless comparable to the textual evidence discussed thus far. Fragments of colored textiles discovered in Bronze Age tombs at Chagar Bazar and Qaṭna (Tell Mishrīfe) are the earliest archaeological evidence for the use of madder to dye wool in ancient Syria. The non-royal tombs at Chagar Bazar were in use between the 18th and 16th centuries, whereas the royal tombs at Qaṭna were in use for some 300–400 years, until the Hittite invasion in 1340 bce. Chemical analysis has revealed the presence of madder red and murex from a Mediterranean mollusk at both sites.1171 Ranging from rose to warm red to reddish orange and orange in color, the madder-dyed wool from Qaṭna was finely woven and of high quality.1172 Two types of red colorants have been detected in samples of linen and wool from Egypt: first, an iron oxide-based mineral colorant, and second, the plantbased dye, madder.1173 The earliest artificially colored red linen that has ­survived from Egypt, dating between the mid-sixth to the 12th Dynasties 1167 For instance, in gcci 2 365: ṭi-mu šá SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.DA GIŠ.{ḪAB} “forty-five shekels of tabarru-wool yarn (dyed with) madder.” In ncbt 90, the word is spelled syllabically: “one šapû-garment of tabarru-wool (dyed with) madder (ta-bar-ru ḫu-ra-tu4) for kidinnu-fabric.” The price of one and half minas of Egyptian alum and two and half minas of madder is given as one shekel of silver in gcci 1 327. 1168 gcci 2 121: TÚG mi-iḫ-ṣu šá SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.DA šá úin-za-ḫu-re-e-tú “a miḫṣu-textile of tabarruwool of (i.e. dyed with) inzaḫurētu.” 1169 ucp 9/2 12: “one mina of tabarru-wool of (i.e. dyed with) ḫatḫurētu-dye” (šá ḫaš-at-ḫu-re-e-ti). 1170 Lansberger 1967, 169. 1171 For Chagar Bazar, see Breniquet et al. 2018; for Qaṭna, see James, Reifarth and Evershed 2011. 1172 James, Reifarth and Evershed 2011, 452, 454 and 460–461. 1173 Germer 1992; Vogelsang-Eastwood 2000, 278–279.


    Chapter 3

    (c. ­24th–20th centuries bce), were produced by rubbing an iron-oxide mineral paste such as ochre directly onto finished woven garments.1174 Iron oxide was also detected in some of the red linen fragments found in the Workman’s Village at Tell el-Amarna (c. 1350 bce).1175 In the view of some textile historians, madder was only introduced to Egypt in the 18th Dynasty (c. 14th century), probably via the Levant.1176 Remnants of madder-dyed garments were discovered in the Workman’s Village at Amarna, although no alum could be detected on these exemplars.1177 Analysis of the linen textiles from the royal hoard at Deir el-Bahri (c. 1050 bce) revealed both madder and alum.1178 Unfortunately, dye material has not been detected in the textile fragments recovered from sites in Mesopotamia proper. The wool and linen recovered from the royal tombs at Ur were apparently undyed.1179 The flax fibers of the textiles excavated among the first millennium tombs at Kalḫu were also mostly undyed. Two samples of red linen (sample A and B in tombs 2 and 3) from the site tested negative for madder, lac and cochineal, and hence the dyestuff remains unidentified.1180 Garcia-Ventura’s discussion of the linen wrappings that once clothed the Ur-iii period foundation figurines from Nippur indicates that these too were not artificially colored.1181 Color and Cultural Meaning The color of tabarru and nabāsu-wools can be established as reddish—warm red, ranging from rose to reddish orange and brown—based on the following evidence. Of primary importance is the dyes used to produce this wool. According to the written sources, tabarru- and nabāsu-wools were typically ­colored with madder. Local and imported colorants, some mineral, others plant- or animal-based, were no doubt used in conjunction with madder, ­although as the texts testify, madder remained the most popular red dye in the Near East. For further proof that tabarru-wool is reddish in color, we may look to the records relating to the textile industry in Ugarit. The conventional Ugaritic word for red wool is šmt in the alphabetic texts, which corresponds to Akkadian sāmtu “carnelian,” the prototypical “red stone” in Mesopotamia (e.g. RS 1174 Germer 1992, 62; Jones 2005, 130–131. 1175 Germer noted that among some four thousand fragments found here, only seventy were artificially colored (1992, 62–67). 1176 Vogelsang-Eastwood 2000, 279. 1177 Germer 1992, 68–70. 1178 Germer 1992, 79–80. 1179 Granger-Taylor 1983, 94–95. 1180 Crawfoot 2008, 153–154. 1181 OM A31017 and IM 59587 discussed in Garcia-Ventura 2008, 249.

    Material Colors


    15.82 and 15.115).1182 Additionally, the logogram SÍG.SA 5 “red wool” is glossed as tabarru in the Aphek Treaty:1183 a-nu-um-ma a-[n]a šul-ma-ni a-bi-ia 1 me-at SÍG.ZA.GÌN [ù] 10 SÍG.SA 5: ta-ba-ri ul-te-b[i-l]a-ak-ku (Aphek 52055/1; van Soldt 1990, 335–336) ‘Herewith I send to you as a greeting gift one hundred (shekels of) dark+blue (uqnâtu) wool [and] ten (shekels of) red wool: tabarru-wool.’ In the syllabic texts from Ugarit, the logograms SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.DA/TA and SÍG.SA 5 are both used to designate red-dyed (i.e. tabarru) wool. The Ugaritic word that corresponds to Akkadian nabāsu is npš.1184 In a Babylonian cultic commentary concerning the god Bel’s clothing during the New Year festival, tabarru-wool is explained as symbolizing blood: “The (garments of) tabarru-wool in which he (Bel) is clothed are the wounds dealt to him [they are dyed] with his blood.”1185 There can be no doubt that color lies behind this association. Since it too is linked with the image of blood in literary texts, it is certain that nabāsu likewise denotes a vivid shade of red. Beginning around the late second millennium, the word nabāsu begins to appear in documents outside the textile industry for the first time. Assyrian kings employ the image of dyed nabāsu-wool to describe the bloody carnage after an enemy stronghold is captured: ÚŠ.MEŠ-šu-nu KUR ḫi-ri-ḫa ki-ma na-ba-si lu aṣ-ru-up (Tiglath-Pileser I r. 1114–1076 bce; A.0.87.1: iv 20–21 [rima 2 20]) ‘I dyed Mount Hiriḫa (red) like nabāsu(-wool) with their blood.’ The simile “as if it were red wool, I dyed X1186 with (enemy) blood” becomes a topos in Assyrian battle narratives, reoccurring in the royal inscriptions of 1182 For the colors of wool in Ugaritic texts, see van Soldt (1990, 321–357). 1183 Van Soldt 1990, 341. Huehnergard collected the attestations of glosses that appear after logograms in texts from Ras Shamra (these appear before Ugaritic, Akkadian and Hurrian words) in order to determine whether this indicates two equivalent words or if the term that follows the glossenkeil qualifies more precisely the preceding word. The example of SÍG.SA5: ta-ba-ri, in his interpretation, is a case of direct equivalence (1987, 206). 1184 dul 638. 1185 kar 143+kar 219: 15; von Soden 1955, 134: S[ÍG] tab!-ri-bu ša lab-bu-šu-ni mi-iḫ-ṣe ša maḫḫu-ṣu-ni šú-nu ina MÚD.MEŠ-šú [ṣar-pu]. 1186 Variations include the mountainous terrain in which the battle took place, the outskirts of the city, the courtyards inside the city, and the enemy’s river. For further examples see ṣarāpu.


    Chapter 3

    Adad-Narari ii, Ashurnasirpal ii, Shalmaneser iii, Šamši-Adad v, Tiglath-Pileser iii, Sargon and Ashurbanipal. The image of blood and red wool are rendered particularly graphic through the verb “to dye,” which brings to mind a gradual and deliberate reddening and hence alludes to the spread of Assyrian authority in unconquered and rebellious lands through its mighty military machine. Sargon uses the adverbial form nabāsiš instead of the standard comparison with kīma: ša ma-šak Ii-lu-bi-iʾ-di ḫa-am-ma-‘i-i iṣ-ru-pu na-ba-si-iš (Sargon cylinder 4: 25; Fuchs 1994, 35) ‘The one who dyed the skin of Ilubi'di of Ḫamma1187 nabāsu(-colored).’ The association between nabāsu-wool, blood and the battlefield also features in the Akkadian version of the poem Lugal-e, which tells of the fight between the hero god Ninurta and the Asag-monster. Embedded into a constellation of color similes that set a somber and terrifying mood as the two combatants prepare for battle, the unnatural reddening of the horizon is compared to the color of nabāsu-wool: ma-ti-ma i-šid AN-e ki-ma na-ba-ši ṣa-rip ši-i lu-u ki-a-am (Lugal-e 181; Seminara 2001, 101) ‘The horizon was stained (red) as though it were nabāsu(-wool) forevermore: it was truly so!’ Even as it arms itself to face Ninurta by tearing the sky apart and wounding the earth’s flesh, the Asag causes the natural colors of the world to mutate and become reflections of its own violent intentions. He is said to have “bathed the sky with blood”1188 in the lines that come before and “at that moment, on that day, the fields became black alkali.”1189 The simile involving nabāsu-wool also appears in divination texts, again in a context suggesting that an unnatural red coloration is signified. In the following, for instance, the shade of a person’s hair is compared to the appearance of the dyed wool:

    1187 This is Amattu in the land of Amurrû (Fuchs 1994, 421). 1188 Line 178 (Seminara 2001, 101): AN-e da-mi ur-tam-mi-ik. 1189 Line 180 (Seminara 2001, 101): i-na-an-na [U4-m]u eq-lu id-ra-ni ṣal-mu.

    Material Colors


    DIŠ SÍG SAG.DU-šú GIM na-ba-as-si ṣar-pat ŠÀ.BI DU 10.GA GAR-šú (Alamdimmû II 89; Böck 2000, 80) ‘If the hair of his head is dyed (red) like nabāsu, then contentment is determined for him.’ The preceding entry in the section also contains a color simile, this time involving black: “If the hair of his head is black like qitmu(-paste), he will be given bread by god.”1190 The colors black and red reappear without comparisons to real world materials in entries ninety-four and ninety-five. As with entries eighty-eight and eighty-nine, black appears before red and both omens are positive, although the apodoses are different than in entries eighty-eight and eighty-nine. If we imagine the diviner actually consulting the text to interpret his observations in ancient times, this distinction would seem to imply that “red like nabāsu-wool” was considered a different color than simply “red” just as “black like qitmu-paste” was distinct from “black.” Akkadian sāmu means vivid+red and is generally used to describe the natural coloration of objects. The expression “dyed like nabāsu-wool” by contrast, describes an unusual reddish staining. With reference to color, madder-dyed nabāsu-wool very likely characterizes a more brilliant shade of red than sāmu does. In sum, it is evident that over the course of their long life in the Akkadian language, the meaning of the terms tabarru and nabāsu remained closely tied to the textile industry. Initially, they denoted the vibrant, red color of wool and linen dyed with madder, although by the Iron Age, other colorants were in use as well. Two key factors indicate that tabarru and nabāsu are synonyms: first, they are associated with the same logographic writing (SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.DA) in the lexical literature; second, the dye and mordant used for producing both wools are exactly the same, at least at Mari in the 18th century. Through its color, red dyed wools also carried certain cultural meanings. In the case of nabāsu, an obvious change can be observed with how the word is used in Akkadian texts over time. Whereas it only ever occurs in administrative documents previously, by around the mid-second millennium, the term nabāsu took on a literary character. The Hurrian loanword tabarru continued to be used as the day-today word for red dyed wool. The frozen expression “dyed (red) like nabāsuwool” appears in poetry, in Assyrian historical inscriptions and in omens. When color is evoked in this manner, an unnatural, brilliant reddening is meant, such as when a surface is stained with blood. The color of nabāsu-wool 1190 Alamdimmû II 88 (Böck 2000, 80): DIŠ SÍG SAG.DU-šú GIM qit-mi ṣal-mat KI DINGIR NINDA SUM-šú.


    Chapter 3

    is metaphorically associated with the blood of enemies in Assyrian royal ­inscriptions; actual use of red dyed wool in rituals to symbolize blood, whether during the sacrifice of an animal or with the clothing of divine statues, is also attested. In the minds of the Mesopotamians, a clear distinction existed between the color of wool that was artificially dyed red and that which was denoted by sāmu, the abstract word for vivid+red. The simile “dyed (red) like nabāsu-wool” signals an unusual, although not necessarily negative, circumstance. By contrast, sāmu-red is used to describe the natural color of materials. It is unclear if this distinction was made based on perceptual reality (i.e. because the color of tabarru/nabāsu-wool was seen as different) or if it represents a conceptual differentiation (i.e. because it was known that the striking color of tabarru/nabāsu-wool was achieved artificially) or both. 5.10 Tamk/qarḫu (Unknown) 5.10.1 Etymology & History of Attestation As a term designating the color of dyed wool, tamkarḫu is only attested in the Nuzi corpus. It is a Hurrian loanword. Oppenheim observed that tamkarḫu, while being a Hurrian color term, was also toponym. The same is true of tawarwa (Akkadian tabarru) and kinaḫḫu.1191 5.10.2 Characterization Dyed Wool Like kinaḫḫu and šuratḫu, tamkarḫu-colored wool is only attested in the Nuzi corpus. It was used in small quantities and with other dyed wools to manufacture birmu-trims: bi-ir-me-šu-nu ša ku-sí-ti ša ki-na-aḫ-ḫu ša ta-wa-ar-we ša ta-am-qa-ar-ḫu ù ša šu-ra-at-ḫu (JEN 314, 5) ‘The variegated trim on the kusītu-garment is of kinaḫḫu-, tabarru-, tamkarḫu-, and of šuratḫu(-colored) wools.’ In addition to the usual colorful textiles like ḫullānu-wraps, mardātutap­estries1192 and nūšabu-cushions,1193 tamkarḫu-wool was also used to make

    1191 Oppenheim 1938, 658. 1192 hss 13 431: 33. 1193 hss 14 247: 83.

    Material Colors


    “horse blankets,”1194 and tutiwe-fastenings.1195 This suggests that this particular dyed wool was more affordable and relatively widely used. In a receipt for dyeing a ḫullānu-wrap, the appearance of “fine” (i.e. second) quality kinaḫḫu-, šuratḫu- and tamkarḫu-colored wool is qualified as “bright.”1196 Tamkarḫu was apparently imported to Nuzi, purchased with commodities typically associated with the west, such as cedar and cypress: 10 GÚN 10 MA.NA URUDU.MEŠ a-na ši-im e!-ri-nu ù ta-am-ka4-ar-[ḫu] ù lu a-zu ù it-na-qa-bi-i ù dá-ap-ra-nu ù lu-ú šu-ur-mi-mu Ii-li-ti-ia lútaam-ka4-ar il-qì… i-na ḫi-zu-r[i] i-il-la-[ak] (hss 13 484; Zaccagnini 1977, 179) ‘Ili-ittīya, the merchant, took ten talents and ten minas of copper, the purchase-price for (essence of) cedar, tamkarḫu(-wool), (essence of) myrtle, etnakapû, juniper, cypress. […] He shall depart in the month of Ḫinzuru.’ Dye Source and Color Although the written documents do not associate tamkarḫu-wool with any particular dye source, we can guess that it was vegetal since it is listed with aromatic woods in the palace contract quoted above. In one instance, the word tamkarḫu appears to describe the color of an unidentified material called sillu: 1 gišbá-aš-šu-ur ša ta-aš-qa-ar-ḫu 1 gišbá-aš-šu-ur ša sí-il-lu tam-˹ka˺-ar- ˹ḫu˺ ù 3 gišbá-aš-šu-ur ša ṣú-ul-mu (Nuzi list of furniture; tcl 9 1: 1–3) ‘One table of taškarḫu(-wood?), one table of sillu(-wood?) tamkarḫu (-colored), three tables of black-wood.’

    1194 Taḫapšu ša sīsê, see hss 14 247: 29. A taḫapšu is a woolen or linen blanket. At Nuzi, taḫapšus were made with tamkarḫu-, red (tabarru) and red-purple (ḫašmānu) colored wools (cad T 40). 1195 hss 14 247: 27. A tutiwe may be a kind of fastening on armor. Sometimes they are described as being made with bronze in the Nuzi texts (e.g. hss 15 3: 14), but they also had leather elements, which were dyed (bašlu) as in hss 14 253: 4 and hss 15 17: 28. 1196 CT 51 12: 9–12: 6 GÍN ki-na-aḫ-ḫu S[IG5 nam-]ru 3 GÍN tam-qa-ar-ḫu SIG5 nam-ru 3 GÍN šu-ra-at-[ḫu] SIG5 nam-ru “six shekels (worth of) ‘fine’ (quality) bright kinaḫḫu(-colored) wool, three shekels (worth of) ‘fine’ (quality) bright tamkarḫu(-colored) wool, three shekels (worth of) ‘fine’ (quality) bright šuratḫu(-colored) wool.”


    Chapter 3

    Elsewhere, sillu is qualified as yellow (duḫšu),1197 which confirms that tamkarḫu alludes to color here. Unless sillu is a type of wool, this is the only reference to tamkarḫu outside the textile industry. 5.11 Uqnû (Lapis Lazuli Colored, Dark+Blue) 5.11.1 Etymology & History of Attestation Sumerian GÌN and Akkadian uqnû are both loanwords from an unknown, non-Indo European language.1198 In Civil’s view, ZA.GÌN should be understood as a compound of ZA “stone, gem” + GÌN presumably “blue.” Since the ZA is omitted in the Semitic sources at Ebla, this means that it functioned as a determinative and was not pronounced there, he argued. The situation in Mesopotamia seems to be different: occasional syllabic writings1199 as well as the loanword zaginnu in Akkadian confirms that the element ZA was pronounced, at least from the Old Babylonian period onwards.1200 Since Hittite ku(wa)nnaš, Ugaritic ʾiqnu as well as Greek kuáneos are cognates of uqnû, they are all translated as “lapis lazuli.”1201 It is worth noting, however, that the same word may signify something else in a different language or context. For example, although the Akkadian word j/yašpû is etymologically linked to Greek íaspis and English jasper, they do not refer to the same stone.1202 5.11.2 Orthography Written syllabically or as na4ZA.GÌN. The spelling KUR.ZA is used in the word lists from Ebla and in the Early Dynastic texts from Fara and Abu Salabikh.1203 5.11.3 Characterization In Sumerian literary texts, only a few referents from the natural world are described as lapis lazuli-like: certain plants (Ú “herb,” ZÚ.LUM “date”), the night sky (AN), although generally the sky is light blue SIG 7/SI 12-(G),1204 and the

    1197 hss 15 168: 15. 1198 Buck 1949, 1057; Civil 1987, 145. 1199 E.g. the spelling za-gi-na in an Old Babylonian incantation for childbirth rendered in syllabic Sumerian (auam 73.3094: obv. 18; Cohen 1976, 136). 1200 Civil 1987, 145. 1201 AHw iii 1426. 1202 It was identified as chalcedony by Schuster-Brandis based on Abnu šikinšu 76, 77 (2008, 401–402). 1203 Civil 1987, 145; Biggs 1966, 175. 1204 Foulger 2006, 59. Sumerian SI12-(G), Akkadian (w)arqu generally means “pale+yellow/ green” (see 2.5.1).

    Material Colors


    beards of adult males (SUM 4). When man-made objects1205 are designated ZA.GÌN, it is probable that actual blue stones, faience or glass were used to make or decorate them; alternatively, objects could also have been painted to appear like blue stones. In Akkadian written documents too, many kinds of man-made objects (e.g. seals, beads/amulets statues, tablets, plaques) are qualified as lapis lazuli-colored. References to dyed fabrics and bricks painted or glazed a dark blue color only appear in Akkadian texts because the necessary technologies developed in the mid-second millennium bce. Unlike in Sumerian, the night sky and beards are not described as lapis lazuli-colored in Akkadian texts. Lapis Lazuli Stone, Glass and Glaze Akkadian uqnû (na4ZA.GÌN) refers to dark blue stones as well as to blue glass, faience and glaze fabricated to mimic their appearance.1206 The archaeological record indicates that several blue colored minerals, such as azurite,1207 amazonite and lazurite/sodalite1208 among others, were available to the ancient Mesopotamians. On the level of language, it appears that these mineralogically variant substances were all designated under the same umbrella term, although na4uqnû primarily means “lapis lazuli,” an opaque stone whose beauty, at least today, is measured by its lustrous, deep blue color (pl. 13b). Modern geological surveys indicate that the color of lapis lazuli from Badakhshan, the primary source of this stone in ancient times, can vary greatly: The specimens of lapis lazuli collected at Sar-i-Sang cover a wide range of colours from a deep, almost violet blue through the royal blue of the gem quality to light blue, a turquoise and finally a few pieces of brilliant green. The finest quality should be a pure royal blue without blemish: impurities often present include iron pyrites or ‘fool’s gold,’ calcite and dark smudges.1209 1205 Objects described in this manner include dais (BARAG), scepters (GIDRU), rope (­SAMAN, ÉŠ), crown (AGA), cuneiform tablet (DUB), chariots (GIGIR), barge (­M AGUR), seal (KIŠIB), statute (ALAN), weapon (ÚDUG) and diverse architectural features like door (IG) and shrine (ÈŠ) (Foulger 2006, 58). 1206 Schuster-Brandis: “Es ist kaum noch strittig, daß ZA.GÌN/uqnû eine ganze Palette blauer bis bläulicher Steine bezeichnen kann” (2008, 453); In Hittite texts, the term ZA.GÌN is also used to describe other blue stones (Polvani, 73–91). 1207 Pl. 16a-b. For azurite in Mesopotamia, see Moorey 1994, 81. 1208 For lazurite/sodalite, see Moorey 1994, 92. The blue coloring of lazurite/sodalite is paler than that of lapis lazuli and it does not contain gold flecks (compare pls. 18a and 13a). 1209 Herman 1968, 24. Italics mine. For the appearance of pyrite, see pl. 3b.


    Chapter 3

    As the following extract from an Old Babylonian letter suggests, in ancient times too, merchants were eager to acquire stones whose color was not marred by too many markings: a-šu-mì na4ḫu-sà-ri- ša a-šur-be-el-a-wa-tim ḫu-sà-ra-am am-ra-ma šu-ma za-ku-ma pu-ṣú-um ù tí-ri-ip-tum lá i-šu ší-im-šu gu5-um-ra (Ankara 9-245-82: 3-9; von Soden 1991, 37) ‘Concerning the ḫusāru-stone1210 of Ashur-bēl-awātim: inspect the ḫusāru-stone. If it is clear and does not have white or dark(-colored) flecks, then purchase it at full (price).’ The terminology qualifying the many qualities or varieties of “lapis lazuli” stones is highly developed in Akkadian. In Abnu šikinšu, the colors and patterns are distinguished in the following manner: ZA.GÌN: dark blue stone ZA.GÌN marḫaši: dark blue stone mottled with yellow/green ZA.GÌN.ANŠE.EDIN.NA sirrimānu: dark blue stone mottled bright/ white ZA.GÌN.DURU 5: light blue faience/glass These varieties of ZA.GÌN-stones then were the ones the Mesopotamians were best acquainted with and the ones used by the āšipu and asû. At around the mid-second millennium, when the glass and glazing industries were operating on an international scale, scribes began to distinguish between genuine stones and blue vitreous materials: uqnû ‘lapis lazuli’ (or similar dark blue stones) uqnû šadî ‘lapis lazuli of the mountain’ (i.e. genuine stone) na4 ZA.GÌN(uqnû) ḫīp šadî ‘lapis lazuli hewn from the mountain’ na4 uqnû bašlu ‘lapis lazuli (produced by) boiling’ (i.e. glass or faience) na4 uqnû kūri ‘lapis lazuli of the kiln’ (i.e. glass or faience)



    Their actual uses in cuneiform documents, however, are more fluid and ambiguous than what dictionary definitions of these terms would suggest. For instance, in an Assyrian royal inventory dating to the 13th century, “lapis lazuli of the kiln” = blue glass alternates with “lapis lazuli,” presumably the real stone. 1210 Von Soden identified the stone in question as hematite but as Michel has established from the evidence of Old Assyrian texts, ḫusārum is a blue stone (Michel 2001, 341–259).

    Material Colors


    Conversely, in the Amarna letters, from the preceding century, the term “lapis lazuli of the mountain” is attested in conjunction with “lapis lazuli;” here, the latter probably designates blue glass/faience. The unique reference to “blue stone hewn from mountain” (ZA.GÌN ḫīp šadî) is from a votive inscription carved on a stone axe-head from the Neo-Assyrian period; interestingly, the axe is made of “bluish marble,” not lapis lazuli.1211 Blue Glaze The earliest textual references to dark blue glaze date to the late Bronze Age. In their historical inscriptions, the Middle Assyrian kings boast of decorating their palaces with glazed brick-work evoking this color. While the Kassite kings decorated their royal buildings with molded brick friezes as well, these were unglazed. Tiglath-Pileser I (1114–1076 bce) writes of “bricks glazed (the color) of obsidian, lapis lazuli, banded agate,1212 (and) white alabaster” at his Nineveh palace.1213 In the eighth and seventh centuries, Sargon ii, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal all boast of using a bi-chrome color scheme of black/reflective (obsidian)- and blue/lustrous (lapis lazuli)-glazed brick friezes in their building projects.1214 While textual references to blue-glazed brick architecture are plentiful, the surviving archaeological evidence is rather meager. At the Anu-Adad temple at Assur, the earliest frieze depicts a chariot scene in which the figures are depicted in white, yellow and black on a blue background.1215 Blue-glazed bricks were also used when the first new royal palaces were built, for the North-West Palace and for Fort Shalmaneser in Nimrud.1216 Among the Neo-Assyrian glazed-brick friezes found in situ, a particularly well-preserved exemplar is one that once stood above the arches of the doorways and gates at Khorsabad. There too, the yellow-winged geniuses outlined in black are set against a dark blue ground. The same stylistic choice of a blue background was used for the 1211 IM 95520. The large (9 x 6.4 x 5 x 1.7 cm) trapezoidal axe blade was found at in the Nergal temple at Tell-Haddad. Whatever mineral the catalogue entry “bluish marble” refers to, it is certainly not lapis lazuli. The reference to lapis lazuli is in line 5: [… na4ZA.G]ÌN ḫi-ip KUR-šú (Al-Rawi 1994, 35–37). 1212 For the mineralogical identification of pappardilû as banded agate, see Schuster-Brandis 2008, 403. 1213 A.0.87.10: 65–66 [rima 2 54]. 1214 E.g. Sennacherib (of his Palace without Rival at Nineveh, rinap 3/1 16: vi 66–68); Esarhaddon (of his palace at Nineveh, rinap 4 1: vi 23–24); Ashurbanipal (of the akītu-house, rinap 5 10: v 46–49; of the Sîn temple at Harran, rinap 5 72: rev. 66–67; and also of the lapis lazuli-colored ziggurat of Susa, which he destroyed, rinap 5 11: vi 27–28). 1215 Nunn 1988, 166 pl. 121. 1216 The surviving archaeological material is discussed by Nunn 1988 and Reade 1983.


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    friezes at the Sîn-Šamaš and Ningal temples at Khorsabad as well as at the Nabû Temple at Nineveh.1217 Although the glazed bricks appear greenish1218 due to deterioration today, their original color was a deep blue—lapis lazulilike, just as the Assyrian royal inscriptions describe.1219 The most famous examples of blue-glazed bricks from Mesopotamia are those used to construct the South Palace, Processional Way and Ištar Gate in the city of Babylon. Studies of the glaze’s chemical composition have revealed that the vivid color was produced using cobalt and copper shavings, information that is consistent with glaze-making practices in Mesopotamia.1220 Blue-dyed Wool Like amethyst (na4ḫašmānu) and yellow calcite (na4duḫšu), lapis lazuli lends its name to describe the color of artificially colored fabrics. The lexical literature establishes SÍG.ZA.GÌN/uqnâtu as a dyed wool. In UR 5-RA: ḫubullu, it is listed between reddish (tabarru)-wool and foreign, purple (takiltu) wool: [SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.DA]: na-ba-su [SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.D]A: ta-ba!-ri [SÍG.ZA.GÌ]N: uq-na-a-tum [SÍG.ZA.GÌN.KU]R: ta-kil-tum (Ḫḫ xix 78–79a [msl 10 129])1221 Uqnâtu-wool is equated with its logographic writing (ZA.GÌN.NA) and the phrase “dyed wool” (šipāt ṣirpi) in malku: šarru: ur-ṭu-u: ḫaš-m[a-nu] ḫi-za-ri-bi: ḫaš-m[a-nu] uq-na: uq-na-tum uq-na-a-tum: uq-na-a-tum 1217 1218 1219 1220

    Moorey 1994, 316–317; Whyte, Muros and Barack 2004. “Ultramarine,” according to Moorey (1999, 316). Eremin observed a similar deterioration in color of the Nuzi “green” glazeware (2016). Moorey 1994, 320. Analysis conducted on the blue glaze from Borsippa led to inconclusive results (Kaniuth 2013, 75–76). 1221 The connection made between lapis-colored uqnâtu-wool and crimson inzurītu-dye in the following is difficult to understand: [SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.DA]: na-ba-su: dar-[x] [SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.D]A: blank : ta-bar-[ru] [SÍG.ZA.GÌN.N]A: uq-na-a-tum : in-zu-ri-t[um] [SÍG.SA]G: blank: ar-ga-ma-nu [SÍG.SAG.SIG7.SIG7]: blank : MIN (ar-ga-ma-nu) ar-qu [SÍG.GIŠ.ḪAŠḪUR]: [ḫaš-ḫ]u-ra-tum: ḫi-in-zi-ri-bu (Ḫg C ii to Ḫḫ xix 3–8 [msl 10 139])

    Material Colors


    ši-pat ṣir-pi: uq-na-a-tum ZA.GÌN.NA: uq-na-a-tum TÚG.BAD: ta-bar-ra-[tum] / ta-bar-ra-[num] [tab]-ri-mu: ta-bar-ra-[tum] / ta-bar-ra-[num] [x(x)]-nu: ta-bar-ra-[tum] / ta-bar-ra-[num] (Malku: šarru vi 179–187 [Hrůša 2010, 132–134]) Since urṭû and ḫinzarību are both vegetable dyes, it is conceivable that the following two entries in this sequence, uqnâ and uqnâtu, are variant names for a dye as well. One of the earliest references to uqnâtu-colored wool outside the lexical corpus is from an Old Babylonian letter that concerns the purchase and delivery of a small quantity from an unknown source: aš-šum SÍG uq-ni-a-ti ta-ak-la-tim ša 1 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR ša-mi-im-ma šubu-li[m] uš-ta-bi-la-aš-šu SÍG uq-ni-a-ti ta-ak-la-tim ša 1 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR li-ša-ma-ak-kum-ma li-qí-a-am (AbB I 60: 8–13; Kraus 1964, 50–51) ‘(In my letter to Nunnatum), concerning the purchase and delivery of ­lapis lazuli-wool, blue-purple (shade), for one shekel of silver, I am letting him send it. Let him purchase lapis lazuli-wool, blue-purple (shade), for one shekel of silver for you, let him take it there (i.e. to you).’ Kraus translated the phrase SÍG uqnâti taklātim as “Lasurfarbene haltbare Wolle” (i.e. from the verb takālu). But as Dietrich and Lorezt pointed out, taklātim is the plural form of the nominal form paristu, which accords with uqnâtu and so very likely qualifies it.1222 Its absence in the Mari and Old Assyrian archives suggests that uqnâtu-colored wool was not widely produced in the early second millennium. A few centuries later, lapis lazuli-colored wool is mentioned at Nuzi, albeit infrequently, especially when compared to the numerous references to madderdyed wool and local kinaḫḫu-, šuratḫu- and tamkarḫu-wools.1223 In a palace text that records the iškaru-work assignments for garments, it is specified as the color of wool used to make sūnus.1224 The sūnu is a type or piece of clothing, perhaps a border strip, that could be attached to a fine garments or bound 1222 Dietrich and Loretz 1966, 229–230 and n. 101. 1223 Only three times, in aasor 16 77, hss 14 6 and hss 13 225 (Abrahami 2014, 297). hss 13 225: 12–14: 1 MA.NA SÍG uq-na-ti 40 {erasure} GÍN ta-bar-ru ù 6 ku-duk-ti SÍG.MEŠ na-as-qu “One mina of uqnâtu(-colored) wool, forty shekels of tabarru(-colored wool) and six kuduktus of choice wool.” 1224 hss 14 6: 4: 1 TÚG.SÍG ša SAL ša sú-un uq-na-ti “one woolen garment for a woman, with a sūnu of uqnâtu(-colored) wool.”


    Chapter 3

    around the head.1225 It could be undyed or have colorfully woven (birmu) patterns.1226 Having a sūnu made of dark blue or purple colored wool seems to have been fashionable for women in the mid-second millennium, for in two Middle Babylonian texts from Nippur too, the sūnu of a woman’s garment is described as being made with uqnâtu- and takiltu-purple wools.1227 Lapis lazuli-colored wool was taken as tribute and exchanged as gifts among the great kings of the Near East in the late Bronze Age.1228 A single reference to uqnâtu-colored wool is known to me from the hitherto published texts from Qaṭna, where madder- and murex-dyed wools have recently been discovered by excavators. Specialty garments as well as raw wool dyed in this color are listed beside metal, wood, stone and ivory objects in Napši-abi’s inventory list: 2 ta-pal SÍG.ZA.GÌN šu-wa-an-na 3 SÍG.ZA.GÌN ša-ba-ag-gi-na 2 me-tim SÍG.ZA.GÌN ḪÉ.ME.DU (TT 12: rev. 32, 34, 36) ‘Two pairs of šuwanna(-garments(?) of) uqnâtu(-colored) wool’ ‘Three pairs of šabakki(-garments(?) of) uqnâtu(-colored) wool,’ ‘Two hundred (shekels of) uqnâtu(-colored) wool, tabarru(-colored) wool.’ The greatest source of information regarding lapis lazuli-wool, its color and how it was produced, is the administrative documents from Ugarit, where it is mentioned often and in large quantities.1229 In the example quoted below, a businessman by the name of Rašap-abu fulfills a large purchase order for it: 1 me-at KÙ.BABBAR aš-šum le-qè-e SÍG.ZA.GÌN a-na ŠU IdMAŠ.MAŠ AD DUMU fa-da-da lúUGULA uruKAR (RS 17.465 = Ugaritica 5, 20–21)

    1225 E.g. UVB 15 40: 13. 1226 E.g. BE 14 157: 17; EA 22: iv 14; EA 25: iv 50. For further references, see cad S 389–390. 1227 In pbs 2/2 127: 22 uqnâtu- and red-purple ḫašmānu-wool are used. In BE 14 46: 1 uqnâtuand blue-purple takiltu-wool are used. 1228 E.g. Five hundred shekels of lapis lazuli-wool (4.7 kilograms) are presented to the king and one hundred (≈1 kilogram) to the queen in the Treaty of Šuppililiuma I (RS 17.227+: 23ff.). It also appears in Hittite inventories (IBoT 1 31: 1; Goetze 1956, 32). Shalmaneser iii (859– 824 bce) boasts of taking SÍG.ZA.GÌN.MEŠ wool from Aramean lords (A.0.102.6: iii 3 [rima 3 38]). 1229 The attestations have been collected by van Soldt (1990). Other than the ones quoted here, uqnâtu-wool is mentioned in RS 16. 187B [PRU 3 207]; RS 19.80 [PRU 6 2]; RS 20.216 [Ug. 5 35]; RS 17.383 [PRU 4 221], for the cult; RS 34.133 [Ug. 7 pl. 14]; RS 34.134 [Ug. 7 pl. 15]; RS 16.259 [pru 3 207] and Syria 15 138: 32.

    Material Colors


    ‘Rašap-abu the son of Adada, overseer of the harbor, received a hundred shekels of silver for the purchase of uqnâtu(-colored) wool.’ It is uncertain if the large amounts of uqnâtu-wool mentioned in the written sources at Ugarit—ranging from a few hundred shekels to more than two ­talents1230—were dyed locally or imported. Interestingly, unlike at Nuzi or elsewhere, the word sign SÍG.ZA.GÌN appears in association with several shades of wool at Ugarit. In the following list of tribute items for the land Hatti, for instance, it is qualified by two shades of purple wool (takiltu, ḫašmānu) and green ḫaṣertu-wool:1231 [10 GU]N SÍ[G.Z]A.[GÌ]N t[a-kí]l-tu4 [10 G]UN SÍG.ZA.GÌN ḫaš-[ma-n]i 10 GUN SÍG.ZA.GÌN ḫa-[sé?-e]r-ti 10 GUN SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.[D]A (RS 34.180 4: rev. 1´-4´; van Soldt 1990, 338) ‘[Ten tale]nts of uq[nâtu-wo]ol bl[ue-pur]ple(-shade?), [ten ta]lents of uqnâtu-wool re[d-purple(-shade?)], ten talents of uqnâtu-wool gre[en(shade)], ten talents of tabarru-wool.’ [x me-at] S[Í]G.ZA.GÌN ta-kíl-tu4 2 me-at SÍG.ZA.GÌN ḫaš-ma-ni 2 TÚG.GADA 80 na4me-ki (RS 15.43 [pru 3, 187]: 5–8; van Soldt 1990, 336) ‘[X hundred] (shekels of) blue-purple uqnâtu-wool, two hundred (shekels of) red-purple uqnâtu-wool, two linen cloths, eighty (shekels of) mekku-glass.’ Unlike with red (tabarru) wool, which is often specified as colored with madder or kermes, the dye sources for these various shades of lapis lazuli wools are never given in Akkadian documents. It is suggestive, however, that uqnâtuwool is linked to alum, copper (URUDU.MEŠ) and tin (AN.NA.MEŠ) in more than one text—substances that are known to be mordants.1232 Alum seems to 1230 RS 19.20 [pru 6 156] mentioned two thousand shekels (≈19 kilograms), RS 16.259 [pru 3 207], mentions a hundred shekels (≈1 kilogram) beside comparable quantities of redpurple (SÍG.ZA.GÌN.SA5) wool. Two talents and six hundred shekels (≈73 kilograms) of uqnâtu-wool are mentioned in Syria 15 138: 32. 1231 The list of wools appears on the reverse side of the tablet, whereas the obverse contains a list of minerals, including mekku-glass, alum. Exactly ten talents of each item are listed. 1232 E.g. in RS 34.173, where the quantities of each item are not given. RS 16.01 is an alphabetic text that lists “Eight talents of copper (270 kilograms), eight talents of tin, four thousand plus five hundred shekels (42 kilograms) of pḥm-wool, four thousand plus five hundred shekels (42 kilograms) of iqnu-wool, thirty plus five linen clothes, five…” (van Soldt 1990, 338). The word iqnu in alphabetic Ugaritic stands for SÍG.ZA.GÌN takiltu in Akkadian texts from Ugarit (Dietrich and Loretz 1966, 231–232).


    Chapter 3

    have been the primary mordant at Ugarit, since it is referred to most f­ requently.1233 If the copper and tin represent mordants as well, this would indicate that the dyers at Ugarit were highly accomplished in the art of modifying and nuancing the colors of natural dyes. Copper “saddens” or darkens dyed fabrics, adding a greenish tint. Yellow dyes, for instance, alter to olive or bronze green when mordanted with copper. Mordanting with tin, on the other hand, tends to brighten the colors of dyed wool. Tin salts were traditionally used with red and orange dyes.1234 Since the alum, copper and tin are recorded with pre-dyed wools in the texts, we must assume that blue (i.e. lapis lazuli-colored) wool was dyed a second time locally, to achieve diverse shades of purple such as takiltu and ḫašmānu. This practice of double-dyeing is exactly what is prescribed in the only ancient dyeing recipe (Sippar Dye Text, 7th century bce): Recipe for red-purple wool by double-dyeing pre-mordanted blue wool with a red colorant: [SÍG.ZA.GÌN tal-qu u na4ga-bu-ú mál]-˹ma-liš˺ LÁ ina A.MEŠ ina IZI ˹ŠEG 6˺-[šal] [EN A.MEŠ IDIM]-˹x˺ GAZ.GAZ ù SÍG.ZA.˹GÌN˺ [mál-ma-liš LÁ ina A].MEŠ A NÍG.ÀR.RA ina IZI ŠEG 6-šal [tuš-kin7-ma] ˹SÍG˺ ḫa-áš-ma-nu (BM 62788: rev. 2´-5´) ‘[You take uqnâtu-wool and] you weigh ˹the corresponding amount˺ of [alum]. You ˹heat˺ (the wool and alum) in water over fire. You pulverize [x-dyestuff in spring water] and then [you weigh the corresponding amount] uqnâtu-wool. [In regular] water (and) ditch water you heat (the mordanted wool and decocted dye) over fire. [You let (it) fix and] (it is) ḫašmānu(-colored) ˹wool˺.’ Recipe for blue-purple wool by double-dyeing pre-mordanted blue wool with a red colorant: [SÍG.ZA.GÌN tal-qu u] na4˹ga˺-[bu]-ú mál-ma-liš LÁ ina A.MEŠ IZI ŠEG 6-šal EN A.MEŠ IDIM ḫa-at-˹ḫu˺-re-tu4 SÚD SÍG.ZA.GÌN mál-ma-liš LÁ ina A.MEŠ ina IZI ŠEG 6-šal tuš-kin7-ma SÍG.ZA.GÌN.KUR.RA (BM 62788+82979: rev. 6´-8´) ‘[You take uqnâtu-wool and] you measure the corresponding amount of alum. You heat (the wool and alum) in water over fire. You pulverize ḫatḫurētu in spring water. You measure the corresponding amount of (blue) uqnâtu-wool. In (regular) water, you heat (the mordanted wool 1233 In RS 34.133 [Ug. 7 pl. 14] uqnâtu-wool appears with asa foetida and alum. In RS 34.134 [Ug. 7 pl. 15] with alum and red-purple ḫašmānu-wool. 1234 Cardon 2007, 47.

    Material Colors


    and decocted dye) over fire. You let (it) fix and (it is) takiltu(-colored) wool.’ References to uqnâtu-colored wool are rare in the written sources from the first millennium. Just as the Sippar Dye Text suggests, it appears that the craftsmen of the Eanna and Ebabbar in the sixth century were more interested in producing blue-purple (takiltu) and shades of scarlet and crimson (tabarru, ḫašḫūru) colored garments for the gods. The raw materials necessary for manufacturing uqnâtu-wool are very rarely mentioned. In one instance, launder receives a small quantity of uqnâtu-dye (1 PI ú-qu-na-a-ta) with linen and fifteen minas of madder as his income in the sixth year of Nabonidus.1235 Dye Source Because of the lexical evidence given in Uruanna, Landsberger was certain that the dye source of lapis lazuli-colored wool was vegetal.1236 It appears that the several “dyeing plants” (šammi ṣirpi) are given in the entry, possibly with their variant, folk names: Uruanna I 439–441 (var. CT 14 33 Rm. 356): Ú šá-mi ra-pa-di, Ú šá-mi ṣir-pi, Ú šá-mi síl-qi: Ú šá-mi uq-na-a-te/ti Uruanna I 674: Ú šá-mi ra-pa-di: Ú šá-mi ka-si MUŠ Uruanna ii 274: Ú šá-mi ra-pa-di: Ú NAGA.SI.MEŠ At least two of these, úkasû1237 and úuqnâtu, can be established as dye-yielding plants since they are linked with dyed wools. The horned alkali (úNAGA.SI.MEŠ) might have been used to alter the pH of the dye bath. Silqu, which is mentioned among the plants growing in Merodachbaladan’s garden, is a type of beet according to the cad; as beets do yield a strong (but not very color-fast) dye, this accords well with its appearance here.1238 Woad In light of its use as a dye and herb for ointments in the cuneiform sources, it is tempting to identify the so-called “lapis lazuli plant” (úZA.GÌN.NA,1239 šammi 1235 yos 6 74. 1236 He pointed out: “Es ist längst erkannt, daß die u.-Wolle durch ein pflanzliches Färbmittel zustande kam” (1967, 171). 1237 See 3.6.6. 1238 cad S 267: mangel-wurzel (Beta vulgaris macrorhiza). 1239 References to the “lapis lazuli plant” (úZA.GÌN) are found in Sumerian hymns, although there, it seems to be a sweet-smelling or purifying plant. For instance, the god Ningirsu is said to sleep on a bed strewn with lapis lazuli plant in a Gudea inscription (Gudea B 9:


    Chapter 3

    uqnâti) as woad (Isatis tinctoria).1240 The archaeological evidence for woaddyed fabrics from the Bronze Age Near East is scant but suggestive. Light and dark blue wool dyed with indigotin derived from the woad plant was reported among the finds from the tomb of Tutankhamun.1241 Analysis of Coptic textiles indicates that shades of violet were produced with idigotin, again probably from the woad plant, together with madder red.1242 If úuqnâtu is woad, this combination of dyestuff corresponds exactly to the recipe given for takiltuwool in the Sippar Dye Text. Color of Lapis Lazuli Wool The written documents from Ugarit are the richest source for understanding the color value of “lapis lazuli wool.” Based on their examination of the terminology employed in alphabetic Ugaritic and syllabic Akkadian texts available to them at the time, Dietrich and Loretz argued that the terms iqnu/ uqnâtu designate darker, blue-purple wool because it is often contrasted with pḥm/ ḫašmānu, a lighter, red-purple wool.1243 According to them, the term takiltu functioned as a kind of qualifier, to indicate that the wool was a dark blue shade of purple(table 3.8). The problem with this scheme is that it fails to account for the three other varieties/shades of lapis lazuli wool that have come to light in more recently published Ugaritic texts (SÍG.ZA.GÌN ḫaṣertu, SÍG.ZA.GÌN ḫandalātu, SÍG.ZA.GÌN dupaššû). Landsberger’s solution to this problem was to understand the semantic designator “lapis lazuli” as a purely graphical convention in these texts, indicating that the fabric in question was dyed with genuine murex purple. In his view then, SÍG.ZA.GÌN designated a technical process as opposed to a particular 8–9; Gudea B 17: 1–3). Likewise, Inanna’s bed is strewn with zagindurû-plants (tcl 16 70: 41). 1240 This idea was first proposed by Thompson (1949, 171). The cad stated that it is “[p]robably to be identified with woad…and the indigo pigment produced from it” (cad U 195) and this idea has been followed in scholarly literature since. Landsberger claimed that uqnâtu-wool was not dyed with murex (“SÍG.ZA.GÌN.NA = uqnâtu hat nichts mit Purpur zu tun”) but only hinted that it might have been dyed with woad (1967, 163). 1241 Vogelsang-Eastwood 1985, 194–195. The analysis of the fibres was conducted by Germer (1992, 65–66). Concerning the source of the indigotin, Vogelsang-Eastwood writes, “At present it is impossible to determine exactly the origin of the dyestuff, but written sources suggest that it may well be woad rather than indigo” (2000, 278). Another possible source for blue colorant in Egypt was the seeds and pods of the sunt plant (Acacia nilotica) (ibid. 279). 1242 Cardon 2007, 62. 1243 Dietrich and Loretz 1966, 231–232.


    Material Colors Table 3.8  ZA.GÌN-wools at Ugarit (after Dietrich and Loretz 1966, 230)


    Ugarit: Akkadian Texts

    Old Babylonian

    Nuzi, Boğazköy



    SÍG.ZA.GÌN = uqnû(+ takiltu) > takiltu

    SÍG uqniātu taklātu

    takiltu/ SÍG.ZA. GÌN.GE 6


    SÍG.ZA.GÌN + ḫašmānu/SA 5 > ḫašmānu


    argamannu/SÍG. ZA.GÌN.SA 5






    (argamannu) tabarru

    color.1244 Depending on the species of shellfish and the dyeing process, it is indeed possible to dye wool pink, purple, blue and even green. Moreover, ample and diverse forms of physical evidence—heaps of mollusk shells, remains of dyeing installations, and murex-dyed textiles—testify to the fact that shellfish dyeing was practiced on a large scale in the Bronze Age Aegean and Levant beginning in the first centuries of the second millennium bce. At the principal harbor of Ugarit, large quantities of homogenously crushed murex and a purple-stained kettle were found near the remains of small buildings in the stratigraphic level dating to the 15th-14th centuries.1245 All these facts accord well with Landsberger’s idea that a sophisticated terminology for murex-dyed wools was in use at Ugarit. However, both the large quantities and the low price of the purple wools labeled as “lapis lazuli” at Ugarit speak against the idea that they were always dyed with genuine murex. Allowing for the estimate that some 12,000 sea snails 1244 As he put it: “1. Síìn im Logogramm bedeutet Purpur, ohne Rücksicht auf Farbe. 2. Es ist rein graphisch, nicht ausgesprochen; 3. Ein Wort für Purpur, das beide Sorten umfaßt, ist nicht auffindbar; 4. die Wollsorte síì = uqnâtu hat nichts mit Purpur zu tun. Regel 1. gilt auch für Ugarit; aber hier, obgleich der noch zu besprechende Sachverhalt nicht ganz klar ist, steht síìn.(meš) für Purpur überhaupt, und síìn.sa5 gilt as Varietät” (Landsberger 1967, 163). 1245 Schaeffer 1951, 190–192.


    Chapter 3

    were required to extract 1.4 grams of dyestuff,1246 it is hardly conceivable that such a massive quantity as ten talents (≈338 kilograms) each of takiltu, ḫašmānu and ḫaṣertu purple wool mentioned in the tribute list RS 34.180, for instance, could have been dyed with shellfish. It is also noteworthy that the quantity of the so-called “lapis lazuli-wools” mentioned in the written sources at Ugarit are comparable to wools dyed with vegetal matter like madder (i.e. tabarru). The association of the various purple wools with alum in the several texts also speaks against it being colored with shellfish purple because murex does not require a mordant. In brief, Landsberger’s idea that the word-sign for “lapis lazuli” designated a particular production process, namely shellfish dyeing, cannot be accepted. SÍG.ZA.GÌN also does not specify a certain quality or type of fabric. As we have seen, the words for textile colors do not necessarily indicate the market value of the wools: both “true purples,” colored with expensive murex dye, as well as the so-called mass-produced “fake purples,” dyed with woad and other plants, were tagged in this manner. It is more likely that “lapis lazuli” functions as a color category in these texts, serving to distinguish blue, blue-green- and purple-dyed wools from orange, scarlet and red-dyed wools, which were called tabarru (SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.DA). Such a semantic designator would be particularly useful in a city like Ugarit exactly because of the massive shellfish dyeing industry. The rise in demand for expensive fabrics dyed with murex would have prompted craftsmen to look for inexpensive and less labor-intensive alternatives for this costly dye. Although they might not have been able to mimic exactly the vivid brightness characteristic of genuine purple, locally available, colorfast, and relatively cheap vegetal dyes were undoubtedly used to dye wool purple, concurrent and in parallel with the murex dyeing industry. The expansion of textile terminology in the mid-to-late second millennium bce is a corollary of these larger developments in the technology of purple dyeing. Abstraction and Blue Whether or not the Akkadian word for lapis lazuli (uqnû) and its adjectival form (uqnâtu) corresponding to English “blue” has been a point of debate for decades. As discussed in the entry for arqu “pale+yellow/green,” this term does 1246 Friedländer (1909). Far less dyestuff would have been required with the vat dyeing process, a development that is generally dated to the last centuries of the second millennium bce (James, Reifarth and Evershed 2011, 458; Cardon 2007, 562). According to a more recent estimate, “it should be possible to produce uniform purple dyeings with a ratio of 1 gram wool: 7 medium size snails: 70 mL alkaline solution” (Koren 2005, 142).

    Material Colors


    not delineate BLUE, leaving a lexical gap in the Akkadian language that must be explained given the importance of this color in Mesopotamian art, architecture and fashion. Grammatically, uqnâtu may be understood as referring to the material, i.e. “lapis lazuli-like,” or to its color, i.e. “lapis lazuli-colored,” that is to say a lustrous blue. Most Egyptologists do not consider lapis lazuli (ḫsbḏ and the adjectival form (nisbe) ḫsbḏ.j) a color term in ancient Egyptian. Schenkel argued against understanding material-based words as abstract colors because they are not verbs since, for him, this was a sign that the notion of color had not separated from the material. Quirke and Warburton accepted that the word for lapis lazuli can refer to the color blue and Baines, while admitting that it occasionally means blue still argued against understanding ḫsbḏ as the Egyptian abstract word for “blue.”1247 Landsberger likewise disputed the idea that uqnû meant blue, but on the grounds that ancient Akkadian-speakers were not perceptually sensitive to this color: Wir können natürlich nicht ergründen, wie die Alten den von uns azurblau gesehenen Lapis lazuli (uqnû) apperzipierten; wir dürfen uns aber nicht einbilden, dass im Akkadsichen mit der Prägung des Terminus uqniātum für einen Farbton der Wolle die Blaublindheit überwunden war.1248 Both the archaeological context in which genuine lapis lazuli has been discovered as well as the textual sources clearly testify to the prestige this stone enjoyed in Mesopotamia. What remains unclear is whether the aesthetic value of this stone was in its hue or in some other quality such as texture, surface markings, luster or symbolic associations. Taking up this question in a short study of ZA.GÌN in similes, Winter proposed that what fascinated the Mesopotamians was the stone’s “color or dark lustrous properties that have a positive valence.”1249 Citing examples for descriptions of lapis lazuli beards in Sumerian texts, she followed Landsberger in his proposal that the exact color signified by the term is a dark blueish black. Cassin, again focusing on Sumerian ZA.GÌN rather than on Akkadian uqnû, proposed that the value of lapis lazuli lay in its brilliance and in the association with divinity: 1247 Quirke 2001; Warburton 2012; Baines 1985. The debate and the arguments are summarized by Schenkel (2007, 222–227 n. 7). 1248 Landsberger 1967, 139. 1249 Winter 1999, 47.


    Chapter 3

    Ainsi, lorsqu’un mot comme ZA.GÌN : uqnû, qui désigne, soit le lapis-lazuli, soit la couleur bleue, se réfère à un dieu comme attribut de sa barbe, il finira par n’avoir plus qu’un rapport très indirect, aussi bien avec la pierre précieuse qu’avec la couleur bleue. Il sera employé pour indiquer tout autre chose, à savoir l’éclat des poils de cette barbe, ainsi que son abondance, qui étaient le signe d’une puissance de vie et d’une virilité hors pair.1250 The problem with Landsberger, Cassin and Winter’s idea of understanding the color value of uqnû as focusing on luster or brightness rather than hue is that it falls short of explaining the specific interest in synthetically reproducing blue substances in diverse media. By the end of the third millennium bce, Mesopotamian craftsmen were using and producing dark and light blue faience and pigments to make personal ornaments and decorate built spaces. Similarly, the textual and material evidence for glazed brick discussed above suggests a deep preoccupation with blue colorants on the part of the Assyrian and Babylonian kings of the first millennium. Finally, various shades of blue, including bluegreen and blue-purple, were reproduced in fabrics beginning around the early second millennium. Evidently, the word “lapis lazuli” was adopted to denominate dark blue vitreous materials and blue and purple wools precisely because they share the same visual quality. In light of this, it is impossible to dispute that uqnû/uqnâtu functioned as a color word. The contrast made below, between the polychrome effect of gypsum and bitumen on the one hand, and of alabaster and lapis lazuli on the other, suggests that the association between the color of lapis lazuli and darkness was maintained in Akkadian as in Sumerian: ú-šá-an-bi-iṭ šá-áš-šá-ni-iš šá-al-la-ru-uš-šu ḫu-ra-ṣu ru-uš-šá-a ki-ma IM.BABBAR ù ESIR na4ZA.GÌN ù na4GIŠ.NU x.GAL UNU É ú-šá-al-bi-iš (Nebuchadnezzar ii r. 605–562 bce; VAB 4 124: ii 45–50) ‘I made (the É-umuša) resplendent like the sun. I covered the foundation of the temple (with) red gold(-colored glaze) (instead of) mud plaster, with lapis lazuli(-colored glaze) and alabaster(-colored glaze), as if they were gypsum and bitumen.’ Elsewhere, the appearance of an eclipsed moon is compared to the stone’s appearance: 1250 Cassin 1968, 119.

    Material Colors


    DIŠ ina ITI.KIN.dINNIN lu-u U4.13.KAM lu-u U4.14.KAM U4-me EN.NUN d 30 a-dir EN.NUN DU-ma a-dir IGI.MEŠ-šú GIM na4ZA.GÌN (K.3563+: obv. 59–60; Rochberg 2010, 99) ‘If on either the thirteenth of fourteenth day of the month of Ululu, the moon is dark (lit. eclipsed), the watch passes and the moon is dark (lit. eclipsed), its features are dark (lit. eclipsed), like lapis lazuli’ In order to accommodate this aspect of the color term, the translation “dark+blue” is offered here. But does it follow by extension that Akkadian had an abstract word for “blue”? From the fact that the Akkadian (uqnû) and Persian (lâzuward) words for lapis lazuli gave rise to two modern English words for shades of blue—cyan and azure—it is evident that the substance and the abstract color are linked. But in Warburton’s estimation, the conceptual separation between substance and color did not take place in the Bronze Age but rather much later, when the words were borrowed into other languages:1251 In Classical Greek, the adjective kyaneos was primarily ‘dark blue,’ and the link to lapis lazuli thereby largely severed. However, the Akkadian word uqnû could not be severed from ‘lapis lazuli,’ and it did not mean simply ‘blue.’ Thus, the Greek is abstract whereas the Akkadian is not— being the precious material itself. Yet the Akkadian is the origin of the Greek, and exchange is fundamental to the system.1252 Certainly, the diffusion of precious materials and also the words and ideas associated with them contributed to the graduate abstraction of ancient color terminology. Equally important stimuli for this cognitive development, however, were the late Bronze Age technologies for producing and manipulating color. Glazing, glassmaking, dyeing and painting made it possible for craftsmen to imitate the color of lapis lazuli in diverse synthetic materials. The creation of such imitations would have shattered the concrete link between a material and its characteristic aesthetic qualities. Once the qualities of brilliance and especially hue were recognized as transferable across media, they approached becoming abstract ideas.

    1251 In his words: “Crucial is that blue did not exist until after the emergence of abstract terms, millennia later, and therefore that the materials were intimately linked to the understanding of colour” (Warburton 2012, 200). 1252 Warburton 2012, 188.

    326 6

    Chapter 3

    Terminology for Dyes, Pigments and Colorants

    6.1 Ḫi/enzūru, ḫi/enzurību, inzurātu (Unknown Red Dye) 6.1.1 Etymology & History of Attestation Ḫe/inzūru is a Hurrian word that appears in the cuneiform sources beginning in the mid-second millennium bce. A school text from Boğazköy that provides Hittite and Hurrian equivalents for Akkadian words related to medicine shows that the foreign word úinzurūḫa was identical to Hurrian ḫe/inzūru and Akkadian gišḫašḫūru (see 3.5.4).1253 It seems reasonable to assume an etymological link between ḫe/inzirību (ḫe/inzūru + Hurrian suffix -ibbe/-iwwe) and certain West Semitic words for “apple(tree).”1254 Since ḫe/inzūru is equated with Akkadian ḫašḫūru in Malku: šarru, they are both thought to mean “apple(tree).”1255 Perhaps a compound word combining ḫe/inzūru and the Akkadian word for madder (ḫurā/ētu), the term inzaḫurētu is only attested in the first millennium bce. 6.1.2 Orthography Written ḫi/enzurīwa at Nuzi and ḫizarību in Hittite texts. The forms ḫi/enzūru/ inzūru at Nuzi do not contain the final -bi/bu, reflecting the Hurrian genitive suffix -wi.1256 The foreign word inzaḫurā/ētu is also written inzurā/ētu in Akkadian documents. Landsberger considered inzurātu-dye to be distinct from (ḫ)inzurību-dye, since they are mentioned as distinct entries in the Practical Vocabulary of Assur (entries 205 and 209).1257 They are also treated separately in the cad: inzaḫurētu is defined as a “red dye” and ḫenzūru as “blue or a shade of green” wool.1258 6.1.3 Characterization Both ḫe/inzūru and inzaḫurā/ētu are plant-based red dyes. A single attestation of the term ḫenzūru is found in the Nuzi corpus, where it is listed among other dyes and dyed wools:1259

    1253 kub 37.1: obv. 11 (Haas and Wilhelm 1974, 89; Haas 2003, 267–269). The native word for apple in Hittite is giššam(a)lu. 1254 E.g. Aramaic ḥazzōrā and Syriac ḥazūrā. 1255 See discussion under 3.5.4. 1256 Goetze 1956, 34 n. 23. 1257 Landsberger 1967, 156. 1258 cad I 163 and Ḫ 195. 1259 Abrahami 2014, 295.

    Material Colors


    26 GÍN še-le-en šu-ú-ru ˹12˺ G[ÍN] ˹šu˺-ú-ru ur-˹ṭa˺-a-i-ú ù ḫi-in-zu-ur-riwa 25 GÍN KÙ.BABBAR ta-bar-˹ru˺ ù ki-na-aḫ-ḫu (hss 15 223: obv. 1–7) ‘Twenty-six shekels (worth of) …, twelve sh[ekels] (worth of) šūru, urṭû and ḫinzurīwa(-plant dyes). Twenty-five shekels of silver (worth of) tabarru(-colored wool) and kinaḫḫu(-colored wool).’ Based on this single reference, it is not possible to say for which color of wool this dye was meant. Although the dictionaries describe it as a green or blue dye,1260 the only real connection between ḫi/enzūru and the color blue is a lone lexical entry linking it to “lapis lazuli wool.”1261 More regularly, ḫi/enzūru is associated with red-colored ḫašḫūru-wool and ḫašḫurātu-dye (see 3.5.4) in the lexical literature: Ḫg C to Ḫḫ xix 8 [msl 10 139]: [SÍG.gišḪAŠḪUR]: [ḫaš-ḫ]u-ra-tum: ḫi-in-zi-ri-bu Malku: šarru ii 129 [Hrůša 2010, 60]: ḫe-en-zu-ru (vars. ḫi-in-zu-ru, in-zuru): ḫaš-ḫu-ru As a colored wool, ḫinzurību is listed after red-purple ḫašmānu-wool and red ḫašḫūru-wool in the Practical Vocabulary at Assur.1262 Uruanna links inzūru with two other red colorants, daʾmātu and ḫurḫurātu (3.6.3).1263 And so, based on the lexical evidence and the connection to red “apple-wool,” the color of ḫi/ enzūru can likewise be securely established as red. References to the raw material ḫi/enzūru are not found in the written documents from Mari, although red (e.g. tabarru, nabāsu, ḫašḫūru) and red-purple (ḫašmānu) wools were produced in large quantities there. This suggests that ḫi/enzūru-dye was not ­widely exploited in Iraq and Syria, perhaps because it was rare or else because it was not very colorfast. Although Landsberger considered them separate substances, there is a striking phonetic similarity between ḫi/enzūru, which is only attested in documents from the second millennium (aside from the lexical literature), and inzaḫurētu, a popular dye in the sixth century. According to Neo-Babylonian 1260 cad Ḫ 195 and AHw 347. Likewise, ḫinzirību, ḫi/enzūru is described as blue-green by Waetzoldt (1980–1983, 20). 1261 Ḫg C ii to Ḫḫ xix 5 [msl 10 139]: [SÍG.ZA.GÌN.N]A: uq-na-a-tum: in-zu-ri-t[um]. 1262 Entries 207–209; Landsberger and Gurney 1957/1958, 330: SÍG ḫaš-ma-nu: ur-ṭu-ú; SÍG.GIŠ. ḪAŠḪUR: ur-ṭu-ú; SÍG ḫi-in-zu-ri-bu. 1263 Uruanna iii 490–492: Ú ŠIM.BI.SIG7.SIG7: úda-ma-tú, da-ma-tum: ḫur-ḫu-ra-tú ṭi-ru: in-zu[ru]. Note that the cad entry reads ṭi-ru: in-zu-ḫi-re?-tu (cad I/J 163), however Stol only saw space for in-zu-[ru(?)] in the manuscript (CT 14 45 ii 29; Stol 1974, 73–74).


    Chapter 3

    administrative documents, inzaḫurētu-dye is only ever used to produce red tabarru-wool. The braided guḫalṣu and the woven miḫṣu are the textiles most frequently specified as being colored with inzaḫurētu-dye. Inzaḫurētu is never used to dye “apple-wool” (SÍG ḫašḫūru) despite the fact that it too was a shade of red.1264 In fact, ḫašḫūru is attested as an entirely distinct wool that was produced with ḫaš/tḫurātu-dye. On the other hand, in a recipe in the Sippar Dye Text (7th century bce), inzaḫurētu-dye is suggested as an alternative to both madder (ḫurātu) and ḫatḫurātu: Recipe for red wool using diverse red dyes and simultaneous mordanting: SÍG.ḪI.A ta-ḫal-la-aṣ na4˹ga˺-bu-ú mál-ma-liš ˹LÁ˺ ina A.MEŠ ina IZI ŠEG 6-šal EN A.MEŠ IDIM lu-ú ḫa-[at]-ḫu-re-tú lu-u in-za-ḫu-ri-˹e˺-tú lu-u GIŠ.ḪAB ! < SÚD> SÍG.ḪI.A ši-na-tú ˹mál-ma-liš˺ [LÁ ina] ˹A˺.MEŠ ˹A˺ NÍG.ÀR. ina IZI ŠEG 6-šal tuškin7-ma sígta-bar-ru (BM 62788+82979, rev. 14´-17´; Leichty 1970, 17´-18´) You clean mixed (undyed) wool. You measure the corresponding amount of alum. You heat (the wool and alum) in water over fire. Together with spring water, either ḫatḫurētu, inzaḫurētu or madder. You weigh the corresponding amounts of the aforementioned mixed wool. In (regular) water (and) ditch water, you heat (the wool, decocted dye and alum) over fire. You let (it) fix and (it is) tabarru(-colored) wool. From the evidence of certain consignment texts, it is possible to say that NeoBabylonian craftsmen imported inzaḫurētu-dye, most likely from a western source. In pts 2098, for instance, it is purchased with bronze from Ionia (Jamanu), blue-purple wool, blue glass, Egyptian alum, iron from Lebanon, honey, wine and diverse aromatics.1265 Because it had to be purchased and given its regular use for the production of cultic garments in the Eanna and Ebabbar temples, the price of inzaḫurētu-dye is noted down in several texts and can be compared (table 3.9). Evidently, the cost of inzaḫurētu-dye was relatively high and comparable to that of ḫatḫūru-dye, the price of which averaged around twenty shekels (167 grams) of dyestuff per shekel of silver. Madder, on the other hand, was much cheaper in this period. It was possible to purchase between forty (335 grams) and 240 shekels (two kilograms) of the plant for a shekel of silver. The price difference presumably depended on the source and quality of the madder.1266 1264 E.g. pts 3257; pts 3230; ybc 9030; yos 17 301; yos 19, 270 and many other examples. In pts 3186, it is used to dye an otherwise unattested variety of tabarru-wool “foreign/imported tabarru-wool” (SÍG.HÉ.ME.DA.KUR.RA). 1265 Duplicate in yos 6 168, discussed by Oppenheim 1967. 1266 For the price of madder in the Neo-Babylonian period, see: yos 6 168, BM 83377 (= Zawadzki 2006, no. 445) and BM 63899 (= Zawadzki 2006, no. 534).


    Material Colors Table 3.9  Prices for inzaḫurētu-dye in the Neo-Babylonian period

    Commodity Dyestuff: silver Amount

    Price in silver Text (All NeoBabylonian)


    4: 1

    1 talent

    1 1/2 minas

    bin 1 4

    15: 1

    2 1/2 minas

    10 shekels

    bin 1 162

    20: 1

    22 minas 10 shekels

    1 mina 6 1/2 shekels

    pts 3348

    20: 1

    20 shekels

    1 shekel

    GC 2 211

    40: 1

    1 talent 21 minas 20 shekels

    2 minas 2 shekels

    yos 6 168

    40: 1

    32 minas 1/3 2/3 minas 8 1/2 yos 6 168 shekels shekels

    1: 3 (aberrant!)

    1/3 shekela

    1 shekel

    GC 1 211

    a This is probably a mistake for 1/3 minas, which would result in a 20:1 ratio in keeping with the rest of the sources.

    As observed by Payne, large quantities of inzaḫurētu—sometimes up to four talents at a time—were purchased by the Eanna, apparently at great expense. In keeping with the relative cost and availability of each substance, it should be noted that the quantities of inzahurētu-dye used by the craftsmen are much smaller than the quantities of madder used. The historical reasons for the ­drastic drop in the price of inzahurētu-dye between the late reign of Nebuchadnezzar (605–562 bce) and the early reign of Nabonidus (556–539 bce) remain unclear.1267

    Dye Source


    The traditional identification of ḫi/enzūru as apple- or less likely apricot-dye based on etymology and the connection between this word and ḫašḫūru in the lexical literature presents a problem since neither apple nor apricot yields a

    1267 Payne 2007, 139.


    Chapter 3

    strong, colorfast red dye. Certain species of crab apples can yield red if the colorant in the fruit is activated with an acid in the dye bath. A mordant like alum is necessary to fix the dye onto the wool. Experiments show that mordanted wool will also accept the dye extracted from the bark of the apple tree; this substance yields yellowish-brown colors but not red.1268 Kermes

    The identification of inzaḫurētu-dye as kermes goes back to Landsberger’s suggestion that it is connected to Syriac zeḥōrīta and Aramaic zeḥōrīt, meaning crimson.1269 This proposal, although based on much later evidence, certainly makes sense in light of the high cost of this dye in the sixth century and the fact that it was imported. Landsberger thought ḫurḫurātu was the Bronze Age precursor to inzaḫurētu-dye, a statement that can no longer be accepted in light of saa 7 115, which mentions large quantities of ḫurḫurē/ātu-dye—a mixture of kermes and madder—being used to produce red wool in Assyria (see 3.6.3).1270 Curiously, inzaḫurētu-dye is never mentioned in Neo-Assyrian records. Sometimes designated as a plant, sometimes as a mineral, in the Neo-­ Babylonian documents, the exact nature of inzaḫurētu-dye is unclear. In the following instance, where it is used to make red woven cloth (miḫṣu) for a clothing ceremony at the Eanna in the sixth regnal year of Cambyses, it is specified as a plant: TÚG mi-iḫ-ṣu ša SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.DA ša úin-za-ḫu-re-e-tú (gcci 2 121: 2, 111271) ‘(Five shekels worth of) a miḫṣu-textile (made) of tabarru-wool of (dyed with) inzaḫurētu (for a paršīgu-turban).’ Inzaḫurētu-dye is also specified as vegetal in pts 3348 and yos 7 183, both texts dating to the sixth century bce. Curiously, in yos 7 138, the word is written with 1268 Cardon 2007. 1269 Landsberger 1967, 168–169. See also van Soldt (1990, 346), Payne (2007, 135–136) and Quillien (forthcoming) for the same opinion. E.g. Babylonian Talmud records a midrash about a crimson (zeḥōrīt) thread; if a sinner is able to whiten the thread, he said to be redeemed of his sins (Mas. Yoma 67a). The commentary is based on a passage in Isiah: “If your sins are like crimson, they will be white (yalbīnū < lbn) as snow; if they are red like crimson (worm) (tōlāʿ), they will be [white] as wool” (Isiah I 18). 1270 Landsberger 1967, 168. 1271 In this text alone, the term inzaḫurētu appears with the ú determinative three times (Payne 2007, 126).

    Material Colors


    the plant determinative in line four and without in lines twenty-four and twenty-eight. From another contemporary document, we learn that the Eanna purchased a massive amount of inzaḫurētu-dye, one talent and six minas, in blocks or mineral form (na4in-za-ḫa-re-e-tú) along with cedar from a western source.1272 It is very probable that the term inzaḫurētu, like ḫurḫurē/ātu, designates a mixture of a more expensive, imported plant-based red colorant and madder. Botanical identification of this plant is not possible without further evidence. 6.2 Ḫurātu (Madder) 6.2.1 Etymology & History of Attestation The Akkadian word for madder is not related to other Semitic words for the plant.1273 Landsberger proposed that Akkadian ḫurātu was etymologically related to the Judeo-Aramaic root ḥrt meaning “dyestuff.”1274 In a text from Ugarit, the Akkadian word for madder is glossed with the Ugaritic equivalent in the following manner: ḫu-re-tu4: pu-wa-tu4 (RS 23.368 14´). Ugaritic pwt is a cognate of Arabic fuwwatu(n), meaning “dyer’s madder,” which is what led to its identification as a red or purple dye.1275 6.2.2 Orthography & By-forms Generally written logographically, gišḪAB.(MEŠ), but the syllabic writings ḫurātu (Babylonian), ḫurūtu (Assyrian) and ḫurētu (at Ugarit) are also known. The connection between gišḪAB and the plants known as úḪAB and úḪÁB is discussed below. In a few Neo-Babylonian texts from the Eanna archive, the substance gišŠÀ.ḪAB is said to be the dye for red tabarru-wool, which reveals that this too is a variety of madder.1276 6.2.3 Characterization Madder is one the oldest and most widely exploited natural dyes in human history.1277 Employed to color wool, linen and tanned leather in ancient Mesopotamia and Syria, it is also the earliest attested plant dye in the cuneiform record. 1272 pts 2858 (year five of Nabonidus). 1273 Syriac putā and Hebrew pūʾā is “dyer’s madder.” The phonetically similar Hittite word puwattiš meaning “mark indicated by color” in Izi Bogh. A (KBo I 42) may also be related (Hoffner 1967, 301–303). 1274 Landsberger 1967, 170. 1275 Hoffner 1967, 301. 1276 nbc 4652; ncbt 330 and pts 3334 (Payne 2007, 136 n. 235). 1277 See for an overview of the dyes used in ancient times.


    Chapter 3

    Before Stol conclusively demonstrated that ḫurātu (gišḪAB) was the madder plant (Rubia tinctorum), the writing and meaning of this word was debated for decades. Oppenheim established the reading of Sumerian gišḪAB as ḫurātu based on Ḫḫ iii 496 (msl 5 137) and understood it as sumach.1278 Sigrist likewise thought that gišḪAB in the Ur-iii texts from Umma is sumach but proposed the word should be read gišRIN, which in his view is the same as Ì.RÌ.NA/ E.RÌ.NA, an item that occurs frequently in the Umma texts.1279 This substance, he argued, should be kept apart from úḪÁB “gallnuts.” Both suggestions were accepted by Stol, who for his part, understood gišḪAB = Ì.RÌ.NA/E.RÌ.NA as “madder” rather than “sumach.”1280 Van Soldt observed the distinction between úḪÁB and gišḪAB as well.1281 Based on his study of texts related to the leather industry in the First Dynasty of Isin, van de Mieroop was able to show that úḪÁB is definitely a dye and not a tanning agent like gallnut. He concluded that úḪÁB and gišḪAB(.MEŠ) were variant spellings for ḫurātu “madder.”1282 The situation gets more complicated in the first millennium, by which time the plant úḪAB seems to be different from gišḪAB. The first millennium Akkadian reading of úḪÁB (úTÚL[=ḪÁB].LÁ) appears to be tullal.1283 RED-dyed Wool The earliest references to madder as a dye for wool are found in texts from Ebla, dating to the 24th century bce. One administrative document from the reign of Ishar-Damu (c. 2320 bce) mentions madder-dyed wool among the deliveries made to the vizier Ibrium from the royal storeroom (É.TI.TÚG): 1 ʾà-da-um-TÚG.ii LÚ É.TI.TÚG 1 AKTUM.TÚG 1 ÍB+iv.TÚG.SA 6.GÙN 1 ÍB+iii-úḪAB ib-rí-um in U4 Ì.TI MI.NU NÍG.KAS 4 kak-mi-umki (75.G.1881: rev. vi 14-vii 7; Biga 2010, 153) ‘One ʾà-da-um-textile of the House of Textiles-Ti, one aktum-textile, one “good” (quality), multihued ÍB-textile,1284 one ÍB-textile (dyed with) 1278 Oppenheim 1967. The previous spelling was pagrātu, proposed by Thureau-Dangin, who thought it meant gallnut (1920, 28–29). 1279 Sigrist 1981, 161–163. 1280 Stol 1980–1983, 532, 534–535. 1281 Van Soldt 1990, 324 n. 23. 1282 The relevant texts are: bin 9 80, 84, 105, 467, 489; bin 10 130; mcs 5 4 (van der Mieroop 1987, 31 and 154). 1283 Scurlock 2008, 172 n. 27 contra Landsberger 1967, 170. 1284 Perhaps a kind wrap for the hips. The various proposals for translating this term— “waistband,” “Hüft Tuch,” “sash”—are listed by Biga (2010, 159). The ÍB-textile was worn by all kinds of people of diverse social status.

    Material Colors


    madder to Ibrium when he came back from the military campaign against the kingdom of Kakmium.’1285 Taken as a whole, the palace records from Ebla point to the existence of a thriving textile industry, which included the dyeing of wool. Dyers (GÙN) and apprentice dyers (DUMU.NITA TUR GÙN) are frequently attested in Ebla texts, receiving food, textiles and fleece as rations. Garments that were dyed red are qualified simply as “madder” (úḪÁB) or as “madder-red” (úḪÁB.SA) in this corpus.1286 Madder is attested in the archives from Isin1287 in the late 21st-early 20th centuries, as well as from Mari1288 and Karana1289 in the 18th century. The many shades of red, rose, reddish orange and brown that could be achieved in wool by dyeing with madder are designated with a single term of Hurrian origin: da/ta/tubarru. Less frequently, madder-dyed wool is designated with the local term nabāsu.1290 The fact that it is typically measured by weight (in either shekels or minas) suggests that madder was moved around as a dry substance. Rare instances where it is measured by volume (sila) are found in documents from Mari and Nuzi.1291 At Isin, “fresh/moist madder” (úḪÁB.DURU 5) and “dried madder” (úḪÁB.ḪÁD) are mentioned in one text,1292 perhaps corresponding to this distinction. Madder remained a popular dye in the second half of the second millennium. At Nuzi, ḫurātu is frequently associated with the mordant alum. Red wool is generally designated by color but in certain cases, it is further qualified by dye source (e.g. ša ḫurāti in hss 15 168A). Abrahami noted that madder (twenty sila) and its seeds (ten sila) are among the iškaru-deliveries to the palace from local orchards, which suggests the plant was domesticated in this city. Cumin and coriander are delivered as well.1293 Madder dye is also frequently attested

    1285 Biga 2010, 153. For another example, see 75.G.1881: rev. iii 9–10: 1 AKTUM.TÚG úḪÁB 4 AKTUM.TÚG BABBAR ti-[…] “one aktum-textile of madder, four undyed light(-colored) aktum-textiles” (Biga 2010, 155). 1286 Biga 2010, 158. 1287 van de Mieroop 1987, 31 and 154. 1288 Joannès 1984, 150–169. 1289 Dalley et al. 1976 nos. 128: 16 and 129: 20. 1290 E.g. arm 21 306. 1291 From Mari: arm 21 310; arm 21 316. From Nuzi: hss 13 47. 1292 BIN 9 84. 1293 hss 14 239; Abrahami 2014, 295.


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    in the Akkadian documents from Ugarit—there it is associated with two mordants, alum and copper. Although more expensive colorants like kermes and murex became more fashionable, madder continued to be the most affordable and highly exploited plant dye in the first millennium. Woolen textiles colored with madder are frequently attested in Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian texts. It was also distributed in bulk as remuneration to palace dependants, as one record from the Assyrian imperial palace confirms (SAA 7 115). The 3, 275 kilograms of the dyestuff recorded here is a staggering quantity:1294 Thirty talents for the gate (and) the entrance (personnel?) Twenty talents for six hundred gowns and six hundred urnūtu-garments Three talents (for) Epâ, for the gate-overseers Two talents (for) the city of Aliḫu, for the boats Three talents for išḫi-textiles Two talents for the ‘wrappings’ of sashes Eight talents ten minas for five hundred Gurrean-style wraps Two talents for […] of the chariot-fighters1295 (and) for the archers’ guzippu-cloaks Two talents (for) the house of tailor(s) Two talents (for) Šar-Issar Five talents for twine of linen, two talents (for) the exorcists, of the whole year Twenty talents (for) the Ninevite hide-soakers Five talents (for) the ṣallu-leather dealers of the entrance Two talents (for) the scarf-weavers1296

    1294 This is an account of linen (SÍG.GADA a-kil-tú), madder (gišḪAB a-kil-tú) and red wool (SÍG.ḪÉ.MED a-kil-tú) consumption among palace dependents; the record for madder is as follows: 30 GÚ a-na ˹KÁ?˺ a-na né-re-bi 20 GÚ a-na 6-me ma-qa-ṭí a-na 6-me TÚG.ur-nat 3 GÚ Iepa-a a-na šá IGI.KÁ.MEŠ 2 GÚ urua-li-ḫu a-na šá-ap-pi-na!-te 3 GÚ a-na TÚG.iš-ḫi 2 GÚ ana ḫi-li TÚG.IB.LÁ 8 GÚ 10 MA a-na 5-me ˹TÚḫa˺-bat gur-ri 2 GÚ ˹a-na˺ [x-x] A.SIG a-na gu-zip-pi lúGIŠ.BAN.TAG 2 GÚ É lúka-ṣir 2 GÚ IIM.15 5 GÚ a-na ṭi-bu GADA 2 GÚ lúMAŠ!.MAŠ.MEŠ ša kàl MU.AN.NA 20 GÚ šá kur-ri-šu DUMU uruni-nu-a 5 GÚ ša lúṣalli-šú-nu ša né-re-bi 2 GÚ lúUŠ.BAR ṣip-rat 1 GÚ šá ḫal-lu-up-ti-šú-nu PAB 1-me 9 GÚ 10 MA! (SAA 7 115: obv. ii 6-rev. i 9). 1295 Mār damqi (cad M 258). 1296 A ṣipirtu is a scarf or sash fabricated by means a special technique (cad Ṣ 201).

    Material Colors


    One talent (for) the equipment (of soldiers and chariots)1297 Total, one hundred and nine talents, ten minas We learn from this document that several groups of royal personnel—the gate and entrance attendants, chariot-fighters and archers—wore uniforms which were, partly at least, dyed red. Royal leather-workers are also given madder to color an expensive type of tanned leather called ṣallu, which was sometimes imported from Commagene.1298 It is very likely that the red-colored ṣalluleather was employed to make embellishments for royal equipment (e.g. chariots, weapons, accessories for horses), as depicted in the wall paintings from Til Barsip, for instance. Exorcists also receive an allotment of madder in this text, a detail that accords well with the fact that they are said to wear a red cloak to ward off demons.1299 In the incantation series Utukkû lemnūtu, the exorcist proclaims to the demon: “I am wrapped in a red cloak of terror (against) you, I dress (my) pure body against you in a red garment, a garment of awe.”1300 Descriptions in contemporary documents confirm that the āšipu did indeed clothe himself in this manner as he performed rituals.1301 Based on the palace record above, it possible to say that these special garments were fabricated with madder-dyed linen. The madder plant is native to Iraq and Syria. In a text from Nuzi in the second millennium and in a terrestrial omen, ḫurātu-madder is described as a domestic plant that grows in the garden.1302 Nonetheless, the massive quantity of the substance mentioned in the text quoted above raises the question of how the Assyrians acquired red dyes in this period. In an administrative text from Til Barsip (7th century), we learn that a royal agent receives madder along

    1297 See ḫalluptu in cad Ḫ 46. 1298 According to add 812: 13, which gives the price: one hide ṣallu-leather cost two shekels of silver, the same as duḫšu-leather. 1299 Among the rituals performed by the āšipu/mašmaššu as he wore his red cloak were the NAM.ÉRIM.BÚR.RU.DA, Utukkû lemnūtu, Šēp lemūtti, the various bīt-rituals, certain prayers (such as ŠU.ÍL.A.KAM) as well as diverse purification and consecration rituals (e.g. mīs pî, takpertu) (Jean 2006, 195–196). 1300 Discussed in connection to the color sāmu (2.5.10). 1301 E.g. saa 10 238: obv. 14–15 (discussed in 2.5.10). 1302 hss 14 239 is a delivery of plants from local orchards to the palace. The terrestrial omen is recorded in CT 39 8b: 1 (DIŠ SAR.MEŠ ma-du gišḪAB ma-gal SILIM). Various parts of the plant—“madder root” (išid gišḪAB), “madder seeds” (zēr gišḪAB!) and “shoots of the madder plant” (ŠE.KAK gišḪAB)—were used medicinally (cad Ḫ 248).


    Chapter 3

    with alum (na4gabû), glue (šimtu), Egyptian glue (šimtu ša kurmiṣri), sinews (UZU.SA.MEŠ) and kiškanû-bark sheathings, although the circumstances of the transaction are not detailed.1303 It is known that the Assyrians purchased purple wool from the west through trade networks operated by Arab merchants and it is possible that they acquired madder in the same way. Dalley noted that madder is one of the commodities sent to Assyria as tribute from Manṣuate in the first millennium, a city located in north-central Syria.1304 The cost of red wool in the mid-second millennium is known from two texts. According to one, it was possible to purchase fifteen shekels of tabarru-wool dyed with madder for one shekel of silver (BM 114552//114555). In the other, we learn that the same amount of money could only purchase three shekels of tabarru-wool dyed with kermes (A.74 = Ass. 13058 hk.). The prices for raw madder and other red dyes are mainly known from the Neo-Babylonian temple archives. In two such documents dating to the mid-sixth century, the cost of raw madder is given as ¼ shekel of silver per mina (240 shekels dye: 1 shekel silver).1305 This is extremely low compared to the price of ḫatḫūru (20/25 shekels dye: 1 shekel silver) and inzaḫurētu (20/40 shekels dye: 1 shekel silver). Alum imported from Egypt was also more expensive (90/180 shekels: 1 shekel silver). RED-dyed Leather As early as the last centuries of the third millennium bce, Mesopotamian and Syrian craftsmen were dyeing tanned sheep, ox and goat hides red with madder. Predictably, tanning and dyeing practices varied regionally. For instance, different mordants were used to fix the dyes onto the fibers. In the Old Babylonian Isin and Tell Rimah texts concerning the leather industry, madder is always found together with the mineral mordant allaḫarum, whereas at Mari, and in the first millennium in general, alum (na4gabû) was used.1306 According to one text from Mari, the leatherworker required five hundred grams of madder and five hundred grams of alum to dye one ox hide and eight goat hides.1307 Red-dyed hides are designated by the dye source in the early Isin texts, as “madder-leather” (KUŠ.úḪÁB), and simply as “red leather” (KUŠ.SA 5) elsewhere. A ritual text from Hellenistic Uruk that describes the re-heading of a 1303 TB 12; Dalley 1997, 79–81. 1304 Dalley 1996, 81. 1305 BM 83377, 553 bce (Zawadzki 2013 no. 534) and yos 6 168, c. 550 bcc (Quillien forthcoming). In a list of expenses from the Ebabbar dating fifty years later, the price given is much higher: 1.5 shekels of silver for one mina of dye (i.e. forty shekels of dye could be purchased with one shekel of silver) (Dar. 516; Quillien forthcoming). 1306 For Isin I, see van de Mieroop 1987, 153; for Tell Rimah, see Dalley 1976 no. 102. 1307 arm 21 165.


    Material Colors

    kettledrum contains ancient instructions for tanning and dyeing ox hide with madder.1308 Color According to cuneiform sources, madder was used to produce one particular color of wool designated as tabarru and also red-brown (SA 5) tanned leather. It should be noted, however, that madder could theoretically yield several hues on wool, depending on the mordant employed:1309 Table 3.10  Hues achieved with madder and diverse mordants



    Aluminum Iron Aluminum + iron Calcium Tin

    Red, pink Purple, black Brown Blue-red Orange-yellow

    Variations in the species, provenance and age of the plant, the concentration of the dye, the pH of the dye-bath, the quality of wool and whether or not the cloth was dyed multiple times are all further factors that determine the final shade. In combination with tannins, madder is known to produce shades of brown. In Egypt, madder fixed with alum has been detected in linen textiles from Deir el-Bahri (c. 2050 bce) and Amarna (c. 1350 bce).1310 Analysis has likewise revealed the presence of madder on textile fragments discovered in the tombs at Chagar Bazar (18th-16th centuries bce) and at Qaṭna (14th century bce). The excavators of Qaṭna were able to distinguish at least two shades of madder-dyed textiles—one rose-orange hued (textile S) and the other ­reddish-orange hued (textile Z)—together with murex-purple wool and elaborate jewelry made with gold, amber and precious stones.1311 Further analysis of the Qaṭna textiles will no doubt advance our knowledge about the various colors ancient craftsmen achieved with this versatile plant dye. Within the c­ ontext 1308 tcl 6 44: ii 21′-32′; Stol 1980–1983, 530. 1309 Goffer 2007, 368 Table 95. 1310 Germer 1992, 68–70 and 79–80. 1311 James et al. 2011, 460–461. Only seventeen fragments of the many thousand discovered were analyzed. Of these fourteen were dyed with murex purple and three with madder (Textile S and two pieces from Textile Z). Textile Z was recovered from the sarcophagus in chamber four and Textile S from chamber one.


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    of the Mesopotamian textile industry, the term tabarru described the many shades of red, brown and reddish-orange produced with plant and insect dyes. 6.3 Ḫurḫurātu (Kermes+madder) 6.3.1 Etymology & History of Attestation The etymology of the word ḫurḫurātu is unclear although it evidently contains the word “madder” ḫurātu in it. It is attested in cuneiform sources from the Middle Babylonian period onwards. 6.3.2 Orthography Written ḫurḫurātu in Middle Babylonian texts, ḫuruḫarātu in Middle Assyrian and ḫuḫuratu/ ḫu(ḫ)ḫarātu in Neo-Assyrian texts. 6.3.3 Characterization Recently, Postgate suggested that the term ḫurḫurātu might refer to a particular form in which fleece was twisted.1312 However, in light of the fact that it is named as an alternative for madder (Rubia tinctorum) in administrative records that concern the production of red textiles, and the lexical evidence, which lists the substance among pigments and dyes, there can be no doubt that the term ḫurḫurātu designates a red colorant. In two texts dating to the mid-second millennium, one from Assyria and the other from Babylonia, the substance ḫu(r)ḫurātu is connected with the production of red-colored tabarru-wool. The sender’s insistence that he cannot complete his work order of tabarru-wool without ḫurḫurātu-dye in the letter to the governor of Nippur implies that this was a locally available or else locally preferred dye source: [aš]-šum ta-bar-ri ša be-lí iš-pu-ra [ḫur]-ḫu-ra-ti i-na ŠU IEN-ú-sa-tum ul am-ḫu-ur… [ḫ]ur-ḫu-ra-ti be-lí li-še-bí-lam-ma du-ul-li la a-ḫa-aṭ-ṭi (BE 17 23: 19–20, 31–32) ‘Concerning the tabarru(-wool) about which my lord wrote, I have not received ḫurḫurātu(-dyestuff) from Bēl-usatum; …let my lord send me [ḫ]urḫurātu(-dyestuff) that I might not fail in my work.’ From the Middle Assyrian text quoted below, we learn something of the cost involved in dyeing wool. Three minas (1.5 kilograms) of the dyestuff apparently cost one mina of silver:

    1312 Postgate 2014, 413 and n. 66.

    Material Colors


    36 MA.NA ḫu-ru-ḫa-ra-a-tu ša SÍG.ḪÉ.ME.DA a-na 12 MA.NA […SÍ] G.ḪÉ.ME.[D]A […] […] ITI al-la-na-tu U4.26.KÁM li-mu ib-ri-man (A. 74 = Ass. 13058 hk; Donbaz 1988, 71) ‘Thirty-six minas of ḫuruḫarātu(-dye) (suitable for) tabarru-wool for twelve minas (of silver)…month of Allānātu (June-July), day twenty-six, eponym of Ibri-šarri.’ This 3:1 ratio for the price of dyed wool per shekel of silver is much higher than 15:1 ratio given in Neo-Babylonian texts.1313 Ḫu(r)ḫurātu-dye is also mentioned at Nuzi1314 and at Ugarit1315 in the late Bronze Age. RED-Dye Landsberger considered ḫurḫurātu to be the precursor of the substance called inzaḫurētu in Neo-Babylonian texts, both of which he tentatively identified as kermes (see 3.6.1).1316 This identification hinges on the reference to “ḫuruḫurātu (extracted) from worms” (ḫuruḫurāti ša tultī) in a commercial contract between the palace at Nuzi and a merchant. The text describes the purchase of cedar, juniper and myrtle among other precious wood as well as colored wool, perhaps from a western source (aasor 16 77 [smn 538], see 3.5.6).1317 As the kermes oak (Quercus coccifera L.) was native to Lebanon and Israel in ancient times, it is certainly reasonable to assume that kermes was imported from this region.1318 Aside from this single explicit reference to ḫurḫurātu as an animaldye, a “red worm” is also mentioned in Uruanna.1319 In a letter from Ugarit, the “seeds” or “grains” (zēr ḫurḫurāti) of ḥrḥr,1320 clearly a cognate of the word ḫurḫurātu, are requested for dyeing.1321 It was not uncommon for the kermes

    1313 E.g. in BM 114552. 1314 aasor 16 77 = smn 538. 1315 ktu 1.2: iii 13. 1316 Landsberger 1967, 168. 1317 Landsberger 1967, 157; Zaccagnini 1977, 178–179. Abrahami followed Landsberger and identified this dye as kermes (2014, 295). 1318 Cardon 2007, 611. 1319 Uruanna iii 237 [msl 8/2, 62]: sa-ma-nu ša IZ.ZI: tul-tu sa-am-tú “samānu of the wall: red worm.” See also the Old Babylonian liver omen yos 10 9: 26: DIŠ [x]-šum tu-ul-ta-am ˹saam˺-ta-am ma-li “If the…is full of red worm…” 1320 dul 363; Huehnergard 1987, 126. The dual form of this word, ḥrḥrtm, is known from a broken text (ktu 1 2: iii 13). 1321 RS 17.239 [pru 6 8: 6–10]: e-nu-ma NUMUN ḫu-ra-ti ṣa-bu-tu4-ia NUMUN ḫur-ḫura-ti šu-bi-la-an-ni “Now then, my request is ḫurḫurātu-grains, send me ḫurḫurātu-grains.” The seeds of the madder plant (ḫurātu) cannot be used for dyeing so it seems that the omission of the first ḪUR-sign is a mistake (Van Soldt 1990, 347).


    Chapter 3

    insect to be mistaken as worms, seeds or even berries in antiquity, as it was often harvested with the plant matter.1322 A text that is highly relevant for identifying the nature of ḫurḫurātu-dye and how it was used to color wool in ancient times is a Neo-Assyrian accounting document detailing the yearly allotment of fabrics and dyes to palace dependents in central Assyria (mainly in the cities of Nineveh, Kalḫu, Assur, Adin and Kilizi):1323 ˹SÍG˺.ḪÉ.MED a-kil-tú 7 GÚ 10 MA UGU NU 22 GÚ ḫu-ḫa-rat ḪÉ.MED a-na 3-šú 15 GÚ 10 MA LÚ.2-u 30 GÚ 20 MA ḫu-ḫa-rat ḪÉ.MED a-na 2-šú PAB 22 GÚ ḪÉ.MED ina ŠÀ-bi 53 GÚ ḫu-ḫa-rat ḪÉ.MED (SAA 7 115: rev. i 10–19). ‘Tabarru(-colored) wool consumption: seven talents, ten minas on statues. Twenty-two talents of ḫuḫurātu for tabarru-wool, multiplied by three. Fifteen talents, ten minas (for) the deputy. Thirty talents, twenty minas ḫuḫurātu for tabarru-wool, multiplied by two. Total: twenty-two talents of tabarru-wool (produced) with fifty-three talents of ḫuḫarātu for tabarru-wool.’ We learn here that twenty-two talents of tabarru-red wool (approx. 660 kilograms) were produced with fifty-three talents (approx. 1, 590 kilograms) of ḫurḫarātu-dye. According to modern experiments, about sixty to eighty dried kermes insects yield one gram of colorant.1324 By this calculation, in order to produce the fifty-three talents of dye mentioned in this text alone, between 95.4 and 127.2 million kermes insects would have been required.1325 Given the labor entailed, it seems highly unlikely that such massive quantities of kermes were ever harvested in ancient times. In medieval Europe, for instance, a single worker was able to harvest about one kilogram of insects per day. An entire 1322 Van Soldt 1990, 347. A point in case is the English color term vermilion, which derives from Latin vermiculus, a diminutive form of vermis “worm.” 1323 saa 7 115: rev i 10–19. As Gaspa noted, the city of Naṣibina in the Habur triangle is also mentioned (2013, 228). 1324 Cardon 2007, 612. 1325 The Assyrian talent is 60.6 kilograms or 30.3 kilograms and the mina is 1.01 kilograms or 0.505 kilograms, depending on whether the heavy or light norms of the weight system are used (Gaspa 2013, 228–229). For the purposes of these calculations, the light norms were used.

    Material Colors


    summer’s harvest of kermes in 1349 Florence was about 108 kilograms (19–25.5 million insects); in Montpellier in the year 1357, about 430 kilograms were harvested (26–34.5 million insects).1326 Based on the anthropological data and these calculations, it is hardly possible that the term ḫurḫurātu signifies pure kermes dye in Assyrian and Babylonian texts. What is more likely is that the term ḫurḫurātu refers to a mixture of kermes and madder dyes. Analysis has shown that the red color in Coptic textiles was achieved with a dye composed of 5% kermes and 95% madder, providing an antique, albeit much later precedent for this dyeing technique. Furthermore, the fact that the Akkadian word for madder (ḫurātu) is recognizable in ḫuḫarātu makes this hypothesis linguistically plausible. Based on the 95: 1 ratio, between 4.77 and 6.36 million insects would have been required to produce the fifty-three talents of dye mentioned in saa 7 115, a much more reasonable quantity.1327 RED-Pigment In the bilingual lexical lists, ḫurḫurātu is listed among the mineral pigments as an equivalent of (or perhaps less common substitute for) for red earth: IM.KÙ.SI 22: il-lu-ur pa-ni : ka-lu-[u] IM.GÙN.NU: da-ma-[a]-tum: ḫur-ḫ[u-ra-tum].1328 Preparing such a pigment, which is known today as kermes lake, would have involved extracting the kermesic acid from the insects by decocting it with water and alkali and then precipitating it with an iron-free alum solution.1329 Kermes lake has not been detected on artifacts from the ancient Near East but this might be due to the complexities involved in identifying the pigment definitively. Lucas and Harris observed that kermes is used to color leather in modern-day Egypt. But analysis of leather objects has confirmed the textual ­evidence, which indicates that madder was used for this purpose in antiquity.1330 It is equally possible that the mineral pigment called ḫurḫurātu in Akkadian was not actually derived from kermes but only alludes to the crimson color of the substance. Such is the case with English vermilion: although the word is

    1326 Cardon 2007, 612–613. 1327 The ratio of 5% kermes + 95% madder known from Coptic textiles is reported in Trojanowicz et al. 2004. 1328 Ḫg to Ḫḫ X 143 [msl 7 114]: IM.GÙN.NU: da-ma-[aʾ]-tum: ḫur-ḫ[u-ra-tum]. Uruanna iii 490–491: Ú ŠIM.BI.SIG7.SIG7 : úda-ma-tú, da-ma-tum: ḫur-ḫu-ra-[tú]. 1329 Eastaugh et al. 2004, 210. 1330 Lucas and Harris 1962, 36.


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    etymologically related to Latin vermiculus “(kermes) worm,” in reality, it is a brilliant red pigment composed of mercury sulfide, i.e. cinnabar. 6.4 Kalgukku (Lead Yellow) 6.4.1 Etymology & History of Attestation A loanword from Sumerian IM.GÁ.LI.GUG that is attested from the Old Babylonian period onwards. 6.4.2 Orthography Written logographically as IM.GÁ.LI.GUG/ IM.KAL.GUG or syllabically as kalgūgu or kalgukku. 6.4.3 Characterization Kalgukku is a mineral colorant that was used for painting and for making opaque yellow glass. It also has magical and medicinal properties and was employed, among other things, in prescriptions for healing ear and eye infections.1331 Kalgukku does not appear to be a synthetically manufactured substance since, unlike Egyptian blue (zagindurû), it is not mentioned as a product of one of the glass recipes. Instead, it is included with the other naturally occurring mineral pigments in UR 5-RA: ḫubullu: IM.BABBAR: ga-aṣ-ṣ[u] IM.DARA 4: ḫa-a-pu IM.SA 5: šá-ar-šar-ru IM.GÙN.GÙN.NU: da-aʾ-ma-tum IM.SIG 7.SIG 7: MIN (da-aʾ-ma-tum) IM.KÙ.SI 22: il-lu-ur pa-ni IM.KAL: ka-lu-ú IM.GÁ.LI.GUG: kal-gu-uk-ku (Ḫḫ xi 314–321 [MSL 7 140–141]) In the plant list, kalgukku is associated with ochre (kalû),1332 while in the stone list, its color is compared to that of the “Hate Stone” (aban zīri, na4ḪUL.GIG).1333

    1331 See cad K 73 for various references. 1332 Uruanna iii 51–52: Ú LAL: AŠ IM ka-lu-u, AŠ IM.KAL.GUG. 1333 Abnu šikinšu 67; Schuster-Brandis 2008, 29.

    Material Colors

    343 Leather Industry Relatively large quantities of kalgukku-mineral—between two-thirds (333 grams) and one mina (500 grams)—are mentioned in several administrative documents from the kingdom of Mari (18th century bce), always in connection with leather-workers (lúAŠGAB).1334 In the following letter from ZimriLim, it is listed with alum, a substance used for dyeing leather, as a necessity (ḫišiḫtu) of the royal palace: a-na mu-ka-an-ni-ši-im qí-bí-ma um-ma be-el-ka-a-ma ṭup-pa-ka ša tu-ša-bi-lam eš-me aš-šum ka-al-gu-uk-ki-im na4 ga-bi-i-im ù li-ik-tim ša ta-aš-pu-ra-am ḫa-ad-nu-ra-bi ù LUGAL-ki-ma-ka-li-ma ma-aḫ-ri-ia ú-ul wa-aš-b[u] i-na-an-na aš-šum ḫi-ši!-iḫ-tim ša-a-ti a-na ṣe-er ḫa-ad-nu-ra-bi ù LUGAL-ki-ma-ka-li-ma áš-ta-pa-ar ḫi-ši-iḫ-tam ša-a-ti i-l[e]-eq-qú-nim-ma ú-ša-ab-ba-la-ak-kum (arm 18 15) ‘Say to Mukannišum, thus says your lord: I listened to the tablet that you sent to me. Concerning the kalgukkum, alum and liktum1335 that you wrote about, Ḫadnu-rabi and Šarrum-kīma-kalima are not with me. Just now, I have sent a letter to Ḫadnu-rabi and Šarrum-kīma-kalima concerning these necessities. They will obtain them and I will send them to you.’

    1334 arm 23 nos. 15, 23, 208, 209, 210 and 211, all of which date to the reign of Zimri-Lim (1776– 1761 bce). arm 23 208: 1 mina of kalgukku for work on a chariot of the first quality (a-na ši-pí-ir giš GIGIR SAG), received by Puzur-išum the leather-worker (lúAŠGAB) during the reign of Zimri-Lim. arm 23 209: 2/3 minas of kalgukku received by Rūš-Kūbi and 5/6 minas received by Puzur-akka; work unspecified but both are known to be lúAŠGAB from other texts (arm 23 188). arm 23 210: 2/3 mina of kalgukku received by Yaṣi-el the lúAŠGAB. arm 23 211: one mina of kalgukku received by Yanūḫ-Lim, who is also known to be a lú AŠGAB from elsewhere, for work on a chariot(?) of the first quality. 1335 A hapax legomenon in the Mari corpus. Given the context, we can only guess that it was also used for processing leather.


    Chapter 3

    But how exactly was this material used by the leather-workers at Mari and what can we say about its color? Thompson identified IM.KAL.GUG/kalgukku as either cinnabar or red ochre because of its phonological connection to IM.KAL/kalû, which he thought was yellow ochre; IM.SIG 7.SIG 7/daʾmātu, by his estimation, is orpiment.1336 Joannès’s idea that kalgukku is a variety of ochre is based on the cad’s identification of it as a red pigment and in light of the fact that it is used by the Mari leather-workers in the same manner as madder. In his view, kalgukku was used sparingly by craftsmen to reinforce the reddish color of leather that was ordinarily achieved with madder.1337 As an alternative to understanding kalgukku as a colorant, Scurlock proposed that it might have been used to taw leather.1338 There are several problems with understanding kalgukku as a dye for leather. Durable colors are achieved in leather with organic dyes like madder, pomegranate and sumach (see Mineral colorants, on the other hand, are better applied on the surface, as paint.1339 Moreover, while the purpose of madder is explicitly cited as “for dyeing” (ana ṣarāpu) in the Mari documents, kalgukku is simply given to the lúAŠGAB “for work” (ana šipir), typically on chariots. Of great relevant for understanding how exactly kalgukku was used by the craftsmen at Mari are the texts mentioning Egyptian blue (see 3.6.9). This pigment is cited as being used for “for paint work” (ana šipir tēqītim) of two model wooden chariots in arm 9 28.1340 Elsewhere,1341 it is listed with alum, ochre (kalû) and kalgukku as though they were similar types of substances. Take together, this evidence points to kalgukku being a pigment, not a dye. Glass Industry The Akkadian glass-making recipes offer further information about the nature and color of the mineral kalgukku. It is given there as an ingredient in the recipe for the “primary glass” called tuzkû, which in turn forms the basis for

    1336 Thompson 1936, 24, 29–31. 1337 As he put it: “Il se peut qu’il ait été utilisé concurremment avec le ḫûratum, mais au vu de la rareté de ses attestations, il semble plutôt qu’il servait seulement dans les cas où l’on voulait obtenir une teinte rouge plus prononcée que celle que donnait le ḫûratum” (Joannès 1984, 144). 1338 Scurlock 2008, 173. 1339 Van Driel-Murray 2000, 306. 1340 The phrase literally means “for work of overlay” and occurs in arm 8 28: 1: 6 MA.NA na4zagi-id-ru-ú a-na ši-pí-ir te-q[í?]-tim ša 2 giše-ri-qí-tim. 1341 M.10816 and M.11218, both unpublished texts discussed by Arkhipov 2010.

    Material Colors


    ­ roducing opaque yellow glass.1342 Although the prescription for producing p tuzkû is badly broken and incomplete, the following substances can nonetheless be identified as ingredients: [2] minas of finely ground mekku-glass [2/3 minas] of quartz pebbles (na4immanakku) 2/3 minas of plant ash (úaḫussu) 22.5 shekels of ochre (kalû) 22.5 shekels of kalgukku x shekels of kalgukku one shekel of x-substance (Recipe §U in Oppenheim et al. 1970, 56) The large quantities of mekku, silica (from the quartz pebbles) and plant ash form the glass base in this recipe, while the small amounts of kalû and kalgukku function as the colorants. For reasons that are unclear, the recipe calls of a second unknown quantity of kalgukku, which was apparently prepared and added separately to the melt. In another recipe, a very small amount (three shekels) of kalgukku is utilized to color an unknown type of glass that is made with two “primary glasses:” gold-colored zukû-glass and antimony-containing anzaḫḫu-glass.1343 In his pioneering edition of the glass texts, Oppenheim recognized kalgukku’s role as a colorant in both recipes. He tentatively proposed identifying the substance as “red kalû-earth” because of the Sumerian writing (IM.GÁ.LI.GUG) and suggested that it might be ochre or a similar mineral pigment.1344 He reasoned that “only a very effective coloring agent needs to be weighed out with such care…In view of these considerations, one could think of cobalt ore, especially since the presence of cobalt in Near Eastern glasses in known.”1345 Cobalt ores produce a dark blue color in glass. As mentioned already, however, kalgukku-colorant is only used for making yellow glasses—the “primary glass” named tuzkû and the opaque, yellow glass na4duḫšu. Since Near Eastern yellow glasses are invariably colored with lead and opacified with ­antimony, it follows that one of the colorants in the recipe—either kalû or kalgukku—must be a lead-based mineral. If kalû is ochre, this leaves kalgukku as the only candidate for the lead yellow pigment. 1342 See the entry for na4duḫšu (3.5.2) for further discussion of tuzkû and how “primary” glasses were used to make complex, opaque colored glasses. 1343 Recipe §L in Oppenheim et al. 1970, 51–52. 1344 Oppenheim et al. 1970, 52 and n. 58. 1345 Oppenheim et al. 1970, 52.


    Chapter 3 Identity of Colorant Given that it is listed among the natural, mineral colorants in the lexical lists and in view of its role in the leather and glass industries, kalgukku can be identified as a lead-based yellow colorant. For now, further mineralogical identification is not possible. While it generally refers to the concrete substance that yields color, it is important to note that the word kalgukku does not function as a color word in the Akkadian language. Nevertheless, as in the cases below, its color could be evoked though similes: NA 4 GAR-šú GIM IM.KAL.GUG na4zi-ri MU.NI (Abnu šikinšu 67; Schuster-Brandis 2008, 29) ‘The stone whose appearance is like kalgukku(-pigment), its name is “Hate Stone” (aban zīri).’ [BALAG GAR-šú] ˹SAG.DU˺-[su GI]M IM.KAL.GUG PA.MEŠ-šú GE 6.MEŠ ˹x˺ [x] [MUŠEN] ˹ga˺-aš-ri ŠU.˹LÚ.U18.˺LU.MUŠEN MU.NI MUŠEN da-nim ˹ù˺ [enlil] (Balag šikinšu rev. 4–5; Mirelman 2015, 177–178) ‘[The balag, whose appearance: i]ts head is [l]ike (the color of) kalgukku (-pigment); its wings are black… It is a powerful [bird]. Its name is “The Hand of Humanity.” It is the bird of Anu and [Enlil].’ 6.5 Kalû (Ochre) 6.5.1 Etymology & History of Attestation A Sumerian loanword attested from the Old Babylonian period onwards. 6.5.2 Orthography Written logographically as IM.KAL.(LA), IM.GÁ/GA.LI or syllabically. 6.5.3 Characterization Pigment Kalû is a yellow colored mineral pigment.1346 Although they are frequently mentioned together in the lexical literature, in ritual texts and in one glass recipe, the mineral kalû seems to have been more commonly available than kalgukku in ancient times. Both pigments are mentioned in a text that prescribes measures to prevent the entry of evil into one’s house (Šēp lemutti ina

    1346 cad K 94–95: “a mineral of a yellow color;” AHw I 428: “eine Paste” without any reference to color.

    Material Colors


    bīt amēli parāsu). The ritual, which is performed over five days, involves making wooden and clay figurines of sages and monsters, whose powers are “activated” as they are painted with certain minerals: šaršarru (IM.SA 5), gaṣṣû (IM.BABBAR), kalû (IM.KAL), da ʾmātu (IM.GÙN.GÙN) and kalgukku (IM.KAL.GUG). Like white lime (gaṣṣû), kalû-pigment is used to color several of the sages and demons, including the ūmu apkallu-Sage from Kesh, the storm demon (ugallu), the lion-man (uridimmu), the bison (kusarikku) as well as the scorpion-man (girtablullû). This presents a contrast to kalgukku, which is used sparingly, only for the ūmu apkallu-Sage from Shuruppak. Based on the ritual instructions, Wiggerman proposed that the pigments were carefully chosen to produce certain effects: darker colors like red (with šaršarru) and black were reserved for gods, whereas brighter colors like white (with gaṣṣû) and yellow (with kalû) were used on sages and monsters.1347 Aside from being used to paint disposable, cheap clay and wooden figurines, kalû was utilized by Mesopotamian craftsmen to make colored glass and wax writing boards. Alongside kalgukku, kalû-mineral is mentioned in small, exact quantities in a recipe for producing yellow colored tuzkû-glass (see 3.6.4 for discussion).1348 In the Neo-Babylonian period, small quantities of kalû-mineral and wax were used together to make writing boards: 2 MA.NA 1/3 GÍN GABA.LÀL 14 GÍN IM.GÁ.LI a-na mul-li-i šá gišDA.ME (gcci 1 170: 1–4) ‘Two and one third minas (worth?) of beeswax, fourteen shekels (worth?) of kalû-mineral for filling a wooden (writing)board.’ Kalû and wax are mentioned in the same manner in gcci 1 167: 1–4 and in gcci 1 399: 1, where it is specified as the work of the carpenter. Wiseman interpreted the quantities given here and in bin 1 47 as the proportion of wax to kalû used by the craftsman to make the filling for the writing boards.1349 1347 Wiggerman 1992, 54–55. See also 3.4.2. 1348 Oppenheim et al. 1970, 52 n. 58. The relevant recipe is §U in Oppenheim et al. 1970, 56, which calls for the following ingredients: [2] minas of mekku-glass (finely ground) [2/3 minas] of quartz pebbles (na4immanakku) 2/3 minas of plant ash (aḫussu) 22.5 shekels of kalû 22.5 shekels of kalgukku x shekels of kalgukku one shekel of x 1349 He observed: “The Neo-Babylonian text quoted indicates a proportion of 10: 1 in the mixture of beeswax and kalū; another text gives 4: 1, which corresponds with the proportion


    Chapter 3

    ­ owever, as Stol has demonstrated, bin 1 47 is concerned with the prices of H wax, kalû and cedar wood, not the mixture.1350 Identity of Colorant For a long time, kalû was thought to be orpiment (arsenic sulphide) because of the references to making wax writing boards from the Neo-Babylonian period and based on the chemical identification of orpiment on one such board from Nimrud (BM 131952).1351 Wiseman has discussed their production: Writing boards [recovered by Mallowan in 1953] are of tamarisk, cypress, cedar and walnut. The boards are covered with a thin wafer like overlay of wax, 1/20 inch thick, of melting point 67°C., containing 25% orpiment as filler. Experiments showed that the addition of orpiment made the beeswax more plastic and enabled the molten wax to flow evenly over the surface. Without orpiment wax did not yield to the stroke of the stylus or allow a clear cut incision.1352 Investigations by Stol and Volk have since shown that ochre, and not orpiment as it was previously thought, is the more suitable substance for making beeswax pliable enough to create the overlay for writing boards. Ochre has been detected in wax boards in Roman Egypt and in Europe from the Middle Ages to the Early Modern period.1353 Concerning the analysis of the Nimrud writing board, Stol rightly pointed out that even if orpiment was detected, this is not enough to conclude that the kalû supplied to the Neo-Babylonian carpenters was also this same substance.1354 Akkadian lēru and šīpu are more suitable candidates for orpiment, he argued, as they were both used as depilatories in the leather industry.1355 Orpiment was also employed for encaustic painting of

    1350 1351 1352 1353 1354 1355

    of beeswax to orpiment in the wax fragments examined at the British Museum Laboratory” (Wiseman 1955, 6). Stol 1998, 347–348. Before that, Thompson proposed that IM.KAL.LA was soot of ash, grey and the common sublimate from it, sal ammoniac. When used as pigment, this will produce a “grey ashen tint,” he wrote (Thompson 1936, 24–26). Wiseman 1955, 5–6. Accepted by Levy (1959, 95) and Moorey (1999, 328). Stol 1998, 347–348 and references therein. Based on considerations of how wax degrades, Volk suggested that the yellow substance is saponified tallow rather than orpiment. He proposed identifying kalû as yellow ochre (Volk 1999, 286 and n. 61). Stol 1998, 347–348. Stol 1980–1983, 531. Lēru and šīp/bu (ŠIM.BI.KÙ.SI22) are tentatively identified as orpiment in the cad (cad L 147; cad Š iii 93). But given that it is used to make dark blue glass (na4ZA.GÌN merqu), it is more likely that ŠIM.BI.KÙ.SI22 is an antimony-containing

    Material Colors


    ships in ancient times because its highly toxic nature protects the hull from marine borers and barnacles. This explains why it was found as a raw material on several ship-wrecks.1356 The lexical connection between kalû and kalgukku, written with the word signs for kalû plus that for carnelian, has led some scholars to identify these two substances as yellow and red ochre respectively.1357 While the use of ochre on painted plaster, ceramic and stone objects from the ancient Near East is well documented,1358 it is not suitable for making opaque, yellow glass and so its presence as an ingredient in the glass recipe mentioned above cannot be explained. The prescription of particular minerals in the leather and glass industries as well as in drug lists suggest that the ancient Mesopotamians were keenly aware of the individual qualities and chemical properties of both kalgukku and kalû. As we have seen, the former is used by the leather workers at Mari, whereas kalû is employed by the Neo-Babylonian carpenters to make wax writing boards. One final piece of written evidence that concerns the identity of kalû and that supports the identification it as yellow ochre, is a commentary to an unidentified text from Hellenistic Uruk. There, the link between the dark grey metallic lead ore known as galena (IM.KÙ.SI 22/ illūr pāni, written lurpânu1359 here) and kalû established in the lexical entries is recalled: lu-ur-pa-ni ki-i na4ZA.GÌN-ma ZÁLAG ta-kip šá-niš lu-ur-pa-ni: IM.GÁ.LU (Commentary to Therapuetic D; SpTU 1 47: obv. 6 = CCP 4.2.D: 6; Frahm 2015) ‘The lurpānu-mineral is like lapis lazuli, but is dotted with bright spots; secondly, lurpānu (is) kalû-mineral.’ IM.KÙ.SI 22: il-lu-ur pa-ni: ka-lu-[ú] (Ḫg to Ḫḫ X 142 [msl 7 114]) Ground up and treated with heat, galena was used as eye-paint in the ancient Near East. The identification of kalû as ochre would explain the equation s­ ubstance (the recipe for dark blue glass is found in Tablet A § 7–12; Oppenheim et al. 1970, 42 and n. 52). 1356 Stieglitz 2004, 31–35. 1357 Oppenheim 1970, 52 n. 58; Joannès 1984, 144. 1358 Moorey 1994, 328 and references therein; see also Appendix A. 1359 See lurpânu/lurpânu in cad L 256. In Uruanna iii 507 ff., lurpânu/lurpânu is associated with dark or black-colored substances. In the Mari texts, it is used in the preparation of gold. If it was used for cupellation, in which gold is alloyed with lead in a clay “cupel,” then this lends further support for the identification of lurpânu/lurpânu as a lead-based mineral (Limet 1986, 288).


    Chapter 3

    ­between IM.KÙ.SI 22/ illūr pāni and kalû, since both galena and ochre have a long history of being used as cosmetics in the ancient Near East.1360 6.6 Kasû (Safflower?) 6.6.1 Etymology & History of Attestation Geller observed that Akkadian kasû might well be a loanword from Sumerian GAZI1361 and Stol linked it to Aramaic kešūtā and Arabic kašutum.1362 GAZI appears as a commodity in Old Akkadian economic documents and kasû is attested as a plant from the Old Babylonian period onwards.1363 6.6.2 Characterization The botanical identification of the kasû-plant is debated.1364 From the second millennium onwards, it is attested as a locally-available condiment, stored in leather bags or flasks, and used to flavor cooked meat and to make beer, cheese and bread. Large quantities of kasû are mentioned in texts relating to the NeoBabylonian beer brewing industry.1365 The fact that its fluctuating price was regularly noted in the astronomical diaries testifies to the importance of kasû in Mesopotamia. The kasû-plant appears as one of the six basic market commodities in Seleucid Babylonia, beside barley, dates, sesame, wool and saḫlu, perhaps meaning cress or cardamom.1366 Kasû is also used medicinally, as an ingredient in drugs and for poultices.1367 In the stone list, the precious stone known as kasû-carnelian (sāmti kasê) is described as a speckled variety of the gemstone:1368

    1360 1361 1362 1363 1364 1365 1366 1367 1368

    Bimson 1980, 76–77. Goethite, another yellow mineral, may have also been used. Geller 2000, 410–412. Stol 1994, 175–179. cad K 248–250. The main arguments for “mustard,” “dodder” and “beet” are summarized in Stol 1994 and Geller 2000. Other proposals include “dill” (Kinnier Wilson 2011) and “wild licorice” (Steinkeller 1983). Stol 1994, 175–179. Slotsky 1997, 23–42. See Böck 2010, 111 and n. 21 for examples. In the Sumerian literary composition Lugal-e, kasû-carnelian is cited as the only variety of carnelian. When worn as an amulet, kasû-carnelian is said to keep away the šû-disease (Geller 2000, 411; Schuster-Brandis 2008, 414).

    Material Colors


    GUG GAZI sar1369 tak-pat na4GUG.GAZI sar MU.NI GUG GE 6 tak-pat na4˹GUG˺. ˹GAZI˺sar MU.NI (Abnu šikinšu 7, 8; Schuster-Brandis 2008, 24) ‘Carnelian (with) kasû(-colored) speckles, its name is kasû-carnelian.’ ‘Carnelian (with) dark+black speckles, its name is kasû-carnelian.’1370



    The parallel entries, in which kasû is substituted with ṣalmu (GE 6), reveals that the kasû was typically dark colored, although it is unclear which part of the plant is being referrered to. In UR 5-RA: ḫubullu, kasû-stone (na4GAZI.SAR) is listed between “block of salt” (na4MUN) and “block of soda ash/alkali” (na4NAGA). Red-purple Dye In the first millennium, kasû was apparently used as a local alternative for murex purple dye in Mesopotamia. In one of the recipes recorded in the Sippar Dye Text, this substance is boiled with undyed white wool to produce a crimson effect: Recipe for producing red-purple wool without a mordant: GAZI sar ana A ŠUB ina! IZI ŠEG 6-šal ta-šá-ḫal SÍG BABBAR tal-qu a-na ŠÀ ŠUB ina IZI ŠEG 6-šal tuš-kin7-ma SÍG ar-ga-man-nu (BM 62788+82979: rev. 9´-10´) ‘You place kasû in water, you heat it over fire. You strain it (i.e. decoct the dye). You take undyed light(-colored) wool, you add it to (the dye bath). You heat it over fire. You let (it) fix and (it is) argamannu(-colored) wool.’ Landsberger’s proposal to identify kasû as mustard1371 and Stol’s idea that it is a variety of dodder (Cascuta)1372 are both difficult to accept in light of this ­recipe 1369 The reading na4kasê for na4GAZI.SAR is established through the following entries in the lexical lists: Ḫḫ xvi 237 [msl 10 11]: NA4.GAZI.SAR: MIN (NA4) ka-se-e. Ḫg to Ḫḫ xvi 81 [msl 10 32]: NA4.GAZI.SAR: NA4 ka-se-e: NA4.GUG.GAZI.SAR. 1370 In a variant manuscript (bam 378 6), carnelian with dark/black spots is given the name Meluḫḫa (i.e. Indus Valley) carnelian. 1371 This was based on the following considerations: 1) it was a garden plant; 2) its seeds are used for cooking (e.g. a broth is prepared with mê kasê “k- juice”); 3) it is often associated with salt (e.g. kasû is used to preserve fish, alongside salt) (Landsberger 1969, 151–152 n.70). 1372 Dodder is a thin-stemmed, flowering parasitic plant. Stol’s identification is based on etymology. In the Babylonian Talmud, Armaic kešūtā, which Stol considers a cognate of kasû,


    Chapter 3

    because neither substance yields red dye. Based on Cardon’s ­laboratory experiments, which demonstrated that it was unstable and nonfast as a direct dye, Geller retracted his earlier suggestion that kasû is beetroot.1373 From the anthropological point of view, safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.) is a promising candidate for the identity of the kasû-plant. Not only is safflower native to the Middle East, but Germer’s analysis of Egyptian linen indicated that it was exploited as a dye, in this case to achieve pink color, in ancient times.1374 Moreover, it is possible to dye directly with safflower—i.e. without a mordant—a technical detail that corresponds to the procedure outlined in the dye recipe.1375 Medicinal and dietary exploitation of safflower, especially the oil from the plant’s seeds, is also well attested in antiquity.1376 The only evidence that speaks against linking kasû to safflower is the complexities involved in dyeing with it. In order to achieve shades of red or pink, the yellow colorant in the flowers must first be removed. This is done by repeatedly washing the crushed yellow flowers. Subsequently, the flowers must be treated with alkali. The red colorant in the plant is only activated in the dye bath with an acid, such as lemon juice.1377 In the Babylonian dye recipe, kasû is heated in regular water. If it were safflower, this method would yield a yellow dye and not redpurple colored associated with argamannu. 6.7 Šaršarru (Red Pigment) 6.7.1 Etymology & History of Attestation Attested from the Old Babylonian period onwards, this word is a cognate of Hebrew šāšar “red paste.”1378

    1373 1374 1375 1376 1377 1378

    is used to flavor beer. The plant is said to grow on the plain and in moist areas, which ­suggested to Stol that it was not necessarily cultivated (Stol 1994, 176–177 and nn. 223, 224). In Geller 1982, 192–197. He also rules out hibiscus because it is not native to Iraq (Geller 2000, 411). Germer 1992, 80–81. Cardon 2007, 55. Cardon 2007, 59. Pliny refers to the cultivation of safflower in Egypt in his Natural History (xxi 53) and claims it was used as food. Cardon 2007, 55–56. Thompson 1936, 19; Brenner 1982, 153.

    Material Colors


    6.7.2 Characterization Red Pigment Šaršarru (IM.SA 5) is a mineral colorant that was used to paint plaster, clay and stone surfaces in ancient Mesopotamia.1379 Both the logogram associated with the term as well as descriptions of the material establish šaršarru as a red-colored substance.1380 Since iron-based ochre/hematite and cinnabar are among the red pigments identified on Mesopotamian painted terracottas, clay and stone,1381 it seems reasonable to conclude that the “red clay” called šaršarru in Akkadian refers to one of these minerals. Thompson did not distinguish between IM.SA 5/šaršarru and IM.KÙ. SI 22/illūr pāni, identifying both substances as “red clay.”1382 Oppenheim likewise interpreted the ingredient IM.KÙ.SI 22, which appears in a technical recipe for making dark blue glass ingots, as šaršarru and thought that it might be a colorant for glass.1383 But the lexical evidence clearly states that IM.SA 5 is Akkadian šaršarru “red clay,” whereas IM.KÙ.SI 22 is primarily illūr pāni, perhaps a lead-based substance like galena.1384 In recipes §V and §W for making tuzkûglass, the signs ŠER-ŠE-RA are visible and Oppenheim suggested that here, the word šeršerru describes a modified shade of the glass.1385 Yet such a qualification would be out of keeping with how the various shades of glass are typically qualified within this corpus—with an abstract color word (e.g. peṣû, ṣalmu, arqu, sāmu) and not with the name of the coloring material. In any case, it is important to note that šaršarru is definitely not an ingredient for making colored glass. 1379 cad Š ii 124: “red clay or paste,” see usage b) for various examples of it being used as paint; AHw iii 1191: “rote Paste.” 1380 For instance, an omen describes a newborn baby that looks red like šaršarru-pigment (kīma šešerri sām) (quoted in cad Š ii 124 usage a). 1381 See Appendix A for an overview of the pigments known from the ancient Near East. 1382 Thompson 1936, 19. 1383 Oppenheim et al. 1970, 40–41 (Tablet A §8, recipe for uqnû merqu). 1384 Ḫḫ xi 316, 319 [msl 7 140]). 1385 Recipes §V and §W modify §U, which is the primary recipe for making lead-based, yellow tuzkû-glass (Oppenheim et al. 1970, 56). The translations given below follow Oppenheim’s interpretation. Recipe §V: šum-ma ŠE-ER-Š[ER(?)…] “If [you want to obtain the shade of] šeršerru (?), …” ŠER-ŠE-RA […] “[you take x amout of] šeršerru-color […]” ana ŠÀ-bi ŠUB […] “and throw it into it.” Recipe §W: šum-ma ŠE-E[R…] “If [you want to obtain the shade of] šeršerru(?), …” […] še […].


    Chapter 3

    Hebrew šāšar, which Brenner identified as “minium” (red lead oxide, Pb3O4)1386 based on the Akkadian cognate, is mentioned in two Biblical passages.1387 The Adultery of Oholah and Oholibah is a story about two sisters who become prostitutes in Assyria and Babylonia and are subsequently punished for their behavior. Oholibah’s experiences in Babylonia are described in the Book of Ezekiel: “She saw men portrayed on a wall, figures of Chaldeans[a] portrayed in red, with belts around their waists and flowing turbans on their heads; all of them looked like Babylonian chariot officers, natives of Chaldea” (Ezekiel xxiii: 14–15). In the Judgment Against Wicked Kings, Josiah king of Judah boasts, “‘I will build myself a great palace with spacious upper rooms.’ So he makes large windows in it, panels it with cedar and decorates it in red.” (Jeremiah xxii: 14). In both cases, šāšar is the term used to describe the color red. Although Akkadian šaršarru refers to the concrete substance, it can allude to color by means of a comparison: BALAG GAR-šú PA.MEŠ-šú GIM IM.SA 5 IGI.II-šú GIM IM.KAL.GU[G] MUŠEN.ḪUL MU.NI šu-ú-ma URU.ḪUL.A (Balag šikinšu rev. 8–9; Mirelman 2015, 177–178) ‘The balag, its form: Its wings are like (the color of) šaršarru(-pigment). Its eyes are like (the color of) kalgukku(-pigment). Its name is “Evil Bird.” It is the owl of destroyed citie(s).’ The current and ancient terminology for red pigments is frequently confused in secondary literature, which cautions against attempting to pinpoint the minerological identity of šaršarru. For instance, Classical authors like ­Vitruvius (1st century bce) and Pliny (23–79 ce) use the term minium (technically red lead) to refer to cinnabar (red mercury) because the two substances were mixed in order to prepare a valuable red pigment.1388 English vermilion originally referred to the crimson dye obtained from the kermes insect but today, it refers to the mercury sulfide pigment known as cinnabar.1389 Akkadian šaršarru (IM.SA 5) may have likewise denoted a generic or mixed compound in ancient times. 1386 In technical literature today, “minium” refers to red lead oxide (Pb3O4) which “commonly occurs in small amounts as a bright red or orange powder or crust forming as a secondary mineral in the weathering zone around lead ore deposits, particularly through the partial alternation of other lead-bearing minerals, such as galena and cerrusite” (Eastaugh et al. 2004, 264). 1387 Brenner 1982, 153 and references therein. 1388 Eastaugh et al. 2004, 105 and 264. 1389 Eastaugh et al. 2004, 210–211.

    Material Colors


    6.8 Urṭû/uriṭû (Unknown Plant-dye) 6.8.1 Etymology & History of Attestation Watson connected Akkadian urṭû to the tree known in Arabic as ʾarṭan and the color associated with it, ʾariṭ, based on phonology and the close correspondence in the appearance of each plant. The ʾarṭan-tree is said to have intensely red roots, fruit and leaves like the color of pomegranate;1390 in an Akkadian medical commentary, urṭû, is described as being “like a tamarisk, but red.”1391 6.8.2 Characterization Given that it is associated with several types of red and red-purple wools in lexical lists, it is possible to identify the substance urṭû as a common, red ­vegetal dye. In Malki: šarru, it is given as the dye source for red-purple ḫašmānuwool.1392 In the Practical Vocabulary of Assur, it is further linked with red-­ colored “apple-wool” (SÍG ḫašhūru).1393 The fact that it appears alongside two varieties of red wools (tabarru and kinaḫḫu) and other plant dyes in an administrative document from Nuzi, confirms that this substance was actually employed as a dye in the late second millennium.1394 Dye Source The Akkadian texts do not specify how exactly the urṭû-plant was used to dye fabrics. The comparison to tamarisk in the medical commentary may indicate that it was a flowering shrub. Identification of the plant is not possible at this time. 6.9 Zagindurû (Light Blue, Turquoise Vitreous Material) 6.9.1 Etymology & History of Attestation A loan from Sumerian na4ZA.GÌN.DURU 5. The meaning of na4ZA.GÌN.DURU 5 and how it is explained in the bilingual lexical tradition in Mesopotamia has some parallels with the terminology for vitreous materials in Egypt. Literally translated, the Egyptian expression for glass, inr n wdḥ, means “stone that is

    1390 1391 1392 1393

    Watson 2016, 56–57; ael 49. brm 4 32: 10: Ú(GIŠ).KÍNDA: Ú.KÍNDA ki-ma ŠINIG u SA5 (CAD U/W 256). Malku: šarru vi 179–187 (Hrůša 2010, 132–133, 269): ur-ṭu-u, ḫi-za-ri-bu: ḫaš[-ma-a-nu]. Practical Vocabulary of Assur 207–208: SÍG ḫaš-ma-nu: ur-ṭu-ú; SÍG.GIŠ.ḪAŠḪUR (Landsberger and Gurney 1957/1958, 330). 1394 hss 15 223: obv. 1–7. See ḫašmānu (3.5.5).


    Chapter 3

    poured/melted.”1395 While this is not quite the same as “moist lapis lazuli” (na4ZA.GÌN.DURU 5),1396 an allusion to the liquid nature of heated glass may nevertheless lie behind the terminology in both cultures. The explanation of na4 ZA.GÌN.DURU 5 as “bright, clear, pure” (namru, ellu, ebbu) lapis lazuli in UR 5-RA: ḫubullu and DIRI likewise echoes Egyptian ṯḥn.t “faience,” which may take its meaning from the adjective ṯḥn “brilliant, scintillating.” Said of the sun, skies, gemstones and metals, the semantic range of ṯḥn and the cluster namru, ellu, ebbu correspond closely.1397 In brief, while it is evident that the language pertaining to glass in these two cultures in contact are semantically related, it is equally clear that they are neither borrowings nor direct translations of each another. In Mesopotamia, glass was intimately associated with the appearance of lapis lazuli. na4 ZA.GÌN.DURU 5 is attested as a colorant in Akkadian documents from the Old Babylonian period onwards. Michel found a single reference to zagindurû in the Old Assyrian corpus: ten minas of silver are mentioned as the price of five minas (≈2.5 kilograms) of na4ZA.GÌN.DURU 5 in a contract-guarantor text. At the cost of two shekels of silver per shekel, na4ZA.GÌN.DURU 5 was only slightly less expensive than unworked lapis lazuli at Kaneš, which cost around three shekels of silver.1398 6.9.2 Orthography Generally written logographically, however syllabic writings of the word are attested as well. The local spelling at Mari, na4za-gi-id-ru-ú, is unattested elsewhere. 6.9.3 Characterization Based on the evidence of the Akkadian glassmaking recipes, zagindurû/zagidrû can be identified as a light blue/turquoise vitreous material that was produced by coloring frit with an oxide of copper. In a pulverized form, this 1395 Written erroneously as inr n wdḥ in Nicholson 2012, 19. The two terms for glassy material given in the dictionary are: ʿȝ.t wdḥ.t “glass drip” or literally, “mineral that is poured/melted” (Wb i 165, 21). For the meaning of ʿȝ.t, see Baumann 2018, 386–387. inr n wdḥ “glass drip” or literally, “stone that is poured/melted” (Wb i 98, 5). For the verb wdḥ, see Wb i 393, 11–13. 1396 Sum. DURU5 = Akk. raṭbu “moist, fresh, live” (cad R 218–219). 1397 ṯḥn.t “faience” (Wb v 390, 12); ṯḥn “brilliant, scintillating” (Wb v 392, 1–393, 10). 1398 cct 5 24b: 2: 10 MA.NA KÙ.BABBAR ší-im 5 MA.NA na4ZA.GÌN.DURU5 ša Ina-a ú e-na-a-šur ša en-um-a-šur DUMU ú-zu-a qá-ta-tim al-ta-áp-tù KÙ.BABBAR en-um-a-šur DUMU a-ninim ú šu-ku-bu-um DUMU Ú-*zu-a ša-bu-ú IGI šu-lá-*ba-an DUMU dan-ì-lí IGI a-šur-idí-in. The price of lapis lazuli is recorded in Kt s/k 89 (3 shekels of silver), TC 2 22 (2 2/5 shekels of silver) and ick 2 274 (2 2/3 shekels of silver) (Michel 2001, 350).

    Material Colors


    s­ ubstance was employed as a pigment in ancient times, which is known today as Egyptian blue. The earliest references to zagindurû are from the third millennium bce. Foulger’s observation that the substance na4ZA.GÌN.DURU 5 is rarely attested in Sumerian texts fits the current theory that colored glass and faience production really only boomed in the early second millennium. Foulger further noted that references to this “stone” are restricted to literary texts—a marked contrast, as we shall see, to the Akkadian evidence.1399 Glass or Stone or Both? Because it is usually written with the determinative for “stone” (NA 4) and because the lexical literature establishes a link between it and na4uqnû, zagindurû has long been considered a variety of lapis lazuli. NA 4.ZA.GÌN.DURU 5: MIN (uq-nu-ú) NA 4.ZA.GÌN.DURU 5: MIN (uq-nu-ú) eb-bu NA 4.ZA.GÌN.DURU 5 uq-nu-ú nam-ri (Ḫḫ xvi, 54–56 [msl 10 6]) [NA 4.ZA.GÌN.DURU 5]: uq-nu el-lu: za-gi-in-[du-ru-u] (Ḫg to Ḫḫ xvi gap A β b [msl 10 35]) za-gi-in-du-ru: NA 4.ZA.GÌN.DURU 5: za-gi-in-du-ru-u, uq-nu-u el-lu, el-lu, eb-bu, nam-ru (Diri iii 90–94 [msl 15 140–141]) The entries for zagindurû in the Akkadian dictionaries distinguish between the artificially manufactured glass (or faience) and the natural stone of the same name.1400 The widely-accepted idea that early faience and glass ­production was spurred by the desire to create cheaper, more widely available imitations of natural gemstones may also have given the impression that a natural prototype lies behind each and every glass term. In her edition of the Mesopotamian stone list, Schuster-Brandis suggested that zagindurû was a variety of lapis lazuli, although like Landsberger, she did not think it designated a particular color or luster.1401 Following Landsberger, Michel considered zagindurû to be a more brilliant variety of lapis lazuli.1402 In Marchetti’s view, the zagindurû in Ashurnasirpal ii’s Banquet Stela (quoted below) is a veined, blue marble.1403

    1399 1400 1401 1402 1403

    See Foulger 2006, 62 n. 218 for references. cad Z 11 ; AHw iii 1502 ii. Landsberger 1967, 165–166; Schuster-Brandis 2008, 455 and n. 987. Michel 2001, 344. Marchetti 2009.


    Chapter 3

    Although it usually refers to hard, solid mineral matter and is best translated as “mineral” or “stone,” NA 4/abnu also designates glass and faience in cuneiform texts. This has been demonstrated by the editors of the Akkadian glass recipes.1404 This word appears in the standard captions of the recipes and NA 4/abnu is likewise used to describe molten and sintered glass. For instance, the caption of the Neo-Assyrian period recipe for making zagindurû-glass reads, “If you want to prepare zagindurû-glass (na4ZA.GÌN.DURU 5).”1405 Later on, when the raw materials are placed in the kiln, the instructions say, “You maintain a good, smokeless fire until the mixture (NA 4/abnu) sinters.”1406 In non-technical texts too, vitreous materials spelled logographically are qualified with NA 4. Examples of this include anzaḫḫu and zakukūtu/zakukītu, which is a West Semitic word for glass (or faience) and glaze.1407 Furthermore, colored glass and frit beads, rods and other small vitreous objects have been found in archaeological contexts contemporary with the earliest textual references to zagindurû in Sumerian sources—strong support for the idea that zagindurû always referred to colored glass and never to a natural stone.1408 It is also clear that na4ZA.GÌN/uqnû, for a long time exclusively identified as lapis lazuli, is actually a more flexible concept. As Schuster-Brandis demonstrated in her edition of Abnu šikinšu, ZA.GÌN functions as a category in the stone list, serving to designate several types of gleaming blue gemstones and glass.1409 Within the textile industry, the color category ZA.GÌN included shades of blue and purple wools.1410 In brief, there is no evidence to suggest that zagindurû is a variety of lapis lazuli as it has been supposed. The entries in Diri and UR 5-RA: ḫubullu, where the term is explained as uqnû ellu/ ebbu/ namru, no doubt refers the gleaming appearance of blue glass (and faience).

    1404 1405 1406 1407

    Zimmern (1925); Thompson (1925); Gadd and Thompson (1936); Oppenheim et al. 1970. Tablet A, B, C §1 and §4 in Oppenheim et al. 1970. Tablet A, B, C §1 and §4 in Oppenheim et al. 1970. cad Z 15: connected with Hebrew zekūkīt and Aramaic zegūgītā. See also Oppenheim et al. 1970, 17–18. na4zakukūtum appears in the stone list and in a letter from king Nanip-Šauri to Zimri-Lim (A.2178). For references to anzaḫḫu-glass in cuneiform texts, see Oppenheim et al. 1970, 19–20. 1408 E.g. at Tell Judeideh in the Amuq plain Syria, early third millennium (Braidwood 1960, 341 fig. 258); Yorghan Tepe/Nuzi-Gasur, in association with Sargonic-period texts (Starr 1939, 515); Tell Asmar/Eshnunna, in the Akkadian or Gutian-period palace (Barag in Oppenheim et al. 1970, 133; Beck 1934, no.7 fig 2–3); Abu Shahrein/Eridu, c. 2300 bce (Hall 1930, 213–214; Beck 1934, 9; Barag 1985 no. 179, 35, 111 pl. 20 pl. A). 1409 Schuster-Brandis 2008, 453. 1410 See argamannu, takiltu 3.5.1 and uqnû 3.5.11.

    Material Colors

    359 Color The editors of the cad thought zagindurû must be a greenish substance because of its association with the appearance of fresh cereals.1411 Sumerian ŠE.ZA.GÌN.DURU 5 is equated with úabaḫšinnu and úḫunnuṭu in the lexical literature,1412 both crops that were apparently harvested green in the spring months. Another link between cereals and zagindurû is made in a literary-historical text from the eighth century bce. In his account of the campaign against Urartu, Sargon ii likens the spring grass and growing cereals in the Urartian king Rusâ’s meadows to bright flecks of zagindurû. A.GÀR-šu as-mu ša ki-i za-gìn-du-re-e ṣer-pa šak-nu-ma i-na di-še ù ḫabbu-re šu-ru-šat ta-mer-tu (tcl 3 229; Mayer 2013, 120) ‘(Rusâ’s) attractive agricultural land, which was overlaid with bright flecks, (looking) like turquoise-blue glass, and pasture land, which was richly seeded with spring grass and growing shoots, (did I Sargon, trample).’ Here, however, the plants specified are údīšu and úḫubburu. Linking the cereals with the material zagindurû through color requires understanding Sumerian DURU 5 as raṭbu1413 “fresh, moist” and supposing that this adjective had the extended meaning “green,” although there is no explicit textual evidence to support such a thing. Although Oppenheim too translated zagindurû as “­greenish glaze” in his editions of the glass recipes, chemical analysis has confirmed that copper compounds such as the one mentioned in the zagindurûrecipe were actually employed to produce light blue and turquoise glass in the ancient Near East.1414 Landsberger’s idea that zagindurû was the purest variety of lapis lazuli was based on his interpretation of the lexical evidence, which equates zagindurû with the adjectives ellu, ebbu and namru.1415 In other words, he opposed translating the term as a particular color, green or otherwise, and 1411 cad Z 11. 1412 For abaḫšinnu, see: Proto-Diri 411, Ḫḫ xxiv 153–154 [msl 11 83] and Practical Vocabulary of Assur 29 (Landsberger and Gurney 1957/1958, 328). For ḫunnuṭu, see: Ḫḫ xxiv 159 [msl 11 83] and Nabnītu xiv 82–87 [msl 16 135]. Full references are listed in cad A I 3 and Ḫ 237–238. 1413 Ea I 3 [msl 14 176]: du-ru: A: MIN (a-a-ú): raṭ-bu. 1414 Copper may produce red as well as blue glass. When copper is introduced into the glass batch under oxidizing conditions, the resulting glass will be a red color. In a reducing environment, the glass will take on a green or blue color. For the color of turquoise, see pl. 17b. 1415 Diri iii 90–94 [msl 15 140–141]; Ḫḫ xvi 54–56 [msl 10 6].


    Chapter 3

    understood the reference to zagindurû meadowland in Sargon’s Eighth Campaign as “deeply saturated” (tiefsatte Färbung).1416 Reade was the first to connect the zagindurû mentioned in Ashurnasirpal’s Banquet Stela to the pigment known as Egyptian blue (he called it blue frit). He suggested that the pigment might have been used as a “ground for ­wall-painting inside the palace.”1417 The earliest references to zagindurû as a pigment date centuries earlier, to the Old Babylonian period. In the 18th century bce, large quantities of zagindurû were used routinely by carpenters at Mari, together with other minerals and colorants such as alum, lead, bitumen and ochre. In one instance, it is destined “for the paint work” of two wooden model chariots.1418 In another text, a Mariote receives twenty minas (≈10 kilograms) of zagindurû to finish work on a model of a Cretan-style barque1419 during the reign of ­Zimri-Lim (1776–1761 bce).1420 Guichard interpreted zagindurû in this text as a large block of stone, perhaps of an inferior quality of lapis lazuli, for the purpose of inlay decoration. However, more concrete evidence for identifying zagindurû as a pigment was presented by Arkhipov in her discussion of two texts from Mari, dating to the ninth year of Zimri-Lim (M.10816, M.11218).1421 There, spelled syllabically, na4za-gi-id-ru-ú is recorded among other colorants, some of which are dyes (ḫurātum, gabûm, annuḫārum), others pigments (kalgukkûm, kalû, širširrum, qitmum). The large quantities of this substance used by the Mari craftsmen speaks against the idea that this was an expensive stone. In a Neo-Babylonian text discovered at Uruk, zagindurû appears with the same pigments kalû and kalgukkû, though this time in a literary context. In the myth Nergal and Ereškigal, the god of the underworld fashions a throne and paints it lavishly to give it the appearance of being decorated with precious metals and stones. Zagindurû is used to imitate the blue color of lapis lazuli.1422 1416 Landsberger 1967, 165. 1417 Reade 1963 n. 25. 1418 arm 9 28: 6 MA.NA na4za-gi-id-ru-ú a-na ši-pí-ir te-q[í?]-tim ša 2 GIŠ e-ri-qí GAL ša eštar “six minas of Egyptian blue pigment for paint work of two large chariots of Ištar.” 1419 Such models may have been part of cultic ceremonies or religious processions. This is alluded to, for instance, in a letter from king Nanip-šauri to Zimri-Lim in his eighth year (A.2178: 1, 5–7). There, another type of glass (na4zakukītum) is used for work on a palanquin (gišnubalim) for sacrifices to Ištar. In armt 26/2 285 (M.5702, reign of Yasmah-Addu), chariots similar to the one mentioned in arm 9 28 are produced by woodworkers and are destined for a religious ceremony of Ištar. Guichard suggested that these are probably model chariots too, employed in ritual (Guichard 1993). 1420 Guichard 1993, 53. 1421 Arkhipov 2010. 1422 […] i-ban-na-a gišGU.ZA dé-a dnin-ši-kù [me-eḫ-rat] KÙ.BABBAR IM.BABBAR ú-taq-qa me-eḫ-rat na4ZA.GÌN na4ZA.GÌN.DURU5 ú-taq-qa

    Material Colors


    In light of the evidence from Mari, which refers to it as a pigment to decorate wooden objects, and its further use to imitate the color of lapis lazuli in the poem Nergal and Ereškigal, it is possible to identify zagindurû as the synthetically manufactured pigment known as Egyptian blue. The archaeological record indicates that Egyptian blue was the most commonly exploited blue pigment in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean region from the third millennium bce at least until the end of the 3rd century ce. The Egyptian blue used in ancient Near Eastern art and architecture ranges from a powdery turquoise-blue to a bright, royal blue in color. Layard observed that the prominent shades of green on the sculptured reliefs at Khorsabad, still visible in the 19th century, was achieved by mixing Egyptian blue with yellow ochre.1423 This remark is significant in view of Sargon’s literary description of the spring fields in Urartu glittering like zagindurû. If indeed Egyptian blue was routinely employed to produce shades of green in art, the link between the cereal fields and zagindurû may reflect an association between pigment name and visual effect that must be understood in the context of an artistic tradition and not as a statement about color perception in ancient Mesopotamia. If, on the other hand, the scribe of Sargon’s Eighth Campaign intended to describe gleaming bluish fields, then another explanation is possible. The image captured here may be of a flax field in springtime, when the powdery blue blossoms of the plant (Linum usitatissimum) appear to glow in spots against the greenery. A parallel for this interpretation can be found in an Egyptian expression from the Ptolemaic period: “(the fields) being lapis-like with (the plant called) color-of-heaven (i.e. the flax blossom).”1424 In some Egyptian tomb paintings, flax flowers are depicted with Egyptian blue pigment.1425 ­Mayer’s translation of the passage, “Sein schönes Weideland, das wie mit [me-eḫ-rat] KÙ.SI22 IM.GÁ.LI IM.KAL.GUG ub-tar-rim (Nergal and Ereškigal, SbTU I 17– 18: 7′-10′; Foster 2005, 515) “He [Nergal] built…a throne (of) Ea, the prince. [In imitation of] silver, he painted it with gypsum. In imitation of lapis lazuli, he painted it with Egyptian blue (pigment). [In imitation of] gold, he (made) it polychrome with ochre and lead-yellow.” 1423 He observed: “At Khorsabad green and yellow continually occurred on the base-reliefs… Sir Gardner Wilkinson has given an analysis of the colors of the Egyptians,by which it would appear that the blue is pulverized blue glass, made by vitrifying the oxides of copper and iron with sand and soda. The bright blue of the Assyrian monuments appears to be a purer oxide of copper; and its resemblance to an ore of that mineral, found in very minute crystals in an ancient mine in Kurdistan, has already been mentioned. The Egyptian green was a mixture of yellow ochre with vitreous blue; I conjecture that the green of the later monuments of Assyria was formed by a similar admixture of ochre with the blue oxide of copper” (Italics mine. Layard 1849 ii, 241). 1424 tfrr{w}(?)t{ỉ?} (Edfou iv, 31, 109, 10–11) quoted in Schenkel 2007, 220. 1425 Vogelsang-Eastwood 2000, 270.


    Chapter 3

    L­ apislazuli und roter (Farbe) eingelegt war und die Flur, bepflanzt/bewachsen mit Gras und Schößlingen (habe ich…),” understands ṣerpu as a second color term. He suggested that the blue blossoms referred to the Alfalfa plant (Medicago sativa L.) and the red to Sainfoin (Onobrychis sativa L.), both of which are still grown in Northwestern Iran and Eastern Turkey as a forage crop.1426 It is noteworthy that unlike lapis lazuli (uqnû), yellow calcite (duḫšu), and amethyst (ḫašmānu), zagindurû is never attested as the color of dyed wool. Aside from objects made of glass (or faience)—beads, small figurines, inlays— and those painted with Egyptian blue pigment, a small number of referents from the natural world are associated with the appearance of zagindurû in Akkadian written documents: a meadow in springtime, a type of cereal that is harvested fresh, the kiškanû-tree,1427 a shooting star and a garbage dump. When it describes color, the word always appears in a simile as is customary for material-based color terms. In the two standard Babylonian omens quoted here, the appearance of zagindurû is compared to real-world objects: DIŠ URU túb-ki-na-šú GIM ZA.GÌN.DURU 5 URU BI É DINGIR-šú È LUGAL-šú u É UN.MEŠ-šú GAZ.MEŠ (SB Ālu; CT 38 1: 46; Freedman 1998, 30) ‘If a city’s garbage dump looks like light blue/turquoise-glass, that city’s temple, its palace and the houses of its people will be destroyed.’ DIŠ TA UGU-nu MUL.MAR.GÍD.DA ! MUL SUR-ma GIM ZA.GÌN.DURU 5 ana 15 NA DIB-iq NA BE TI-la ur-rak (Bab. 7 pl. 17 ii 20, 22, 24 = The Stephenson Omen Tablet [Ashm.1922–202]). ‘If from above Ursa Major a star flares and shoots to the right of a man (looking) like light blue/turquoise-glass (that man will have a long life).’ 1426 Mayer 1981, 83–86. 1427 This reference is in an incantation in Utukkû lemnūtu XIII–XV 95–96 (Geller 2016: 460–461): [ÉN ERID]Uki gišKÍN.GE6.E KI.SIKIL.TA MÚ.A [ÉN ina] ˹e˺-ri-du kiš-ka-nu-ú ṣal-mu ir-bi ina áš-ri el-lu ib-ba-ni MÚŠ.BI na4ZA.GÌN.DURU5 ABZU.TA LÁ.A [zi]-mu-šu uq-nu-ú eb-bi šá a-na ap-si-i tar-ṣu “Incantation: In Eridu, a black kiškanû-tree grew, it was created in a pure place; its appearance was lustrous lapis lazuli, which was stretched across to the Apsu.” The earlier monolingual Sumerian version and the bilingual version of the text presented here omit the GE6 in the first line (Geller 1980, 24). Moreover, the earlier Sumerian version “a kiškanû-tree whose appearance was zagindurû (i.e. light blue/turquoise)” was later interpreted in Akkadian as “a black kiškanû-tree whose appearance was pure/bright lapis lazuli,” recalling the equivalence in the lexical tradition.

    Material Colors


    The terrestrial omen appears to describe a reversal of norms: the dirty, ugly refuse heap should not look like beautiful, shining blue glass and is therefore is a portent of evil. It is not clear whether the color of zagindurû or its attractiveness as a substance is the focus of the omen. In the second case, the color of the shooting star is clearly the focus since the omens that follow, which allude to the appearance of sparkling gold and sprinkled blood, refer to color as well.1428 Indeed, shooting stars can take on light bluish green, gold and dark red tones as they pass through the earth’s atmosphere. In brief, zagindurû refers to an artificially manufactured material and its characteristic color. When it appears in certain literary, historical and omen texts, it is unclear whether the word refers to the material itself or else to the light blue/turquoise color and sheen associated with it. Unlike lapis lazuli (uqnû) and yellow calcite (duḫšu), both of which appear as the color of stones, glasses (or faience) and dyed fabrics, the meaning of zagindurû remains restricted to the glassmaking industry, both in second and first millennium written sources. Egyptian Blue in the Near East and Mediterranean World The earliest known synthetic pigment in human history, Egyptian blue is the common name for an inorganic calcium copper tetrasilicate (CaCuSi4O10) compound that ranges from a powdery blue to a bright, royal blue in color. A highly stable pigment, it remains unaffected by acids or alkali, is lightfast and non-fugitive. Although chemically analogous to the rare and naturally occurring mineral cuprorivaite, the Egyptian blue found in the context of ancient polychromy was produced artificially. This is done by heating ground silica (generally quartz) with calcium and copper compounds and a flux of potash or soda (natron) to temperatures of 850–1000° Celsius for 28–48 hours.1429 Small objects may be produced from the resulting compound, or alternatively, it may be ground up for pigment. Re-firing pulverized Egyptian blue produces a more intense shade of blue, which resembles lapis lazuli. Modern experiments confirm that baked earthenware crucibles remain the best and cheapest type of container for the manufacturing process.1430 Either lime or gypsum could be used to supply the calcium base for the mixture, while minerals such as malachite or copper oxide may furnish the copper. Although it is essentially a simple calcium copper silicate compound, scientific analyses 1428 Bab. 7 pl. 17 ii 22, 23: GIM bi-ri-iṣ KÙ.SI22. Bab. 7 pl. 17 ii 24, 25: GIM ša MÚD sa-li-iḫ. 1429 Eastaugh et al. 2004, 147–148. 1430 Stainless steel and nickel contaminate the mixture with iron while the frit adheres to the walls of porcelain crucibles.


    Chapter 3

    of Egyptian blue from geographically diverse regions testify to variant recipes for synthesizing the pigment that existed in the ancient world.1431 As such, the exact hue, texture and hardness of the pigment greatly depend on the source and regional peculiarities of the materials used to manufacture it. Egyptian green (or green frit) is made in the same way, only the proportions of the materials and production method vary slightly. For instance, green frit has higher silica content than blue. During the cooking process, moreover, if the temperature is raised above 1100° Celsius, Egyptian blue decomposes and green frit forms. The color of Egyptian green varies from pale, olive greens to shades of turquoise.1432 Several sites where Egyptian blue was manufactured in ancient times have been identified. At Memphis, near Cairo, Petrie reported evidence for what is often described as an Egyptian blue factory.1433 In fact, what he found were the remnants of a workshop where blue frit and faience were manufactured; these materials were mainly used on-site, as embellishments on ceramics lined with a layer of white slip. It may be that some of the product was also ground for pigment. Similarly, Petrie found six or seven “glass factories” at Tell el-Amarna (second half of the 14th century bce), where raw ingredients necessary for producing Egyptian blue and fritting pans were found in the same archaeological context. Further excavation at the sites has revealed the presence of blue, green, lilac and purple colored “frit cakes” and powder residue on ceramic vessels.1434 Moorey postulated that the Egyptian blue ingots found in the late Bronze Age level at Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit) were destined to be ground up for pigment.1435 At Khorsabad (ancient Dūr-Šarrukīn), Place found a lump of blue pigment in the same context of 20 kilograms of red pigment, and at Nimrud, lumps of Egyptian blue were found in Fort Shalmaneser room SW6. Again, it is likely that this material was designated for painting.1436 In the Egyptian language, blue frit, the synthetically produced crystalline material ground up and used as pigment, was known as ḫsbḏ iryt “artificial (lit.

    1431 See the discussion of copper as a colorant for vitreous materials in 1432 Bianchetti et al. 2000. 1433 Petrie 1894 and 1909, 25ff. The scientific analyses of Petrie’s findings were published in Spurrell 1895. More recently, P.T. Nicholson has revisited the workshops at Memphis and Amarna. His work on Egyptian blue is found in Nicholson 2003 and 2007. 1434 For chemical analysis of the vitreous material found at the Amarna workshops, see Tite and Shortland 2003. 1435 Moorey 1994, 186. 1436 Place 1867–1870 ii, 251; Mallowan 1966, 408; Oates and Oates 2001, 164.

    Material Colors


    manufactured) lapis lazuli.” (Wb iii 334, 10) Similar to Akkadian na4ZA.GÌN kūri “lapis lazuli of the kiln” or miḫrat na4 ZA.GÌN “imitation lapis lazuli,” the ancient terminology for Egyptian blue offers a good example for the sharing of technical concepts between cultures in contact. However, more often than not, it is denoted simply as “lapis lazuli” in the texts, without any indication of its synthetic origins.1437 In Linear B texts from Mycenae, Egyptian blue was called ku-wa-no, which bears a strong resemblance to the Hittite term for it, kuwanna.1438 In later Classical sources, the same substance was known as kuáneos (κυάνεος) in Greek and as caeruleum in Latin.1439 Several Greek- and Romanperiod authors mention Egyptian blue as a popular synthetic compound widely used for the decorative arts.1440 Egyptian blue has a number of synonyms and related terms in the secondary literature on painting materials. As a pigment, it is known as “Alexandrian blue” because in Roman times it was manufactured in the Levant and traded from the port of Alexandria; as “Pozzuoli blue,” because of the Roman-era ­factory at Puteoli (modern Pozzuoli) in Italy mentioned by Pliny and Vitruvius; and as “Vestorian blue,” because according to the same ancient authors, it was Vestorius who set up the factory at Puteoli. The terms faience, glass paste, blue frit and copper frit, often used synonymously, refer to the glassy rather than crystalline variety of the compound ground for pigment. Within the

    1437 For instance, in two Neo-Babylonian texts from the Eanna archive (yos 6 168 and tcl 12 84), fifty-five minas of lapis lazuli (na4ZA.GÌN) are imported from the West alongside various dyes, metals, foodstuff and Egyptian alum at the extremely low price of 36 2/3 shekels of silver—this led Oppenheim to argue that this must be a reference to blue frit produced somewhere in Syria or Phoenicia (Oppenheim 1967, 243). 1438 Blakolmer 2000, 231 n. 48. 1439 Which must be distinguished from modern caeruleum, which is both a pigment characterized as a stannate of cobalt as well as a general color term “cerulean blue” (Eastaugh et al. 2002, 90–91). 1440 The treatise by Theophrastus (c. 315 bce) On Stones distinguishes between natural and synthetic kuáneos, a precious blue stone, which, in the Near East, denoted lapis lazuli (Caley and Richards. (trans.) 1956, 55). The Roman author Marcus Vitruvius Pollo (c. 15 bce) describes in detail the process of making Egyptian blue and asserts that it was first discovered in Egypt. A certain Vestorius, he professes, set up a manufactory at the site of ancient Puteoli (The Ten Books on Architecture vii 11: 1–2; Morgan 1914, 218–219). Pliny the Elder (c. 77 ce) writes that the blue pigment known as caeruleum is a kind of sand. In the old days, he claims further, there were three varieties of it: the best quality imported from Egypt, that which came from Scythia, and finally, the Cyprian type. According to Pliny, caeruleum was boiled with a plant after the firing process, which presumably enhanced its hue and luster (Natural History xxxiii 57.13: 513–521).


    Chapter 3

    g­ lassmaking industry, however, frit and faience are distinguished further. Frit denotes the first stage in the manufacturing process, whereas re-grinding and re-heating frit at higher temperatures imbues the compound with a glazed surface, thus producing faience.1441 Cupriorivaite refers to the naturally occurring mineral with the same chemical composition as Egyptian blue. Historical Use as a Pigment As a pigment for coloring sculpture, plaster and ceramics, Egyptian blue has a long history in the ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean worlds. It has been identified on artifacts from Crete, Egypt and Mesopotamia as early as the third millennium bce and was used routinely in these regions until the end of the Roman period. In central Europe and Italy, it was the preferred blue pigment until the Middle Ages, while azurite, ultramarine, indigo, cobalt blue and glaucophane were employed less frequently.1442 The earliest known samples of Egyptian blue pigment do indeed originate in Egypt. It was identified on the paintings from Tomb 3121 at Saqqara dating to the reign of the first Dynasty pharaoh Ka (c. 2900 bce), which represents the oldest specimen identified so far. By the mid-third millennium (4th Dynasty in Egypt), it was widely used and remained the favorite blue pigment in the Egyptian artist’s palette until the end of the Ptolemaic-Roman period (pl. 20).1443 Egyptian green is attested in tomb paintings from the 18th Dynasty onwards.1444 In Mesopotamia, blue frit or glass beads were discovered in tombs from the Akkadian period at Ur;1445 however, as a pigment, the earliest samples date to the Middle Bronze Age.1446 Appendix B offers a summary of the main occurrences of Egyptian blue pigment in the Near East.

    1441 Moorey 1994, 167. 1442 Riederer 1997, 23–45. 1443 Although azurite and cobalt blue are also attested in Egyptian polychromy. Early Egyptian blue and Egyptian green samples from the ancient Near East have been chemically analyzed by Tite, Bimson and Cowell 1984 and El Goresy 2000. 1444 Hatton 2008. 1445 Moorey has a catalogued the blue frit finds (mainly in the form of beads and small vessels) in Mesopotamia (1994, 186–188). 1446 Whereas the presence of azurite blue has been noted on paintings from Çatal Höyük Levels vii–iii by Nunn 1988, 19–20 n. 97, 26–27. The blue pigment employed by Mari artists (e.g. in room 132, “The Investiture of Zimri-Lim”) is cobalt, according to Nunn; but this would be highly unusual (1988, 22). The general observation in the RlA article on Malerei that blue pigment was produced using “oxidized copper and lapis lazuli” is misleading and unhelpful as both azurite and Egyptian blue are copper-based blue pigments.

    Material Colors



    Terminology for Metals

    7.1 Ḫurāṣu (Golden) 7.1.1 Etymology & History of Attestation Akkadian ḫurāṣu is related to the word for gold in Ugaritic (ḫrṣ), Hebrew (ḥrwṣ), Arabic (ḫurṣ) but also to Linear B ku-ru-so and Greek khrysós (χρυσός), which means “golden yellow” with respect to shining materials.1447 In certain other Semitic languages, the word for gold derives from the root wrq meaning “yellow/green.”1448 Although the term is attested from the Old Akkadian period onwards as a metal, the earliest reference to ḫurāṣu as a color dates to the Old Babylonian period. 7.1.2 Orthography & By-forms Generally written with the logogram KÙ+GI (understood as KÙ.SIG 17/SI 22 and read as GUŠKIN according to the Sb Voc. ii 110 [msl 3 138; msl 14 325]). At Mari, the term appeared as KÙ+ZI until the reign of Zimri-Lim.1449 The adjectival form ḫuraṣānû (fem. ḫurāṣanītu) “golden” appears primarily in personal names.1450 7.1.3 Characterization Ḫurāṣu “gold”1451 is seldom used as a color word in Akkadian written sources. In contrast to ancient Egyptian, objects from the natural world are rarely described as gold-colored in Mesopotamia.1452 The sun, for instance, is never

    1447 halot 352; dul 401–402. 1448 E.g. in Epigraphic South Arabic and Ethiopic (Leslau 1987, 618). 1449 Civil 1976; Arkhipov 2012, 11. 1450 Iḫu-ra-ṣa-nu in cct 2 47b: 6 and cct 4 32b: 24, both in from the Old Assyrian period. 1451 Actual varieties of gold available in the ancient Mesopotamia were distinguished with the use of certain abstract color terms. They are: bright whitish (peṣû), shining (ellu), yellowish (arqu), reddish (sāmu) and glowing orange (ḫ/ruššu). The adjective ṣirpu may refer to either “refined” or a more intense color of the gold (Arkhipov 2012, 11). Landsberger thought ḫurāṣu ṣirpu was redder than ḫurāṣu sāmu = ḫuššû (Landsberger 1967, 148 n. 48). 1452 Baines (1985, 284) and Schenkel (2007, 224 and 226) noted that when gold is used to describe color, the meaning tends to be metaphorical and the actual reference is to the ­material. Warburton, on the other hand, argued that just as the word for silver (ḥḏ) frequently means white and lapis lazuli (ḫsbḏ) means blue, gold can occasionally mean yellow in Egyptian literary texts (Warburton 2012, 196).


    Chapter 3

    golden but is only ever characterized with the language of brightness.1453 In Abnu šikinšu, (na4)KÙ.SI 22 and (na4)KÙ.BABBAR denote gold and silver beads rather than stones that appear gold or silver in color.1454 Descriptions of goldcolored plants and animals are likewise rare. One exception is the following portrait of a snake in Ṣēru šikinšu: MUŠ GAR-šú GABA-šú na4BABBAR.DILI ap-pa-šú na4GUG IGI.MEŠ-šú na4 NIR.MUŠ.[GÍR] [I]GI-šu na4ZA.GÌN ù KÙ.SI 22 (Ṣēru šikinšu 11–13; Mirelman 2015, 177–178) ‘The snake, its form: Its breast is (the color of) banded agate.1455 Its nose is (the color of) carnelian. Its eyes are (the color of) muššaru-stone.1456 Its face is (the colors of) lapis lazuli and gold.’ There is also the case of the makkūr ubla-bird (Sum. NÍĜ.GUR 11.MU.UN. DU.UM mušen) “It-Carries/Brings-Property,” which is explained as ḫu-ra-ṣa-nitum “the golden” in Ḫg B iv 265.1457 Artificially manufactured substances like glass (excluding the special case of na4zukû, as we shall see below), glaze and dyed textiles are likewise never described as ḫurāṣu-colored. This is curious since certain stones like lapis lazuli (uqnû), yellow calcite (duḫšu) and carnelian (sāmtu) function as color words for these very same types of referents. Only in a few cases does ḫurāṣu mean “gold-colored”: in the glassmaking recipes, the appearance of finished zukû-glass and molten glass still inside the hot furnace are both described with this term. Certain painted objects are likewise called golden. And finally, in a couple of astrological omens, an eclipsed moon is said to take on a golden sheen. A close examination of these attestations and the very nature of gold itself suggests that ḫurāṣu is best understood as a concrete color term rather than an abstract one. It is only attested as a verb in the glass recipes and its semantic range is relatively restricted.

    1453 See 2.4.8 and 2.4.9. In Egyptian hymns of second millennium bce, the sun is described as “rising as the golden one” (wbn m nb.w) (Warburton 2012, 186 and references therein). 1454 29, D 5’; Schuster-Brandis 2008, 426. 1455 A black stone with one white stripe (Schuster-Brandis 2008, 403–404). 1456 A red(-brown) stone with white bands (Schuster-Brandis 2008, 433). 1457 The feminine form is difficult to explain. Occasionally, the feminine suffix -at provides a diminutive force, although this phenomenon is not attested beyond personal names (Streck 2010, 290–291). According to Veldhuis, who maintained that this is the magpie, the reference to gold here is linked to the fact that it steals bright objects and not to the color of the bird’s plumage (Velduise 2004, 271 and 336 illustration 18). But given that ḫuraṣānu is attested as a personal name, this explanation seems unlikely.

    Material Colors

    369 Glass On the level of language, ḫurāṣu refers to color in two distinct ways in the Akkadian glassmaking recipes: 1) metonymically, in the phrase “(the glass) has the appearance of gold”; and 2) verbally, to describe the changing color of the molten glass being heated in the kiln. Since material-based color terms are typically not verbal, it is more common for them to refer to color metonymically. In a broken recipe for making yellow glass from Nineveh, the instructions read: “[f]or one mina three shekels of zukû, which has the appearance of gold (zīm ḫurāṣi šaknu), [you add] three shekels of anzaḫḫu-glass, three shekels of kalgukku-mineral…”1458 Zukû is a vitreous material that was produced at the first stage of more complex glass recipes. Oppenheim referred to it as a “primary glass” because it is used as a raw ingredient to make higher quality, colored glasses.1459 According to several such prescriptions preserved from the Neo-Assyrian period, the basic components of zukû are silica-quartz (na4immanakku) and soda ash (úaḫussu/uḫullu).1460 Heating this basic batch in a furnace will generally result in either a pale, aqua green- or amber-colored glassy substance. Uncolored glass takes on a green tint due to iron impurities in the ingredients. The presence of sulfur together with iron in the batch, as well as reducing conditions in the furnace, will cause basic glass to appear amber-colored.1461 From the written evidence alone it is not possible to say if ancient glassmakers were able to control the metallic impurities in the raw ingredients in order to intentionally achieve one or the other variety of primary glass. However, it is possible that the expression “zukû that has the appearance of gold” specifies the amber-colored variety. Brill’s laboratory synthesis of zukû utilizing raw ingredients obtained in the Middle East lends further support to this view.1462 His efforts yielded a transparent, amber-tinted glass. With regard to the color, Brill observed:

    1458 Oppenheim et al. 1970, 51; Tablet D §L: 22’-25’: a-na 1 MA.NA 3 GÍN zu-ku-ú ša SU KÙ.SI22 ša-ak-nu 3 GÍN AN.ZAḪ [NÍTA/MUNUS] 3 GÍN ka-al-gu-ga ma-an-[…]. The construction zīm na4duḫše + šakānu also appears in Text B §16, which is a recipe for making glass that looks like genuine duḫšu-stone. 1459 Oppenheim et al. 1970. The final line in a recipe for zukû prescribes that the molten glass should be cooled at air temperature instead of through the slow process of annealing. This confirms Oppenheim’s view since such an undertaking would have left zukû a very brittle substance, unsuitable for producing finished objects. 1460 Tablet A, B, C §1, 4 in Oppenheim et al. 1970. 1461 Henderson 1985 and 2013, 76; Cosyns 2007, 258. 1462 For a full description of the experiment, see Oppenheim et al. 1970, 111–113.


    Chapter 3

    The amber color was undoubtedly caused by the high sulfate content and the high proportion of unburned carbonaceous material in the particular plant ash used. The glass experienced a strongly reducing internal atmosphere during the heating, and the sulfate was reduced to sulfide, which formed a ‘carbon amber’ color. This carbon amber is due to the presence of a complex formed between traces of iron and sulfur in the glass.1463 Ḫurāṣu also appears as a color verb several times in the glass texts. In one instance, it occurs in a step for making the above-mentioned zukû-glass. There, the instructions read: “You place the (powdered frit) in a cold-chamber kiln, you maintain a good, smokeless fire until (the molten glass) turns golden (i-ḫar-ra-ṣu).”1464 Elsewhere, the golden color of the glass melt indicates to the craftsman that the light blue/turquoise-colored zagindurû-glass was ready: [IZI ṭa-a]b-ta la qa-tir-ta ta-šár-rap a-di NA 4 i-raš-šu-šu [KÁ ku-u]-ri la DUL-tam ul-tu NA 4 ir-taš-šu KÁ ku-u-ri DUL-ma [a-di i-ḫar-r]a-ṣu ma-la-ni ina pa-ni-ka ta-be-eḫ-ḫeš ul-tu iḫ-tar-ṣu [TA IGI ma]-am-[ma] ˹tam˺-[m]ar šum-ma NA 4 up-pu-uq ana da-ab-ti e-ši-ti [ta]-na-az-za-[lam-m]a ina ku-ri ŠED 7 il-lam-ma na4ZA.GÌN.DURU 5 (Tablet A §6: 66–70 in Oppenheim et al. 1970, 37). ‘You maintain a go[od], smokeless [fire]. You do not close the [flue (lit. door of the ki]ln) until the mass glows orange. After (the mass) has glowed orange, you close the flue and [as it is (turning) gol]den, you wind it once towards you. After it has turned golden (and) [once] you see drops (on) the tip (of the muterru-rake?), if the glass is homogenous, [you po]ur it out into a new crucible. You let it cool in the annealing-oven and (it is) zagindurû.’ It is clear from the instructions quoted above that color served as an indicator of temperature in the glassmaking process. Once the molten glass had reached a certain glowing shade and viscosity, the glassmaker could be certain that the desired atmosphere within the furnace had been reached and that the batch was homogenously mixed. As the mixture of powdered silica, soda ash and other ingredients begins to liquefy upon the application of high heat (roughly 1463 Oppenheim et al. 1970, 113. 1464 Tablet A §1: 18–19 (dupl. Tablet B §4: 47–48) in Oppenheim et al. 1970, 34: [a-na ku-ú-ri] ša ták-kan-ni ka-ṣi-ti DU[L+DU-ed izi ṭ]a-ab-ta [la qa-tir-ta] ta-šár-rap a-di i-[ḫar-ra-ṣu a-na UG]U a-gur-ri.

    Material Colors


    1100–1200° Celsius), molten glass will take on different hues because the colorant ions occur at various states of coordination. In the extant glass recipes, these colors are given as: pale+yellow/green (arqu), golden (ḫurāṣu), glowing+orange (ruššû) and “like the surface of a ripe grape” (pān karāni bašli). A primitive, yet apparently accurate, later medieval glassmakers relied on this visual cue as well. Paint Craftsmen of ancient Mesopotamia routinely availed themselves of paint and glaze to imitate the color, luster and brightness of favourite metals and gemstones. In a late manuscript of the mythological composition Nergal and Ereškigal this illusionary effect of color is described in the episode where Nergal fashions a throne as a part of his stratagem to woo the goddess of the underworld: […] i-ban-na-a gišGU.ZA dé-a dnin-ši-kù [me-eḫ-rat] KÙ.BABBAR IM.BABBAR ú-taq-qa me-eḫ-rat na4ZA.GÌN na4ZA.GÌN.DURU 5 ú-taq-qa [me-eḫ-rat] KÙ.SI 22 IM.GÁ.LI IM.KAL.GUG ub-tar-rim (SbTU I 17–18: 7′-10′; Foster 2005, 515) ‘He [Nergal] built…a throne (of) Ea, the prince. [In imitation of] silver, he painted it with gypsum. In imitation of lapis lazuli, he painted it with Egyptian blue (pigment). [In imitation of] gold, he (made) it polychrome with ochre and lead-yellow.’ An illusion of gold is created by combining yellow/red ochre (kalû) and leadyellow (kalgukku). Ideally then, the color gold did not simply mean “bright+yellow” but had a slight reddish tint. This explains why “gold pigment” (IM.KÙ.SI 22) is equated with both of red and yellow colorants in the lexical literature.1465 The “golden paint” (šindu ḫurāṣu) in UR 5-RA: ḫubullu might refer to just such a mixture of pigments as described in the poem above.1466

    1465 These are discussed further under Pigments (3.3): IM.KÙ.SI22: il-lu-ur pa-ni (Ḫḫ xi 319 [msl 7 140]) IM.KÙ.SI22: il-lu-ur pa-ni: ka-lu-[ú] (Ḫg to Ḫḫ X 142 [msl 7 114]) IM.KÙ.SI22: [šar-še-ru] (Nabnītu xxiii 229 [msl 16 218]). Landsberger suggested that Sumerian SU13.A, an adjective of gold at Mari, was probably a variant of SI.A (SA5) the Akkadian color word sāmu “red” (Landsberger 1967, 140–141). 1466 KUŠ.ŠE.GÍN KÙ.SI22: MIN (ši-in-du ḫu-ra-ṣu)(Ḫḫ xi 287 [msl 7 138]).


    Chapter 3 Eclipsed Moon The color of gold may also be evoked through similes. In the omen quoted below, the changing color of a shooting star passing through the earth’s atmosphere is described with just such a comparison:1467 DIŠ KI.MIN-ma GIM bi-ri-iṣ KÙ.SI 22 ana 15 NA DIB-iq NA BE GAR TUKU (Bab. 7 pl. 17: ii 22 =The Stephenson Omen Tablet [Ashm. 1922–202]) ‘If ditto (from above Ursa Major a star flares) and shoots to the right of the man (looking) like the sparkling of gold, that man will acquire wealth.’ In two omens from the series Enūma Anu Enlil, an eclipsed (adir) moon is said to have the characteristic outward appearance (zīmu) of gold: DIŠ ina ITI.NE U4.13.KAM AN.GE 6 d30 a-dir EN EN.NUN DU-ku a-kim IGI.MEŠ-šú ˹SIG 7˺.ME EN BAR-šú a-kim KI i šá TA i-rim-ma zi-im KÙ.SI 22 GAR (K 3563+: obv. 52–53; Rochberg 2010, 99) ‘If on the thirteenth day of the month of Abu (July-August) an eclipse occurs, the moon is dark and is obscured until the watch passes, its features are pale+yellow/green, it is covered with…on the outside? and it assumes the appearance of gold…’ [DIŠ ina ITI].KIN d30 a-dir IGI.MEŠ-šú zi-im KÙ.SI 22 GAR-nu… (K 3563+: rev. 1; Rochberg 2010, 101) ‘[If in the month] of Ulūlu (August-September), the moon is dark, its features assume the appearance of gold…’ Although color omens do not always reflect perceptual reality, these two omens appear to be based on empirical observations. During the time of the Harvest Moon, the earth’s shadow covers face of the moon. In the moments of the eclipse, the shadow on the face of the moon often appears red or golden because of the way the sun’s light is filtered and refracted by the earth’s atmosphere. Depending on the levels of dust, humidity and temperature of the atmosphere, the illumination of the moon will range from coppery, golden red to deep red in color, which may be the phenomenon these two omens describe.1468 1467 For another example, see the broken passages from Alamdimmû viii 59 (Böck 2000, 110): DIŠ GIM KÙ.SI22 […] “If his features(?) are like gold…” 1468 See Landsberger 1967, 142 and Rochberg-Halton 1988, 55–56 for the colors of an eclipsed moon.

    Material Colors


    The phrase “appearance of gold” (zīm ḫurāṣi) also appears in a letter dating to the reign of Zimri-Lim (1776–1761 bce).1469 The gold canopy referred to in a Neo-Assyrian letter must likewise refer to the color applied onto the fabric.1470 1469 arm 13 18: 10–13: um-ma-a-mi KÙ.SI22 i-ṭe4-eb-bi [i-na ru?]-mu-uk-ki ša am-mi!-da-ak-ki [il]tu-ku-ma zi-im KÙ.SI22 mi-ṭì-ta [it-t]a-aš-ka-an “(The craftsman) said: ‘the gold will fade (lit. submerge)!’ They tested it [in a ba]th(?) of ammidakku-solvent and it has reassumed the appearance of gold.” 1470 saa 17 8: obv. 9–12: Iḫu-la-la LÚ.TU.É šá dUTU ki-i il-li-ku-ú AN-e šá KÙ.SI22 ul-tu uruTIN.TIRki it-ta-šá-˹aʾ˺ “When Ḫulālu the “Temple Enterer” of Šamaš left, he took the canopy of gold(-color) from Babylon with him.” For this meaning of šamû, see cad Š I 348.

    Chapter 4

    Colorful Matter Sculpture is missing the beauty of colors, it is missing the perspective of colors, it is missing the perspective and confusion of boundaries of things distant from the eye, because the boundaries of things nearby will be known just like those which are distant. leonardo da vinci (Codex Urbinas)1471

    As rich and varied as it is in how it produces meaning, language is ultimately but a crude map of a civilization’s wider visual experiences of color. And so, this chapter shifts from the issue of how the ancient Mesopotamians talked about colors and colorful materials to what such materials represented in the physical world. The point of departure for this investigation is five Neo-­ Assyrian reliefs from Nimrud (ancient Kalḫu) now housed at the Yale University Art Gallery (yuag), which preserve faint traces of original polychromy.1472 Color was an essential medium through which Assyrian kings conveyed ideas about their identities and ideologies and so understanding their overall scheme permits a deeper appreciation of palatial spaces as articulations of prestige and power. From a methodological perspective, this chapter assesses the value of a new technique for detecting ancient polychromy and sheds light on why so little color is preserved on Assyrian stone reliefs today. Making use of unpublished archival material from yuag, it also highlights how the post-excavation history of the Assyrian sculpture reveals much about modern attitudes towards the colorful nature of ancient artifacts and how this affected their subsequent treatment as they were decontextualized and repositioned as isolated museum pieces in European and North American collections.

    1471 Trans. by Farago 1992, 275. 1472 The scientific portion of this study was conducted with Jens Stenger (Swiss Institute for Art Research, formerly at the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage—Center for Conservation and Preservation, Yale University) and Carol Snow (Yale University Art Gallery).

    © koninklijke brill nv, leiden, ���� | doi:10.1163/9789004415416_005

    Colorful Matter



    History of Scholarship on the North-West Palace

    1.1 Excavations at Nimrud The story of the Assyrian reliefs from Nimrud exemplifies the irrevocable loss of information as a consequence of colonial-era archaeology in Syria and Iraq. Today, some two hundred and fifty-nine pieces of reliefs that once stood in the halls of Ashurnasirpal ii’s palace in his royal city will be found scattered around the world, having found homes in seventy-seven museums and collections in North America, Europe and Asia.1473 The early exploration of Iraq, Austen Henry Layard’s discovery of Nimrud in the mid-19th century, and the subsequent excavations at the site have been the subject of many books and essays. Joan and David Oates’ Nimrud: an Assyrian Imperial City Revealed provides a careful overview of the various excavation campaigns, beginning with the first mention of Nimrud by an employee of the East India Company, Claudius James Rich (1787–1821), whose account of Mosul and its countryside inspired men like Layard and Paul Émile Botta to travel to Iraq, up until the most recent excavations by an Iraqi expedition led by Muzahim Mahmud Hussein.1474 Of special relevance to the present discussion of the coloration of the Nimrud reliefs is Reade’s re-telling of Layard’s discovery of the site and the extraordinary measures he took—some of which permanently damaged artifacts—to transport them to Europe.1475 After the Second World War, scholarly attention on the North-West Palace, constructed by Ashurnasirpal ii (883–859 bce) to be the centerpiece his new royal capital, concentrated on reconstructing the original context of the sculpted reliefs. Stearns’ monograph marked the first scientific and comprehensive attempt to catalogue all the known museums and collections that held Nimrud reliefs.1476 Using old letters, biographies and articles from college journals, Stearns painstakingly assembled the stories of Americans who acquired reliefs for US universities. Of equal importance is the typology he established for the 1473 Englund 2003, 175–187. This count excludes the reliefs that were still at the site of Nimrud and were destroyed by the terrorist group isis in April 2015. 1474 Oates and Oates 2001. As the authors worked at the site between 1952–1962, their book contains many first-hand impressions of Nimrud and of the men and women who helped to unearth it, especially Max Mallowan, who led the excavations between 1949–1958, and his wife Agatha Christie. 1475 Reade 2010. Using archival material, Reade also examined the reception of the prized wall reliefs, then called “Assyrian Marbles,” in the British museum, and traced in some detail all of the ensuing debates on how best to preserve and display them in public. 1476 Stearns 1961. The earliest attempt of all was by Merrill 1875.


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    reliefs, which was designed to aid historians to re-trace the original placement of each relief in the various rooms and corridors of the palace. Janusz Meuszyński, who led the Polish excavations at Nimrud between 1974–1976, reexplored the Central Palace and North-West Palace regions of the site. As more and more reliefs and fragments were located in collections around the world, Meuszyński investigated the interior of the palace in a series of publications. Die Rekonstruktion der Reliefdarstellungen und ihrer Anordnung im Nordwestpalast von Kalhu (Nimrud)1477 encapsulates his thoughts and contains many drawings. In the late 80s and early 90s, Paley and Sobolewski continued Meuszyński’s work and produced two more volumes that not only addressed the position of reliefs, but attempted to visualize the palace as a complete building.1478 Paley and Sobolewski used a combination of modern architectural analysis and actual measurements taken by Sobolweski in situ to produce plans of the palace with realistic proportions. Their plans provide such details as the arrangement of rooms and façades in the various wings of the palace complex, the actual heights of walls and the placement of the relief slabs against them, the shape and measurements of doorways, the height of the ceiling and the setting of wooden beams for support. Volume two contains a list of the reliefs in collections outside Nimrud and the position of each slab (with correspondences to Stearn’s typology). Volume three considers the decoration that stood at entrances into and out of the palace in detail, especially the human-headed bull- and lion-colossi. Through a careful combing of public and private records, Englund has traced exactly how the Assyrian reliefs were disseminated in the 19th century and the reasons why they come to be in various museums and collections. She has also shed new light on the loss in the Tigris river in 1855 of several reliefs destined for the British Museum, Louvre and the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin.1479 Table 4.1, which is a distillation of Meuszyński, Sobolewski and Paley’s research1480 on the Nimrud reliefs currently housed in the Yale University Art Gallery, provides a point of reference for the ensuing discussion. Paley’s interests subsequently gravitated away from line drawings and towards three-dimensional theoretical reconstructions of the North-West ­Palace. Complete with color, lighting, furniture and even human figures to provide a sense of spatial complexity and size, these 3-D models are available ­online at 1477 1478 1479 1480

    Meuszyński 1981. Paley and Sobolewski 1987–1992. Englund 2003. Naturally, their work was founded upon the scholarship of those who had worked on this problem before them, especially: Stephens 1936, Gadd 1936, 1961 and Reade 1965.


    Colorful Matter

    Table 4.1  Contextual notes on the Assyrian reliefs housed at the Yale University Art Gallery

    Yale Relief Accession Number

    Classification and Description


    Notes (See Paley and ­Sobolewski 1987, 24–25 (for room I–26), 32–33 (for room S-4, 8) and Plate 2)


    A-ii-a-ii-9: left-­ facing human-­ headed genius with wings beside partial sacred tree. Height 2.31m Width 1.85m

    Room S-8

    Joins on the left (S-7) with a slab at Amherst College (Amherst 2). The authors estimate that 1/5 of the relief was cut on the right side. The location of the slab to the right, which should be a human-headed winged-genius, facing right remains unknown.


    A-vi-a-ii-9: left-­ facing human attendant carrying brow, arrows and mace. Height 2.25m Width 1.20m

    Room S-4

    1854.2a joins on the left (S-3) with a slab representing the king facing left, currently at the British Museum (BM 124563).


    1854.2.2 is a cut fragment ­representing half of a tree. Height 2.28m Width 0.56m

    Joins with a slab that represents a rightfacing winged-genius. The lower half was left at the site but is now probably destroyed; the location of the upper part is unknown.


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    Table 4.1  Contextual notes on the Assyrian reliefs housed at the Yale University Art Gallery (cont.)

    Yale Relief Accession Number

    Classification and Description



    B-vii-a-i-5 (lower Room I-26 (in register): winged six fragments) eagle-headed genius facing right carrying bucket. Height 1.09m Width 0.78


    B-ii-e-i-3 (upper register): winged human-headed genius kneeling facing right. Height 0.80m Width 0.84m


    B-viii: sacred tree. Height 0.80m Width 0.39m

    Notes (See Paley and ­Sobolewski 1987, 24–25 (for room I–26), 32–33 (for room S-4, 8) and Plate 2) 1854.3 joins with a slab in Amherst College on the right side (I-26) and with 1854.4 on top (I-26). On the left side, both 1854.3 and 1854.4+5 (I-25) join with slab in Nimrud that was entirely preserved until the destruction of the site in 2015.

    Room I-26 (in 1854.4 joins with six fragments) a slab at Oxford University’s Magdalene College on the right (I-26).

    1854.5 joins on the right with 1854.4 (*these two pieces were physically joined with plaster at Yale University).


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    EB D






    J WJ





    V W SA


    O P T








    Z U








    WH WG





    X XA







    MM NN



    Suites that have reliefs with pictorial representations Suites that have reliefs with only the Standard Inscription Figure 4.1 North-West Palace, plan of the state apartments with locations of the Yale reliefs Illustration: s. thavapalan, adapted from paley and sobolewski 1987, plan 2


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    Previous discussions of meaning in the reliefs, which have focused on the sculpted form without much consideration of their colors, may be assigned to groups: (1) As research on the layout and decoration of the North-West Palace progressed, correlations between the iconography and function of individual rooms became an agenda of interest;1481 (2) Several theme-based studies, focusing on the symbolic and ideological implications of individual motifs such as, images of kingship,1482 courtiers and attendants,1483 depictions of violence and warfare,1484 flora and fauna,1485 religion and the sacred tree,1486 and so forth, have also emerged. Russell, who has worked extensively on contextualizing Assyrian reliefs with writing on them, offered this summary of what has become accepted as the general meaning of the sculptural program in the North-West Palace among philology-focused scholars: The relief decoration of the entire palace is a visual expression of Ashurnasirpal’s royal ideology: military success, service to the gods, divine protection, and Assyrian prosperity. Within this scheme, the subjects vary from suite to suite, perhaps reflecting the primary functions for each suit.1487 1481 Reade’s landmark essay “Ideology and Propaganda in Assyrian Art” established a vocabulary with which historians could discuss the subject matter of Assyrian sculpture and painting (Reade 1979a). His classification of this visual formula into narrative, formal, apotropaic, ornamental and hieroglyphic art, allowed scholars to perceive variations in the distribution of these motifs in different rooms (e.g. throne room, reception rooms, outer façade) and buildings (e.g. temple, palace) (Reade 1979b, 1979c and 1980). Winter’s interpretation of individual themes in the sculptural program led her to see direct correspondences between text and image, a thesis that sparked much debate. In 1981, she argued for parallelism between themes in Ashurnasirpal’s so-called Standard Inscription and the decoration of the throne room and later, she postulated that certain reliefs in the throne room and specific titles assumed by Ashurnasirpal, work in tandem (Winter 1981 and 1983). According to her model, the first four epithets in the second group of titles the king assumes (i.e. Titulary ii in the Standard Inscription)—1a) [I am] Ashurnasirpal, 2a) attentive prince, worshiper of the great gods, 3a) ferocious dragon, 4a) conqueror of ­cities—correspond with the images of 1b) the king seated on the throne, 2b) the king waiting in attendance upon Assur and the sacred tree [B-23, B-13], 3b) the king hunting wild bulls and lions [B-19 and B-20], and finally 4b) the king defeating enemies and conquering their citadels [B-18, B-17, B-11 to B-3, B-27 to B-28]. While some of the details of this thesis have been challenged (e.g. Roaf 2008), Winter’s overall methodology has since been adopted in analyses of form and function in other Assyrian palaces. 1482 Cifarelli 1998. 1483 Collins 2010. 1484 Chapman 2007. 1485 Thomason 2001. 1486 Parker 1983; Porter 1993; Parpola 1993; Richardson 1999–2001; Giovino 2007. 1487 Russell 2008, 181. Bahrani, on the other hand, has staunchly rejected any reading of “official” art in the ancient Near East from the point of view of ideology on the grounds that

    Colorful Matter


    (3) Finally, the studies on Assyrian aesthetics by Moortgat and Frankfort,1488 though focusing exclusively on style and content, were crucial towards challenging 19th century notions of Mesopotamian art grounded in a dichotomy of East versus West.1489 With the gradual deconstruction of boundaries between “art” and “artifact,” trends in the field of art history have compelled scholars to consider ancient, non-western art, including Assyrian sculpture, from new perspectives.1490 The consumption of Assyrian art, how museums came to acquire these objects and the manner in which they were presented to the public, has also become a topic of interest.1491 As we shall see presently, the efforts made to conserve the vestigial traces of paint on the surface of the reliefs varied greatly from collection to collection in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 2

    The Polychromy Then and Now

    The early excavators of Assyrian cities were conscious of the colorful decoration—especially the painted plaster, sculpture and glazed brick ­ schemes—that once ornamented the architecture of palaces. Evidence of polychromy is carefully noted in the writings and drawings of Layard (excavator at Nimrud, 1845–47 and 1849–51), Botta (excavator at Khorsabad, 1842–44), Flandin (illustrator at Khorsabad, 1843–44) and Place (excavator at Khorsabad, 1852–55).1492

    1488 1489 1490

    1491 1492

    this only “reduces the image to an object in the service of political theory, rather than acknowledging it as a complex representation” (Bahrani 2008, 66 and 65–74). For a criticism of Bahrani’s position, see Fales 2009, 277–278. Moortgat 1930, 141–158 and Frankfort 1955. Fales 2009, 237–243. Ataç, for instance, applied analytic methodologies used in linguistics to art in The Mythology of Kingship in Neo-Assyrian Art (Ataç 2010). Abandoning the historical context of ­Assyrian sculpture altogether, Bersani and Dutoit employed Freudian psychoanalysis to explore the unconscious desires of the society that produced these images in The Forms of Violence: Narrative in Assyrian Art and Modern Culture (Bersani and Dutoit 1985). Cultural biographies, which temper old questions about ritual and political meaning with theories about aesthetics informed by the work of critics like Pierre Bourdieu, Terry Eagleton, Larry Shiners, offer more holistic analyses of Assyrian sculpture. An example of such a venture is the collection of essays on the Assyrian reliefs at the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College edited by Cohen and Kangas (Cohen and Kangas 2010). For instance, see “But is it Art?” in Larsen 1996, 99–107; Bohrer 1998 and 2003. Layard 1849; Botta and Flandin 1849–1850; Flandin 1845; Place 1867–1870. Place even cited the discovery of raw pigments, a lump of red pigment weighing twenty kilograms and one of blue pigment weighing one kilogram (Place 1867–1870 ii, 251).


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    In his notebooks and publications, Layard took great care to record wherever he found even the trace amounts of pigment. Writing about wall reliefs from Nimrud, he noted: The colors still adhered to the sandals, brows, hair and eyes. The sculptures were in the best state of preservation; the most delicate carvings were still distinct, and the outline of the figures retained its original sharpness.1493 Between the doorways guarded by lion- and bull-colossi, he reported finding, …a large collection of baked bricks, elaborately painted with figures of animals and flowers and with cuneiform characters. It is remarkable, that on the backs of these bricks, or on one of the sides not colored, are rude designs, in black paint or ink, of men and animals, and marks having the appearance of numbers.1494 His precise observations confirm that when freshly excavated, more coloration was visible than it is today: The hair, beard, eye brows, eye lids and eyeballs, black; the inner part of the eye, white; the king’s mitre, principally red; the crests of the helmets, blue and red; the heads of arrows, blue; the bows, red; the handles of maces, red; the harnesses of horses, blue and red; sandals, in the oldest monuments, black, edged with red; in those of Khorsabad, striped blue and red; the rosettes in the garlands of winged figures, red; trees at Khorsabad, a blueish green; flowers carried by the winged figures, green, with red flowers occasionally; fire, always red.1495 French excavators made similar efforts to document paint on sculpture from Khorsabad (ancient Dūr-Šarrukīn). In addition to the references to color in the publications mentioned previously, those in Botta’s correspondence and his 1493 Layard 1849 i, 126. 1494 Layard 1849 ii, 18. 1495 Layard 1849 ii, 243 ☨. In a diary from his first season at Nimrud, Layard further noted the colors on Assyrian reliefs from an unnamed site: “Bracelets on arms painted black/­ crossing with red edging/ Mace handle red/ Tiara of king, horse reins and/ ornament above red/ Handle of dagger below head of/ animal—blue/ the head a reddish brown/ ornament all black pecked with red/ The knob or rope near leg, blue/ Bracelets red. Tassels ditto” (quoted in Reade 2008, 15 n. 2).

    Colorful Matter


    reports to the editor of the Journal Asiatique have been the subject of a recent study by Guralnick.1496 Some of Guralnick’s findings concern the reliability of field drawings made by the excavators. She noted, for instance, discrepancies between drawings of the same subject made by Botta and Flandin. In her estimation, Flandin was more accurate, as Botta “often simplifies” and “used his imagination to complete eroded figures.”1497 Another relevant 19th century source with regard to polychromy at Khorsabad is that of the Head Conservator of Antiquities of the Louvre, Adrien de Longpérier, who made a catalogue of these fragile traces.1498 In Britain, as in France and Germany, the awareness of the role color played in Assyrian palaces raised the question of how to reconstruct ancient architectural spaces for a modern museum-audience. The immediate issue was one of how extensively should color be used.1499 Layard’s response to this debate is the best known. With The Nineveh Court (open to the public from 1854 to 1866) in the Crystal Palace in Sydenham, south London, Layard and his colleagues put together an exhibition of vibrantly colored plaster casts of monuments from Nimrud, Nineveh and Khorsabad. This explanation of his methodology and approach for the reconstruction reveals Layard’s readiness to face the chromophobia of his contemporaries: The arrangement and contrasts of the colors have been carefully studied, and when there has been no authority for their use in any particular instance, a comparison with other monuments and especially with Egyptian remains have, in some instances, furnished the means of deciding 1496 1497 1498 1499

    Guralnick 2002. Guralnick 2002, 38. These notes were summarized and discussed by Nagel 2010. The other debate provoked by the public exhibition of Oriental antiquities concerned the value of Assyrian artifacts as pieces of art. Layard’s enthusiasm for Assyrian sculpture and murals is obvious in his writings. Concerning the wall paintings he unearthed in the South-West Palace he wrote, “The colors were blue, red, white, yellow, and black; and although thus limited in number, were arranged with much taste and skill, the contrasts being carefully preserved, and the combinations generally agreeable to the eye” (Layard 1852, 250). Layard considered himself somewhat of an art connoisseur. After returning from his travels from the Near East, he embarked on several ventures to promote Renaissance art in London. However, despite his personal enthusiasm, he often found his appreciation for the aesthetics of Assyrian art at odds with the views of his sponsors. In a letter to him, Henry Creswick Rawlinson wrote, “I still think the Nineveh marbles are not valuable as works of art… Can a mere admirer of the beautiful view them with pleasure? Certainly, not” (British Library Add. ms 38977, Rawlinson to Layard, Aug. 5, 1846, quoted in Bohrer 1998, 343). While the antiquarian value of Assyrian artifacts was high, their status as art was ambiguous. For more on this topic, see Bohrer 1998 and Fales 2009.


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    which to adopt. It may appear strange and unnatural to us that color should be employed in all parts of such an edifice, and that even sculptures and bas-reliefs in various materials have been painted. But that such was the case in Assyria, as indeed in Egypt and in ancient Greece, can now no longer admit of a doubt, and in restoring an Assyrian palace, it would have been absurd to omit so essential a feature of Assyrian architecture. From the remains of gold leaf continually found in the ruins, it would appear that gilding was profusely employed in the Assyrian ­palaces…The traces of color still existing on the monuments discovered at Nineveh, especially upon those at Khorsabad, have been minutely examined, and have furnished sufficient data for the painting of most of the bas-reliefs and architectural details.1500 While Layard’s reconstructions at the Crystal Palace and in his publications (such as the rendition of the “Throne Room” (audience hall B) of the NorthWest Palace in Nineveh and its Remains) drew criticism from his contemporaries and modern scholars alike for its “distinctly Victorian aesthetic,”1501 as the first polychrome visualizations of the palace, these images remain historically important as they became rooted in people’s imaginations as the model for Assyrian palace interiors. Less well-known painted reconstructions of Assyrian art were made in France and Germany. In his thesis on architectural polychromy in the Achaemenid period, Nagel cited the following instances of such reconstructions that survived the bombings of wwii. At the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin, three painted plaster casts of Nimrud reliefs from the 19th century are in storage. Similarly, at the Glyptotek in Munich, painted casts of Nimrud limestone slabs were created with the intention of displaying them alongside the originals.1502 In France,1503 Place, who continued excavations at Khorsabad after Botta, disapproved of the so-called “total coloration” school:

    1500 1501 1502 1503

    Layard 1852, 53–54 and 59; Nagel 2010, 35–36. Paley 2008, 196. Nagel 2010, 39–40. Flandin apparently felt less certain of this than Place: “Je n’oserais point avancer que les murs des palais de Khorsabad étaient entièrement coloriés, et, à cet regard, je suis dans le doute. Il est possible que certaines parties seulement des bas-reliefs aient été peintes, et qu’afin de produire plus d’effet, en laissant la pierre dans un état naturel sur les grandes surfaces, on n’ait colorié que quelques détails; cependant je ne le pense pas” (Flandin 1845, 107).

    Colorful Matter


    Le coloriage des bas-reliefs est une question délicate qui appartient à la décoration pure plutôt qu’à la construction. Il est donc important de savoir quel part les assyriens en ont tiré, et s’ils ont cru nécessaire d’ajouter au mérite intrinsèque de leurs sculptures le secours d’un coloriage général ou partiel. Plusieurs personnes, dans la restauration plus ou moins justifies, n’ont pas hésité à étendre des couleurs sur toute la surface des bas-reliefs, armes, vêtements, figures, chair, barbe et chevelure. Suivant nous, on est allé beaucoup trop loin dans cette voie.1504 This debate over the “total” versus “partial” polychromy of Assyrian architectural sculpture carried into the 20th century. Writing in 1936, Gadd felt that “colour was in fact used rather sparingly, and only to emphasize the details [of the reliefs].”1505 Lerner’s more recent evaluation of how polychromy was used in the Nimrud reliefs at the Hood Museum seems to echo this sentiment: …brightly painted designs in black, white, red, and blue covered the plastered upper portions of the walls. The same colors were applied to the reliefs themselves to define such details as hair, beards, weaponry, and jewelry, and to help enliven the figures and objects depicted.1506 Based on her examination of some newly discovered drawings of Khorsabad sculpture executed by Botta, Guralnick noted, “…the new drawing (of the siege of the city of Harhar) and Botta’s written report, considered together provide evidence for color used to enhance scenes of warfare.”1507 Since the 1970s, Paley1508 has championed the position of total polychromy, while more cautious opinions include those expressed by Stearns, who observed that, “[f]or any real ­picture of the appearance of the reliefs one must turn to Layard’s descriptions…”1509 and Moorey, for whom, “…it is not clear whether paint was only used selectively for special effect or whether it was more extensively used than the present state of surviving reliefs indicates.”1510 Informed by his reconstruction of how the decoration was drawn, engraved, carved and finished, Lippolis leaned towards the idea of totally colored reliefs, pointing out that the paint

    1504 1505 1506 1507 1508 1509 1510

    Place 1867–1870 ii, 82–84. Gadd 1936, 28. Italics mine. Lerner 2005. Italics mine. Guralnick 2002, 28. E.g. Paley 1976, 10–11. Stearns 1961, 20 n. 40. Moorey 1994, 35.


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    would have also served to cover the marks lefts by tools and abrasives.1511 A study conducted on the Nimrud reliefs kept at the Glyptotek in Munich appears to c­ onfirm this view, as it reported that the background was painted with a homogenously colored “prime coat.”1512 After the initial excitement in the 19th century, the topic of sculptural polychromy lost traction among Assyriologists for the simple reason that less and less coloration was visible on the surfaces of objects as displayed in museums when compared with the notes of those who unearthed them. Scholars like Albenda have drawn attention to the consequences of this loss of information by arguing that in cases where painted friezes were executed above sculpted reliefs, an overall color scheme would have governed the design of both. Without the color scheme of the sculpture program, we cannot fully understand the whole and overarching effect the decoration was meant to produce.1513 The renewed interest in coloring ancient sculpture in the last few decades has been permitted largely by the development of new techniques of detecting pigment on the reliefs that is no longer visible to the naked eye. Chemical and elemental analysis of pigment samples taken from artifacts has long been standard in conservation science;1514 however, identifying the pigment in the sample, while being an important first step, cannot help restore the overall color scheme of an object. Moreover, sampling is an invasive procedure and every study physically compromises fragile artifacts. Thus, a non-invasive approach that could also provide information about the spatial distribution of the pigment grains on the surface of the object was needed.

    1511 Lippolis 2011, 45. 1512 Traces of a “pale brownish-white layer that can be attributed to a prime coat or color” was also observed on the Ashurnasirpal ii reliefs kept in Munich, Zurich and Berlin (Gebhard et al. 2009, 339). 1513 Albenda 2005, 75–76. Another landmark study on Assyrian palace painting schemes is Tomabechi 1986, which contains a list of all the rooms in which wall paintings were found in the palace. Albenda 2005 provided an overview of the material found at ­Kar-Tukulti-Ninurta (13th century bce), the North-West Palace, Fort Shalmaneser, the “Upper Chambers” and Outer Town of Nimrud (9th century), Tell al-Rimah, Khorsabad (8th century), Arslan Tash (8th century), Til Barsip and Tell Sheikh Hamad. 1514 The most commonly used techniques in conservation and archaeological science are described in what follows. Scanning Electron microscopy (sem) entails beaming electrons at the sample and scanning it in order to produce an image. Raman Laser Spectroscopy involves targeting light, generally in the near infrared range, at the sample: the vibrations (Raman spectra) caused by this can be measured, which in turn allows scientists to identify the chemical composition of a sample. In X-ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy (xrf), the sample is exposed to x-rays or gamma-rays, which causes it to energize and emit light. This fluorescence is measured to identify the chemical structure of the sample.

    Colorful Matter


    A breakthrough methodology towards this end was developed by Giovanni Verri, who was able to exploit the optical properties of certain ancient pigments using a technique known as visible-induced luminescence imaging (see 4.4.3). Following Verri’s success in detecting Egyptian blue on an Assyrian relief from Khorsabad at the British Museum,1515 several other museums have employed this and other conservation and natural science techniques to detect pigment on their own collections.1516 3 Museology In our Museum galleries To-day I lingered o’er the prize Dead Greece vouchsafes to living eyes,— Her Art forever in fresh wise From hour to hour rejoicing me. Sighing I turned at last to win Once more the London dirt and din; And as I made the swing-door spin And issued, they were hoisting in A wingèd beast from Nineveh.

    A human face the creature wore,And hoofs behind and hoofs before, And flanks with dark runes fretted o’er. ’T was bull, ’t was mitred Minotaur, A dead disbowelled mystery; The mummy of a buried faith Stark from the charnel without scathe, Its wings stood for the light to bathe,— Such fossil cerements as might swathe The very corpse of Nineveh.

    —dante gabriel rossetti, from The Burden of Nineveh (1856)

    1515 Verri et al.2009. 1516 In 2003, the Classical archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann organized an exhibition at the Glyptothek in Munich entitled Bunte Götter. Die Farbigkeit antiker Skulptur, featuring experimental reconstructions of Greek and Roman polychrome sculpture created by Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann. The success of ambitious project was twofold: first, the collaborative effort required to identify the pigments and assemble the color scheme, and second, the meticulous application of the colors on plaster casts. The Brinkmann’s exhibition has since travelled to venues under different titles (“Il colore del bianco” at the Musei Vaticani, “ClassiColor. Farven i antik skulptur” at the NY Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, “Color of Life - Polychromy in Sculpture from Antiquity to the Present” at the Getty Villa in Los Angelos, etc.). In 2007, the exhibit arrived at the Harvard Art Museum as “Gods in Color: Painted Sculpture of Classical Antiquity” and was the subject of the symposium “Superficial? Approaches to Painted Sculpture,” which called for a general reassessment of the use of color in sculpture from all periods. The Brinkmanns’ work continues and may be followed at: Between 2009 and 2016, with a project known as “Tracking Colour,” the Glyptotek in Copenhagen has undertaken a longterm investigation of how Greek architectural sculpture was influenced by ancient Near


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    3.1 Acquisition and Display of the Assyrian Reliefs at Yale University The five Assyrian reliefs at Yale University, two of which are the showpieces of the Ancient Sculpture Hall of the Yale University Art Gallery, made their way to New England because it was both fashionable and prestigious to acquire “­oriental” curiosities in the mid-19th century. Publications such as Layard’s Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon had roused popular interest in Mesopotamia, so that American colleges like Yale, Amherst, Bowdoin, Middlebury and Union actively sought to procure mementoes from these newly discovered sites. For theological seminaries, moreover, these artifacts from the Bible Lands were tangible proof of the Scriptures. Evangelists who were engaged in missions in the Middle East hoped that the heathen appearance of these artifacts, especially the striking Assyrian sculptures, would inspire young Americans to take up God’s work abroad. Biblical archaeology in Mesopotamia may have been seen as a way to stem the growing secularism in New England colleges, where religion had traditionally played a significant role.1517 It was these college-educated missionaries, who, through individual resourcefulness and private arrangements, secured Assyrian artifacts for the colleges they once attended. Personal ambition, vanity and rivalry likewise played a role in these transactions, both among brother proselytizers and excavators. An extract from a letter written by Reverend Dwight W. Marsh1518 upon securing the first Nimrud reliefs to reach America for Williams College reveals these compulsions: They were the only slabs ever presented to an American by Layard. I was the only American at Mosul from 1850 to 1851…[Layard] was very polite to me—calling upon me, inviting me to dine with him in the city…I suggested to him one day that Americans read his work with great interest and that any of our colleges would highly appreciate some specimens of the slabs of old Nineveh. He entered into the idea with great enthusiasm and at once gave me two slabs to dispose of in America as I thought best. Of course I remembered my Alma Mater.1519

    Eastern traditions in collaboration with the British Museum. The Fall 2014 exhibition “The 4th Dimension: Colour in Ancient Sculpture” presented the results of this investigation. 1517 Cohen and Kangas 2010, 12–13. 1518 Dwight Whitney Marsh (1823–1896) was a missionary at Mosul between 1850 and 1860. He was a graduate of Williams College (class of 1842). Thanks to him, Williams College received Assyrian reliefs as early as December 1851. 1519 Quoted in Stearns 1961, 7.

    Colorful Matter


    Another missionary, The Reverend Henry Lobdell1520 wrote to Austin Hazen Wright,1521 “your slabs will be the best lot yet sent across the Atlantic. I congratulate you upon your determination to keep the whole of them. I would deny myself a good deal to send such a set to Amherst.”1522 In gratitude for his gifts of Assyrian antiquities, Dartmouth University even conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws degree to Henry Creswick Rawlinson in 1857. Amongst the three men responsible for securing reliefs from the North-West Palace for American universities, Dwight W. Marsh, Henry Lobdell and William F. Williams,1523 it is the last, owing to his connection with the Reverend Leonard Bacon,1524 who negotiated the purchases on behalf of Yale University. Bacon was a minister of the First Congregational Church in New Haven, Connecticut, and professor of Didactic Theology at Yale University between 1866 and 1871. Williams arrived at the Mosul mission in 1851. In a letter dated October 4 1853, Williams wrote that the ship Wolf had sailed on September 10th 1952 from Alexandretta-Scanderoon (modern Iskenderun on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey), carrying the Yale reliefs and was bound for New York.1525 This is confirmed by a memorandum from Yale College’s Prudential Committee ­dating December 16 1852, voting in favor of purchasing one slab through ­Williams.1526 The total freight costs for the load were a mere $212.1527 The reliefs were in poor condition when they arrived at Yale, although Williams was optimistic about the process of transportation, assuring Bacon that “what injury the sawing, &c may have done the slabs, can, I think, be easily repaired, by a little plaster-of-Paris cement colored to match.” Discussing the best route to

    1520 Rev. Henry Lobdell (1828–1855) was a missionary at Mosul for just three years, before his sudden death due to typhus fever. 1521 Austin Hazen Wright (1811–1865), an alumnus of Dartmouth College, was a missionary at Urmia (then Oroomiah) in Iran between 1840–1865. 1522 Quoted in Stearns 1961, 13. 1523 William Frederick Williams (1818–1871) worked as a missionary at Mosul, Diarbakir, and Mardin. Williams spent a year as an undergraduate at Yale University. 1524 Leonard Bacon (1802–1881), father of Leonard Woosley Bacon (1830–1907). 1525 The content of this shipment designated for Yale College, according to Williams, was as follows: “For you, are a set of bricks, a small nisrock, & small kneeling-figure, a winged divinity of heroic size in three pieces, & a eunuch of heroic size—3 pieces 1/2 of “the sacred tree” of the divinity & also the Eunuch & the sacred tree belonging between the two small figures—in all four figures, their 1/2 trees, & a set of bricks” (correspondence from W.F. Williams to L. Bacon, Archives of the yuag, October 4 1853). 1526 Memorandum (Archives of the yuag, December 16 1852). 1527 Letter, W.F. Williams to L. Bacon (Archives of the yuag, February 1 1854).


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    t­ ransport the slabs destined for Dartmouth College, Oliver Payson Hubbard1528 mentioned this damage specifically to Austin Hazen Wright: I understand that by Bombay is the much cheaper and safer way…by Scanderoon on camels they have to be cut into a number of pieces vertically and horizontally, and those at Yale are very much broken in transportation…1529 Between 1854, the year the university acquired them, and October 1928, when the sculptures finally found a place on the ground floor of the Gallery of Fine Arts, the profile of these objects, as art or artifact, seems to have been ambiguous. Assyrian relief sculpture was discussed as art in public lectures held at the Yale School of Fine Arts in the early 20th century,1530 yet by tracing the multiple homes the reliefs had after 1854, it becomes evident that the university was uncertain where to store them and how to effectively incorporate them into campus life. Prior to being moved to the gallery, they were kept in the Osborn Memorial Laboratories, the zoological building. During the first few months of the gallery’s opening, the reliefs were displayed alongside Near Eastern carpets, French Romanesque sculpture and casts of Classical and Renaissance sculpture.1531 In 1929, yet another context was staged for the reliefs: a space devoted to “ancient and oriental art” in the Fine Arts Gallery, which included the Egyptian Room, the Classical Room, and the Near and Far Eastern Room. In the last, the reliefs were accompanied by objects belonging to the Yale Babylonian Collection (which were kept in the old Missions Library, that is the library of the Divinity School), Middle Eastern prayer rugs, Ming and Qing Dynasty porcelain vases and Japanese wood-block prints.1532 And yet, despite the fact that the Assyrian reliefs at Yale were not open for public viewing for three

    1528 Oliver Payson Hubbard (1811–1865) was an alumnus of Yale University and a Professor at Dartmouth from 1836 until his death. 1529 Quoted in Stearns 1961, 12. 1530 See for instance, the following lecture advertised on campus in 1914: “The second illustrated lecture of the Trowbridge Course on the History of Art will be given tonight in the Art School…The subject of this evening, the art of Babylonia and Assyria, opens to us the discoveries that have been made in the excavated ruin hills of the Tigro-Euphrates valley, with a discussion of the sculpture, metallurgy, painting, engraving, etc. of its inhabitants.” (“A Saturday Evening Lecture,” Yale Daily News no. 109. February 14 1914: 2). 1531 The event was advertised in the college newspaper: “Art Gallery Now Open for Inspection by the Public,” The Yale Daily News no. 11. October 8 1928: 4. 1532 “Fine Arts Gallery Opens Exhibits of Civilizations,” The Yale Daily News no. 110. February 22 1929: 1, 4.

    Colorful Matter


    quarters of a century after their acquisition,1533 their existence may have had implications for the founding of the Yale Babylonian Collection and for creating a department devoted to the study of Near Eastern civilizations, independent of the Divinity School.1534 In 1915, Professor of Assyriology Albert T. Clay called attention to this in an article in the college newspaper: At Yale University there has sprung into existence, as it were, within the past few years a Collection of Babylonian antiquities which is already

    1533 In 1917, Yale University’s School of Fine Arts opened up its most prestigious collections to the public and, according to newspaper records, this included “Babylonian Antiquities, illustrating the monuments and literature of Assyria and Babylonia” (“Famous Collection in the University Open To-Morrow,” Yale Daily News no. 34. November 3 1917: 1, 6). However, as far as I am aware, this collection did not include the oversized Nimrud reliefs. 1534 As at most American colleges, artifacts from Mesopotamia were first related to the field of Biblical Studies at Yale. Take this announcement about a lecture series in the college newspaper from 1895, for instance: The first of Prof. Sander’s series of lectures will be given tonight at 8 o’clock in Room A1, Osborn Hall, on ‘Life in Old Babylonia Fifty Centuries Ago.’ This course is to be illustrated, and the lectures delivered at irregular intervals throughout the college year with the object of setting forth the assured results of archaeological research in their bearing on the Old Testament. They are primarily for the benefit of the students in Old Testament History and Literature, but will be untechnical and of general interest. The lectures will be: ‘The Religious Art and Literature of Old Babylonia,’ and ‘Canaan and Egypt Before the Exodus.’ (“Professor Sander’s Lecture,” The Yale Daily News no. 24. October 23 1895: 1. Italics mine). A major force behind the study of Assyria and Babylonia from this Bible-oriented point of view at Yale Unviersity was The Semitic Club. This group held monthly meetings at the residence of William Rainey Harper (1856–1906), Professor of Semitic ­Languages in the graduate school and a lecturer at the Divinity School. Here is a report on one of the club’s meetings from 1888: By invitation of Professor Harper, the [Semitic] club met last evening at his residence on College street. The attendance was large, comprising the greater part of the members of the University, who are specially interested in Semitic studies. After the usual routine of business, Mr. G.W. Davis, of the graduate department, read an interesting paper on the Geography, History and Civilization of Ancient Babylonia. This is the first of a series of five papers to be presented during the year on Babylonian and Assyrian history (“The Semitic Club,” Yale Daily News no. 60. December 13 1888: 1). Another from 1897 stresses that the talks are open to a general audience: Dr. George A. Reisner of the Semitic department of Harvard University will lecture before the Semitic Club this evening on ‘Political and Social Conditions in Babylonia about 3000 b.c.’ Dr. Reisner has an enviable reputation as a scholar and is an authority on old Baby­lonia. The lecture will be very interesting to those who are not specialists (“Lectures and Debates,” Yale Daily News no. 121. March 4 1897: 1).


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    recognized as one of the important collections of the world…A nucleus for this effort has been in the possession of the University for many years in the shape of several large Assyrian reliefs in gypseus alabaster and a few bricks.1535 3.2 Conservation A brief sketch of the post-excavation biography of the Assyrian reliefs at Yale University is critical to the topic of color because at each of these stages, the polychromy on the objects was further compromised. Layard’s observation that “traces of colour were found upon nearly all the bas-reliefs” when he first exhumed them is striking, as hardly any paint is visible to the naked eye on the same reliefs today.1536 The loss of original coloration on the Yale reliefs must be understood in the context of the natural decomposition of polychromy, the damage incurred during excavation and transport, the conservation treatment the reliefs underwent during their museum life and finally, curatorial goals and attitudes. 3.2.1 Pigment Loss Due to Natural Decomposition Artists’ pigments and the binding medium in which they are protected are vulnerable to the effects of light, humidity, pollutants in the air, fluctuating temperatures, pH and other environmental factors. In the field of conservation science, much research has been conducted to track the stability of individual pigments. This body of literature may be coordinated with the evidence of pigments preserved on the Assyrian reliefs at Yale. In 2002, Elizabeth Hendrix carried out chemical analysis on the traces of pigment found on the Nimrud ­reliefs at Williams College, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and at Yale.1537 These finding, distilled by room type in the North-West Palace, are given here:

    1535 “Babylonian Collection,” The Yale Daily News no. 110. February 22 1915: 3. 1536 Layard’s full statement was: “Traces of colour were found upon nearly all the bas-reliefs, thus showing that the Assyrians, like other ancient nations, painted their sculptures and the architectural ornaments of their buildings” (Layard 1854, 12). 1537 The study entailed taking samples from ten reliefs and was conducted at the Center for Materials Research in Archaeology and Ethnology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Hendrix used high magnification polarizing light microscopy (plm) to observe the morphology and optical properties of pigments from Yale and Williams College, while the met samples were analyzed by Mark Wypski at the Sherman Fairchild Center of Object Conservation at the Museum using scanning electron microscope with an energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer. Paley published Hendrix’s results in 2008.


    Colorful Matter Table 4.2  Pigment distribution on reliefs from the North-West Palace kept at the met, Williams College and Yale University

    Human-headed Genius Room F Black on sandal Black on feather Room G Red on sandal Black on tassel Black on belt Black on tassel Black on armband Red on sandal Black on sandal Red on sandal Blue on feather Red/brown on thumb Ground for tree Room L Red on sandal Black on sandal Room S Red on sandal Red on sandal Red on sandal Black on sandal Black on sandal Black on sandal White eyeball White eyeball Room T Brown on leg Red on sandal Black on sandal

    Bird-headed Genius


    Bone/charcoal (W)Bone? Hematite (W) Bone/charcoal (W) Bone+charcoal (W) Bone (W) Bone (W)

    Cobalt-modern (M)

    Cinnabar (M) Bone+charcoal (M) Cinnabar (Y)

    Hematite (M)

    Calcium carbonate (Y) Hematite (M) Bone/charcoal (M) Hematite (M) Cinnabar/hematite (Y) Cinnabar (Y) Bone/charcoal (Y) Bone/charcoal (Y) Calcium sulfate (Y) Calcium sulfate (Y)

    Charcoal (M)

    Raw sienna (M) Cinnabar (M) Bone/charcoal (M)

    (M: met W: Williams College Y: Yale University)


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    In order to retrieve pigment particles, Hendrix first examined the surface of the reliefs under low (x4) magnification for traces of paint. Once a large enough specimen of paint was located, she removed a microscopic sample and had it chemically analyzed. Since visual examination was the first step in this methodology, it is not surprising that black and red are the prominent colors in the table above. Indeed, where the ancient paint is still visible to the naked eye on the reliefs today, it is generally red or black that one sees. This is because bone/ charcoal black and hematite are highly stable, inert, non-fugitive pigments. The former refers to a type of carbon-based pigment that was originally produced from either animal (bone black, ivory black) or vegetable matter (charcoal black, cork black),1538 while the latter is an iron-oxide compound found as mineral deposits on weathered rocks and iron-rich earth. When occurring naturally, hematite has a dull red color.1539 Raw sienna, found on the leg of a human-headed genius in room T, is a variety of yellow ochre which contains both iron and manganese oxides in its chemical composition. In its natural state, the hue of sienna varies from rich yellow to chestnut, while it takes on a warm red color after calcining (then called burnt sienna). Like hematite, sienna is a highly stable, non-fugitive pigment.1540 The final red pigment found in Hendrix’s sample set is cinnabar, a soft red mercury sulfide that naturally occurs as a crusty mineral.1541 While iron oxide and carbon-based pigments are common enough, the main source for cinnabar in the ancient Near East is uncertain, although it is known to originate in the region of Ephesus in coastal Turkey, in the Betic Mountains located in southwestern Spain and in the Balkans near Belgrade.1542 Unlike the other red pigments, cinnabar is photosensitive and darkens with exposure to light.1543 Another colorant known to darken is Egyptian blue, a pigment that is not in Hendrix’s report, but is nonetheless present in large quantities on the Yale reliefs and will be discussed later in this chapter (see 4.4). Although chemically stable, the discoloration of paint-containing Egyptian blue has been observed in Egyptian tomb art, for instance. The main cause for this is the gradual aging of organic binders and varnishes, which, originally clear, eventually take on a

    1538 It is also possible to produce stable carbon-based black pigment from minerals (graphite, black earth) and soot (carbon black, lamp black). 1539 Eastaugh et al. 2004, 82–84 and 183. 1540 Eastaugh et al. 2004, 339–340. 1541 Not to be confused with “vermilion,” which often appears as a synonym for cinnabar but which technically refers to a synthetic pigment produced since the eighth century CE. 1542 Eastaugh et al. 2004, 105–106 and 386–387. 1543 Saunders and Kirby 2004; McCormack 2000.

    Colorful Matter


    brown color.1544 Modern experiments reveal that when mixed with brown colored binding agents, the darkest type of Egyptian blue (coarsely ground pigment particles) gives the impression of being black. When the brown binder is mixed with finely ground Egyptian blue that is of a paler shade, the resulting paint appears brownish green. Aside from the binders, the authors of this study noted another common cause for the modification of pigment relevant to this study of painted sculpture.1545 The calcium sulfate (or gypsum) of the orthostats holds atmospheric dirt to a high degree, causing the surface of the paint layer to appear darker. As Hendrix observed, the original color of the stone is an important factor to consider when discussing the polychromy of the reliefs, as when freshly quarried, gypseous alabaster has partially translucent creamy white color. Moisture, ultra-violet light and, needless to say, dirt darken the stone. Green’s study on unstable pigments in Egyptian wall paintings has shown that arsenic pigments, such as realgar and orpiment, degrade photochemically, while lead-based white and red pigments easily blacken when exposed to atmospheric pollutants.1546 With exposure to light, orpiment converts to arsenic oxide and loses its yellow hue. Photo-aging causes realgar’s deep orange-red hue to fade to a bright yellow.1547 Naturally, once disintegrated, it is impossible to retrieve ancient polychromy. Appendix A, which lists the minerals widely used for pigments and cosmetics in the ancient Near East, gives an impression of how extensive and sophisticated the color palette of the Assyrian artists working at Nimrud might have been. In brief, although much of the original pigmentation on the surface of the Assyrian reliefs has disintegrated, the durable carbon-based black and ironoxide-based red pigments are still partly visible to the naked eye. The survival of traces of cinnabar may be explained by the fact that, as a dense pigment, it requires only a thin medium. When applied to gypseous alabaster, cinnabarbased paint may seep into the pores of the stone, almost staining it.1548 Two types of red pigment, hematite (in room G, room S, room L) and cinnabar (in room G, room S, room T), were employed to paint sandals. While the cinnabar has darkened to a brownish-hue over time, both pigments may have been used indiscriminately to produce a red hue or even mixed with other pigments 1544 An example of this is the brown “organic fixative or varnish” found crusted over Egyptian blue pigment in the painted reliefs in the 5th Dynasty tomb of Per-neb (Williams 1932, 32–33; Eibner 1970, 43–55, 577–578). 1545 Daniels et al. 2004. 1546 Green 2001. 1547 Korenberg 2008. 1548 This explanation has been posited for the survival of cinnabar traces on marble by Elizabeth Hendrix (Hendrix 1998, 10).


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    (see 4.4.3). Hendrix also reported the presence of cobalt on the feather of a human-headed genius (room G). This is almost certainly a modern effort to reproduce the effect of Egyptian blue pigment, which will be discussed in more detail later (see 4.4). 3.2.2

    Pigment Loss During Conservation Efforts Washing The Statues (According to Mr. Fowler, M.P., the British Museum statues are periodically washed) Our classic souls are filled with joy Minerva’s graceful trailing skirt To learn that Cupid, blind bad boy, Is spotless as masher’s shirt Looks fresh as any modern toy– And from his tub Ajax alert That Venus takes her tub, The lightning doth defy. As visitors can verify When Mrs Frundy is not by– Sublime Apollo’s face divine While Bacchus polished, clean and dry, Of London’s chimneys bears no sign, Gets ready for his club. And Juno looks superbly fine With all her classic airs. Niobe weeps no sooty tear– Would that the process that restores On Clytie’s face there’s