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Dowry record and redemption of sold dowry slave

Ngl 25 and Nbn 59 (Alternate Title)

Ngl 25 (BM 30525)
~~~Marduk-šar-uṣur, son of Nabû-ēṭir, voluntarily (lit. "in the joy of his heart") has given five minas (ca. 2.5 kgs.) of silver, four slaves, 30 heads of sheep and goats, two cows and household utensils as dowry with f.Hiptaya, his daughter, to Nabû-bān-zēri, son of Bēl-uballiṭ from the Dannêa family.
~~~Nabû-b&#x0101n-zēri has received her dowry from Marduk-šar-uṣur.
~~~Names of three witnesses and scribe.
~~~Babylon, 6th day of the 6th month, year 1 of Neriglissar, king of Babylon.
~~~Nbn 59 (BM 30520)
~~~(This is concerning) the slave woman whom Nabû-bān-zēri, son of Bēl-uballiṭ from the Dannêa family, has sold (lit. "given for silver") to Nabû-šum-līšir, son of Balassu from the Esangilaya family, and Nabû-šum-līšir (has inscribed) her wrist with his name.
~~~Nabû-šum-līšir has received (back the purchase price of) 32 shekels (ca. 267 grs.) of silver from Marduk-šar-uṣur, son of Nabû-ēṭir (the vendor's father-in-law).
~~~All existing documents (pertaining) to the sale (of this slave woman) whom he (the purchaser) took away (in settlement of a debt) from Nabû-bān-zēri he has given to Marduk-šar-uṣur (to whom the slave woman now legally belongs).
~~~Names of three witnesses and scribe (the purchaser).
~~~Babylon, 4th day of the 2nd month, year 2 of Nabonidus, king of Babylon.

Explanatory Notes:  None of the explanations provided in brackets is spelled out in the text but went without saying for scribe and parties.<br>The dowry record contains a receipt clause and therefore states the actual delivery of the items. Besides silver and slaves it comprises cattle and sheep, which otherwise rarely is found in dowries (cf. M.T. Roth, AfO 36/37(1989-90) p. 1-55 on dowry items). The bride’s father is never mentioned with a family name, and his first name suggests a connection with the royal household or administration. He seems to be a wealthy social climber marrying his daughter off into a well-established Babylonian family—to a groom in need of money, as the next document shows.<br>Four years later the groom sells a slave woman (probably one of the dowry slaves or bought with money from the dowry) to settle a debt for which the slave already had served as a pledge (this is indicated by abaku “to lead away” in the context of slave purchases). Obviously it was beyond his means to redeem the slave or he had no intention to do so. <br>The purchaser immediately marked the slave woman with a tattoo on the wrist as his property, as was common practice. At that point the father-in-law came up with the purchase price (maybe urged by his daughter) and redeemed the slave woman. Our text states that all previous documentation was handed over to the father-in-law who now was the legal owner, though he may have given the slave back to his daughter. <br>The story is not yet over. These records were preserved in the archive of the Egibi family, presumably as proof for their own claims on the slave woman. A business inventory from the 14th year of Nabonidus (Nbn 787) mentions a slave women of the same name as joint property of Itti-Marduk-bal&#x0101;&#x1E6D;u Egibi and his business partner. We therefore may assume that they had bought her with business proceeds in the meantime. <br>Under normal circumstances a purchase contract would be sufficient proof of ownership, but in this case the woman’s ownership mark referred to a purchaser whose contract had been voided because of redemption. To avoid future claims from him or his heirs the Egibis were well advised to keep the entire documentation.
Publication:  translation by Cornelia Wunsch
Source:  B.T.A. Evetts, … Evil-Merodach... 1892, no. 25; J.N. Strassmaier, ...Nabonidus, 1889, no. 59
Date:  559 and 555 BC
Language:  Neo-Babylonian
Medium:  clay tablet
Find Spot:  probably Babylon
See all in category Marriage