Enhegal: A Spurious King?

Notes on PBS 9 2 (The Enhegal Tablet)

From Samuel N. Kramer JAOS 20 [1]
(Enhegal as king)

In this article Kramer refers to a tablet (SBD 2 aka PBS 9 2)
which repeatedly mentions Enhegal. Because all kings between
Ur-Nanshe and Urukagina are known from contemporary sources,
its reasoned that since Enhegal is not among them, the tablet,
and Enhegal, must precede them. The tablet is dated in part by
this histographic observation therefore.

Olmstead, from The American Journal of Semitic Languages and
Literatures [2]

(Enhegal as king)

Olmstead in 1917, described the tablet as a "very archaic limestone tablet", extremely difficult to read, recording "real estate holdings." Enhegal he says, "is here called the "improver(?) of the land, exalted king, the warrior who subdues, princely leader, great lord," an interesting example of an early titulary. If he really were the uniter of the land, it points to conquests of some importance. Among the royal estates described in a section "captured from Umma, bordering on the old palm trees of Guedin, the cherished land of Enhegal," and in this we see the first mention of the territory which was so constantly the bone of contention between the two states."

Nels Bailkey 1967 [3]
(Enhegal as king and landowner)

In a footnote referring to Enhegal , Nels Bailkey refers to two early kings of Lagash who came before Ur-Nanshe, the earlier one being Enhegal and second Lugal-sha-engur. He says: "Signiicantly,...Enhegal, was a great land-owner whose single inscription as "lugal of Lagash" records his expenditure of nearly two tons of copper for the purchase of some 2,500 acres of land from 8 different lugal's..his tyranny seems to have been premature, however, since Lugalshaengur, his apparent successor and Ur-Nanshes immediate predecessor, was a weak ensi-gar."

PBS 9 2, G.A. Barton [4]

The primary publication of this text, the archaic "real-estate" text from Lagash which refers in several places to Enhegal, first appears in Barton's PBS 9 2. Here we can observe the text itself (pg. 11) and I have copied some relevant portions below:

col. iii

1. 8 burs of land;
2. 2 burs of ploughed land;
3. 11 (gurs) of winnowed gab-grain;
4. 10 1/2 (gurs) of winnowed grain;
5. (for) Enkhegal, the king,
6. improver (?) of the land's irrigation,
7. uniter (?) of the land,
8. the exalted king, chief counselor, the subduer,
9. princely leader, great lord.

col. iv

6. 3 burs of royal land, captured from Umma (?),
7. bordering on the old palm trees
8. of Gu-edin, the cherished land
9. of Enkhegal,
10.king of Lagash.


Enhegal tablet /click at the picture for bigger version/ click here for backside

(OIP 104. Earliest Land Tenure Systems in the Near East Ancient Kudurrus.)

To easily read and consider the text as it appear in PBS 9 2,
I recommend the resource archives.com offers the reader. See page 11

Analyzing PBS 9 2: Marvin Powell, JCS 46 [5]
(Enhegal as landowner)

As the nature PBS 9 2 is an archaic document which records
exchanges of land, the perspective of Marvin A. Powell is particular interesting
here. His work on Mesopotamian Economy may give him a rare perspective on this text..
In JCS 46, Powell reviews the work of another scholar and in qualifying their
statements, he in turn tells us something interesting about Enhegal. He first acknowledges
that the tablet in question "encapsules most of the difficulties that we face in
interpreting these early texts" and he emphasizes the point that there is little context
for interpreting this text and its understanding is therefore difficult. In
demonstrating this, he proceeds to counter earlier interpretations of the text which take
for Granted that Enhegal is king of Lagash.

Powell points out that there seem to be 4 mentions of the name Enhegal in PBS 9 2,
in 4 separate transactions:

Transaction 1 - broken, followed by [lu]gal-šé lagaš
Transaction 3 - enhegal lugal-šé lagaš (king of Lagash)
Transaction 4 - enhegal lugal
Transaction 5- enhegal lugal-šé lagaš

Powell makes a few points about the occurrence of Enhegal in this text, and pushes for a

First, he believes that based on an analyzation of third millennium land transfers,
only D. O. Edzard's interpretation of Enhegal can be taken as correct - that is, Enhegal
as seller not as king: "This in turn makes it highly probable that the term lugal which
follows Enhegal's name means "owner"... Second, the postposition -šé (which denotes the
seller in transactions where the grammar is certain) occurs not *after* Lagash, as it
usually is transliterated, but *before*. Thus, Lagash is probably the toponymn that
defines the area where the land lies that Enhegal is selling. Third, elimination of
the spurious "king" Enhegal eliminates the most serious interpretation difficulty and
makes the text a relatively straightforward sale document. Fourth, elimination of "king"
Enhegal also enables us to date the text more sensibly: probably around the time of
Ur-Nanshe but certainly not much earlier and perhaps even a bit later."

Powell concludes that this demonstrates how little we really know about the political
history of the third millennium. Olmstead had, almost 100 years ago, taken col. iii line 7
"uniter of the land" to mean 'conqueror' and that is suggestive of a king.. Lines 8 and 9
do indeed contain some very suggestive titularly which Powell does not seem to address,
and one wonders if a land seller/owner would be called at any time "subduer"..?


Lineart of the Enhegal tablet / click at the picture for a bigger version

[1] S. N. Kramer Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 52, No. 2 (Jun., 1932),
pp. 110-132
[2] A. T. Olmstead, The Political Development of Early Babylonia,
The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. 33, No. 4 (Jul., 1917),
pp. 283-321
[3] Nels Bailkey, Early Mesopotamian Constitutional Development
The American Historical Review, Vol. 72, No. 4 (Jul., 1967), pp. 1211-1236
[4] G.A. Barton, Publications of the Babylonian Section (PBS), vol. 9 (1917)
[5] Marvin A. Powell , Review: Elusive Eden: Private Property at the Dawn of History,
Journal of Cuneiform Studies, Vol. 46, (1994), pp. 99-104




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