(A2-25) Serving the gods and the king – political, economic and social interaction in the sphere of cultic-religious institutions in Mesopotamia in the late 3rd and early 2nd millennium B.C.

Within the project, the internal and external interdependences and cooperations of the cultic-religious institutions of Mesopotamia (temples with their respective production, supply and distribution households) and also their leading forces (priests, administrative personnel, and the service and production workforce) will be looked at more closely in terms of their relationship with the politico-administrative structures (kingship and palace). Regarding geography and period, research concentrates on Southern Mesopotamia (Babylonia) in the so-called Ur III Period (21st century B.C.) and the following Old Babylonian Period of the first half of the 2nd millennium B.C. The focus, on the one hand, is on the significance of the temples and their priests in their function of legitimising political rule, not least also in view of their role as the economic basis of ancient oriental kingship at that time.

The second focus involves the question as to the social basis enabling the temples and the priests, respectively, to fulfil their politico-economic and cultic-religious tasks under the ancient oriental social conditions of the Ur III and Old Babylonian Periods. Investigations into the utilisation of serf labour on the part of the temples’ households and (the families of) the priests, in terms of both quantity and quality (professional qualification, involvement in religious-cultic tasks, scribe’s activities), will play the main role here. The role and function of the temples and their households (facilities and personnel) with the social-ideological reference to the kingship as the political institution will be investigated in a diachronically comparative manner in order to be able to recognise continuities and discontinuities in the respective structures as well as in the respective modes of action and influence. The investigations to be made assume a historical framework of various, mutually affecting factors of a religious-ideological, economic and politico-social nature in order to obtain an idea – one which is as complex as possible – of the internal structure, social function and ideological-political force of the cultic-religious institutions in the context of the ancient oriental social history at that time.

The Project is part of interconnecting platform E Differentiation and De-Differentiation and of coordinated project group Religious influences on economic systems and activities.

Subproject “Institutional slavery – utilising serf labour in the cultic-religious and politico-administrative institutions of the Old Babylonian Period” (working title)

An extensive case study on the Old Babylonian conditions will look further into the social basis which enabled the temple and the priests, respectively, to fulfil their politico-economic and cultic-religious tasks. In a comparative manner and guided by the social historical question and its respective judicial implications underlying the project, the different institutional archives and family archives of Northern and Southern Babylonia and of the Diyala area as well as of Susa in Elam will be analysed. With a view to the significance of slave labour on the temple grounds and in the priests’ households for the functioning of the cultic-religious realm, the particular fields of activity are to be identified and distinguished, if possible, also in the light of the relationship of production as well as service work and of intellectual activity.