Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

(Bn) Agptr / (Binu) Agaptarri's House: A Functional Analysis of an Ugaritic "Archive" (PH Room 10)

Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

(Bn) Agptr / (Binu) Agaptarri's House: A Functional Analysis of an Ugaritic "Archive" (PH Room 10)

Article excerpt

In contrast to other archaeological sites of the ancient Near East that have preserved groups of tablets, generally only a single collection each, (1) Tell Ras Shamra/Ugarit offers the rare opportunity of demonstrating the existence of many so-called "archives." Some of these were recovered from topographical points (henceforth p.t.) of official importance (palaces and temples), while others belonged to private mansions. (2) It is usual to presume that both types of archives--official and private--accomplished different functions and followed different criteria of compilation, according to their owners' interests. Such criteria are clear enough in case of official archives, taking into account the requirements of public administration: commercial, financial, diplomatic, etc., on the one hand, and cultic and religious on the other. As for private or personal archives, the motivation for their compilation is more uncertain, given the variety of materials preserved in them, keeping in mind that in Ugarit there was seemingly a more or less "private" cult, (3) which might be reflected in the categories of texts preserved by individuals.

The epigrapher or commentator, even the mere text editor, has not in general up to now paid much attention to the archaeological context of the text, focusing only on its contents. Things have now begun to change in this regard. Within the complex panorama of the Ugaritic archival system we aim here to present a functional analysis of the archive found in the house complex recovered in the so-called "Tranchee Sud-acropole," consisting of three units named by the excavators "Maison d'Agipshari," "Maison du pretre-magicien / du pretre aux modeles de foies et du poumon" (Fig. 1), and "Bibliotheque de Lamashtu." (4)

Mme. Yon designates this architectural complex as an "Ensemble de batiments lies au culte et a la divination," (5) adding: "II se compose, semble-t-il, de deux batiments mitoyens, qui communiquent apparemment par une seule porte." In his turn, Courtois remarks more precisely about the "Maison du pretre-magicien": "Au total, et tout bien pense, il apparait que notre maison abritait a la fois la bibliotheque et le mobilier cultuel et liturgique d'un pretre-devin pratiquant l'hepatomancie pour des particuliers de haut rang, notament de gens du palais; ce pretre abritait egalement une ecole ou il instruisait un nombre restreint d'eleves-scribes mais, selon nous, cette activite etait secondaire par rapport a l'activite principale, relative aux divers aspects de la celebration du culte officiel d'Ougarit..." (6) We are in agreement with this view, with some doubts, however, concerning the "secondary" nature of the scribal training provided by the master.

As for the complex activity of the diviner-priest, we will return to the opposition--or rather complementarity--between his official sacrificial cultic responsibilities and his divinatory-magical practice. In any case, we already have a sketchy answer to the question put forward above on the compilation and practical criteria of a private archive. The question now is to determine to what extent and in what sense the materials collected there match these criteria. (7)

Seen from inside, the tripartite archaeological space actually forms a single intercommunicating area, which means that it constituted a unit, as regards ownership and use. The northern part can be understood as the private residence, while the southern portion would constitute the functional space devoted to the practice of the professional activities of the owners, cultic-magical as well as pedagogical, which were in all probability intimately related. The magician apprentices would have acted as "deacons" or "acolytes" in the performances of the master magician priest.

The northern part of the building offered access to the southern section through a door opening into the hall in its southwest corner; the southern part in turn had direct access from outside. …

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