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Parthian Economic Documents from Nisa


30 March 2004




LONDON, (CAIS) -- There are over 2700 texts, which number does not correspond exactly to the number of sherds, since many sherds have inscriptions on both surfaces, representing different documents, and there are a large number of palimpsests.

In 1974 the plan of publishing a comprehensive edition of the Parthian ostraca was adopted by the Corpus Inscriptionum Iranicarum. The editors hoped that the edition would be completed within a few years, but after a vigorous start with the publication of the first three volumes of plates and the first fascicle of the accompanying text volume between 1976 and 1979 the project went into abeyance until it was revived in 1996. In 1998, and 1999 the final two volumes of plates were published, and the two remaining fascicles of Texts I in 1998 and in 2001.The last fascicle is issued together with a hard-cover binder for the whole text volume.

The great majority of the Nisa ostraca bear standard economic texts, most of them referring to the bargain of wine, stating quantity of wine, estates and vineyards; date of transaction, and the names of the persons involved. This is expressed in highly stereotyped formulae. The editors had therefore at first .contemplated giving transliterations and translations of only a small number of sample documents for those interested in the language, together with lists of data which would be of interest to the historically interested reader. However, the number of structural as well as morphological, variants in the texts turned out to be considerable; therefore it was decided to transliterate all the texts.

The ostraca were classified and assigned to groups according to form and contents. The third fascicle of Texts I contains the transliteration of texts Nr. 2324-2723 from Old Nisa, of a short inscription (with only a personal name) engraved on the side of ajar, and of the seven documents from New Nisa. Since the documents of the most frequent type were placed at the beginning of the sequence, this last fascicle exhibits a greater variety than the others. Besides documents referring to the delivery of old wine, new wine, wine turned sour, vinegar and other goods, the volume contains documents of a different kind. Group xix consists of three short inscriptions commemorating the accession of a new king, group xx (No. 2641-2670) consists of repetitions of formulae which are obviously writing exercises, and in group xxi, “non-standard documents”, non-standard variants of typical dockets and other documents of unusual form are gathered.

As in the previous fascicles of Texts I, all documents are listed with their new number along with the old number and the date of the document where possible. The footnotes provide information about the nature of the document, reading variants, and the degree of preservation of the text. Many of the documents have been furnished with a translation, but in some cases where the text consists almost exclusively of reconstructions or of the word MN “from” and a personal name or numbers, this would not have been reasonable. For those interested in analyzing such fragments the glossary will be a source of information. The glossary contained in this fascicle comprises the whole lexicon of the published documents, including incomplete words of which at least two letters survive. The glossary also contains the numerous personal names which are of great interest both to the linguist and the historian. It is followed by a reverse index, and a detailed list of contents.

The edition will be complete with the publication of Texts II which is to contain the commentary and which will hopefully be published soon.

Parthian Economic Documents from Nisa, Texts I (Fascicle 3)
Diakonov, Igor Michailovic and Vladimir Andronovic Livshits
Edited by David Neil MacKenzie, Andrei N. Bader and Nicolas Sims-Williams
Corpus Inscriptionum Iranicarum. Part II Inscriptions of the Seleucid and Parthian Periods and of Eastern Iran and Central Asia. Volume II Parthian
London School of Oriental and African Studies [2001]

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