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The tablet of Ur-Nina


A new interpretation (a system-theoretical approach) of the 1st exercise of Anton Deimel’s „Sumerian Grammar”













         Figure 12

    The tablet of Ur-Nina














                                                Figure 12

                                    The tablet of Ur-Nina





The text beside the main figure (represented by recumbent numbers)


Deimel’s reading:                                translation:

1. dingir NINA + UR                               UR dNINA = the lord/hero of NINA goddess


2.LUGAL                                              king of Shirburlaki (Lagas)

3. SHIR.BUR.LA(ki)                             


4. DUMU NI.GU.DU                             the son of GUNIDU

5. E2 dingir NIN.GIR.SU                        the temple of the deity (called) NINGIRSU     

6. MU.DU3                                           has built up



Reading the translation two questions can be posed:


How can we interpret the ligature UR+d+NINA?

Who was GUNIDU?



How can we interpret the ligature UR+d+NINA?


As the ligature is preceded by the determinative dingir (identifying gods and goddesses), Nina must be a god(dess) name. In Labat’s dictionary we can find the name Nanshe at L.200, which is UR.NINA in Deimel’s interpretation. The name UR.NINA can be found in the king list of  Lagash.


NINA(ki) is the name of Lagash’s district too. The sign -- belonging to NINA, and which reminds us of an L-shape -- can be not only the sign


L.575 UR         heros, sir   but also

L.38 URU         town too.


So the ligature (UR.)NINA can be interpreted as


the heroic god of the goddess

or the lord (minister) of Nina

or -- using L.38 – the god of the town district dNINA.


According to Tibor Farkasinszky it means „the assistant or the authorized ruler of dNINA”.


The supposed reign of UR. dNINA is ca. 2900 B. C., a bit after the (Little) Flood.  But the ruler can not be identified as the „music-fun” (music-lover) goddess Nanse. This opinion is supported by the fact that the figure of the ruler has a male character.


At L.200 -- beside uruNina -- we can find the meaning Ninive (the Akkadian town). This name is written by two signs (L.38 and L.200). It means there is a distinctive role of the writing style (two signs separated -- or together as ligature) at the name of UR.NINA.



Who was GUNIDU?


The king-list of the Patesi-s (priest-kings) of Lagash begins with UR.dNINA. GUNIDU is not present there.

Why is Gunidu – as the father of UR.dNINA – present in Deimel’s interpretation?

If a researcher can not make the meaning of a Sumerian word clear, he uses a well proved – but morally questionable – method: he or she supposes it is a name.


As the Sumerians used so called „telling names”, it is useful to examine the meanings of the names in every case. So Deimel’s method does not solve „the problem of Gunidu”, only multiplies it.


I suggest You should perform an analysis now!

It’s very uncommon that the order of the signs should be NI GU DU (and not GU NI DU). The first sign can be interpreted not only as L.231 NI, but L.597 NÍG too.


L.144 + L.597  TUR NIG(.GU).DU means: son, descendant                                   


L.144    DUMU nígDU3 with the meaning high-ranking person, minister

 (where níg is the determinative for indicating abstract word-formation -- standing before L.230 DU3, which means „to create, to build”)


The five figures (the assistants or authorized rulers of dNINA) being present in the left side of the clay tablet fit well into both interpretations.



The identification of the town districts and the figures


Let’s continue with the interpretation of the names of the five figures’ (having a smaller size than the main ruler)! Let’s have a look at one of the possible interpretations!


 Deimel did not consider either of them as „telling names“: he did not give the possible meanings in either case. That‘s why I – instead of Deimel – decided a couple of years ago to try to read them as „telling names“, giving of course several possible variations.

In some cases I have modified even the Sumerian reading.



Deimel’s reading:                 My reading:                My own translation:


1. GU.LA                                GU.LA                          the great (but it can be connected to 

constellation Aquarius and the „basket of the female’s abundance”, the umbilical cord too)


2. LUGAL EZEN                     LUGAL EZEN              the prince/king of the feast (L.152)


LUGAL MA4                  the prince/king of the garden-land (D.315)                                    

LUGAL SHIR3              the prince/king of music/songs (L.152)                                                      

LUGAL SAR                 the prince/king of writing (L.152)


3. BAR2.SA.NU.HE2.DI           SHARA ZAG.GÁN      the king of the high and sacred shrine  

                                                NIMki                           territory


4. A.KUR.GAL.TUR               A.KUR.GAL TUR         AKURGAL, the son of UR.NINA

                                                                                    „the son/water of the small /and/ big



5. A2.NI.TA                              A2        NI.TA               a strong man, male force

                                                L.334   L.50

(descripted by L.231+L.139)


GAR     KAB.TA           the minister of the sacred KABTA

                                                L.597   L.109

(descripted by L.88+L.139)


The five figures of smaller size belong supposedly to the five districts of Lagash. Let’s see the names of the districts!




The names of the districts


District                                   The supposed meaning of the „telling name” 


SHIR.BUR.LAki                                "The pot of the abundant Light”, the Sumerian name-variation of Lagash.

GIR2.SUki                                           "The field of the increase of fighting  /or the field of the sword’s force/", the field of the propagation (multiplication).

Its present name is Tello(h).

Its main god: NINGIRSU (the god of  wars).

Its ancient goddess: GATUMDUG (the mother of Gudea).

URU.KUG.GA                           "The sacred town" (uruKU3.GI  = "the town of gold”).

NINAki                                                   "The field of NINA" ("the field of the Mistress").

KI.NU.NIRki                                         "The field of Ninurta, the field of the procreator and heros".

NU.NIR is one of the name-variations of Ninurta (see D.75/62).


I hope the re-translation of the text, the interpretaion of the „telling names” and the systematically arranged tablets of the districts, gods, rulers can give a new impulse to the researchers of the Ur-Nina (in Sumerian UR.NINA) tablet.



The correspondence of the districts and the „viceroys (or sub-kings)"


Try to put the districts and the „viceroys or sub-kings" in pairs!


One of the possible correspondances:


The name of the goddess Gula –consort of Ninurta – emerges in the ruler’s name GU.LA ("the great"), so we can join the district KI.NU.NIRki to her.


A.KUR.GAL.TUR, the son of UR.dNINA is supposedly the ruler of NINAki  because his father’s name appears in this district.


To URU.KUG.GÁ – the sacred district – we can join SHARA ZAG.GÁN NIMki, the king of the high and sacred shrine territory.


To A2 NI.TA (the strong man) or GAR KAB.TA (the leader/minister of the Moon-god NANNAR /the Akkadian Sin/) we can fit GIR2.SUki (because the meaning of the name – the field of the sword’s force – refers to force, army).


At the end LUGAL EZEN (the king of feasts), LUGAL MA4 (the king of the garden-land),  LUGAL SHIR3 (the king of music/songs) belongs to SHIR.BUR.LAki, to the home of Light giving birth to the planets, joy and feasts to men. 





On the tablet of Ur-Nina there are five smaller figures beside the ruler illustrated as a bigger (and greater) person.

During the interpretation of their names and texts I succeeded in giving more details to Deimel’s reading. 

The novelty of my article is the supposed connection among the five male descendants (or notabilities) and the five districts of Lagash.