Life at the Bottom of Babylonian Society

Servile Laborers at Nippur in the 14th and 13th Centuries B.C.


Life at the Bottom of Babylonian Society is a study of the population dynamics, family structure, and legal status of publicly-controlled servile workers in Kassite Babylonia. It compares some of the demographic aspects proper to this group with other intensively studied past populations, such as Roman Egypt, Medieval Tuscany, and American slave plantations. It suggests that families, especially those headed by single mothers, acted as a counter measure against population reduction (flight and death) and as a means for the state to control this labor force. The work marks a step forward in the use of quantitative measures in conjunction with cuneiform sources to achieve a better understanding of the social and economic forces that affected ancient Near Eastern populations.
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Biographical Note

Jonathan S. Tenney, Ph.D. (2009) in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago, is a postdoctoral fellow in Assyriology at the University of Copenhagen and the recipient of the Outstanding Dissertation Award by The American Academic Institute of Iraq. He will be joining the faculty of Cornell University in the Autumn of 2011.

Table of contents

Chapter One. Servile Laborers in a Favored Province
Chapter Two. Sources
Chapter Three. Population Sex, Age, Death, and Health
Chapter Four. Family and Household
Chapter Five. Work, Flight, Origins, and Status
Chapter Six. The Servile Work Force in Local and National Perspective


All those interested in the cuneiform record, social history, and population of Babylonia in the Bronze Age, the demography of Premodern populations, Assyriologists, historians of slavery, and historical demographers.


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