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During the Old Babylonian period (ca. 2002–1595 B.C.), the city of Nippur was a primary center for transmission of Sumerian culture, and its scribal schools (called edubba in Sumerian, lit. “the house of the tablets”) had a great reputation throughout ancient Mesopotamia. The function of the edubba was twofold: to train the scribes in the skills of their profession, equipping them to record day-to-day affairs, and to preserve and pass on their cultural heritage. In the last phase of early education, pupils were trained comprehensively in the formal rhetoric of administration and law by compilations of the so-called “model contracts,” together with “model court cases,” legal phrasebooks and collections of legal principles. While they were not functional documents, but simply didactic tools (being stripped of incidental details, such as list of witnesses and date), model contracts follow the common patterns of Sumerian contract types and represent a comprehensive assortment of all possible transactions that the ancient Mesopotamian administration might have been required to draw up in everyday economic life: barley and silver loans; deeds of real estate, field or slave sale; marriage contracts; adoptions, and so on.
The book contains the publication of the Sumerian model contracts from Old Babylonian Nippur kept in the Hilprecht Collection, Jena. The edition provides transliterations, translations, commentaries of the entire corpus and of some duplicates kept in other cuneiform collections; the indexes comprise personal names, deities, toponyms and a glossary. Finally, the plates at the end of the volume offer handcopies and photographs of all the HS tablets.