The importance of temples in the socio-political reality of ancient Mesopotamia is clearly attested in cuneiform documentation dating back to the earliest times. A unique function of the Mesopotamian temples, attested in the cuneiform documentation of the Old Babylonian cities, is represented by the commercial use of their funds for interest-bearing loans or investments in a business. The peculiar feature of the Old Babylonian temple loans is that they are worded as if it was the divinity himself granting a loan of barley or silver to the debtor(s), who must repay it directly to the god.
The number of temple loans identified to date is about 490. They come from all over Mesopotamia and range from the Isin-Larsa period—the oldest ones are dated to Sumu-El’s reign (1894–1866 BCE)—to Samsu-ditana’s reign (1625–1595 BCE), the last king of the First Dynasty of Babylon. Therefore, these texts cover a period of over two and half centuries.
This paper intends to present new data based on a corpus of about seventy tablets housed in the British Museum. They record loan contracts and debt notes belonging to the archive of Uraš’s temple, excavated in the 19th century at the site of Geraineh (a few kilometers north of Babylon). Most of these documents are dated to the last years of Ammi-ditana’s reign (namely to Ammi-ditana 35 and 36).
Based on this evidence, some of the highlights that have emerged from the study of this material will be discussed.