Ulrike Steinert, "Akkadian Terms for Streets and the Topography of Mesopotamian Cities", in: Altorientalische Forschungen, 38/2 (2011), 309–347


Archaeological data on streets and open spaces in Mesopotamian cities and thus present knowledge about the layout of urban street networks are still rather limited. The textual sources, on the other hand, although offering much information on topographic features, often provide insufficient clues to identify these with certainty on the ground, due to a lack either of specificity or of archaeological information. In the first section of this article, the Akkadian vocabulary for city streets will be discussed, concentrating on the semantics of the term ribı¯tu. Textual examples from the 2nd to the 1st millennium BC will be presented, pointing to the polysemy of the word ribı¯tu, meaning both “broad street’ and “(open) space’, but also to the development of more extended meanings, such as “district’ and “circumference’. The polysemy of ribı¯tu can be correlated with a lack of other words for public “open space’ (“square’) in Akkadian. In a second part, archaeological evidence for streets and open spaces in Mesopotamian cities will be presented, and it is suggested that this evidence accords with the Akkadian terminology.

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