Neo-Babylonian Laundry

C.A.H. Waerzeggers

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The clothes of the gods were regularly washed by specialized craftsmen in Neo-Babylonian temples (Bongenaar 1997: 304ff.), but who did the laundry of ordinary people? It is symptomatic of the character of Neo-Babylonian documentation that a simple question like this one is difficult to answer: while craftsmen and craft production lie at the heart of the kind of bookkeeping that is preserved from Neo-Babylonian temples (Jursa 2004a: 163, 169), private accounting is only sporadically concerned with the consumption of craft goods or their production. Erratic data have to be culled from many different archives only to yield a very patchy picture of the artisan outside of the temple economy. This article helps reconstruct that picture with a study of washermen in the service of private households. This study is occasioned by the discovery of five new laundry contracts in the British Museum which, together with published texts, offer an insight into the business of dirty laundry in Babylonian cities of the mid-first millennium BCE.
Original languageEnglish
JournalRevue d'Assyriologie
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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