site located in northern Babylonia, halfway between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, 25 km (15.5 mi.) south of Baghdad (33°6′ N, 44°18′ E). Tell ed-Der covers an area of about 50 ha (123.5 acres). The site was probably founded slightly before the Ur III period (2112–2004 BCE), but its name at that early stage in its history is not known. However, the information yielded from the archives found in the area its excavators call operation E ascertain its identification with the Old Babylonian town of Sippar-Amnānum that appears in written sources during the reign of Sinmuballit (1812–1793 BCE); on the other hand, Dominique Charpin (1992) has shown that the names of Sippar-Amnānum, Sippar-Annunītum, Sippar-rabûm and Sippar-dūrum probably designate the same town. Later on, only Sippar-Anunītu is cited by the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser I (1114–1076 BCE) among his conquests—the name that remained until the Persian period (539–333 BCE). The meaning of Der as “cloister” or “enclosure” has not yet been established with certainty.
In 1891, E. A. W. Budge drew many thousands of clay tablets out of the mounds at ed-Der. Three years later, Victor Scheil made a more modest find but presumed that ancient Sippar-Amnānum lay hidden underneath the ruins. Walter Andrae and Julius Jordan visited the site In 1927 and drew the first precise plans; it was not until 1941 that excavations were organized, by Taha Baqir and Mohammad Ali Mustafa under Iraqi government auspices. Since 1970 a Belgian team directed by Léon De Meyer and Hermann Gasche has systematically investigated the site. In the area the excavators call operation A an area with private houses was selected for stratigraphic analysis: seventeen successive building stages are represented by some 6 m of cultural debris, from the twenty-first to the end of the eighteenth centuries BCE. The considerable information gathered is featured in various synthetic studies (e.g., urbanization, domestic architecture, graves, pottery, terra-cotta figurines, texts).
The results of the work undertaken on the imposing peripheral levee (operation B) were unexpected. This impressive mass does not hide a traditional city wall, as had been anticipated, but an earthen dike (with a width of a least 45 m; see De Meyer, Gasche, and Paepe, 1971, plan 1), whose function was to protect the town from flooding. It is known, however, that Sippar-Amnānum was encircled by a real fortification wall because King Samsuiluna (1749–1712 BCE) mentions it in a letter. This wall can now be identified with a structure 6 m wide that appeared under the slightly later earthen dike mentioned above. Archaeological evidence has ascertained that the wall was destroyed by floods and then replaced by the earthen dike that, prior to the Kassite period (1595–1155 BCE), was raised several times.
The most important discoveries were made in operation E and came from the house of Ur-Utu (see figure 1), chief dirge singer (gala.maḫ) of Annunitum, the main goddess of Sippar- Amnānum. More than two thousand tablets give invaluable information not only concerning social, economic, and religious life but also about the mutable commercial activities of Ur-Utu, a highly placed religious dignitary at that time. Ur-Utu's house was burned In 1629 BCE, that being the date of the latest text found in the archives. The ruins were totally covered with a sandy sediment, which indicates a period of abandonment of the area until it was reoccupied in about 1400 BCE. Installations from that reoccupation were cleared in operation E3, where the most recent remains are probably from the time of Šagarakti-Šuriaš (1245–1233 BCE).
The excavations at Tell ed-Der have not yet revealed material from the Neo-Babylonian period. The question, then, is where the Temple of Annunitu, commemorated in an inscription of Nabonidus (555–539 BCE) as the work of that king, is to be found.
- Charpin, Dominique. “Sippar: Deux villes jumelles.” Revue d'Assyriologie et d'Archéologie Orientale 82 (1988): 13–32. Essential study of the toponyms in the area of Sippar in the Old Babylonian period.
- Charpin, Dominique. “Le point sur les deux Sippar.” Nouvelles Assyriologiques Brèves et Utilitaires, no. 114 (1992): 84–85. Supplement to the aforementioned study.
- De Meyer, Léon, Hermann Gasche, and Roland Paepe. Tell ed-Dēr I. Louvain, 1971. Preliminary reports on the first excavation season at Tell ed-Der (Old Babylonian period).
- De Meyer, Léon, ed. Tell ed-Dēr. Vols. 2 and 4. Louvain, 1978–1984. Progress reports including reports of excavations, publication of texts, cylinder seals, metal vessels and metal analysis, studies on regional geomorphology, fauna and botanical remains (Ur III, Isin-Larsa, and Old Babylonian periods).
- Gasche, Hermann. La Babylonie au 17e siècle avant notre ère: Approche archéologique, problèmes et perspectives. Ghent, 1989. The house of Ur-Utu, gala.maḫ of Annunītum, followed by a study of the declining Old Babylonian period.
- Gasche, Hermann, et al. “Tell ed- Dēr, 1985–1987: Les vestiges mésobabyloniens.” Northern Akkad Project Reports 6 (1991): 9–94. Reports on the Kassite remains found at Tell ed-Der, including the pottery, epigraphic finds, and the fauna.
- Lerberghe, Karel van, and Gabriela Voet. Sippar-Amnānum: The Ur-Utu Archive. Vol. 1. Ghent, 1991. Publication of 106 texts found in the Ur-Utu archives, with a study of the seal impressions and sealing practices.
Léon De Meyer