National Geographic : 1951 Jan
Justice Catches Up with a Corrupt Magistrate M ESOPOTAMIA from remote pre historic times was a magnet for many races and peoples. The story about the Tower of Babel could hardly have been inspired by any other country. Previous scenes and their descrip tions have dealt with proto-Sumerians and Sumerians, Semites and Elamites, Kassites and Hittites. Another sig nificant element, different in linguistic stock and in much of its culture, is represented by the Hurrians, the Horites of the Bible. Members of this group played im portant roles throughout the ancient Near East in the second millennium B. c. Hurrian influence on the He brews is now known to have been especially significant. In IAlesopo tamia the Hurrians were thickly settled in the region of the modern oil center of Kirkuk. These settlements have yielded a distinctive type of painted pottery, a repertory of new designs on cylinder seals, a novel type of painted wall decoration, and a rich collection of written records which afford a vivid picture of Hurrian society and of in dividual Hurrian personalities. The most productive Hurrian site known to date is that of Nuzi, 10 miles southwest of Kirkuk, excavated by a joint expedition of the Iraq Mu seum of Antiquities, the American School of Oriental Research in Bagh dad, and the Harvard Semitic Mu seum. The present scene takes place in the Nuzi courthouse, whose walls are adorned with brilliant frescoes of a type not previously found in M\esopo tamia. A painted incense burner in the corner and painted goblets on the table provide additional examples of Hurrian forms and decoration. Seated at the table are three judges, their heads covered with austere hoods, each man equipped with the individual cylinder seal with which he will certify his verdict. They listen attentively. A scribe is at pains to record the testimony. The accused is the mayor of the city, who is to become notorious in the local annals as the corrupt Kush shiharbe. He is flanked by two con stables who wear copper coats of mail recalling the scale armor of Goliath. The excavations have yielded one such armor in a good state of preser vation, and many scattered metal scales from other similar pieces of equipment. The mayor's accuser is one of his former henchmen turned state's wit ness. The charges include various in stances of malfeasance in office: brib ery, intimidation, kidnapings; and the mean magistrate had even caused water to be mixed with milk. Most of the testimony of this and of previous witnesses had left the ac cused impassive. He is aroused, how ever, by an allegation involving the comely girl Humerelli, who stands de murely by. Against her will, it is charged, the girl had been dragged to the private residence of the mayor. Kushshiharbe is vehement in his denial. But his words appear to have fallen on deaf ears, for generations later the trial of Kushshiharbe was still mentioned as a significant turn ing point in the history of the city. That the chief magistrate of a city intrusted to his charge some 3,400 years ago should have been guilty of corruption and excesses is scarcely surprising. What is highly significant, however, is that he was tried and made to pay for his misdeeds. The nature of the penalty is not recorded.