ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
[personal profile] ikhet_sekhmet
The idea that the Sumerian term kar.kid (and its Akkadian equivalent ḫarimtu) consistently means "sex worker" has been put under the microscope. A proper analysis of this may have to wait until I can copy Julia Assante's article on the subject without cutting off half the pages this time. In the meantime, a short excerpt from a recent paper:

"In the list the word nidnu, although seemingly without a context, can be thought to denote (although not necessarily) 'wages' of a prostitute. After all, the prostitute is termed in Sumerian as MUNUSKAR-KID. As Sallaberger brings to my attention, the early writing of KAR-KID as KAR-KÌD/KÈ(AK) points to the etymology of the term as 'a worker at the quay/market place', although a less literal meaning can be thought of, such as 'a (woman), engaged in trade', or what in modern parlance would be called (offensively) as 'a
working girl'."

(Let us put aside the fact that "prostitute" is also an offensive term.) Were there no women who worked in the marketplace or at the quays other than sex workers? The author, Yoram Cohen, has considered Assante's argument that kar.kid/ḫarimtu has been misinterpeted, but considers it to have been "safely dismissed". Yet again and again there are texts he quotes in which "woman worker" would make just as much sense as "sex worker" where the word kar.kid or ḫarimtu appears. For example, Cohen writes:

"Under the ideal conditions of the land during Assurbanipal's reign, these workers will receive for their commodities by far more than the going rate — they will be paid by camels and slaves. The brewer sells as his commodity his beer, the gardener his vegetables and the tavern-woman — she sells what? Presumably sex for which she receives her nidnu."

Were there no women who worked in the tavern other than sex workers - no women innkeepers? No barmaids? Even the text under examination, which states that if a stranger asks for a bed for the night, you should give him the wages of a ḫarimtu, makes just as much sense if the woman in question is an innkeeper.

I retain a strong suspicion that the same assumptions and circular logic that invented "sacred prostitution" may be at work here. I have a mountain of material to get through, but something which would help convince me that kar.kid/ḫarimtu specifically indicates "sex worker" would be if there are terms for women workers that are consistently distinguished from it.

__
Assante, Julia. The kar.kid / harimtu, Prostitute or Single Woman? A Reconsideration of the Evidence. Ugarit-Forschungen 30 2003 pp 5-96.
Cohen, Yoram. The Wages of a Prostitute: Two Instructions from the Wisdom Composition 'Hear the Advice' and an Excursus on Ezekiel 16,331. Semitica 57 2015, pp 43-55.

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