Browse Collection

  Home

Cuneiform Tablets of the Siegfried H. Horn Museum

The Museum houses the Hartford Cuneiform Tablet Collection consisting of about 3,000 ancient clay tablets ranging from the Sumerian period to Neo-Babylonian times. They have been studied and their contents have been published by Andrews University Press. The tablets date from the Third Dynasty of Ur (about 2100-2000 BC) to the neo-Babylonian period (about 650-550 BC). The bulk of the collection has been studied by Marcel Sigrist of the École Biblique Française in Jerusalem. John Brinkman, one-time director of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, has focused on the neo-Babylonian period, as has David Weisberg of Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, OH. Carney Gavin, curator of the Harvard Semitic Museum and a specialist in the field of cylinder seal impressions was assisted by Diana Stein of London Institute of Archaeology in copying the seals in October, 1979.


Tablet 38.0026

The first tablet (AUAM 38.0026) came as part of the permanent loan, arranged by Lynn H. Wood, from the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago. More tablets arrived in 1951 as gift from Norwegian Seminary, then a few others in 1954 donated by Taylor Bunch. The bulk were purchased from the Hartford Theological Seminary Foundation in Connecticut with original negotiations beginning with Horn in 1973. The tablets span 2,000 years, the oldest (AUAM 73.3220) dating to ca. 2300 BC and the latest being neo-Babylonian or Achaemenid (ca. 600 BC) with about 2,000 tablets from the Ur III period (2100-2000 BC). The texts may be ordered in three genres. First and most numerous are Ur III archival documents from the administrative center of Drehem that deal with the receipt of cattle from Sumerian cities and with shipment of cattle to Nippur, with a smaller group of tablets from Umma concerned with gurush laborers who did agricultural work and dug canals. Many of the tablets contained impressions from cylinder seals that served as a form of identification, their impressions guarding against illicit alterations. Old Babylonian period (1800-1600 BC) tablets included field rental contracts and letters. Archival tablets demonstrate the social and economic history of the period. A second group of texts contain monumental inscriptions, including a stone slab with two royal texts, bricks with a royal seal of Nebuchadnezzar, and clay pegs mentioning a temple construction. These latter were fixed in a temple and covered with plaster. The third text genre includes canonical compositions, used in the curricula of scribal schools, that evolved into literary canon. Others include birth incantations, some bilingual (Sumerian and Akkadian) lexical texts, and some mathematical texts (sexagesimal multiplication tables).


Tablet 51.004

A few tablets were published by Edmond Sollberger and Albrecht Goetze; Sigrist spent three successive summers copying Ur III and Old Babylonian tablets. V. Crawford of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City copied about 50 tablets during graduate work at Yale University. These texts were then studied by Sigrist and Aaron Schaffer of Hebrew University. C. Kühne of Marburg publish 20 Old Babylonian tablets. D. Weisberg of Hebrew Union College and J. Brinkman of the Oriental Institute plan the publication of the neo-Babylonian material.


Sealed tablet and cylinder seal