Cuneiform Tablets

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Babylon was an ancient city on the left bank of the Euphrates, about 70 miles south of Bagdad. The earliest mention of Babylon is in a dated tablet of the reign of Sargon of Akkad, 3800 B.C. In 689 B.C. its walls, temples, and palaces were razed to the ground and the rubbish was thrown into the Arakhtio, the canal which bordered the earlier Babylon on the south. Where the platform of the large bricks stamped with the names of Sargon of Akkad and his son Naram-Sin (3800 B.C.) was found, the debris above them was 34 feet thick! Sargon was the son of Itti-Bel and a legend related how he had been born in concealment and sent adrift in an ark of bulrushes on the waters of the Euphrates. Here he had been rescued and brought up by "Akki, the husbandman," but the day arrived when his true origin became known, the crown of Babylonia set upon his head and he entered upon a career of foreign conquest.

Buried in the archive room of the W. Dale Clark Library are over 100 cuneiform tablets. Originally collected by Edgar J. Banks, Ph.D, and presented to Omaha Public Library by Charles N. Dietz in 1917, these tablets came from sites in the Middle East, an area which from ancient times has been a crossroads of civilization. Communication and permanent records were as important to early people as they are today. Here are a few examples of early recordings on clay tablets which are about 4,000 years old.

The Sumerian tablets in this collection have been translated by Dr. Nels W. Forde, formerly of the University of Nebraska, now with Luther College, Decorah, Iowa. The remaining Cuneiform clay tablets of the library's collection are now on loan at Joslyn Art Museum. They are shown as part of Joslyn's Ancient World Exhibit.30488598253_9b9a36ab22_k

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Photograph of a perfectly burned clay cylinder found by Arabs in the ruin of Wana Sadoum, a southern suburb of Babylon. The photograph shows the cylinder in its naturals size. It contains 145 lines of writing. The inscription is a royal building inscription of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon from 605 to 562 B.C.. It begins with an account of the building of the walls of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, of the famous temples of Babylon described Herodot-us, and of other temples in other cities, and it ends with a prayer of Nebuchadnezzar. Several duplicates of the inscription have been found, but this is the most perfect of all his cylinders. One is in the British Museum, another in the New York Public Library.

The cone shaped pieces and the flat tablets near them are from Warka, called Uruk when these tablets were written, and carry a dedicatory inscription in praise of the God An. They were thrust into the mortar between bricks as his temple was being built. The other group of tablets in the collection are not Sumerian but Babylonian or Semitic. Most of these tablets are records of business transactions, records of rations issued to workers, or records of tithes to the temples.

More photos can be seen in the Omaha Public Library Flickr album.

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