Measurements: 6.4 cm height, 4.5 cm width


Description: A complete terracotta pillow-shaped cuneiform tablet from the Old Babylonian period. This tablet is an administrative document, and likely forms an account of barley or grain. Its obverse contains two distinct sections of text, the first consisting of five lines and the second of three lines. The text flows over onto one of the tablet's sides. The reverse contains two lines of text. The item comes without a translation. These early tablets with written inscriptions represent the work of administrators, recording the allocation of rations or the movement and storage of goods.


At the end of the fourth millennium BC, written language developed in Mesopotamia, first as pictographs and then evolving into abstract forms called cuneiform. This tablet was produced during the Middle Bronze Age, at a time when the Babylonian and Assyrian dialects were most prevalent. Old Babylonian was the language used to write the Code of Ur-Nammu, the oldest known surviving law code. Cuneiform (meaning 'wedge-shaped') script was written by pressing a reed pen or stylus with a wedge-shaped tip into a clay tablet. Clay, when dried to a somewhat hardened state, made a fine surface for writing, and when fired the records written on it became permanent.


Provenance: From the collection of the late Professor Geoffrey Wilson (Warwickshire).


Reference: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Cuneiform Gallery, Cornell University


Period: Old Babylonian, 20th - 16th century BC


Condition: Very fine, with one significant chip to the obverse of the tablet and minor chipping over the whole.

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