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HOME : Near Eastern Art : Masterpieces : Old Babylonian Terracotta Cuneiform Tablet
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Old Babylonian Terracotta Cuneiform Tablet - LO.1254
Origin: Mesopotamia
Circa: 1836 BC
Dimensions: 3.5" (8.9cm) high x 2.25" (5.7cm) wide
Collection: Near Eastern
Medium: Terracotta

Additional Information: K

Location: Great Britain
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This tablet has a total of 20 lines of Sumerian cuneiform on the obverse and reverse, and has rollings of no less than seven cylinder seals to show the inscription on them: the seven together on the reverse, and repeated on the edges: two on the upper edge, two on the lower edge, and the remaining three on the left-hand edge. It is dated to the first year of Zambiya, king of Isin in Sumer c. 1836 B. C.


1/2 a ninda, 4 cubits length, 1 1/2 ninda width, its area 1 musar 15 iku: an undeveloped plot of land adjacent to the house of Erra-qarrad, palace administrator: Zambiya the king sold it to Beli- tayyar son of Patum. He (Beli-tayyar) weighed out for him (Zambiya) 12 1/2 shekels of silver.

Seal of: Ur-Shulpa’e, administrator of the date groves Erra-gasher, comptroller Dadi, supervisor of the merchant bankers Ur-dukuga Ili-kitti Ili-iddinashu And Ilushu-ibbishu rolled their seals.

Seal inscriptions: Ur-Shulpa’e royal scribe son of Lu-Amar-Suena adminstrator of the date groves

Erra-gasher scribe of the king son of Nanna-mansum servant of Enlil-bani

Ur-dukuga son of Nuhhubum servant of (the god) Amu[rrum]

Ili-kitti son of Ilishka-utul Servant of (the god) Amurrum

Ili-iddinashu son of Humzi servant of (the god) Amurrum

Ilushu-ibbishu son of Awil-Ishtar servant of (the gods) Ninsi’anna and Kabta

Dadi supervisor of the merchant bankers servant of (the god) Dagan and Enlil-bani

Month: Abu, year: Zambiya the king

This is a rare and important document among real estate sale documents of the period. No less a person than the king (Zambiya, in his first year) sold an undeveloped house plot to a private person for 12 1/2 shekels of silver. This raised a legal problem: normally the seller took an oath in the king’s name, but the king could not of course do that! So seven witnesses were gathered, more than usual, and the first three were public officials. The seal inscriptions of two of these three indeed declare the owners officers of the previous king Enlil-bani. They had not yet got new seals with the new king’s name! But such ceremony is attested in one of these seals, that of Ur-Shulpa’e: it ascribes to him two offices: first “royal scribe,” then, at the end, “administrator of the date groves.” The first is a lower rank, the second much higher. Thus he was first royal scribe, later promoted to Administrator of the date groves. But the second was simply added on the seal without obliteration of the first, which would have resulted in a ghastly looking seal: weals were made of hematite in this period and were very expensive items.

The tablet is in very good condition: only very slight damage to the reverse. Some of the art of the seals is visible: standing gods and worshippers.

Description and translation kindly provided by Professor W. G. Lambert - (LO.1254)


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