An Old Babylonian Cuneiform Tablet, Old Babylonian Period, ca. 1900 - 1750 BCE
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This large administrative biscuit-type tablet, of low-fired terracotta, has several columns of stylus-impressed cuneiform text on the obverse with some columns left partially and intentionally blank. The reverse bears several columns with cuneiform text while some are blank. The text concerns payments to workers or a ledger.
The cuneiform script is one of the earliest known forms of written expression. Created by the Sumerians from ca. 3000 BC (with predecessors reaching into the late 4th millennium Uruk IV period, cuneiform writing began as a system of pictographs. Over time, pictorial representations became simplified and more abstract.
Cuneiforms were written on clay tablets, on which symbols were drawn with a blunt reed called a stylus. The name cuneiform is derived from two Latin words: cuneus , which means "wedge," and forma, meaning "shape."
Condition: The reverse side has some erosion to the text and surface, otherwise the tablet is intact and a very good example overall.
Dimensions: Height: 3 1/4 inches (8.1 cm), Width: 2 inches (5 cm)
Provenance: Private NYC collection, acquired at Christie's, London, October 1999.