Cuneiform Tablet Collection

The Museum houses what was formerly the Hartford Cuneiform Tablet Collection, now the Andrews University Cuneiform Tablet Collection, which consists of about 3,000 ancient clay tablets ranging from the Third Dynasty of Ur (about 2100 BC) to the Achaemenid period. They have been studied and their contents have been published by Andrews University Press. Additionally, many of the tablets have been digitized by the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative.

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, is a specialist in the field of cylinder seal impressions and was assisted by Diana Stein of London Institute of Archaeology, who copied the seals in October, 1979.

Tablet 38.0026, Image: CDLI

The first tablet (Tablet 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 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 with about 2,000 tablets from the Ur III period (2100-2000 BC). Classified as (1) archival: economic and administrative data with most of Ur III tablets from cattle center of Drehem and deal with receipt of cattle from Sumerian cities and with shipment of cattle to Nippur with a smaller group of tablets from Umma concerned with gurs-serfs who did agricultural work and dug canals. Many of the tablets also contained seal impressions, from cylinder seals, which served as a form of identification, their impressions guarding against illicit alterations. Old Babylonian period (2000-1600 BC) tablets were field-rental contracts and letters. Archival tablets show social and economic history of the period. (2) monumental: only a few including a slab with 2 royal inscriptions and bricks with a royal seal of Nebuchadnezzar and clay pegs mentioning a temple construction and were fixed in a temple and covered with plaster. (3) Canonical: used in the curricula of scribal schools and evolved into literary canon. Others include birth incantations, some bilingual (Sumerian and Akkadian) lexical texts, and some mathematical (sexagesimal multiplication) texts.

A few tablets were published by E. Sollberger and Goetze; Sigrist spent 3 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. Kuhne of Marburg publish 20 Old Babylonian tablets. D. Weisberg of Hebrew Union College and J. Brinkman of Oriental Institute are to publish the Neo-Babylonian material.



Rentfro Tablet

In 2010, Pastor Dick Rentfro donated an additional Ur-III tablet, along with other artifacts.