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Cuneiform Tablet Collection

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University


Finding aid created by: SM
Date: 21 Mar 2017



Biographical History

The Syracuse cuneiform tablets are of Sumerian origin and were created during the Ur III period (2100-2000 BCE). The Sumerian city state culture was the first of the early civilizations of the fertile crescent and flourished in what is today southern Iraq from the 4th millennium to the end of the 3rd millennium with a short interlude (Akkadian and Gutian period) in the 23rd and 22nd century BCE. The Sumerians are generally credited with the invention of the cuneiform script which in itself represents the earliest known writing system. It is named after the 'wedge'-shaped imprints of a reed stylus by which scribes encoded their language on a clay surface. Cuneiform writing can be traced back to around 3000 BCE; the Syracuse cuneiform tablets were created during the short Sumerian Renaissance at the end of the 3rd century BCE. Most of them seem to have originated in the city of Umma, some come from Drehem, a cattle market, and a few were created at the city of Lagash.

[This account relies on: Sigrist, Marcel, "The Cuneiform Tablets at Syracuse University." The Courier 17.2 and 17.3 (1980): 3-23.]


Scope and Contents of the Collection

Syracuse University's Cuneiform Tablet Collection consists - as does the great majority of cuneiform tablets in general - of accounting records of largely economic nature. "The Umma tablets deal mainly with the workers [...] needed to excavate and clean the canals, to work in the fields, and to harvest barley. Another group deals with the treatment of hides to make leather objects. Several, of which the longest forecasts the date harvest, come from various date farmers. After the projections about production, the scribe made the necessary corrections after the harvest." (Sigrist, 1980, p. 18)

All dates given in the inventory are BCE.


Arrangement of the Collection

The tablets remain in original order. Please note that Syracuse University's numbering of the tablets was done before Marcel Sigrist's publication Textes économiques néo-sumériens de l'Université de Syracuse, Paris: Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1983. In his publication, Sigrist proposes a different order which has been followed by the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI). This finding aid follows the original order of Syracuse University's Cuneiform Tablet Collection but gives the corresponding number of the CDLI's (= Sigrist's) arrangement in parentheses.


Restrictions

Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Gloves must be worn when working with tablets. Specific tablets are restricted (as noted in individual boxes).

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.


Related Material

Digitized images of the Syracuse cuneiform tablets are available via the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI). To limit the search results to the Syracuse collection in the CDLI, click on "Full Search" and enter "Syracuse" in the "Collection" field in the "Collection Information" section; this will bring up all 489 images of our tablets. Please note (as stated in Arrangement of the Collection ) that the images in the CDLI use the identification numbers assigned in Marcel Sigrist's publication.

See also Marcel Sigrist's article "The Cuneiform Tablets at Syracuse University," available through Surface, our institutional repository.


Subject Headings

Subjects

Civilization, ancient.
Mesopotamian civilizations.
Sumerian language -- Texts.

Places

Drehem (Extinct city)
Lagash (Extinct city)
Umma (Extinct city)

Genres and Forms

Clay.
Tablets (information artifacts)

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Cuneiform Tablet Collection,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Purchase, 1910


Table of Contents

Cuneiform tablets

Miscellaneous


Inventory

Note on alternate formats:

Digitized images of the Syracuse cuneiform tablets are available via the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI). To limit the search results to the Syracuse collection in the CDLI, click on "Full Search" and enter "Syracuse" in the "Collection" field in the "Collection Information" section; this will bring up all 489 images of our tablets. Please note (as stated in Arrangement of the Collection ) that the images in the CDLI use the identification numbers assigned in Marcel Sigrist's publication.