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Cuneiform tablet discovered in Operation W.

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In an earlier post, I explained that we reached the lower floor of the pebbled courtyard in Operation W, demonstrating that there was an earlier phase of the large mudbrick building we excavated there as Operation G/R in 2001-2010. This building was tentatively identified as a treasury associated with a temple to the goddess Ishtar at Ziyaret Tepe, which we have yet to locate, based on a cache of cuneiform texts discovered in 2002-2003 and published some years ago by Prof. Simo Parpola of the University of Helsinki. Most of those texts were economic in nature, although they also contained a very important letter from the end of the Assyrian empire.

In order to test whether other parts of the building show the same stratigraphic sequence, John laid out a trench over Room 10 of the Operation G/R which was a storage room filled with pithoi, and was one of two rooms which yielded cuneiform texts earlier. In 2003, we stopped the excavations at the floor level and, given that there was now the possibility of an earlier floor based on our 2012 sounding in Courtyard 11, we decided to reopen Room 10.

Having cleared away the soil down to the plastic sheeting that we use to cover the bottoms of our trenches before we backfill them, John proceeded to remove the upper floor and began excavation in the fill below. Within a few hours, a new cuneiform tablet – unfortunately broken into several pieces – was recovered from the new Operation W excavations.

Not exactly obvious. Three of the larger framents of the cuneiform tablet that will join together to form about half of the complete object. We often identify tablets by the special finely levigated clays that were used by the ancient scribes. Until cleaned, it is nearly impossible to make out the inscription. Here you can see some cuneiform wedges on the lower right hand fragment. We think there are about four lines of text on the tablet.

The tablet is covered in loose dirt and is still damp and we are waiting for it to dry out before Lourdes can reassemble the tablet and clean it. Once it has been repaired and consolidated, John will make an exact transcription of the text and begin the process of translation. With luck, we should be able to at least describe the contents in broad terms before the end of the season.

We have only two more digging days left in Operation W (after a three day holiday starting tomorrow and marking the end of Ramadan), so there is still a chance that more cuneiform tablets might be found above the lower floor of Room 10.

By matney

Dr. Matney is Professor of Archaeology in the Department of Anthropology and Classical Studies at the University of Akron. He is the Director of the Ziyaret Tepe Archaeological Expedition.

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