A new publication published under the Cornell University Studies in Assyriology and Sumerology (CUSAS) series,Cuneiform and Royal Inscriptions in the Schøyen Collection by A. R George, has brought to light some of the earlest known documents. Among them is the earliest known representation of the Tower of Babel and a clay cylinder with lost sections of the Ur-Namma law code which pre-dates the Louvre's Hammurabi stele by 300 years.
A third key object is a barrel cylinder of Sin-iddinam of Larsa, which has the longest Sumerian building inscription from the early second millennium and provides new information of Larsa's relations with its neighbouring states.
The 107 items in the publication represent an important addition to publicly available primary sources. The inscribed clay and stone tablets, barrels, cylinders, bricks and slabs, weapons, votive objects and various fragment and assorted artefacts derive from the Uruk period around 3000 BC up to the Persian period. Geographically the items are from Egypt, Iran, Sumer, Babylonia and Assyria. Forty-seven of these texts are entirely new discoveries, published here for the first time. These include two hitherto unknown Babylonian kings and the first named ruler of Sumer, En-pi-pi, ca 2800 BC.
The publication is also significant in that it illustrates the importance of textual research of ancient texts, as distinct from the study of such texts as archeological finds with a findspot context. In his preface, CUSAS series editor David Owen wrote: "They [the texts studied, translated, reproduced and researched] once again highlight the importance the publication of texts, even without archaeological context, holds for the fields of Assyriology and near Eastern History and archaeology."
The items researched derive from a wide variety of collections and sources, including well established collections begun in the 19th century such as the Amherst, Harding Smith and Cumberland Clark collections. Having been part of all together 17 collections, the items studied in the publication were acquired for the Schoyen Collection in the 1980's and 1990's.
In his Statement of Provenance, Martin Schoyen writes: "In most cases, the original findspots of tablets that came on the market in the 1890's to 1930's are unknown, like great parts of the holdings of most major museums in Europe and the United States."
The volume contains an introduction and complete editions of all the texts, including full transliterations and commentaries, along with accompanying photos of the tablets. This is an invaluable resource for all those working on the languages and culture of Mesopotamia. Images of all the texts included in the volume are availabe on the Cornell Univeristy website for close academic scrunity and reference.
Details of the Tower of Babel Stele are also available online.
Note to Editors:
The Schøyen Collection crosses borders and unites cultures, religions and unique materials found nowhere else. The Collection, based in London and Oslo, contains over 20,000 significant manuscripts of major cultural importance and is an important part of the world’s heritage.
There is no public collection that has the Schøyen Collection’s unique array of manuscripts from all the greatest manuscript hoards, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, The Cairo Genizah of Hebrew MSS, The Oxyrhynchus hoard of classical papyri, The Dishna Biblical papyri, The Nag Hammadi Gnostic papyri, the Dunhuang hoard of Buddhist MSS, and many others. Nor is there one with such a variety, geographically, linguistically and textually, and of scripts and writing materials, covering so a great span of time — 5,000 years of history.