Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets, &c, in the British Museum

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    RUMOURS must have reached the general reader from time to time of the “finds” of tablets which have been made by the natives in Southern Babylonia; and it is a matter for congratulation that, judging by what we see in the volume before us, the results of these “finds” have been acquired by the Trustees of the British Museum. We have long been familiar with tablets of Assyria and Northern Babylonia, and it has long been evident that their contents were taken from clay documents which belonged to a much older period, and were the literary offsprings of a people whose early history had then disappeared in the mists of a remote antiquity. The copies of the tablets, cones, &c, which Mr. King has just given us confirm this opinion, and we are brought face to face with a class of tablets to which, hitherto, we have been strangers. And just as the tablets are new to us, so, too, is their shape—for they are round, and resemble large bread-cakes more than anything else—and the eras in which they are dated are new, and the characters in which they are written are more complicated than any which we have hitherto seen. The texts upon them form public accounts and lists of revenue and produce which were drawn up for the public “record office” of the kings of the second dynasty of the city of Ur, about B.C. 2300; the kings most frequently mentioned are Bur-Sin, Ine-Sin and Gamil-Sin. Curiously, however, these tablets are not dated by regnal years, as are thousands and thousands of other documents, but by important events in the past history of the country, such as the capture of an enemy's city, or the invasion of an enemy, or the completion of some great public work, and unfortunately we have, at present, no means of telling when these events took place. Among the miscellaneous texts which Mr. King has given us we find a very important inscription in Accadian (No. 96-4-4, 2) containing an invocation to the goddess Nininsina to preserve the lives of Rim-Aku (Arad-Sin) and his father Kudur-Mabug, who flourished, probably before B.C. 2300, about one hundred years before Khammurabi succeeded in consolidating his kingdom in Babylonia. Another remarkable inscription is found on four clay “cones” (No. 96-6-12, 3), whereon we find recorded the name and titles of Mul-babbar, or if we read it as a Semitic name, Amêl-Shamash, a very early patesi or viceroy of Babylonia. We believe that this Mulbabbar is here met with for the first time. Still another most valuable text is found on the stone mace-head (No. 96-6-15, 1), where we have recorded a prayer to a god on behalf of one Nin-kagina, the son of Ka-azaggid, and of the viceroy under whom he served; the name of the latter is Nam-maghani, and he ruled over the city of Lagash, or Shirpurla, about B.C. 2500. It is an important fact that the name of Nin-kagina's father is given, and it would seem as if hereditary offices of high rank had already been established at that early period.

    Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets, &c., in the British Museum.

    Part I. By L. W. King Printed by order of the Trustees. Pp. iv + 50 plates. (Kegan Paul, Longmans, and others, 1896.)

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    Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets, &c, in the British Museum. Nature 55, 243–244 (1897) doi:10.1038/055243a0

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