Chronological overview of Library tablets

Government archives from the Southwest Palace and North Palace

According to Parpola (1986) pp. 231-232, government archives of Sargon and the post-canonical period come from the North Palace (NP), while those of Sennacherib, Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal come from the Southwest Palace (SWP). Since Neo-Assyrian archives followed the king, one might expect gaps in the record. The lack of texts from Sennacherib and Ashurbanipal post 645 BC have been identified as such gaps. Parpola (1986) p. 235 argues that since the libraries and archives were conjoined, the missing tablets are unlikely to remain unexcavated in SWP or NP. He goes on to suggest that since Sennacherib spent most of his reign at Nineveh, his tablets must have been deliberately destroyed in antiquity. This would then allow the deduction that the archives were stored chronologically (p. 236). Parpola's interpretations are not certain, however. And a systematic policy of disposal is not evident (thus Reade 2000 p. 426). Reade (2000) p. 425 notes that there is no evidence to support the deduction that Sargon's texts came from the NP.

SWP served as a royal residence until 704BC. It was rebuilt between 704-692BC, and refurbished c. 650s BC and again c. 616BC. The Review Palace (RP) served as a royal residence until 692BC, was rebuilt 691-689BC and 676-673BC, redecorated 649-648BC and later. The NP was a royal residence until 690BC, then refurbished and rebuilt 647-644BC.

800-700 BC

700-645 BC

The few findspots are from the SWP, especially the south sector. A letter to Ashurbanipal from his brother Shamash-shum-ukin (1904-10-9,42) came from the NP.

631-612 BC

Private archives from SWP and NP

800 tablets; of these about two thirds are purchases, about a quarter are loans. The range of dates attested is from 747-612 BC.

Jonathan Taylor

Jonathan Taylor, 'Chronological overview of Library tablets', Ashurbanipal Library Project, The Ashurbanipal Library Project, Department of the Middle East, The British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG, 2022 []

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