Old Babylonian School Tablets

Most school texts were written on one of five tablet types which are grouped by modern scholars according to their shape and format, and which probably represent a particular teaching method. These five tablet types are labeled as follows:

Type I Tablet

These tablets are large multi-column tablets [http://www.cdli.ucla.edu/P230624], ranging from two to six columns and written in a relatively small script. They usually contained an entire literary or lexical composition, or a collection of model contracts. Type I tablets seem to contain exercises from more or less advanced students, rather than standard reference copies.

Type II Tablet

This tablet type was a teacher-student tablet [http://www.cdli.ucla.edu/P228991] of medium size, on which were typically written different exercises on the obverse and reverse. On the obverse (II/1) the left column contains a model text by the teacher, intended to be copied into one to three blank columns to the right by the pupil. Whereas the first column is usually preserved, the student's column was erased so that it could be used several times. As a result the right-hand side of the obverse is usually much thinner than the left side. Moreover, very often the tablet has been cut in two on purpose, seemingly to preserve the teacher's example on the left side. The reverse (II/2) contains four to six columns of text from a previously studied composition, usually written in a smaller, cursive script.

Type III Tablet

This was a single-column exercise [http://www.cdli.ucla.edu/P388287] (Sumerian im-gíd-da, "long tablet") containing a ten- to twenty-line extract from a composition, or a couple of model contracts. These contracts are usually separated by a single or a double ruling. They seem to be written by students, maybe copied from the teacher's model on the Type II/1 tablet.

Type IV Tablet

This was a round tablet [http://cdli.ucla.edu/P388357] (also referred to as "lentil") on which appear a two- to four-line text. These texts are usually lexical or mathematical extracts, or short proverbs and not model contracts. They are written first as a model by the teacher and then copied by the pupil.


This tablet is usually a four- or six-sided prism [http://www.cdli.ucla.edu/P433189], with one to four columns per side and a hollow central axis through which a stick could be inserted. It usually contains an entire composition or a collection of model contracts. Prisms are rarer than Type I Tablets and are written by more or less advanced students.

27 Dec 2019

Gabriella Spada

Gabriella Spada, 'Old Babylonian School Tablets', Old Babylonian Model Contracts, The OBMC Project, 2019 [http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/obmc/schooltablets/]

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© OBMC, Gabriella Spada