Highlights: selected cuneiform tablets in the British Museum

This section illustrates a small selection of the cuneiform tablets on which the scholars wrote their letters, queries TT , and reports TT  to the king. The photographs are composites, which show the front, back, top, bottom, and sides in a single image. Use the links below or in the menu to the left to select a list.

Cuneiform script is highly aesthetic. The scholars used two writing styles: Neo-Babylonian and, here, Neo-Assyrian. Detail of SAA 4 139 'Will There Be a Rebellion against Esarhaddon?'. Photo by Frans von Koppen. Reproduced with permission of the British Museum. View large image.

Scholarly letters from SAA 10. The scholars corresponded with kings Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal to give expert advice and to solicit patronage. The tablets that carried their letters were carefully composed and beautifully written, to make the best impression possible. Like most cuneiform tablets, the writing is parallel to the short side.

Divination queries and reports from SAA 4. The haruspices TT  wrote their extispicy queries and reports in large, hurried script. This suggests that they were probably drawn up while the sacrifical divination ritual was in progress, perhaps by the "reporter TT " who is often named at the end.

Astrological reports from SAA 8. Scholars sent the king hundreds of technical reports of celestial observations, with quotes from the relevant omens TT . These reports were smaller and more carefully written than the extispicy queries but, like them, the cuneiform signs were usually oriented to the long edge.

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