Cuneiform Collection - SMM 8 | Science Museum of Minnesota

Cuneiform Collection - SMM 8

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Museum #: SMM 14/25 (14/8) Period: Neo-Babylonian (Chaldaean Dynasty)
Publ. #: none Date: Nebuchadnezzar, year 16, mo. 12, day 4 (March 9, 588 BCE)
Acquired from: C. Ames, 1915 Provenience: Uruk (Warka), Iraq
Southern Mesopotamia
(view map)
Measurements: H 32, W 48, Th 16 mm (according to Tom Jones's typescript catalog) Culture: Late Babylonian
Description: Cuneiform tablet; content not discernible from cast Language: Late Babylonian

The original cuneiform tablet, no. 8 in the group of nine tablets donated by C. Ames in 1915, is now missing, and is represented in the collection by a poor-quality clay cast. The making of casts is mentioned in the records pertaining to the cuneiform collection that date to the 1950s. Specifically, an internal memo concerning the tablets’ accession numbers mentions that casts of the tablets were made by Alexander Oja in 1952, and that “each copy bears both [accession] numbers.” In response to an inquiry from Mr. Robert Willson of the University of Miami in 1956, Louis Powell, then director of the Science Museum, wrote back saying that the museum had supplied a set of casts to Tom B. Jones when he examined the cuneiform collection, and further that he was sending a set of casts to Mr. Willson. The exchange of cast for tablet must, however, have antedated Tom Jones’s examination of the collection. Whereas the record of C. Ames's 1915 gift describes tablet no. 8 as readable and in good condition, Jones could hardly discern any of the text besides the date; he must therefore have been looking at the mostly unreadable cast, not at the original tablet.

Hence, it is possible to speculate that the original tablet was replaced by its cast in 1952 or soon after, although this might have occurred at an earlier date if casts were made prior to 1952. Where the original may have gone is hard to tell.

The catalog information given here refers to the original tablet, except for the measurements, which were taken from the cast.