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Cuneiform Artifacts in The Israel Museum, Jerusalem



The collection


The IMJ cuneiform collection consists mainly of bequests and gifts of various donors. It is eclectic, comprising ca. 140 objects of various origins (Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Elam, and Persia), accordingly inscribed in Sumerian, Akkadian, Hittite, Urartian, Elamite, and Old Persian and dating from the mid-third to mid-first millennium BC.

A single object originating in Ancient Israel—a small fragment of a monumental victory stele belonging to a Neo-Assyrian king (probably Esarhaddon)—is also included in the corpus. Other cuneiform material unearthed in Israel, owned by the Israel Antiquities Authority and currently housed at the IMJ, are not included here due to copyrights restrictions.

A few objects on loan to the IMJ from the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, Jerusalem (AIAR); St. Andrew's Memorial Church, Church of Scotland, Jerusalem; and Arieh Ben Eli, Haifa, have also been added to the corpus.

The majority of the corpus consists of clay objects (tablets, cones, bricks, etc.). Also included are inscribed artifacts of stone and metal (monumental artifacts, figurines, vessels, weaponry, and cylinder seals). The corpus reflects various genres: royal, administrative, legal, mathematical, scholarly, medical, ritual and epistolary.



Publication and maintenance of the collection


The IMJ cuneiform collection is part of the Western Asiatic Antiquities department, the main curatorial purpose of which is to assemble and exhibit documents and artifacts from the various Ancient Near Eastern civilizations that have had a lasting impact on the ancient cultures of the land of Israel. Most of the department highlights (over 200 artifacts, inscribed as well as non-inscribed) are now on display in the renewed permanent exhibition (opened 2010), in the area dedicated to the cultures of Ancient Near East. The ANE exhibits, along with antiquities from Egypt, Greece, Italy and Islamic Near East, complement the IMJ Archaeology Wing’s main display that focuses on antiquities excavated in Israel.

Besides exhibiting the artifacts to the general public, a major aim of the Western Asiatic Antiquities department is to offer Israeli scholars opportunities for research. Thus, many inscribed artifacts have been published in scholarly editions over the years by Israeli Assyriologists affiliated with different local academic institutions. These editions are unfortunately not assembled in one place, but rather dispersed among journals, Festschrifts, text collections, and IMJ catalogues. They include:

Abraham, K. 2011. An Egibi Tablet in Jerusalem. Israel Exploration Journal 61: 68–73.
Cogan, M. 2008. The Assyrian Stela Fragment from Ben-Shemen. In: Cogan, M., and Kahn, D., eds. Treasures on Camels’ Humps. Historical and Literary Studies from the Ancient Near East Presented to Israel Eph’al. Jerusalem: 66–69.
Goodnick-Westenholtz, J. 1998. Objects with Messages: Reading Old Akkadian Royal Inscriptions. Appendix: Old Akkadian Inscriptions in the Israel Museum. Bibliotheca Orientalis 55: 44–59.
Horowitz, W., and Tammuz, O. 1998. A Multiplication Table for 40 in the Israel Museum. Israel Exploration Journal 48: 262–64.
Levy, S., and Artzi, P. 1965. Sumerian and Akkadian Documents from Public and Private Collections in Israel. Atiqot IV.
Ling-Israel, P. 1990. The Sennacherib Prism in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. In: Klein, J., and Skaist, A., eds. Studies in Assyriology Dedicated to Pinhas Artzi. Ramat-Gan: 213–47.
Merhav, R., ed. 1991. Urartu: A Metalworking Center in the First Millennium B.C.E. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
Shaffer, A. 1974. Enlilbani and the “Dog House” in Isin. Journal of Cuneiform Studies 26: 251–52.
Shaffer, A. 1976. Clay Nails from Mesopotamia in the Israel Museum. The Israel Museum News 11: 83–86.
Shaffer, A. 1981. In: Merhav, R. et al. A Glimpse into the Past: The Joseph Ternbach Collection. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
Shaffer, A., and Wasserman, N. 2003. Iddi(n)-Sîn, King of Simurrum: A New Rock-Relief Inscription and a Reverential Seal. ZA 93: 1–52.
Singer, I. 2010. A New Fragment of the DUMU(.LUGAL) Ritual(s). In Finke, J. C., ed. Festschtrift für Gernot Wilhelm anfaßlich seines 65. Geburtstages am 28. Januar 2010. Dresden: 329–34.
Tadmor, H. 1994. The Inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser III King of Assyria. Jerusalem.
Tammuz, O. 1994. Old Babylonian Bullae in the Israel Museum. Nouvelles Assyriologiques Brèves et Utilitaires: 46–47 (article no. 52).
Tammuz, O. 1997. IMJ 70.71.575: A New Variant of Eannatum 22. Acta Sumerologica 19: 229–33.
Wasserman, N. 2007. Between Magic and Medicine – Apropos of an Old-Babylonian Therapeutic Text against the Kurārum Disease. In: Finkel, I. L., and Geller, M. J. eds. Disease in Mesopotamia (Cuneiform Monographs 36). Leiden/Boston: 40–61.
Wasserman, N. 2012. A Field Purchase Contract from Nippur Dated to the Reign of Warad-Sîn. In: Abraham, K., and J. Fleishman, eds. Looking at the Ancient Near East and the Bible Through the Same Eyes. Minha LeAhron: A Tribute to Aaron Skaist. Bethesda: 203–10.



Laura A. Peri
Rodney E. Soher Curator of Western Asiatic Antiquities