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The Cuneiform Tablets of the Bibliothèque Nationale et Universitaire de Strasbourg



History

380 cuneiform documents were purchased on the antiquities market in Egypt, doubtless by Carl Frank himself, who provided the first publication of 50 of them. This group forms the basis of the BNU collection. Subsequently, 15 documents were added to the inventory before 1970, and, in 1970, 92 new tablets were willed to the BNU by the widow of Professor Fritz Kocher. These three groups were inventoried with consecutive numbers running from 1 to 484, the numbers from 396 to 484 being assigned to the Kocher collection. Based on its size, the cuneiform corpus of the BNU constitutes one of the most important collections in France.


Scientific work and publications

Carl Frank published 50 of these tablets in the work Strassburger Keilschrifttexte in sumerischer und babylonischer Sprache (Berlin: de Guyter, 1928). The Luxemburger Nikolaus Schneider published 304 tablets in a work with the title Die Drehem- und Djoha- Urkunden der Strassburger Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek (= Analecta Orientalia 1; Rome: Pontifical Institute, 1931). It covers the texts dating from the 3rd Dynasty of Ur.
The collection of the BNU attracted the attention of professor E. Laroche when he was teaching at the University of Strasbourg. He produced a catalogue and thus encouraged a renewed interest among researchers to add to its usefulness.
To make it accessible again and to complete and improve the scientific publication that had in some cases escaped Frank, Dominique Charpin and Jean-Marie Durand re-published nearly the entire corpus under the title Documents cunéiformes de Strasbourg (= Recherches sur les grandes civilisations 4; Paris: A.D.P.F., 1981). Only the first volume (of two announced) has appeared to date. This work also encompasses the tasks of line art copies and text editions of Schneider and those of Francis Joannès, “Textes néo-babyloniens de Strasbourg,” that appeared in the Revue d’assyriologie 74 (1980) 145-169.


Maintenance of the collection

The collection is being conserved together with the Papyrological and Egyptological artifacts of the BNU and it can be visited under the same conditions as our papyri or coins (9-12 Thursdays, or by appointment). The exhibition Of Signs and Words: Script from the Beginning to the Middle Ages (Strasbourg: Museums, 2003) presented several of these cuneiform documents: tablets, foundation nails, cylinder seals, edited by Dominique Beyer, Professor of History and Archeaology of the Near East, University of Strasbourg.


Additions to the Collection

The collection of cuneiform tablets is joined by a stamped brick of Nebuchadnezar II that was published by János Everling in 2000, as well as by a collection of 15 cylinder seals of hard stone (published by Frank), their impressions, and several dozen other impressions of cylinder and other seals that belong to various collections (Winner, Sigmaringen, Schroeder-Beirut, Speor-Jerusalem, Cesnola-Metropolitan Museum, etc.). As is also true for the papyrological collections of the BNU, the most important feature of this collection of cuneiform documents is the fact that it covers the entire three millennia of Mesopotamian history, from the Sumerian period of Early Dynastic IIIb (around 2500-2350 BC) up to the Neo-Babylonian empire (6th century BC), while at the same time comprising documents of literary genres as well as a number of other varieties of texts insofar as their functions and material are concerned. These aspects make the collection particularly representative of the civilizations of the ancient Near East.


Daniel Bornemann
Conservateur, responsable des Réserves