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Venteicher Rare Book Room


Cuneiform tablets from Ancient Babylonia

The oldest items in the Rare Book Room are five cuneiform tablets that date from 2350 B.C. to 585 B.C. This collection of five texts consists of three Ur III tablets, one cone of the king Sîn-kašid and one administrative text from the reign of the Neo-Babylonian king Nabû-kudurrī-uṣur II.

The Babylonian Empire

Babylon was actually two empires that both rose to great glory and fell. The kingdoms of these empires are divided into the Old Empire and the New Empire.

The Old Babylonian Empire was first mentioned about 2200 B.C. The first ruler of this empire was King Sumu-abum. The kingdom was just one of the lesser city-states in Sumeria until the reign of King Hammurabi. King Hammurabi was the most famous king of this dynasty due to his harsh code of justice. Babylon grew and prospered under Hammurabi's reign. After his death weak rules followed and the Empire fell apart. Despite the deterioration occurring in Babylon, the city, Babylon remained a cultural and social power.

The New Babylonian Empire rose in about 626 B.C. The rise of the new empire is credited to the Babylonian military leader, Nebopolassar. He led the Babylonians to take control of Babylonia and the Assyrians. Allied with the Medians, they were able to bring about the fall of the Assyrian Empire. Nabopolassar then, with the help of his son Nebuchanezzar II rebuilt the city of Babylon to its greatest glory.


Cradled by the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers in what is today Iraq, the Sumerians of Mesopotamia established the earliest known society in which people could read and write. The script the Sumerians invented and handed down to the Semitic peoples who conquered Mesopotamia in later centuries is called cuneiform. This picture language, similar to but more abstract than Egyptian hieroglyphics was written on clay tablets with long reeds while the clay was still wet. The fresh clay then hardened and a permanent record was created. As with all cultures, writing greatly changed Mesopotamian social stricture and the civilization's relationship to its own history. Writing allowed laws to be written such as the famous Code of Hammurabi, king of Old Babylonia from 1795 to 1750 B.C.

Click on the photos below to learn more about each cuneiform.

Babylon Drehen TabletJokha tabletJokha 2nd tabletWarka