A Bibliographical List of Cuneiform Inscriptions from Canaan, Palestine/Philistia, and the Land of Israel

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TODAY WE ARE ABLE to place eighty-nine objects in our corpus. These range from well-known texts such as the Taanach letters, which have been studied and translated a number of times (Taanach 1-2, 5-6), to mere scraps of clay, and include texts belonging to a wide variety of genres, including literature, royal inscriptions, letters, administrative texts, inscribed cylinder seals, lexical texts, mathematical texts, omens, and a magical/medical text. More than a third of the inscribed objects come from three sites: Taanach (17), Hazor (15), and Aphek (8). Samaria has yielded six objects, including late fourth-century coins, (4) while Megiddo has yielded five, but only one cuneiform tablet. (5) No other site has provided more than four items. In fact, a majority of sites have contributed only an item or two.

Sites yielding epigraphic finds range from Hazor in the north to Beer Sheva in the south, and from Ashkelon and Ashdod on the Mediterranean coast to Jericho and Bet Shean by the Jordan River. Although a majority of the items have been recovered as the result of controlled archaeological research, a number are chance finds; for example, the Megiddo Gilgamesh tablet (Megiddo 1) was discovered by a kibbutz shepherd on his rounds with his flocks. (6)

Items in our corpus date to both the first and second millennia B.C., with the earliest texts being those from Hazor, which can be associated with the archives of Mari and the Middle Bronze II cities of Syria. A few other items may also date to the Middle Bronze Age--or to the late Middle and/or early Late Bronze Ages. Just over half of the tablets can be dated with certainty to the Late Bronze Age, in many cases on the basis of clear epigraphic and linguistic similarities to the fourteenth-century Amarna archive in Egypt. A smaller number of texts date to the first millennium, including roughly fifteen belonging to the Neo-Assyrian period. A few isolated texts date to the Late Babylonian, Persian, and/or Hellenistic periods. Unlike the situation in Babylonia, we as yet find no evidence at all for the transcription of Greek or Aramaic into cuneiform characters. (7)

Most of the texts are written in Akkadian of one type or another, ranging from the standard Akkadian of the Mesopotamian homeland to local "creolized" Akkadian with West Semitic features. The West Semitic local language(s) are directly represented in our corpus in lexical lists, glosses, and three texts inscribed in a "southern" version of the alphabetic cuneiform script dating to the Late Bronze Age best known from Ugarit. (8) A few academic texts and short inscriptions on cylinder seals are written in Sumerian, and one text, a fragment of a Persian-period royal inscription, preserves some Elamite. (9) The texts also include a wide variety of personal names representing diverse languages and cultures, including Babylonian/Assyrian, Hurrian, Egyptian, Indo-Iranian, and various West Semitic languages including Hebrew. (10) As an appendix we offer entries for five items in hieroglyphic Hittite, but do not collect objects inscribed in Egyptian or linear alphabetic scripts. (11)

Most of the objects are clay cuneiform tablets, but the corpus also includes other inscribed objects such as the aforementioned cylinder seals, two inscribed fragments of clay models of sheep livers, a clay jar stopper, an inscribed bronze ringlet, and stone stelae. The items themselves are today to be found in diverse settings, ranging from the collections of The Israel Museum, Rockefeller Museum, and Institute of Archaeology of The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, to private and museum collections in Tel-Aviv, Istanbul, Chicago, and Ann Arbor. The present location of some items still escapes us. Some of the objects have already been the subject of intense study while others remain unpublished.

The comprehensive re-edition and study of these documents provokes certain basic questions, many of which will be addressed in our book as well as in further articles under preparation by the participants in the research project. …