Researchers study ancient Assyrian tablets

April 15, 2010 at 3:41 PM
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TORONTO, April 15 (UPI) -- Archeologists say cuneiform tablets unearthed by a University of Toronto team contain a largely intact Assyrian treaty from the early 7th century B.C.

"The tablet is quite spectacular," said Professor Timothy Harrison, director of the University of Toronto's Tayinat Archeological Project. "It records a treaty -- or covenant -- between Esarhaddon, king of the Assyrian Empire, and a secondary ruler who acknowledged Assyrian power.

"The treaty was confirmed in 672 B.C. at elaborate ceremonies held in the Assyrian royal city of Nimrud (ancient Kalhu). In the text, the ruler vows to recognize the authority of Esarhaddon's successor, his son Ashurbanipal," Harrison said. "The treaties were designed to secure Ashurbanipal's accession to the throne and avoid the political crisis that transpired at the start of his father's reign. Esarhaddon came to power when his brothers assassinated their father, Sennacherib."

The tablet contains about 650 lines and is said to be in a very fragile state.

"It will take months of further work before the document will be fully legible," Harrison said. "These tablets are like a very complex puzzle, involving hundreds of pieces, some missing. It is not just a matter of pulling the tablet out, sitting down and reading. We expect to learn much more as we restore and analyze the document."

The tablets were unearthed last August in southeastern Turkey.

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