Old Babylonia: 1900-1700 B.C.E. An ancient document on medium grain, hard (fired) tan terracotta, 23.65 grams (1 1/4” X 1 3/8”). 13 lines of cuneiform figures on both sides in tight calligraphy, a business letter fixing a trade involving barley. A complete message, not a fragment. Very good, intact, and unrepaired, high quality for such an elderly artifact. This is the human hand reaching across 4 millennia. Very good. Item #420
Cuneiform (font characters evolved from rebus pictographs), was deciphered in stages beginning in 1625, when the Roman traveler Pietro Della Valle reasoned it was read from left to right. In 1634 Thomas Herbert deduced the figures could be translated. In 1767 Carsten Niebuhr brought accurate copies to Bishop Friedrich Münter who made out the spaces and translated the first word (“King”). In 1802 Georg Grotefend assigned correct values to 12 symbols. In 1836 Eugène Burnouf identified 30 of them, and that same year Henry Rawlinson found the Behistun Inscriptions in 3 languages, the Rosetta Stone of Cuneiform. An 1857 London meeting untangled the rest (alphabet, about 30 sounds, tracing the origins to around 1650 B. C.).