This Summer a team of four members of the IAP project ‘Greater Mesopotamia’ is working at the collection of cuneiform tablets stored at Cornell University. The team consists of Prof. Kathleen Abraham, Gabriella Voet and Prof. Karel Van Lerberghe (University of Leuven), and of Hendrik Hameeuw (Royal Museums of Art and History & University of Leuven). From June till November 2013 work is focusing on 700 new unpublished texts dealing with social and economic problems in Mesopotamia during the reigns of king Samsuiluna (1749-1712 BCE) and his successor Abiešuḫ (1711-1684 BCE). Most of the tablets are registered by using the Portable Light Dome. In time, these dynamic images will be made available for the international scientific community via the ‘Greater Mesopotamia’ website and are being stored on the Leuven University servers. At the same time, the images are also being published, together with transliterations, translations and comments in three books in the series CUSAS. A first volume, dealing mainly with tablets originating from the Enlil temple at Dūr-Abiešuḫ has been published in 2009 as CUSAS 8 (Cornell University Studies in Assyriology and Sumerology).

Prof. em. Karel Van Lerberghe en Prof. Kathleen Abraham in the Tablet Room

This dossier gives evidence for the abandonment of Southern Mesopotamia in the late Old Babylonian period in a period of economic distress due to environmental changes. The clergy of Mesopotamia’s religious capital, Nippur, moved to the North and built a new center at Dūr-Abiešuḫ where they erected the new Ekur-temple for their chief deity Enlil. The next one, CUSAS 25, containing some 300 new tablets, is scheduled for 2014. It gives most important information on the activities of the mercenaries in the Babylonian rulers’ army controlling and protecting the Tigris river, the irrigation system and the Babylonian cities from enemies (most probably from the Sealand). Those mercenaries come from various areas such as Maškan-šapir, Gutium, Damrum and even Aleppo (Ḫalaba). The volume contains administrative and juridical documents and related letters (e.g. on the siege of Nippur). All seal impressions are copied and described and the use of the seals is being investigated.

During our stay at Cornell other tablets were studied as well. These will make up a third volume in the CUSAS series with texts dating from before the collapse of the Babylonian empire (under king Samsuiluna) and from the beginning of the decline (under king Abiešuḫ).

Hendrik Hameeuw with the Portable Light Dome in the Tablet Room

With de PLD-minidome some test were run with a new HD camera (GX6600c, ca. 28 mill. pixels). Recordings were made with the trusted and normally used lower definition camera, the Manta G504C IRC, and compared with images taken with the GX of one and the same cuneiform tablet. The outcome is used to establish an understanding on in which cases (type of tablets, with or without seal impressions) low or high definition is requested and can or can not be seen as an added value. (see illustration, left with Manta, right with GX)

As always, our stay at Cornell is extremely pleasant thanks to the staff of the Rosen Seminar helping us in many ways. David and Susan Owen should be thanked here in the first place. We also wish to mention: Jeff Zorn, Alex Kleinerman and Laura Johnson-Kelly.

The hospitality of our hosts is well-known in Assyriological circles and we had the pleasure to meet once again several colleagues equally working at the Rosen Collection: Prof. Jean-Marie Durand (Collège de France et Membre de l’Académie Française), Dr. Grégory Chambon (Université de Brest), Dr. Michaël Guichard (Université Paris I) and Dr. Bertrand Lafont ( CNRS, Paris).