A little known collection of more than 100 clay tablets in Cuneiform script, dating back to the Babylon Exile some 2,500 years ago, was unveiled this week, allowing a glimpse into the everyday life of one of the most ancient exile communities in the world.It's rare to see a sentence like the last one in the quote, and rarer still for it to be true, but in this case it sounds like a fair assessment. Some information on the contents of the tablets:
Prof. Wayne Horowitz, one of the archaeologists who studied the tablets, says this is the most important ancient Jewish archive since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Until now very little had been known about the life of the Judean community that had been uprooted from Jerusalem and deported to Babylon. The collection also corresponds with the Biblical text in which the prophet Ezekiel writes “as I was among the captives by the river Chebar” (chapter 1, verse 1). The “river Chebar” or “river Chebar village” appear several times on the tablets.Read it all. Unfortunately the tablets were bought on the antiquities market rather than being scientifically excavated. Background here.
The tablets reflect trade transactions, leasing houses and fields, addresses, inheritances, etc. Certificate 31, for example, is of a deal between Yirpa Ben Dohah and Ahikam Ben Refa’iyahu, in which the former trades a “trained, five-year-old bull” for “one gray jennet.” In certificate 52 a man called Ikisha sold his female slave for “three pieces of silver.” In another document, Neriayu Ben Ahikam rents a house for “10 silver shekels ... half given at the beginning of the year and the rest in the middle of the year.” The tenant undertook in the agreement to pay for damages, if any, from the foundations to the roof.
On some tablets, ancient Hebraic letters appear beside the Akkadian details. The researchers assume these were intended for cataloging and tracing. On tablet 10, for example, which deals with a bond for barley, the name Shalemiyahu appears in Hebraic. “These are the most ancient Hebraic letters from the Babylonian exile,” says Horowitz.