Clay tablet with a cuneiform letter and
its envelope

Early Colony Period, around 1850 BC
From Kültepe, modern Turkey

A letter of complaint between brothers

This tablet is one of thousands found at the site of Kültepe (ancient Kanesh). They were all written by merchants who, from around 1900 BC, had come to Kanesh from the city of Ashur in Assyria and established a karum (trading centre). The karum at Kanesh is the best known but a number of other colonies were established across Anatolia.

The texts on the tablets, written in the Old Assyrian dialect of Akkadian, describe the Assyrians bringing textiles and tin to Anatolia on the backs of donkeys, and trading it with the locals for silver and gold. This letter is from Ashur-malik to his brother Ashur-idi complaining that, although winter has already come, he and his family have been left in Ashur without food, clothes or fuel. Lack of space obliged him to finish his letter on a small supplementary tablet. Often, as in this case, the tablet was encased in a clay envelope. These were sometimes inscribed with a summary of the contents and sealed by witnesses, using the traditional Mesopotamian cylinder seal rather than the local Anatolian stamp seal. Here the sender's seal shows figures approaching a seated king with a bull-man at the end of the scene.

Karum Kanesh was burnt down and then rebuilt before being permanently abandoned in around 1740 BC, perhaps during the political upheavals in Anatolia which witnessed the rise of the Hittites.

Find in the collection online

Clay tablet with a cuneiform letter and its envelope

  • Envelope

    Envelope

  • Letter

    Letter

 

More information

Bibliography

A. Khurt, The ancient Near East c. 3000- (London, Routledge, 1995)

Dimensions

Height: 6.600 cm (envelope)
Width: 5.800 cm

Museum number

ME 113573

WCT53266

Location

Find in the collection online



Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore