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Cuneiform tablet inscribed with omens

 

Length: 19.680 cm
Width: 12.060 cm

ME 96948

Room 56: Mesopotamia

    Cuneiform tablet inscribed with omens

    Old Babylonian, about 1800-1600 BC
    Probably from Sippar, southern Iraq

    Resulting from the shape and colour of a sheep's stomach

    The Babylonians believed that the world was controlled by gods and that they could give indications of coming events. One of the most widespread means of prediction was the sheep's stomach omen, in which an animal was killed and its stomach was examined by a specialist priest, the baru. He would ask a particular question and the answer would be supplied by the interpretation of individual markings or overall shape of the stomach. One could then take steps to avoid danger.

    We know from ancient texts that the baru was one of the most important scholars in Mesopotamia. He had to be the descendant of a free man and be healthy in mind and body. He played an important part in decision making at all levels but particularly where the king was concerned. The baru was consulted before a military campaign, building work, or the appointment of an official, and to monitor the king's health.

    U. Jeyes, Old Babyloniane extispicy: ome (Leiden, 1989)

    J. Black and A. Green, Gods, demons and symbols of -1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)

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    On display: Room 56: Mesopotamia

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