Length: 17.140 cm
Width: 8.570 cm
Excavated by A.H. Layard
Room 55: Mesopotamia
Cuneiform tablet with omens
Neo-Assyrian, 7th century BC
From Nineveh, northern Iraq
From the library of King Ashurbanipal (reigned 669-631 BC)
This tablet is the third of a series of twenty-four called shumma izbu concerning malformed newborn humans and animals, and their ominous significance. Everything in Mesopotamia was believed to be the result of divine action, and signs (omens) were used to interpret the will of the gods. Ancient letters reveal that deformities in human and animal births were taken very seriously at this time.
Tablets such as this are the scholarly textbooks of their day, consulted by the expert to determine the will of the gods. Many letters have survived from scholars and officials to King Ashurbanipal (reigned 668-627 BC), giving him details of strange occurrences and how they should be interpreted.
E. Leichty, The omen series Summa izbu (Locust Valley, J.J. Augustin, 1970)
S. Parpola, Letters from Assyrian and Baby (Helsinki University Press, 1993)