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Library of Ashurbanipal

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (series)

    • Library of Ashurbanipal
  • Description

    Fragment of a clay tablet: the upper half of a cuneiform tablet inscribed with necromantic incantations and rituals written in 22 lines of cuneiform.

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 7thC BC
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Length: 9.52 centimetres
    • Width: 9.2 centimetres
    • Thickness: 2.85 centimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Translation

        You will see the ghost: he will speak with you; you can look at the ghost: he will talk with you.
      • Inscription Comment

        The incantations are designed to enable a man to see and question a ghost for the purpose of learning the future. A mumbo-jumbo spell is recited over a specially prepared mixture, and this is applied as an ointment to the eyes. The subsequent passage gives magical procedures to protect the necromancer from the dangers involved in trafficking with the dead.
  • Curator's comments

    Necromancy is only rarely referred to in cuneiform sources. This tablet is in Babylonian script, and was clearly brought from southern Mesopotamia to fill a gap in the royal library at Nineveh.

    I. L. Finkel, ‘Necromancy in ancient Mesopotamia’, ‘Archiv für Orientforschung’ 29-30 (1984);
    J. Tropper, ‘Nekromantie: Totenbefreagung im alten Orient und im Alten Testament’ (Alter Orient und Altes Testament 223), (Kevelaer/Neukirchen-Vluyn, 1989), 90-92.


  • Bibliography

    • Bezold 1891a bibliographic details
    • Curtis & Reade 1994a 80 bibliographic details
    • CDLI P238181 ( bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history


    2008-2009 21 Sept-4 Jan, Boston, MFA, 'Art and Empire'
    2007 2 Apr-30 Sept, Alicante, MARQ Museum, 'Art and Empire'
    2006 1 Jul-7 Oct, Shanghai Museum, 'Art and Empire'

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Department

    Middle East

  • Registration number


Part of a clay tablet, 22 lines of inscription, neo-Babylonian.

Part of a clay tablet, 22 lines of inscription, neo-Babylonian.

Image description



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Object reference number: WCT4287

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