The Library of Ashurbanipal

Project team



Supported by

  • The Townley Group
  • The Andrew Mellon Foundation

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Project aims

A major catalogue of Ashurbanipal’s Library was published by the British Museum in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but thanks to the labours of many scholars much more is now known about ancient Mesopotamian languages and what is written in them. In addition, the library was in fragments when discovered, and Assyriologists have spent the last 150 years looking for pieces that can be rejoined in the hope of retrieving complete compositions. A new catalogue is required.

During the preparatory stage of this project Dr Jeanette Fincke (now University of Leiden) investigated all the Nineveh tablets in Babylonian script. This programme produced a new database for classifying the document type for each Babylonian fragment (religious, magical, ritual, medical, lexical or letter) and its formal appearance (shape, colour, number of columns, rulings and dividing lines). This work led to many new ‘joins’. Dr Fincke then shifted her attention to astrological fortune-telling texts from Nineveh in Assyrian script.

The project enjoyed the invaluable help of Professor Riekele Borger, Emeritus Professor of Assyriology at the University of Göttingen. For 40 years he had been coming to the Museum, identifying and joining fragments from the library. He had been compiling an updated catalogue of the tablets. Very sadly Prof. Borger passed away suddenly in December 2010. His work will be published as a monograph in the traditional manner, as well as incorporated into our new electronic catalogue of the Library, richly illustrated with the full set of tablet images, a bibliography of studies on the library, and contextual essays. This catalogue will prove an invaluable resource for many investigations and publications, both academic and popular. It will also form the foundation of future Museum research on the library.

Cuneiform tablet