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Clay Tablet Fragments Handed Over to Iraqi Embassy

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA—The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology have handed over another batch of clay tablets to officials at the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, D.C. The fragments are part of a collection of some 7,500 tablets that were excavated from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur by a team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the British Museum between 1922 and 1934, under the direction of Sir Charles Leonard Woolley, who is recognized as one of the first archaeologists to excavate methodically and keep meticulous records. The tablets have since been held at the Penn Museum under a loan agreement with the government of Iraq. So far, more than 3,000 of the tablets have been repatriated. Penn Museum research associate William B. Hafford said most of them are records of traded goods that have helped scholars understand how various items were valued against each other and and against silver. This particular batch of 400 small tablet fragments, thought to have been used as rubble to support a brick floor in a house at Ur, has been difficult to study, Hafford explained. “At this point, we realize we have had them too long and that even though they carry some information, it will take many more years for specialists to do that work.” To read about a 6,500-year-old skeleton discovered during Woolley's Ur excavations, go to "Storeroom Surprise."

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