Cuneiform Tablets: Who’s Got What?

Sidebar to: Before Tea Leaves: Divination in Ancient Babylonia

There is no official tally of the number of ancient Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets held by the world’s museums, but experts agree that there are roughly half a million. The largest collection by far is in the possession of the British Museum, in London, which has approximately 130,000 of them. Next, in roughly descending order, are Berlin’s Vorderasiatisches Museum, the Louvre in Paris, the Museum of Ancient Orient in Istanbul, the Baghdad Museum and Yale University’s Babylonian Collection, which, with 40,000 tablets, has the largest holding in the United States. A close second is the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Many tablets have lain in these collections for a century without being translated, studied or published.

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