Biblical Archaeology Review 4:3, September/October 1978

The Politics of Ebla

By Adam Mikaya

As might be expected, BAR’s “Assessing Ebla,” BAR 04:01, by Paul C. Maloney is the best and most comprehensive overall popular treatment of the Ebla Tablets yet to appear.

There is, however, later news, as well as another side to the Ebla story—a political side.

This political aspect makes everyone connected with Ebla vulnerable, so this report—and possibly subsequent reports—will have to be written pseudonymously.

As anyone who has made his living in academia knows, it is a political jungle. Ebla is no exception. Indeed, the higher stakes only intensify the political animosities.

As is now well known, Paolo Matthiae, director of the excavations at Ebla, and Giovanni Pettinato, his chief epigrapher, were for several months not speaking to one another.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Pettinato was barred by Matthiae from the dig as well as from the museum in Aleppo, Syria where the crates of cuneiform tablets are being stored. The Los Angeles Times’ story said that Matthiae even withheld from Pettinato photographs of the tablets. Pettinato appealed to his scholarly colleagues around the world, including several in the United States, for support.

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