Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Vonderasiatisches Museum

A Letter From Urusalim. ‘Abdi-Håeba, governor of Jerusalem, sent this cuneiform missive to his superior, the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten, in the 14th century B.C.E.

In 1887, a peasant accidentally discovered the clay tablet, along with 350 other letters belonging to pharaoh Akhenaten and his father, at el-Amarna, in Egypt. Six of the Amarna tablets specifically mention a place called Urusalim, or Jerusalem. Although Margreet Steiner argues that Urusalim was merely an Egyptian estate, and ‘Abdi-Håeba its steward, in the accompanying article Nadav Na’aman argues that the Amarna tablets’ clear references to Jerusalem as a town, not an estate, and to ‘Abdi-Heba’s position as a hazzanu, or governor who had a residence and 50 Egyptian soldiers garrisoned in Jerusalem, suggest that Jerusalem was a small hill-country kingdom.

According to Na’aman, the scarcity of archaeological remains from 14th-century B.C.E. Jerusalem does not mean that the city did not exist at that time.