Photo by Erich Lessing

The great archive recovered from Ebla comprises about 16,500 baked-clay tablets and tablet fragments bearing cuneiform inscriptions, some in the Sumerian language, and others in a language now classified as North, or Old North, Semitic. Found in Royal Palace G (see drawing), the tablets come in various sizes and in rectangular or round shapes, such as the two shown here. Round tablets tend to be smaller and used for ephemeral records. Although about 80 percent of the tablets consist of routine administrative accounts and receipts, even these offer valuable insights into the economic life and administrative methods of their time (about the middle of the 24th century B.C.) and provide a large lexicon of words, place-names, personal names and divine names. The balance of the texts include royal letters dealing with palace administration, scribal textbooks, treaties and some myths in Sumerian.