A Biblical Clay Cuneiform Merchant's Tag, El'lasar, ca. 2000 BCE


This merchant tag was excavated at Larsa, an important city of ancient Sumer.  It is believed to be the biblical city of El'Lasar mentioned in Genesis 14:1 and 14:9 whose king, Arioch, was one of four who invaded Canaan during the time of Abraham. 

Made from fine, local clay, it was secured to a cord wound around merchandise and then inscribed.  A hole, running the length of the tag through which the cord passed, is all that remains.   Finger impressions from the person who shaped it over 4000 years ago can still be found.

Dimensions: Length: 1 1/2 inches  (3.8 cm), Width: 3/4 inch (1.9 cm)

Condition: Some encrustation and surface erosion, otherwise intact.

Provenance:  Collection of Edger J. Banks, acquired by Mr. and Mrs. John E. Snyder in 1925.  Donated to the Hershey Public Library and deaccessioned in 2018.  This object is accompanied by a copy of the sales receipt and translations from Edgar J. Banks, dated June 2, 1925.

Edgar J. Banks was born May 23, 1866, in Sunderland, Massachusetts. He began his career as an American consul in Bagdad, Turkey, in 1897; served as acting professor of ancient history at Robert College in Constantinople in 1902/3, and as a private secretary to the American Minister to Turkey in 1903. In 1903 he served as field director of an expedition excavating the Babylonian ruin at Bismya for the University of Chicago. This work continued into 1906, after which he began lecturing on Babylonia, Arabia, and Turkey. In 1909 he took a position as professor of Oriental languages and archaeology at Toledo University. From 1921 until 1922, he served as director to Sacred Films, Inc., and as president of the Seminole Film Company. Mr. Banks died on May 5, 1945.

John E. Snyder was General Counsel for Milton S. Hershey in the 1980s. They were prepared for exhibits of the tablets, some by the Hershey Public Library during the early 1990s and some by the owners themselves, Mr. and Mrs. John E. Snyder, who later donated them to the Library.

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