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* A Neo-Babylonian Cuneiform Tablet, reign of King Nabonidus, Babylon, ca. 542 BC

MT1818

Excavated in Babylon, this thick square tablet of pale beige clay is larger than most examples of similar type. The cuneiform inscription contains a long contract, of which there is a summary at one end. The last two lines at the bottom of the rounded side provide a date as follows: The month?, the day 13, the year 13 of Nabonidus, King of Babylon. Nabonidus ruled from 555 to 538 B.C. so the tablet was written around 542 B.C.

Background:  Last of the Neo-Babylonian kings, Nabonidus was the father of the Biblical Belshazzar, co-regent of Babylon who was killed at the capture of the city by the Persians.   Belshazzar is known from the biblical Book of Daniel (chapters 5, 7–8) and from Xenophon’s Cyropaedia.   During his coregency Belshazzar administered the government, his own estates, and those of his father, though, according to the Book of Daniel, famine and economic setbacks occurred late in his rule. According to the accounts in the Bible and Xenophon, Belshazzar held a last great feast at which he saw a hand writing on a wall the following words in Aramaic: “mene, mene, tekel, upharsin.” The prophet Daniel, interpreting the handwriting on the wall as God’s judgment on the king, foretold the imminent destruction of the city. Belshazzar died after Babylon fell to the Persian general Gobyras without resistance on Oct. 12, 539, and probably before the Persian king Cyrus II entered the city 17 days later.

Condition:   Well executed script with some scattered losses, particularly to one side but otherwise overall intact and in very good condition. Identification number: 10 in white ink on one side.  Mounted on museum quality custom stand.

Dimensions: Length: 1 7/8 inches (4.7 cm), Width: 1 3/4 inches

Exhibited: Hershey Public Library during the early 1990s.

Provenance: Ex. Collection of Edgar J. Banks, Field Director of the Babylonian Expedition of the University of Chicago, 1920s, acquired by John E. Snyder, June 2, 1925 and donated to the Hershey Public Library by Mr. and Mrs Snyder.  Catalog number: 10 in white paint on the side of the tablet correlates with accompanying original typed write-up from Edgar J. Banks. 

Chief adviser and close personal friend of Milton S. Hershey, John E. Snyder (1863 - 1934) served as Vice-president, Secretary and General Counsel of the Hershey Chocolate Corporation up to his death in 1934.


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