Monday, July 19, 2010

Cuneiform Law from the Hazor Tablet Room?

from Amnon Ben-Tor, Sharon Zuckerman and Wayne Horowitz:

The Selz Foundation Hazor Excavations in Memory of Yigael Yadin have recovered two fragments of a cuneiform tablet preserving portions of a law code at Hazor.

The text parallels portions of the famous Law Code of Hammurabi, and, to a certain extent even the Biblical “tooth for a tooth”. The team is presently working its way down towards a monumental structure dating to the Bronze Age, where more tablets are expected to be found.

The tablet is currently being studied at the Hebrew University. More details to follow as soon as possible...

There was always good reason to believe there was a tablet room there, and it looks like they're digging right above it now. What's at stake? Among the Late Bronze Age cuneiform texts from Israel-Palestine are several exemplars of distinctively "Western" variants of the second-millennium "stream of tradition" in which scribes were trained. Until now, every fragment unearthed has represented a local version, which diverges greatly or subtly from the standard Mesopotamian versions. Even if they, God willing, find hundreds of tablets, it still won't give us a complete picture because there are major LBA sites like Megiddo from which we have almost nothing preserved. But at a minimum, more about the relationships with mainstream Mesopotamian culture will be revealed: we may finally get a real picture of how distinctive the cuneiform culture of the Southern Levant really was! And at a maximum? Anything could happen.

Of course, if it is indeed Late Bronze Age it may not tell us anything more about whether or not the Covenant Code is really a late Iron Age subversion of the Laws of Hammurabi, as David Wright has recently argued. More on this (a good while) later.

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