Carlson Cuneiform

The earliest writing in Mesopotamia was a system of pictographs established by the Sumerians who wrote on clay tablets using long reeds. The script the Sumerians invented and handed down to the Semitic peoples who conquered Mesopotamia in later centuries, is called cuneiform, which is derived from two Latin words: cuneus, which means "wedge," and forma , which means "shape." This form of script, similar to but more abstract than Egyptian hieroglyphics, eventually developed into a syllabic alphabet under the Semites (Assyrians and Babylonians) who eventually came to dominate the area.

The Carlson Cuneiform is a corpus of nearly 100 objects acquired by Dr. Leslie Carlson, SWBTS Professor of Biblical Archaeology from 1921-1964. It Includes tablets, clay envelopes, inscribed bricks, cones, as well as over 30 documents from the Mesopotamian city of Ur, excavated by Sir Leonard Woolley of the British Museum from 1922-1934. This collection has gained attention from a broad range of researchers varying from cultural historians to paleographers to biblical scholars and archaeologists:

It is the policy of the Tandy Archaeological Museum here at SWBTS to facilitate access of the collection for continued research within these various disciplines and, in doing so, build relationships with scholars of all fields and backgrounds.

In recent years, there has been a great deal of time and effort invested in the identification and transliteration of the various documents which comprise this collection. Significant steps have been made toward a fuller understanding of the collection’s content. Past scholars include Anson Rainey of Bar Ilan University, Magnus Widell of Liverpool University as well as Bruce Zuckerman of the West Semitic Research Project. 

To view more images in our collection, please visit our photo gallery.