Writings Out of Time:
The University of Arizona's Cuneiform Collection
This one piece, unique stone slab with a bas-relief carving, comes from the palace of the great Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (668-627 BCE) in Nineveh, northern Iraq.
Detail of Nineveh relief. Illustration by Jeanne E. Davenport, 2009.
Detail of cuneiform tablet from the Arizona State Museum's permanent collection.
Copyright Jannelle Weakly, 2009.
Writings Out of Time: The University of Arizona's Cuneiform Collection
Throughout the fall of 2009, Special Collections at the University Libraries hosted an exhibit and lecture series examining the origins of early writing and literacy. Writings Out of Time: The University of Arizona’s Cuneiform Collection, on display from Sept. 14 – Dec. 8, 2009, was an archaeological exhibit showcasing the Arizona State Museum’s extraordinary holdings in Near Eastern antiquities.
Curated by Beth Alpert Nakhai, professor of Judaic Studies at the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies, Writings Out of Time featured some of the world’s earliest writing artifacts. The cuneiform tablets on display – primarily records of business transactions – were from half a dozen sites in southern Iraq. The tablets dated from 2100-1800 BCE and are unquestionably the oldest archive of literary materials in the State of Arizona.
Other objects in Writings Out of Time included engraved cylinder and stamp seals from Iraq and Egypt, a piece of papyrus with demotic writing, and Imperial Roman-era Egyptian lamps signed by their makers. One piece, a unique stone slab with a bas-relief carving, comes from the palace of the great Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (668-627 BCE) in Nineveh, northern Iraq.
All these artifacts and more were purchased by – or donated to – the Arizona State Museum in the first half of the 20th century, by luminaries including the renowned collector and adventurer J. Edgar Banks, The University of Arizona founder Selim M. Franklin, and Arizona State Museum and Department of Anthropology founder, Byron Cummings.
The Roots of Literacy in the Ancient Near East
A special series of lectures focused on the theme “The Roots of Literacy in the Ancient Near East” was held throughout the fall in conjunction with the exhibit. Lecturers included faculty from The University of Arizona and scholars from around the country.
Ancient Mesopotamian Cuneiform Tablet Archives, Scribes, and the Development of Libraries
Anne Kilmer, Professor Emeritus of Assyriology, University of California, Berkeley, in conjunction with the Archaeological Institute of America, Tucson Chapter
From Ancient Mesopotamia to Modern Arizona: The First Writing, Indiana Jones and the ASM Basement’s Mystery
Ewa Wasilewska, Associate Professor/Lecturer, Department of Anthropology and the Middle East Center, University of Utah
Egyptian Hieroglyphs: Writing with Pictures and Painting with Words
Richard H. Wilkinson, Regents’ Professor of Egyptian Archaeology, School of Anthropology, Department of Classics and Department of Near Eastern Studies, The University of Arizona
The Origins of the Alphabet: From Proto-Sinaitic to Greek
Ronald S. Hendel, The Norma and Sam Dabby Professor of Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies, University of California, Berkeley
Archaeological Preservation Efforts and Agonies in Northern Iraq, 2006
Jesse Ballenger, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Anthropology, The University of Arizona, in conjunction with the Archaeological Institute of America, Tucson Chapter
Life and Death on the Estate of a Princess in 21st Century BCE Mesopotamia
David Owen, The Bernard and Jane Schapiro Professor of Ancient Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Curator of Tablet Collections, The Jonathan and Jeannette Rosen Ancient Near Eastern Studies Seminar, Department of Near Eastern Studies, Cornell University, in conjunction with the Archaeological Institute of America, Tucson Chapter
The Art of Writing in Ancient Israel (part of the Shaol Pozez Memorial Lectureship Series, sponsored by the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies)
William Schniedewind, Professor of Biblical Studies and Kershaw Chair of Ancient Eastern Mediterranean Studies, University of California, Los Angeles
Thanks is extended to the exhibit and lecture series sponsors: Arizona State Museum; Arizona Center for Judaic Studies; Friends of the University Libraries; University Libraries at The University of Arizona; American Schools of Oriental Research; Ancient Studies Program, UA; Archaeological Institute of America, Tucson Chapter; Center for Educational Resources in Culture, Language and Literacy, UA; Center for Middle Eastern Studies, UA; College of Education, UA; College of Social and Behavioral Science, UA; Daniel F. Cracchiola Law Library, UA; Department of Anthropology, UA; Department of Classics and Classical Archaeology, UA; Department of Near Eastern Studies, UA; Department of History, UA; Near Eastern Studies Undergraduate Organization, UA; Special Collections at the University Libraries; Tucson Marriott University Park Hotel; William F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem.
Thanks is also extended to the exhibit and lecture series steering committee: Beth Alpert Nakhai; Jeanne Davenport; Martha Castleberry; Mike Jacobs; Louise Greenfield; Donna Bright DeSorda; Bonnie Travers; Gabriela Lopez; and Savannah Knight.