Study of the Sultantepe Tablets

Location: near Sultantepe village; Şanlıurfa Province

Year: 1951

Project Director: Oliver Gurney


On 5 June 1951 a hoard of cuneiform tablets was found during the BIAA excavation at Harran and Sultantepe.  Team members excavated as much of the hoard as possible that season, returning in the summer of 1952 to complete the work.  In total, 572 tablets and fragments were found and catalogued by the team.  All tablets but one appeared to be unbaked, which led the researchers to preclude the possibility of the tablets constituting a royal library.  This, and the fact that many scribal errors were found in the texts, suggested rather the possibility of the tablets belonging to a temple school located on the site. 

Oliver Gurney was primarily responsible for the subsequent study of the tablets.  They  were scanned for any notes that would provide more information regarding the production of the tablets; dates noted in the colophons all fell between 700 and 600 BC.  The cuneiform texts appeared to represent a diverse array of categories, including medical texts, poems, prayers, rituals, vocabularies, omens, incantations, and even astronomy, mathematics, and economics.  One tablet in particular containing the text of “The Tale of the Poor Man of Nippur” is very significant for its representation of a new genre in Assyrian literature.


Lloyd, S., Gökçe, N. 1952: ‘Harran’ Anatolian Studies 2: 11-15

Gurney, O.R. 1952: ‘The Sultantepe tablets: A preliminary note’ Anatolian Studies 2: 25-35

See also:

Gurney, O.R. and Finkelstein, J.J. 1957: The Sultantepe Tablets, Vol. I. London

Gurney, O.R. and Hulin, P. 1964: The Sultantepe Tablets, Vol. II. London

Gurney, O.R. 1953: ‘The Sultantepe Tablets’ Anatolian Studies 3: 15-25

Gurney, O.R., Lambert, W.G. 1954: ‘The Sultantepe Tablets (III. The Poem of the Righteous Sufferer)’ Anatolian Studies 4: 65-100

Gurney, O.R. 1955: ‘The Sultantepe Tablets (IV. The Cuthaean Legend of Naram-Sin)’ Anatolian Studies 5: 93-113

Gurney, O.R. 1956: ‘ The Sultantepe Tablets (V. The Tale of the Poor Man of Nippur)’ Anatolian Studies 6: 145-164

Finkelstein, J. J. 1957: ‘Assyrian Contracts from Sultantepe’ Anatolian Studies 7: 137-146

Gurney, O.R. 1957: ‘The Sultantepe Tablets (VI. A Letter of Gilgamesh)’ Anatolian Studies 7: 127-136

Gurney, O.R. 1960: ‘The Sultantepe Tablets (VII. The Myth of Nergal and Ereshkigal)’ Anatolian Studies 10: 105-131

Gurney, O.R., Lambert, W.G. 1961: ‘The Sultantepe Tablets (VIII. Shalmaneser in Ararat)’ Anatolian Studies 11: 143-158

Gurney, O.R. 1967: ‘The Sultantepe Tablets, addenda’ Anatolian Studies 17: 196-197

Lambert, W.G. 1970: ‘The Sultantepe Tablets (IX. The Birdcall Text)’ Anatolian Studies 20: 111-117

Gurney, O.R. 1972: ‘The Tale of the Poor Man of Nippur and Its Folktale Parallels’ Anatolian Studies 22: 149-158

Speiser, E.A. 1957: ‘Sultantepe Tablet 38 73 and Enūma Eliš III 69’ Journal of Cuneiform Studies, 11: 43-44

Hulin, P. 1963: ‘A Table of Reciprocals with Sumerian Spellings’ Journal of Cuneiform Studies 17: 72-76

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Archaeology and Related Disciplines

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