Called by one author, “a preface to Biblical History,” the Amarna tablets describe the Canaanite world just before the Israelites arrived. These diplomatic messages were sent from Canaanite kings and others to the Pharaoh Akhenaton, describing and complaining about various circumstances. These cuneiform tablets were discovered in Amarna, Egypt, in the late 19th century and are still being discussed and debated by Egyptologists and biblical scholars.
In this 2-part recorded conversation, Alice Mandell, Assistant Professor of Classical Hebrew Language and Biblical Literature in the University of Wisconsin Department of Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies, describes some of the latest discoveries and latest debates about these tablets and the ancient world they describe.
Discussing some of the items in the archaeology news digests in the latest issue of ARTIFAX magazine, Professor Clyde Billington and I discuss the discovery of the Stone Rejected by the Builders in the western wall of the Temple Mount, the stone mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 21:42, quoting Psalm 118:22-23.
We also report on the discovery of counting tokens used several millenia after writing and record keeping supposedly transitioned from the use of tokens to cuneiform. The story of the invention of writing is intertwined with the biblical story and the history of Christianity. This is an intriguing development.
With the Cyrus Cylinder now on display at the Sackler Gallery in Washington DC, and after that in four other major U.S. cities, we pulled out our interview on Cyrus the Great with Matt Waters. Matt Waters is a professor of classics and ancient history at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Cyrus, what an incredible historical leader, with approbations from biblical writers as well as historians. Here’s more background information.
This week’s program is the first in a number of months where we’re able to report on late-breaking archaeological news from Jerusalem. Just a few days ago Hebrew University announced the discovery of a fragment of a cuneiform tablet which was dated to the 14th century B.C. The find was made through in the excavation directed by Eilat Mazar (above left) in an area near the southern steps of the Temple Mount where she believes she is uncovering a tower dating to the time of King Solomon, the 9th century B.C. Fill uncovered from the excavation was taken to the Emek Tzurim National Park where the Temple Mount Sifting Project is underway, and that’s how the fragment surfaced. What does it mean? Well the official version is in the news release, and that’s the basis for our conversation on this program. It is a significant discovery, that may help us understand the history of Jerusalem a little bit better. Among other views, we might point you to Christopher Rollston, who was on our program earlier this year.
Added Note regarding my own experience with cuneiform tablets: In 1978 when I was working on the excavation at Tel Aphek a cuneiform tablet was found in the ruins of the Egyptian governor’s palace that was under excavation. The tablet was dated to about 1240 B.C.