Artifact Spotlight: Cuneiform Envelope

This original clay tablet is from ~2150 BC and is made of fired clay.  The writing is in Sumerian.


Clay tablets like this were once considered ‘recyclable’ and weren’t meant to be kept.  Occasionally accidental fires would take place and the clay would be fired, preserving them for centuries.  Like our paper envelopes today, an outer layer of clay would cover the letter and have the sender’s seal on it.  This protected the message on the clay on the inside.

Our Tablet:

Our tablet’s exterior envelope has a seal that depicts two people facing each other with a round disk separating them.   The figure on the left is holding her hand behind her back and the figure on the right is seated, wearing a funnel-shaped hat.  The inner tablet is well preserved, but the outer envelope has broken into three pieces.



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