The Archive Of Ebla -- By: G. Herbert Livingston

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 05:3 (Summer 1992)
Article: The Archive Of Ebla
Author: G. Herbert Livingston


The Archive Of Ebla

G. Herbert Livingston

Through the skills of many archaeologists, over the past century and a half, remarkable information about ancient civilizations has come to light. Interestingly, some notable discoveries were accidently made by natives or by tourists.

Among the most significant finds have been inscriptions on various materials: stone, clay, wood, and papyrus being most commonly used. Some artifacts bearing writing were found above ground or near the surface. The exact location of most of these artifacts is usually unknown; but in general, they have been found in the Mesopotamian Valley, in Turkey, along the Mediterranean eastern coast and in Egypt.

Some discoveries have yielded accumulations of inscriptions in sufficient numbers to be designated as archives. The oldest of these archives was found at Ebla in the northwest corner of Syria almost two decades ago, and is the subject of this article.

In 1963 a young Italian archaeologist, Paulo Matthiae, examined ancient Syrian mounds, seeking one that offered the greatest challenge; and hopefully, the most information.

Tablets found in the library. They had been on the shelves pictured on page 93 which burned, then collapsed leaving them in this pile.

George Herbert Livingston earned his Ph.D. at Drew University, and is now Prof. of O.T. Emeritus at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore KY. His fruitful career has included participation in excavations at Ramat Rachel, Et-Tell, and Tell Qasile, all in Israel.

Paulo mattiae, head of the Italian Archaeological Mission to syria, standing in the city gate of Ebla. Behind him, on the acropolis, stood the Palace in which the tablets were found.

Northwestern Syria is dotted with many mounds, hiding the ruins of ancient cities. One impressive mound, near a modern highway between Damascus and Turkey, covered about 140 acres. It is known by the Arabic name, Tell Mardikh, but until positively identified in the mid 1970’s, it lacked a known ancient name.

In 1955 a farmer, while plowing found a large stone object shaped somewhat like a double basin or trough. On its sides were carved humans and lions, which stirred much interest. Matthiae and his party noted on the mound many pieces (sherds) of pottery, dating from about 3500 BC to about AD 600. The decision was made to begin an excavation program the next year. The task would be formidable, because the depth of debris would turn out to be as much as fifty feet deep in the midd...

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