The Testimony Of The Tell-El-Amarna Tablets -- By: Henry Hayman
BSac 50:200 (April 1893) p. 696
The Testimony Of The Tell-El-Amarna Tablets
Probably no discovery of antique records in the century now drawing to a close has surpassed, or even equalled in importance, that of the clay tablets, with Babylonish cuneiform script upon them, discovered in 1887, at Tell-el-Amarna, in Upper Egypt. The authority which I principally follow in the following remarks upon them, is that of Rev. A. H. Sayce, M. A., Deputy Professor of Comparative Philology in my own University of Oxford. His brilliant success in difficult decipherment of documents from seats of record, remote alike in time and place, has stamped him as second to none of the English-speaking race in that abstruse province of scholarship. No doubt the ardor of a young explorer in a previously untrodden field of research led him rather to overdraw the bow in some of his earlier estimates of Hittite suzerainty over Western Asia; and his depreciation of the authority of Herodotus, especially in the Egyptian section of that worthy’s great work, has not commended itself to the common sense of scholars, but he seems, in attacking the actual symbols of an antique syllabary, to be guided by the true instinct of archaeological scholarship; and he happened to be engaged in the perennial harvest of antiquities on the banks of the Nile, when the report reached Cairo of a “treasure trove” of unusual interest, together with a number of the tablets of which it consisted, destined for the Boulaq Museum. A much larger number found their way soon after to
BSac 50:200 (April 1893) p. 697
the Berlin Museum, and eighty-two have since become the property of the trustees of the British Museum in London. But all alike now form part of the heritage of world-wide scholarship.
The first thought of Professor Sayce pointed to the period of Nebuchadrezzar’s subjugation of Egypt, when of course Babylonish script would be current in the line of march of that conqueror. But a less superficial glance showed the tablets to be vastly older, being an entire collection of despatches from foreign dependents or distant potentates to two Pharaohs of a pre-Mosaic date, Amenophis the Third and the Fourth. The broad results, historical and literary, which they at once clearly established were: (1) an Egyptian supremacy over Palestine and a large part of Syria in the fifteenth or even sixteenth century B. C, and (2) the prevalence, for diplomatic intercourse, of the Babylonish language and script, west of the Euphrates to the Mediterranean, extending, in these reigns, to Egypt itself. This latter fact implies a diffusion of Babylonish culture and influence only derivable from an ascendency of that empire over these western regions at a period previous to that of this Egyptian supremacy. Babylon had overru...
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