Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Tell el-Amarna Tablets

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 14
The Tell el-Amarna Tablets

by Arthur Adolphe Vaschalde


The Tell el-Amarna Tablets are a collection of some 350 clay tablets found in 1887 amid the ruins of the ancient Egyptian city of Akhetaton (modern Tell el-Amarna) about midway between Memphis and Thebes. 200 of them are now in Berlin, 82 in the British Museum, 50 in Cairo, 22 in Oxford; only a few are private property. They are written in the Babylonian language and cuneiform characters and date from the fifteenth century B.C. They consist mostly of letters and State records sent to Kings Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV of Egypt, by rulers of Western Asia (Babylonia, Assyria, Mittani) and provincial governors of Amurru (Northern Syria) and Canaan (Palestine). All these documents throw considerable light on the conditions of Western Asia from about 1500 to 1300 B.C.; they contain precious information concerning the history, geography, religion, and language of the predecessors of the Hebrews in Palestine, and, in many cases, illustrate and confirm what we already know from the Old Testament.

The best work on the Tell el-Amarna tablets (transcription, German translation, glossary, and notes) is that of KNUDTZON, Die El Amarna Tafeln in Hinrich's Vorderasiatische Bibliothek, II (Leipzig, 1907-9). The Berlin and Cairo tablets were edited by ABEL and WINCKLER, Die Thontafelfund von El Amarna (1889-90), and those in the British Museum by BEZOLD, The Tell-el-Amarna Tablets in the B. M. (London, 1892). For all tablets known in 1896 see also: WINCKLER, Die Thontafeln von Tell-el-Amarna (transcription, German translation, and glossary); SCHRADER, Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek (Berlin, 1896); English translation by METCALF (Berlin and New York, 1896); CONDER, The Tell-el-Amarna Tablets (2nd ed., London, 1894); NIEBUHR, The Tell-el-Amarna Period; Relations of Egypt and Western Asia in the 15th century B.C. according to the Tell-el-Amarna tablets (The Ancient East), (London, 1901); FLANDERS PETRIE, Tell el-Amarna (London, 1894); IDEM, A Hist. of Ancient Egypt, II (4th ed., London, 1904); JEREMIAS, Das Alte Testament im Lichte des Alten Orients. (Leipzig, 1906); WEBER, Die Literatur der babylonier u. Assyurer (Leipzig, 1907); DHORME, Le Pays Bibliques au temps d'el Amarna in Revue Biblique (1908-9).

A. A. Vaschalde.