Charles Wilson and Dr. Jeffrey Chadwick, Department of Church History and Doctrine
To research the Hebron “Sheep Tablet,” a cuneiform account text recording counts of sheep, goats, and rams, I first found all of the published materials mentioning the text and read them. The tablet is mentioned in seven publications. Finding and reading the published materials was not too difficult; making sense of the paleographic assessments of the tablet text by Anbar and Na’aman (1986), and Rainey (1999) was. To refresh my knowledge on cuneiform, I read C. Walker’s Cuneiform (1987). To make sure that I understood Anbar and Na’aman’s, and Rainey’s paleographic assessments correctly, I conferred with Edward Stratford and Paul Hoskisson on campus, both experts in ancient texts and cuneiform.
The main issue of revisiting the Hebron tablet was to reassess the reasons behind Anbar and Na’aman’s dating the tablet to the Middle Bronze Age (1800–1550 BCE). In their assessment of the tablet’s Akkadian writing, Anbar and Na’aman found both old and late characteristics of Akkadian attested to periods separated from one another by centuries. The tablet was unusual because it had features from middle and late Akadian alike. Fortunately, one of Anbar and Na’aman’s greatest premises for dating the tablet did not require an in-depth understanding of Akkadian, but was related to the archaeology of Hebron, the site at which the tablet was discovered. In assessing the tablet, Anbar and Na’aman operated under the mistaken notion that Hebron was unoccupied during the Late Bronze Age. When faced with the decision of siding with an old or late designation of the text, they sided with the older period believing no city existed at Hebron during the time the attested late characteristics of the tablet were most widely spread.
Most of my evaluation was restating the assessments of Anbar and Na’aman and explaining why, in consideration of Late Bronze occupation of Hebron, the tablet could just as easily be dated to the Late Bronze Age as the Middle Bronze Age. The work is not over yet. What I would like to do now is to find attestations of Akkadian signs generally attributed to the Middle Bronze age appearing in the Late Bronze Age. Stratford recommended that I scour the literature of Ugarit, a site in Syria well known for its Late Bronze age library, well preserved because of the conflagration that destroyed the city. If I can find examples of words typical of the Middle Bronze age appearing in later periods, the argument for viably dating the Hebron tablet to the Late Bronze age will become more compelling.
Jeffrey Chadwick, my mentor, has been approached to contribute a chapter to a compendium on Hebron. If we feel that the research I have presented in this research makes a meaningful contribution to his work, and understanding Hebron in general, this will be an opportunity to co-publish with Chadwick. I anticipate finishing this research no later than the end of spring term 2013.
- Anbar, Moshe, and Nadav Na’aman. “An Account Tablet of Sheep from Ancient Hebron.” Tel Aviv 13 (1986): 3-12.
- Rainey, Anson. “Taanach Letters.” Eretz-Israel 26 (1999): 153*-62*.
- Walker, C. B. F. Cuneiform. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1987.