Bible and archaeology news
For the past decade, scholars at Harvard’s Semitic Museum have been re-baking thousands of clay tablets recovered from ancient Nuzi, a small town in northern Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) that flourished under the Hurrian kingdom of Mittani some 3,500 years ago.* When first made, most of the cuneiform tablets were simply left out in the sun to dry, which left a hardened exterior surface but a damp, moist middle. If the tablets are not properly treated, the moisture remaining in the tablets can cause them to crack and crumble. That’s where Harvard’s baking project comes in. The scholars bake each tablet uniformly in a small kiln to a temperature of 675 degrees Celsius, and afterwards soak them in de-ionized water to eliminate harmful salts. The process makes the tablets much stronger and thereby allows them to be handled for study. “[The tablets] are our responsibility, essentially forever,” said Adam Aja, the assistant curator at the museum and overseer of the project. “This is the best treatment you can do. They’ll be as stable as any ceramic pot and can be handled.”
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