Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Ancient Library of Ebla - Possibly the Oldest Discovered to Date
The tablets decribe Syria and Palestine in the Early Bronze Age, including the first known references to the "Canaanites", "Ugarit", and "Lebanon". The tablets show that Ebla was an important trade center. The focus was on business records, and inventories of Ebla's business and political activities and policies with other cities, and logs of the city's imports and exports. They reveal that Ebla produced among other things beers. One named "Ebla." There also appears to be a trade network system between cities in Syria, grouping the region into a community, as shown in the tablets.
There are lists of ordinances, edicts, treaties. There are lists of place names, including a standardized list also found at Abu Salabikh, possibly ancient Eresh, it was dated to 2600 BC. Other texts include hymns, rituals, epics, and proverbs. Many tablets have both Sumerian and Eblaite inscriptions with three bilingual lists showing words in both languages. This allowed scribes and scholars a better understanding of the Sumerian language, which at that time was still a living language.
Until this discovery of these tablets there were no bilingual dictionaries of Sumerian and other languages, making pronunciation and phonetics of the language difficult. The only tablets written in just Sumerian are probably used for training meaning that this was a school for scholars or scribes. With the dictionaries, were lists of Sumerian words and their pronunciation in Eblaite.
Rituals like the release of a scape goat were immediately recognized as ancient Near Eastern parallels to Hebrew practice in the first millennium, recorded in Leviticus 16.
The application of the Ebla tablets to places or people from the Bible resulted in controversies, as to whether or not the tablets references confirmed, the existence of Abraham, David, Sodom and Gomorrah among others. These claims coupled with delays in publication of the texts, became an academic crisis. Now though the consensus is that Ebla's role in biblical archaeology is minimal.