A group of 4,000-year-old clay tablets that survived looting, confiscation by U.S. customs officials, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks is shedding light on what everyday life was like in ancient Iraq as an agricultural official. The tablets are from an archive near the city of Nippur, the Sumerian religious capital in southern Iraq. Benjamin Studevent-Hickman, a lecturer on Assyriology in Harvard’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, spent months translating the tablets, which are inscribed with cuneiform characters, and is preparing a monograph on his findings. The tablets are the “papers” of an official named Aradmu, who held a high position, Studevent-Hickman said. He was an agricultural official, directing people who were plot managers, cultivators, and ox drivers. The records show the activities of Aradmu and his family, whose members held similar positions. His father, Lugal-me-a, and his brothers are all represented in the tablets, Studevent-Hickman said. Aradmu appears to have attained...
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