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2020

Over the last couple of years many such as these for sale on eBay.

They have been described as:

"Ancient Cuneiform Clay Tablet

From an old German collection"

 

 











This eBay seller in Germany at various times has written:

 

The text is Sumerian Cuneiform and dates to the  third millenium (sic) B. C.

 

And indeed for many that is quite true!

Although some are emminently readable, others ony partly so, and many entirely gibbberish and not evidencing proper cuneiform  signs at all.


Looking carefully many of both correct and incorrect signs are actually rather crudely and roughly made. Some look possibly mold made rather than impressed in the manner in which cuneiform characters are made.

 

 




Some are written accurately in an expert hand.

This seller used to write on his listings:

"I am a private collector of some experience. Yet I do not have a laboratory and cannot guarantee the authenticity of this tablet"

No experienced colletor would write such nonsense.

The authenticity of both sun dried and (sometimes) fired

cuneiform tablets does not involve any laboratory testing!

 

 



This seller who has used several different selling IDs on eBay variously from Hamburg, then Leipzig then from Greece, Heraklion and  Miletos which are in Crete.  He has also at times wrtiten on his listings that

"Due to legal restriction this item is sold as a copy/replica in any case"

And that's true. They are! All of them.

None are ancient.

Many are  copies of known published tablets. Copied with varying degrees of skill, but sometimes copied very well indeed.

 

Maybe he used to say that because of German laws very much restricting the  sale of antiquities  he had to write "replica" on the customs forms (see attached)  if sending outside the EU. Selling genuine cuneiform tablets in Germany is seriously illegal. See here: http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/kgsg/index.html

English translation here:

http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_kgsg/index.html

Antiquities and archeological items receive the harshest trestment under this law. A permit for export is required for any archaeological object, regardless of value. Importation is only possible with an export license from the country of origin. Ancient items can only be sold with an export license from the country of origin and such export licenses are almost never granted!



Whoever makes these copies sometimes makes more than one.

 



They copy tablets published in books and online.



I think only someone who understands  Sumerian cuneiform particularly well could make these accurate copies from images which are not entirely clear.



In many cases they would need to be able to competently read the cuneiform

and accurately fill in any unclear signs or be able to work from published script drawings.

 



The tablet from which this very accurate copy was made is from the Erlenmeyer collection. It was sold at Christies auction house in the sale "Ancient Near Eastern Texts from the Erlenmeyer collection" on 13th December 1988.


It is now in the Vorderasiatisches Museum which is in the basement of thew south wing of the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.


The point about this and several of the other copies this seller has sold on eBay is that the copies could have been made only by someone who understands cuneiform very well indeed. Some of the originals could not be copied by anyone who could not actually read cuneiform to a high level of expertise.





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