The other day I reported on a short note concerning two small fragments of what apparently was a single cuneiform tablet uncovered at Hazor. Well, a little more news and some additional hype are now available. According to Wayne Horowitz, who has done a preliminary study of the tablet, the text is some kind of law code. Quoting the linked article but not necessarily Horowitz, the extant portion of the text seems to “refer to issues of personal injury law relating to slaves and masters.” Horowitz only admits to being able to read “master,” “slave” and maybe “tooth.” Based on this alone, I can tell myself a story that says that this may not be a legal text but, then again, it certainly may be one. The article implies, or perhaps, I infer, that other words or partial words are readable. We do not learn the age of the script on the tablet or its exact archaeological context. Based more on what isn’t said than on what is said, I’m guessing that it is Old Babylonian from the Middle Bronze Age rather the Middle Babylonian/Assyrian from the Late Bronze Age. In the current political/scholarly context I think the excavators would have made a lot of noise if they it were from the Late Bronze Age. But then, they may, for good reason, not want to commit themselves at this time. Hazor has yielded tablets from both time periods. The multiplication text that the article cites is in Old Babylonian from the Middle Bronze Age.
The new article ends with a kind of prophecy.
The archaeological team is presently about to begin uncovering a monumental building dating to the Bronze Age, where they expect to recover additional tablets.
Notice they don’t say which bronze age. Why do they expect to find additional tablets? Maybe they know something that we don’t? The dream of finding a tablet room of any age in the southern Levant has had a long and frustrating life. Do the archaeologists actually know something this time or are they only pursuing the dream? I have had this dream myself. During my second year at Gezer, I thought I discovered the first tablet in what I was sure would be a great horde of tablets of unimaginable importance (and that I might get to publish them). The fact that my “tablet” lacked writing and that the staff geologist, Ruben Bullard, was able to explain why I thought that clump of dirt was a tablet, even a blank tablet, and why I was wrong in that perception was a little disappointing but it didn’t kill the dream.