Hundreds of sun-baked clay tablets found at an ancient royal palace in Syria have cast new light on daily life and politics in the long-lost kingdoms of Mesopotamia.
A Danish expert is leading the analysis of the 600 wedge-shaped clay tablets so far unearthed in an area regarded as the cradle of civilization.Dating from around 1750 B.C., the tablets are a rich archive of royal correspondence, relating tales of ancient wars and espionage as well as mundane details of daily routine.
They tell of the early use of cavalry in battle against brigands. They give accounts of payments in barley to workers, chronicle wine and beer orders for royal functions and presents for guests and outline treaties between kingdoms.
Jesper Eidem, heading the analysis of the tablets, is one of two Danes from Copenhagen University taking part in the Yale University Tell Leilan Project.
The royal palace of Shubat Enlil, meaning the Residence of God, at Tell Leilan is in the heart of the fertile plains of north Syria near the border with Turkey and Iraq, 370 miles northeast of Damascus.
It is one of the largest ancient sites in northern Mesopotamia, with 50-foot-high walls enclosing 220 acres.
"The political treaties found at the site in late 1987 and first properly studied last year were concluded between rulers of ancient Leilan and other Syrian kings," said Eidem.
"The treaties record political alliances and diplomatic relations, beginning with a list of gods invoked to protect the treaty, followed by clauses spelling out the terms of the agreement and concluding with a long list of terrible curses and punishments against those dishonoring or violating accords," he added.