Western History & Genealogy Blog

Hidden Gems at DPL: Babylonian Clay Tablets

Babylonian clay tablet. 417 B119
“Card catalog” tablet from Nippur, Iraq. Dates from between 2000 to 1500 B.C.E.  417 B119

You may already know that the Denver Public Library’s Western History/Genealogy Department houses historic items—but did you know that some of its oldest objects date from before 3000 B.C.E?

Three original Babylonian clay tablets (417 B119) in the Douglas Collection of Fine Printing are representative of some of the earliest written records known. Prior to the 3000 B.C.E., Babylonians produced documents by scratching symbols into clay. These symbols were a precursor to cuneiform writing. Clay tablets like these were often administrative notes and lists.

Also in the collection is a reproduction of a “card catalog” tablet from Nippur, Iraq, that notes the titles of 62 Sumerian literary works. Titles were usually created from the first line of each work. The books listed were current in Babylonia from 2000 to 1500 B.C.E.

Interested in viewing these items for yourself? Click here to learn more about viewing items from DPL’s “closed stacks.”