Saturday, August 09, 2014

Nebuchadnezzar Cylinder sold

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Nebuchadnezzar Cylinder Goes for $605,000! (Megan Sauter).
While the Cyrus Cylinder has been making its rounds on an international exhibition circuit,a another cylinder of a famous Mesopotamian emperor has recently been brought to the public eye. One of Nebuchadnezzar’s cuneiform cylinders was auctioned off on April 9, 2014, by Doyle New York, Auctioneers and Appraisers for $605,000. The purchaser of the cylinder has requested to remain anonymous. Unfortunately, his anonymity may make it difficult for further scholarly study of the text.

The Neo-Babylonian kings were very interested in ancient (already to them) Babylonian history and put a lot of effort into restoring old temples. They even engaged in very primitive archaeological efforts to find inscriptions by their predecessors — for example, in cornerstones like the one mentioned in this article. The sixth-century BCE King of Babylon Nabonidus was a keen amateur archaeologist and philologist, which contributed to later generations looking down on him as something between a nerdy poser and a madman. See the related story here about his daughter, Ennigaldi-Nanna, who seems to have taken after her father. Likewise, the Neo-Assyrian King Ashurbanipal (7th century) is mostly know for his cruel conquests in the Middle East, but he too had a great interest in ancient Babylonian history and he amassed a substantial library of Babylonian texts in Nineveh. For more on Nabonidus and Ashurbanipal as ancient historians, see:
Eckart Frahm, "Keeping Company with Men of Learning: The King as Scholar," in The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture (ed. Karen Radner and Sleanor Robson; OUP, 2011), pp. 508-532.
Much more on the Cyrus Cylinder is here and links.

I very much hope that the new owner of the Nebuchadnezzar Cylinder will make the artifact available for scholars to study, even while remaining anonymous. This will only increase its value, so everybody wins.