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Cuneiform Tablet Collection

Collection Summary


AR 3


Cuneiform Tablet Collection


2350-2000 BCE

Physical Description

2.80 linear feet (2 oversize boxes, 1 small document case)

Name of Creator(s)

Ancient Sumerians, Banks, Edgar J.; Gamradt, Crystal J.


English, Ancient Sumerian


South Dakota State University Archives and Special Collections
Hilton M. Briggs Library (SBL) Room 241, Box 2115
1300 North Campus Drive, Brookings, SD 57007

Access Note

Open. This material does not circulate and may be used in-house only.

Preferred Citation

Name of item, AR 3, box #, folder #, Cuneiform Tablet Collection, South Dakota State University Archives and Special Collections, Hilton M. Briggs Library, Brookings, South Dakota.


This collection consists of six Sumerian Cuneiform tablets from Ancient Mesopotamia, a translation by Edgar J. Banks, research and manuscript material.

Content and Arrangement

Contents Note

This collection consists of six Sumerian Cuneiform Tablets, a translation by Edgar J. Banks, research and manuscript material. Five of the tablets are approximately 1.5" x 1.5" in size. The tablets come from Ancient Mesopotamia, a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris-Euphrates river system, in the northern part of the Fertile Crescent, corresponding to most of modern day Iraq, Kuwait, the eastern parts of Syria, and Southwestern Turkey. The translation found with the tablets provides only general information about each tablet: date, place found, and general description. The translations state that three of the tablets are records of receipt for temple offerings, one a sealed temple record and one contract or business document.

South Dakota State College President Willis E. Johnson, who was president of South Dakota State College from 1919 to 1923, purchased the tablets from Edgar James Banks in 1923 for $26.00.

The sixth tablet is 4 inches wide x 6.5 inches long. This tablet was transferred to the archives from the South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum. A label affixed to the tablet reads: Egyptian Prescription given me by Daphne Serles and had belonged to Dr. Earl Serles. This script was misidentified as Egyptian hieroglyphics but is indeed Sumerian Cuneiform. This tablet has no transcription.

The manuscript and research material was created by Crystal J. Gamradt, Archivist at SDSU Archives and Special Collection. She conducted a search for the tablets origin and how they came to reside at South Dakota State University. It consists on correspondence, clippings, collected research, CD-ROMS, Power Point Presentations about the tablets, and a manuscript for her paper, "FORGOTTEN PAST—Solving a mystery of forgotten antiquities and finding their significance to the present."

Edgar James Banks (1866—1945) was an Assyriologist and a dealer of artifacts. He was a dedicated explorer of the Middle East who was very active in the first few decades of the twentieth century and is responsible for most of the small cuneiform collections at universities, historical societies, seminaries, and museums throughout the United States. He is known to be the real-life inspiration for Indiana Jones.

Subject Headings

  • Banks, Edgar James, 1866-1945
  • Cuneiform inscriptions, Sumerian
  • Cuneiform tablets – Iraq – Babylonia
  • Cuneiform tablets – Iraq – Umma (Extinct city)


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers without restrictions. The materials in the Archives do not circulate and may be used in-house only.

Researchers conducting extensive research are asked to make an advance appointment to access archival material. Please call or e-mail prior to visiting the collection and indicate as much detail as possible about a particular topic and intended use.

Physical Access

South Dakota State University supports access to the materials, published and unpublished, in its collections. Nonetheless, access to some items may be restricted as a result of their fragile condition or by contractual agreements with donors.

Online Content

The Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative ( CDLI ) at the University of California, Los Angeles added descriptions of the tablets on their Found Texts website. Tablets 1 and 2 are from the Puzriš-Dagan (mod. Drehem) provenience and dated to the Ur III (ca. 2100-2000BC) period. Tablets 5 and 4 are from the Umma (mod. Tell Jokha) provenience and dated to the Ur III (ca. 2100-2000 BC) period. The provenience of Tablet 5 is uncertain and is dated to the Old Babylonian (ca. 1900-1600 BC) period. The CDLI did not analyze Tablet 6.


Copyright Status

No Copyright - United States

Copyright Notice

Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Requests to publish should be arranged with the SDSU Archives and Special Collections.

Container List

1Tablet 1Found at Drehem, bill for 7 lambs and 4 kid goats2350 BC
1Tablet 2Found at Drehem, receipt of five oxen2350 BC
1Tablet 3Found at Jokha, record of temple offerings2300 BC
1Tablet 4Found at Drehem, sealed temple record2300 BC
2Tablet 5Found at Senkereh, contract of business document2000 BC
2Tablet 6Cuneiform table mislabeled as Egyptian hieroglyphics, no translationundated
31Antiquities laws2002
32Clippings, news releases2002
34Edgar James Banks2002
35Ewa Wasilewski2002
37History of writing2002
39Library books2002
310Manuscript Forgotten Past by Crystal J. Gamradt2002
311Manuscript Final draft2002
312Manuscript Outline2002
315Middle School Presentation2002
316Other Institutions Collections2002
319Questionnaire responses2002
320Tablets2350-2000 BC
321Translation/library letter1987
322UCLA Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (Cale Johnson, Contact)2002