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The Beginnings of Libraries: 1300s BCE

Let's examine the famous Amarna Archives of Egypt.

Civilization flourished in Egypt during this time period.

The earliest known bookplates (ex-libris) date from this period. The ceramic plaques reflect the ownership of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye. (Courtesy The Trustees of the British Museum, below left).

Blue glazed compTuthankham Wikimedia commons

Most people are familiar with the stories of Tutankhamun (King Tut) (above right), the Egyptian pharaoh from around 1341 BCE to 1323 BCE. In addition to the artifacts found in his tomb, we also know about him through letters found in the Amarna Archives where he is referred to as Nibhurrereya.

As civilization became more complex, the need for archives became more important. Large collections required not only space in an existing temple or palace, but a separate building.

Bureau of Correspondence and Amarna Archives
Amarna, Egypt

The Bureau (of House) of Correspondence was located in Tell el-Amarna along the Nile near the temple and king's house. This building contained a collection of clay tablets known as the Amarna Archives. This building complex no longer existing except for bricked stamped with the words Bureau of Correspondence of Pharaoh.

Amarnaletter letter wikimedia commons PDThe Amarna tablets are an archive of correspondence between the Egyptian administration and its representations in Canaan and Amurru. Written between 1388 BCE and 1332 BCE during the rule of Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV), they were written in Akkadian cuneiform, the writing system of ancient Mesopotamia. A total of 382 tablets were found in the collection.

The letter on the left is by Aziru, leader of Amurru, stating his case to the Pharaoh. The letter is cuneiform writing on a clay tablet.

When Tutankhamun moved Egypt's capital from Amarna to Thebes, the archives were closed.

Learn more about the Bureau of Correspondence at Wikipedia.

Learn more about the Amarna Letters at Wikipedia.

Sand has overtaken many of historic areas of Egypt like Amarna shown below.

Although the sand has destroyed many buildings, the arid climate has also preserved some materials from these early periods.

Ruins of Bureau of Correspondence Amarna Wikimedia Commons CCASA

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