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Assyrian cuneiform tablets decoded

Clay cuneiform tablets from the Assyrian empire have been decoded, shedding light on what life was like 3,000 years ago in the area.

Palace scribes jotted down seemingly mundane state affairs on the tablets during the Late Iron Age—which lasted from roughly the end of the ninth century B.C. until the mid-seventh century B.C.

But these everyday details, now in the early stages of decoding, may open up some of the inner workings of the Assyrian government—and the people who toiled in the empire, experts say.

“You’re really getting at the nitty gritty of the management of the empire through these kind of records,” said Melinda Zeder, director of the archaeobiology program at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., who was not involved in the research.

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