King Esarhaddon was nearing the end of his reign in Assyria when he drafted this treaty, trying to ensure a peaceful succession to the throne, Harrison said. “It was remarkable the kind of the intrigue went on.” One of the reasons they made these treaties is that Esarhaddon’s father was assassinated by a brother.
“So he brought together all the rulers in the Assyrian empire and essentially bound them to these treaties (to) avoid political crisis. It’s a very complex document to deal with, sophisticated and intricate … anticipating all the possibilities that might arise.”
Harrison’s dig at Tell Tayinat revealed tens of thousands of items last summer, including the tablet. It measured 43×28 centimetres, with 650 and 700 tiny lines of script — and was smashed to pieces. Still, at least the pieces were all in one place. Dozens of similar smashed tablets were scattered.
The excavation, near the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea about 300 kilometres north of Damascus, has exposed a temple or religious sanctuary with ornately carved columns, monumental staircases and other remnants of a powerful kingdom destroyed by Assyrian invaders in 738 BC. The team plans to return to the site this summer.