Signed Cuneiform Tablet of King Hammurabi (1810 BC -1750 BC)

Small tablet with relief profile of King Hammurabi with cuneiform signature This artifact, part of a series of cuneiform tablets produced near the end of the Sumerian civilization, depicts King Hammurabi, known primarily for his written code of laws, which defined specific punishments for specific crimes.

The code was one of the first that began with the assumption that the accused was innocent of the crime until evidence was presented and a verdict pronounced. A verdict of “guilty” would result in the specific punishment defined in the code.

This tablet was produced by the Sumerian Collectibles Company. Records are incomplete, however,  based upon the tablets that have survived, it is estimated that were 15 subjects produced. Subjects included rulers, warriors, deities and popular entertainers.

These items were produced for the wealthy elite, and are among the first items in recorded history specifically created to be collected. Often hand-numbered as a series, these items would have been displayed as marks of status.

This example, produced between 1785-1750 BC, is especially fine, as it bears the personal seal of the King himself.  The seal could only be used by the King himself, therefore this particular item is, in a sense, autographed. No other surviving examples have such a mark, so it is unclear how many were produced as “sealed” versions, but undoubtedly that number is small. This “signature” would naturally raise the value of the collectible immensely.

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