Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Lloyd E. Cotsen Cuneiform Tablets collection, ca. 3200 -1500 B.C.E.
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (494.29 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • History
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Material

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Lloyd E. Cotsen Cuneiform Tablets collection
    Date (inclusive): ca. 3200 -1500 B.C.E.
    Collection number: 1883
    Creator: Cotsen, Lloyd E.
    Extent: 206 boxes house 215 tablets (9 boxes are partitioned to hold 2 tablets)
    Abstract: The collection consists of 215 cuneiform tablets, the majority of which were written by students in ancient Mesopotamian schools. Tablet subjects include writing composition and language, mathematics, science, law and religion. The chronological range of the tablets extends from the Uruk Period (c. 3200 BCE) to the Old Babylonian period (c. 1800-1600 BCE). The collection was donated to UCLA by Lloyd Cotsen in January, 2011.
    Language: Finding aid is written in English.
    Repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Library Special Collections.
    Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
    Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. All requests to access special collections materials must be made in advance through our electronic paging system using the request button located on this page.

    Administrative Information

    Conditions Governing Access

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Open for research. All requests to access special collections materials must be made in advance through our electronic paging system using the request button located on this page.

    Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

    Property rights to the physical object belong to the UC Regents. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

    Provenance/Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Cotsen Family foundation, 2011.

    Processing Note

    Processed by Sara Brumfield in the Center for Primary Research and Training (CFPRT), with assistance from Kelley Wolfe Bachli, 2011.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Lloyd E. Cotsen Cuneiform Tablets Collection (Collection 1883). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.

    UCLA Catalog Record ID

    UCLA Catalog Record ID: 7104201 


    The Lloyd Cotsen Cuneiform Tablet Collection was created from other smaller, private collections, acquired over several decades. The tablets in the Cotsen Collection were chosen specifically for their scholastic content. The tablets were integrated in the existing Cotsen Children's Library Collection housed at Princeton University. In 2011 the Cotsen Institute donated the cuneiform tablet section of the Children's Library to UCLA Special Collections.

    Scope and Content

    Overall, this collection provides a comprehensive view of scribal training and writing techniques in the Mesopotamian educational system covering a span of 1600 years. The collection consists of 215 cuneiform tablets (211 school texts and four non-school texts) from Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq). These tablets were written in the Mesopotamian school, the eduba ("House of Tablets"), by students training to become professional scribes, dubsar ("tablet writer").
    The majority of tablets in this collection date to the Old Babylonian period (c. 1900-1600 BCE), which was known for the development and proliferation of individual scribal schools. In addition to the Old Babylonian texts there are tablets from the Uruk III period (c. 3200-3000 BCE), the Early Dynastic III period (c. 2600-2350 BCE), the Old Akkadian period (c. 2340-2200 BCE), and the Third Dynasty of Ur (c. 2100-2000 BCE).
    School texts cover a rich variety of topics, yet comprise a very small percentage of known cuneiform documents. This collection includes exercises in vocabulary, sign formation, literature, grammar, law, epistles, administration, sealing and stylus practices. These student exercises cover the entire curriculum of scribal training, from the most basic beginner lessons to the advanced lessons of the final stage of education. The wide variety of exercise offers researchers unique insight into the everyday life of the ancient Mesopotamian.
    Typical for the period and genre, the majority of the school texts are written in Sumerian. A few dozen tablets, mostly letters, are written in Akkadian, while a handful of lexical texts contain multiple languages (Sumerian, Akkadian, West Semitic). It is not clear in the remaining tablets, mostly mathematical exercises, which language is being used by the scribe.
    The non-school texts include one legal document from the Early Dynastic period, and three letters written by king Rim-Suen of Larsa (c. 1822-1763 BCE). These royal letters are part of an ancient archive that has since been dispersed across several collections in America and Europe.

    Organization and Arrangement

    Tablets are described at the item level.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Lloyd E. Cotsen --Archives.

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Cuneiform tablets.

    Related Material

    Available at Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.