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Table of contents What's This?
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use
  • Preferred Citation
  • Provenance/Source of Acquisition
  • Custodial History
  • Processing Note
  • UCLA Catalog Record ID
  • Biographical / Historical
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • Online Items Available
  • Related Material

  • Contributing Institution: UCLA Library Special Collections
    Title: Lloyd E. Cotsen cuneiform tablets collection
    source: Cotsen, Lloyd E.
    Identifier/Call Number: LSC.1883
    Physical Description: 20.6 linear feet (206 custom boxes)
    Date (inclusive): circa 3200-1500 BCE
    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).
    Physical Location: Held at UCLA Library Special Collections. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. All requests to access special collections materials must be made in advance using the request button located on this page.
    Language of Material: Materials are primarily in Sumerian and Akkadian, some materials are in West Semitic.

    Conditions Governing Access

    Open for research. All requests to access special collections materials must be made in advance using the request button located on this page.

    Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

    Property rights to the objects belong to UCLA Library Special Collections. All other 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.

    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.

    Provenance/Source of Acquisition

    Cotsen Family Foundation, gift, 2011.

    Custodial History

    The Lloyd Cotsen cuneiform tablets collection was created from smaller, private collections, acquired over several decades. The tablets in the Cotsen Collection were chosen specifically for their scholastic content. The tablets were integrated into the 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.

    Processing Note

    Processed by Sara Brumfield in the Center for Primary Research and Training (CFPRT), with assistance from Kelley Wolfe Bachli, 2011. Finding aid revisions by Octavio Olvera, 2017, and Courtney Dean, 2019.
    Collections are processed to a variety of levels depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived user interest and research value, availability of staff and resources, and competing priorities. Library Special Collections provides a standard level of preservation and access for all collections and, when time and resources permit, conducts more intensive processing. These materials have been arranged and described according to national and local standards and best practices.
    We are committed to providing ethical, inclusive, and anti-racist description of the materials we steward, and to remediating existing description of our materials that contains language that may be offensive or cause harm. We invite you to submit feedback about how our collections are described, and how they could be described more accurately, by filling out the form located on our website: Report Potentially Offensive Description in Library Special Collections.  

    UCLA Catalog Record ID

    UCLA Catalog Record ID: 9971042013606533 

    Biographical / Historical

    Lloyd E. Cotsen (1929-2017) was a former chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Neutrogena Corporation. Cotsen earned a bachelor's degree in History from Princeton University (1950), served in Navy during the Korean War, and received an MBA from Harvard Business School (1957). He was an avid collector of materials related to folk art, children's literature, and archeology, and accumulated vast collections of Japanese baskets, textiles, children's books, and Chinese mirrors. Over his lifetime he donated portions of his collections to a varity of insitutions, including San Fransico's Asian Art Museum, Princeton Univeristy, and the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 2000 UCLA renamed its Institute of Archaeology the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology.

    Scope and Content

    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 arranged and described at the item level.

    Online Items Available

    Portions of this collection have been digitized and are available online: Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative: Cotsen Collection of Cuneiform Tablets. 

    Related Material

    Edward A. Dickson Cuneiform Tablet collection (LSC 1813).  Available at UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.
    Cumberland Clark Cuneiform Tablet Collection (LSC 1826).  Available at UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Cuneiform tablets.
    Sumerian language -- Writing
    Akkadian language -- Writing
    Scribes -- Iraq -- Babylonia -- History -- Sources
    Education -- Iraq -- Babylonia -- History -- Sources
    Cotsen, Lloyd E.