The present tablet is a damaged treatise of heterogeneous character. Its contents are rather miscellaneous: the obverse contains what appears to be a commentary, in which the different entries are divided by means of a triple colon; whereas the reverse seems to feature a list, not a commentary. It is possible that the list originated as a commentary on a passage from a line that features very often in texts describing the transmission of the art of divination from father to son: according to it, the father teaches his son “swearing him by tablet and stylus”:
(11) niṣirti bārûti (12) ša ea ibbû abu mārašu ša irammu (13) [utam]mû ušaḫḫazu ina ṭuppi (14) qanṭuppi igirtašu inaddinūšu
(11)The secrets of extispicy, (12) which Ea called into existence, the father (13) shall teach (12) his favorite son (13) under oath with tablet (14) and stylus, and he shall give them to him as his assignment.
BBR 1-20 ll. 11-14
The upper half of the obverse is concerned with explaining the logogram for “night,” ge₆; whereas the lower half explains the logogram for “day,” u₄. This may be related to the temporal stages of the extispicy ritual, which begins at night and comes to its climax at sunrise, when the slaughter and extispicy itself was performed. The equations of “night” and “day” are probably taken from the lexical tradition, most likely from the list Aa; this point, however, cannot be proven, since the tablet is severely damaged. Between the two sections there is a well preserved passage that concerns the diviner, and which is strongly reminiscent of BBR 1-20 and related texts (a text that specifies the requirements for being a diviner in ancient Mesopotamia). Thus, for instance, lines o 5′-6′ state that “Šamaš, the lord of the (oracular) decision, and Adad, the lord of divination, will not stand by diviner’s prayer, and they will not give him a faithful oracle.” The next lines seem to pertain the sacrificial animal, which is described as “[a sheep], whose entire limbs are perfect, whose horns, hoofs and bones are flawless.”
The contents of the reverse of the tablet seem to be independent from those of the obverse. The main part contains a list of styli that, according to the text, are peculiar to each profession. Thus a certain device used for “divination” is the “stylus of the diviner”; one used for “lamentations” is the “stylus of the lamentation-priest.” This list is elsewhere unparalleled, and its meaning and significance are difficult to ascertain.
The tablet belongs to the British Museum’s “Babylon Collection,” specifically to the 1880-11-12 consignment, which makes it likely that it dates to the Achaemenid period. The text was previously unpublished, and it is published here for the first time courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.