Amarna Letters

archaeology in israel

The Amarna letters are an archive, written on clay tablets, primarily consisting of diplomatic correspondence between the Egyptian administration and its representatives in Canaan and Amurru, or neighboring kingdom leaders; during the New Kingdom, between c. 1360–1332 BCE. The letters were found in Upper Egypt at el-Amarna; the modern name for the ancient Egyptian capital of Akhetaten, founded by pharaoh Akhenaten (1350s–1330s BCE) during the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt.



These letters, comprising cuneiform tablets written primarily in Akkadian – the regional language of diplomacy for this period – were first discovered around 1887 by local Egyptians who secretly dug most of them from the ruined city of Amarna, and sold them in the antiquities market. They had originally been stored in an ancient building that archaeologists have since called the Bureau of Correspondence of Pharaoh.


The archive contains a wealth of information about cultures, kingdoms, events, and individuals in a period from which few written sources survive. It includes correspondence from Akhenaten’s reign (Akhenaten who was also titled Amenhotep IV), as well as his predecessor Amenhotep III’s reign. The tablets consist of over 300 diplomatic letters; the remainder comprises miscellaneous literary and educational materials.


The Amarna Letters Special Significance

Moreover, these tablets shed much light on Egyptian relations with Babylonia, Assyria, Syria, Canaan, and Alashiya (Cyprus) as well as relations with Mitanni, and the Hittites. The letters have been important in establishing both the history and the chronology of the period. Letters from the Babylonian king, Kadashman-Enlil I, anchor the timeframe of Akhenaten’s reign to the mid-14th century BCE.

They also contain the first mention of a Near Eastern group known as the Habiru, whose possible connection with the Hebrews—due to the similarity of the words and their geographic location—remains debated.


Other rulers involved in the letters include Tushratta of Mitanni, Lib’ayu of Shechem, Abdi-Heba of Jerusalem. In addition, we hear about Biridiya who was the ruler of Megiddo in the 14th century BCE. Biridiya authored five of the Amarna letters correspondence.


And the quarrelsome king, Rib-Hadda, of Byblos, who, in over 58 letters, continuously pleads for Egyptian military help. Specifically, the letters include requests for military help in the north against Hittite invaders, and in the south to fight against the Habiru.



The known tablets total 382, of which 358 have been published by the Norwegian Assyriologist Jørgen Alexander Knudtzon in his work, which came out in two volumes (1907 and 1915) and remains the standard edition to this day. The texts of the remaining 24 complete or fragmentary tablets excavated since Knudtzon have also been made available. The Amarna letters are of great significance for biblical studies as well as Semitic linguistics, since they shed light on the culture and language of the Canaanite peoples in pre-biblical times.

apt-stamp-white@2x
arik-about

Hi! My name is Arik Haglili, an Israeli native who decided to dedicate his life to share my knowledge about the Holy Land to those that are interested to know more about this amazing piece of land. My career as a private tour guide started at the International School For the Studying of the Holocaust and the rest is history. 

Did you know the Hoopoe is Israel's national bird?! For more cool info about Israel, join our ever growing community and get exclusive travel tips, and giveaways!

Simon Peter

RELATED POSTS

Pharaoh In Canaan

This post is about Pharaoh In Canaan. But before we will plunge in. What does it mean the name “Canaan”? So the name is actually ...

Top 10 Archaeological Sites in Israel

Which are the top 10 archaeological sites in Israel? Here is a short list of the must-see archeological sites in the Holy Land!

How Does an Archaeological Tel Is Formed?

So what are archaeological Tels like Megiddo? How are they formed exactly? In this post, I will try and answer these questions, and much more! trying ...

Beit Shean in the Bible

Beit Shean in the Bible is mentioned in the Book of Judges where King Saul's body was hung by the Philistines. It a known Tel worth visiting!

The Cardo

The Cardo was the main street in Old Jerusalem during the Roman and Byzantine periods, passing from the Damascus Gate to the Dung Gate.

Tomb of Benei Hezir

The Tomb of Benei Hezir is a tomb hewn from stone in the historic Mount of Olives Jewish cemetery of Jerusalem. Previously (and mistakenly) known ...

Caesarea´s Roman Port

Caesarea´s Roman Port was one of the most impressive harbors of its time. It served as an important commercial harbor in antiquity.

Archaeological Discoveries in Caesarea Maritima

There are many Archaeological Discoveries in Caesarea Maritima, some of them are simply fascinating! To learn all about them, click here!

Tel Dan Stele

So the Tel Dan Stele is a fragmentary stele containing a Canaanite inscription, discovered in 1993 in Tel Dan by Gila Cook; a member of ...

The Temple at Ein Gedi

The Chalcolithic Temple at Ein Gedi is one of the three sanctuaries dated to the Chalcolithic period that can be found in the area.

Need help?