Amarna Letter of Biridiya

Letter to the pharaoh from the governor of Megiddo, circa 14th century B.C.E.

Letter to the pharaoh from the governor of Megiddo, circa 14th century B.C.E. Cuneiform on clay, Louvre Museum, Paris.

This small clay tablet is from an archive of letters discovered at Amarna, the capital of Egypt under the pharaoh Akhenaten (ruled circa 1351–1334 B.C.E.). It is written in the Mesopotamian cuneiform writing system (cuneiform means “wedge shaped”), and in the Akkadian language, which was often used in diplomatic texts in the ancient Near East The photograph here is of a letter from the local governor of Megiddo to a pharaoh (who is not named in the letter).  Within the letter, the governor complains that although he himself is furnishing forced laborers (as Egypt apparently wanted), the governors of city-states in his region were not doing the same.  “They do not furnish forced laborers … I alone furnish forced laborers. And may the king my lord take thought of his city [Megiddo].”


An Egyptian archaeological site built by Akhenaten and notable for its cache of ancient diplomatic letters.

The Mesopotamian language, written on cuneiform, that was used by the Assyrian and Babylonian empires.

A region notable for its early ancient civilizations, geographically encompassing the modern Middle East, Egypt, and modern Turkey.

A form of ancient government in which a single city was self-governing and often extended its political sphere to the surrounding countryside. Ancient Mesopotamian and Greek city-states are particularly well-known.

The writing system of ancient Mesopotamia, consisting of wedges pressed into clay.

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