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Betreffende deze collectie

The University Library of VU University Amsterdam owns a small collection of archaeological objects from the ancient Near East, consisting of 49 clay tablets, 1 brick with text, and 93 other objects. This oldest section of the library's collection is presented here in its entirety in digital format, accompanied by the available data from the literature.




The bulk of the collection was assembled by prof. dr. Petrus Emmanuel van der Meer O.P. (1895-1963), during his lifetime professor of History and Archaeology of the Near East at the University of Amsterdam, who took part in several pre-World War II excavations in present day Iraq and Iran. He may have acquired the objects in antique markets in those countries.


After his death, the collection became the charge of his colleague Joseph Cools O.P. (1898-1975), Old Testament scholar, who added some archaeological objects from his own collection. Shortly after the death of father Cools the collection was sold to the Catholic University (now Radboud University) in Nijmegen, in accordance with his wish, where it came under the guardianship of prof. dr. W. H. Ph. Römer, professor of Semitic languages. In 1985 the clay tablets were fired in the University Museum in Philadelphia. When the chair in Semitic languages in Nijmegen was discontinued, the collection was given on loan to the University Library of Vrije Universiteit in 1989, where the exposition Aan de wieg van het schrift (At the cradle of script) in 1992 called attention to this exceptional acquisition.


Digital format


Steps necessary for making the collection available in digital format were taken in 2008. All objects were inventoried, and photographed; numbers were added where necessary, objects were restored if necessary. Existing literature on the collection was compiled, and archival research was carried out into the history of the collection. The data thus gathered were incorporated into a database modelled on the example of the CDLI (Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative).




There are three groups of inventory numbers for these objects:

  • All clay tablets bar one were given an inventory number in Nijmegen, consisting of KU (= Katholieke Universiteit) and a serial number. One clay tablet had been missed, and was given the number KU 100 in 2008.
  • Most other archaeological objects have an inventory number consisting of one letter and a serial number. The origin and meaning of this has not yet been discovered.
  • The objects without an inventory number were given one in 2008, consisting of the letter Z (not used before) and a serial number.




Marijn de Vries has inventoried the objects, compiled the literature, and incorporated the data into the database. He has also participated in the supervision of the restorations and the photography. The project was supervised by dr. Caroline Waerzeggers (Ancient Studies) and drs. Jos van Heel (Special Collections of the University Library). The latter was in charge of day-to-day management and conducted the archival research and final editing. The restorations were carried out by Jan Sloos and the photography by Martien Vinkesteijn.




RA P. E. van der Meer, 'Dix-sept tablettes semi-pictografiques', Revue d'assyriologie et d'archéologie orientale 33 (1936), 185-190.
SGL A. Falkenstein, Sumerische Götterlieder. Bd. I (Heidelberg 1959), 5-79.
TANE J. B. Pritchard, The Ancient Near East: supplementary texts and pictures relating to the Old Testament (Princeton 1969), 573-576.
TNSRH D. D. Reisman, Two neo-Sumerian royal hymns (Ann Arbor 1969), 41-102.
JEOL K. R. Veenhof, 'An old Akkadian private letter', Jaarbericht Ex Oriente Lux 24 (1976), 105-110.
ERBM J. Friberg, The Early Roots of Babylonian Mathematics. Vol. II (Göteborg 1978), 43-57.
THTO Th. Jakobsen, The harps that once ... Sumerian poetry in translation (New Haven 1987), 101-111.
OMRO W. H. Ph. Römer, 'Einige Sumerische Texte im Altorientalischen Seminar, Nimwegen', Oudheidkundige Mededelingen uit het Rijksmuseum van Oudheden te Leiden 68 (1988), 13-36.
BiOr W. H. Ph. Römer, '[Review of] Th. Jakobsen, The harps that once ... Sumerian poetry in translation', Bibliotheca Orientalis 47 (1990), 381-394.
WVHS F. A. M. Wiggermann, Aan de wieg van het schrift (Exhibition catalogue) (Amsterdam 1992).
MSVO R. K. Englund, Proto-cuneiform texts from diverse collections (Berlin 1996), 24-26. Materialien zu den frühen Schriftzeugnissen des Vorderen Orients, 4.
TUOL G. Deutscher, The Unfolding of Language (London 2005).
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