Replying to Pharaoh’s Order Amarna Letters from the Levant with Completely Blank or Partially Inscribed Reverse Surfaces

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Jacob Lauinger



It is a curious fact that the reverse surface of many of the so-called Amarna letters sent by Levantine rulers to the Egyptian pharaoh are completely blank or only partially inscribed. In this article, I establish the absolute and relative frequency of the phenomenon within this subcorpus of the Amarna letters. Next, I connect it to a particular type of letter sent by the Levantine rulers that I designate a “replies-to- an-order” letter and offer a suggestion as to why the Egyptian administration may have requested that these letters have blank space on the reverse surface. Finally, I consider one possible origin for the phenomenon in other cuneiform corpora and end the article with a few comments on directions for future research.

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