A 4,000-year-old clay tablet has revealed the location of 11 lost ancient cities

Archaeologists have identified the location of 11 lost cities thanks to a 4,000-year-old clay tablet, created by ancient merchants from the Assyrian Empire.

The tablets were uncovered in modern-day Turkey, at an ancient city known as Kanesh. The clay tablets detail trading posts from the middle easer kingdom of Assyria, reports the Washington Post.

The careful translation of the ancient clay texts has revealed something archaeologists never expected: The locations of ancient cities that have been long lost to the sands of time.

Written in ancient Cuneiform script—developed by the ancient Sumerians—the clay tablets detail a set of business transactions, accounts, seals, contracts and even marriage certificates.

As reported, the discovery has the potential to change our understanding of the ancient Assyrian Empire.

After deciphering and gathering all information, researchers began to delineate the possible locations mentioned on the clay tablets: the records give clues to the distance between the cities of Mesopotamia already discovered by archaeologists from those who have not yet found.

Ancient city
Assyrian statues guarding the ancient city – Persepolis Shiraz Iran. Image Credit: Shutterstock

According to Harvard University’s senior lecturer on Assyriology, Gojko Barjamovic, after studying the more than 12,000 clay plates found in Kanesh, it is possible to develop a kind of map of the cities of Mesopotamia from the data.

Now, archeologists would have to start digging at the estimated locations to find even more information about one of the first organized civilizations in History.

Experts believe they have already identified 26 of them; 15 of which have been found previously, but 11 ancient cities remain a mystery, eluding discovery.

It will take time to find the ancient cities as the clay tablets do not offer the exact coordinates of their location. However, thanks to a now-defunct trading method, archeologists believe they know where most of these lost cities are, nonetheless.

The researchers explained: “For a majority of the lost cities, our quantitative estimates come remarkably close to the qualitative conjectures produced by historians, corroborating both such historical models and our purely quantitative method.

“Moreover, in some cases where historians disagree on the likely location of a lost city, our quantitative method supports the conjecture of some historians and rejects that of others.”

Cuneiform writing
Ancient cuneiform inscriptions. Image Credit: Shutterstock

The ancient clay tablets have revealed that Kanesh, once a small trading settlement, eventually became one of the most critical trading outposts of the region.

The tablets offer a trip into the past, as they detail how the city of Kanesh was a “flourishing market economy.”

The clay tablets have helped Barjamovic and three economists to develop an innovative way of pinpointing the locations of ancient cites.

The ancient records allowed experts to develop the so-called “structural gravity model” which offers a robust estimate as to where lost cities might be located.

Now, the only thing left to do is set out a number of archeological expeditions, and start excavating in hopes of discovering a dozen of long-lost ancient cities.


Reference: Ancient data, modern math and the hunt for 11 lost cities of the Bronze Age

Featured image: Shutterstock

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  1. I just hate how the muslim extremists have been destroying any of these things they find!!! It’s fascinating to learn about the past.

    1. The city of Astray was best known for it’s cigarette butt museum.

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