CAIRO – 15 May 2022: The 3,400-year-old Amarna Letters were written on clay tablets in the era of the ancient Egyptians.
They are considered the oldest diplomatic documents ever found that include written correspondence between the ancient Egyptians and nearby kings.
The letters consist mainly of diplomatic correspondence between the Egyptian rulers and their representatives in the kingdoms of Canaan and Amurru or the leaders of the neighboring kingdoms during the era of the New Kingdom of Egypt between 1360-1332 BC.
The letters were found in Upper Egypt at Tell el-Amarna, the modern name for the ancient Egyptian capital founded by Pharaoh Akhenaten (1350-130 BC) during the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt.
The language in which the Amarna Letters were written is not a familiar language in Egyptian history. It was written mostly in a script known as Akkadian Cuneiform. It is the writing system that was prevalent in ancient Mesopotamia, not in ancient Egypt.
The language used for writing has sometimes been described as a mixed language of Canaanite and Akkadian and the period of written correspondence spans about thirty years.
A total of 382 clay tablets were discovered, 358 of which were published by the Norwegian Assyrian scholar Jorgen Knudtzon in his book, which was published in two volumes in 1907 and 1915. It is still today considered the comprehensive reference for these letters.
The Amarna Letters are of great importance for biblical studies because they shed light on the culture and language of the Canaanite peoples in the pre-Christian eras.
These letters, although written in the Akkadian language, refer to the mother tongue of those who wrote them and who spoke the Canaanite language in its early form.
Canaanite is the language from which later descended the Hebrew and Phoenician languages. The initial Canaanite language provides a valuable picture of the initial stage of these languages several centuries before their first actual appearance.