Dutch archaeologists excavating a 13th-century B.C. building in Syria late in 1997 discovered the archive of the Assyrian empire’s second most powerful man. The records of Ashour Adein, the royal minister, were among the more than 140 cuneiform inscriptions recovered in a 15-foot-high, two-story administrative complex. The complex, 340 miles northeast of modern Damascus, included a tower, palace and workshop and served as a border fortress.

Ashour Adein’s tablets preserve the names of senior officials and an Assyrian princess and, most interestingly, lists of those who had accepted bribes. At its zenith, during the ninth century B.C., the Assyrian empire was the mightiest in the ancient Near East and stretched from the Tigris River to the Mediterranean Sea and from central Anatolia to central Iraq.

“Strata,” BAR Mar-Apr 1998, p. 25.