Baal Cycle

Baal Cycle. By Unknown artist – Mbzt, 2013, CC BY-SA 3.0,

For 40 years Claude Schaeffer directed excavations at Ras Shamra in Syria. There he and his colleagues uncovered the remains of the long lost city of Ugarit, a Late Bronze Age metropolis in early Biblical times. And among the ruins of Ugarit, he found the archives of the ancient city. The clay tablets discovered in those archives have had a revolutionary impact on the study of the Hebrew Bible.

It was on May 14, 1929, as the dirt was being cleared from the floor of what had once been a building (a library, as they were later to determine), that the first clay tablets were found. The tablets were provisionally dated on the basis of other objects found in the surrounding excavations. The texts, together with their written substance, appeared to come from the 14th to 13th centuries B.C.

No doubt Schaeffer was thrilled to have discovered ancient texts as well as artifacts. Yet the real significance of the texts did not become evident until the writing was examined in detail. Schaeffer himself was an archaeologist, not a linguist; he entrusted the examination of the texts to Charles Virolleaud, the local director of the Bureau of Antiquities, who was skilled in the ancient languages and scripts of the area.

Read the rest of The Tablets from Ugarit and Their Importance for Biblical Studies in the online Biblical Archaeology Society Library.