Hidden Treasures: The Cuneiform Collection of the Danish National Museum

The project Hidden Treasures is a collaboration between the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies at the University of Copenhagen and the Danish National Museum. Hidden Treasures will analyse, publish, and digitize the collection of cuneiform tablets at the Danish National Museum in order to make the collection available to a wider audience of specialists and non-specialists alike.

Some of the world’s oldest text manuscripts come from ancient Iraq and Syria, where small pieces of clay were inscribed with what is now called cuneiform script. With the rediscovery of the ancient Near East in the 18th and 19th centuries, more and more such manuscripts were unearthed, which led to the decipherment of the cuneiform script in the middle of the 19th century and the discovery of now extinct languages, such Sumerian, a linguistic isolate, and Akkadian, the oldest Semitic language.

What is Cuneiform?

Rock with cuneiform writing. Photo: Søren Greve and Troels Pank ArbøllCuneiform writing was invented around 5000 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia, the area that is today Iraq and Syria. Cuneiform writing was impressed onto small clay tablets using reed styluses. The invention of writing enabled the development of complex societies and cities, ancient bureaucracies, but famous examples of world literature, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Flood Story, which was later reused in the Old Testament of the Bible, as well as religious texts are also part of the written corpus, thus offering fascinating insights into ancient history. Danish interests in the ancient Near East began with the well-known Arabian expedition by Carsten Niebuhr (1761-67), during which Niebuhr produced the first reliable copies of cuneiform inscriptions in Persepolis. His copies later made the decipherment of cuneiform writing in the middle of the 19th century possible.












































































Jacob Dahl, Professor of Assyriology, University of Oxford

Project members


Name Title Phone E-mail

Funded by

The project is funded through the generous support of the Carlsberg, Augustinus, and Edubba Foundations.

Project period: 1 April 2019 -  31 March 2022


PI: Associate professor Nicole Brisch
University of Copenhagen

Co-PI: Curator, senior researcher Anne Haslund Hansen
Danish National Museum


Name Title Phone E-mail
Hansen, Anne Haslund Curator, senior researcher  +45 41 20 61 05 E-mail
Koch, Ulla PhD, external examiner for Assyriology