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Ras Shamra Tablets

The cuneiform documents discovered by archaeologists (from 1929 onward) at the tell of Ras Shamra in N Syria. The site was a major Canaanite city of the third and second millennia b.c., named Ugarit; the city was destroyed in the early twelfth century b.c. by invaders akin to the Philistines. The work of excavation, and of the publication and translation of the many documents found, still continues. The majority of the tablets are in the Ugaritic and Akkadian languages; the former was unknown prior to the discoveries, but although the script (alphabetic cuneiform) was completely new to scholarship, the language itself is NW Semitic, and a very close relative of early Hebrew. Ugaritic lexicography is therefore being increasingly used in the elucidation of biblical Hebrew. For OT study in general, the most valuable Ras Shamra documents are the mythological texts, which have greatly increased our knowledge of Canaanite religious beliefs and practices.