Elementary, my dear Watson: the oldest fingerprints in the world

[Mesopotamian clay tablet]. Mesopotamian cuneiform clay tablet.

Mesopotamia, early 2nd millennium BCE.

Ca. 65 x 40 mm. In custom-made half morocco box.


A pinkish brown clay tablet, written in cuneiform on one side. Originally pillow-shaped, but deformed by squeezing in the scribe's hand while still wet. The pronounced fingerprints left in the wet clay over 4000 years ago make these some the oldest existing fingerprints in the world.

Provenance: from a specialised collection of cuneiform texts, the property of a London gentleman and housed in London before 1992. This small collection was exceptional for the variety of types, including some very rare and well preserved examples. Thence by descent to family members. Examined by Prof. Wilfrid George Lambert FBA (1926-2011), historian, archaeologist, and specialist in Assyriology and Near Eastern archaeology, in the late 1980s and early 1990s.