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News: Research
Cuneiform tablet containing details about infertility. Photo Credit: Daily Sabah.
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by Archaeology Newsroom

First infertility diagnosis found on ancient Assyrian tablet

In a prenuptial agreement also proposing surrogacy

An Assyrian clay tablet found in Turkey bears the first infertility diagnosis in a prenuptial agreement text. The tablet was found in Kültepe district of central Kayseri province by Turkish researchers and is about 4,000 years old. The site has yielded over 1,000 cuneiform tablets in 1925; modern archaeological work there started in 1948. The site was a thriving trade colony of the old Assyrian Empire (2,100-1,800BCE).

The tablet was examined by researchers from various universities led by Şanlıurfa’s Harran University. The text is written in cuneiform script and it refers to infertility and the solution proposed. If a couple did not have any children two years after the marriage the wife would allow her husband to hire a hierodule to serve as a surrogate. After the first male baby was born the slave would be freed. The agreement is written in Old Assyrian and signed before four witnesses.

The tablet is on display at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. The results of the research have been published in the medical journal Gynecological Endocrinology.

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