By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on
Query tablets are noted for being large and coarse and by their equally large and coarse cuneiform inscription, generally written broadside across the rectangular surface (1, p xiii). Queries were often presented with an additional document containing relevant details. If included at all, accompanying extispic omens were inscribed on any space left on the query tablet. Omens were thus found in a smaller script, sometimes next and perpendicular to the query text.
Queries were part of an aged tradition. They were attested in Old Babylonia and in the introductory formulae of Kassite extispicy reports (1, p xiv). Despite being often undated, queries can be identified to a particular reign by distinct opening, closing and ezib (disregard) formulas (1, p xiii). An ezib formula were meant to eliminate any misunderstanding or mishap that could affect the outcome of an extispicy. Below is an ezib formula found within queries to the sun god Samas during the reign of Esarhaddon:
Disregard the formulation of today's case, be it good, be it faulty, and that the day is overcast and it is raining.
Disregard that a clean or an unclean person has touched the sacrificial sheep, or blocked the way of the sacrificial sheep.
Disregard that an unclean man or woman has come near the place of the extispicy and made it unclean.
Disregard that the ram offered to your great divinity for the performance of the extispicy is deficient or faulty.
Disregard that he who touches the forehead of the sheep is dressed in his ordinary soiled garments, has eaten, drunk, or anointed himself with anything unclean, or has altered or changed the ritual proceedings.
Disregard that I, the haruspex your servant, am dressed in my ordinary soiled garments, or that the oracle query has become jumbled in my mouth.
Let them be taken out and put aside!