Ancient Near East, Babylon, Middle Babylonian Period, 14th year of the reign of King Kadashman-Turgu, ca. 1268 BCE. An enormous and incredibly-detailed administrative tablet, formed from pressing an sharpened reed tool into bricks of soft terracotta and then firing in a kiln. The rectangular tablet contains thirty-three distinct lines of intricate impressed Cuneiform text used as a ledger to monitor and measure the movement, usage, and distribution of certain agricultural goods. Rounded along the top and bottom and planar along the sides, this is a fantastic example of some of the earliest-known instances of accounting and product allocation. Size: 5.25" W x 3.375" H (13.3 cm x 8.6 cm).
In summary, the translation of this tablet notates the harvest revenues from the town of Irre in the 14th year of the reign of King Kadashman-Turgu. Listed agricultural products include the quantitative distribution of such materials as wheat, barley, and emmer - a wheat strain native to areas which surround the Caspian Sea thought to be one of the first bread wheat strains widely cultivated for mass production. The tablet also includes the amount of each material which was deducted from the total shipment for taxation purposes.
Cuneiform script is one of the oldest known writing systems in the world, made using a reed as a stylus and scratching wedge-shaped marks onto clay tablets. Early cuneiform was pictographic, but in the 3rd millennium BCE it shifted to the more abstract form you see here. These cuneiform tablets are some of the roughly 2 million known from this culture; of these, between 30,000 and 100,000 have been translated. The earliest translations came in 1836 from the work of French scholar Eugene Burnouf and by the 1850s multiple scholars were able to produce similar translations, meaning the language had been deciphered.
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection
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