Description & Technical information
This tablet relates to the sale of a piece of land. The earliest land sales, found in the archives from Fara (ancient Shuruppak, Early Dynastic IIIa), seem to have been an interesting mixture of tradition and innovation. In terms of tradition, they record the ceremonial rituals making land sales a social act, and the large number of sellers receriving decreasing numbers of ‘gifts’, according to their kinship ties with the primary sellers. These aspects were residual of a type of ownership that was centred on the family, rather than the individual owner. They therefore required the approval of the extnded family before losing a share of the land. The innovative element was the intervention of surveyors and city scribes, paid to provide reliable measures and guarantees during the transaction. Traditionally, this was the responsibility of witnesses. Another innovation was the emergence of buyers able to break down pre-existent family estates, turning them into personal commodities.
The Early Dynastic Period began after a cultural break with the preceding Jemdet Nasr period (circa 2900 B.C.) at the beginning of the Early Dynastic I Period. The ED I period is distinguished from the ED II period by the narrow cylinder seals of the ED I period and the broader wider ED II seals engraved with banquet scenes or animal-contest scenes. The Early Dynastic II period is when Gilgamesh, the famous king of Uruk, is believed to have reigned. The Early Dynastic IIIa period, also known as the Fara period (named for the site of the city of Shuruppak), is when syllabic writing began. Accounting records and an undeciphered logographic script existed before the Fara Period, but the full flow of human speech was first recorded around 2600 BC at the beginning of the Fara Period. The Early Dynastic IIIb period is also known as the Pre-Sargonic period.
Date: circa 2900 B.C.
Previously in the Private Collection of M. Duroc-Danner, purchased before 1970. This collection was kept in London between 1955 and 1973. The collection arrived in Geneva in 1973 and had been with the same family since.
Categories: Classical & Egyptian antiquities
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Cuneiform Tablet: Sale of Land