The ancient practicies: ancient archaic Mesopotamian tablets

By: Dille, Sarah J.

Textual analysis has shown that administrative accounting of mixed grain products occasionally employed, in the totals, derived numerical ŠE systems that were different from the notations normally associated with the products listed in the tablet. In a number of instances, the most common adoption of the Š notation to indicate grain in general is replaced by the use of several specific derived grain capacity systems. One main reason for such practices could be the necessity to identify in the total, by adopting the appropriate numerical notation, the basic grain product used for the production of the different derived products listed and sub-totaled in the tablets. Another peculiarity in archaic scribal administrative practices can be found in the texts which adopt mixed notations in totals combining different grain products. The use of one numerical notation in totaling two different grain products, qualifying a single number sign with recourse to some member of the other numerical notation, can be easily explained as a means to simplify the recording of the accounts, at the same time indicating the presence of the two different products. More important for understanding the administrative practices in the archaic period is the apparent presence, at least in one text, of an account based on the “weighted mean” calculations. Use of the “weighted mean,” or any other numerical mean, may imply the development of the concept of “statistics” and their employment in the administrative statement of accounting. It is worth noting that the use of statistics in town/state administration makes sense, expecially if its purpose is to calculate budget accounts for future expenditures based on the “mean” expenditures of past periods. It seems we may be able to trace such practices, which were certainly common in later periods,[27] back as early as in the Uruk III/Jemdet Nasr period.
Keywords: Mesopotamian tablets, ancient langauge, historical texts,oriental Studies