The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences acknowledges Australia’s First Nations Peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land and gives respect to the Elders – past and present – and through them to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are advised that the MAAS website contains a range of Indigenous Cultural Material. This includes artworks, artifacts, images and recordings of people who may have passed away, and other objects which may be culturally sensitive.
85/452 Tablet with incised Sumerian cuneiform pictographic script, receipt for livestock, terracotta, Drehem, Sumeria, 2041 BCE. Click to enlarge.

Tablet with incised Sumerian cuneiform pictographic script, receipt for livestock, terracotta, Drehem, Sumeria, 2041 BCE

Made
The Sumerians of ancient Mesopotamia invented the first writing some 5,000 years ago. Having already established the first true civilisation by introducing agriculture and domesticizing cattle, they also decided it was more efficient to record their economic transactions in writing rather than use tokens to represent the number beasts and the amount of harvest they traded. Their initial use of simple pictograms, i.e. drawings which represented actual things, quickly developed into a complex system of symbols where items were illustrated by one sign and their volume by another.

As the symbols evolved, the notes that were recorded on clay tablets became more cuneiform or wedge shaped, owing to the wedge-tipped reed the Sumerians used as a writing implement. The shapes were initially drawn in vertical columns, but the writing later changed direction to that of the horizontal rows, reading the symbols from left to right. Rediscovered in the 1800s, cuneiform script was consequently found to be the first means of chronicling events in writing.

Challoner, Jack, (edit) '1001 Inventions That Changed the World', New Burlington Books, London, 2009, p.68.

Summary

Object No.

85/452

Object Statement

Tablet with incised Sumerian cuneiform pictographic script, receipt for livestock, terracotta, Drehem, Sumeria, 2041 BCE

Physical Description

Terracotta tablet featuring nine horizontal lines of Sumerian cuneiform incised pictographic script on the obverse and reverse. Text on the obverse of the tablet details a receipt issued from Drehem to Alulu for five sheep, one lamb and four grass-fed male kids to be used for a royal offering. The tablet is dated to the eleventh month of the sixth year of Amar-Sin of the Third Dynasty of Ur. The reverse of the tablet again lists 'Total: five grass-fed sheep. Total: one lamb. Total: four male kids.'

Marks

No marks

Dimensions

Height

28 mm

Width

27 mm

Depth

13 mm

Production

Made

Notes

The tablet was made in Drehem, Sumeria in 2041 BCE. Drehem was a town lying a few miles south of Nippur (modern Nuffar). It was the site on which King Shulgi built a large store-house complex, to which converged tribute and offerings in kind from all over the Sumerian empire.

Source

Credit Line

Purchased 1985

Acquisition Date

16 April 1985

Cite this Object

Harvard

Tablet with incised Sumerian cuneiform pictographic script, receipt for livestock, terracotta, Drehem, Sumeria, 2041 BCE 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 16 January 2021, <https://ma.as/48255>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/48255 |title=Tablet with incised Sumerian cuneiform pictographic script, receipt for livestock, terracotta, Drehem, Sumeria, 2041 BCE |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=16 January 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}