Accounting clay envelope Mesopotamia was the first place where crop surpluses were produced to such a degree that enough labor was freed that it could be harnessed to build cities and monuments, produce art and crafts and support merchants, temples and monarchs.
The Babylonians are credited with expanding commerce and developing an early banking system. Most of the early writing was used to make lists of commodities. The writing system is believed to have developed in response to an increasingly complex society in which records needed to be kept on taxes, rations, agricultural products and tributes to keep society running smoothly.
The oldest examples of Sumerian writing were bills of sales that recorded transactions between a buyer and seller. When a trader sold ten head of cattle he included a clay tablet that had a symbol for the number ten and a pictograph symbol of cattle.
The Mesopotamians could also be described as the worlds first great accountants. They recorded everything that was consumed in the temples on clay tablets and placed them in the temple archives. Many of the tablets recovered were lists of items like this. Royal seals were affixed to products. Ancient History Encyclopedia ancient. Economic tablet from Susa Silver rings were used in Mesopotamia and Egypt as currency about years before the first coins were struck.
Some archaeologists suggest that money was used by wealthy citizens of Mesopotamia as early as 2, B. Heather Pringle, Discover, October ]. People use it for storage of wealth, and the use it for defining value. The difference between the silver rings used in Mesopotamia and earliest coins first produced in Lydia in Anatolia in the 7th century B. Without the stamp of the king, people were reluctant to take the money at face value from a stranger.
Archaeologists have had a difficult time sorting out information on ancient money because, unlike pottery or utensils, found in abundant supply at archeological sites, they didn't thrown them out. Clay accounting tokens The earliest form of trade was barter. The earliest known proto-money are clay token excavated from the floors of villages houses and city temples in the Near East.
The tokens served as counters and perhaps as promissory notes used before writing was developed. The tokens came in different sizes and shapes.
Early Mesopotamians who lived in the Fertile Crescent before the rise of the first cities employed five token types that represented different amounts of the three main traded goods: Clay tokens, described by some scholars as the world's first money, found in Susa, Iran have been dated to B. One was equivalent to one sheep. Others represented a jar of oil, a measure of metal, a measure of honey, and different garments. In the Mesopotamian cities, there were 16 main types of tokens and dozens of sub categories for things like honey, trussed duck, sheep's milk, rope, garments, bread, textiles, furniture, mats, beds, perfume and metals.
Receipt for clothes Thomas Wyrick, an economist at Southwestern Missouri State University told Discover, "If there were a thousand different goods being traded up and down the street, people could set the price in a thousand different ways because in a barter economy each good is priced in terms of other goods. So one pair of sandals equals ten dates, equals one quart of wheat, equals two quarts of bitumen, and so on. It's so complex that people don't know if they are getting a good deal.
For the first time in history, we've got a large number of goods. And for the first time, we have so many prices that it overwhelms the human mind. People needed some standard way of stating value. In Mesopotamia, silver became the standard of value sometime between B. Silver was used because it was a prized decorative material, it was portable and the supply of it was relatively constant and predictable from year to year. Sometime before B.
Tablets listed the price of timber and grains in shekels of silver. A shekel was equal to about one third of an ounce, or little more than three pennies in terms of weight. One month of labor was worth 1 shekel. A slave sold for between 10 and 20 shekels. No long after shekels appeared as a means of exchange, kings began levying fines in shekels as a punishment. A man who slapped another man in the face had to pay up 20 shekels. In the early days of shekels, people carried pieces of metal in bags and amounts were measured out on scales with stones as countermeasures on the other side.
These rings, worth between 1 and 60 shekels, were used primarily by the rich to make big purchases. They came in a number of different forms: A 3,year-old tablet from the Euphrates River town of Sippar recorded a bill of sale of a woman who bought some land with a silver ring, worth the equivalent of 60 months wages for an ordinary worker, that she received from her parents.
To pay their bills ordinary people used less valuable money made of tin, copper or bronze. Barley was also used as currency. The advantage with it was that small weighing errors made little difference and it was difficult to cheat someone. The use of money made trade easier between city-states and kingdoms and well as between Mesopotamia, Egypt and Palestine. Daily salary in Ur The main problem with silver is that it was so valuable that weighing errors or impure silver should translate to a large amount of lost value.
Some people tried to purposely cheat others by adding other metals into gold or silver or even substituting look-a-like metals. Fraud and cheating were so prevalent in the ancient world that there are eight passages in the Old Testament that forbid tampering with scales or substituting lighter for heavier stones.
People often fell into debta conclusion based on numerous tablet letters describing people in various kinds of trouble for falling into debt. Many debtors became slaves. The situation got so out of hand in Babylon that King Hammurabi decreed that no one could be enslaved for more than three years for debt. Other cities, with residents racked by debt, issued moratoriums on all outstanding bills.
Employment contract from Ur As agriculture became more advanced, surpluses were generated, freeing farmers to perform other jobs. Over time former farmers could earn enough to specialize in certain tasks and become what would qualify as craftsmen. Tablets listed scores of professions. Trades during Mesopotamian times included tradesmen, butchers, stonemasons, water carriers, fishermen, estate workers, farmers, tanners, weavers, boatbuilders, furniture makers, bakers, silversmiths, metal workers, pottery makers, beer brewers, bread makers, leatherworkers, spinners, weavers, clothes makers, tool and weapons makers, jewelers, woodworkers and people in charge of preparing sacrifices and maintaining buildings.
Workers were often paid with barley. Under the Cod of Hammurabi, maximum prices and minimum wages were fixed by decree and the terms for apprenticeships were defined. There were also many civil servants. One of the highest positions was the scribe, who worked closely with the king and the bureaucracy, recording events and tallying up commodities. Transfer of cattle in Ur Organized production of handcrafted good was first developed in Mesopotamia. The Sumerians produced manufactured goods.
The weaving of wool by thousands of workers is regarded as the for large-scale industry. The Sumerians a developed sense of ownership and private property. It seems like many business transactions were recorded and the minutest amounts and smallest quantities were listed. Contracts were sealed with cylinder seals that were rolled over clay to produce a relief image. There wasn't much in Ur and other cities in Mesopotamia except water from the Euphrates River and mud brick made from the dry earth.
Prized materials such as gold, silver, lapis lazuli, agate, carnelian all were imported. Assyrian booty in Nineveh Large scale trade was pioneered in Mesopotamia. Both luxury goods and raw materials circulated within Mesopotamia and were brought in from the outside as far away as India, Africa and Greece. Mesopotamia was where some of the first great trade routes were established. The only goods available in abundance in Mesopotamia were mud, clay, reeds, palm, fish, and grain.
To obtain other goods Mesopotamians needed to trade. Mesopotamians developed large scale trade. Ships brought in goods from distant lands. Labor and grain were exported.
Metals were brought in overland routes and paid for with wool and grains. Goods were moved in jars and clay pots. Seals identified who they belonged to. Similarities between pottery in Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley indicate that trade probably occurred between the two regions.
During the reign of the pharaoh Pepi I to B. Egypt traded with Mesopotamian cities as far north as Ebla in Syria near the border of present-day Turkey. The Sumerians traded for gold and silver from Indus Valley, Egypt, Nubia and Turkey; ivory from Africa and the Indus Valley; agate, carnelian, wood from Iran; obsidian and copper from Turkey; diorite, silver and copper from Oman and coast of Arabian Sea; carved beads from the Indus valley; translucent stone from Oran and Turkmenistan; seashell from the Gulf of Oman.
Raw blocks of lapis lazuli are thought to have been brought from Afghanistan by donkey and on foot. Tin may have come from as far away as Malaysia but most likely came from Turkey or Europe.
Ivory combs, carnelian belts and beads were carried by ship to Dilmun in Bahrain where buyers from Ur snapped them up the Euphrates and carried them to Mesopotamia. This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner.
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