Book-keeping in Mesopotamia in the Third and Second Millennium BC

Sławomir Sojak

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12775/CJFA.2013.022

Abstract


The recent, twentieth-century research on the history of the development of book-keeping indicates that it originated with the development of the Sumerian civilization in the third millennium BC. The necessity to control the property of the temple and of the palace, which was entrusted to breeders, farmers, merchants or craftsmen contributed to the creation of a very sophisticated method of documenting the events concerning these possessions. The article aims at identifying the reasons behind the emergence of book-keeping in Mesopotamia, discusses its instances in the form of inscriptions on clay tablets and analyzes examples of settlements concerning entrusted property, which, balancing debts and liabilities, have the characteristics of book-keeping. These settlements are primarily characterized by a personal approach – the one to whom the property has been entrusted is on the debit side. It was already in this period that the balancing method was employed in the case of factory or ‘budget’ book-keeping in redistributing the bala tax, as it is illustrated with examples of settlements concerning cattle breeders, merchants and craftsmen. In this article I refer to such publications as the proceedings of periodic academic conferences (Oxford University, 1998; Columbia University, 1998, British Museum, 2000) on the economy of the ancient Middle East as well as Marek Stępień’s (Warsaw University) works concerning the issues of taxation in Sumerian times.


Keywords


Mesopotamia; book-keeping; clay tablets; cuneinform texts; balancing; bala tax

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