The Babylonians had multiple words for beer: Sumerian kaš, kurun, kiraši, Akkadian šikaru. In the Ur III period, beer as a means of compensation for work was issued only irregularly, and most often allocated as a form of compensation given to messengers while on special service missions. Foreign affairs and domestic policy required a smoothly operating messenger system. Such a system can be shown to have existed during the greater part of the Ur III period, beginning with king Šulgi’s 32nd regnal year. The people mentioned in the messenger text here (Agu’a, Ikalla, and Dugamu) were directly connected with governmental policy of the Ur III empire, and the amount of the food and drink rations generally corresponded to the rank that the individual occupied within the bureaucracy. Dida beer seems to have served as “a kind of pasteurized beer, indispensable for journeys of long distance in the intense heat of Mesopotamia” and as a rule was “not disbursed for journeys of short distances” (Neumann 331).
During this period, two methods were used to denote the value of a product. The first method was recording the amount of barley corresponding to a given amount of the product, which was represented by the phrase še-bi, meaning “its barley,” in front of the amount of barley representing the value. The second was to record the amount that had to be added in order to convert the given amount of the product into the amount of barley representing its value, which was represented by the phrase še bala-bi, meaning “its barley conversion" (Damerow §5.18.)
Damerow, Peter. Sumerian Beer: The Origins of Brewing Technology in Ancient Mesopotamia. CDLJ 2012:2
Neumann, Hans. “Beer as a Means of Compensation for Work in Mesopotamia during the Ur III Period.” Ancient Societies. History and Culture of Drinks in the Ancient Near East. Papers of a Symposium Held in Rome, May 17-19, 1990 (1994)
CDLI entry: P273413.
credit: Quinn, Alexandra N.