Cuneiform Digital Library Bulletin
2004:3
ISSN 1540-8760
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Revisiting Jemdet Nasr Texts:
IM 55580+

Salvatore F. Monaco < vesnadavidovic@tin.it >
UPE, Monterotondo, Italy

Keywords
Jemdet Nasr, proto-cuneiform, accounting


§1. The tablet IM 55580 was first published in copy by S. Langdon in OECT 7 (Oxford 1928) as no. 32 plus fragment no. 187, and no. 128, a field copy. The tablet is broken in many pieces, of which at least five have been assembled; photographs of the obverse and reverse as well as copies and transliteration were published by R. K. Englund and J.-P. Gregoire in 1991 (MSVO 1, 94). The tablet measures 113×71×20 mm, missing the upper left corner and a trapezoidal-shaped portion of the obverse that extends from the left edge to the center dividing line. The lower left side of the obverse is badly abraded with the consequent loss of, probably, three cases in the bottom of the first column.


§ 2. One of the missing fragments can now be identified with IM 132921 (OECT 7, 153 = MSVO 1, 124). The fragment measures 30×34×18 mm and has a trapezoidal shape that matches one of the missing sections of the tablet. Since the tablet is in the Iraq Museum in a very unstable Baghdad, a physical join can for the time being not be completed, but should be considered very close to certain. A join based on photographic evidence is presented in figure 1. The small piece that extends from the upper rear side of the fragment has been eliminated to avoid undue overlapping of the front side of the tablet. This was not necessary when joining the fragment on the reverse of the tablet, since in this case the overlapping is correct.

 

    

Figure 1: Obverse and reverse surfaces of the tablet MSVO 1, 94, showing photographic join with fragment MSVO 1, 124 (left), and a reconstructed vector graphic of both texts (right, courtesy of R. K. Englund [correcting obv. ii of MSVO 1, 124])

 

§3. The join restores partially the second (O0102) and third cases (O0103) and almost completely the fourth case (O0104) of the first column of the obverse. The fragment restores also the first part of the second column of the obverse. The reverse of the fragment is badly damaged, preserving only a portion of a sign belonging to the first case of the second section (R0102a). It can be seen that in O0104 the upper right edge of the tablet matches perfectly the lower left edge of the fragment, fully restoring the number sign N1, the sign ŠU2 and the line separating the preceding case O0103.

 

§4. Other fragments and flakes, which would completely restore the tablet, are still missing. Nevertheless, the content of some of the missing cases can be determined by analogy, although no quantitative reconstruction may be reliably attempted.

 

§5. The transliteration of the text follows that provided in MSVO 1, the only differences being the inclusion of the signs on the fragment and the reading 8N1 in case O0303 instead of 9N1; this follows from a comparison of cases O0105 and O0307, in which the two signs furthest to the right end vertically aligned (as normally happens for even numbers and not for odd numbers, for instance in case O0305).

 

O0101 [...]
O0102 [...] ˹4N3˺
O0103 [...] ˹2N14˺ UDUa
O0104 2N14 4N1 ŠU2
O0105 8N1 ZATU644a
O0106 [...] X [...]
O0107 [...] [...]
O0108 [...] [...]
O0109 ˹8N1˺ [...] ˹BUa?˺ [...]
O0201 GIR3bgunû˹PAa AMAR˺ GI NIa+RU ABa˹6N1˺ SUa [GIBIL]
O0301 4N20 2N5 2N42a
O0302 2N18
O0303 ˹8!N1˺ UDUa
O0304 2N52 1N38 ˹5N21˺
O0305 9N1 ŠU2
O0306 3N1 ZATU644a
O0307 8N1 DURb NUNUZa1
O0308 1N14 2N1 SUa GIBIL GI
O0401 GIR3bgunû PAa PAPa BUa NAM2
R0101a 1N37 2N47 2N20 ŠEa U4+4N57 AMAR
R0101b1 ˹5N14˺ ŠEa KIDa ENa˹KALAMa˺ PAa
R0101b2 5N1 ŠEa KIa 1N2
R0101b3a ˹7N19˺ 1N4 [...] ˹1N2˺
R0101b3b 3N20 3N5 2N42a 1N25 X ŠEa
R0101b4 3N14 PAa U4 KALAMb ˹MUŠEN?˺ X [...]
R0101b5 1N34 9N14 3N1 2N39a 1N24 ŠEa GI
R0102a 2N34 1N45 ˹8N14 U4+6N57 ŠEa GIR3bgunû˺ [...]
R0102b1 1N45 1N14 PAPa X
R0102b2 1N45 1N14 3N57 ˹SAL˺ [...]
R0102b3 [1N45 8N14 ...]
R0102b4 1N34 8N14 ŠEa GI
R0103 [...] ˹ABa˺ NIa+RU


§ 6. The text is composed of four sections. Two sections contained on the obverse list grain and other food commodities delivered (GI) to officials and are qualified by the notations 6N1 SUa GIBIL and 1N14 2N1 SUa GIBIL, respectively. The two sections of the reverse surface of the tablet are accounts of grain (ŠEa) with totals and some details from a period of four (U4+4N57) and six years (U4+6N57), respectively.[1]

 

§7. The numerical sign systems used in the list of commodities on the obverse (sections 1 and 2) include both the bisexagesimal system and the ŠE system.[2] Sections 3 and 4 in the reverse, as grain accounts, use only the ŠE system.

 

§8. The first section, on the analogy with section 2, should contain a quantity of grain measured in the derived numerical system Š* (in case O0101), followed by an additional quantity expressed in the derived system Š' (case O0102).[3] Similarly, a commodity measured in the derived numerical system B* used to qualify discrete objects is probably to be expected in one of the missing cases O0106 – O0108. The deliveries (GI) of the listed commodities, ‘regular offerings due to the temple’? (NIa+RU ABa),[4] took place six times (˹6N1˺ SUa [GIBIL]),[5] the two officials GIR3bgunû PAa and AMAR[6] being responsible for the transactions. The use of the regular sexagesimal system (as in section 2) in the expression for “six times” in place of the N57 notation is probably meant to qualify the notation as a cardinal number. N57 notations, frequently used for ordinal numbers, are also used for cardinal numbers, expecially when there is no possible ambiguity in inter-pretation, as in texts MSVO 4, 1 and 2, discussed in §15, which list grain accounts for eight years in sequence (1N57 to 8N57 used as ordinals in the time-notation U4+nN57) and record the total amount of grain for the 8-year period (8N57 used as cardinal in the same time-notation).

 

 
Accounting System
Quantity
Commodities
O0101
Š*
[...]
[ŠE]
O0102
Š'
[...] 4
O0103
B
[X+]? 20
UDUa
O0104
B
24
ŠU2
O0105
B
8
ZATU644a
O0106
B
[...]
?
O0107
B
[...]
?
O0108
B
[...]
?
O0109
B
8
?

 

§9. Section 2 consists of a fully preserved list of commodities delivered twelve times (1N14 2N1 SUa GIBIL GI), the two officials GIR3bgunû PAa and PAPa BUa NAM2 being in charge of the transaction. Similar lists of commodities are common in Jemdet Nasr texts.[7] In this category of accounts, the list always begins with a quantity of grain measured in the derived numerical system Š*, followed by an additional quantity expressed in the numerical system Š'. The other commodities are recorded in the numerical system B, with a quantity measured in the derived system B*.

 

 
Accounting System
Quantity
Commodities
O0301
Š*
26 2/5
[ŠE]
O0302
Š'
12
O0303
B
8
UDUa
O0304
B*
350
O0305
B
8
ŠU2
O0306
B
3
ZATU644a
O0307
B
8
DURb NUNUZa1

 

§ 10. Section 3 is a grain account over a period of 4 years (the considerations in the following paragraphs exclude the possibility that the numerical signs nN57 used in the time notations in sections 3 and 4 are ordinals). The first case (R0101a) reports the total amount of grain measured in the numerical system Š*, the official in charge being AMAR. Cases R0101b1–R0101b5 record the details of partial deliveries, with the purpose of each transaction specified. Cases R0101b3a – R0101b3b appear to demonstrate the equivalence between emmer (system Š") and grain (Š*) at the ratio of 2:1. Quantities of grain measured in both Š and Š* systems are reckoned together in the Š* system (case R0101a). The average yearly delivery of grain amounts to 78N1 (units of grain, corresponding to later Sumerian barig?) equivalent to 13N14 (units of grain, corresponding to later Sumerian gur?).[8]

 

 
Accounting System
Quantity
Commodities
R0101a
Š*
312
ŠE
R0101b1
Š
30
ŠE
R0101b2
Š
5
ŠE
R0101b3a
Š"
(43)
ZIZ2?
R0101b3b
Š*
21 1/2
ŠE
R0101b4
Š
18
[ŠE]
R0101b5
Š
237 1/5
ŠE

 

§11. Section 4 is a grain account over a period of six years, in which both the total and the partial deliveries are measured in the numerical system Š. The official in charge is GIR3bgunû PAa (only a portion of the first sign is preserved in the joined fragment). As in Section 3 the first case (R0102a) reports the total amount of grain, while cases R0102b1–R0102b4 account for partial deliveries which are exact multiples of six. Such circumstances confirm that the average yearly delivery of grain (78 barig or 13 gur) found in section 3 was the standard yearly rate for the recorded transactions.

 

 
Accounting System
Quantity
Commodities
R0102a
Š
468
ŠE
R0102b1
Š
66
[ŠE]
R0102b2
Š
66
[ŠE]
R0102b3
Š
[108]
[ŠE]
R0102b4
Š
228
ŠE

 

§ 12. It is noteworthy that the text MSVO 1, 90, reports regular supplies of grain, delivered six times, to the same officials GIR3bgunû PAaand AMAR for a grand total of 237 3/5 (barig) over a period of three years, resulting in an average yearly rate of 79 1/5 (barig).[9] MSVO 1, 89, is an account of grain for the officials GIR3bgunû PAa and ENa PAa BAD+DIa in four deliveries during three years,[10] for a total amount of 118 4/5 (barig). The resulting average yearly rate of 39 3/5 (barig) corresponds to half of the standard quantity.


§ 13. We have already noted in §9 that section 2 records an amount of grain (26 2/5 barig) delivered 12 times to two officials. If we observe that

26 2/5 × 12 = 316 4/5 = 4 × 79 1/5 = 4 × 39 3/5 × 2,

it follows that the two officials (GIR3bgunû PAa and PAPa BUa NAM2) received the standard yearly amount of grain over a period of four years. By analogy, section 1 may have recorded the same amount of grain (26 2/5 barig), delivered six times to the officials GIR3bgunû PAa and AMAR, for an equivalent of 158 2/5 barig over a period of two years.[11]


§ 14. Since evidence for the amount of grain in the missing case O0101 is absent, no certain conclusion can be drawn about the relationships that hold between sections 1 and 2 and sections 3 and 4. On the assumption that the account in section 4 included the quantity of grain recorded in section 3, and hence that there is no unambiguous relationship between any single section on the obverse and the reverse of the tablet, a calendrical relationship between the frequency of deliveries reported in sections 1 and 2, and the total period of the grain accounting of section 4 can be assessed on the basis of textual parallels, for which see presently.

 

§ 15. It may not be surprising to find the same correspondence between the standard quantity of grain for each delivery to the officials in charge (26 2/5 barig) of sections 1 and 2, and the yearly standard amount (78 barig) recorded in the totals of sections 3 and 4, also appears in the parallel texts MSVO 4, 1 and 2, from Uqair (a Sumerian town not far from Jemdet Nasr).[12] Table 1 lists for each year the quantity of grain measured in barig, the same quantity expressed in terms of the standard yearly amount (78 barig), and the quantity for the total period in terms of the standard quantity per delivery/official (26 2/5 barig).

 

 
MSVO 4, 1
MSVO 4, 2
year
quantity
(n×78)
(n×26 2/5)
quantity
(n×78)
(n×26 2/5)
1   (U4+1N57)
156
2
 
168
2 2/13
 
2   (U4+2N57)
114
1 6/13
 
102
1 4/13
 
3   (U4+3N57)
90
1 2/13
 
132
1 9/13
 
4   (U4+4N57)
48
8/13
 
48
8/13
 
5   (U4+5N57)
36
6/13
 
30
5/13
 
6   (U4+6N57)
48
8/13
 
30
5/13
 
7   (U4+7N57)
42
7/13
 
108
1 5/13
 
8   (U4+8N57)
126
1 8/13
 
54
9/13
 
 
Total for 8 years
660
 
25
660
25

Table 1: A comparison of the accounts MSVO 4, 1-2

 

§ 16. Such relationships in both texts seem to imply that 25 deliveries of the standard quantity (26 2/5) took place over a period of eight years, at a variable yearly rate, computable in terms of n/13. If we consider the ratio between the average yearly rate of 79 1/5 barig for two officials (§13) and the standard yearly amount of 78 barig for the same officials (§10), and multiply it by the number of days for the standard year (360) we get:

360 × (79 1/5 ÷ 78) = 365 1/2

which is a very close approximation of the duration of the solar year. It is not surprising that a population dependent on agriculture was aware of the solar year and would, necessarily, have introduced an intercalary (13th) month very early in their history, a direct consequence of having adopted a calendar with a month of fixed duration (30 days).[13] We may therefore assume that the grain deliveries were performed, on average, three times per year, plus once to take into account the intercalary month (3 × 8 + 1 = 25), whereas the actual transactions involved were those registered in the tablets for each year.


Version: 1 September 2004