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A MESOPOTAMIAN PROTO-CUNEIFORM CLAY TABLET WITH ACCOUNT OF MONTHLY RATIONS
A MESOPOTAMIAN PROTO-CUNEIFORM CLAY TABLET WITH ACCOUNT OF MONTHLY RATIONS
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A MESOPOTAMIAN PROTO-CUNEIFORM CLAY TABLET WITH ACCOUNT OF MONTHLY RATIONS

LATE URUK PERIOD, CIRCA 3100-3000 B.C.

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A MESOPOTAMIAN PROTO-CUNEIFORM CLAY TABLET WITH ACCOUNT OF MONTHLY RATIONS
LATE URUK PERIOD, CIRCA 3100-3000 B.C.
A beautiful and early pictographic record of daily life within one of the cradles of civilisation.

49 x 76 mm. The obverse with 21 cases of text, the reverse uninscribed.

Provenance:
(1) Ancient Near Eastern Texts from the Erlenmeyer Collection; Christie's, London 13 December 1988, lot 35.

(2) Schøyen Collection, MS 234.

The present tablet bears the proto-cuneiform pictographic script invented in Southern Mesopotamia more than 5000 years ago - the earliest known recorded writing system by man. It was from this script that cuneiform evolved, with the pictographic signs becoming smaller and more abstract, composed in horizontal lines as opposed to vertical bands. This tablet is derived from a single archive of 77 pictographic tablets, all in the same hand. 55 of these are now in Freie Universität in Berlin, 4 in the British Museum, 3 in the Metropolitan Museum, 4 in the Louvre, and 6 in the Schøyen Collection.

The first writing system in the world developed as a response to a bureaucratic need. The pictographic script, from which cuneiform directly evolved, was developed in order to monitor the administration of flourishing local economies of Southern Iraq. The pictographic script might be viewed as a complex form of shorthand, and remains almost impossible to decipher.

Previously owned by Professor Hans and Marie-Louise Erlenmeyer in the 1950s, it was offered for sale at Christie's London in 1988. A highlight of their collection was their archive of pictographic texts; the first and only such group of its kind ever to appear at auction, and among the best-preserved archives of such tablets to have survived from antiquity.

Bibliography:
Nissen, Hans J., Peter Damerow, Robert K. Englund: Frühe Schrift und Techniken der Wissenschaftsverwaltung. Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte, Cat., Berlin, 1990. no 4.30.

Exhibited:
Museum für Vor-und Frühgeschichte, Berlin, 1990.
Literature
Exhibited
Special Notice

These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.

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Eugenio Donadoni
Eugenio Donadoni

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