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Home > Auctions > 24th November 2020 > Large Western Asiatic Sumerian Textile Industry Document from the Town of Umma

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LOT 0159

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EUR (€) 6,610 - 8,810
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£5,400 (EUR 5,947; USD 7,005) (+bp*)

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Large Western Asiatic Sumerian Textile Industry Document from the Town of Umma

Dated 2042 BC

A substantial rectangular clay cuneiform tablet fragment with columns of Sumerian cuneiform script to both faces; supplied with a copy of a three-page (five-sides) report, typed and signed by W.G. Lambert, late Professor of Assyriology, University of Birmingham, 1970-1993, which includes the following details: 'Large Clay Tablet with Sumerian Inscription 194 x 198 mm. This tablet was originally written with 6 columns of Sumerian cuneiform on each side, but as now preserved parts of five columns remain on the obverse, three substantially complete, on the reverse some of all six remains, four substantially complete. This is an administrative document from the town of Umma, from the period of the Third Dynasty of Ur, c. 2070-2020 B.C. It comes from the state textile industry in the town and is an account of the materials and labour used up in this industry presumably over one year. The very end of the document would have had a note explaining such matters, but now it is lost. However, the surviving text gives abundant evidence of the large scale of this industry at the time.'; there follows Lambert's detailed translation of the quantities of various commodities (e.g. wool, guzza cloth, nilam cloth, etc.) and quantities (shekels, grains, minas, talents, etc.) as well as the labour input of the workforce and notation of the year (the great exalted high priestess of heaven was installed); the note concludes 'As will have been observed, in the middle of column X there is a year name, alluding to the installation of a high priestess. This is the fifth year of Amar-Sȋn, third king of the Third Dynasty of Ur, c.2042 B.C. That seems to mean that what precedes is referring to that year, while what follows must refer to the following year. While much of this tablet is quite clear, there is also much in need of further research. It is clear that the slave girls (abbreviated here to 'girls') used in the textile industry also worked in the fields at some time of year such as harvest when the male labour was insufficient. A tablet of this size is extremely rare, and it is a major document for the social history of the period. The girls were not in fact slaves in the full sense, but were female serfs: tied to their jobs, but free in the time off work.' 1.7 kg, 19cm (7 1/2"). Very fine condition, fragmentary. Extremely rare.

The Signo collection, the property of a West London businessman, formed in the late 1980s-early 1990s; academically researched and catalogued by the late Professor Wilfrid George Lambert FBA (1926-2011), historian, archaeologist, and specialist in Assyriology and Near Eastern archaeology, in the late 1980s and early 1990s; and accompanied with a copy of a three-page (five-side) report, typed and signed by the Professor; this lot has been checked against the Interpol Database of stolen works of art and is accompanied by AIAD certificate number no.10145-166086.