BULLA-ENVELOPE: 11 PLAIN AND COMPLEX TOKENS

MS 4631
MS Short Title BULLA-ENVELOPE: 11 PLAIN AND COMPLEX TOKENS
Text BULLA-ENVELOPE WITH 11 PLAIN AND COMPLEX TOKENS INSIDE, REPRESENTING AN ACCOUNT OR AGREEMENT, TENTATIVELY OF WAGES FOR 4 DAYS' WORK, 4 MEASURES OF METAL, 1 LARGE MEASURE OF BARLEY AND 2 SMALL MEASURES OF SOME OTHER COMMODITY
Description Bulla in clay, Syria/Sumer/Highland Iran, ca. 3700-3200 BC, 1 spherical bulla-envelope (complete), diam. ca. 6,5 cm, cylinder seal impressions of a row of men walking left; and of a predator attacking a deer, inside a complete set of plain and complex tokens: 4 tetrahedrons 0,9x1,0 cm (D.S.-B.5:1), 4 triangles with 2 incised lines 2,0x0,9 (D.S.-B.(:14), 1 sphere diam. 1,7 cm (D.S.-B.2:2), 1 cylinder with 1 grove 2,0x0,3 cm (D.S.-B.4:13), 1 bent paraboloid 1,3xdiam. 0,5 cm (D.S.-B.8:14).
Context Total number of bulla-envelopes worldwide is ca. 165 intact and 70 fragmentary.
Commentary

While counting for stocktaking purposes started ca. 8000 BC using plain tokens of the type also represented here, more complex accounting and recording of agreements started about 3700 BC using 2 systems: a) a string of complex tokens with the ends locked into a massive rollsealed clay bulla (see MS 4523), and b) the present system with the tokens enclosed inside a hollow bulla-shaped rollsealed envelope, sometimes with marks on the outside representing the hidden contents.

The bulla-envelope had to be broken to check the contents hence the very few surviving intact bulla- envelopes. This complicated system was superseded around 3500-3200 BC by counting tablets giving birth to the actual recording in writing, of various number systems (see MSS 3007 and 4647), and around 3300-3200 BC the beginning of pictographic writing (see MSS 2963 and 4551).

Exhibited The Norwegian Intitute of Palaeography and Historical Philology (PHI), Oslo, 13.10.2003-06.2005.
Place of origin Syria / Sumer / Highland Iran
Dates ca 3700 - 3200 BC

Location