BULLA-ENVELOPE: 1 PLAIN TOKEN

MS 4638
MS Short Title BULLA-ENVELOPE: 1 PLAIN TOKEN
Text BULLA-ENVELOPE WITH 1 PLAIN TOKEN INSIDE, REPRESENTING AN ACCOUNT OR AGREEMENT OF TENTATIVELY 1 VERY LARGE MEASURE OF BARLEY, THE YEAR'S PAY FOR ONE MAN
Description Bulla in clay, Syria/Sumer/Highland Iran, ca. 3700-3200 BC, 1 spherical bulla-envelope (complete), diam. 6,0-6,8 cm, cylinder seal impression of several men facing tall ringstaff; and another with animals; token inside: 1 large sphere diam. 2 cm (D.S.-B.2:2).
Context Only 25 more bulla-envelopes are known from Sumer, all excavated in Uruk. 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 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 This complicated system was superseded around 3500-3200 BC by counting tablets giving birth to the actual recording in writing, of the sexagesimal counting system (see MSS 3007 and 4647), and around 3300-3200 BC the beginning of pictographic writing (see MSS 2963 and 4551).

Place of origin Syria / Sumer / Highland Iran
Dates ca 3700 - 3200 BC

Location