BULLA: STRING OF COMPLEX TOKENS

MS 4523
MS Short Title BULLA: STRING OF COMPLEX TOKENS
Text BULLA FOR HOLDING A STRING OF COMPLEX COUNTING TOKENS CONCERNING A TRANSACTION
Description Bulla in clay, Syria/Sumer/Highland Iran, ca. 3500-3200 BC, 1 oblong bulla, diam. 2,5x6,5 cm, rollsealed with a line of animals walking left or 2 men standing with arms raised, pierced for holding a string of counting tokens.
Context For another bulla of the same type, see MS 5113 (not on website display).
Commentary

The bulla originally locked the ends of a string with a number of complex counting tokens attached to it, representing 1 transaction. The string with the tokens was hanging outside the bulla like a necklace. If the string had, say, 5 disk type tokens representing types of textiles, this number could not be tampered with without breaking the seal. The tokens could also be entirely enclosed in the centre of the bulla, see MSS 4631, 4632 and 4638. Tokens were used for accounting purposes in the Near East from the Neolithic period ca. 8000 BC until ca. 3200 BC, when they were superseded by counting tablets and pictographic tablets. Some of the earliest tablets have actual tokens impressed into the clay to form numbers and pictographs, and some of the pictographs were illustrations of tokens, see 4551.

Place of origin Syria / Sumer / Highland Iran
Dates ca 3500-3200 BC

Location