EARLIEST WRITTEN EVIDENCE OF SLAVERY

MS 2963
MS Short Title EARLIEST WRITTEN EVIDENCE OF SLAVERY
Text ACCOUNT OF MALE AND FEMALE SLAVES
Description MS in Old Sumerian on clay, Sumer, ca. 3300-3200 BC, 1 nearly cubic tablet, 5,2x6,2x4,5 cm, 5 compartments in primitive pictographic script, fine cylinder seal impressions on all sides made prior to writing of 2 men walking left, carrying ostriches, a basket between them and wine amphorae above.
Context The tablets MSS 2963, 3149-3151, 4510 and 4511, are all nearly cubic in form, MS 4511 being 4,8x4,8x4,5 cm. There is nothing similar in any public collection apart from one in Berlin. They possibly derive from the bulla-envelopes with counting tokens inside (cf. MSS 4631-4632, 4638, ca. 3700-3200 BC). The cubic tablets might represent the next logical step, the adding of pictographs representing the commodities involved, and adapted from the spherical shape of the bullas, to cubic shape, before being reduced to a thinner and more handy tablet. The 2 earliest cubic tablets (MSS 4510 and 3151) are ideonumerographical from Uruk V period, ca. 3400 BC, next to the protopictographical texts Uruk VI, the earliest continous writing known, predating the Tell Brak and Kish tablets (ca. 3200 BC, and the Uruk IV tablets (ca. 3200-3100 BC).
Commentary The present tablet is the earliest written evidence of slavery, see collection 24.13
Place of origin Sumer
Dates ca 3300 - 3200 BC

Location