Ur III Clay Dated Cuneiform Tablet


A Sumerian, Ur III, clay tablet inscribed with rows of cuneiform text. Inscriptions in Sumerian are found to the obverse, reverse and along the sides of the tablet. Seal impressions have been imprinted over the text. This tablet is a typical administrative document from the Ur III dynasty and it records the disbursement of bread rations for 50 adults and 5 minor workers for 30 days. The seal impression is attributed to the scribe, Inbum, son of Lugal-izu. The text is also dated to the reign of King Shu-Sin.

The seal comes with a previous record card with the above translation, provided by Assyriologist R. Kovac.

Date: Circa 2037 – 2028 BC or 1973 – 1964 BC
Provenance: Ex London dealer collection, acquired 1980s-2000s.
Condition: Very fine condition, some chipping and earthly encrustation is visible to the surface.


SKU: XJ-38BL Category: Tags: ,

The Ur III period is noted by Assyriologists and ancient historians for vast amount of surviving administrative and economic documents preserved on clay tablets. Most of the tablets were quite small and consists of 10-20 lines of text, recording receipts and disbursements of resources or labour. Due to the considerable amount of administrative texts which allowed scholars to reconstruct daily life of the Ur III period, the period is often considered a model of the early developments of bureaucracy and state control.

This cuneiform tablet is dated to the reign of King Shu-Sin, the penultimate Ur III king. Assyriologists use a framework of events to determine dates within Near Eastern history and chronology, due largely to the lack of resources. Most of the dating taken from tablets, administrative records and seals, records a succession of events. For example, an event happening in the ‘x’ year of ‘y’ person. Grouping such events can then produce a relative chronology. The discrepancies that arise from this way of piecing together events means dates can vary by 100 odd years. Now, the most widely used chronology for Near Eastern dating is the Middle Chronology or the Short chronology. The former gives the years of Shu-Suen’s[Sin] reign as circa 2037 – 2028 BC, whilst the latter dates are 1973 – 1964 BC. Shu-Suen[Sin] was the penultimate king of the Ur III dynasty and various records of him exist, preserved in cuneiform script. Most notably is the erotic poem addressed to the king from a female admirer.

Weight 79.4 g
Dimensions L 4.1 x W 1.8 x H 5 cm

Pottery and Porcelain


Reference: For a similar item, The Harvard Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts, item 1938.94

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