Archaic Bookkeeping

Early Writing and Techniques of Economic Administration in the Ancient Near East

Hans J. Nissen, Peter Damerow, and Robert K. Englund

Archaic Bookkeeping
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Hans J. Nissen, Peter Damerow, and Robert K. Englund

Translated by Paul Larsen
184 pages | 68 halftones, 61 figures, 1 map | 8-1/4 x 8-1/2 | © 1993
Cloth $55.00 ISBN: 9780226586595 Published February 1994
Archaic Bookkeeping brings together the most current
scholarship on the earliest true writing system in human
history. Invented by the Babylonians at the end of the
fourth millennium B.C., this script, called proto-cuneiform,
survives in the form of clay tablets that have until now
posed formidable barriers to interpretation. Many tablets,
excavated in fragments from ancient dump sites, lack a clear
context. In addition, the purpose of the earliest tablets
was not to record language but to monitor the administration
of local economies by means of a numerical system.

Using the latest philological research and new methods
of computer analysis, the authors have for the first time
deciphered much of the numerical information. In
reconstructing both the social context and the function of
the notation, they consider how the development of our
earliest written records affected patterns of thought, the
concept of number, and the administration of household
economies. Complete with computer-generated graphics keyed
to the discussion and reproductions of all documents referred
to in the text, Archaic Bookkeeping will interest
specialists in Near Eastern civilizations, ancient history,
the history of science and mathematics, and cognitive
1. Environmental Factors
2. The Chronological Framework
3. The Early History of Babylonia
4. Prehistoric Means of Administration
5. The Emergence of Writing
6. Archaic Numerical Sign Systems
7. The Archaic Bookkeeping System
8. The Administrative Activities of Kushim
9. The Development of Bookkeeping in the Third Millennium B.C.
10. Surveying and Administrating Fields
11. Bookkeeping on Labor
12. Bookkeeping on Animal Husbandry
13. The Education and Profession of the Scribe
14. The Titles and Professions List
15. The Development of Cuneiform Script
16. The Development of Arithmetic
17. Computer-Assisted Decipherment and Editing of Archaic Texts
List of Figures
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