Uruk – The world’s first city (4)

Posted: August 13, 2015 in Ancient Near Eastern History, History
Tags: ,
Administrative tablet, Jamdat Nasr, Uruk III style - 3100–2900 B.C (détail)". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Met_(2)_-_Administrative_tablet,_Jamdat_Nasr,_Uruk_III_style_-_3100%E2%80%932900_B.C_(d%C3%A9tail).jpg#/media/File:Met_(2)_-_Administrative_tablet,_Jamdat_Nasr,_Uruk_III_style_-_3100%E2%80%932900_B.C_(d%C3%A9tail).jpg

Administrative tablet, Jamdat Nasr, Uruk III style – 3100–2900 B.C (détail)”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Met_(2)_-_Administrative_tablet,_Jamdat_Nasr,_Uruk_III_style_-_3100%E2%80%932900_B.C_(d%C3%A9tail).jpg#/media/File:Met_(2)_-_Administrative_tablet,_Jamdat_Nasr,_Uruk_III_style_-_3100%E2%80%932900_B.C_(d%C3%A9tail).jpg

Aside from the Temples themselves, the Temple district also contains several other buildings, some of which have been identified as workshops. There are also varying interpretations about purposes of these Temple districts and it has been argued that they serve both an important religious and state function, although this is predominantly based on the findings from a later neo-Babylonian temple archive, which documents the social and economic functions of the Temple as a redistribution centre for food and other goods. Kenneth Harl argues that it was within temple complexes that the economic activity of the city was focused and there is some evidence to support this from Uruk itself. It is clear that the extensive trade networks of the early Sumerian cities were not the work of individuals trading on a freelance basis. There is clearly a large organisation behind these trade routes which exported jewellery, weapons, furniture, textiles and ceramics and returned with wood, metals, stone and gems such as lapis lazuli, which were not available in the Euphrates River Valley. Evidence suggests that these networks reached to Arabia and Egypt to the South and West; Syria and Turkey to the North and East across the Zagros mountains. There is also some evidence that at least in the latter part of the city’s dominance they also imported slaves to act as Labour. If as Harl and others suggest the Temple was the primary engine of economic activity within the city, then the activities of the merchants operating within the trade network would also have been regulated from here. Evidence suggests that there may have been a specialised priest who managed the trade and economic activity of the Temple known as “en”. This word has been variously translated as overseer or Lord although in later periods it can also mean King. The level of organisation can be seen in the document known as the “standard list of professions” which uses the term ‘nam’ which is most often translated as leader in association with a number of different professions, including priests, gardeners, cooks, smiths, jewellers and potters and would seem to referred to a head or leader of each profession. One fascinating entry on this list is “nam nam” or leader of leaders possibly a reference to the chief priest or the senior official of the city.

"Sumerian-akkadian Lexicon - Louvre, Near Eastern Antiquities in the Louvre, Room 3, Case 15 - AO 7662" by Poulpy. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sumerian-akkadian_Lexicon_-_Louvre,_Near_Eastern_Antiquities_in_the_Louvre,_Room_3,_Case_15_-_AO_7662.jpg#/media/File:Sumerian-akkadian_Lexicon_-_Louvre,_Near_Eastern_Antiquities_in_the_Louvre,_Room_3,_Case_15_-_AO_7662.jpg

“Sumerian-akkadian Lexicon – Louvre, Near Eastern Antiquities in the Louvre, Room 3, Case 15 – AO 7662” by Poulpy. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sumerian-akkadian_Lexicon_-_Louvre,_Near_Eastern_Antiquities_in_the_Louvre,_Room_3,_Case_15_-_AO_7662.jpg#/media/File:Sumerian-akkadian_Lexicon_-_Louvre,_Near_Eastern_Antiquities_in_the_Louvre,_Room_3,_Case_15_-_AO_7662.jpg

The development of trade was coupled with the development of writing as a way to keep records of stock, materials and transactions. Cuniform tablets record the distribution of grain to workers, ptresumibly as part of their recompense for laboura swell as other goods movements.

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