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Lost Mesopotamian code discovered

Posted on Sunday, 13 October, 2013 | Comment icon 8 comments

An ancient Mesopotamian statue. Image Credit: CC BY 2.5 Marie-Lan Nguyen

Archaeologists believe they have uncovered an ancient form of record keeping that pre-dates writing.

The discovery was made during examination of a number of mysterious clay balls that were found in the region once known as Mesopotamia but that is now an area of the Middle-East that encompasses parts of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Kuwait and Turkey.

Using a sophisticated system of CT scans and 3D modelling, researchers were able to peer inside the 5,500-year-old objects of which only 150 have been found worldwide.

It is believed that the balls, often referred to as "envelopes", were a primitive form of record-keeping. Ranging in size from that of a golf ball to that of a baseball, many of the clay balls were found to contain a number of tokens designed in a variety of geometric shapes.

Researchers believe that these items may have been used as a way to record economic transactions. One particularly interesting example of this was a 3,300-year-old ball that contained 49 pebbles and a contract for a shepherd written in ancient cuneiform text.

Source: Discovery News | Comments (8)

Tags: Mesopotamia

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Mentalcase on 12 October, 2013, 22:31
"very first data storage system," ~ Very first iPad.
Comment icon #2 Posted by lightly on 13 October, 2013, 0:54
That's fascinating. The article asks how they could number and name transactions ... One of the "balls" contained 49 pebbles to represent sheep and goats . I notice the "ball" pictured has animals depicted on it. More than one way to convey information. Written words are handy though.
Comment icon #3 Posted by questionmark on 13 October, 2013, 11:52
A similar system was found in the ancient smelting areas of the copper age. The delivery always consisted of two containers, one with the blooms and a second sealed one with the same number of pebbles as there were blooms in the shipment. That way things did not fall off the truck so easily.
Comment icon #4 Posted by pallidin on 13 October, 2013, 18:04
How odd, but interesting. Historical findings, however mysterious, has always been fascinating to many it seems, including myself.
Comment icon #5 Posted by lightly on 13 October, 2013, 18:50
That's interesting ... pretty ingenious . It could be re- sealed and used as a receipt. .. I can imagine someone forging duplicates too
Comment icon #6 Posted by highdesert50 on 14 October, 2013, 10:21
Perhaps, but for the benefit of debate, the Mesopotamians were a polytheistic culture having a multitude of the deities. Given the amount of work necessary to construct these rather complex sealed balls, perhaps the 49 pebbles representing sheep and goats were used in the context of a deity such as Lahar the cattle-god or goddess for protection and abundance.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Junior Chubb on 14 October, 2013, 21:16
Seeing as it is only understood by its users, I think you are spot on.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Stegosaurus on 15 October, 2013, 0:15
That's incredible! I love that we are constantly discovering more about our ancestors. It really leads us to believe they weren't as primitive as once thought.

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