Universiteit Leiden

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Conference

Bookkeeping Without Writing: Early administrative technologies in context

Date
Friday 5 February 2021 - Saturday 6 February 2021
Location
Online

NINO Postdoctoral Research Fellow 1st Annual Conference, organised by Dr Lucy Bennison-Chapman.

This conference brings together varied specialists to explore how non-literate systems of information storage were used in the Near East from the late Neolithic, and why they persisted into the first millennium BC. The world’s earliest known written script, cuneiform, emerged as the bureaucratic tool of administration in the city-states of south Mesopotamia during the late-fourth millennium BC. Yet crucially, tokens continue to be used as an administrative tool, alongside bullae, seals and written texts into the first millennium BC in Mesopotamia. Did tokens merely replicate the information stored within cuneiform script for the illiterate masses? Were they physical guarantees or receipts to be handled, performing a mnemonic, function in a way that cuneiform tablets could not? The relationship between and social implications of the dual use of written and non-literate administration and information storage devices will be explored via examination of the evidence from Mesopotamia. This will be interpreted in alongside examples of complex, non-written administrative systems from the ethnographic and historical record from various cultures, world regions and time periods.

Read more on the event here.

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