Conflicting Essays in scholarship which have been the most engaging research job I have ever done. I have also added, over the years, queries about our "dated" geology with their "computerized" confirmations together with climate changes denied since 1963. The Ten-O'clock News have been telling us to change our clocks for DSL and back again BUT no one as noticed it has been changed, more than a few years ago, from March 31 and October 31, to a week or so earlier or even a week or so later.

Friday, April 19, 2013

"Bullas" of the Merchants of Sumer

Clay bulla and the commoditiy tokens that were inside it. 
The owner’s seal is faintly visible on the exterior of the bulla.
The Sumerian Shakespeare

   A long time ago, while researching  the Great Migration across Asia to Spain, I ran across what was thought to be "The Origin of Writing," [actually this was an accomplishment brought by the gods in many different countries of the world]. It was an interesting book that claimed that there were hundreds of these items called "Bullas" or "balls" filled with iconographic clay tokens, strewn across the desert area to, within and from Turkey.
Sumerian "writing tokens".  Each token represents a different commodities
       These hollow balls were filled with small tokens that appeared to be tiny wine jars, sheep, cloth, anything that was moveable, and sellable.  Eventually, the "bullas" were improved when the token images were pressed into the clay casing on the outside of the orb. It was like an accurate check on what was inside of the balls.

       The theory, back then, was that these items were the origin of writing that eventually turned into cuneiforms scripts across the Middle East and Asia. The strange part of the story, was the multiple "bullas" were found strewn across the desert sands. It made no sense at all. Where they children's toys? [Small children should have been left at home base until they were old enough to be useful on caravan routes.] Or was there another purpose they were scattered in the desert.

       The only other explanation of such a trail across a desert would be a caravan of camels or donkeys that would be carrying such merchandise (ollas, jars of oil, cloth, jewels, and medicines. Sheep that could carry their own weight would have been herded along with the caravans to other markets where money could be earned.

        If this were the case, then the "Bullas" were not the origin of writing, but crude bills of lading that could be counted at the beginning and at the end of the journey to insure that what was loaded onto the camels's backs would indeed arrive safely at their destination, and the merchants there (with a different language) would be assured that the valuable items were intact. 

       A seal of approval from a ruler would have also been included so that the merchants at the caravans destination could be assured that the merchandise was of the best quality. Those without the seal of approval might not be of excellent quality.

        However, a thief is a thief, and usually one who is also in need of such commodities, [i.e. wine, cloth, silks, medicines, jewels, etc] A caravan without guards to protect the merchandise was a foolhardy expedition. Strong men, as guards [or loaders], would not necessarily be educated in. schools to learn to read and write.  By necessity, they should have been proven to be honest, and well-known to the camel drivers. Reading and writing skills were never a pre-requisite for intelligent, strong, able men who understood that money could be made without such schooling.

       Therefore, the "Bullas" would not have been for people to learn to read or write, instead it would have been an easy way to count the merchandise placed on the backs of various camels. A raid on an unguarded caravan would then entail, stripping the camels of their loads, dumping the bulla, with no regard to such "toys,'  unusable to the thieving populations of the deserts areas.

       All along caravan trails, all would have profited from such incursions.  But only if the thieves would leave most of a caravan intact so that the sender would still make a profit, the receiving merchants would be happy that most of the merchandise got through and the thieves would also profit, either by being bribed by an extra camel loaded especially for the random thief who would be smart enough to take only the token camel with its load, as a donation, and leave the rest. 

       The "Bullas" then were only a bill of lading; nothing more.  The bookkeepers at both ends of the caravan journey would be the experts who not only knew how to write in cuneiform, or other language scripts, but who also knew how to calculate prices, weigh loads, and other details that did not entail strength of body, only that of active minds.

      Across the seas, the Meso-Americans also had their own methods of avoiding and/or accommodating thieves, But that is another phase to be handled separately at a later date.

[Note: Don't forget to check out the University of the Aztecs, written earlier. How many of the disciplines were you able to find?]