Account of new information on birds, eggs, and turtles


Clay tablet

Ur III, middle of Sulgi’s reign (c. 2070 B.C.E.)

Published by David I. Owen in 1981, this tablet may very well be the first extant example of a list of animals as observed in nature in an administrative text.  Bird lists were used in training for young scribes for over a thousand years; yet mention of birds is scarce if not absent in administrative texts from Mesopotamia.  There is a possibility that some birds became extinct between their mention in pre-Sargonic texts and the Third Dynasty of Ur.

This document shows new information about birds, eggs, and turtles, providing a rare glimpse into dietary practices of the Sumerians, as well as a link between the lexical, literary, and economic texts of the time.

Many of the lines describe animals that are not translatable.  However, line 3 possibly mentions a male bird or rooster; line 4 a waterfowl; line 5 a pelican; lines 6-7 ducks.  Line 32 describes thousands of turtles and turtle eggs.  Turtles were in all likelihood a common food source for the people of ancient Mesopotamia.

FLP 145

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About freelibraryrbd

The Rare Book Department is in the Parkway Central Library of the Free Library of Philadelphia.
This entry was posted in Documents, Shulgi (reigned c. 2094-2047 B.C.E.), Third Dynasty of Ur. Bookmark the permalink.

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