Cuneiform tablet: loan of silver

Old Assyrian Trading Colony

Not on view

Kültepe, the ancient city of Kanesh, was a powerful and cosmopolitan city located in northern Cappadocia in central Anatolia. During the early second millennium B.C., it became part of the network of trading settlements established across the region by merchants from Ashur (in Assyria in northern Mesopotamia). Travelling long distances by donkey caravan, and often living separately from their families, these merchants traded vast quantities of tin and textiles for gold and silver in addition to controlling the copper trade within Anatolia itself. Although the merchants adopted many aspects of local Anatolian life, they brought with them Mesopotamian tools used to record transactions: cuneiform writing, clay tablets and envelopes, and cylinder seals. Using a simplified version of the elaborate cuneiform writing system, merchants tracked loans as well as business deals and disputes, and sent letters to families and business partners back in Ashur. These texts also provide information about the greater political history of Ashur and the Anatolian city-states as well as details about the daily life of Assyrians and Anatolians who not only worked side-by-side, but also married and had children together. At Kültepe, thousands of these texts stored in household archives were preserved when fire destroyed the city in ca. 1836 B.C. and provide a glimpse into the complex and sophisticated commercial and social interactions that took place in the Near East during the beginning of the second millennium B.C.

This cuneiform text, read from left to right, documents 6 minas (c. 3 kg) of silver owed by two men to the merchant Ashur-idi. The text states one third of the loan must be paid by the next harvest and the rest at a later date. If it is not repaid by that time it will accrue interest charged at a monthly rate. Witnesses are listed in the text, and their seals appear on the clay envelope or case which contained the tablet (66.245.17b).

Cuneiform tablet: loan of silver, Clay, Old Assyrian Trading Colony

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