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The Question of Identity: Ethnicity, Language, Religion, and Gender

Before Islam:  Mesopotamia

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Clay Tablet and Envelope

Clay Tablet and Envelope

Often, tablet such as letters and certain legal documents were encased in “envelopes” of clay, protecting the tablet from damage and tampering. This is a tablet written in Akkadian that records the outcome of a legal case regarding a dispute between two men who claimed to own the same piece of land. The judges ruled in favor of the man who could provide documentation supporting his claim. Court officials also rolled their cylinder seals across the tablet and envelope, ensuring that the information was indeed correct.

Not everyone in Mesopotamia was literate. Learning to write took a good deal of education and throughout the course of Mesopotamian history it became more of an elite identity. In later periods, scribes even trace their scribal heritage back to ancient ancestors, and ancient scholars are considered to be advisors to the king. There were many opportunities for different scribes to work. They could work with economic texts, legal documents like the one here, letter, and literary texts among others. They also could work in various spheres of society whether in the temple, palace, or the economic spheres.

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