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Chicago Stone

Chicago Stone

This black basalt tablet, written in Sumerian, is referred to as the "Chicago Stone," and is one of the oldest known documents pertaining to Sumerian economic life. The nine columns of text inscribed on both the obverse (front) and reverse (back) of this tablet record the sale of a number of fields, probably to a single buyer. The purchases recorded were all made in silver, although in some cases additional payments in items such as oil, wool, and bread are also noted. Since most tablets were made from clay and stone was such a rare and expensive commodity in ancient Mesopotamia, its use here indicates that this document was extremely important, and that it was intended to be a permanent record. The signs on this tablet are still largely pictographic. Typical of early texts, the signs are organized into cases, which contain units of meaning, such as personal names, items with their quantities, and verbal forms; within individual cases signs could be organized based on aesthetic criteria rather than the order in which they were spoken. This tablet was read vertically from top to bottom, beginning with the left-most column of the obverse.

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