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Cultic resilience and inter-city engagement at the dawn of urban history: protohistoric Mesopotamia and the ‘city seals’, 3200-2750 BC

Matthews, R. and Richardson, A. (2019) Cultic resilience and inter-city engagement at the dawn of urban history: protohistoric Mesopotamia and the ‘city seals’, 3200-2750 BC. World Archaeology. ISSN 0043-8243

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/00438243.2019.1592018

Abstract/Summary

Within the context of early urbanism, elite groups developed the world’s earliest writing in Mesopotamia, 3200-2750 BC, comprising administrative documents in the form of inscribed clay tablets. How did these proto-literate urban communities engage with each other and what strategies did they employ to address major challenges to their survival? The ‘city seal’ evidence survives as seal impressions on clay bureaucratic artefacts, both inscribed tablets and impressed sealings. These impressions feature signs representing the names of Mesopotamian cities, many of them identifiable with known sites. The documents stand at the threshold of history, as the earliest evidence for inter-city engagement. Using an innovative methodology and interpretive framework of cultic resilience, we integrate archaeometric, iconographic, and functional analyses of the earliest stages of writing and sealing, to argue that the city seal evidence provides unique insights into inter-city cooperation by Mesopotamian cities during a critical episode of early urban development.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:82627
Uncontrolled Keywords:proto-cuneiform; tablets; sealings; pXRF; iconography; bureaucracy
Publisher:Taylor & Francis

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