Tuesday, April 30, 2013
History Mystery: Ur The Legendary City Of Abraham Part.IV
From this austere discipline emerged a class of scribes on whom the entire Sumerian religious an administrative system was based. Writing was a cherished and exclusive skill, which must have seemed magical to the mass of the people. Writing tablets give the names of 500 scribes and their origins, adding up to a roll-call of privilege. The list includes the sons of civic officials, ambassadors, governors, temple officials, priests, scribes, archivists, accountants, tax collectors, officers, ships’ captains, foremen, and stewards. Only one woman is mentioned in the entire list. Perhaps she was educated at home, for chilling seems to have been a male prerogative. The scribes formed the apex of the administrative hierarchy in Ur, headed by the sovereign himself. Promotion within the administration depended perhaps as much on political muscle and royal favour as on ability. Nonetheless, there seems to have been considerable social mobility. The humble role of courier, carrying messages or escorting convoys between capital and provinces, launched many and ambitious scribe on a career, came to head the whole courier service, and later also acquired the post of an ensi (governor) of six towns, and a shagin (prefect) of the eastern provinces. The wealth of Ur came partly from the tributes it received from subject towns and from the estates owned by king and priesthood. But the city also profited from industry. Wool was mass-processed in workshops by female spinners using fleeces and goats’ hair. Linen was also woven, though it was reserved for use by priests. A group of male artisans formed a class of their own, the eren.
Most Sumerians were not city dwellers but field workers who farmed the alluvial plain. Much of the work revolved around maintaining the irrigation system: clearing channels, repairing dykes, and operating sluice – gates in times of drought. Fields were ploughed with wooden ploughshares fitted with funnels through which the seed was sown. This apparatus was the first known seed drill, which was a testament to the Sumerians’ extraordinary inventiveness – no comparable devices was used in Western Europe until the Englishman, Jethro Jull, reinvented the seed drill in the 18th century AD. A whole mythology of germination, death, and rebirth accompanied this seasonal toil. Ceremonies were held in honour of Dumuzi, the god of vegetation, whose autumn death and descent into the underworld was celebrated by a procession of female mourners, who grieved his passing to the sound of a flute. Other festivities marked Dumuzi’s resurrection, when he grew once again amid and new crop of wheat.