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The Origins of administrative practices and their developments in Greater Mesopotamia. The evidence from Arslantepe

Authors:
  • Accademia dei Lincei and Fondazione Roma Sapienza University of Rome
26
Juin 2016
numéro
Naissance de l'état, naissance de l’administration :
le rôle de l'écriture enÉgypte, au Proche-Orient et en Chine
Emergence of the state and development of the administration:
the role of writing in Egypt, Near East and China
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ARCHÉO-NIL
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BUREAU
Président :
Yann Tristant
Présidente d’honneur :
Béatrix Midant-Reynes
Vice-présidente :
Evelyne Faivre-Martin
Secrétaire :
Marie-Noël Bellessort
Secrétaire adjointe :
Laëtitia Maggio
Trésorière :
Chantal Alary
COMITÉ DE RÉDACTION
Directeur de publication :
Béatrix Midant-Reynes
Rédacteur en chef :
Yann Tristant
COMITÉ DE LECTURE
John Baines
Charles Bonnet
Nathalie Buchez
Isabella Caneva
Josep Cervelló Autuori
Éric Crubézy
Marc Étienne
Renée Friedman
Brigitte Gratien
Nicolas Grimal
Ulrich Hartung
Stan Hendrickx
Christiana Köhler
Bernard Mathieu
Dimitri Meeks
Catherine Perlès
Dominique Valbelle
Pierre Vermeersch
Pascal Vernus
Fred Wendorf
Dietrich Wildung
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COTISATIONS
Membres titulaires : 35
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MAQUETTE
Anne Toui Auber t
PHOTO DE COUVERTURE
Michel Gurfinkel
Tous droits de reproduction réservés.
Matthieu BEGON
Université Paris IV-Sorbonne
Paris (France)
matthieu.begon@live.fr
Wouter CLAES
Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire
Parc du Cinquantenaire, 10
1000 Bruxelles (Belgique)
w.claes@kmkg-mrah.be
François DESSET
Tehran University (Iran)
francois.desset@wanadoo.fr
MARCELLA FRANGIPANE
Sapienza University
Rome (Italy)
marcella.frangipane@uniroma1.it
Caleb R. HAMILTON
Monash University
Melbourne (Australia)
caleb.hamilton@monash.edu
Stan HENDRICKX
Sint-Jansstraat 44
B-3118 Werchter (Belgique)
s.hendrickx@pandora.be
Béatrix MIDANT-REYNES
CNRS, UMR 5608 TRACES
Maison de la Recherche
5, allée Antonio-Machado
31058 Toulouse Cedex 09 (France)
bmidant-reynes@yahoo.fr
Juan Carlos MORENO GARCÍA
UMR 8167 Orient & Méditerranée
CNRS/Université Paris IV
Paris (France)
jcmorenogarcia@hotmail.com
HANS J. NISSEN
The Free University of Berlin
(Germany)
nissen.hans@googlemail.com
LISTE
DES
AUTEURS
LUCA PEYRONEL
Dipartimento di Studi Classici
Umanistici e Geografici Università
IULM Milano
Via Carlo Bo, 1
20143 Milano (Italy)
luca.peyronel@iulm.it
OLIVIER ROCHECOUSTE
Department of Ancient History
Macquarie University
Sydney (Australia)
olivier.rochecouste@mq.edu.au
Yann T
RISTANT
Department of Ancient History
Macquarie University
Sydney (Australia)
Pascal VERNUS
École Pratique des Hautes Études
Paris (France)
pascal.vernus798@orange.fr
Wang HAICHENG
University of Washington
Box 353440
Seattle, WA 98195 (USA)
haicheng@uw.edu
Erratum
Il a été porté à notre attention que deux
erreurs se sont glissées dans l’article intitulé
« The Significance of Predynastic Canid
Burials in Ancient Egypt » publié par Mary
Hartley dans le volume 25 (2015) de notre
revue. Page 59, à la fin du 5e paragraphe,
l’intention de l’auteur était de faire référence
à Van Neer et al. 2004: 120 au lieu de
Friedman et al. 2011: 120. Le nom de l’auteur
a aussi été mal orthographié (« Freidman »
au lieu de « Friedman »). La rédaction
d’Archéo-Nil présente ses excuses pour les
désagréments occasionnés.
It was brought to our attention that two errors
occurred in the article entitled “The Significance
of Predynastic Canid Burials in Ancient Egypt”
published by Mary Hartley in the volume 25
(2015) of our journal. On page 59, end of the
fifth paragraph, the author’s intent was to
reference Van Neer et al. 2004: 120 instead
of Friedman et al. 2011: 120. The name of
the author was also regrettably misspelt
(“Freidman” instead of “Friedman”). Archéo-
Nil’s team sincerely apologises for any hurt or
confusion these errors may have caused.
Sommaire du n°26
5 Introduction
par Béatrix Midant-Reynes
Dossier : Naissance de l'état, naissance de l’administration :
le rôle de l'écriture en Égypte, au Proche-Orient et en Chine
Emergence of the state and development of the administration:
the role of writing in Egypt, Near East and China
9 The Origins of administrative practices and their developments
in Greater Mesopotamia. The evidence from Arslantepe
par Marcella Frangipane
33 Uruk: Early Administration Practices and the Development
of Proto-Cuneiform Writing
par Hans Nissen
49 Tablets, Sealings and Weights at Ebla: Administrative and Economic
Procedures at the beginning of the Archaic State in Syria
par Luca Peyronel
67 Proto-Elamite Writing in Iran
par François Desset
105 La naissance de l'écriture dans l'Égypte pharaonique :
une problématique revisitée
par Pascal Vernus
135 Administrative Reach and Documentary Coverage
in Ancient States
par Wang Haicheng
149 Early writing, archaic states and nascent administration:
ancient Egypt in context (late 4th-early 3rd millennium BC)
par Juan Carlos Moreno-García
Études et essais
173 Aux origines de l’exploitation pharaonique des carrières
d’Assouan? Retour sur la lecture de l’inscription du bas-relief
de Nag el-Hamdulab (NH 7, tableau 7a)
par Matthieu Begon
185 Enlightening the Enduring Engravings:
The Expeditions of Raneb
par Caleb Hamilton
205 Bibliography of the Prehistory and the Early Dynastic Period
of Egypt and Northern Sudan. 2016 Addition
par Stan Hendrickx & Wouter Claes
Lectures
225 À propos de Angela Sophia La Loggia, Engineering and
Construction in Egypt's Early Dynastic Period, Peeters,
Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 239.
Leuven, Paris, Bristol, CT, 2015.
par Olivier Rochecouste
227 À propos de Frank Förster & Heiko Riemer (eds), Desert Road
Archaeology in Ancient Egypt and Beyond, Heinrich-Barth
Institut, Africa Praehistorica 27. Cologne, 2013.
par Yann Tristant
229 À propos de Pierre Tallet, La zone minière pharaonique
du Sud-Sinaï II. Les inscriptions pré- et protodynastiques
du Ouadi ‘Ameyra (CCIS nos 273-335), Institut français
d’archéologie orientale, Mémoires de l’Institut Français
d’Archéologie Orientale 132. Le Caire, 2015.
par Yann Tristant
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e debate on the origins of administrative
practices in the Near East has oen over-
lapped and coincided with the debate on the
origins of the State, since the formation of
bureaucratic-administrative structures under-
pinned the political structure of the early
centralised societies, and led to a radical, and
oen irreversible, change in the system of
relations. In the late 1970s and early 1980s,
the origins of “bureaucracy” was considered
to be an essential indicator of the presence of
the State, in that it revealed the typical ways in
which central politics were managed (Wright
& Johnson 1975; Wright 1977). Quite rightly,
the existence of administrative systems was
considered to reect a system of delegated
powers vested in individuals and institutions
with specic administrative functions, which
brought about a historic transformation from
being tribal societies, in which the authority
of a paramount chief was inalienable and non-
transferable and legitimised on the basis of
the social and kinship relations on which the
structure of the community itself was based,
to becoming centralised political societies in
which the all-embracing central power could
be delegated to individuals who were not nec-
essarily blood-related, and who were bound
to the leader by relations of subordination and
faithfulness (Claessen & Skalnìk 1978).
Contributions from more recent archaeo-
logical research in the Near East, which was
a ‘primary’ State formation area, has never-
theless shown that the need to ‘administer’
goods arose long before that transformation
occurred, from the time of the Early Neolithic
communities in Upper Mesopotamia (Jezi-
rah) at the end of the 7th millennium BCE
(Akkermans & Duistermaat 1996). And it is
very interesting to see that even though that
need must have arisen in connection with the
production of food surpluses, as cropping and
livestock raising took root, it was not found in
all, but only in certain, types of Neolithic com-
munities.
We must therefore ask ourselves: (1) what were
the needs, and the contexts, in which control-
ling the movement of goods, and possibly the
need to record them, became necessary; (2)
what was the impact on the social and political
relations of the groups in which those needs
arose and became established.
The Origins of administrative practices and
their developments in Greater Mesopotamia.
The evidence from Arslantepe
Marcella Frangipane, Sapienza University, Rome, Italy
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Marcella Frangipane
family?), but not open to collective sharing
by the whole community or large sections
of it (Hodder 2006; Hodder & Pels 2010;
Düring 2006). Even on the westernmost
sites in the so-called Lakes Region, such
as Hacilar, Bademağacı, or Höyücek, or in
the Izmir province, such as Ulucak (Duru
2008; Çilingiroğlu et al. 2012; Özdoğan
et al. 2012), the domestic equipment and
traces of activities have always been found
either inside the house or just outside it,
adjoining the perimeter walls. In such
contexts, in which foodstus seem to have
been processed and stored in the home, and
were therefore under a household manage-
ment system, it is hardly surprising that no
administrative control systems developed,
for they would have been of no use with this
type of economic management of the con-
sumption and circulation of goods. We have
no idea what the central and western Ana-
tolian stamps were used for, but it is rather
unlikely that they indicate any full-edged
administrative activities.
Conversely, the Neolithic societies that
developed in the Syro-Iraqi Jezirah aer
the end of Pre-pottery Neolithic were quite
dierent. Here, as early as the rst occupa-
tion of the region in the 7th millennium,
the archaeological data reveal the exist-
ence of agro-pastoralist societies made of
small groups with a possible high degree of
mobility and forms of group specialisation,
who seem to have been organised on the
basis of very close cooperation between vil-
lages within the territory. Evidence has been
found of the specialised hunting of gazelle
and wild asses both in the pre-Hassuna phase
(7th millennium BCE), at Umm-Dhabaghi-
yah (Kirkbride 1975), and in the later Halaf
period (6th millennium BCE) (Akkermans
1993; Akkermans & Wittman 1993), which
suggests that these products circulated,
perhaps with others, between dierent vil-
lages within the territory (Frangipane 2007;
2013; Nieuwenhuyse et al. 2013). e wide
extent of the cultural areas sharing ways of
life, types of economies, types of dwellings,
ceramics and other objects are evidence
of intense interaction between the groups
throughout an extremely vast region, while
The origin of administration
in the Neolithic
e unexpected discovery of hundreds of
cretulae in the so-called “burnt village” of
the Early Ceramic Neolithic at Sabi Abyad,
on the River Balikh in western Jezirah, gave
rise to new ideas regarding the economic
and social reasons for the origins of admin-
istration (Akkermans 1996; Akkermans &
Duistermaat 1996; Frangipane 2000). Even
though seals, or pintaderas, have been found
in various Neolithic sites in the Near East –
from Upper Mesopotamia to Anatolia and
the Levant – it is only in certain contexts
that we nd any evidence of the ‘adminis-
trative’ use of seals.
In the central-western Anatolian sites, the
seals found there have not (at least, so far)
been matched by corresponding seal impres-
sions, and are oen made of terracotta. is
material would not have been appropriate
if the seals were expected to be preserved
for a long time; and if they were intended
for administrative use as a means of iden-
tifying individuals (or groups, should the
seals be appended by a representative of a
whole group), they would have had to last at
least for the lifetime of the individual using
them and keeping them safe. e motifs
found on the seals, moreover, were mostly
very simple geometric designs and in some
cases repeated identically in dierent con-
texts and on dierent sites, which would
mean that they did not symbolise any spe-
cic personal identity (Fig. 1). At all events,
the Neolithic societies in both central and
western Anatolia seem to have been seden-
tary family-based agricultural communi-
ties, where families appear to have played a
crucial role as the basic economic and social
unit. is is shown from (a) the domestic
architecture, in which the house was the
hub around which all their daily activities,
including storage, revolved, (b) the funerary
ideology in which the home was used for
burials, (c) the almost total absence of com-
mon areas, except for the large courtyards
at Çatal Höyük, which at all events were
enclosed spaces shared by several houses
(perhaps belonging to the same extended
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The Origins of administrative practices and their developments in Greater Mesopotamia
the layout of the villages, which included
wide open spaces for activities in common
(with numerous outdoor implements and
equipment that cannot be precisely related
to any specic houses) and large storage
buildings, perhaps for the whole commu-
nity or for broad sections of it, suggest that
the main production and consumption
unit (Flannery 1972) must have been the
group as a whole, whether the entire vil-
lage, or other large social entities, such as an
extended clan.
It was within this socio-economic context
that the use of seals and sealings became
very widespread. We have signicant, albeit
indirect, evidence from the Halaf period of
the widespread use of these practices: large
numbers of stone seals, mostly bearing geo-
metric motifs, but with a wide variety of
sealing surface shapes probably intended
to better distinguish between the dierent
seals, was associated with the presence of a
number of clay-sealings (von Wickede 1990)
(Fig. 2a). Large store-buildings have also
been identied in some villages, such as at
Sabi Abyad, where a large storage structure
has been also brought to light in an Early
Halaf phase (level 3) (Akkermans 1996:
84-105), and most likely on other sites, such
as Yarim Tepe (Yoee & Clark 1993), where
large cell-buildings might have been used as
collective storage facilities.
e ultimate proof of a full-edged admin-
istrative system for controlling the circula-
tion of staple products in the Neolithic of
Upper Mesopotamia has however emerged
from the ndings in the earliest Neolithic
phase at Sabi Abyad, in the famous “burnt
village” of level 6 (Akkermans 1996: 38-63;
Verhoeven 1999), in which a complex of
stores made up of adjacent cell buildings has
been brought to light containing hundreds
of cretulae. Most of them were piled up in
a small room without any containers, sug-
gesting that they must have been kept there
aer being used and then removed (Fig. 2c)
(Akkermans 1996; Duistermaat 1996). e
discovery and study of the thousands of
later cretulae at Arslantepe (Frangipane et
al. 2007) has also enabled us to understand
the way this very ancient system operated.
It indeed appears to have been almost cer-
tainly based on the same principles: 1- e
seal was applied by the person withdrawing
the goods – and the very large number of
dierent seal designs (about 65) recognised
from the impressions at Sabi Abyad demon-
strates that, since so many individuals had
Fig. 1
Baked clay stamps
(‘pintaderas’) from
Neolithic sites
in Central and
Western Anatolia.
a-d. from
Çatal Höyük
(a-c. Redrawn
from Mellaart
1967: fig. 121;
d. Redrawn from
Hodder 2006:
fig.75);
e-f. from
Bademag
˜acı
(redrawn from
Duru 2008:
fig. 189).
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Marcella Frangipane
Fig. 2
Administration in Upper Mesopotamia in the Neolithic period (7th-6th millennia BC). a. Stone seals from the Halaf period (from von Wickede
1990: ns. 183, 166, 155, 207, 143, 150, 164, 57, 161, 171 – from top to bottom and from left to right); b. Seal designs recognized from
the impressions (cretulae) found in the store buildings in the Early Neolithic village (level 6 ) at Sabi Abyad (from Duistermaat 1996: fig. 5.3);
c. The store buildings at Sabi Abyad, level 6 (from Akkermans 1996: fig. 2.7). The dark grey colour indicates the room with the maximum
concentration of cretulae.
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The Origins of administrative practices and their developments in Greater Mesopotamia
the circulation of products that we have
suggested for the pre-Hassuna, Hassuna and
Halaf societies, based on other archaeologi-
cal evidence (Frangipane 2007; 2013). is
type of organization alone might explain the
need for a Neolithic agro-pastoralist society
to share goods in common, then nding
ways and means of managing them properly
and fairly.
In this case, then, the social, political, and
economic function of administration was
to maintain relations of equality and equity
within the group by enhancing coopera-
tion and collectivisation in the management
of goods (Frangipane 2000; 2007). ere
would have been no point in sealing con-
tainers and putting in place sophisticated
instruments of control in a purely family-
based economy and society, where the food
was stored in the house, as was the case in
other Neolithic societies in the Near East
and the Mediterranean regions.
The development
of administrative systems
in the 5th millennium
Straddling the 6th and 5th millennia in north-
ern Mesopotamia, a far-reaching change
occurred in the societies occupying Jezirah
which, for reasons that are still unclear and
the subject of debate, increasingly resem-
bled the southern model of Ubaid society
as their economic and social structures
became more hierarchical and internally
unequal (Breniquet 1996; Forest 1996:
53-115; Frangipane 2007). In these regions,
this process marked the starting of political
and to some extent economic centralisation,
revolving around new ‘temple’ institutions
and probably high status persons perform-
ing the rituals, which were wholly unknown
in the Halaf phases. Collective stores dis-
appeared, and large tripartite houses were
adopted in the north – although they were
smaller than their prototypes in the south
– in various regions, from the areas lying
east of the Tigris (Tepe Gawra, lev. XV-XII:
Tobler 1950; Rothman 2002) to the Turk-
ish Upper Euphrates valley (Değirmentepe,
applied a seal, they would not have been
the store-keepers but the users of the stores;
2- e attached seal on the cretula was the
proof of the transaction performed and
identied the person performing it, in other
words it was the equivalent of placing a sig-
nature (the seal impression) on a receipt
(the cretula). And this is the reason why the
cretulae were kept aside aer being removed
to testify the legitimacy of the operations
carried out by the storekeeper. As we have
seen at Arslantepe, aer removal, the cretu-
lae were almost certainly stored for a certain
period as a record of the operations carried
out and were kept in a controlled place,
which, in the Sabi Abyad case, was the store
itself. e majority of the cretulae found in
the ‘burnt village’ actually came from a small
cell-room in the storage building complex
where there were no containers nor stored
cereals (Akkermans & Duistermaat 1996;
Verhoeven 1999), thus suggesting the cretu-
lae were piled up there aer being removed
(Fig. 2c).
It is interesting to notice that the numer-
ous iconographies were grouped together
by categories of similar motifs (Duistermaat
1996) (Fig. 2b). Considering the egalitarian
structure that have probably typied this
7thmillennium Neolithic society, the dier-
ent iconographic groups may have referred
to family or clanic groups, whereas the indi-
vidual seals, diering in their details, would
have distinguished the individual members
of these groups operating in the stores with
‘administrative’ responsibilities.
e reason for pooling goods (perhaps
harvests) in these contexts has been con-
vincingly suggested by Akkermans & Duis-
termaat (1996), who argue that it was a
society with a mixed economy and a dual
production structure (cropping and ani-
mal husbandry), in which some members
of the group would have to leave the village
as transhumant pastoralists and therefore
have to entrust their property to others (the
store-keepers), ensuring that they would be
able to retrieve it on their return to the vil-
lage. is type of organisation is perfectly
consistent with the type of economy and
territorial organisation of production and
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Marcella Frangipane
in the Malatya plain: Esin 1994; Gurdil
2010), and in all the phases of the so-called
“Northern Ubaid” period. Archaeologi-
cal evidence of the increasing inequalities
between the members of society is shown,
especially in the nal phase of this period,
by the existence of few houses which were
larger than others (see Gawra XII) and by
the beginning of the mass production of
bowls (known as the Coba bowls), probably
to be used to distribute food in non-house-
hold environments, perhaps by preeminent
persons or families, who operated in both
the public and private spheres.
e new ‘Northern Ubaid’ societies adopted
from the Neolithic communities of the
region the use of seals for administrative
purposes (which had been unknown until
the very end of the Ubaid period in the
southern Mesopotamian alluvial plain), but
the administrative procedures were now
mainly used in the temple or public areas,
where food seems to have been ceremonially
redistributed in feastings and commensal
events (Helwing 2003; Pollock 2012), and in
the tripartite houses (Esin 1994), in which
plentiful concentrations of administrative
materials have been found in the larger
and most important buildings, such as the
White Room’ in level XII at Tepe Gawra
(Rothman 2002). e procedures and the
administrative technology developed in the
Neolithic age in these regions to meet the
need to guarantee the equitable distribution
of primary goods between socially equal
groups in egalitarian societies with a col-
lective management of the staple economy,
appear to have remained unchanged, while
the economic and social function of the
sealing operations was reversed: the earlier
purpose of seals as a means of maintain-
ing equality and equal access to the goods
and commodities produced, now became a
tool for the discriminatory distribution of
resources by preeminent persons to further
enhance their privileges (Frangipane2000).
e concentration and redistribution of
food no longer took place in collective
structures, but by now they were probably
controlled by “élite” groups, whether they
were the leaders of the community, who also
gained prestige, authority and consensus
thanks to these redistributions, or members
of pre-eminent families who had acquired
more resources and means of production,
and needed the work of other less fortunate
members of the community to make these
means fully productive. In these contexts, as
a matter of fact, cretulae were always found
associated with large numbers of mass-pro-
duced bowls, suggesting that the main type
of activity subject to administrative control
was the distribution of meals.
e motifs found on the seals, which were
still stamp-seals, gradually became more
frequently gurative, depicting both animal
and human gures and even scenes, albeit
schematic, codied, and compressed on
the seals (Fig. 3). At both Tepe Gawra and
Değirmentepe, where numerous assem-
blages of cretulae have been unearthed, these
bore complex and dierentiated images,
while widely shared iconographic codes (for
example, the way of representing gures in
space or recurrent animal types) and ‘styles’
expressing specic cultural identities were
at the same time being developed. e glyp-
tic production, in other words, was increas-
ingly dening more highly specialised
crasmanship that was taking on increasing
social importance, probably linked to the
increasing economic and political impor-
tance of administration. Even the sealed
containers, in the few cases in which they
have been identied, varied considerably in
terms of their categories and the type of clo-
sures (Esin 1994).
e main concentration of cretulae in the
areas connected with cultic buildings and in
certain tripartite houses seem to have been
consistent with the gradual establishment,
throughout the broader Mesopotamian
world (the so-called Greater Mesopotamia),
of a system of increasingly centralised staple
economy in the hands of leaders and socially
pre-eminent individuals. ese, in the exer-
cise of their authority, appear to have used
highly eective instruments of ideological/
religious legitimisation, but must also have
been able to exploit the economic inequali-
ties which were being created to their advan-
tage in the ‘private’ sphere. is system was
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The Origins of administrative practices and their developments in Greater Mesopotamia
to become the main feature of Mesopota-
mian societies, and between the end of the
5th and the beginning of the 4th millennium,
societies with forms of economic and insti-
tutional-political control exercised by the
most powerful members of the community
over the weaker ones began to be developed.
Administration played a key role in this
process, by contributing as before to main-
taining the social order which, nevertheless,
had radically changed. e people using
the administrative tool no longer did so to
guarantee meeting the common needs of
the community but to work on behalf of
certain social categories, who used these
tools to enhance their privileges and govern
their prerogatives.
The total establishment of
centralised administration
and bureaucracy in the
4th millennium BCE
e authority and economic domination of
the élites expanded considerably in the course
of the 4th millennium, and is manifested in
both their daily life activities (the evidence
from the pre-eminent residential area at Jebel
Aruda is signicant in this respect: van Driel
& van Driel-Murray 1983; Frangipane &
Palmieri 1988-89), and the economic choices
of the ruling class that they embodied, whose
political economy was based on the centrali-
sation of staple products.
Once again, not all the Late Chalcolithic
and Early Bronze hierarchical societies with
political leadership of the Near East adopted
administrative systems based on the use of
cretulae and seals. roughout the 4th mil-
lennium and in part of the third, there was
nothing of the kind, for instance, in Western
and Central Anatolia, and only to a small
extent in the Levant. In these regions, we
presume that there were also hierarchical
societies headed by élites, but their relations
with the population and their economic poli-
cies appear to have been very dierent, and
there is no evidence of any central interfer-
ence in the staple economy of their commu-
nity (Frangipane 2010). e sophisticated
administration system that developed in
the 4th millennium Mesopotamian societies
were bound up, as we have already pointed
out, with their specic economic system that
was based on the centralised management of
staple goods, the means for producing them
(land and livestock), and the labour force.
e Mesopotamian ruling classes, by making
the system nancing them and their public
Fig. 3
Seal designs from
the Ubaid Period
at Tepe Gawra
(from Forest
1996: fig. 77).
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of staple products, was established as early
as the end of the fourth millennium (Wen-
grow 2006; Wenke 2009). Here, given the
strongly top-down character of Egyptian
society, which was less ‘stratied’ than Mes-
opotamian society and with less widespread
distribution of power, the system seems to
have been essentially concentrated in the
hands of the central institutions.
Administration thereby became an instru-
ment of power and even the imagery on
the seals radically changed from originally
being simply icons and symbols of personal
or group identities, to becoming “narra-
tives” which expressed and entrenched the
ideology of power (Fig. 4). And it is quite
likely that the emergence of the cylinder
seal around the mid-4th millennium BCE
had to do with this new ‘secondary’ function
(but of primary importance) of supporting
a kind of “state art”. Recent studies on the
glyptic looking beyond the traditional art-
history approach, have widely examined the
various dierent functions of the images on
the seals, as the expression of ideological
aspects relating to the exercise of power, or
as ways of representing possible social cate-
gories and activities perceived as important
in the economic systems involved, while at
the same time looking at the seals as reec-
tion of interregional relations (Pittman
1993; 1994; 2001).
activities revolve around the staple economy,
accumulated perishable goods (the central
stores in the Uruk world, where they have
been brought to light, seem to have been use
to keep foodstus), and had continuously to
reinvest them in the form of remuneration
for work, making foodstu production to
further expand in a self-perpetuating circuit.
In other words, it was a kind of ‘entrepre-
neurial’ system in which the outgoing goods
were as important as the incoming goods,
and, with the expansion of the activities
and sectors kept under control, the admin-
istrative management of these movements
became increasingly more crucial to the
sound operation of the system as a whole.
e systematic use of administrative prac-
tices also made it possible to delegate tasks
and powers to ocials who were now able
to manage goods on behalf of the central
authority. By doing so, they also became
a tool of third-party political control over
territories and people, creating a network
of institutional intermediaries and codes
of conduct forming the core of the birth
of the State. And it is no coincidence that
the only other area of the Near East where
this system was soon adopted – probably by
acquiring it, directly or indirectly, from the
Mesopotamian world – was Egypt, where a
highly centralised State structure, probably
also largely based on the control of the ows
Fig. 4
Seal designs from
the Uruk period
in Southern
Mesopotamia
and Susiana.
a-c. from Uruk-
Warka (a. from
Boehmer 1999:
Abb. 121; b. from
M.A. Brandes
1979: taf.30;
c. from Boehmer
1999: Taff.
17 and 35);
d. from Susa
(Amiet 1972:
n. 646).
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The Origins of administrative practices and their developments in Greater Mesopotamia
It is possible that the prior knowledge of the
seal as an administrative tool in the Neo-
lithic of Jezirah drove its adoption and sub-
sequent development in the Mesopotamian
world, albeit in widely dierent contexts.
But this adoption was certainly the result
of needs brought about by a particular eco-
nomic and political system in which the
centralised management of the movement
of primary goods prevailed, as had also been
the case in the widely diverse environments
in which the seal came into being.
Centralisation in both contexts entailed the
accumulation of goods for redistribution,
but in the new Early State society, the central-
ised economy would appear to have mainly
revolved around the control of the labour
force, suggesting that the means of produc-
tion which that labour force was expected to
render productive, were probably also being
centralised. e regular “redistribution” of
part of the incoming goods was the core of
the economic and administrative activity
of the rst central institutions (temple and
palace), which made it possible to remuner-
ate and support the labour force (with food
distributions) and to nance the activities
of the ruling élites (with the distributions
of resources to be put to use, such as lands
of be farmed, raw materials to be processed,
livestock to be tended, etc.). It is therefore
the outgoing goods that became the focal
point of the “central” economies in the Mes-
opotamian world from the 4th millennium
BCE, and this required the further develop-
ment of administrative tools to be used for
controlling these movements and account-
ing for them.
The cretula:
features and functions
Pioneering functional studies conducted
on cretulae by Enrica Fiandra in the 1960s
on items unearthed in the palace at Festos,
in Creta, and, later, on many other assem-
blages from the Near East (Fiandra 1968;
1975; 1981; Ferioli et al 1994; 1996), which
have more recently been followed by other
scholars from dierent countries (Reichel
2001; 2002), focused on the value of the cre-
tula as an administrative and economic tool,
which, being the material proof of transac-
tions, became full-edged “documents” of
the transactions themselves, and not merely
the means of protecting the goods against
violations.
e political and economic signicance of
the use of cretulae varied, as already men-
tioned, depending on the societies in which
they were used and on the dominant social
and economic relations within those socie-
ties. But once codied, their administra-
tive meaning and signicance remained
unchanged for a long time. As Enrica Fian-
dra has pointed out many times, the cretula
is a neutral tool in se, but it acquires extraor-
dinary potential for revealing economic
models and relations as soon as it is studied
in terms of its specic applications and in
specic contexts.
e object and contexts of the sealing pro-
cedures (public, private, communal), the
number of people involved with responsibil-
ities to apply seals, the type of container that
each of them sealed, the ways the sealings
were attached, removed and possibly stored
temporarily aer removal, the particular
places in which they were used, their con-
centration and their subsequent dumping,
are all crucial elements for an understand-
ing not only of the way the administrative
procedures operated, but also of the organi-
sation of “bureaucracy” and the very nature
of the economic systems which were gov-
erned by these procedures.
The Arslantepe cretulae:
The reconstruction of a
sophisticated administrative
system in the era of State
formation
e painstaking and interdisciplinary study
of the vast corpus of thousands of cretulae
(almost 2200 pieces still bore the impres-
sions of the seals and the sealed objects)
found in the late 4th millennium monumental
public area at Arslantepe-Malatya (Turkey)
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Fig. 5
Arslantepe, period VIA (Late Chalcolithic 5,
3370-3100 BC). Plan of the palace with
the indication of the areas where cretulae
were mainly concentrated.
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The Origins of administrative practices and their developments in Greater Mesopotamia
in terms of three main typologies: (a) cre-
tulae still in use on containers (found on
the ground near the containers, under col-
lapsed buildings), found in the rooms where
the transactions were performed; (b) cretu-
lae momentarily set aside aer removal and
found piled together in the same places in
which the operations had taken place; (c)
cretulae discarded in large numbers in spe-
cial spaces within the palace complex, which
had been re-used specically for the dump-
ing of this particular administrative mate-
rials, thus preventing them to be dispersed
and, on the contrary, maintaining them
‘under control’, even aer they were not in
use any more. In some cases, these dumps,
which also included other discarded items
such as pottery, animal bones and seeds,
seem to have also had a secondary purpose,
namely, to ll up small spaces no longer in
use, preparing the areas for future building
reconstructions or modications. is is the
case of room A430, which was divided into
two halves by building a dividing wall, with
one part of the room being partially lled
up and no longer used (Fig.6). e discard-
ing of the cretulae almost certainly took
place aer checking them, and “accounting”
for them, as shown by their ‘orderly’ distri-
bution in the stratigraphy of the dumps, and
may have marked the end of the cycle of
operations or perhaps the end of an adminis-
trative period. ere were actually two main
types of cretulae dumps in the Arslantepe
palace: 1- Small groups of fairly homogene-
ous materials resulting from similar types
of operations, perhaps accounted for and
immediately discarded aer completing a
specic series of transactions (A434, Fran-
gipane et al. 2007: 145-147); 2- e system-
atic and nal dumping of all the materials at
the end of a whole cycle of transactions or
of a particular administrative period (A206
and A77) (Frangipane et al 2007: 68-111;
126-136; 425-465) (Fig.6).
The Cretulae in situ in the rooms in
which the operations were transacted
e rst type of ndings (a), that is to say,
cretulae which must have originally been
still attached to the containers, was almost
(period VI A, Late Chalcolithic 5, Late Uruk
in Mesopotamia), has made it possible to
thoroughly investigate the structure of this
very ancient centralised administrative
system, and to understand the way it oper-
ated, while also recognising its structural
and functional features. ese features can
therefore be generalised and extended to
apply to other similar contexts in the Meso-
potamian world and, in more general terms,
to the rst Early State societies in the Near
East (Frangipane et al. 2007). e cretulae
at Arslantepe, which were all found in situ
in substantial assemblages concentrated in
several dierent points in the early palatial
complex (Fig. 5), have enabled us to recog-
nise and conrm clearly and with documen-
tary evidence the procedures and the phases
in the administrative activities performed
in a centralised political system, at a time
when the institution of the state was coming
into being. e analysis has also conrmed
the insight of E. Fiandra regarding the mul-
tiple functions of the cretulae, as a means
of guaranteeing the goods conserved and
as the document of the transactions con-
ducted on them (Fiandra 1981), making it
quite clear that this object category would,
on its own, provide data of primary impor-
tance for an understanding of the opera-
tion of early administrative systems before
and without writing. Since it was not di-
cult to break a clay-sealing, the purpose of
sealing the goods was not only to prevent
the, but also to provide evidence of the
integrity of the contents and give proof of
lawfully performed transactions to the per-
sons who owned the goods. In order to give
“legitimacy” to the opening of a particular
container, the clay sealing that had been
removed, or some part of it, had to be tem-
porarily kept as a document-receipt for the
transaction.
e cretulae at Arslantepe comprised six
main assemblages, composed of thousands
of fragments found in dierent places within
the large palatial complex, and were the
result of dierent operations conducted in
various operational phases in the sequence
of administrative activities (Fig. 5). ese
assemblages can in fact be grouped together
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Fig. 6 • Arslantepe, period VIA. The administrative dumps in the palace.
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Fig. 7 • Arslantepe, period VIA. The storeroom A340 with materials in situ: plan (a), photo (b), and reconstruction (c).
© Drawing by A. Siracusano.
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fallen debris of the room of numerous cre-
tulae mostly bearing the impressions of the
same seals and the same containers as those
found on the ground moreover suggests that
the materials may have subsequently been
taken to an upper storey or balcony, from
where they must have fallen down (Fig. 7c).
A total of 175 cretulae were found in the
storeroom A340, which, taken as a whole,
are evidence of ongoing activities and the
temporary setting-aside of the cretulae aer
removal.
Inside the stores no substantial storage of
seeds have been found – despite the fact
that they remain preserved for millennia
once they have been charred – but only
a few fragments of wheat and barley that
were possibly leovers from grinding. e
numerous containers, varying in shape and
size (Fig. 8b), however, show that food was
stored there, obviously already processed or
milled into meal, of which no archaeological
traces remain1. Liquids must also have been
plentiful there, judging from the numerous
ceramic bottles, oen with a spout for pour-
ing, mostly found in the large store.
e small group of grape pips found in a
bowl in the distribution store also shows
that the grape or grape products were kept
there.
Meat must also have played an important
part in the food distribution system, judg-
ing from the large numbers of animal bones
(more than 1,000) found in room A340.
e fact that large numbers of people went
regularly to the palace to receive food rations
or daily meals indicates the total or partial
“handing-over” of labour services for the
benet of the central institutions and their
rulers. Regular services provided by large
sections of the population were therefore
probably mainly remunerated with food dis-
tributions, not only in occasional or ceremo-
nial events, but in the form of proper “wages,
distributed in ‘secular’ areas of the palace
complex (storerooms and courtyard) under
the close control of a network of ocials.
entirely discovered in the re-distribution
store A340, where numerous cretulae were
found on the ground beside the contain-
ers to which they were presumably linked
(g. 7) (Frangipane et al. 2007: 31-38;
11-126; 415-425). e fact that this room
was used for food redistribution was evi-
denced precisely by these cretulae and by
more than 100 wheel-made mass-produced
bowls (g. 8). Only two cretulae-stoppers on
necked jars were found close to the contain-
ers in the main room of Temple B (A450),
where no distribution practices were per-
formed involving the population (Frangi-
pane et al. 2007: 43-47).
In the same places – storeroom A 340 and
Temple B – the second type of materials
(b) were unearthed, namely, the removed
cretulae set aside temporarily. Once again,
in Temple B, the operations had been con-
ducted on a smaller scale, perhaps only
occasionally, and the procedure of setting
aside the cretulae is somewhat uncertain
because only a small group of materials have
been found there, perhaps kept in a bag
(there are also vestiges of straw or fabric)
near one of the two windows connecting
the main room A450 with a side entrance
room (A809).
A large quantity of removed cretulae were
conversely found in A 340, in the corner
near the door/window leading to the court-
yard, through which various categories of
individuals (workers?) entered the room
to withdraw food (Fig. 7 a, c). e mas-
sive presence of cretulae in this corner of
the room, where there were no containers,
clearly shows that this material had been
temporarily set aside, judging from the
fact that many of them had certainly been
removed from the same containers in the
room, as evidenced from an analysis of the
impressions le by the containers on their
back side. e containers seem therefore to
have been repeatedly opened and re-sealed,
perhaps by the same individuals, on succes-
sive days. e presence in the layers of the
Fig. 8
Arslantepe, period
VIA. Sealings,
seal designs and
pottery from the
redistribution
room A340.
1. Bio-chemical analyses have been attempted at the time of the discovery of the storerooms, but, probably due to
less sophisticated analytical methods at the time of the storerooms discovery, the results were unsatisfying. The com-
pleted restoration of the vessels (now kept in the Malatya museum) makes new analyses rather impossible.
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© drawings by T. D’Este and M. Cabua; © photos by R. Ceccacci)
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(Fig. 9c). At least 11 dierent types of sealed
objects and ways of closing them have been
recognised: vases closed with cloth, leather
and lids, sacks, perhaps baskets, and doors,
each closed in dierent ways (Fig. 9a). Eight
dierent specic doors have been recog-
nised by E. Fiandra and P. Ferioli, closed in
two dierent ways: with door pegs and with
wooden locks, the latter indicating a more
complex access system (Fig. 9b) (Frangipane
et al. 2007: 61-111). What is interesting here,
as Enrica Fiandra has pointed out many
times, is that the strings were never knot-
ted, but were only plaited or placed together,
showing that the main purpose of the cre-
tulae was not so much to make the closure
safe, but rather to document the legitimacy
of the opening and closing operations.
ere were the impressions of 127 dif-
ferent seals, indicating that there were at
least 127 people performing administrative
duties, probably comprising internal o-
cials and representatives of groups of the
population or teams of workers who had
served during the relatively short period of
time to which the archive refers (the rela-
tively short duration of the entire dumping
process is indicated by the presence of the
same seal impressions in both the upper and
lower layers of the dump).
e operations that can be inferred from the
discarded archive seem to refer to dierent
types of transactionsgrouped in order and
discarded one aer the other, perhaps aer
having been checked and/or accounted: In
the upper layers (4 to 8) the large majority
of vessel sealings (Fig. 9c) together with a
very large number of seals impressed on the
cretulae, used oen only once or two-three
times (Fig. 11b), suggest that the materi-
als found in these layers may refer to regu-
lar distributions of goods, very likely food
(indicated by the vessels), to large numbers
of people (indicated by the very numerous
persons responsible of the withdrawals).
e substantial prevalence of sacks and the
high number of door sealings in the middle
(14-26) and lower (17-18) layers, combined
with a sharp reduction in the number of the
seals employed, almost each of which was
axed many times, may conversely sug-
We do not know if the leaders imposed
tributes to the population, but they cer-
tainly organized in a new way labour ser-
vices as the managers of public aairs. is
indirectly means that they must have had
possessions to be made productive by this
labour force: elds to be farmed, ocks to be
grazed, and raw materials to be processed
into nished products. It was by controlling
such a large labour force that they gradually
increased their wealth and power.
Cretulae discarded after preliminary
ordering
Most of the cretulae (1934 well-preserved
fragments) were found in dumps, where, as
already indicated, they had been discarded
in several successive layers of waste of
administrative materials. ese places were
in small rooms or spaces set aside for the
purpose in various parts of the palace. e
main dump was in a small long and narrow
room (A206) set into the western wall of the
large access corridor, where almost 5000
fragments of cretulae had been dumped
together with hundreds of mass-produced
bowls and other discarded waste, in 18 suc-
cessive thin layers. Among these fragments,
1728 cretulae still bore the legible impres-
sion of the seal and/or the sealed container.
e other two dumping places contained a
far smaller number of cretulae – 136 in one
narrow room in Temple A (A77) and 70
in room A430 – suggesting that the cretu-
lae were discarded in dierent ways prob-
ably according to dierent types or areas of
activity, perhaps varying in duration and
intensity of operations.
Dump A206, must have been the nal waste
of an “administrative period” and/or a series
of several types of transactions, judging by
the number of the accumulated layers, the
vast number of cretulae, their variety in
terms of seals and sealed containers, and
from the way they were ordered in recognis-
able groups in the various successive dump-
ing operations.
e layers can be grouped into series of suc-
cessive piles, each of which was character-
ised by cretulae bearing the impression of
the same seals and the same sealed objects
Fig. 9
Arslantepe,
period VIA.
a-b. Sealed
containers and
doors identified
from the
impressions by
E. Fiandra and
P. Ferioli
(drawing by T. D'Este);
c. The
stratigraphic
section of the
main cretulae
dump A206 with
the indication of
cretulae sealing
different objects
in the three main
groups of layers.
From Frangipane
et al. 2007.
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© drawing by T. D'Este
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Fig. 10 • Arslantepe, period VIA. Cretulae and seal designs recognized from the impressions from the main dump A206.
© drawings by T. D’Este and M. Cabua; © photos by R. Ceccacci.
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Fig. 11 • Arslantepe, period VIA.
a. The proposed hierarchy of officials
based on seals sealing doors;
b. The distribution of seal designs
in the layers of A 206 dump. From
Frangipane et al. 2007.
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on dierent types of transactions or super-
visors with broader powers, suggesting
the rise of high-rank gures in the palace
administration and the emergence of a com-
plex hierarchical bureaucracy (Fig. 11a).
is system, mainly used to control the
withdrawals of goods for redistribution pur-
poses to people working for the palace, may
have involved a large number of individuals
perhaps of dierent origins. e study of the
seal designs has made it possible to recog-
nise several and clearly distinct styles and
iconographic patterns, a trait that is pecu-
liar to the Arslantepe glyptic in comparison
with other Near Eastern contexts (Fig. 10)
(Pittman, in Frangipane et al. 2007: 284-
338). is variety probably had to do with
the low level of urbanisation at the site and
with the inclusion of various communities
from the surrounding territory (rural vil-
lages, pastoralist groups, etc.) in the central-
ised economic-administrative system of the
Arslantepe palace.
The 4th millennium
administrative systems at
Arslantepe: a few concluding
remarks
e economic and administrative cen-
tralisation at Arslantepe had an important
precedent in the occurrence of substantial
assemblages of cretulae in two imposing
buildings, which we can today consider as
part of a mid 4th millennium temple area
(period VII, Late Chalcolithic 3-4), prior to
the layout of the period VIA palace (Fig.12).
Groups of seal impressions were found in
two small rooms, one in each building: in
the so-called Temple C, which has been
fully excavated, the cretulae were found
in one of the side rooms, perhaps held up
aer removal and apparently having fallen
from an upper storey; in Temple D, which
came to light in the 2015 campaign and is
only partially excavated, numerous cretulae
had been conversely dumped to feel a little
corner room, presumably a stairwell, and
probably marked the nal destination of the
gest these cretulae refer to particular with-
drawals carried out on special occasions
for internal movements of goods, feasts or
ceremonies by internal palace ocials, who
sealed both the containers and the store
doors. e use of the same clay type, prob-
ably the same clay mass used until it was
completely used up, and the frequency of
deformed cretulae (that means they were
removed within the 24 hours aer having
been put on the container) in the middle
and lower layers moreover reveal the inten-
sity of these operations and their concentra-
tion in a short period of time (Frangipane
et al. 2007: 425-459). ere were also inter-
esting dierences between these two groups
of layers, because in the middle layers most
of the cretulae were attached to locks and
in most cases the sacks were sealed on the
inside, while in the lower layers the major-
ity were closures with door pegs and the
sacks were sealed on the outside. is might
indicate that the operations reected in the
materials from these two groups of layers
referred to dierent stores and or dierent
types of transactions (relating to dierent
goods?), which had been counted and then
disposed of successively.
In all, or virtually all cases, the operations
had been performed locally, as evidenced
from the results of the analyses of the clays
used, all of which came from the Malatya
plain (Blackman et al. 2007).
e dump therefore appears to have been
the result of the nal disposal of a sort of
‘archive, where the dierent types of trans-
actions performed within the palace in a
given area or period or both have been con-
trolled and probably accounted by check-
ing the cretulae, before discarding them.
e cretulae may indeed attest the num-
ber of operations carried out by each indi-
vidual, and the clusters of similar cretulae
in the dump layers indicate they had been
previously ordered according to both the
operations carried out and the ocials per-
forming them.
At least 3 of the 32 ocial’s sealing doors
were responsible for controlling several
dierent stores (dierent doors), and were
therefore people with more responsibility
Fig. 12
Arslantepe,
period VII (Late
Chalcolithic 3-4,
3700-3450 BC).
a. Cretulae from
the temple area;
b. Plan of
Temples C and D
with the location
of cretulae.
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Marcella Frangipane
latest discoveries, in the last two excavation
campaigns, of an imposing non-religious
building (Building 37) (Fig. 5) facing a large
courtyard to receive people, in the most
internal political core of the complex, which
conrm the basically secular nature of the
new public area.
e emergence in the palace of a class of
ocials with a sophisticated organization,
aimed at administering the goods of the rul-
ers, documents the rise of bureaucracy and
a system for delegating power to an increas-
ingly large number of individuals, which is a
trait typical of a State organization.
is very ecient 4th millennium adminis-
trative system however had a weakness: the
sealings were unable to provide the informa-
tion on the quantities of goods withdrawn
and the time of the withdrawal. erefore,
being unable to preserve the memory of the
operations performed, if mixed with seal-
ings from later years they would upset the
accounting system; the “archive” therefore
had to be regularly emptied, and this was
probably the reasons why we found so many
sealing discarding places.
It was the advent of writing in Mesopotamia
around 3100 BC that, enabling to record
quantities and keep the documents of trans-
actions for a longer time, gave a major new
impetus to the development of administra-
tive systems.
Would writing have eventually developed
at Arslantepe if the palace and its organisa-
tion had not been abruptly destroyed? is
is one of the many unanswered questions of
history, which is fraught with interrupted
progress and unfullled potential. e State
formation process was nevertheless already
in progress, and the society and its political
relations deeply transformed.
discarded materials following the comple-
tion of all the operations. Given the siting of
these cretulae in cultic public environments,
and given their association with hundreds of
bowls used to distribute food in both build-
ings, it is clear that, also at Arslantepe as in
Mesopotamia, ceremonial redistribution
practices were performed in the rst half of
the 4th millennium inside ‘sacred’ buildings.
Even though the study of the dump in Tem-
ple D has only just begun and the excavations
are still waiting to be completed, the simi-
larity that is already clear between the ways
in which cretulae were used and dumped
both in these contexts and in the later pal-
ace, once again emphasises the continu-
ity of the development of this system from
the very earliest periods, due to its opera-
tional eciency. But, also in this case, the
change in the socio-political and economic
context led to an increasing complexity and
to changed eects and spin-os on all the
social, economic and political relations that
the system regulated. e administrative
procedures, passing from being applied to
ceremonial – and hence occasional – food
distributions in sacred environments to reg-
ular and routine redistribution practices in
a non-religious and radically transformed
palace-like public complex, seem to have
in turn contributed to a signicant socio-
political change by giving a major boost
to the growth of a new class of bureaucrats
and their role in the society. e fundamen-
tally secular nature of the new public area
at Arslantepe has been conrmed not only
by the changed function of the temples in
the period VIA palace (Temple A and Tem-
ple B), that became places for cultic pur-
poses and activities reserved to only a few
(Frangipane ed. 2010), but also by the very
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... The appearance of the first rich assemblage of cretulae and the rise of the earliest administrative system, wholly unexpected for such an early period even until a few decades ago, occurred precisely in a society of this kind, in a large complex of storerooms in the Burnt Village at Sabi Abyad on the Balikh. This storage complex must have been associated with a suprafamily and characterized by the collective organization of goods storage and distribution, made necessary by an economic system such as the one I have hypothesized (Akkermans 1996;Frangipane 2000Frangipane , 2016a. The most plausible reason for this sharing of goods is that certain sectors or members of the community had to absent themselves from the village for a certain period of time to engage in other activities such as pastoralism or hunting, as Akkermans and Duistermaat (1996;also Frangipane 2000also Frangipane , 2016a have suggested, leaving the harvest in safekeeping and guaranteeing regulated access to it on their return. ...
... The appearance of the first rich assemblage of cretulae and the rise of the earliest administrative system, wholly unexpected for such an early period even until a few decades ago, occurred precisely in a society of this kind, in a large complex of storerooms in the Burnt Village at Sabi Abyad on the Balikh. This storage complex must have been associated with a suprafamily and characterized by the collective organization of goods storage and distribution, made necessary by an economic system such as the one I have hypothesized (Akkermans 1996;Frangipane 2000Frangipane , 2016a. The most plausible reason for this sharing of goods is that certain sectors or members of the community had to absent themselves from the village for a certain period of time to engage in other activities such as pastoralism or hunting, as Akkermans and Duistermaat (1996;also Frangipane 2000also Frangipane , 2016a have suggested, leaving the harvest in safekeeping and guaranteeing regulated access to it on their return. ...
... The appearance of the first rich assemblage of cretulae and the rise of the earliest administrative system, wholly unexpected for such an early period even until a few decades ago, occurred precisely in a society of this kind, in a large complex of storerooms in the Burnt Village at Sabi Abyad on the Balikh. This storage complex must have been associated with a suprafamily and characterized by the collective organization of goods storage and distribution, made necessary by an economic system such as the one I have hypothesized (Akkermans 1996;Frangipane 2000Frangipane , 2016a. The most plausible reason for this sharing of goods is that certain sectors or members of the community had to absent themselves from the village for a certain period of time to engage in other activities such as pastoralism or hunting, as Akkermans and Duistermaat (1996;also Frangipane 2000also Frangipane , 2016a have suggested, leaving the harvest in safekeeping and guaranteeing regulated access to it on their return. ...
... The existence of elites with administrative or religious power in Northern Mesopotamia as well as in Anatolia is well known from the Late Chalcolithic period (Frangipane et al. 2001;Stein 2012;Sagona and Zymanski 2015;Frangipane 2016;2018;Massa 2016). In this geographical context and chronological period, archaeological data on settlement patterns, architectural structures, metallurgy and burial customs suggest the presence of both horizontally and vertically stratified societies. ...
... Traditionally, economists take for granted that statehood entails such institutional capacity, whereas historians seek to explain the evolution of state and fiscal capacity (Besley -Persson 2009). Notably, Mesopotamian scholars correctly stressed the link between the rise of early states and institutions of governance (bureaucracies) on the one hand (Frangipane 2016;Garfinkle 2008;Gibson -Biggs, eds. 1987;Law et al. 2015;Wright 1978) and violence (Garfinkle 2014;Hamblin 2006; McMahon 2012) on the other, but failed to recognize the historical origin of revenue-raising mechanisms. ...
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