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4,000 Year Old Clay Tablet List of Sacrifical Food & Drink for Cult Use to Sell at Bonhams
Sumerian clay tablet dating from 2600-2300 B.C., is an administrative document from the upper Euphrates Valley. Estimate £1,500-1,800

LONDON.-Four extraordinary `grocery lists’ dating from the fabled city of Ur 4000 years ago – the cradle of civilisation - will be sold at Bonhams with estimates ranging from £1,500 to £40,000.

Lot 145 is a large Sumerian Ur III clay tablet, circa 2046-2038 B.C. The tablet has five columns of cuneiform text on one side, and three columns with text on the reverse relating to domestic animals and including itemised livestock for sacrifices. It is estimated to sell for between £30,000-40,000.

The tablet comes from the Erlenmeyer Collection, Basel, Switzerland. The late Professor Hans and Mrs Marie-Louise Erlenmeyer shared a mutual interest in the cultural history and religions of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, which led to the forming of their collection of antiquities between 1943 and the early 1960s.

Professor Lambert, a leading authority on cuneiform writing, notes that the tablet records the administration of domestic animals in the town of Umma in Sumer and lists the manner in which the flocks were divided during the course of one year. Some were marked as being for government supplies, while others were destined to be supplies for the officially supported religious cults existing in Umma at that time.

The tablet provides a remarkable insight into the daily life of this ancient civilisation and details the particular manner in which animals of one type are distinguished from others within their group. Sheep, for instance, are described as grass-fed or grain-fed, unplucked or plucked, which shows the importance placed upon specific features of the livestock.

Religious institutions named in the distribution of oxen, cattle, goats, sheep and lambs include the temple of Shara, and the temples of Enilagarsikilla and Emakhsikilla. Statues also receive mention, as animals were sacrificed to them, while other offerings were made on public occasions, such as Eshesh festivals, (a festival corresponding to the phases of the moon). Animals are conducted to their sacrificial destinations by cupbearers, officials and a physician.

Lot 146 is a large Sumerian cuneiform clay tablet from the Third Dynasty of Ur, 2060-2025 B.C. This tablet features with seven columns on each side of the tablet. It consists of an administrative document with a detailed record of outgoings of food and drinks from a large temple or palace estate, including beer and cereal products. Estimate £10,000-15,000

The clay tablet, the property of an Australian private collector, was acquired in lieu of medical services provided in January 1980. Before that it was in the collection of Mr J. Glitman, who began collecting in the 1950s and was a retired antiques dealer of Balaclava, Victoria, Australia.

Lot 147 is a Sumerian clay tablet dating from 2600-2300 B.C., is an administrative document from the upper Euphrates Valley. Estimate £1,500-1,800.

Lot 148 is a Sumerian clay tablet Circa 2500-2300 B.C. inscribed with four columns of cuneiform script providing a listing of gardening hoes issued to workers on a big temple or palace estate. Estimate £1,000-1,500.

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