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Bookkeeping Without Writing: Early administrative technologies in context

Friday 6 November 2020 - Saturday 7 November 2020
Rijksmuseum van Oudheden
Rapenburg 28
2311 EW Leiden
Leemanszaal (Leemanshall)

This conference brings together varied specialists to explore how non-literate systems of information storage were used in the Near East from the late Neolithic, and why they persisted into the rst millennium BC. The world’s earliest known written script, cuneiform, emerged as the bureaucratic tool of administration in the city-states of south Mesopotamia during the late-fourth millennium BC. Yet crucially, tokens continue to be used as an administrative tool, alongside bullae, seals and written texts into the rst millennium BC in Mesopotamia. Did tokens merely replicate the information stored within cuneiform script for the illiterate masses? Were they physical guarantees or receipts to be handled, performing a mnemonic, function in a way that cuneiform tablets could not? The relationship between and social implications of the dual use of written and non-literate administration and information storage devices will be explored via examination of the Bookkeeping Without Writing: Early administrative technologies in context. 

This event will also be streamed online.


Friday 6th November

10am-5pm Conference sessions (lunch provided for delegates)

7pm Conference dinner for delegates

Saturday 7th November

10am-12:30pm Conference sessions (lunch provided for delegates); Conference photo

1:30-2:30pm Discussion & closing

2:30pm Tour of museum

Presentations 30 mins long (including 5/10 minutes for questions). Preliminary sessions as

  • Welcome & introduction
  • Session 1: Background and setting
  • Session 2: Late Neolithic
  • Session 3: Early historic period
  • Session 4: Historic/Ethnographic parallels
  • Session 5: Discussion & closing

Full programme information

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