Antiquities Saleroom has sold an ancient Sumerian tablet inscribed with cuneiform script as part of its March 1 auction in Colorado.
The tablet, which had been translated prior to the sale, sold for $10,500, sitting comfortably within its $8,000-12,000 valuation. Cuneiform script is perhaps the earliest known form of writing, having emerged in the late 4th millennium BC in modern day Iraq.
The tablet at auction is helpfully inscribed with its date and, although the month is damaged and unreadable, we can tell that it was inscribed in the 4th year of King Amar-Suen of Ur, or 2042 BC.
Translated by leading authority Renee Kovacs, the tablet is an account of personnel and administrators involved in agriculture. An audit of the conscripted workers, it reads in part:
"Lugal-igihush, cattle scribe: Lu-Abu, his son, not assigned, assigned by the cattle scribe.
Irdada, archivist, recorder Shu-ili, his son, (grain) grinders servers of the god Nagar."
This list continues over five columns on both the obverse and the reverse of the tablet. While the obverse is clean and completely readable, the reverse is encrusted with dirt, providing the new buyer with a task that may reveal further insights into this ancient culture.
Also starring in the same auction was a magnificent Chinese lohan sculpture, which sold for $9,000 to achieve a 200% increase on its $3,000 high estimate. Lohan sculptures, which depict an enlightened Buddhist figure, are an incredibly popular collecting field, with a jade example selling at Bonhams in November 2012 for $479,540.