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The archive of Ebla: 2500-2250 BC

The cuneiform tablets found at Ebla reveal a prosperous society, based on extensive trade backed up from time to time by Brutal military excursions. The tablets date from somewhere between 2500 and 2250 BC.

Ebla's economy is well regulated. Silver, weighed out in minas and shekels, is used as currency (1 mina = 60 shekels). The value of silver is controlled through an official exchange rate for gold. Ebla merchants, travelling with wagons pulled by oxen, take their goods through much of the Middle East. Fabrics play a large part in the local economy. The taxes from one outlying district, sent to Ebla, include 'linen fabrics, top-quality fabrics, best quality multi-coloured dresses, sashes and tassels, hosiery'.

Some of the tablets record money transactions with the thoroughness of any modern receipt. 'Paid, 56 minas and 20 shekels of silver (i.e. 3380 shekels) for 5790 bales of wool at 1 shekel of silver for 3 bales, and 5800 bales of wool at 1 shekel of silver for 4 bales.' The mathematics will be found to be exact.

The wide range of Ebla's commercial interests involves the need for some degree of skill in foreign languages. The archive of tablets includes the world's earliest known dictionaries - listing words used in Ebla and their equivalents in Sumerian, the main language of Mesopotamia.

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