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The Origins of the "Temple-Economy" as Seen in the Light of Prehistoric Evidence Author(s): J. Makkay Source: Iraq, Vol.

45, No. 1, Papers of the 29 Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, London, 5-9 July 1982 (Spring, 1983), pp. 1-6 Published by: British Institute for the Study of Iraq Stable URL: Accessed: 24/01/2009 00:52
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By J. ?????? " of Mesopotamian was first propounded theory economy by temple-state his to be A. Deimel. he considered reconstruction Unfortunately, unjustifiably for the whole area and the entire history of Mesopotamia. normative Subsequent were has shown that temple holdings and economy research by Gelb and Diakonoff life during the third millennium. that It would appear but one form of economic " " a large part of the Product in the course of the third millennium Gross National of private the community lands was in fact produced owners, by the holdings The " families Little owned or, to use DiakonofPs term, obschinas. by clans, extended to a minor share of attention been the fact that these has, however, only paid or have could been utilized re-invested accumulated, products through long-distance most probably in trade by private Temple entrepreneurs. economy participated and mobilization of goods to a much larger degree redistribution the accumulation, than its own production. of why, how and when economic The problem goods, and later still, land itself an originally of the temple, non-economic came into the ownership organization, land was owned to is still open to debate. Gelb, According by the tribe, the clan the early?not of or the community defined more during precisely?periods in time of to the the on communities. He went history, primitive Mesopotamian when with the fully established that land came under temple ownership propose and more advanced state organization the village centralized agricultural economy, tribes to land and clans controlled the land controlled crown, gave way by by public Diakonoff that temple absorbed and nobility. estates gradually suggested temple or community the Uruk IV-III holdings during period at the latest, but public date. Both earlier a at an even terminus ante quern rather than give opinions perhaps exact date. a chronologically have been proposed theories as to how and why a sacral organization Various in economic became and other accumulation engaged eventually (or organizations) To even over land. and control economic activities, gained finally quote Deimel, " d.h. ihren Tempeln wenn das ganze Land den G?ttern, wurde, und zugesprochen von diesen wirtschaftlich konnten die die ganze Bev?lkerung abhing, n?tigen leichter Frohnarbeiten werden." ascribed verh?ltnism?ssig erzwungen Oppenheim Others have suggested this process to reasons which we cannot yet explain. that the of surplus involves the existence of an institution. reinvestment Temple economy, in this specific even if a prerequisite as the result of a process, be case, cannot of the initiative force the as itself. has this Gibson shown that process regarded off by the disintegration of the tribal system, combined with process was triggered a of shift the a natural violation of the fallow the and crisis, population, system time of trade. At this some of the were so long-distance places development strategic sacred. Diakonoff that to avoid conflict they were considered regards as decisive extra-economic means the role played as coercion, as well as by such so-called

J. ??????

means and sheer force. Jacobsen the importance advocated of communal ideological It that has been were also first on a regular storage. surpluses proposed produced at least partly in order to provide for basis in Mesopotamia offerings community temples. all focus on the central These opinions role played and temple by the temple in of in the and redistribution the accumulation, goods economy early periods of But apart from DiakonofFs idealistic history. Mesopotamian suggestion, namely " how means the of the ", problem ideological temple came to assume or perhaps For our part, we regard even exact this pivotal role is left unresolved. these " " as to means the economic factors the being secondary ideological initiating the an The other debatable issue is state, process. why organization existing already at the close of the fourth millennium, did not gain total control over economic This latter can perhaps be resolved activities. that sanctuaries, by assuming had already existed prior to the emergence i.e. some sort of religious organization, It would appear that the temple organization of the state. was the continuation of of the religious or the tribal The centralized system. organization organizations to the earlier tribal system different as compared state, a radically organization as the result of various crises. on kinship, The continuous emerged probably and temples since the Early Neolithic of sanctuaries thus afforded them a in matters over state This the would economic priority organization. imply that certain features of the temple must characteristic existed have economy already In terms of chronology, before of the state. this the formation latter however, is also too vague and general, assertion and is not convenient for pinpointing an based existence exact date. about the factors giving rise It would thus appear that we hardly know anything to this process, nor about the actual process itself which led to the appearance of the early forms of temple evidence alone can economy. Archaeological perhaps shed some light on this process which took place in the fourth millennium, or even earlier. have shown that by the middle of the third millennium Well-known scholars of temple economy were the following : the sectors, functions and incomes by the temple, the so-called priestly land (ni g-e ?. na), ; by temple personnel fields (kure, kurum) b. so-called maintenance ; c. allotment fields (uru4-lal) which were leased from time to time ; a. estates owned cultivated

which d. Temple administrative controlled centres facilities, storage granaries and supervised and workshops the administration, redistribution of and processing A good example of an administrative centre is known from Jemdet Nasr, surplus. the temple It should be mentioned that this, reconstructed by Moorey. namely and other similar buildings, share numerous and functional features architectural with large temple centres such as Uruk, where the excavations revealed prehistoric of monumental not immediately as places of worship, classifiable character, buildings to temple altars. even if they may have been ancillary e. And finally rites and rituals. the offerings brought before the temple/deities as a part of various



Of these five categories the problems posed by the latter two can only be clarified the of the In other words, we will endeavour evidence. by testimony archaeological to demonstrate that some sort of relationship can be established between heteroalso comprising and offerings building geneous complexes temples (sanctuaries) which made the appropriation of surplus possible before the close of the already fourth millennium. The first issue we should deal with is from what date we can speak of the production of the accumulation of surplus in the Early Neolithic of surplus. A good example is offered by Umm Dabaghiyah. rooms on this settlement. In Level rooms of the non-domestic part of rooms could house goods exceeding Kirkbride uncovered a closed complex of storeIII the more than 70 (probably 90) small storage the settlement formed a closed unit. The storeor even the yearly by far the needs and demands of this small community. Let us accept the suggestion that animal furs production and hides were stored in the majority of these buildings, to be exchanged for grain or some other The commodity. exchange commodity (most grain) probably received from the probably southern can be proved to have been trading partners accumulated as surplus. Yarim Tepe I and II yielded for the communal evidence of of grain at a similarly storing surplus product early date, the Hassuna period. storerooms for grain can also be postulated for Tell es-Sawwan. The Community 188 partly and partly incomplete recovered from 31 rooms of complete querns in Level 11 IB should also be interpreted 7 buildings along these lines. It is hardly that the temple or its antecedent, the sanctuary, owned probable land. It thus remains to be clarified whether a part of this community surplus was claimed at this early date, and if so, how and by what by the sanctuary already means the temple could exact its share. One plausible solution to this problem would be to ascribe this practice to the primary function of the sanctuary, i.e. the sacral institution. The amount of foodstuff needed for the subsistence of the comand the surplus used as an exchange in various transactions was munity commodity stored in community and was most probably granaries protected by various religious and rites. ordinances These were prescribed and performed by the sanctuary. Foundation the annual ritual cleaning and the symbolic of the deposits, protection storerooms can probably be regarded as such practices. One site which should be mentioned in this respect is Yarim Tepe where ritual practices were definitely documented of red-painted foundation by the presence quern-stones, deposits and sacrificial even traces of human sacrifice have been (vessels) pits ; moreover, observed in the storage Similar has been reported evidence from Tell buildings. es-Sawwan and ?atal where figurines, as foundation H?y?k, interpreted deposits were found in the granaries. This implies that a sacral organization the undertook of the community and the commodities stored therein. One protection granaries of the most simple ways to accomplish this already in the Early Neolithic was to build the granaries within the sacred precinct or as a part of the sanctuary. The architectural in excavated Levels IX and VIII of Gawra can be complexes Tepe in this manner. were in Levels XVI-XV interpreted Community granaries already erected separately on the northern In Level IX, and especially peak of the mound. in Levels VIII A-B-C of Tepe Gawra, a centre for temples appear to have become the accumulation of the social surplus ; offerings must have poured into the temple

4 storage doorless level. The chambers. rooms and best A structure probably

J. ?????? had five which temple very close to the central functioned as a storage depot, was found in this same

for large storage under the protection of, or inexample complexes the Proto-Urban Khirbet the comes from at into, sanctuary corporated period the a to EB features III. Several el-Kerak, namely building assigned support made that the was a the excavators of the building religious suggestion by purpose tons of grain could be stored in the nine domed structures one. An estimated 500-700 of these storage rooms supports the central The structure surrounding courtyard. that the tholoi unearthed at Arpachiyah, the possibility and Yarim Tepe Gawra into sanctuaries. associated with or incorporated It was Tepe were also storehouses of Yarim Tepe I that in square N47 a rectangular in Level VIII twoobserved with a series of circular The latter were as roomed house co-existed constructions. had domed ceilings. In one of them the and obviously large as 2-5 m in diameter of three human skeletons were found, remains but the excavators nevertheless there were out that insufficient to consider as a this structure grounds pointed These be interpreted burial place. burials can perhaps as foundation sacrifices. The tholos excavated in Level VI of Yarim Tepe I is especially for it was intriguing divided into three parts by inner walls and was surrounded small by twenty-two most This Halaf-period was a chambers. building likely large community storage house Several at the very centre of the settlement. tholoi which can probably also have from as community been be regarded and the Hassuna granaries reported It should also be mentioned Halaf levels of the settlement. that these /Ao/flj-buildings were often interpreted as having a religious function. in the foregoing outlined the assumption The evidence that the sacral supports over stored in the control erected organization gained surplus community granaries of the the as a separate settlements that in the and Neolithic, during part already these granaries were located within the temple second half of the fourth millennium into the sanctuary. or incorporated It is hardly possible to decide whether precinct a larger share or only that part of the surplus which was required for the performance of the temple staff and personnel of the rituals and the maintenance was stored in or the temple There the sanctuaries are for both data from precinct. practices from but the Khirbet el-Kerak historical evidence that a periods, implies part of was used for non-religious the surplus stored in the sacred precinct purposes already during the 'Ubaid period. mean that the grain and other commodities This does not necessarily stored in these storehouses were in the possession of the temple. It does nevertheless imply redistribution that its administration, a part set aside for trade) was (including It is also a the of that the highly probable regulated by temple. significant portion of in for the the was used maintenance turn, which, surplus temple organization in the second half of the 'Ubaid of temple economy the existence period at implies remains to be clarified means what the the latest. It furthermore by temple, which a part of the commodities did not own the land, could appropriate stored under its supervision. first came into contact with the produced The sacral organization goods, probably of in and the course rites sacrifices Evidence for various offerings. grain, primarily



from pre-Neolithic times. non-funeral It can ones) is known already (including as proved that there existed during the Neolithic of Mesopotamia thus be regarded In the lack of sound the offering or sacrifice of foodstuffs. rituals which involved to observations it remains be where clarified these archaeological yet exactly were made, but it is highly in sacrifices that were the probable they performed and the sanctuary. Thomas Beale has recently some precinct propounded in to this which bevelled-rim a bowls, interesting according suggestions respect, of not vessel form the Uruk were votive but rather period, offerings, widespread on special occasions, a token amount served as means of presenting, of some coma most at a to or shrine the grain, gods modity, (en) temple, priest-king probably sacred of grain or or temple administrative and left there filled with an offering centre, some other type of food. Even though he argued that there was a shift in the Uruk most often offered, we have no reason period from fish to grain as the commodity were performed before to assume that only blood the Uruk sacrifices period. in earlier the evidence have sacrificial we concerning practices only Unfortunately of which has not yet been adequately from Eridu, the material comes periods in bevelled-rim the of made bowls is not offerings Although published. frequency in assuming that they must have been made at is probably justified of the a by population, major portion regular perhaps as parts of seasonally He quotes to which in the held fertility rites. data according or purification a of each b.c. on single day eighteenth purification 2770 people gave a century known, intervals of bread and beer to the temple. found some measure Temple personnel probably It would means of storing these offerings. such were the that offerings appear which did not own any land, came to appropriate means by which the temple, a that this had the We started before of would suggest process part surplus. already but there are no traces of this in the archaeological record comthe Uruk period, or which with bevelled-rim bowls conical these, since prior cups supplanted patible bowls and various in to the Uruk period other vessels which offering offerings were hand-made, i.e. they were not standardized and are thus were presented harder to recognize. In evaluating this phenomenon, that surpluses were first produced Beale suggested at least partly in order to provide on a regular basis in Mesopotamia for offerings This be on economic must, however, temples. community assumption rejected It would that bevelled-rim bowls should be interpreted as an grounds. appear of the fact that the temple appropriated indication the surplus which was produced of the surplus for other reasons. The appropriation in the form of presented reserves the those which offerings augmented temple, by providing adequate storage in exchange had already received for various services and which accumufacilities, lated into large supplies. These supplies were partly used for the benefit of the a in of but was community (e.g. famine), large periods portion undoubtedly out this was the trade, since as we have already pointed mobilized, mainly through of commodities which could be freely mobilized. It is only natural largest amount that the temple have should over the accumulated freely organization presided and in commodities received for these in the second half products exchange already of the fourth millennium. With the investment of those commodities the temple All in all, there evolved could acquire significant revenues. an economic constellaBeale


rather than feudalism, but without of early capitalism, the tion highly reminiscent of money, since the temple did not yet own any land, though it had just presence of other landowners. The temple land at the expense thus begun to appropriate land by the investment of this substantial rather than by legal capital, acquired means. sheer force or ideological procedures,

Select bibliography Tell es-Sawwan preliminary reports in Sumer 21 (1965), 17-32 ; 22 (1966), b ; 23 (1967), a-c and 167-76; 20 (1964), 1-2; 24 (1968), 3-15 and 57-60; 26 (1970), 3-20; 27(1970,3-7; 28 (1972), b. Yarim Tepe preliminary reports in Sumer 25 (1969), 125-31; 27 (1971), 9-22 and 23-32; 29 R. M. Munchaev?jV. J. Merpert: Earliest agricultural 32 (1976), 25-61; (*973)> 3-I6; settlementsof Northern Mesopotamia (Moscow, 1981), passim. Beale, T. W. Bevelled rim bowls and their implications for change and economic organisation in the later fourth millennium b.c. (JNES 37 (1978), 289-313). Deimel, A. Sumerische Tempelwirtschaft zur ?eit Urukaginas und seiner Vorg?nger(AnOr 2 ; Roma, 1931). Diakonoff, I. M. The structure of Near Eastern Society before the Middle of the 2nd Millennium b.c. ( Oikumene3 ( 1982), 7-100). Falkenstein, A. La cit?-temple sum?rienne {Cahiers d'histoire mondiale 1 : 4 (1954), 784-814). Gelb, I. J. On the alleged temple and state economies in Ancient Mesopotamia (Studi in Onore di E. Volterra, vol. VI (Roma, 1969), 137-54). id. From freedom to slavery (in Gesellschaftsklassenim Alten ?weistromland (XVIII R.A.I. ; M?nchen, 1972), 81-92). Gibson, McGuire. Violation of fallow and engineered disaster in Mesopotamian civilisation (in Irrigation's impact on Society, ed. by T. E. Downing and McG. Gibson (Tucson, 1974), 7-17). id. By stage and cycle to Sumer (in The Legacy of Sumer (Bibliotheca Mesopotamica 1 ; Malibu, 1976), 51-8)? Jawad, A. J. The advent of the era of townships in Northern Mesopotamia (Leiden, 1965). Lamberg-Karlovsky, C. C. The economic world of Sumer (in The Legacy of Sumer, op. cit., 59-68). Kirkbride, D. Umm Dabaghiyah : a trading outpost? (Iraq 36 (1974), 85-92). Maisler, B., Stekelis, M., Avi-Yonah, M. The excavations at Beth Yerah (Khirbet el-Kerak), 1944-1946 (IEJ 2 (1952), 165-73 and 218-29). Moorey, P. R. S. The late prehistoric administrative building at Jamdat Nasr (Iraq 38 (1976), 95-106). Oppenheim, A. L. Ancient Mesopotamia. Portrait of a dead civilisation (Chicago, 1964), 89-90, in, 187-90). Speiser, E. A. Excavations at Tepe Gawra, vol. I (Philadelphia, 1935), 31-2.