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Elusive Silver
In Search of a Role for a Market in an Agrarian Environment. Aspects of Mesopotamia's Society


Authors:  van Driel G.
Year: 2002
ISBN: 978-90-6258-096-5
Pages: X-345 p.
Price: 50 EURO

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Mesopotamian society and its economy were basically agrarian, exhibiting cyclical long-term developments, as well as an unmistakable growth in political size. The combination contributed to severe strains in urban Mesopotamian society. Increasing political importance both complicated and concentrated government, which was compelled to change those massive quantities of agricultural bulk products, generated by its own agricultural activities and received as tax, into the more useful, liquid silver, which, however, was not produced in Mesopotamia itself.
The first study presented establishes that already by 2000 B.C. silver was to some extent current in Mesopotamia and could be exchanged internally for agricultural produce. The second study, dealing mainly with the remuneration of the Mesopotamian clergy, concludes that local elites, which played an essential role in maintaining the urban character of settled Mesopotamian society, possessed a stable economic basis, for which neither silver nor the functioning of a market played a decisive role. A third study deals with Neo-Babylonian-Achaemenid taxation, a topic which cannot be isolated from the exploitation of the land in general. It is evident that Mesopotamia made a considerable contribution to the Persian monarchy, both in silver and in human labour. Agricultural products could be marketed and exchanged within Mesopotamia but how the silver required was earned in the outside world, remains elusive.

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