THE SOCIAL STRUCTURE OF BRONZE – AGE SOCIETIES -It is time we attempted a definition of the kind of social structure peculiar to the Bronze Age. This reconstruction shall depend mainly on the Mesopotamian evidence. It is for this region that thousands of written tablets of the third millennium BC are available to the historian, which give enormously detailed information. A large segment of an archive (dozens of clay tablets) for instance, document the month-by-month work of an official in charge of grain disbursements in one small centre. Moreover, there is a wealth of archaeological and settlement pattern data, because the Euphrates and its branches have shifted to the west since the third millennium, so that the area under intense cultivation today has not damaged Bronze -Age sites.

Concerning Mesopotamia, as far back as 1972 the Russian cuneiform scholar, I. Diakonoff, had concluded that its economy after 3000 BC had two separate “sectors”, the “communal-and-private” sector, and the sector managed by the state. The first was peopled by rural communities, still structured on descent, and tribal in the sense that private property in agricultural land had not come into existence. As far as the written evidence goes, only a few members of the elite actually purchased land and became private owners. A few third-millennium legal texts attest to the sale of large tracts of land by multiple sellers, (As the names of the sellers’ fathers, grandfathers, and other ancestors are often given, we can make out that they were all related in the male line) to individuals who were either the rulers themselves, or high functionaries (Food grains, cloth, fish, oil, and occasionally copper were some of the items given in exchange).


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