Sumerian Beer Production Tablet, Sumer,  Uruk III, 31st Century BC

Written in archaic Sumerian on clay, this tablets describes beer production at the Inanna Temple in Uruk; it translates as “134,813 Litres of barley to be delivered over 3 years (37 months) to the government official Kushin responsible for the brewery at the Inanna Temple in Uruk.”

The present tablet is a masterpiece of pictographic calligraphy. It has just been discovered that 2 hitherto undeciphered pictograms, one like a brick building with a chimney, and the other an ear of barley drawn within a jar or container, illustrates the actual brewing process. Read from right to left we have first the barley delivered, then the brick- building that might be the brewery itself (also with other meanings), and the barley within a jar is the beer. It thus is the earliest representation in history of an industrial process.

The Uruk period (c. 4000 to 3100 BC) existed from the protohistoric Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age period in the history of Mesopotamia, following the Ubaid period and succeeded by the Jemdet Nasr period. Named after the Sumerian city of Uruk, this period saw the emergence of urban life in Mesopotamia. It was followed by the Sumerian civilization. The late Uruk period (34th to 32nd centuries) saw the gradual emergence of the cuneiform script and corresponds to the Early Bronze Age; it may also be called the Protoliterate period.