The Management of Wild Animals in the Drehem Archive: The Bear as a Case Study

Alexandra LLado, CCHS-CSIC, Spain

Puzriš-Dagān (modern Drehem) is an administrative center founded near the city of Nippur by King Šulgi, of the Third Dynasty of Ur (2112 – 2004 BC), in his 39th regnal year. There are more than 13.000 clay tablets surviving from this center that allow us to track its main function as a redistribution point for animals coming from the collection of public taxes.

Officials in Drehem did not only keep accounts of cattle and domestic animals but also records on the management of wild and exotic fauna, such as stags, gazelles or bears, whose repercussions on the Sumerian economy are well attested. Analyzing the documentation regarding them, we can demonstrate how a particular system with specific officials and departments was set in order to manage wild animals apart from domestic ones.

The main purpose of this paper is to present the particular case of the bear, since the corpus of 170 texts regarding this animal permits a reconstruction of the whole picture of its movements within the administrative system, from its capture in its native land, until its death. This case study also provides a better understanding of the function of the entire system established to manage wild animals. For this reason, we could extrapolate the results of this research to other animals with a more limited attestation.