Cat Coyne Mar 1, 2021 9:11:00 AM 4 min read

How to (almost) process a clay tablet in Compleat

About five-thousand years ago, a man set down a clay tablet, took up a stylus and began to carve. He was about to sell some oxen, and this needed to be documented.

Piercing the surface of the clay with a pointed blade, he slowly and methodically penned a -series of intricate symbols in an ancient script known as Sumerian Cuneiform. When he was finished, he leaned back to survey his handiwork. Each jagged incision and shallow groove told the story behind his sale: his name, the recipient’s name, and the cost of the oxen. Three separate lines indicated how many oxen were changing hands: “5 fattened oxen, 25 fattened oxen, 5 oxen”. He even went as far as including the reason for the purchase: “oxen for use in rituals”. This was proof of the exchange of goods between two parties. This was one of the world’s first ever invoices.

That clay tablet isn’t the only compelling evidence archaeologists have found of early accounting. As well as the cumbersome invoice for 30 ill-fated oxen, they have discovered curious clay objects from as far back as 9,000 years ago shaped like miniature versions of the commodities of ancient life, like jars of honey, loaves of bread, and animals.

Those objects were used as tokens, and were tucked into small clay purses called bulla, which were engraved with symbols and tallies to indicate the amount of goods being purchased; five strokes for five sheep, for example. In other words, ancient purchase orders.

From past to present

Let’s imagine that the author of our clay invoice and the gatekeepers of those clay tokens were here today – that we could transport them from their ancient settlements into 2021, clay purses and all. There isn’t a great deal they would understand about our modern world – and they certainly wouldn’t be able to procure a fresh cobbler in exchange for a handful of clay figurines. But there are a few cornerstones of life today that they might just be able to wrap their heads around.

They could understand our need for agriculture and industry, and the hierarchical structure of our society. They could understand the importance of quality time with our families and friends, and of real and meaningful human connections. They could understand the importance of Compleat.

Their accounting methods might be unfamiliar and antiquated, but our ancient counterparts were only doing exactly what we’re doing today; buying and selling, recording their purchases, keeping their accounts in order, and safeguarding their livelihoods. Some things never change. And that includes the human need for Compleat. Because that need, it turns out, is written in our ancient history.

Convert to PDF

Now for the slightly disappointing but not entirely surprising news: you can’t literally process a clay tablet in Compleat. But you can get pretty close. Put its engraved contents in PDF format (not forgetting, of course, to convert them to modern English) and you’ve got an all-singing, all-dancing purchase invoice worthy of flying through the Compleat portal, ready to be coded, processed, approved, and matched in Compleat. Just as long as your account code for ‘Ancient rituals’ is in place…

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Cat Coyne

Cat writes the guides that help our customers use Compleat to its full potential, so she’s definitely not short of things to say about why Compleat is a gamechanger. She stumbled into the tech industry as a newly qualified journalist, writing news and product reviews for a major consumer technology brand. While she occasionally misses having weird and wonderful gadgets to test out, she loves using her skills to make life that little bit easier for customers here at Compleat. Outside of work, Cat leads more of a tech-free life. In fact, she doesn’t even own a TV. You can usually find her poring over a cryptic crossword, reading a book, playing the piano, or trying to beat her own personal best at solving the Rubik’s Cube.

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