Sumerian Clay Bulla
An ancient Sumerian clay bulla, or spherical seal, the exterior with impressed pictographs, with clay tokens encased inside.
As the demands of city-life and complex agricultural systems in ancient Mesopotamia grew, the need for a record keeping system became eminent. However, even before writing, bullae, meaning blob or bubble in Latin, were utilized as a system of accounting. These clay or soft metal spheres were molded by hand, and before they were sealed, clay tokens of various forms which indicated various commodities, were placed inside. The number of tokens inside represented the quantity of a certain commodity, and were sealed as a form of authentication and tamper-proofing.
Formerly in a New York private collection.