Seeding Rates
This method presupposes the existence of a conventional
rate of seeding, similar tu the Roman rate of 5 What appears shrouded in mystery to followers of the New School becomes transparent if one accepts the method of the Old School. I presume that any of the Old School metrologists could have solved the problem as directly as I have, if they had at their disposal the documents that have become available in the last fifty years. Thureau-Dangin noticed that the unit of surface, A clear textual confirmation of this rate is provided
by two tablets from Susa published by Father Scheil (RA 35 (1938), 92-103).
The tablets contain tables to convert amounts of seed into the corresponding
area calculated in the normal way. The tablets do not present any arithmetical
difficulty: it is evident that through about 100 entries describing squares,
near-squares and circles, the rate of seed to area is always a The seeding rate is always a The rate of 72 grains to the square cubit suggests how
one proceeded to the sowing. In Mesopotamia one sowed by lines using the
seeding plow, called If this interpretation is correct one can answer the question whether
the rate was calculated for barley or for wheat. The terminology of the
texts is ambiguous since the term
This second group of texts contradicts Neugebauer and
Sachs’ general assumptions also in another way, which is less flagrant
but still impressive. They claim that the double cane of 12 cubits, which
they call SAR (it can also be called GAR), is the basic unit of length
and that other units are calculated in relation to it; whereas in my opinion
the double cane is just one of the units used to fit units of length into
sexagesimal computation. I have reported that in the practice of measurement
one preferred to survey by units of 10 feet or 10 cubits; in the texts
in question the unit of surface is an acre with a side of 100 cubits.
It is called “100 cubits” in the texts, but I call it acre,
since it is obviously the amount plowed in a day. Such an acre has a surface
of either 2498 square m. (trimmed cubit) or 2563 (natural cubit), and
hence is practically identical with the Roman Since a One entry of the tablet VAT 7848, makes 768 square cubits
equal to 2½ A wavering between 33 1/3 and 36 indicates that the correct
figure was an intermediate one and that one rounded the figure up or down
for the sake of convenience. And in fact, if we reckon a A calculation by acre is found in a Neo-Babylonian tablet
from Nippur (CBS 8529), which I have already mentioned because in it the
cubit is divided into 34 fingers. The reckonings that follow indicate
that the cubit is the barley cubit. A square with a side of 100 cubits
equals 5 It is possible to explain why we find a cubit divided into 24 fingers instead of 30, as is usual in Mesopotamia. In the matter of seeding rates it is necessary to calculate by seed; since there are 72 grains to the square cubit, it is expedient to divide the cubit into 24 fingers. If my hypothesis that one sowed 36 grains to the cubit of sowing line is correct, this division would have been more desirable. On the other side when the rate is calculated as 75 grains to the square cubit, it is more expedient to divide the cubit sexagesimally into 30 fingers of 5 six-fingers. There are ziqqurats with a surface of an acre, which
indicates that the acre was a standard unit of a surface. But as the Tower
of Babel indicates, a more common unit of surface was the
Mrs Lewy, who, although trained to accept the dogmas of the New School, does not believe that the Mesopotamians lived in a world of strange and misty practices, has strained her ingenuity in order to find an explanation for the theory of thin sowing. She begins by granting that biological facts must have been the same today as in ancient Mesopotamia and that on principle one should expect a rate of seeding similar to the modern one. If the rate of seeding is much less, a part of the land must have been disused: consequently she evolves the hypothesis that in Mesopotamia lines of seed were spaced about 75 cm. instead of about 25 cm., as one would expect according to modern practices. In order to explain why the lines were so spaced. she introduces another equally ingenuous hypothesis: rotation was not practised by letting some fields lie fallow, but by sowing grain only in one of three possible parallel lines. Each year one would have sown grain on a different line, so that two thirds of the land would remain unused. Mrs Lewy thinks that some passages of the Mishnah (Treatise Kilaim) describe a similar technique of tilling the land, but in reality the quoted texts prescribe the space to be left between fields with different crops, in order to observe scrupulosly the biblical prescription against sowing “diverse kinds” in the same field (a rule against miscegenation). She seems to be on firmer grounds when she quotes a body of instruction for farmers, preserved in three different tablets (one is WB 170) and interpreted by Benno Landsberger. The latter, however, avers that the text is not too clear to him and that his interpretation, by which the lines of grain would be spaced 75 cm. leads to a figure which is “too great.” Landsberger’s tentative interpretation of the Sumerian text is taken as final by Mrs Lewy because it agrees with the doctrines of the New School. The relevant passage reads (line 21, OEC I, Plate 33):
Landsberger interprets ab-sin, “seed plow,”
as referring to the interval between the lines, and understads that 8
lines shall occupy the width of a GAR or 12 cubits. Neither Landsberger
nor Mrs. Lewy seem aware that the same phrase occurs four times in a Sumerian
tablet published by Hilprecht (BE III No. 92) and cogently explained by
Father Deimel in his essay on Sumerian units of surface The As a last point, one should consider why the unit of
60
In discussing the units of area I have not mentioned
whether they were calculated by a natural or by a trimmed cubit. It appears
that one could overlook this difference in calculating areas. This would
cause a discrepancy 35:36, which is the one just noted. This discrepancy
between areas calculated by the trimmed cubit and by the natural cubit
may explain the reckoning of a tablet of Uruk The flexibility of the seeding rate explains why it was necessary to state specifically which one is used. A tablet of the relations between areas and seed is included in the Smith Tablet; boundary stones list not only the dimensions of the fields they enclose, but also the seeding rate by which they are measured. This survey of seeding rates proves that Sachs’ interpretation
of Problem 10 of tablet BM 85196 is unacceptable. According to his interpretation,
the trapezoidal side of the through has a surface of 14/36 square cubits
and corresponds to 43 3/4 grains of seed. There is no rate of seeding
that fits this relation. According to MCT, the rate of seeding would be
about 36 grains to the square cubit, since no distinction is made between
asingle and a double
It is to be noted that the Romans also used a The |