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Ancient Accountants: Mesopotamia’s Advanced Economy

February 24, 2021

The ancient Mesopotamians are credited with a number of remarkable advancements in human history. The economic development of ancient Mesopotamia was unique, and centuries ahead of many of its contemporary civilizations. Mesopotamia’s climate, fertile land, and proximity to rivers enabled their society to develop the crop surplus that led to not only the profession of accountancy, but money itself.

How Accountants Shaped a Civilization

With a crop surplus, ancient Mesopotamians were able to dedicate resources to developing culture and building infrastructure instead of subsistence farming. With a complex society organized around a variety of roles, rather than just surviving, their simple barter economy was no longer sufficient.

Ancient Mesopotamia’s transition away from a barter economy began with early accountants developing a writing system using clay tablets for recording transactions, tracking inventories, and keeping tax records. With those innovations, accountants of Mesopotamia introduced symbolic clay tokens to assign value to goods and standardize transactions.

This system grew increasingly complicated until, after nearly 800 years, the accountants of Mesopotamia innovated further by implementing standardized currencies of silver and barley. This innovation, enabled by bookkeeping practices, set Mesopotamia apart from its contemporaries and influenced countless civilizations to follow.

It is no coincidence that ancient bookkeeping efforts led to the development of a refined economy, as accountancy continues to inform societal development and allow social structures to work as intended. Forensic accounting, as practiced by SDC CPAs (formerly Studler Doyle & Company) continues the tradition set by the proto-accountants of ancient Mesopotamia by supporting modern employment practices that support our economy.


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