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Sumerian Shekel/Istar Token

 
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Pillar of the Community

United States
1155 Posts
 Posted 05/20/2020  12:00 am Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add Gincoin43 to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
So I keep seeing this quote here:

Quote:
The oldest coin currency that we know is a Sumerian bronze piece dating from before 3000 BC. On one side of the coin is a representation of a sheaf of wheat, and on the other, Ishtar, the goddess of fertility. The Sumerians called it the "Shekel" where "She" meant wheat, "Kel" was a measurement similar to a bushel, hence this coin was a symbol of a value of one bushel of wheat. (The word "shekel" survives in modern Hebrew as Israel's monetary unit.) The original shekel had as its purpose payment for sacred prostitution at the temple of Ishtar, which was the temple of life and death. The temple, as well as being a ritual center, was the storage place for the reserves of wheat that supported the priesthood, and also the community in lean times. So farmers fulfilled their religious and social obligations by bringing their contributions of wheat to the temple, and receiving in exchange a shekel coin, entitling them to a visit with the temple prostitutes at the festival time. All this also must be understood in its cultural context: The sacred prostitutes were representatives of the goddess, and intercourse with them was intercourse with the goddess of fertility herself, nothing to take lightly. At that time fertility was truly a matter of life and death. If the crops failed, there was no alternative, and everyone starved or at least went hungry until next year. And, of course, completing the magic ritual properly insured the fertility in crops, animals and children that was necessary for future prosperity.


Does anyone know a reputable source for this? Is it a coin that still exists somewhere or do we just have a description from ancient texts? Any input is welcome.
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 Posted 05/20/2020  12:33 am  Show Profile   Check echizento's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add echizento to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
This is the first I'e heard about this, could be true. If so I wouldn't call it a coin it would be more like a token only to be used at a certain time.
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Russian Federation
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 Posted 05/20/2020  10:18 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add january1may to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
The text goes back to at least 2014; it's probably older. Some of it is actively debunked in the linked thread.

One suspicious Egyptian ingot aside, the oldest attested coins are from 7th century BC Ionia, though some types of the Chinese cowrie shell imitations might be a century or two older.
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 Posted 05/20/2020  1:39 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Gincoin43 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Those were helpful, though not really conclusive.

For example: an excerpt from Code of Ur-Namu(2113-2006Bc)
"
Quote:
if a man breaks the tooth of another man, he has to pay him in fee two shekels of silver


From The Lipit - Ishtar Code of Law:
Quote:
The price of 2 gurs of salt is one shekel of silver".


It is also mentioned several times in the code of Hammurabi.

Now I understand that the Summerian/Akkadian word for shekel refered to a specific weight. However the original quote mentions a bronze shekel from aprox 3000 bc. The first mention of a bronze shekel I can find is under , King Sennacherib (705-681)BC where he states
Quote:
I have ordered to make moulds of clay and cast bronze to make a shekel and half a shekel


I guess I really would just like to know what they are referencing. It does seem like it is untrue or distorted as Istar is the Akkadian name for Inanna
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 Posted 05/20/2020  11:08 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Kushanshah to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
With all due respect, this is a lot of nonsense. "Shekel" in the Sumerian context is a unit of weight, nothing more. Compare Genesis 23:16 in the Hebrew Bible, "Abraham agreed to Ephron's terms and weighed out for him the price he had named in the hearing of the Hittites: four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weight current among the merchants."
Edited by Kushanshah
05/20/2020 11:28 pm
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 Posted 05/21/2020  01:23 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Gincoin43 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
With all due respect, this is a lot of nonsense.


So you are of the opinion that there is no factual bases for this and it is completely a fabricated tale?

Quote:

"Shekel" in the Sumerian context is a unit of weight, nothing more. Compare Genesis 23:16 in the Hebrew Bible, "Abraham agreed to Ephron's terms and weighed out for him the price he had named in the hearing of the Hittites: four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weight current among the merchants.


I am aware of that, I added the quotes from the codes of law because I can't read Sumerian and those were the earliest mention I could find of "Shekel." Not only is Shekel a weight in a three of those contexts but it is a weight of silver not bronze. I just find it hard to believe someone created that story without some basis in misunderstood fact; Then again there is that 5 spider thing people were passing around for a while.
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 Posted 05/21/2020  02:39 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Sap to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
So you are of the opinion that there is no factual bases for this and it is completely a fabricated tale?

I am. Absolutely. Pretty much everything stated in the quoted text in the OP is 100% untrue, or at least there is zero scientific, textual or archaeological evidence for its truth.

Quote:
On one side of the coin is a representation of a sheaf of wheat, and on the other, Ishtar, the goddess of fertility.

Sorry, but no such artifacts exist. None. I'd love for such artifacts to actually exist, as they would clearly be "coins", and it would make coin collecting that much older, and more interesting. But they simply don't exist. If anyone believing in the existence of such objects could please find and post a picture of one, along with the museum catalogue reference identifying it as such? We'd all love to see it.

Quote:
The Sumerians called it the "Shekel" where "She" meant wheat, "Kel" was a measurement similar to a bushel, hence this coin was a symbol of a value of one bushel of wheat. (The word "shekel" survives in modern Hebrew as Israel's monetary unit.)

Entirely 100% not true. "Sheqel" or "shekel" is an entirely Hebrew-origin word, which simply means "weight". The Sumerian word for the equivalent weight was "gin". Which also, presumably, simply means "weight".

Quote:
The original shekel had as its purpose payment for sacred prostitution at the temple of Ishtar, which was the temple of life and death. The temple, as well as being a ritual center, was the storage place for the reserves of wheat that supported the priesthood, and also the community in lean times. So farmers fulfilled their religious and social obligations by bringing their contributions of wheat to the temple, and receiving in exchange a shekel coin, entitling them to a visit with the temple prostitutes at the festival time. All this also must be understood in its cultural context: The sacred prostitutes were representatives of the goddess, and intercourse with them was intercourse with the goddess of fertility herself, nothing to take lightly. At that time fertility was truly a matter of life and death. If the crops failed, there was no alternative, and everyone starved or at least went hungry until next year. And, of course, completing the magic ritual properly insured the fertility in crops, animals and children that was necessary for future prosperity.

As far as we have been able to ascertain, Ishtar basically didn't exist prior to around 2300 BC. Emperor Sargon of Akkad basically created the Ishtar cult singlehandedly by amalgamating the mythologies of two formerly unrelated minor goddesses; Ishtar gradually accumulated further myths and powers by assimilating the stories of other gods and goddesses in subsequent centuries. There is no evidence of organized temple prostitution with regular people, requiring a payment in grain or coin, in the early temples of Ishtar. As far as we can tell, in its earliest form from the time of Sargon, only the king participated in the ritual with the high priestess of the cult, as representatives of Ishtar and her husband Tammuz. Mass public prostitution did not enter the cult until the cult evolved into the Phoenician goddess Ashtoreth (Astarte).
Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise, you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite. - C. S. Lewis
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 Posted 05/21/2020  12:53 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Gincoin43 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks you sap
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