Sumerian Farmer's Almanac
Sumerian Farmer's Almanac is the first farmer's almanac
Farmers' Almanac is an annual North American periodical that has been in continuous publication since 1818. Published by the Almanac Publishing Company, of Lewiston, Maine, it is famous for its long-range weather predictions and astronomical data, as well as its trademark blend of humor, trivia,...
on record. The farmer's almanac is dated to around 1700 to 1500 BCE. It was discovered in 1949 by an American expedition in Iraq sponsored jointly by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...
and the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania is a private, Ivy League university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Penn is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States,Penn is the fourth-oldest using the founding dates claimed by each institution...
TabletThe farmer's almanac is a small clay tablet
In the Ancient Near East, clay tablets were used as a writing medium, especially for writing in cuneiform, throughout the Bronze Age and well into the Iron Age....
of 3 inches (7.6 cm) by 4.5 inches (11.4 cm) with an inscription that is more than 3,500 years old. It was found in the ancient Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....
ian site of Nippur
Nippur was one of the most ancient of all the Sumerian cities. It was the special seat of the worship of the Sumerian god Enlil, the "Lord Wind," ruler of the cosmos subject to An alone...
. The tablet had to be completely restored as it was in poor condition when discovered.
The 'Nippur tablet' has thirty five lines of text and is part of the middle of the complete overall document. Different parts of the agricultural "primer" were already known in eight other clay tablets and fragments before the Nippur part was discovered. The complete Sumerian Farmer's Almanac document has 111 lines of text. It was originally made by a farmer for his son. The document has prime importance in the history of agriculture and its techniques. The document consists of a series of instructions for the purpose of guiding one throughout their yearly agricultural activities.
Before this document was discovered there were two similar farmer's "handbooks" known from ancient times. One was Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...
The Georgics is a poem in four books, likely published in 29 BC. It is the second major work by the Latin poet Virgil, following his Eclogues and preceding the Aeneid. It is a poem that draws on many prior sources and influenced many later authors from antiquity to the present...
and the other was Hesiod
Hesiod was a Greek oral poet generally thought by scholars to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer. His is the first European poetry in which the poet regards himself as a topic, an individual with a distinctive role to play. Ancient authors credited him and...
's Works and Days
Works and Days
Works and Days is a didactic poem of some 800 verses written by the ancient Greek poet Hesiod around 700 BC. At its center, the Works and Days is a farmer's almanac in which Hesiod instructs his brother Perses in the agricultural arts...
. Hesiod's "handbook", written probably in the eighth century BCE, was considered the earliest known farmer's almanac then known until the Sumerian Farmer's Almanac officially took the title in 1951. The Sumerian Farmer's Almanac predates Hesiod's almanac by approximately a millennium
A millennium is a period of time equal to one thousand years —from the Latin phrase , thousand, and , year—often but not necessarily related numerically to a particular dating system....
InstructionsThe instructions start with the flooding of the fields in the spring and ending with the cleaning and winnowing of the freshly harvested crops. The Sumer's soil was parched so irrigation was important. The almanac instructions began with advice concerning putting water into the fields and caring for the ground. The farmer was instructed to have his help prepare in advance all the necessary farming implements and tools. The farmer was instructed to make sure that he had an extra ox for the plow. The instructions were that before plowing, the farmer should have the ground broken up twice by the mattock
A mattock is a versatile hand tool, used for digging and chopping, similar to the pickaxe. It has a long handle, and a stout head, which combines an axe blade and an adze or a pick and an adze .-Description:...
and once by the hoe
A hoe is an ancient and versatile agricultural tool used to move small amounts of soil. Common goals include weed control by agitating the surface of the soil around plants, piling soil around the base of plants , creating narrow furrows and shallow trenches for planting seeds and bulbs, to chop...
. The hammer was to be used to pulverize the clods. The farmer was instructioned to make sure he had a good manager to control the laborers to make sure they didn’t slough off.
The instructions from the Sumerian Farmer's Almanac were for the farmer to plow eight furrows to each strip of land, which was approximately 20 feet long. Plowing and sowing was carried on simultaneously. It was done with a seeder. A plow was used that had an attachment that carried the seed. A container dropped the seed through a narrow funnel down to even depths of just plowed furrows. The depth was to be that of the width of two fingers and if not the plow was to be adjusted to make it come out this way.
The furrows that had been plowed straight this year were to be plowed diagonal the next year and vice versa. The almanac gives instructions for the farmer to pray to Ninkilim, the goddess of field mice and vermin. This was so the pests would not harm the grain when it would start growing. There were special instructions on when to water the growing grain. There were three different watering times. If the farmer spotted reddening of the wet grain it was the dreaded samana-disease that endangered the crops. If the crop came out of this, then there was to be a fourth watering which usually yielded an extra ten percent.
When the farmer was to harvest the barley, he was not to wait, but was to harvest just at the right moment. This was when the barley stood tall and did not bend over under its own weight. Three men were to do the harvesting as a team using a reaper
A reaper is a person or machine that reaps crops at harvest, when they are ripe.-Hand reaping:Hand reaping is done by various means, including plucking the ears of grains directly by hand, cutting the grain stalks with a sickle, cutting them with a scythe, or with a later type of scythe called a...
and a binder
The reaper-binder, or binder, was a farm implement that improved upon the reaper. The binder was invented in 1872 by Charles Withington. In addition to cutting the small-grain crop, it would also tie the stems into small bundles, or sheaves...
. The threshing was done by means of a sledge for a period of five days. This was a device drawn back and forth over the heaped-up grain stalks. The barley was then "opened" with an "opener". A team of oxen drove this primitive machine to crush the barley-(sheaves). The barley, kernels and sheaves, were then winnowed-(of the sheaves) with pitchforks and laid on sticks to make clean.
The writer of the Sumerian Farmer's Almanac said that the agricultural instructions were not his, however those of the god Ninurta
Ninurta in Sumerian and Akkadian mythology was the god of Lagash, identified with Ningirsu with whom he may always have been identical...
, the son and "true farmer" of the leading Sumerian deity, Enlil
Elizabeth Barrett Browning was one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era. Her poetry was widely popular in both England and the United States during her lifetime. A collection of her last poems was published by her husband, Robert Browning, shortly after her death.-Early life:Members...
. This translation of the complete text is by Kramer. Items in (parantheses) are added for meaning (by Kramer). Italics are original Sumerian words.