The Domestication of Plants and Nisaba The Goddess of Commercial Justice

In the beginning, we were hunters and gatherers. Then came the Agricultural Revolution. It was primarily a plant-based revolution where humans domesticated and cultivated plants.

It all began with our ancient ancestors observing and experimenting with plants. Once we were able to produce carbohydrates–grains, in particular–on a large scale, we were able to plan for a future that did not yet exist.

This led to a population boom which made the settlement of a large group of people possible. The Neolithic Revolution made possible the first wide-scale transition of human society from small tribes and clans to large cities and countries.

This, however, came at a cost. The Neolithic Revolution greatly narrowed our food choice. A greater diversity of foods could be obtained from gathering. Furthermore, not all plants could be domesticated. There was an opportunity cost involved.

Scholars have argued that this shift resulted in a decline in the quality of human nutrition. Compared to our hunter-gatherer days, we were now subsisting on a few carbohydrates as a plant-based food source.

Nevertheless, even though the quality of our nutrition went down–the human population began to boom.

Over time, this led to the creation and consolidation of a centralised form of government. It also led to depersonalised systems of knowledge as writing became a way to store knowledge, much like how we stored grain.

As the human population grew, specialisation of labour began. We no longer had to be a jack-of-all-trades to survive. This trend towards labour specialisation would later lead to a trade boom.

The historical pattern that can be ascertained is that there was a contraction followed by an expansion. The more focused work we did, the more we were able to create surpluses; which we we would then use to trade with foreign markets that were specialising in other goods.

Property ownership begin to increase. We put down roots and settled there. We developed architecture and began to own property.

The city-state was born.

The Goddess Nisaba

Nisaba was a fertility goddess. In her hand, she is seen holding the grain that both sustained life as well as created surpluses that could be used to trade. As the agricultural revolution grew into maturity, a need arose for accurate record-keeping. With time, Nisaba developed in power and prestige. Due to the importance of her role in commercial transactions, she was known to Ancient Mesopotamians as the scribe of the gods and keeper of both divine and mortal accounts.

The written word was very important to the Ancient Mesopotamians. They saw it as fundamental to their progress as a civilisation. Unlike the literary or political slant that is associated with the other Gods and Goddesses; Nisaba has a specific function as it pertains to the use of the written word; and that was to maintain accurate records as well as communicate with trading partners. She was also associated with long distance communication, contracts and accounting.

Not only was she the Great Lady who made the grain grow–and thus creating those surpluses that catapulted trade–Nisaba also oversaw the accounts of where it was distributed and how. In that vein, she can be viewed as a goddess with a very specific function when it came to the written word.

She was the Goddess of commercial justice.


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