Crafting Social Identity in Ur III Southern Mesopotamia



During the Ur III period in southern Mesopotamia, artisans were engaged in the production of crafts that required enormous technical skill and yet craft production appears not to have been an avenue to prestige and power. This paper draws on archival records from artisan workshops and literary sources to demonstrate the intricate fusion of a powerful political ideology and a rigidly controlled economy in which rulers legitimated their authority at the same time that they suppressed the mobility of craft producers. The establishment of a wide range of economic, social and legal differentiation was based on a state strategy designed to promote efficiency and to achieve control of artisan production. Craft producers during this period negotiated their social identity in a variety of domains that were legal, kinship, ethnic and gender based.