Pratiques comptables dans le palais de Mari au Proche-Orient ancien (début du IIe millénaire av. J.-C.)
Since the first days of the Mesopotamian civilisation, bookkeeping in administrative bodies such as palaces and temples was a major source of cuneiform documentation. Archaeological excavations have brought to light hundreds of thousands of accounting documents, also labelled administrative or economic. In spite of the huge number, the principles and techniques of Mesopotamian accounting remain understudied, especially for certain periods. With few exceptions, previous studies treated the accounting documents as a source of information on early writing or economic history. The bookkeeping techniques were mostly studied for practical purposes, that is, to better exploit the content of the documents. A joint French-Russian research project (COMPTABAB) will explore Mesopotamian accounting as a social and cultural phenomenon of its own, in a larger historical and practical context. Special consideration will be given to the palace archives of the city of Mari (East Syria, 18th century BC). The paper will outline our approaches that would help one understand how and, ultimately, why administrators kept accounts in Old Babylonian Mari.