The 3in (7cm) square clay tablet, recording beer production in what is now southern Iraq, was hammered down at £140,000 at Bloomsbury Auctions (plus 25% buyer’s premium) against an estimate of £70,000-90,000.
The ancient writing tablet from c.3100BC includes the name of a Sumerian individual called Kushim. To the top-left corner are the symbols for the sounds ‘Ku’ and ‘Sim’, who was probably a government scribe.
As noted by Yuval Noah Harari in his bestselling book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, this apparent signature can claim to be the first recorded personal name of any human in history. Kushim’s hand is known from 77 other tablets, although this is thought to be the only one privately owned.
It was sold by Norwegian businessman and collector Martin Schøyen in the 80-lot Bloomsbury auction (The History of Western Script: A Selection from the Schøyen Collection) held on July 8, which marked his 80th birthday.