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I was recently reading a translation of "The debate between Sheep and Grain" Babylonian creation myth. It mentioned the following in lines 130-142:

Every night your count is made and your tally-stick put into the ground, so your herdsman can tell people how many ewes there are and how many young lambs, and how many goats and how many young kids.

What was the purpose of the tally-stick? Why did the shepherds not simply remember the count? Why did it need to be driven into the ground?

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    Primarily as a proof when the sheep get mixed with other herds in a common grazing area. Before you mix, you show the stick and everyone agrees at the count. You stick it in so nobody can change it, and at the end of the day pull the same number out, with the tally for proof. – Oldcat Sep 15 '15 at 23:48
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    @Oldcat: Also, it's worth noting that if the count might vary day by day, as if a sheep is lost or slaughtered, it may not be so easy to be sure of what the count was today as opposed to yesterday or the day before. Shepherds have more to da than just memorize the day's current count of sheep. – Pieter Geerkens Sep 16 '15 at 3:22
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    @PieterGeerkens Surely, sheep should have some brand too. – Matt Sep 16 '15 at 8:38
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    Hard to see a brand under all the fluff. – Oldcat Sep 16 '15 at 18:24
  • Have you read Early Numeration by J. A. Halloran? – CGCampbell Sep 16 '15 at 23:13

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