Complaint tablet to Ea-nāṣir

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Complaint tablet to Ea-nāṣir
Tablet on display in the British Museum
Height11.6 cm (4.6 in)
Width5 cm (2.0 in)
Createdc. 1750 BCE
Present locationBritish Museum, London

The complaint tablet to Ea-nāṣir (UET V 81)[1] is a clay tablet that was sent to the ancient city-state Ur, written c. 1750 BCE. It is a complaint to a merchant named Ea-nāṣir from a customer named Nanni. Written in Akkadian cuneiform, it may be the oldest known written customer complaint. It is currently kept in the British Museum.[2] In 2015, the tablet's content and Ea-nāṣir in particular gained popularity as an online meme.[3][4][5]


The tablet is 11.6 centimetres (4+916 in) high, 5 cm (1+1516 in) wide, 2.6 cm (1 in) thick, and slightly damaged.[6]


A transcription of the text on the obverse, reverse, and left edge of the tablet[7]

The tablet details that Ea-nāṣir travelled to Dilmun to buy copper and returned to sell it in Mesopotamia. On one particular occasion, he had agreed to sell copper ingots to Nanni. Nanni sent his servant with the money to complete the transaction.[8] The copper was considered by Nanni to be sub-standard[9] and was not accepted.

In response, Nanni created the cuneiform letter for delivery to Ea-nāṣir. Inscribed on it is a complaint to Ea-nāṣir about a copper delivery of the incorrect grade and issues with another delivery;[6] Nanni also complained that his servant (who handled the transaction) had been treated rudely. He stated that, at the time of writing, he had not accepted the copper, but had paid for it.


Illustration of the interior of an old Babylonian house found in the ruins of Ur, which may have been the residence of Ea-nāṣir

The tablet was discovered and acquired by Sir Leonard Woolley, leading a joint expedition of the University of Pennsylvania and the British Museum from 1922 to 1934 in the Sumerian city of Ur.[6][10]


A. Leo Oppenheim translated several of the tablet's lines in a 1954 article for Journal of the American Oriental Society.[11] An English language translation of the tablet was made by W. F. Leemans [nl] in 1960;[12] Leemans's translation incorporated these lines which Oppenheim had translated as well as some input from Fritz Rudolf Kraus [de] on the meaning of a few lines.[13] Oppenheim published a full translation of the tablet himself in 1967,[9] unaware of any other translations of this tablet.[14] A translation inspired by that of Marc Van de Mieroop sent in a personal communication to Steven J. Garfinkle was published in 2010;[15] a book review by Walter Farber [de] noted that this translation "is not always true to details".[16] I. M. Diakonoff published a translation into Russian in 1990.[17]

Other tablets[edit]

Other tablets have been found in the ruins believed to be Ea-nāṣir's dwelling. These include a letter from a man named Arbituram who complained he had not received his copper yet, while another said he was tired of receiving bad copper.[18][19]


The complaint tablet has become an internet meme due to its seemingly anachronistic nature, with Forbes stating that it bore resemblance to many modern customer complaints for poor service in the modern era.[3][18][20]

It has been recognized by the Guinness World Records as the "Oldest Customer Complaint".[21]


  1. ^ Figulla, H.H.; Martin, W.J., eds. (1953). Letters and Business Documents of the Old Babylonian Period. Ur Excavations: Texts. Vol. V. London, UK: British Museum Press. p. 5, Pl. XIV.
  2. ^ Hyken, Shep (23 April 2015). "Oldest customer service complaint discovered: A lesson from ancient Babylon". Forbes. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  3. ^ a b "The Legend of Ea-Nāsir: how a Babylonian businessman became an internet meme". Institute of Archaeology. 8 December 2022. Retrieved 27 April 2023.
  4. ^ Kern, Emily (3 November 2021). "The Radical Promise of Human History". Boston Review.
  5. ^ Brinkley, Liv (17 March 2022). "The World's Oldest Customer Complaint Is Almost 4000 Years Old". Grunge.
  6. ^ a b c "tablet". British Museum. object W 1953-0411-71.
  7. ^ "UET 5, 0081 (P414985)". CDLI. Retrieved 23 October 2023.
  8. ^ Crawford, Harriet (July 2015). "Sir Leonard Woolley and Ur of the Chaldees". The Bible and Interpretation. University of Arizona.
  9. ^ a b Oppenheim (1967), pp. 82–83.
  10. ^ "Sir Leonard Woolley". Biography. British Museum. Collections online.
  11. ^ Leemans (1960), p. 39 n. 1, citing Oppenheim (1954), pp. 9ff.
  12. ^ Leemans (1960), pp. 39–40.
  13. ^ Leemans (1960), p. 39 n. 1.
  14. ^ Oppenheim (1967), p. 200.
  15. ^ Garfinkle (2010), p. 198, 198 n. 39.
  16. ^ Farber (2012), p. 321.
  17. ^ Diakonoff (1990), p. 116.
  18. ^ a b Killgrove, Kristina (11 May 2018). "Meet the worst businessman of the 18th century BCE". Forbes. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  19. ^ Leemans (1960), pp. 48–54.
  20. ^ Podany (2022), pp. 1–2.
  21. ^ "Complaint Tablet To Ea-Nasir - World's Oldest Complaint Letter". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 5 April 2023.


External links[edit]