Complaint tablet to Ea-nasir

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The complaint tablet to Ea-nasir (UET V 81)[1] is a clay tablet from ancient Babylon written c. 1750 BC. It is a complaint to a merchant named Ea-nasir from a customer named Nanni. Written in cuneiform, it is considered to be the oldest known written complaint. It is currently kept in the British Museum.[2][3]

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

Ea-nasir travelled to the Persian Gulf to buy copper and return 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.[4] The copper was sub-standard and not accepted. In response, Nanni created the cuneiform letter for delivery to Ea-nasir. Inscribed on it is a complaint to Ea-nasir about a copper delivery of the incorrect grade, and issues with another delivery.[5] He 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 the money.

Tablet on display in the British Museum.


The tablet is 11.6 centimetres (4.6 in) high, 5 centimetres (2.0 in) wide, 2.6 centimetres (1.0 in) thick, and slightly damaged.


Translated from Akkadian, it reads:

Tell Ea-nа̄ṣir: Nanni sends the following message:

When you came, you said to me as follows : "I will give Gimil-Sin (when he comes) fine quality copper ingots." You left then but you did not do what you promised me. You put ingots which were not good before my messenger (Ṣīt-Sin) and said "If you want to take them, take them, if you do not want to take them, go away!"

What do you take me for, that you treat somebody like me with such contempt? I have sent as messengers gentlemen like ourselves to collect the bag with my money (deposited with you) but you have treated me with contempt by sending them back to me empty-handed several times, and that through enemy territory. Is there anyone among the merchants who trade with Telmun who has treated me in this way? You alone treat my messenger with contempt! On account of that one (trifling) mina of silver which I owe(?) you, you feel free to speak in such a way, while I have given to the palace on your behalf 1,080 pounds of copper, and Šumi-abum has likewise given 1,080 pounds of copper, apart from what we both have had written on a sealed tablet to be kept in the temple of Šamaš.

How have you treated me for that copper? You have withheld my money bag from me in enemy territory; it is now up to you to restore (my money) to me in full.

Take cognizance that (from now on) I will not accept here any copper from you that is not of fine quality. I shall (from now on) select and take the ingots individually in my own yard, and I shall exercise against you my right of rejection because you have treated me with contempt.

W. F. Leemans also provided an English translation, alongside a transliteration of the Akkadian, in 1960.[7]


The tablet was acquired by the British Museum in 1953. It was originally found in the ruins of Ur.[5]

Other tablets[edit]

Other tablets have been found in the ruins believed to be Ea-nasir's dwelling. These include a letter from a man named Arbituram who complained he had not received his copper yet, while another from Imgur-sin says he was tired of receiving bad copper.[8]


Works cited[edit]

  • Oppenheim, A. Leo (1967). Letters From Mesopotamia: Official, Business, and Private Letters on Clay Tablets from Two Millennia. The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Baraniuk, Chris (2 March 2015). "Ancient customer-feedback technology lasts millennia". New Scientist.
  • Kruszelnicki, Karl S. (24 March 2015). "The oldest known complaint letter".
  • Kalinauskas, Nadine (10 March 2015). "Clay tablet with oldest recorded customer-service complaint on display at the British Museum". Yahoo News Canada.
  • McNally, Victoria (27 February 2015). "Ancient Babylonians Were Just Like Us, Complained About Poor Service From Retailers".
  • Wheaton, Oliver (5 March 2015). "Believe it or not, this carving is actually a 3,750-year-old customer service complaint". Metro.
  • "Bluff The Listener". 7 March 2015.


  1. ^ Figulla, H. H.; Martin, W. J., eds. (1953). Letters and Business Documents of the Old Babylonian Period. Ur Excavations: Texts. V. London: British Museum Press.
  2. ^ Leafloor, Liz. "4,000-Year-Old Ancient Babylonian Tablet is Oldest Customer Service Complaint Ever Discovered". Ancient Origins. Retrieved 2017-02-07.
  3. ^ Hyken, Shep. "Oldest Customer Service Complaint Discovered: A Lesson from Ancient Babylon". Forbes. Retrieved 2017-02-07.
  4. ^ Crawford, Harriet (July 2015). "Sir Leonard Woolley and Ur of the Chaldees". The Bible and Interpretation.
  5. ^ a b "British Museum – tablet". British Museum.
  6. ^ Oppenheim 1967, pp. 82–83.
  7. ^ Leeman, W. F. (1960). "Ur: Time of Rim-Sin". Foreign Trade in the Old Babylonian Period: As Revealed by Texts from Southern Mesopotamia. Studia et Documenta ad Iura Orientis Antiqui Pertinentia. 4. Leiden: E. J. Brill. pp. 39–40.
  8. ^ Killgrove, Kristina. "Meet The Worst Businessman Of The 18th Century BC". Forbes. Retrieved 22 July 2020.

External links[edit]