The basic philosophy of “Good Practices” and quality control in modern industry is to carefully document each
step of professional activities, validating and registering interventions by different actors. One might be surprised to learn
that the ancient inhabitants of Arslantepe, one of the first cities of human history, introduced clay sealing as an effective
archetypal form of quality control.
At Arslantepe, a team from Rome University headed by Professor Frangipane recently found over 5,000 fragments of clay
sealing or “cretulae” in the central magazines of what is considered the “palace” or type of warehouse (3300-3000 A.C.).
According to the authors’ hypothesis, in this environment, clay sealing was used as a form of administrative control to ensure
that only authorized persons could access public stocks of goods.
Every cretula, through its seal, in which a specific symbol identified seal owner, his profession and another person, always
a male, possibly his father, was a means of representing the individual who received goods, and probably it also had a
value of quantity in the sense that the holder of the seal presumably always withdrew the same amount of goods. The responsible
person of the warehouse, upon delivery and a count of goods to a given citizen, broke the cretula sealing the
container of a given good of product. After product removal, the person who withdrew the goods closed and sealed the
container again, re-affixing his own seal on a piece of moist clay. At each withdrawal, the broken cretulae were collected
in appropriate containers to store them in “archives”.
Controlled access to goods could therefore be guaranteed on a large scale, as jars, baskets, boxes and even doors could be
sealed in the same manner.
The broken cretulae were kept by the controllers as sort of receipts, to document the withdrawal operation. These finding
support the idea that authorization control of human activity has been part of our history from the beginning of civilization.