If one has to name the earliest nation to have established the earliest payroll management services in the world, it is no doubt Mesopotamia.
It is however a technical misnomer to define Mesopotamia as a singular ethnic entity. In fact, what comprises Mesopotamia is a series of cultures that thrived within the Tigris and Euphrates rivers for over seven millennia. This region is also known as the Fertile Crescent. Mesopotamia is the conglomeration of ancient Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian cultures predating Persian ascension. These groups of ancient people within a pluralist ethnic range constituted what became formally known in history as the cradle of Western Civilization. It would be academically prudent for a predominantly Westernized global concept to credit these ancient people for contributing much to what has become of the financial and commercial institutions that we know of today.
There are a number of concrete evidences that point to Mesopotamia as the forerunners of what will become a system called flexible payroll solutions. While other peoples outside the Tigris and Euphrates regional perimeter are still in the midst of unleashing themselves from hunter-gatherer dependence and entering the age of domestication, Mesopotamians have already developed three cultural systems that constituted the crude yet effective “book keeping” system: writing, arithmetic, private property, credit, commerce, wealth and currency.
The Mesopotamian writing system, also known as cuneiform, predated Egyptian hieroglyphs in terms of advancement and sophistication. It is also the same type of writing system used by early Biblical characters, particularly the Canaanites. In order to understand what cuneiform looks like, one can compare it to the contemporary understanding of “emoticons” on social media sites. This writing system emphasizes on rudimentary visual impressions or also known as pictograms. Archaeologists have unearthed several cuneiform tablets that indicate financial records. An analogical example would be a clay tablet with pictograms indicating the crescent moon adjoined to another pictogram indicating the tally of calves, thus a derivative of the list of cows a nobleman possesses in a month.
It is relevant to consider Mesopotamian culture as also one of the ideal examples of being forerunners of an effective HR system known in history, although their scope is rather more insular. One of the most proverbial examples of ancient history’s successful private enterprise is the household of the Biblical patriarch Abraham, whose origins can be traced in the Mesopotamian city of Ur. One must understand that it takes a very efficient payroll management to run an entire private estate. But autonomous business rules and guidelines defined what Mesopotamian commerce was for several few millennia.
The wisest of all Babylonian kings, Hammurabi, created a law that transcends every civil aspect of Mesopotamian society, even that of the very insular and autonomous businesses of noblemen. The famous quotation “an eye for an eye” may not transcend very well in general moral terms of contemporary times, but it set a clear notion of equal compensation. Hammurabi’s code of law enabled a more transparent and outward collective understanding of Mesopotamian commerce in ancient times.