Debt and Credit: Entangling the Marginal and Liminal in the Non-monetary Economies of Bronze Age Ugarit


In a non-monetary economy, one of the main mechanisms for the

storage of wealth is debt. For people living on the margins of the major urban

societies of the Bronze Age Near East, debt and credit offered means of participating

in larger aspects of economic life yet simultaneously allowed elites to gain

access to their bodies, their family members, and their property as means of wealth

storage. This paper seeks to explore how debt and credit were used to entangle

marginal and liminal groups but also, perhaps, offered these same groups opportunities

for resistance or for integration into larger polities. Textual evidence for

debt and credit can allow us the opportunity to gain access to different information

about the lives of marginal and liminal people. Using the Late Bronze Age Syrian

city of Ugarit as a case study, this paper will explore some of the possible ways that

the debt and credit mechanisms attested in the administrative record reflect

practices through which marginal and liminal individuals became integrated into

a larger Ugaritic society.