Ancient Iraqi Property Law Exam

This riddle actually goes back to the Sumerian civilization, translated from ancient cuneiform:

Three ox drivers from Adab were thirsty: one owned the ox, the other owned the cow and the other owned the wagon’s load.

The owner of the ox refused to get water because he feared his ox would be eaten by a lion;
the owner of the cow refused because he thought his cow might wander off into the desert;
the owner of the wagon refused because he feared his load would be stolen.

So they all went.

In their absence the ox made love to the cow which gave birth to a calf which ate the wagon’s load.

Problem: Who owns the calf?

Abbreviated rendition via Reema’s My Random Thoughts, who places it at 1200 BCE (though that would definitely be post-Sumerian).

The original has several lines missing, so we don’t really know the Sumerians’ answer to this. Good thing you’re not being tested.

2 Comments on "Ancient Iraqi Property Law Exam"

  1. ultimately, the creditor who does not get paid on delivery of the now eaten goods will be the owner of the cart.

  2. The calf is a “ward of the state” due to abondonment (“in their absence”) by the ox drivers. I estimate it would take at least a year until the calf would eat the wagon load — assuming “love at first sight” it would take 9 months gestation for the cow to give birth, 3 months for the calf on mother’s milk before it started to eat the wagon load.

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