UCL News


UCL in the News: Brand names 'as old as civilisation itself'

23 April 2008

Roger Highfield, 'The Daily Telegraph'  Bottle stops used five millennia ago in ancient Mesopotamia (today's Iraq), the birthplace of cities and writing, carried symbols that marked them out as the earliest evidence of branded goods.

The logos are ancient equivalents of Coke and Pepsi labels, or the royal warrant used by the likes of Burberry, according to Dr David Wengrow [UCL Institute of Archaeology], reports New Scientist. "They project images of masculinity and femininity too," he tells the Telegraph.

"You get some designs that show people in the act of drinking or eating," says Dr Wengrow. "They show people, gods, animals, even monsters doing all kinds of things together, including drinking beer through a straw, making textiles, but also killing each other too."

The first origins of branding date back to around 8000 years ago, when Mesopotamian villagers began making personalised stone seals, which they pressed into the clay caps and stoppers they used to seal food and drink. … Many stoppers have been found in the ancient city of Uruk, now in southern Iraq, where some 20,000 people lived 5000 years ago. The symbols impressed on their surfaces are the first images in human history to be mechanically mass produced, says Dr Wengrow, referring to how the logo was shaped on a piece of stone pushed into wet clay in "urban temple-factories." …