Fragment of a Roman Contract
There may have been a time in the US when building a house was a "handshake deal" between the home owners and the builder, but those days are long gone.
Today, every builder presents the home owners with a contract that details what he promises to deliver. The contract, which can be many pages long, may seem like a new wrinkle. But in fact, mankind has been writing contracts almost as long as we have been writing anything at all, said Matthew Stolper, a professor and archeologist at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.
The first writing systems, Egyptian hieroglyphs and Sumerian cuneiform, were developed around 3400 to 3200 BC. Even if written contract documents did not become common for another 200 to 400 years, that would still give legally binding contract documents a pedigree that is more than 5,000 years old.
Photo by Katherine Salant
Note: Comments and observations made during a trip to Italy in July and posted after my return.