• Right: Mesopotamian palace paving slab, c. 600 BC This “mixed” method of writing continued through the end of the Babylonian and Assyrian empires, although there were periods
    when “purism” was in fashion and there was a more marked tendency to spell out the words laboriously, in preference to using signs with a phonetic complement.

  • [37] The first tablets using syllabic elements date to the Early Dynastic I–II, circa 2,800 BC, and they are agreed to be clearly in Sumerian.

  • Old Persian cuneiform was developed with an independent and unrelated set of simple cuneiform characters, by Darius the Great in the 5th century BC.

  • [15] • Script type: Logographic and syllabary; Created: around 3500 BC[1]; Time period: c.  35th century BC to c.  2nd century AD; Direction: left-to-right ; Languages: Sumerian,
    Akkadian, Eblaite, Elamite, Hittite, Hurrian, Luwian, Urartian, Palaic, Aramaic, Old Persian; Related scripts: Parent systems: (Proto-writing) Cuneiform; Child systems: None; influenced the shape of Ugaritic and Old Persian glyphs; ISO 15924:
    Xsux (020), Cuneiform, Sumero-Akkadian; Unicode alias: Cuneiform; Unicode range: U+12000 to U+123FF Cuneiform, U+12400 to U+1247F Cuneiform Numbers and Punctuation History Writing began after pottery was invented, during the Neolithic, when
    clay tokens were used to record specific amounts of livestock or commodities.

  • [36] Later tablets after circa 2,900 BC start to use syllabic elements, which clearly show a language structure typical of the non-Indo-European agglutinative Sumerian language.

  • [64] The rediscovery and publication of cuneiform took place in the early 17th century, and early conclusions were drawn such as the writing direction and that the Achaemenid
    royal inscriptions are three different languages (with two different scripts).

  • [44] Early Dynastic cuneiform (circa 2500 BC)[edit] Further information: List of cuneiform signs and Sumerian language Wikibooks has a book on the topic of: Alphabetical list
    of all Unicode cuneiform signs Sumerian inscription in monumental archaic style, c. 26th century BC Early cuneiform inscription were made by using a pointed stylus, sometimes called “linear cuneiform”.

  • Since the Sumerian language has only been widely known and studied by scholars for approximately a century, changes in the accepted reading of Sumerian names have occurred
    from time to time.

  • Cuneiform[note 1] is a logo-syllabic script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Middle East.

  • Capital letters may also be used to indicate a Sumerogram (for example, KÙ.BABBAR – Sumerian for “silver” – being used with the intended Akkadian reading kaspum, “silver”),
    an Akkadogram, or simply a sign sequence of whose reading the editor is uncertain.

  • [24] The cuneiform script was developed from pictographic proto-writing in the late 4th millennium BC, stemming from the near eastern token system used for accounting.

  • Cuneiform writing proper thus arises from the more primitive system of pictographs at about that time (Early Bronze Age II).

  • [45] Many of the early dynastic inscriptions, particularly those made on stone, continued to use the linear style as late as circa 2000 BC.

  • This almost purely alphabetical form of the cuneiform script (36 phonetic characters and 8 logograms), was specially designed and used by the early Achaemenid rulers from
    the 6th century BC down to the 4th century BC.

  • Stages: 1. shows the pictogram as it was drawn around 3000 BC 2. shows the rotated pictogram as written from c. 2800–2600 BC 3. shows the abstracted glyph in archaic monumental
    inscriptions, from c. 2600 BC 4. is the sign as written in clay, contemporary with stage 3 5. represents the late 3rd millennium BC 6. represents Old Assyrian ductus of the early 2nd millennium BC, as adopted into Hittite 7. is the simplified
    sign as written by Assyrian scribes in the early 1st millennium BC and until the script’s extinction.

  • [42][43] There are many instances of Egypt-Mesopotamia relations at the time of the invention of writing, and standard reconstructions of the development of writing generally
    place the development of the Sumerian proto-cuneiform script before the development of Egyptian hieroglyphs, with the suggestion the former influenced the latter.

  • [45] Written Sumerian was used as a scribal language until the first century AD.

  • Niebuhr’s publication was used by Grotefend in 1802 to make the first breakthrough – the realization that Niebuhr had published three different languages side by side and
    the recognition of the word “king”.

  • Possibly the earliest known example of writing.

  • [50] There was no way to use the Sumerian writing system as such, and the Akkadians found a practical solution in writing their language phonetically, using the corresponding
    Sumerian phonetic signs.

  • Regarding Akkadian forms, the standard handbook for many years was Borger (1981, Assyrisch-Babylonische Zeichenliste or “ABZ”) with 598 signs used in Assyrian/Babylonian writing,
    recently superseded by Borger (2004, Mesopotamisches Zeichenlexikon or “MesZL”) with an expansion to 907 signs,

  • [20][21] The cuneiform writing system was in use for more than three millennia, through several stages of development, from the 31st century BC down to the second century

  • [57] The ability to read cuneiform may have persisted until the third century AD.

  • Cuneiforms and hieroglyphs[edit] Geoffrey Sampson stated that Egyptian hieroglyphs “came into existence a little after Sumerian script, and, probably, [were] invented under
    the influence of the latter”,[41] and that it is “probable that the general idea of expressing words of a language in writing was brought to Egypt from Sumerian Mesopotamia”.

  • Cuneiform is the earliest known writing system.

  • [6][7] Over the course of its history, cuneiform was adapted to write a number of languages in addition to Sumerian.

  • [53] The inscriptions, similar to that of the Rosetta Stone’s, were written in three different writing systems.

  • Various ancient bilingual or trilingual inscriptions then permitted to decipher the other, much more complicated and more ancient scripts, as far back as to the 3rd millennium
    Sumerian script.

  • [4] The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age until the beginning of the Common Era.

  • [23] Ultimately, it was completely replaced by alphabetic writing (in the general sense) in the course of the Roman era, and there are no cuneiform systems in current use.

  • [31] The proto-cuneiform sign list has grown, as new texts are discovered, and shrunk, as variant signs are combined.

  • These are some of the more important signs: the complete Sumero-Akkadian list of characters actually numbers about 600, with many more “values”, or pronunciation possibilities.

  • [56] The last known cuneiform inscription, an astronomical text, was written in 75 AD.

  • [18] An ancient Mesopotamian poem gives the first known story of the invention of writing: Because the messenger’s mouth was heavy and he couldn’t repeat [the message], the
    Lord of Kulaba patted some clay and put words on it, like a tablet.

  • [60] It formed a semi-alphabetic syllabary, using far fewer wedge strokes than Assyrian used, together with a handful of logograms for frequently occurring words like “god”,
    “king” or “country”.

  • If the former, then their names could be assumed to be read as Sumerian, while, if they were Semites, the signs for writing their names were probably to be read according
    to their Semitic equivalents, though occasionally Semites might be encountered bearing genuine Sumerian names.

  • [35] The first inscribed tablets were purely pictographic, which makes it technically difficult to know in which language they were written.

  • Different languages have been proposed though usually Sumerian is assumed.

  • For example, the sign dingir in a Hittite text may represent either the Hittite syllable an or may be part of an Akkadian phrase, representing the syllable il, it may be a
    Sumerogram, representing the original Sumerian meaning, ‘god’ or the determinative for a deity.

  • The spoken language included many homophones and near-homophones, and in the beginning, similar-sounding words such as “life” [til] and “arrow” [ti] were written with the
    same symbol.

  • when inscriptions of a Semitic ruler of Kish, whose name was written Uru-mu-ush, were first deciphered, that name was first taken to be logographic because uru mu-ush could
    be read as “he founded a city” in Sumerian, and scholars accordingly retranslated it back to the original Semitic as Alu-usharshid.

  • [38] Many pictographs began to lose their original function, and a given sign could have various meanings depending on context.

  • The current sign list is 705 elements long with 42 being numeric and four considered pre-proto-Elamite.

  • A transliterated document thus presents the reading preferred by the transliterating scholar as well as an opportunity to reconstruct the original text.

  • Actual decipherment did not take place until the beginning of the 19th century, initiated by Georg Friedrich Grotefend in his study of Old Persian cuneiform.

  • He was the first to discover the sign for a word division in one of the scriptures.

  • This is still easier to read than the original cuneiform, but now the reader is able to trace the sounds back to the original signs and determine if the correct decision was
    made on how to read them.

  • [39] Surviving records became less fragmentary for following reigns and by the end of the pre-Sargonic period it had become standard practice for each major city-state to
    date documents by year-names, commemorating the exploits of its lugal (king).

  • [58][59] Derived scripts[edit] Old Persian cuneiform (5th century BC)[edit] Main article: Old Persian cuneiform Old Persian cuneiform syllabary (circa 500 BC) Old Persian
    cuneiform syllabary, and the DNa inscription (part II) of Darius the Great (circa 490 BC), in the newly created Old Persian cuneiform.

  • [61] Because of its simplicity and logical structure, the Old Persian cuneiform script was the first to be deciphered by modern scholars, starting with the accomplishments
    of Georg Friedrich Grotefend in 1802.

  • The complexity of the system bears a resemblance to Old Japanese, written in a Chinese-derived script, where some of these Sinograms were used as logograms and others as phonetic

  • When the words had a similar meaning but very different sounds they were written with the same symbol.

  • The Akkadian language had no use for g̃ or ř but needed to distinguish its emphatic series, q, ṣ, ṭ, adopting various “superfluous” Sumerian signs for the purpose (e.g.

  • [50] From the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age (20th century BC), the script evolved to accommodate the various dialects of Akkadian: Old Akkadian, Babylonian and Assyrian.

  • Cuneiform was originally developed to write the Sumerian language of southern Mesopotamia (modern Iraq).

  • Most scholars consider this writing system to be an independent invention because it has no obvious connections with other writing systems at the time, such as Elamite, Akkadian,
    Hurrian, and Hittite cuneiforms.

  • Carsten Niebuhr made the first copies of the inscriptions of Persepolis in 1778 and settled on three different types of writing, which subsequently became known as Niebuhr
    I, II and III.

  • Sign inventories The Sumerian cuneiform script had on the order of 1,000 distinct signs (or about 1,500 if variants are included).

  • Thus, capital letters can be used to indicate a so-called Diri compound – a sign sequence that has, in combination, a reading different from the sum of the individual constituent
    signs (for example, the compound IGI.A – “eye” + “water” – has the reading imhur, meaning “foam”).

  • [26] Early tokens with pictographic shapes of animals, associated with numbers, were discovered in Tell Brak, and date to the mid-4th millennium BC.

  • The Old Persian and Ugaritic alphabets feature cuneiform-style signs; however, they are unrelated to the cuneiform logo-syllabary proper.

  • Writing is first recorded in Uruk, at the end of the 4th millennium BC, and soon after in various parts of the Near-East.

  • [38] This is the time when some pictographic element started to be used for their phonetical value, permitting the recording of abstract ideas or personal names.

  • They used either geometrical patterns or another cuneiform sign.

  • [50] Still, some of the Sumerian characters were retained for their pictorial value as well: for example the character for “sheep” was retained, but was now pronounced immerū,
    rather than the Sumerian “udu-meš”.

  • Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform, either in inscriptions or on clay tablets, continued to be in use, mainly as a phonetical syllabary, throughout the 2nd millennium BC.

  • [12] Cuneiform was rediscovered in modern times in the early 17th century with the publication of the trilingual Achaemenid royal inscriptions at Persepolis; these were first
    deciphered in the early 19th century.

  • It was later recognized that the URU sign can also be read as rí and that the name is that of the Akkadian king Rimush.

  • [8][9] Akkadian cuneiform was itself adapted to write the Hittite language in the early second millennium BC.


Works Cited

[‘1. /kjuːˈniː.ɪfɔːrm/ kew-NEE-ih-form, /kjuːˈneɪ.ɪfɔːrm/[2][3] kew-NAY-ih-form, or /ˈkjuːnɪfɔːrm/[2] KEW-nih-form
2. ^ Tablets from the site surfaced on the market as early as 1880, when three tablets made their way to European museums. By the early
1920s, the number of tablets sold from the site exceeded 4,000. While the site of Kültepe was suspected as the source of the tablets, and the site was visited several times, it was not until 1925 when Bedrich Hrozny corroborated this identification
by excavating tablets from the fields next to the tell that were related to tablets already purchased.
3. Feldherr, Andrew; Hardy, Grant, eds. (February 17, 2011). The Oxford History of Historical Writing: Volume 1: Beginnings to C.E. 600. Oxford
University Press. p. 5. doi:10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199218158.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-921815-8.
4. ^ Jump up to:a b “Definition of cuneiform in English”. Oxford Dictionaries. Archived from the original on September 25, 2016. Retrieved July 30,
5. ^ Cuneiform: Irving Finkel & Jonathan Taylor bring ancient inscriptions to life. The British Museum. June 4, 2014. Archived from the original on October 17, 2015. Retrieved July 30, 2017.
6. ^ Jagersma, Abraham Hendrik (2010). A descriptive
grammar of Sumerian (PDF) (Thesis). Leiden: Faculty of the Humanities, Leiden University. p. 15. In its fully developed form, the Sumerian script is based on a mixture of logographic and phonographic writing. There are basically two types of signs:
word signs, or logograms, and sound signs, or phonograms.
7. ^ Sara E. Kimball; Jonathan Slocum. “Hittite Online”. The University of Texas at Austin Linguistics Research Center. Early Indo-European OnLine (EIEOL). University of Texas at Austin.
p. 2 The Cuneiform Syllabary. Hittite is written in a form of the cuneiform syllabary, a writing system in use in Sumerian city-states in Mesopotamia by roughly 3100 B.C.E. and used to write a number of languages in the ancient Near East until the
first century B.C.E.
8. ^ Olson, David R.; Torrance, Nancy (February 16, 2009). The Cambridge Handbook of Literacy. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-86220-2.
9. ^ “The origins of writing”. Retrieved May 10, 2022.
10. ^ Sara
E. Kimball; Jonathan Slocum. “Hittite Online”. The University of Texas at Austin Linguistics Research Center. Early Indo-European OnLine (EIEOL). University of Texas at Austin. p. 2 The Cuneiform Syllabary. …by approximately 2350 B.C.E. documents
were written in cuneiform in Akkadian. Sumerian, a long extinct language, is related to no known language, ancient or modern, and its structure differed from that of Akkadian, which made it necessary to modify the writing system.
11. ^ Huehnergard,
John (2004). “Akkadian and Eblaite”. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World’s Ancient Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 218. ISBN 978-0-521-56256-0. Connected Akkadian texts appear c. 2350 and continue more or less uninterrupted
for the next two and a half millennia…
12. ^ Sara E. Kimball; Jonathan Slocum. “Hittite Online”. The University of Texas at Austin Linguistics Research Center. Early Indo-European OnLine (EIEOL). University of Texas at Austin. p. 2 The Cuneiform
Syllabary. These modifications are important, because the Hittites borrowed them when they borrowed the writing system, probably from a north Syrian source, in the early second millennium B.C.E. In borrowing this system, the Hittites retained conventions
established for writing Sumerian and Akkadian…
13. ^ Archi, Alfonso (2015). “How the Anitta text reached Hattusa”. Saeculum: Gedenkschrift für Heinrich Otten anlässlich seines 100. Geburtstags. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. ISBN 978-3-447-10365-7.
The existence of the Anitta text demonstrates that there was not a sudden and total interruption in writing but a phase of adaptation to a new writing.
14. ^ Westenholz, Aage (December 18, 2007). “The Graeco-Babyloniaca Once Again”. Zeitschrift
für Assyriologie und Vorderasiatische Archäologie. 97 (2): 294. doi:10.1515/ZA.2007.014. S2CID 161908528. The latest datable cuneiform tablet that we have today concerns astronomical events of 75 AD and comes from Babylon. It provides a terminus post
quem, at least for Babylon.
15. ^ Hommel, Fritz (1897). The Ancient Hebrew Tradition as Illustrated by the Monuments. Society for promoting christian knowledge. pp. 29–31. It is necessary here to remark, that the application of the term “Assyriology,”
as it is now generally used, to the study of the cuneiform inscriptions, is not quite correct; indeed it is actually misleading.
Meade, Carroll Wade (1974). Road to Babylon: Development of U.S. Assyriology. Brill. pp. 1–2. ISBN 978-90-04-03858-5.
The term Assyriology is derived from these people, but it is very misleading.
Daneshmand, Parsa (July 31, 2020). “Chapter 14 Assyriology in Iran?”. Perspectives on the History of Ancient Near Eastern Studies. Penn State University Press. p. 266.
doi:10.1515/9781646020898-015. The term “Assyriology” is itself problematic because it covers a broad range of topics.
Charpin, Dominique (November 6, 2018). “Comment peut-on être assyriologue ?”. OpenEdition Books. Dès lors, le terme assyriologue
est devenu ambigu : dans son acception large, il désigne toute personne qui étudie des textes notés dans l’écriture cunéiforme.
16. ^ Kramer, Samuel Noah (1963). The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character. His numerous treatises, text
editions, and polemics helped to consolidate the new science, now generally becoming known as Assyriology— based on the fact that the earliest excavations were conducted in northern Iraq, the home of the Assyrian people…
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20. ^ Jump up to:a b c “Beginning in the pottery-phase of the Neolithic, clay tokens are widely attested as a system of counting and identifying specific amounts of specified livestock or commodities. The tokens,
enclosed in clay envelopes after being impressed on their rounded surface, were gradually replaced by impressions on flat or plano-convex tablets, and these in turn by more or less conventionalized pictures of the tokens incised on the clay with a
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Denise Schmandt-Besserat, “An Archaic Recording System and the Origin of Writing.” Syro Mesopotamian Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1–32, 1977
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include genres as variegated as mythology and mathematics, law codes and beer recipes. In most cases these documents are the earliest exemplars of their genres, and cuneiformists have made unique and valuable contributions to the study of such moderns
disciplines as history, law, religion, linguistics, mathematics, and science. In spite of continued great interest in mankind’s earliest documents it has been estimated that only about 1/10 of the extant cuneiform texts have been read even once in
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