Distinguished by its wedge-shaped marks on clay tablets, cuneiform script is the oldest form of writing in the world, first appearing even earlier than Egyptian hieroglyphics. Here are six information about the script that originated in ancient Mesopotamia…
Curators of the world’s largest collection of cuneiform tablets – housed at the British Museum – revealed in a 2015 book why the writing system is as relevant today as ever. Here, Irving Finkel and Jonathan Taylor share six lesser-known facts about a brief history of the ancient script…
Cuneiform is certainly not a language
The cuneiform writing system is also not an alphabet, buy an essay and it does not have letters. Instead it used between 600 and 1,000 characters to write words (or components of them) or syllables (or components of them).
The two languages that are main in Cuneiform are Sumerian and Akkadian (from ancient Iraq), although more than a dozen others are recorded. This implies we're able to put it to use equally well to spell Chinese, Hungarian or English today.
Cuneiform was first found in around 3400 BC
The first stage used elementary pictures that have been soon also used to record sounds. Cuneiform probably preceded Egyptian hieroglyphic writing, because we all know of early Mesopotamian experiments and ‘dead-ends’ once the established script developed – including the beginning of signs and numbers – whereas the hieroglyphic system seems to have been born just about perfectly formed and ready to go. Almost certainly Egyptian writing evolved from cuneiform – it can’t have been an invention that is on-the-spot.
Amazingly, cuneiform continued to be used before the first century AD, which means that the distance in time that separates us from the latest surviving cuneiform tablet is just just over 1 / 2 of that which separates that tablet through the first cuneiform.
Whatever you needed to write cuneiform was a reed plus some clay
Each of that have been freely for sale in the rivers alongside the Mesopotamian cities where cuneiform was used (now Iraq and Syria that is eastern). The term cuneiform comes from Latin ‘cuneus’, meaning ‘wedge’, and just means ‘wedge shaped’. It refers to the shape made every time a scribe pressed his stylus (created from a specially cut reed) to the clay.
Most tablets would fit comfortably when you look at the palm of a hand – like mobile phones today – and were utilized for only a short time: maybe several hours or days at school, or a few years for a letter, loan or account. A number of the tablets have survived purely by accident.
Those who read cuneiform for a full time income – and there are a few – choose to think of it since the world’s most writing that is difficultor the most inconvenient). However, when you yourself have six years to spare and work twenty-four hours a day (not pausing for meals) it is a doddle to understand! All you have to do is learn the languages that are extinct by the tablets, then a large number of signs – some of which have more than one meaning or sound.
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Children who visit the British Museum seem to take to cuneiform with a type of overlooked instinct that is homing in addition they often consider clay homework in spikey wedges a whole lot more exciting than exercises in biro on paper.
In fact, a number of the surviving tablets in the museum collection belonged to schoolchildren, and show the spelling and handwriting exercises until they could move on to difficult literature that they completed: they repeated the same characters, then words, then proverbs, over and over again.
Cuneiform is as relevant today as ever
Ancient writings offer proof that our ‘modern’ ideas and problems have already been experienced by human beings for many thousands of years – this can be always an realisation that is astounding. Through cuneiform we hear the voices not only of kings and their scribes, but children, bankers, merchants, priests and healers – women in addition to men. It really is utterly fascinating to read other people’s letters, particularly when these are typically 4,000 yrs . old and printed in such elegant and script that is delicate.