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Cuneiform Writing


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Cuneiform Writing

  1. 1. Cuneiform Writing<br />Sumeria, Akkadia and Babylon<br />
  2. 2. Before Writing Came Numbers<br />Sumerian counting tokens, contained in a clay “envelope”<br />Probably used to count items such as livestock, crops, or quantities of land<br />
  3. 3. Clay Envelope w/Tokens - Sumeria<br />
  4. 4. The First Written Languages<br />Around 3,000 B.C., Mesopotamia moved from using counting tokens to using pictograms <br />to record more complex economic data. <br />
  5. 5. The Earliest Forms of Writing<br />Pictograms are symbolic, abstract representations of actual objects.<br />Pictograms were used to communicate basic information about crops and taxes. <br />
  6. 6. From Pictogram to Cuneiform<br />The first pictograms were drawn in vertical columns with a pen made from a sharpened reed. <br />
  7. 7. Writing = Economics<br />Writing began with economic transactions. <br />This tablet is one of the earliest on record. It describes the transfer of 300 acres of land between two parties. <br />As the city states of Sumer grew in size, an increasingly complex social structure called for more sophisticated techniques to record and store accounts of economic transactions. <br />
  8. 8. Pictograms<br />Early pictograms resembled the objects they represented, but through repeated use over time they began to look simpler, even abstract. <br />These marks eventually became wedge-shaped ("cuneiform"), and could convey sounds or abstract concepts.<br />
  9. 9. From Pictogram to Cuneiform<br />
  10. 10. Advancements in Writing<br />Two things happened that revolutionized writing, moving it from pictogram to cuneiform:<br />People began to write in horizontal rows<br />A new type of pen was used called the “stylus”, which was pushed into the clay, producing "wedge-shaped" signs that are known as cuneiform writing.<br />
  11. 11. Cuneiform Using the Stylus<br />Scribes created the wedge shapes which made cuneiform signs by pressing the stylus into a clay or wax surface. Scribes <br />
  12. 12. From Pictogram to Cuneiform<br />Over time, the need for writing changed and the signs developed into a script we call cuneiform. <br />Over thousands of years, Mesopotamian scribes recorded daily events, trade, astronomy, and literature on clay tablets. <br />
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  14. 14. Cuneiform<br />“Cuneiform” is a general word , like “alphabet,” used to describe a kind of writing. <br />In fact, "cuneiform" came from Latin cuneus, which means "wedge". Therefore, any script can be called cuneiform as long as individual signs are composed of wedges.<br />
  15. 15. Cuneiform<br />Sumerians created cuneiform script over 5000 years ago. It was the world's first written language. The last known cuneiform inscription was written in 75 AD.<br />Cuneiform was adapted by the Akkadians, Babylonians, Sumerians and Assyrians to write their own languages and was used in Mesopotamia for about 3000 years.<br />
  16. 16. Cuneiform Tablets<br />Clay tablets were the primary media for everyday written communication and were used extensively in schools. <br />Tablets were routinely recycled and if permanence was called for, they could be baked hard in a kiln. <br />Many of the tablets found by archaeologists were preserved because they were baked when attacking armies burned the building in which they were kept. <br />
  17. 17. Student Tablet<br />This type of school tablet is called a "lentil" or "bun." The convex shaped back fits naturally into the palm of the hand. <br />There are 4 rows of signs on the front of the tablet. <br />The teacher inscribed the signs in rows 1 and 2. <br />The student then took the soft tablet and copied the text into rows 3 and 4.<br />
  18. 18. Decrypting Cuneiform: Inscriptions on a Cliff <br />
  19. 19. Deciphering Cuneiform: Inscriptions on a Cliff<br />Knowledge of cuneiform was lost until AD 1835, when Henry Rawlinson, an English army officer, found some inscriptions on a cliff at Behistun in Persia. <br />Carved in the reign of King Darius of Persia (522-486 BC), they consisted of identical texts in three languages: Old Persian, Babylonian and Elamite.<br />After translating the Persian, Rawlinson began to decipher the others. By 1851 he could read 200 Babylonian signs.<br />