Development of Cuneiform Writing

In early Mesopotamia picture symbols or pictographs were the means of communication, conveyed through direct representation of an object or part of an object. For instance, a goat or other animals were illustrated via a continuous outline to create a stylistic image, sometimes with geometric shapes. Such images were often used repetitively on clay tablets as commercial accounts of livestock.

It is thought, over much time, these pictograms incrementally evolved, the images or illustrations rotated and their continuous outlines segmented into broken lines. To approximate these sets of broken lines, and bridge meaning, styluses cut from reeds were pressed into the moist clay tablets leaving triangular indentations [negative voids], commonly known as ‘characters’. These ‘characters’ combined to form what are called logo-graphs, a written character or collection of ‘characters’ representing words. Thus a transformative process of direct representation of meaning transitioning to a more abstract versatile means of communication. Word-concepts or phonograms were formed, with syllables and syntax adding communicative intricacy. This occurred around c3500-3000 BCE and would have felt like a seismic cultural shift requiring significant societal adaptation and a proliferation of idea sharing. This Sumerian writing system, latterly called cuneiform (latin for wedge-shaped) is the oldest known written language, the progenitor of modern Western alphabets. 

         Sumerian Proverb: ‘The art of writing is the mother of orators and the father of artists’       

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Cuneiform Writing

                                                         Development of Cuneiform Writing

In early Mesopotamia picture symbols or pictographs were the means of communication, conveyed through direct representation of an object or part of an object. For instance, a goat or other animals were illustrated via a continuous outline to create a stylistic image, sometimes with geometric shapes. Such images were often used repetitively on clay tablets as commercial accounts of livestock.

It is thought, over much time, these pictograms incrementally evolved, the images or illustrations rotated and their continuous outlines segmented into broken lines. To approximate these sets of broken lines, and bridge meaning, styluses cut from reeds were pressed into the moist clay tablets leaving triangular indentations [negative voids], commonly known as ‘characters’. These ‘characters’ combined to form what are called logo-graphs, a written character or collection of ‘characters’ representing words. Thus a transformative process of direct representation of meaning transitioning to a more abstract versatile means of communication. Word-concepts or phonograms were formed, with syllables and syntax adding communicative intricacy. This occurred around c3500-3000 BCE and would have felt like a seismic cultural shift requiring significant societal adaptation and a proliferation of idea sharing. This Sumerian writing system, latterly called cuneiform (latin for wedge-shaped) is the oldest known written language, the progenitor of modern Western alphabets. 

         Sumerian Proverb: ‘The art of writing is the mother of orators and the father of artists’       

Sections