History of Writing

Writing was evidently invented by the Sumerians. The oldest writing that has survived, at any rate, is Sumerian Cuneiform. The Sumerians used a material they had in abundance–clay–for writing. They invented a form of picture writing called cuneiform (from Laitin cuneus=wedge + forma=form or shape).

Most cuneiform tablets are small; they would fit in the palm of your hand.

red cuneiform tablet

Cuneiform tablets

(Photos from the British Museum)

Over time cuneiform writing looked less and less like picture writing. The signs had to be memorized. The Old Babylonians adopted the Sumerian cuneiform writing system for their Akkadian language. Akkadian is a Semitic language, related to Hebrew and Arabic.

Check out these links for more on Cuneiform writing:

Read about cuneiform writing and see some examples of the Tablets at wsu.edu/~dee/GLOSSARY/CUNEI.HTM or


Read about the ancient Sumerians at http://home.cfl.rr.com/crossland/AncientCivilizations/Middle_East_Civilizations/Sumerians/sumerians.html. After reading about the Sumerians, click on the link to the Babylonians and Assyrians.

See also the Lesson on Gilgamesh at Epos.


One Response

  1. cool

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