Ancient Word of the Day: Cuneiform

Ancient Word of the Day: Cuneiform

Cuneiform: n. The oldest known writing system that originated in Mesopotamia circa 3400BC. It was etched onto wet clay tablets using a wedge-shaped stylus.

Cuneiform is the original ancient written language that underpins all modern forms of written communication. Many languages throughout a vast geographical span over thousands of years were written in cuneiform, including Sumerian, Hittite, Hurrian and Akkadian. Among these, Akkadian (an early cognate of Hebrew and Arabic) became the lingua franca of the Near East, including Egypt, during the Late Bronze Age.

Tablet XI The Epic of Gilgamesh “You gods may I be mindful of these days & never forget them.”

The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the earliest surviving great works of literature from ancient Mesopotamia.

Cuneiform was used for everything – from official royal correspondences between leaders to simple records about the movements and transactions of farms and merchants.

Over time, cuneiform became a skill not only taught in temples and scholarly arenas but also moved into the hands of citizens, as well as into private homes.

Here a team cooks a Babylonian stew from a 4,000 year old recipe on a cuneiform tablet…

Irving Finkle, curator at the British Museum talks about translating Noah’s flood out of cuneiform

A message from King Xerxes c. 500 BC Ahuramazda is the great god, the greatest god who created the sky and created the land and created humans. Who gave prosperity to the humans Who made Xerxes king. King of many kings, being the only ruler of the totality of all lands. I am Xerxes, the great king, the king of kings, the king of the lands, king of all the languages, king of the great and large land, the son of king Darius the Achaemenian” The king Xerxes says: “the king Darius, my father, praised be Ahuramazda, made a lot of good, and this mountain, he ordered to work its cliff and he wrote nothing on it so, me, I ordered to write here. May Ahuramazda protect me, with all the gods and so my kingdom and what I have done. Wikipedia

References

The recovery of cuneiform, the world’s oldest known writing

The Epic of Gilgamesh

The world’s oldest beer recipe

2 thoughts on “Ancient Word of the Day: Cuneiform

  1. I remember so well that during History classes we learnt about the cuneiform writing. Those were my favourite types of History classes – when we learnt about the culture of other parts of the world. Learning about the specific historic happenings was not as interesting for me 🙂

    1. Yes me too I think. I really love being able to pick up and hold objects to get a sense of their history, rather than just learn facts and figures about history. 😊 In the British Museum they have a section where you can touch very ancient objects, it’s pretty amazing. Thanks for your comment.

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