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An introduction to Cuneiform

An introduction to Cuneiform

Dr. Magnus Widdell, lecturer in Assryiology at the University of Liverpool introduces Cuneiform script.

Here he outlines that Cuneiform is actually a script that was utilised my a number of cultures in the ancient Near East. In a similar way, our Latin alphabet is used for a number of languages such as English, German, Spanish etc.

Development of Cuneiform

Magnus explains that cuneiform originally was a language using pictograms (rather like Egyptian hieroglyphs). Over time the pictures became stylised symbols. One major reason for this was the medium used to record Akkadian cuneiform. Carved into wet clay with the end of a reed, it was difficult and time consuming to create intricate pictures, so instead the incisions made by the reed simply approximated the original pictures.

Below is an example of how Cuneiform developed over the centuries in different cultures. The word depicted is ‘head’.

An introduction to Cuneiform Image 1 D Bachman

  1. The pictogram as it was drawn around 3000 BCE.
  2. The rotated pictogram as written around 2800 BCE.
  3. The abstracted glyph in archaic monumental inscriptions, from around 2600 BCE.
  4. the sign as written in clay, as with the last example dating from around 2600 BCE.
  5. Late 3rd millennium (Neo-Sumerian)
  6. An Old Assyrian, early 2nd millennium, as adopted into Hittite.
  7. A simplified sign as written by Assyrian scribes in the early 1st millennium.
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