What is Cuneiform Script?

A Brief History of Wedge Shaped Writing

During the 4th millinmium BC a writing form we call cuneiform arose.  Cuneiform simply means wedge-shaped, this particular form of writing could be found in Mesopotamia with the Sumerians.  Three basic wedges would form a cuneiform sign.

Forming Cuneiform Writing

The end of reed stylus was pressed into moist clay enabling the Sumerians to draw.  At first they would just draw pictures that would stand for an object.  An example would be a picture of a mouth which could be taken to mean the noun 'mouth' or verb 'to speak'.

Over the course of time the picture would go on to represent syllable(s) in the word which the picture would be shown.  A sign such as 'mouth' which was ka could also be used for writing a syllable in another word.  This led to a complicated system of writing, that contained pictures, were so stylized that would become virtually unrecognizeable - representing ideograms (whole words) or syllabograms (individual syllables).

In its advanced form cuneiform script had upwards of 500 signs, with most signs having several syllabic and ideographic values.

Things to Know About the World's Oldest Writing System:

1. Cuneiform isn't a language or an alphabet.  Main languages written in Cuneiform were Sumerian and Akkadian.

2. First Used Around 3,400 BC, preceeding Egyptian hieroglyphic writing.  Used until the first century AD.

3. A Reed and Clay Were All That Was Needed.  Cuneiform comes from the Latin cuneus which means 'wedge'.  This shape was made everytime a reed was pressed into the clay.

4. Cuneiform is Looked On As the World's Most Difficult Writing.

5. Children Are Natural Experts at Cuneiform Writing.

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Read more about writing: The Printing Press, A Brief HistoryHieroglyphs, A Brief HistoryWhat is Cuneiform Script?A Short History of Writing.