Cuneiform

DEFINITION

The wedge-shaped depressions made by the ancient Mesopotamians in clay in order to inscribe the characters of their written language. It was in southern Mesopotamia, or more precisely in Uruk, around 3100 BCE, that writing appeared for the first time in the world, initially pictographic writing, "drawing" the elements of the real world. In this region the earliest known records have been found of political, military and religious administration, set up to administer new complex town structures. As these regions developed, so cuneiform writing also began to appear.In 1838 Henry Rawlinson (English, 1810-1895) became the first modern scholar to decipher cuneiform writing. He was studying inscriptions on tablets Persian king Darius I had made in the sixth century BCE to record his victory over a group of rebels. Rawlinson noticed that same information is written in each of three languages: Old Persian, Babylonian and Elamite. Rawlinson worked out which cuneiform marks spelled the name Darius in Persian and compared them with the marks used to write the name in Babylonian. He then deciphered many of the other signs and words. Egyptian hieroglyphs were deciphered by similar means.(pr. kyoo-NEE-ə-form)Examples:Mesopotamia (possibly Nippur. Ur III, c. 2044 BCE), Tablet in an Envelope, clay, Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory U, Atlanta, GA. A writer who wished to prevent tampering with a letter or another important text sometimes wrapped it, as this one was, in a clay envelope on which the writer re-recorded the text and applied a seal. Any effort to tamper with such a message would then be discovered. Mesopotamia (Babylon, Neo-Babylonian Period, Reign of Nabopolassar, 625-605 BCE), Cuneiform Cylinder of Nabopolassar Recording Repair of the City Wall of Babylon, clay, 3 7/8 x 2 1/16 inches (9.8 x 5.2 cm), Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory U, Atlanta, GA.Also see font, glyph, icon, ideogram, lettering, logo, petroglyph, pictograph, text, and typography.

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