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**History and Development of Cuneiform:**
Cuneiform is a logo-syllabic writing system used in the Ancient Near East from the early Bronze Age until the Common Era.
– It evolved from pictographic proto-writing in the late 4th millennium BC, influenced by tokens used for accounting.
– The script features wedge-shaped impressions and was initially developed for Sumerian before being adapted for Akkadian and other languages.
– Early cuneiform tablets were purely pictographic before incorporating syllabic elements after c. 2900 BC.
– The script changed over more than 2,000 years of use and was replaced by alphabetic writing during the Roman era.

**Decipherment and Legacy of Cuneiform:**
Cuneiform had to be deciphered in the 19th century, leading to the field of Assyriology that studies cuneiform and ancient Assyria.
– An estimated half a million tablets are held in museums worldwide, with the British Museum having the largest collection.
– The script was used for various languages, including Elamite, Hittite, Hurrian, and Urartian, showcasing its adaptability and wide influence.
Cuneiform tablets provide valuable insights into ancient civilizations, with the latest known tablet dating to 75 AD.
– The complexity of the cuneiform system, with about 600 characters, signs that evolved over time, and polyvalent meanings, highlights its significance in communication and record-keeping.

**Evolution and Variants of Cuneiform Script:**
– The script evolved from early pictographic elements to more advanced syllabic writing, enabling the recording of abstract ideas.
– From linear to angular cuneiform, the introduction of wedge-tipped styluses in the mid-3rd millennium BC changed the writing style to wedge-shaped impressions.
– Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform, developed around 2200 BC, showcased the script’s adaptation for the Akkadian language and its influence on other languages like Hittite, Hurrian, and Urartian.
– The complexity of the cuneiform system, with signs that could be modified for composition and used for both syllabic and logographic meanings, demonstrates its versatility and adaptability.

**Early Dynastic and Proto-Cuneiform Development:**
– Early Dynastic cuneiform tablets from around 2800 BC marked the introduction of syllabic elements and the recording of abstract ideas.
– Proto-cuneiform tablets from the end of the 4th millennium BC show the script’s early development from pictographs to a more advanced writing system.
– The reduction of sign inventory and re-introduction of determinative signs in Early Dynastic cuneiform highlight the script’s evolution towards phonological writing.
– The relationship between proto-cuneiform script, Egyptian hieroglyphs, and the development of more advanced cuneiform systems illustrates the interconnectedness of ancient writing systems.

**Regional and Language-Specific Adaptations of Cuneiform:**
Cuneiform was adapted for various languages, including Elamite, Hittite, Hurrian, and Urartian, showcasing its widespread usage and adaptability.
– Elamite cuneiform, used in Iran from the 3rd to 4th century BC, competed with other Elamite scripts and evolved over time in its usage of syllabograms and logograms.
– Hittite cuneiform, adapted from Old Assyrian cuneiform, was used for Hittite, Luwian, Palaic, and Hattic languages, with unique features like Akkadograms and Sumerograms.
– The development of Hurrian and Urartian cuneiform scripts, written in adapted Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform, showcases the separate evolution of writing systems for different languages and regions.

Cuneiform (Wikipedia)

Cuneiform is a logo-syllabic writing system that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age until the beginning of the Common Era. Cuneiform scripts are marked by and named for the characteristic wedge-shaped impressions (Latin: cuneus) which form their signs. Cuneiform is the earliest known writing system and was originally developed to write the Sumerian language of southern Mesopotamia (modern Iraq).

Trilingual cuneiform inscription of Xerxes I at Van Fortress in Turkey, an Achaemenid royal inscription written in Old Persian, Elamite and Babylonian forms of cuneiform
Script type and syllabary
Time period
c. 3500 BC – 2nd century AD
LanguagesSumerian, Akkadian, Eblaite, Elamite, Hittite, Hurrian, Luwian, Urartian, Palaic, Aramaic, Old Persian
Related scripts
Parent systems
Child systems
None; influenced the shape of Ugaritic and Old Persian glyphs
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Xsux (020), ​Cuneiform, Sumero-Akkadian
Unicode alias
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and  , see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.

Over the course of its history, cuneiform was adapted to write a number of languages in addition to Sumerian. Akkadian texts are attested from the 24th century BC onward and make up the bulk of the cuneiform record. Akkadian cuneiform was itself adapted to write the Hittite language in the early second millennium BC. The other languages with significant cuneiform corpora are Eblaite, Elamite, Hurrian, Luwian, and Urartian. The Old Persian and Ugaritic alphabets feature cuneiform-style signs; however, they are unrelated to the cuneiform logo-syllabary proper. The latest known cuneiform tablet dates to 75 AD.

Cuneiform was rediscovered in modern times in the early 17th century with the publication of the trilingual Achaemenid royal inscriptions at Persepolis; these were first deciphered in the early 19th century. The modern study of cuneiform belongs to the ambiguously named field of Assyriology, as the earliest excavations of cuneiform libraries – in the mid-19th century – were in the area of ancient Assyria. An estimated half a million tablets are held in museums across the world, but comparatively few of these are published. The largest collections belong to the British Museum (approx. 130,000 tablets), the Vorderasiatisches Museum Berlin, the Louvre, the Istanbul Archaeology Museums, the National Museum of Iraq, the Yale Babylonian Collection (approx. 40,000 tablets), and Penn Museum.

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