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The Written Word: Cuneiform

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Lindsay Holst

on 15 July 2013

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Transcript of The Written Word: Cuneiform

The Written Word: Cuneiform
By: Lindsay Holst
it all started here
the written word originated here, in southern Mesopotamia [also known as present day Iraq]
writing evolved from the Sumerians practical invention: a record-keeping system
spoken word is dependent on memory recall-- a flawed and easily manipulated system
as Mesopotamian cities grew, a need for a more enduring and accurate way of keeping records developed-- the written word
the evolution.
It is believed that Sumerian writing emerged from a system of trade tokens. For example...
a merchant wants to verify how many sheep to deliver.
the merchant counts out a token for every sheep and seals them in a clay envelope.
the envelope is broken upon delivery + matched against the sheep delivered
the tokens left imprints in the clay-- soon people realized they could just mark the clay
at first the writing consisted of stylized pictures of the objects represented-- but soon the characters became more abstract and indicated sounds as well
cuneiform timeline.
I sure have. I've learned about it in countless history lessons, but never have taken the time to explore the story.
Have you ever wondered how written word was developed?
Hopefully after this presentation you will have learned something new or entertained new thoughts on the subject matter.
To learn about one of the earliest forms of writing we must first time travel to nearly 3,000 b.c., so hold on tight as we jump on over to ancient Mesopotamia!
2800 b.c.
The official development of the sophisticated writing system.
The system was named 'cuneiform' which was derived from the Latin word meaning 'wedge'
Characters were imprinted with a stylus onto wet clay tablets, creating a wedge shaped imprint.
2100 b.c.
Those in power began to write down laws in order to preserve 'the principles of truth and equity.'

2500 b.c.
It took many years to learn how to 'write' + to memorize the thousands of characters of cuneiform script.
Scribal schools were established to teach people how to become scribes. The demand for scribes was enormous since there were numerous temples and palaces emerging in this prosperous time.
Schools were predominately girls in the beginning, but soon became exclusively male.
Scribes were assured a prosperous future due to the demand.
~1792-1750 b.c.
The Code of Hammurabi written by King Hammurabi regulated everything from physician's fees to building requirements. It also introduced harsh penalties for crimes and expressed a strict social hierarchy.
The laws that were established were intended to outlast their creator.
900 b.c.

Cuneiform gradually died out and was replaced by the 22 letter Aramaic alphabet, a much more logical form for writing.

visual evolution of cuneiform symbol.
ending remarks.
It is always interesting to see the progression of a society, but seeing the progression of writing systems is fascinating to me. From clay tablets to Galaxy™ tablets, we've come far and yet still find way to make changes and progress. Cuneiform script will always be the start of something we all survive by: the written word.
(Sherman and Salisbury 12)
(Sherman and Salisbury 12)
Full transcript