Cuneiform script

Cuneiform script

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Cuneiform script is one of the earliest known forms of written expression
Writing system
A writing system is a symbolic system used to represent elements or statements expressible in language.-General properties:Writing systems are distinguished from other possible symbolic communication systems in that the reader must usually understand something of the associated spoken language to...

. Emerging in Sumer
Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

 around the 30th century BC
30th century BC
The 30th century BC is a century which lasted from the year 3000 BC to 2901 BC.-Events:* Before 3000 BC: Image of a deity, detail from a cong recovered from Tomb 12, Fanshan, Yuyao, Zhejiang, is made. Neolithic period. Liangzhu culture...

, with predecessors reaching into the late 4th millennium (the Uruk IV period), cuneiform writing began as a system of pictographs. In the three millennia the script spanned, the pictorial representations became simplified and more abstract as the number of characters in use also grew gradually smaller, from about 1,000 unique characters in the Early Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 to about 400 unique characters in Late Bronze Age (Hittite cuneiform
Hittite cuneiform
Hittite cuneiform is the implementation of cuneiform script used in writing the Hittite language. The surviving corpus of Hittite texts is preserved in cuneiform on clay tablets dates to the 2nd millennium BC ....

).

The original Sumerian
Sumerian language
Sumerian is the language of ancient Sumer, which was spoken in southern Mesopotamia since at least the 4th millennium BC. During the 3rd millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism...

 script was adapted for the writing of the Akkadian
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

, Eblaite
Eblaite language
Eblaite is an extinct Semitic language, which was spoken in the 3rd millennium BC in the ancient city of Ebla, at Tell Mardikh , between Aleppo and Hama, in western modern Syria....

, Elamite
Elamite language
Elamite is an extinct language spoken by the ancient Elamites. Elamite was the primary language in present day Iran from 2800–550 BCE. The last written records in Elamite appear about the time of the conquest of the Persian Empire by Alexander the Great....

, Hittite
Hittite language
Hittite is the extinct language once spoken by the Hittites, a people who created an empire centred on Hattusa in north-central Anatolia...

, Luwian
Luwian language
Luwian is an extinct language of the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European language family. Luwian is closely related to Hittite, and was among the languages spoken during the second and first millennia BC by population groups in central and western Anatolia and northern Syria...

, Hattic
Hattic language
Hattic was a language spoken by the Hattians in Asia Minor between the 3rd and the 2nd millennia BC. Scholars call this language 'Hattic' to distinguish it from the Hittite language--the Indo-European language of the Hittite Empire....

, Hurrian
Hurrian language
Hurrian is a conventional name for the language of the Hurrians , a people who entered northern Mesopotamia around 2300 BC and had mostly vanished by 1000 BC. Hurrian was the language of the Mitanni kingdom in northern Mesopotamia, and was likely spoken at least initially in Hurrian settlements in...

, and Urartian
Urartian language
Urartian, Vannic, and Chaldean are conventional names for the language spoken by the inhabitants of the ancient kingdom of Urartu that was located in the region of Lake Van, with its capital near the site of the modern town of Van, in the Armenian Highland, modern-day Eastern Anatolia region of...

 languages, and it inspired the Ugaritic
Ugaritic alphabet
The Ugaritic script is a cuneiform abjad used from around 1400 BCE for Ugaritic, an extinct Northwest Semitic language, and discovered in Ugarit , Syria, in 1928. It has 30 letters...

 and Old Persian
Old Persian cuneiform script
Old Persian cuneiform is a semi-alphabetic cuneiform script that was the primary script for the Old Persian language. Texts written in this cuneiform were found in Persepolis, Susa, Hamadan, Armenia, and along the Suez Canal. They were mostly inscriptions from the time period of Darius the Great...

 alphabets. Cuneiform writing was gradually replaced by the Phoenician alphabet
Phoenician alphabet
The Phoenician alphabet, called by convention the Proto-Canaanite alphabet for inscriptions older than around 1050 BC, was a non-pictographic consonantal alphabet, or abjad. It was used for the writing of Phoenician, a Northern Semitic language, used by the civilization of Phoenicia...

 during the Neo-Assyrian Empire, and by the 2nd century AD, the script had become extinct.

Cuneiform documents were written on clay tablet
Clay tablet
In the Ancient Near East, clay tablets were used as a writing medium, especially for writing in cuneiform, throughout the Bronze Age and well into the Iron Age....

s, by means of a blunt reed
Phragmites
Phragmites, the Common reed, is a large perennial grass found in wetlands throughout temperate and tropical regions of the world. Phragmites australis is sometimes regarded as the sole species of the genus Phragmites, though some botanists divide Phragmites australis into three or four species...

 for a stylus
Stylus
A stylus is a writing utensil, or a small tool for some other form of marking or shaping, for example in pottery. The word is also used for a computer accessory . It usually refers to a narrow elongated staff, similar to a modern ballpoint pen. Many styli are heavily curved to be held more easily...

. The impressions left by the stylus were wedge shaped, thus giving rise to the name cuneiform ("wedge shaped", from the Latin cuneus, meaning "wedge").

History


The cuneiform writing system was in use for more than 35 centuries, through several stages of evolution, from the 34th century BC down to the 1st century AD.
It was completely replaced by alphabetic writing (in the general sense) in the course of the Roman era and there are no Cuneiform systems in current use. For this reason, it had to be deciphered from scratch in 19th century Assyriology
Assyriology
Assyriology is the archaeological, historical, and linguistic study of ancient Mesopotamia and the related cultures that used cuneiform writing. The field covers the Akkadian sister-cultures of Assyria and Babylonia, together with their cultural predecessor; Sumer...

. Successful completion of decipherment is dated to 1857.

The system consists of a combination of logophonetic, consonantal alphabetic and syllabic signs.

The cuneiform script underwent considerable changes over a period of more than two millennia. The image below shows the development of the sign SAG "head" (Borger nr. 184, U+12295 ).
Stage 1 shows the pictogram as it was drawn around 3000 BC. Stage 2 shows the rotated pictogram as written around 2800 BC. Stage 3 shows the abstracted glyph in archaic monumental inscriptions, from ca. 2600 BC, and stage 4 is the sign as written in clay, contemporary to stage 3. Stage 5 represents the late 3rd millennium, and stage 6 represents Old Assyrian ductus of the early 2nd millennium, as adopted into Hittite. Stage 7 is the simplified sign as written by Assyrian scribes in the early 1st millennium, and until the script's extinction.

Proto-literate period


The cuneiform script proper emerges out of pictographic proto-writing in the later 4th millennium. Mesopotamia's "proto-literate" period spans the 35th to 32nd centuries. The first documents unequivocally written in the Sumerian language
Sumerian language
Sumerian is the language of ancient Sumer, which was spoken in southern Mesopotamia since at least the 4th millennium BC. During the 3rd millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism...

  date to the 31st century, found at Jemdet Nasr
Jemdet Nasr
Jemdet Nasr is a tell or settlement mound in Babil Governorate that is best known as the eponymous type site for the Jemdet Nasr period . The site was first excavated in 1926 by Stephen Langdon, who found proto-cuneiform clay tablets in a large mudbrick building thought to be the ancient...

.

Some ten millennia ago the Sumerians began using clay tokens to count their agricultural and manufactured goods. Later they began placing the tokens in large, hollow, clay containers (bulla)
Bulla (seal)
Bulla , is a type of seal impression. It comes in two forms: metal and clay.- Clay bullae :The original bulla was a lump of clay molded around a cord and stamped with a seal...

 which were sealed; the quantity of tokens in each container came to be expressed by impressing, on the container's surface, one picture for each instance of the token inside. They next dispensed with the actual tokens, relying solely on symbols for the tokens, drawn on clay surfaces. To avoid making a picture for each instance of the same object (for example: 100 pictures of a hat to represent 100 hats), they 'counted' the objects by using various small marks. In this way the Sumerians added "a system for enumerating objects to their incipient system of symbols". Thus writing began, during the Uruk period
Uruk period
The Uruk period existed from the protohistoric Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age period in the history of Mesopotamia, following the Ubaid period and succeeded by the Jemdet Nasr period. Named after the Sumerian city of Uruk, this period saw the emergence of urban life in Mesopotamia. It was...

 c. 3300 BC.

Originally, pictograms were either drawn on clay
Clay
Clay is a general term including many combinations of one or more clay minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure.- Formation :Clay minerals...

 tablets in vertical columns with a pen
Pen
A pen is a device used to apply ink to a surface, usually paper, for writing or drawing. Historically, reed pens, quill pens, and dip pens were used, with a nib of some sort to be dipped in the ink. Ruling pens allow precise adjustment of line width, and still find a few specialized uses, but...

 made from a sharpened reed
Phragmites
Phragmites, the Common reed, is a large perennial grass found in wetlands throughout temperate and tropical regions of the world. Phragmites australis is sometimes regarded as the sole species of the genus Phragmites, though some botanists divide Phragmites australis into three or four species...

 stylus
Stylus
A stylus is a writing utensil, or a small tool for some other form of marking or shaping, for example in pottery. The word is also used for a computer accessory . It usually refers to a narrow elongated staff, similar to a modern ballpoint pen. Many styli are heavily curved to be held more easily...

, or incised in stone. This early style lacked the characteristic wedge shape of the strokes.

Certain signs to indicate names of gods, countries, cities, vessels, birds, trees, etc., are known as determinants
Determinative
A determinative, also known as a taxogram or semagram, is an ideogram used to mark semantic categories of words in logographic scripts which helps to disambiguate interpretation. They have no direct counterpart in spoken language, though they may derive historically from glyphs for real words, and...

, and were the Sumerian signs of the terms in question, added as a guide for the reader. Proper names continued to be usually written in purely "logographic" fashion.

From about 2900 BC, many pictographs began to lose their original function, and a given sign could have various meanings depending on context.
The sign inventory was reduced from some 1,500 signs to some 600 signs, and writing became increasingly phonological. Determinative signs were re-introduced to avoid ambiguity. This process is chronologically parallel to, and possibly not independent of, the development of Egyptian hieroglyphic orthography.

Archaic cuneiform



In the mid-3rd millennium BC, writing direction was changed to left to right in horizontal rows (rotating all of the pictograms 90° counter-clockwise in the process), and a new wedge-tipped stylus was used which was pushed into the clay, producing wedge-shaped ("cuneiform") signs; these two developments made writing quicker and easier. By adjusting the relative position of the tablet to the stylus, the writer could use a single tool to make a variety of impressions.

Cuneiform tablets could be fired in kiln
Kiln
A kiln is a thermally insulated chamber, or oven, in which a controlled temperature regime is produced. Uses include the hardening, burning or drying of materials...

s to provide a permanent record, or they could be recycled if permanence was not needed. Many of the clay tablets found by archaeologists were preserved because they were fired when attacking armies burned the building in which they were kept.

The script was also widely used on commemorative stelae
Stele
A stele , also stela , is a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected for funerals or commemorative purposes, most usually decorated with the names and titles of the deceased or living — inscribed, carved in relief , or painted onto the slab...

 and carved reliefs to record the achievements of the ruler in whose honour the monument had been erected.

The spoken language consisted of many similar sounds and in the beginning the words "Life" [ti] and "Arrow" [til] were described in writing by the same symbol. After the Semites conquered Southern Mesopotamia, some signs gradually changed from being pictograms to syllabograms, most likely to make things clearer in writing. In that way the sign for the word "Arrow" would become the sign for the sound "ti".
If a sound would represent many different words the words would all have different signs, for instance the syllable "gu" had fourteen different symbols.
When the words had similar meaning but very different sounds they were written with the same symbol. For instance "tooth" [zu], "mouth" [ka] and "voice" [gu] were all written with the symbol for "voice". To be more accurate they started adding to signs or combine two signs to define the meaning. They used either geometrical patterns or another cuneiform sign.

As time went by the cuneiform got very complex and the difference between a pictogram and syllabogram were getting vague. Several symbols were too overloaded to be clear. Therefore, symbols were begun to put together to define the writing in a better way and to give a hint on the meaning of the symbol (word). The word "Raven" [UGA] had the same logogram as the words "soap" [NAGA] "name of a city" [ERESH] and "the patron goddess of Eresh" [NISABA]. Two phonetic complements were used to define the word [u] in front of the symbol and [gu] behind. To be sure there would not be any complications they added the symbol for "bird" [MUSHEN] behind the three symbols.
The written part of the Sumerian language was used as a learned written language until the 1st century AD. The spoken language died out around the 18th century BC.

Akkadian cuneiform


The archaic cuneiform script was adopted by the Akkadians from ca. 2500 BC, and by 2000 BC had evolved into Old Assyrian cuneiform, with many modifications to Sumerian orthography. The Semitic equivalents for many signs became distorted or abbreviated to form new "phonetic" values, because the syllabic nature of the script as refined by the Sumerians was unintuitive to Semitic speakers.

At this stage, the former pictograms were reduced to a high level of abstraction, and were composed of only five basic wedge shapes: horizontal, vertical, two diagonals and the Winkelhaken impressed vertically by the tip of the stylus. The signs exemplary of these basic wedges are
  • AŠ (B001, U+12038) : horizontal;
  • DIŠ (B748, U+12079) : vertical;
  • GE23, DIŠ tenû (B575, U+12039) : downward diagonal;
  • GE22 (B647, U+1203A) : upward diagonal;
  • U (B661, U+1230B) : the Winkelhaken
    Winkelhaken
    The Winkelhaken is one of five basic wedge elements appearing in the composition of signs in Akkadian cuneiform. It was realized by pressing the point of the stylus into the clay....

    .

Except for the Winkelhaken which is tail-less, the length of the wedges' tails could vary as required for sign composition.

Signs tilted by (ca.) 45 degrees are called tenû in Akkadian, thus DIŠ is a vertical wedge and DIŠ tenû a diagonal one. Signs modified with additional wedges are called gunû, and signs crosshatched with additional Winkelhaken are called šešig.


"Typical" signs have usually in the range of about five to ten wedges, while complex ligatures can consist of twenty or more (although it is not always clear if a ligature should be considered a single sign or two collated but still distinct signs); the ligature KAxGUR7 consists of 31 strokes.

Most later adaptations of Sumerian cuneiform preserved at least some aspects of the Sumerian script. Written Akkadian
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

 included phonetic symbols from the Sumerian syllabary
Syllabary
A syllabary is a set of written symbols that represent syllables, which make up words. In a syllabary, there is no systematic similarity between the symbols which represent syllables with the same consonant or vowel...

, together with logogram
Logogram
A logogram, or logograph, is a grapheme which represents a word or a morpheme . This stands in contrast to phonograms, which represent phonemes or combinations of phonemes, and determinatives, which mark semantic categories.Logograms are often commonly known also as "ideograms"...

s that were read as whole words. Many signs in the script were polyvalent, having both a syllabic and logographic meaning. The complexity of the system bears a resemblance to old Japanese
Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

, written in a Chinese
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

-derived script, where some of these Sinograms were used as logograms, and others as phonetic characters.

Assyrian cuneiform


This "mixed" method of writing continued through the end of the Babylonia
Babylonia
Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia , with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as...

n and Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

n empires, although there were periods when "purism" was in fashion and there was a more marked tendency to spell out the words laboriously, in preference to using signs with a phonetic complement. Yet even in those days, the Babylonian syllabary remained a mixture of logographic and phonemic writing.

Hittite cuneiform
Hittite cuneiform
Hittite cuneiform is the implementation of cuneiform script used in writing the Hittite language. The surviving corpus of Hittite texts is preserved in cuneiform on clay tablets dates to the 2nd millennium BC ....

 is an adaptation of the Old Assyrian cuneiform of ca. 1800 BC to the Hittite language
Hittite language
Hittite is the extinct language once spoken by the Hittites, a people who created an empire centred on Hattusa in north-central Anatolia...

. When the cuneiform script was adapted to writing Hittite, a layer of Akkadian logographic spellings was added to the script, thus the pronunciations of many Hittite words which were conventionally written by logograms are now unknown.

In the Iron Age (ca. 10th to 6th c. BC), Assyrian cuneiform was further simplified. From the 6th century, the Assyrian language was marginalized by Aramaic
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

, written in the Aramaean alphabet, but Neo-Assyrian cuneiform remained in use in literary tradition well into Parthia
Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

n times ( 250 BC-226 AD ). The last known cuneiform inscription, an astronomical text, was written in 75 AD.

Derived scripts


The complexity of the system prompted the development of a number of simplified versions of the script. Old Persian
Old Persian language
The Old Persian language is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages . Old Persian appears primarily in the inscriptions, clay tablets, and seals of the Achaemenid era...

 was written in a subset of simplified cuneiform characters known today as Old Persian cuneiform
Old Persian cuneiform script
Old Persian cuneiform is a semi-alphabetic cuneiform script that was the primary script for the Old Persian language. Texts written in this cuneiform were found in Persepolis, Susa, Hamadan, Armenia, and along the Suez Canal. They were mostly inscriptions from the time period of Darius the Great...

. It formed a semi-alphabetic syllabary, using far fewer wedge strokes than Assyrian used, together with a handful of logograms for frequently occurring words like "god" and "king". The Ugaritic language
Ugaritic language
The following table shows Proto-Semitic phonemes and their correspondences among Ugaritic, Arabic and Tiberian Hebrew:-Grammar:Ugaritic is an inflected language, and as a Semitic language its grammatical features are highly similar to those found in Classical Arabic and Akkadian...

 was written using the Ugaritic alphabet
Ugaritic alphabet
The Ugaritic script is a cuneiform abjad used from around 1400 BCE for Ugaritic, an extinct Northwest Semitic language, and discovered in Ugarit , Syria, in 1928. It has 30 letters...

, a standard Semitic style alphabet
Alphabet
An alphabet is a standard set of letters—basic written symbols or graphemes—each of which represents a phoneme in a spoken language, either as it exists now or as it was in the past. There are other systems, such as logographies, in which each character represents a word, morpheme, or semantic...

 (an abjad
Abjad
An abjad is a type of writing system in which each symbol always or usually stands for a consonant; the reader must supply the appropriate vowel....

) written using the cuneiform method.

Decipherment


For centuries, travellers to Persepolis
Persepolis
Perspolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire . Persepolis is situated northeast of the modern city of Shiraz in the Fars Province of modern Iran. In contemporary Persian, the site is known as Takht-e Jamshid...

, in modern-day Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, had noticed carved cuneiform inscriptions and were intrigued. Attempts at deciphering these Old Persian writings date back to Arabic/Persian historians of the medieval Islamic world
Islamic Golden Age
During the Islamic Golden Age philosophers, scientists and engineers of the Islamic world contributed enormously to technology and culture, both by preserving earlier traditions and by adding their own inventions and innovations...

, though these early attempts at decipherment
Decipherment
Decipherment is the analysis of documents written in ancient languages, where the language is unknown, or knowledge of the language has been lost....

 were largely unsuccessful.

In the 15th century the Venitian
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 Barbero explored the ancient ruins of Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 and he came back with the news on a very odd writing he had found carved on the stones in the temples of Shiraz
Shiraz
Shiraz may refer to:* Shiraz, Iran, a city in Iran* Shiraz County, an administrative subdivision of Iran* Vosketap, Armenia, formerly called ShirazPeople:* Hovhannes Shiraz, Armenian poet* Ara Shiraz, Armenian sculptor...

 and on many clay tablets.

In 1625 the Roman
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 traveler Pietro Della Valle
Pietro Della Valle
Pietro della Valle was an Italian who traveled throughout Asia during the Renaissance period. His travels took him to the Holy Land, the Middle East, Northern Africa, and as Far as India.-Biography:...

, coming back from Mesopotamia and Persia, brought back a tablet written in cuneiform glyphs he had found in Ur
Ur
Ur was an important city-state in ancient Sumer located at the site of modern Tell el-Muqayyar in Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate...

, and also the copy of five characters he had seen in Persepolis
Persepolis
Perspolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire . Persepolis is situated northeast of the modern city of Shiraz in the Fars Province of modern Iran. In contemporary Persian, the site is known as Takht-e Jamshid...

. Della Valle understood that the writing had to be read from left to right, following the direction of wedges. However he didn't attempt to decipher the scripts.

The Englishman Sir Thomas Herbert, in the 1634 edition of his travel book “A relation of some yeares travaile”, reported seeing at Persepolis carved on the wall “a dozen lines of strange characters…consisting of figures, obelisk, triangular, and pyramidal” and thought they resembled Greek. In the 1664 edition he reproduced some for his readers and guessed that they were ‘legible and intelligible’ and therefore decipherable. He also guessed, correctly, that they represented not letters or hieroglyphics but words and syllables, and furthermore that they were to be read from left to right. Herbert is rarely mentioned in standard histories of the decipherment of cuneiform.

Carsten Niebuhr
Carsten Niebuhr
Carsten Niebuhr or Karsten Niebuhr , a German mathematician, cartographer, and explorer in the service of Denmark, is renowned for his travels on the Arabian peninsula.-Biography:...

 brought the first reasonably complete and accurate copies of the inscriptions at Persepolis
Persepolis
Perspolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire . Persepolis is situated northeast of the modern city of Shiraz in the Fars Province of modern Iran. In contemporary Persian, the site is known as Takht-e Jamshid...

 to Europe. Bishop Frederic Munter of Copenhagen discovered that the words in the Persian inscriptions were divided from one another by an oblique wedge and that the monuments must belong to the age of Cyrus
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia , commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much...

 and his successors. One word, which occurs without any variation towards the beginning of each inscription, he correctly inferred to signify "king". By 1802 Georg Friedrich Grotefend
Georg Friedrich Grotefend
Georg Friedrich Grotefend was a German epigraphist.-Life:He was born at Hann. Münden and died in Hanover. He was educated partly in his native town, partly at Ilfeld, where he remained till 1795, when he entered the university of Göttingen, and there became the friend of Heyne, Tychsen and Heeren...

 had determined that two king's names mentioned were Darius
Darius I of Persia
Darius I , also known as Darius the Great, was the third king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire...

 and Xerxes
Xerxes I of Persia
Xerxes I of Persia , Ḫšayāršā, ), also known as Xerxes the Great, was the fifth king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire.-Youth and rise to power:...

, and had been able to assign alphabetic values to the cuneiform characters which composed the two names.Although Grotefend's Memoir was presented to the Gottingen Academy on September 4, 1802, the Academy refused to publish it; it was subsequently published in Heeren's work in 1815.

In 1836, the eminent French scholar, Eugène Burnouf
Eugène Burnouf
Eugène Burnouf was an eminent French scholar and orientalist who made significant contributions to the deciphering of Old Persian cuneiform....

 discovered that the first of the inscriptions published by Niebuhr contained a list of the satrapies of Darius. With this clue in his hand, he identified and published an alphabet of thirty letters, most of which he had correctly deciphered.

A month earlier, Burnouf's friend and pupil, Professor Christian Lassen
Christian Lassen
Christian Lassen was a Norwegian-German orientalist.-Life:He was born at Bergen, Norway. Having received a university education at Oslo, he went to Germany and continued his studies at the University of Heidelberg and the University of Bonn. In Bonn, Lassen acquired a sound knowledge of Sanskrit...

 of Bonn, had also published a work on "The Old Persian Cuneiform Inscriptions of Persepolis". He and Burnouf had been in frequent correspondence, and his claim to have independently detected the names of the satrapies, and thereby to have fixed the values of the Persian characters, was in consequence fiercely attacked. According to Sayce, whatever his obligations to Burnouf may have been, Lassen's "contributions to the decipherment of the
inscriptions were numerous and important. He succeeded in fixing the true values of nearly all the letters in the Persian alphabet, in translating the texts, and in proving that the language of them was not Zend
Zend
Zend can mean:*Zend, commentaries on the Avesta, the sacred texts of the Zoroastrian religion.**In older texts, Zend can refer to the Avestan language*Salla Zend, a character in Star Wars*Zend Technologies, a PHP-focused company...

, but stood to both Zend and Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 in the relation of a sister".

Meanwhile, in 1835 Henry Rawlinson, a British East India Company army officer, visited the Behistun Inscription
Behistun Inscription
The Behistun Inscription The Behistun Inscription The Behistun Inscription (also Bistun or Bisutun, Modern Persian: بیستون The Behistun Inscription (also Bistun or Bisutun, Modern Persian: بیستون...

s in Persia
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

. Carved in the reign of King Darius of Persia
Darius I of Persia
Darius I , also known as Darius the Great, was the third king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire...

 (522–486 BC), they consisted of identical texts in the three official languages of the empire: Old Persian, Babylonian, and Elamite. The Behistun inscription was to the decipherment of cuneiform what the Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone
The Rosetta Stone is an ancient Egyptian granodiorite stele inscribed with a decree issued at Memphis in 196 BC on behalf of King Ptolemy V. The decree appears in three scripts: the upper text is Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the middle portion Demotic script, and the lowest Ancient Greek...

 was to the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Rawlinson correctly deduced that the Old Persian was a phonetic script and he successfully deciphered it. In 1837 he finished his copy of the Behistun inscription, and sent a translation of its opening paragraphs to the Royal Asiatic Society. Before, however, his Paper could be published, the works of Lassen and Burnouf reached him, necessitating a revision of his paper and the postponement of its publication. Then came other causes of delay. In 1847 the first part of the Rawlinson's Memoir was published; the second part did not appear till 1849.It seems that various parts of Rawlisons' paper formed Vol X of this journal. The final part III comprised chapters IV (Analysis of the Persian Inscriptions of Behistunand) and V (Copies and Translations of the Persian Cuneiform Inscriptions of Persepolis, Hamadan, and Van), pp. 187–349. The task of deciphering the Persian cuneiform texts was virtually accomplished.

After translating the Persian, Rawlinson and, working independently of him, the Irish
Irish people
The Irish people are an ethnic group who originate in Ireland, an island in northwestern Europe. Ireland has been populated for around 9,000 years , with the Irish people's earliest ancestors recorded having legends of being descended from groups such as the Nemedians, Fomorians, Fir Bolg, Tuatha...

 Assyriologist Edward Hincks
Edward Hincks
The Reverend Edward Hincks was an Irish clergyman, best remembered as an Assyriologist and one of the decipherers of Mesopotamian cuneiform....

, began to decipher
DECIPHER
DECIPHER is a web-based resource and database of array comparative genomic hybridization data from analysis of patient DNA. It documents submicroscopic chromosome abnormalities, including microdeletions and duplications, from over 6000 patients and maps them to the human genome using the Ensembl...

 the others. (The actual techniques used to decipher the Akkadian language
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

 have never been fully published; Hincks described how he sought the proper names already legible in the deciphered Persian while Rawlinson never said anything at all, leading some to speculate that he was secretly copying Hincks.) They were greatly helped by Paul Émile Botta's discovery of the city of Nineveh
Nineveh
Nineveh was an ancient Assyrian city on the eastern bank of the Tigris River, and capital of the Neo Assyrian Empire. Its ruins are across the river from the modern-day major city of Mosul, in the Ninawa Governorate of Iraq....

 in 1842. Among the treasures uncovered by Botta were the remains of the great library of Assurbanipal, a royal archive containing tens of thousands of baked clay tablets covered with cuneiform inscriptions.

By 1851, Hincks and Rawlinson could read 200 Babylonian signs. They were soon joined by two other decipherers: young German-born scholar Julius Oppert
Julius Oppert
Julius Oppert , French-German Assyriologist, was born at Hamburg, of Jewish parents.After studying at Heidelberg, Bonn and Berlin, he graduated at Kiel in 1847; and the next year went to France, where he was teacher of German at Laval and at Reims...

, and versatile British Orientalist William Henry Fox Talbot. In 1857 the four men met in London and took part in a famous experiment to test the accuracy of their decipherments. Edwin Norris
Edwin Norris
Edwin Norris was a British philologist, linguist and intrepid orientalist who wrote or compiled numerous works on the languages of Asia and Africa; his best-known works are his uncompleted Assyrian Dictionary and his translation and annotation of the three plays of the Cornish Ordinalia.He was...

, the secretary of the Royal Asiatic Society
Royal Asiatic Society
The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland was established, according to its Royal Charter of 11 August 1824, to further "the investigation of subjects connected with and for the encouragement of science, literature and the arts in relation to Asia." From its incorporation the Society...

, gave each of them a copy of a recently discovered inscription from the reign of the Assyrian emperor Tiglath-Pileser I
Tiglath-Pileser I
Tiglath-Pileser I was a king of Assyria during the Middle Assyrian period . According to Georges Roux, Tiglath-Pileser was "one of the two or three great Assyrian monarchs since the days of Shamshi-Adad I"...

. A jury of experts was empanelled to examine the resulting translations and assess their accuracy. In all essential points the translations produced by the four scholars were found to be in close agreement with one another. There were of course some slight discrepancies. The inexperienced Talbot had made a number of mistakes, and Oppert's translation contained a few doubtful passages which the jury politely ascribed to his unfamiliarity with the English language. But Hincks' and Rawlinson's versions corresponded remarkably closely in many respects. The jury declared itself satisfied, and the decipherment of Akkadian cuneiform was adjudged a fait accompli.

In the early days of cuneiform decipherment, the reading of proper names presented the greatest difficulties. However, there is now a better understanding of the principles behind the formation and the pronunciation of the thousands of names found in historical records, business documents, votive inscriptions and literary productions. The primary challenge was posed by the characteristic use of old Sumerian non-phonetic logograms in other languages that had different pronunciations for the same symbols. Until the exact phonetic reading of many names was determined through parallel passages or explanatory lists, scholars remained in doubt, or had recourse to conjectural or provisional readings. Fortunately, in many cases, there are variant readings, the same name being written phonetically (in whole or in part) in one instance, and logographically in another.

Transliteration



Cuneiform has a specific format for transliteration
Transliteration
Transliteration is a subset of the science of hermeneutics. It is a form of translation, and is the practice of converting a text from one script into another...

. Because of the script's polyvalence, transliteration requires certain choices of the transliterating scholar, who must decide in the case of each signal which of its several poseable meanings is intended in the original thing. For example, the sign DINGIR
Dingir
Dingir is a cuneiform sign, most commonly the determinative for "deity" although it has related meanings as well. As a determinative, it is not pronounced, and is conventionally transliterated as a superscript "D" as in e.g. DInanna...

 in a Hittite text may represent either the Hittite syllable an or may be part of an Akkadian phrase, representing the syllable il
Ilah
is an Arabic term meaning "deity" or "god". The feminine is ; with the article, it appears as . It appears in the name of the monotheistic god of Islam as , translated, that is, "the god"...

, it may be a Sumerogram
Sumerogram
A Sumerogram is the use of a Sumerian cuneiform character or group of characters as an ideogram or logogram rather than a syllabogram in the graphic representation of a language other than Sumerian, such as Akkadian or Hittite....

, representing the original Sumerian meaning, 'god' or the determinative
Determinative
A determinative, also known as a taxogram or semagram, is an ideogram used to mark semantic categories of words in logographic scripts which helps to disambiguate interpretation. They have no direct counterpart in spoken language, though they may derive historically from glyphs for real words, and...

 for a deity. In transliteration, a different rendition of the same glyph is chosen depending on its role in the present context.

Therefore, a text containing DINGIR
Dingir
Dingir is a cuneiform sign, most commonly the determinative for "deity" although it has related meanings as well. As a determinative, it is not pronounced, and is conventionally transliterated as a superscript "D" as in e.g. DInanna...

 and MU in succession could be construed to represent the words "ana", "ila", god + "a" (the accusative
Accusative case
The accusative case of a noun is the grammatical case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. The same case is used in many languages for the objects of prepositions...

 ending), god + water, or a divine name "A" or Water. Someone transcribing the signs would make the decision how the signs should be read and assemble the signs as "ana", "ila", "Ila" ('god"+accusative case), etc. A transliteration of these signs, however, would separate the signs with dashes "il-a", "an-a", "DINGIR
Dingir
Dingir is a cuneiform sign, most commonly the determinative for "deity" although it has related meanings as well. As a determinative, it is not pronounced, and is conventionally transliterated as a superscript "D" as in e.g. DInanna...

-a" or "D
D
D is the fourth letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet.- History :The Semitic letter Dâlet may have developed from the logogram for a fish or a door. There are various Egyptian hieroglyphs that might have inspired this. In Semitic, Ancient Greek, and Latin, the letter represented ; in the...

a". This is still easier to read than the original cuneiform, but now the reader is able to trace the sounds back to the original signs and determine if the correct decision was made on how to read them. A transliterated document thus presents both the reading preferred by the transliterating scholar as well as the opportunity to reconstruct the original text.

There are differing conventions for transliterating Sumerian, Akkadian (Babylonian) and Hittite (and Luwian) cuneiform texts. One convention that sees wide use across the different fields is the use of acute and grave accents as an abbreviation for homophone disambiguation. Thus, u is equivalent to u1, the first glyph expressing phonetic u. An acute accent, ú, is equivalent to the second, u2, and a grave accent ù to the third, u3 glyph in the series (while the sequence of numbering is conventional but essentially arbitrary and subject to the history of decipherment). In Sumerian transliteration, a multiplication sign 'x' is used to indicate ligatures. As shown above, signs as such are represented in capital letters, while the specific reading selected in the transliteration is represented in small letters. Thus, capital letters can be used to indicate a so-called Diri compound - a sign sequence that has, in combination, a reading different from the sum of the individual constituent signs (for example, the compound IGI.A - "water" + "eye" - has the reading imhur, meaning "foam"). In a Diri compound, the individual signs are separated with dots in transliteration. Capital letters may also be used to indicate a Sumerogram (for example, KUG.BABBAR - Sumerian for "silver" - being used with the intended Akkadian
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

 reading kaspum, "silver"), an Akkadogram, or simply a sign sequence of whose reading the editor is uncertain. Naturally, the "real" reading, if it is clear, will be presented in small letters in the transliteration: IGI.A will be rendered as imhur4.

Since the Sumerian language has only been widely known and studied by scholars for approximately a century, changes in the accepted reading of Sumerian names have occurred from time to time. Thus the name of a king of Ur
Ur
Ur was an important city-state in ancient Sumer located at the site of modern Tell el-Muqayyar in Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate...

, read Ur-Bau at one time, was later read as Ur-Engur, and is now read as Ur-Nammu
Ur-Nammu
Ur-Nammu founded the Sumerian 3rd dynasty of Ur, in southern Mesopotamia, following several centuries of Akkadian and Gutian rule...

 or Ur-Namma; for Lugal-zaggisi
Lugal-Zage-Si
Lugal-Zage-Si of Umma was the last Sumerian king before the conquest of Sumer by Sargon of Akkad and the rise of the Akkadian Empire, and was considered as the only king of the third dynasty of Uruk...

, a king of Uruk
Uruk
Uruk was an ancient city of Sumer and later Babylonia, situated east of the present bed of the Euphrates river, on the ancient dry former channel of the Euphrates River, some 30 km east of modern As-Samawah, Al-Muthannā, Iraq.Uruk gave its name to the Uruk...

, some scholars continued to read'; and so forth. Also, with some names of the older period, there was often uncertainty whether their bearers were Sumerians or Semites. If the former, then their names could be assumed to be read as Sumerian, while, if they were Semites, the signs for writing their names were probably to be read according to their Semitic equivalents, though occasionally Semites might be encountered bearing genuine Sumerian names. There was also doubt whether the signs composing a Semite's name represented a phonetic reading or a logographic compound. Thus, e.g. when inscriptions of a Semitic ruler of Kish, whose name was written Uru-mu-ush, were first deciphered, that name was first taken to be logographic because uru mu-ush could be read as "he founded a city" in Sumerian, and scholars accordingly retranslated it back to the original Semitic as Alu-usharshid. It was later recognized that the URU sign can also be read as and that the name is that of the Akkadian king Rimush.

Syllabary


The tables below show signs used for simple syllables of the form CV or VC. As used for the Sumerian language, the cuneiform script was in principle capable of distinguishing 14 consonants, transliterated as
b, d, g, ḫ, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, š, t, z

as well as four vowel qualities, a, e, i, u.
The Akkadian language needed to distinguish its emphatic series, q, ṣ, ṭ, adopting various "superfluous" Sumerian signs for the purpose (e.g. qe=KIN, qu=KUM, qi=KIN, ṣa=ZA, ṣe=ZÍ, ṭur=DUR etc.)
Hittite as it adopted the Akkadian cuneiform further introduced signs for the glide w, e.g. wa=PI, wi5=GEŠTIN) as well as a ligature I.A for ya.
á
|| e ,

é
|| i ,

í=IÁ
|| u ,

ú
|-
| b-
|| ba ,

=PA ,

=EŠ
|| be=BAD ,

=BI ,

=NI
|| bi ,

=NE ,

=PI
|| bu ,

=KASKAL ,

=PÙ
|-
| d-
|| da ,

=TA
|| de=DI ,

,

=NE
|| di ,

=TÍ
|| du ,

=TU ,

=GAG ,

du4=TUM
|-
| g-
|| ga ,


|| ge=GI ,

=KID ,

=DIŠ
|| gi ,

=KID ,

=DIŠ ,

gi4 ,

gi5=KI
|| gu ,

,

=KA ,

gu4 ,

gu5=KU ,

gu6=NAG ,

gu7
|-
| ḫ-
|| ḫa ,

ḫá=ḪI.A ,

ḫà=U ,

ḫa4=ḪI
|| ḫe=ḪI ,

ḫé=GAN
|| ḫi ,

ḫí=GAN
|| ḫu
|-
| k-
|| ka ,

,

=GA
|| ke=KI ,

=GI
|| ki ,

=GI
|| ku ,

=GU7 ,

,

ku4
|-
| l-
|| la ,

=LAL ,

=NU
|| le=LI ,

=NI
|| li ,

=NI
|| lu ,


|-
| m-
|| ma ,


|| me ,

=MI ,


|| mi ,

=MUNUS ,

=ME
|| mu ,

=SAR
|-
| n-
|| na ,

,

=AG ,

na4 ("NI.UD")
|| ne ,

=NI
|| ni ,

=IM
|| nu ,

=NÁ
|-
| p-
|| pa ,

=BA
|| pe=PI ,

=BI
|| pi ,

=BI ,

=BAD
|| pu=BU ,

=TÚL ,


|-
| r-
|| ra ,

=DU
|| re=RI ,

=URU
|| ri ,

=URU
|| ru ,

=GAG ,

=AŠ
|-
| s-
|| sa ,

=DI ,

=ZA ,

sa4 ("ḪU.NÁ")
|| se=SI ,

=ZI
|| si ,

=ZI
|| su ,

=ZU ,

=SUD ,

su4
|-
| š-
|| ša ,

šá=NÍG ,

šà
|| še ,

šé ,

šè
|| ši=IGI ,

ší=SI
|| šu ,

šú ,

šù=ŠÈ ,

šu4=U 
|-
| t-
|| ta ,

=DA
|| te ,

=TÍ
|| ti ,

,

=DIM ,

ti4=DI
|| tu ,

=UD ,

=DU
|-
| z-
|| za ,

=NA4

|| ze=ZI ,

=ZÌ
|| zi ,

,


|| zu ,

=KA
|}

á
|| e ,

é
|| i ,

í=IÁ
|| u ,

ú
|-
| -b
|| ab ,

áb
||eb=IB ,

éb=TUM
|| ib ,

íb=TUM
|| ub ,

úb=ŠÈ
|-
| -d
|| ad ,

ád
||ed
||id=Á ,

íd=A.ENGUR
|| ud ,

úd=ÁŠ
|-
| -g
||ag ,

ág
|| eg=IG ,

ég=E
||ig ,

íg=E
||ug
|-
| -ḫ
|| aḫ ,

áḫ=ŠEŠ
||eḫ=AḪ
||iḫ=AḪ
|| uḫ=AḪ ,

úḫ
|-
| -k
|| ak=AG
||ek=IG
||ik=IG
||uk=UG
|-
| -l
||al ,

ál=ALAM
||el ,

él=IL
|| il ,

íl
||ul
,

úl=NU
|-
| -m
||am ,

ám=ÁG
||em=IM
||im ,

ím=KAŠ4
||um ,

úm=UD
|-
| -n
|| an
||en ,

én,

èn=LI
|| in ,

in4=EN ,

in5=NIN
NIN (cuneiform)
The Sumerian word NIN which can denote a "queen" or a "priestess".. Many goddesses are called NIN, such as DNIN.GAL "great lady", DÉ.NIN.GAL "lady of the great temple" or DEREŠ.KI.GAL, DNIN.TI....

 
||un ,

ún=U 
|-
| -p
||ap=AB
||ep=IB ,

ép=TUM
||ip=IB ,

íp=TUM
|| up=UB ,

úp=ŠÈ
|-
| -r
||ar ,

ár=UB
||er=IR
|| ir ,

íp=A.IGI
||ur ,

úr
|-
| -s
||as=AZ
||es=GIŠ ,

és=EŠ
||is=GIŠ ,

ís=EŠ
||us=UZ,

ús=UŠ
|-
| -š
|| ,

áš
|| ,

éš=ŠÈ
|| ,

íš=KASKAL
|| ,

úš=BAD
|-
| -t
||at=AD ,

át=GÍR gunû
||et
||it
||ut=UD ,

út=ÁŠ
|-
| -z
||az
||ez=GIŠ ,

éz=EŠ
||iz= GIŠ ,

íz=IŠ
||uz
,

úz=UŠ ,

ùz
|}

Sign inventories



The Sumerian cuneiform script had on the order of 1,000 unique signs (or about 1,500 if variants are included). This number was reduced to about 600 by the 24th century BC and the beginning of Akkadian records. Not all Sumerian signs are used in Akkadian texts, and not all Akkadian signs are used in Hittite.

Falkenstein (1936) lists 939 signs used in the earliest period (late Uruk
Uruk period
The Uruk period existed from the protohistoric Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age period in the history of Mesopotamia, following the Ubaid period and succeeded by the Jemdet Nasr period. Named after the Sumerian city of Uruk, this period saw the emergence of urban life in Mesopotamia. It was...

, 34th to 31st centuries).
With an emphasis on Sumerian forms, Deimel (1922) lists 870 signs used in the Early Dynastic II period (28th century, "LAK") and for the Early Dynastic IIIa period (26th century, "ŠL").
Rosengarten (1967) lists 468 signs used in Sumerian (pre-Sargonian
Sargon of Akkad
Sargon of Akkad, also known as Sargon the Great "the Great King" , was an Akkadian emperor famous for his conquest of the Sumerian city-states in the 23rd and 22nd centuries BC. The founder of the Dynasty of Akkad, Sargon reigned in the last quarter of the third millennium BC...

).
Lagash
Lagash
Lagash is located northwest of the junction of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and east of Uruk, about east of the modern town of Ash Shatrah. Lagash was one of the oldest cities of the Ancient Near East...

 and Mittermayer ("aBZL", 2006) list 480 Sumerian forms, written in Isin-Larsa and Old Babylonian times. Regarding Akkadian forms, the standard handbook for many years was Borger ("ABZ", 1981) with 598 signs used in Assyrian/Babylonian writing, recetly superseded by Borger ("MesZL", 2004) with an expansion to 907 signs, an extension of their Sumerian readings and a new numbering scheme.

Signs used in Hittite cuneiform
Hittite cuneiform
Hittite cuneiform is the implementation of cuneiform script used in writing the Hittite language. The surviving corpus of Hittite texts is preserved in cuneiform on clay tablets dates to the 2nd millennium BC ....

 are listed by Forrer (1922), Friedrich (1960) and the HZL (Rüster and Neu 1989). The HZL lists a total of 375 signs, many with variants (for example, 12 variants are given for number 123 EGIR).

Numerals



The Sumerians used a numerical system based on 1, 10 and 60. The way of writing a number like 70 would be the sign for 60 and the sign for 10 right after. This way of counting is still used today for measuring time as 60 seconds per minute and 60 minutes per hour.

Unicode


Unicode
Unicode
Unicode is a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems...

 (as of version 6.0) assigns to the Cuneiform script the following ranges:
U+12000–U+123FF (879 assigned characters) "Sumero-Akkadian Cuneiform"
U+12400–U+1247F (103 assigned characters) "Cuneiform Numbers and Punctuation"


The final proposal for Unicode encoding of the script was submitted by two cuneiform scholars working with an experienced Unicode proposal writer in June 2004.
The base character inventory is derived from the list of Ur III signs compiled by the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative
Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative
The Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative is an international digital library project aimed at putting text and images of an estimated 500,000 recovered cuneiform tablets created from between roughly 3350 BC and the end of the pre-Christian era online. The principal investigators for the project...

 of UCLA based on the inventories of Miguel Civil, Rykle Borger (2003), and Robert Englund. Rather than opting for a direct ordering by glyph shape and complexity, according to the numbering of an existing catalogue, the Unicode order of glyphs was based on the Latin alphabetic order of their "last" Sumerian transliteration as a practical approximation.

See also



  • Elamite cuneiform
    Elamite Cuneiform
    Elamite cuneiform was a logo-syllabic script used to write the Elamite Language.- History and Decipherment:The Elamite Language is the now extinct language spoken by Elamites, who inhabited the regions of Khuzistān and Fārs in Southern Iran...

  • Hittite cuneiform
    Hittite cuneiform
    Hittite cuneiform is the implementation of cuneiform script used in writing the Hittite language. The surviving corpus of Hittite texts is preserved in cuneiform on clay tablets dates to the 2nd millennium BC ....

  • Journal of Cuneiform Studies
    Journal of Cuneiform Studies
    The Journal of Cuneiform Studies was founded in 1947 by the Baghdad School of the American Schools of Oriental Research. The journal presents articles about ancient Mesopotamian language and history in English, French and German.-External links:*...

  • List of cuneiform signs
  • Old Persian cuneiform
  • Ugaritic alphabet
    Ugaritic alphabet
    The Ugaritic script is a cuneiform abjad used from around 1400 BCE for Ugaritic, an extinct Northwest Semitic language, and discovered in Ugarit , Syria, in 1928. It has 30 letters...



External links

  • Cuneiform script at the Open Directory Project
    Open Directory Project
    The Open Directory Project , also known as Dmoz , is a multilingual open content directory of World Wide Web links. It is owned by Netscape but it is constructed and maintained by a community of volunteer editors.ODP uses a hierarchical ontology scheme for organizing site listings...

  • Akkadian font for Windows and Mac
  • Unicode Fonts for Ancient Scripts and Akkadian font for Ubuntu Linux-based operating system (ttf-ancient-fonts)