cuneiform-script

๐’€‚๐’€๐’€ญ๐’  ๐€‚๐€„๐€…๐€†  ๐“€‚๐“…†๐“‹’๐“ณ

This is just a public service announcement to point out that, thanks to Unicode, you can* tweet, tumbl, and internet more generally in many cool ancient scripts. For example:

Cuneiform:
𒀀𒀁𒀂𒁀𒀭𒁍𒀪𒀫𒀼𒀺𒀸𒀹𒁇𒁑𒀖𒁄

Phoenician alphabet: 
𐤀𐤁𐤂𐤃𐤄𐤅𐤆𐤇𐤈𐤉𐤐𐤑𐤒𐤓𐤔𐤕𐤖𐤗𐤘𐤙𐤊𐤋𐤌𐤍𐤎𐤏

Linear B:
𐀀𐀁𐀃𐀂𐀄𐀅𐀆𐀇𐀈𐀉𐀊𐀋𐀍𐀎𐀏𐀐𐀑𐀒𐀓𐀔

Linear A:
𐘀𐘁𐘂𐘅𐘇𐘳𐙁𐙡𐘿𐙎𐘣𐘖𐘶

Runic:
ᚠᚡᚢᚣᚤᚥᚦᚧᚨᚩᚪᚫᚬᚭᚮᚯᚰᚱᚳ

Egyptian hieroglyphs:
𓀂𓀇𓀉𓀍𓀠𓁀𓁂𓀱𓁉𓀿𓀪𓁶𓂧𓂮𓂫𓃺𓃳𓄜𓄲𓄓𓅆𓅢𓅼𓆀𓆾𓈀𓉒𓉼𓊪𓋜𓋒𓍳𓎳

*Some of these may not work on all devices.

These aren’t image files, they’re real codepoints, just like letters and emoji. Most don’t come with keyboards though, so you may need to go to the insert symbol menu in a word document and then copy-paste from there. Alas, you can’t internet in Mayan hieroglyphs yet, because they’re still in the process of being added to Unicode

2

Details of the Statue of Idrimi showing the biography written in cuneiform which covers it.

This sculpture dates to the 16th century BCE, and was excavated by Leonard Woolley in the ruins of a temple at the site of Tell Atchana (ancient Alalakh, modern Turkey). You can view the full sculpture here. The statue is of Idrimi, a king of Alalakh, and is covered with his biography in cuneiform:

The statue is inscribed in faulty Akkadian, using a poor cuneiform script, with an autobiography of Idrimi. It is a unique type of text signed by the scribe who wrote it. Idrimi was one of the sons of the royal house of Aleppo, which was subject to the powerful kingdom of Mitanni. The territory of Aleppo included the smaller city state of Alalakh. Following a failed revolt, Idrimi and some of his family fled to Emar (now Meskene) on the Euphrates, which was ruled by his mother’s family.

From there he went south to live among nomads in Canaan (the earliest known reference to this land). Here he gathered troops and received popular support and help from his family. In time he made overtures to Parattarna, the king of Mitanni, who recognized his control of Alalakh. The inscription states that he had been ruling for thirty years when he had the statue inscribed, though it has been suggested that the text was actually added to the statue about three hundred years after Idrimi. The inscription ends with curses on anyone who would destroy the statue. (BM)

Courtesy of & currently located at the British Museum, London. Photos taken by Klaus Wagensonner. ME 130738A.

Rare Cuneiform Script Found on Island of Malta

External image

Excavations among what many scholars consider to be the world’s oldest monumental buildings on the island of Malta continue to unveil surprises and raise new questions about the significance of these megalithic structures and the people who built them. Not least is the latest find - a small but rare, crescent-moon shaped agate stone featuring a 13th-century B.C.E. cuneiform inscription, the likes of which would normally be found much farther west in Mesopotamia.

Led by palaeontology professor Alberto Cazzella of the University of Rome “La Sapienza”, the archaeological team found the inscribed stone in the sancturary site of Tas-Silg, a megalithic temple built during the late Neolithic period, and which has been used for various religious and ceremonial purposes by the ancients from the third millennium BC to the Byzantine era. Read more.

LOST - The End - Screencap

The plug/cork of the Source has marking on it, the clearest of which is ‘cuneiform script’.

“Cuneiform script is one of the earliest known forms of written expression. Emerging in Sumer around the 30th century BC, with predecessors reaching into the late 4th millennium, cuneiform writing began as a system of pictographs.”

See, this is the sort of thing I love about Lost! It gives you these little hints such as the above, like how there were island inhabitants 3 millennia before Across the Sea took place! Does anyone else not love that?

Mesopotamian Eye Idol Plaque, Euphrates Valley, Late Uruk Period, Late 4th ML BC

This type of carving is known as an ‘eye idol’, and may have been an offering left at a temple. Eye idols were also made in the form of free standing statuettes (example). Wide eyes are believed to have been a demonstration of attentiveness to the gods in much of Mesopotamian art.

The Uruk period (c. 4000 to 3100 BC) 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 followed by the Sumerian civilization. The late Uruk period (34th to 32nd centuries) saw the gradual emergence of the cuneiform script and corresponds to the Early Bronze Age; it may also be called the Protoliterate period.

(Uruk Period map)

3

Undeciphered Proto-Elamite Inscribed Silver Cup, 3rd ML BC

The Proto-Elamite script and its Linear Elamite variant remain undeciphered. Pottery dating to the later 5th millennium BC has been found in Tepe Sialk, where Proto-Elamite writing has been found on tablets of a similar date. The first cylinder seals date to the Proto-Elamite period. At the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC, the written tradition in Sumer diverged from that of its contemporaries in Mesopotamia.  Along with changes in the script, the archaeological record also indicates changes in material culture, as reflected in new architectural style and ceramic technology that bore closer resemblance to cultures of the Iranian plateau rather than Mesopotamian traditions.

Although the reasons are not known for these changes a new script tradition appeared in Elam at approximately 2900 BC. Called Proto-Elamite, this script represented the earliest native writing system in Elam. Visually, Proto-Elamite is quite unlike the cuneiform script prevalent in other parts of Mesopotamia, and instead is composed of lines and circles.

Decoding the mysterious ancient Indus Valley script will shed light on powerful ancient civilization

The writings of one of the world’s oldest and largest civilizations, that of the Indus Valley in India, remain undeciphered. But what would those writings or symbols say about a complex civilization of beautiful arts and cities that may have inspired the origins of Hinduism? There is hope that someday the script will be deciphered, shedding light on this little known ancient civilization.

Read More…

Literacy was not widespread in ancient Mesopotamia. Schooling in Mesopotamia began at an early age in the ‘tablet-house’. The first thing a boy (and very rarely a girl) had to learn was how to make a tablet and handle the stylus which made the impressions in the clay. The stylus was wedge-shaped, and we call this type of script ‘cuneiform’ after the Latin cuneus, wedge, and forma, shape.

After learning the basic cuneiform signs the pupil went on to learn the thousands of different Sumerian words. The teacher would write out some lines on one side of a tablet (on this tablet above it is a proverb, loosely translated as ‘Since the sheep left through the city gate, he shears it for booty’ – although we don’t know what this is supposed to mean!). The schoolboy studied these, turned over the tablet and tried to reproduce what the teacher had written.

After completing their training, the students became entitled to call themselves dubsar or scribe. They then became a member of a privileged class. School tablets have been found in almost all of the private houses in southern Mesopotamia of this date that have been excavated. This suggests that in wealthy families all the male children went to school.

Part of the Babylonian school curriculum was learning the main temples, buildings and streets of Babylon. This exercise tablet contains extracts about this, as well as bilingual magic, and lists of wood, reed and terracotta items.

The exercise tablet above comes from around 500 BC, when Aramaic replaced Akkadian as the main language spoken in Mesopotamia. Here it seems that someone has used the familiar (Aramaic) to show a learner how cuneiform conveys sounds.

This rare fragment of an exercise tablet has traditional Sumerian-Akkadian set text on one side, and Greek soundings out of these words on the other. It would have been used to teach Greek speakers how to read cuneiform. The first step was learning the signs and studying the ancient word lists. On this tablet, terms for ‘canal’ are given, including the Sumerian and Babylonian words palal and atappu. The scribe then spells out this strange-sounding vocabulary in familiar Greek script:

Sumerian pa-lal
Greek spelling pha-lal φα-λαλ
Babylonian a-tap-pi
Greek spelling athaph αθαφ

Find out more about the Museum’s collection of cuneiform tablets in this blog post, or visit the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Gallery of Mesopotamia (Room 55)

Cuneiform tablet with schoolwork. Old Babylonian, about 1900–1700 BC.

Clay cuneiform tablet. From Babylonia, c. 700–500 BC.

Clay cuneiform tablet. Late Babylonian, c. 500 BC.

Clay cuneiform tablet. Late Babylonian, c. 100 BC.

Hittite tablet to be deciphered with 3D

A tablet found on a rock during excavations in Hattusa, the capital of the Hittite civilization in the central Anatolian province of Çorum, will be deciphered with a 3D scanning system.

Assistant Professor Andreas Schachner, the head of the excavations, said the team had started working to decipher the 3,500-year-old tablet. He said that what was written on the tablet had been an object of interest to the science world, and added the writing was nearly wiped off after being exposed to bad weather conditions for millennia.

“The Hittites used two different writing systems,” Schachner explained. “The first is the cuneiform script on kiln tablets and the other is hieroglyphs, which is mostly seen on rocks.” Read more.

2

A brick from the Tower of Babel, c. 604-562 BC

In Neo Babylonian, 7 lines in cuneiform script blindprinted into the wet clay, within a lined rectangle, prior to baking. Part of the inscription says:

“Nebudchadnezzar, King of Babylon, Guardian of the Temples Esagila and Ezida, Firstborn Son of Nabopolassar, King of Babylon.”

Bricks with this inscription were found during the excavation of the great Ziggurat (aka Tower of Babel). It stands just north of Esagila, the temple of Marduk, also mentioned in the inscription. The ziggurat in Babylon was originally built around the time of Hammurabi c. 1792-1750 BC. The restoration and enlargement began under Nabopolassar, and was finished after 43 years of work under Nebuchadnezzar II, 604-562 BC. It has been calculated that at least 17 million bricks had to be made and fired. Babylon, along with the ziggurat was captured by Kyros in 538 BC, Dareios I in 519 BC, Xerxes ca. 483 BC, and entirely destroyed by Alexander I the Great in 331 BC.

It is this tall stepped temple tower which is referred to in Genesis 11:1-9, and became known as “The Tower of Babel.” The bricks are specifically mentioned in Genesis 11:3: “Come, let us make bricks and bake them in the fire. - For stone they used bricks and for mortar they used bitumen.” The black bitumen is still visible on the back of the present baked brick.

Nebuchadnezzar II was the founder of the New Babylonian Empire. He captured Jerusalem in 596 and 586 BC, burnt down the temple and all of Jerusalem, carried its treasures off to Babylon, and took the Jews into captivity (2 kings 24-25). Nebuchadnezzar II is the king who is named more than 90 times in the Old Testament. Daniel 1-4 is almost entirely devoted to the description of his greatness and reign, his rise and fall, and submission to God.

2

Urartian Bronze Votive Plaques, c. 860-590 BC

A group of two rectangular plaques or lamellae with rounded corners, comprising: the smaller with incised image of a wolf with winged solar disc above; the larger with bearded and robed profile figure with hands extended towards a rectangular object offered by a smaller figure, sunburst above.

Urartu was ancient kingdom, situated along the river Araxes (modern Aras), the Upper Tigris and the Upper Euphrates. The original name of Urartu was Biainele; its capital the rock fortress Tušpa (Tushpa). In the bible, Urartu was known as the kingdom of Ararat.

Urartians were skilled metalworkers and spoke a language that was related to Hurrian (a language that has no other known connections). They adapted the Assyrian cuneiform script for their own purposes, though most inscriptions refer to royal construction activity. Most of the information about Urartu comes from historic Assyrian sources.

Assyrian inscriptions of Shalmaneser I (c. 1274 BC) first mention Uruartri as one of the states of Nairi – a loose confederation of small kingdoms and tribal states in the 13th to 11th centuries BC, which he conquered.

Urartu re-emerged in Assyrian inscriptions in the 9th century BC as a powerful northern rival of Assyria. The tribes became a unified kingdom under the Urartian King Aramu (c. 860 – 843 BC) and it reached its peak of power in the 9th and 8th centuries. Urartu was eventually conquered by the Medes in the early 6th century BC and the Urartian Kingdom was eventually replaced by the Armenian Orontid dynasty.

Ancient artefacts unearthed at Bahrain Fort

Ancient artefacts dating back thousands of years have been unearthed in Bahrain Fort.

A clay tablet bearing ancient cuneiform script dating back to between 503 BC and 504 BC was discovered during a seven-week excavation in the southwestern side of the fort, along with a golden plate that has a figure of a woman engraved on it believed to belong to the era between 1 BC and 1 AD, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.

Archaeologists working for the French Archaeological Mission in Bahrain discovered that the tablet was used to document contracts using the Akkadian language, which was the trade language in the Middle East at the time.Read more.

vimeo

Cuneiform Script: Writing and Calculating