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date: 09 March 2021


  • Stephanie Dalley

Cuneiform is wedge-shaped writing thought to have developed from impressions of clay tokens and incised pictograms by impressing the triangular cross-section of a reed upon clay. First used for Sumerian, it was adopted and adapted for proto-Elamite, Akkadian, Hurrian, Hittite, Urartian (see urartu), Elamite, Old Persian, and alphabetic Ugaritic languages between c. 3000 bce and c. 50 ce, some adaptations having far fewer signs and different sign-forms. The script in its Mesopotamian usages employs more than 500 signs to write syllables, logograms, determinatives, etc. , each sign having various values, and was written on clay, stone, and waxed writing-boards. It was gradually replaced by alphabetic scripts.


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  • P. Daniels, in J. M. Sasson (ed.), Civilizations of the Ancient Near East 1 (1995), 81–93.
  • G. B. Gragg, in J. M. Sasson (ed.), Civilizations of the Ancient Near East 4 (1995), 2161–2179.