A Beginning…Cuneiform

Though spoken language has been in existence for tens of thousands of years, it was not until the end of the fourth millennium before the common era—according to the best calculations of experts on the matter—that written language was invented.  One of the earliest known forms of written language emerged from the region of Sumer and was codified at about the year 3000BCE, nowadays referred to as Cuneiform.

The name given to this language derives from the method in which the pictograms were embossed onto the given medium (most written texts in Cuneiform are engraved on clay tablets), using a stylus made out of a sharpened reed that left a wedge-shaped impression.  Hence, the 19th linguists and academics that set about deciphering this language chose the Latin word “cuneus,” meaning “wedge,” as their inspiration when christening it with a name.

Cuneiform was widely used throughout the area we today know as the Middle East, being common in the Akkadian, Hittite, and Assyrian empires, though gradually being modified and localized in each of these zones.  During the Iron Age, Cuneiform was progressively replaced by alphabetic—rather than pictographic—writing, and by the dawn of the common era it was all but a relic of the past.