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A large Old Babylonian Cuneiform Tablet, Old Babylonian Period, ca. 2000-1600 BC

MT1414

Inscribed on both sides with Sumerian literary text that mentions the goddess Inanna.

The cuneiform script is one of the earliest known forms of written expression. Created by the Sumerians from ca. 3000 BC (with predecessors reaching into the late 4th millennium Uruk IV period[1]), cuneiform writing began as a system of pictographs. Over time, the pictorial representations became simplified and more abstract.

Cuneiforms were written on clay tablets, on which symbols were drawn with a blunt reed called a stylus. The name cuneiform is derived from two Latin words: cuneus , which means "wedge," and forma , which means "shape."

This picture language, similar to but more abstract than Egyptian hieroglyphics, eventually developed into a syllabic alphabet under the Semites (Assyrians and Babylonians) who eventually came to dominate the area. It was adapted for the writing of the Akkadian, Elamite, Hittite (and Luwian), Hurrian (and Urartian) languages, and it inspired the Old Persian and Ugaritic national alphabets. Cuneiform was succeeded by Aramaic script, which in turn, was replaced by Arabic in the 7th Century AD.

Condition: Some losses to the corners otherwise in very good condition, with a museum-quality custom mount.

Dimensions: Length: 3 1/4 inches (8.25 cm), Width: 2 1/4 inches (5.7 cm)

Provenance: S. Bono private collection, Chicago, Il, acquired in 2001.

Category: Writing

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