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Cuneiform script

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1 Cuneiform script on Tue Dec 21, 2010 3:41 pm

Cuneiform script (pronounced /kjuːˈniː.ɨfɔrm/ kew-NEE-i-form or /ˈkjuːnɨfɔrm/ KEW-ni-form) 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 (the Uruk IV period), cuneiform writing began as a system of pictographs. In the three millennium 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 to about 400 unique characters in Late Bronze Age (Hittite cuneiform). Cuneiform writing was gradually replaced by alphabetic writing in the Iron Age Neo-Assyrian Empire and was practically extinct by the beginning of the Common Era. It was deciphered from scratch in 19th century scholarship.
Cuneiform documents were written on clay tablets, by means of a blunt reed for a stylus. The impressions left by the stylus were wedge shaped, thus giving rise to the name cuneiform ("wedge shaped," from the Latin cuneus, meaning "wedge").
The original Sumerian script was adapted for the writing of the Akkadian, Eblaite, Elamite, Hittite, Luwian, Hattic, Hurrian, and Urartian languages, and it inspired the Ugaritic and Old Persian alphabets. Cuneiform writing was gradually replaced by the Phoenician alphabet during the Neo-Assyrian Empire, and by the second century of the Common Era, the script had become extinct.

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