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Early Writing Especially Cuneiform


Cuneiform was an early script. Baked into clay tablets, its remains have proven durable. Learn about the early ancient forms of writing.

What Is Cuneiform?

A glossary entry on cuneiform explaining how the wedge shapes were formed.

Ancient Writing - The Race to Be First

Indus Valley Seal - Rhinoceros on an Indus Valley Seal
The race is on. Major contenders for (river valley) civilization with the earliest writing are: Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Indus Valley, and maybe China (although it would be hard to show that Chinese writing wasn't influenced by contact with the rest of Eurasia) -- with Sumeria (3300-3200 B.C.) the clear favorite.

What Was the First Alphabet?

Phoenician Alphabet
[link url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Phoenician_alphabet.svg]Luca[/link]
The answer to this question depends on how you define alphabet. Without vowels, it's an abcedary, but is it an alphabet?


Statuette of a bearded man, maybe the king-priest. Limestone, Uruk period, c. 3300 B.C. Mesopotamia
PD Marie-Lan Nguyen Courtesy of Wikipedia.
This ancient city was home to a precursor of cuneiform.

Was Akkadian Cuneiform the Earliest Language?

Cuneiform isn't really a language, but cuneiform may be the earliest form of writing.

Oracle Bones

Oracle Bone
CC Denn on Flickr.com
Early writing from about 4800 years ago appeared in China on pieces of bone used for divination.


Is it hieroglyph or hieroglyphic? Find out what this type of writing means in the context of ancient Egypt.

The Hieroglyphs of the Maya

Image from the Dresden Codex. Adapted from the 1880 edition by Förstermann.
Courtesy of Wikipedia
Mesoamerican graphics are referred to as hieroglyphs because the writing is pictorial, like the Egyptians' hieroglyphs. Scribes drew pictures or geometric designs of people, gods, abstracts, or objects. They wrote using: logograms (whole words to express meaning) and syllabograms (syllables to denote sounds). This particular type of compound writing is technically called logosyllabic.

The Greek Alphabet

The Greek Alphabet
The Greek alphabet by the definition given above is counted as the first alphabet.

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