Kish tablet

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Kish Tablet
Tableta con trillo.png
Limestone tablet from Kish (Sumer) with pictographic writing, 3200 BC; may be the earliest known writing. Ashmolean Museum
Geographical rangeIraq
Period Uruk IV period (ca. 3350–3200 BC)
Datesc. 3200 BC
Followed byNarmer Palette

The Kish tablet is a limestone tablet found at the site of the ancient Sumerian city of Kish in modern-day Tell al-Uhaymir, Babil Governorate, Iraq. A plaster-cast of the artifact is today in the collection of the Ashmolean Museum.

The Kish tablet is inscribed with proto-cuneiform signs. It has been dated to the Uruk IV period (ca. 3350–3200 BC).[1] Several thousand proto-cuneiform documents dating to Uruk IV and III periods (ca. 3350–3000 BC) have been found in Uruk. It is considered the world's oldest known written document.

The writing is still purely pictographic, and represents a transitional stage between proto-writing and the emergence of the partly syllabic writing of the cuneiform script proper. The "proto-literate period" of Egypt and Mesopotamia is taken to span about 3500 to 2900 BC. The administrative texts of the Jemdet Nasr period (3100–2900 BC), found among other places at Jemdet Nasr and Tell Uqair represent a further stage in the development from proto-cuneiform to cuneiform, but can still not be identified with certainty as being written in Sumerian, although it is likely.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hayes, John L., 1990 A Manual of Sumerian Grammar and Texts, Undena Publications, p.266
  2. ^ Woods, Christopher (2010), "The earliest Mesopotamian writing", in Woods, Christopher (ed.), Visible language. Inventions of writing in the ancient Middle East and beyond (PDF), Oriental Institute Museum Publications, 32, Chicago: University of Chicago, pp. 33–50, ISBN 978-1-885923-76-9

Further reading[edit]

  • A. C. Moorhouse, The Triumph of the Alphabet: A History of Writing
  • Langdon, Pictographic Inscriptions from Jemdet Nasr
  • Peter N. Stearns, The Encyclopedia of World History (2001), ISBN 978-0-395-65237-4.