Talk:Cuneiform script

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Requested move Cuneiform script > Cuneiform[edit]

  • Cuneiform scriptCuneiform (move) – Original article created here because of other content at "Cuneiform." Now mainspace "Cuneiform" simply redirects here, which is backwards. There's already a cuneiform dab page, so there should be no confusion or pain from the move whatever. LlywelynII (talk) 20:15, 14 December 2010 (UTC)

Should be uncontroversial, but if anyone has second thoughts, just post sth here and move the entry at the move page. -LlywelynII (talk) 20:15, 14 December 2010 (UTC)

Moved. No objections. — kwami (talk) 07:05, 4 August 2011 (UTC)


who discovered or translated cuneiform? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:59, 7 September 2009 (UTC)


Ben Brumfield

I wouldn't have said that. The development of cuneiform from drawn pictographic to cuneiform pictographs to simplified forms appears quite clear in many cases, particularly for more concrete concepts like body parts, foods and everyday objects. The book Reading The Past: Cuneiform (I don't remember the author), published by British Museum Publications, is a simple introduction to the scripts: it has a small section where it demonstrates the evolution of common pictographs, like those for foot, wheat, barley, fish and water, into the later, more stylised, cuneiform representations. thefamouseccles 00:37 27 Oct 2003 (UTC)

I'd kind of like to rephrase the litany of languages to indicate the progression from one to another. First stab:

The Akkadians borrowed cuneiform from Sumerians, and many signs in the Akkadian use of cuneiform retain both the Sumerian logographic value and the phonetic value associated with the Sumerian word. Thus for example, the sign KASH (which represented "beer" in Sumerian) retained both the logographic value "beer" and the phonetic value kash, even though the Akkadian word for "beer" was shikarum.

The same process occurred when the Hittites borrowed cuneiform from the Akkadians, except that signs in Hittite also retained logograms based on Akkadian. Something similar may have happened in Elamite cuneiform.

We should also mention polyvalence.

We should also mention the role that cuneiform had in the formation of the Ugaritic and Old Persian alphabets.

Ben Brumfield

btw, shikarum is the root of both the slang word "shickered" (sp?) and "cider". -phma

I am so not buying that! -Ben

You'd better. I can't confirm "shickered", but even Oxford Dictionary draws "cider" back to Hebrew shekar, which comes clearly from the same root as shikaru (-m was dropped around 1500BC, if I recall it correctly). --Oop 14:57, Sep 18, 2004 (UTC)

Cuneiform has a specific format for transliteration.

Is that to say that there is an internationally accepted way to transliterate Cuneiform into the roman alphabet (i.e. our alphabet)? If so, it'd be nice to say this more explicitly. References to web sites or books describing that standard would also be nice.

-- Ryguasu

Yes, it is. There is an international standard for transliterating cuneiform, described at the bottom half of the article on transliteration. It may well be time to move that elsewhere, though. --Ben

I removed the sentence listing Canaanites among groups who had adopted Cuneiform as a writing system. Assuming that the person who added that was talking about Ugarit, they don't qualify for two reasons:

1. The use of Old Babylonian in documents was widespread across the Near East during the 14th/15th century BC. Cultures that used cuneiform (Assyrians, Babylonians, Hittites) used it, but so did cultures whose writing systems were unrelated, such as Egypt and Ugarit. Similarly, just because diplomatic documents were written in French during the 19th century, that doesn't mean that Russians ever adopted the Latin alphabet.

2. Ugarit did use a cuneiform-like alphabet, but this appears to have been a process of idea-borrowing similar to that leading the creation of the Cherokee syllabary, and even though the mode of writing (wedge-shaped imprint on clay) was identical, and some individual signs were probably borrowed, the Ugaritic alphabet is a totally different beast from Cuneiform.

Ben Brumfield

Some of the text on this page, most of what was added in the second edit, seems to be copied from this URL:

I'm not sure how to handle this, or even if it is an issue, but maybe someone would like to look it over?
Anakolouthon 22:45 2 Jul 2003 (UTC)

I'd just like to note that (as far as I can tell) the Ugaritic cuneiform system was not entirely an abjad, but closer to a true alphabet. It contains three characters which represent the vowels a, i and u. I think these may all represent aleph in consonantal situations, but I'm unsure. Can someone clear this up? thefamouseccles 00:27 27 Oct 2003 (UTC)

Does anyone have any images of cuneiform glyphs that they could upload? It would make the article a lot easier for a new reader to orient themselves around I think. (It would also be superior to using Unicode characters, both because almost nobody has fonts that can display Unicode cuneiform, and because the glyphs would be easier to look at if they were larger). --Delirium 22:26, Oct 27, 2003 (UTC)

There is one at the French Wikipedia, apparently from the Louvre, according to the image page. Adam Bishop 22:29, 27 Oct 2003 (UTC)

Please take a look at this wiki - page This is not the only former to cuneiform written text that has been found. In the last twelve years there are findings basically from to archaelogists n.sampson and g.hourmouziadis that testify that there have been written texts from 5000 - 6000bc. Please update the article —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:55, 31 March 2008 (UTC)

Simplified _and_ abstract?[edit]

I do not understand how something can be "simplified and abstract", as quoted on the last sentence in the first paragraph of the article: "Through repeated use over time, the pictorial representations became simplified and more abstract."

The definition according to []:

  1. Considered apart from concrete existence: an abstract concept.
  2. Not applied or practical; theoretical. See Synonyms at theoretical.
  3. Difficult to understand; abstruse: abstract philosophical problems.
  4. Thought of or stated without reference to a specific instance: abstract words like truth and justice.
  5. Impersonal, as in attitude or views.
  6. Having an intellectual and affective artistic content that depends solely on intrinsic form rather than on narrative content or pictorial representation: abstract painting and sculpture

In none of those do I see how it is related to "simplified", in my opinion, it seems more like the Antonym than the Synonym.

- A monkey 16:42, 21 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Considered apart from concrete existence: an abstract concept. would be my take. Look, an abstract face, representing happiness:
It's simplified and abstract. --Pjacobi 18:03, 21 Oct 2004 (UTC)
It's abstract, because the images are further removed from reality. It's simplified because that makes them easier to draw. dab 10:31, 15 Nov 2004 (UTC)


Unfortunately, the images have no information attached to them other than that the origina is in the British museum. I am not even sure if the text is in Akkadian or in Sumerian (the writing looks 3rd millennium-like, but it may still be either). We should either find out what these tablets are, or replace them with images of identified tablets. dab 10:31, 15 Nov 2004 (UTC)

ok, so here is an example of a well-referenced tablet [1]. only, I'm not sure about the copyright status of the image. other links: [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] dab () 14:44, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)

When is the earliest known example of cuneiform or proto-cuneiform?[edit]

Proto-Egyptian hieroglyphs seem to go back to about 3600 BC, and proto-cuneiform is around the same time, correct?--Rob117 15:31, 4 September 2005 (UTC)

yes, both arise ca. mid-fourth millennium, and it's impossible to say which came first. Their invention was probably not independent, either, but I don't think anyone knows if the Egyptians copied the Sumerians, or vice versa. dab () 16:17, 4 September 2005 (UTC)


The article implies there's no civ antedating Babylonian. I've heard of research in the Indus region that suggests one. Trekphiler 17:15, 8 December 2005 (UTC)

Merge with Proper names of Babylonia and Assyria[edit]

I propose a merge with the article Proper names of Babylonia and Assyria, origin of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica. --JFK 09:06, 7 March 2006 (UTC)

And indeed I see no need for a separate article called Transliterating cuneiform languages. The contents of this article is better rewritten here. --JFK 15:21, 10 March 2006 (UTC)

makes sense; merge it here, and if parts grow over-long, branch them out again. dab () 13:20, 29 April 2006 (UTC)

Sign table[edit]

this article has been missing a table of the actual glyphs for ages; I took the upcoming Unicode 5.0 release as an opportunity for working on that. This is provisional, of course, the Unicode allocation may still change in details, but it is unlikely to see major changes still. In any case, the table is very preliminary. Any presentation of glyphs will need to distinguish Sumerian and Akkadian (and possibly Hittite) values. Ideally, of the order of 1,000 glyphs should be discussed. More realistically, of the order of 100 simple syllables (VC or CV) should be discussed first. This will be quite a piece of work, since the allocation of the Unicode glyphs is rather unsystematic and unscientific; rather guided by some well-known inventory number, they appear to pick one Sumerian phonetic value of the sign, and order strictly alphabetically (i.e. SH- is listed after SA- but before SI-...). My present attempt at a table aims at presenting the Akkadian values, but it is still both incomplete and unverified. For example, Akkadian ṭuis Sumerian GĺN (= NĺR =TÙN), but I have been unable to locate the glyph under any of these names. dab () 16:54, 28 April 2006 (UTC)

Cuneiform script in Unicode[edit]

Cuneiform script is added in Unicode 5.0, see, so we can use cuneiform script in this article :-)

I'm working on it (see the glyph list), but I am waiting for a list mapping unicode codepoints to some dictionary. Guesswork from the glyph name or scanning the glyph table is too tedious. dab () 17:05, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

What is the point of the Unicode syllabary table now?[edit]

What is the point of the Unicode syllabary table, when currently at least 99.9% of browser software running on typical computer configurations will be unable to display it?? (Does a Unicode-mapped cuneiform font even exist right now? Nothing at this article or Unicode cuneiform indicates that one does.) Little GIFs or PNGs would be more useful right now. AnonMoos 00:27, 24 October 2006 (UTC)

don't worry, there will be fonts (m:Eventualism). In the meantime, you are most welcome to upload the 900 required PNGs :) dab () 23:55, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
Some have been uploaded at commons:User:Enlil2/gallery. PNGs would be of use to most, while Unicode seems to be of use to none, right at the moment... Would taking screenshots of pages of the Everson proposal PDF file and chopping them up be a copyright violation? AnonMoos 15:45, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
You could just use a font. -- Evertype· 18:42, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
the entire point is that there is no font yet. Sure, there are legacy "ASCII" (as Borger calls them) fonts, but I haven't seen a single concordance mapping any of these to the recent Unicode encoding. Also, could you tell us what was your source for the glyph shapes as they appear in this proposal[7]? dab () 20:17, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
I don't know, you could ask Evertype (talk · contribs). If you add images, do not remove the unicode characters however. Ideally, there should be at least two glyphs for every entry, one archaic Sumerian (2500 BC) and one Assyrian (1500 BC). I think the glyphs in the proposal are rather archaic, and some seem very strange to me, they should ideally be checked against Borger (2003). There should also be a check of Borger (2003) against Borger (1981), because he overthrew his numbering scheme completely, and we must be careful the two don't get mixed up. I am working at a font for Akkadian/Hittite orthography, i.e. there will be of the order of 400 signs (about half of the Unicode codepoints will remain unused), and the glyphs will look very different from those in the proposal. I've done about 25% of this, and it will still be a couple of weeks before I can present this font for download. dab () 17:00, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

here is a concordance mapping Borger (2003) numbers to Unicode codepoints. I was confused by this before I realised Borger introduced a completely new scheme. This could be used to add an additional column to the table at Unicode cuneiform. My focus is Assyrian and Hittite, so that if I keep working on this list, Sumerian signs not continued in Akkadian will probably remain sadly neglected. dab () 20:25, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

Perhaps there could be a link in the "Syllabary" section explaining how to set a browser to view this thing? As someone who has had an article rejected because it didn't perfectly fit the article polices' standards it is amazing to me that this non-functional syllabary is allowed to be live.-- (talk) 23:02, 22 May 2015 (UTC)

Under the infobox at the top of the article is a box explaining that readers may not be able to view all the characters on this page without additional support, and it points to the Help:Special characters page where there is a link to download a Unicode cuneiform font, which if you install should make the Unicode characters render correctly. BabelStone (talk) 23:23, 22 May 2015 (UTC)


How is this word pronounced? I have heard several versions but I think it's something like this ku ni ɪ fɔ(ɹ)m. Any feedback would be nice.Cameron Nedland 14:31, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

[8] something like this, yes. dab (𒁳) 20:22, 20 January 2007 (UTC)
Thanks.Cameron Nedland 19:24, 14 February 2007 (UTC)

Progress on cuneiform sign images[edit]

Commons user Mstudt is now uploading Cuneiform sign PNG images (the first 100 have been uploaded... AnonMoos 14:57, 20 January 2007 (UTC)

that's excellent. She seems to be naming the files after their Borger (2003) number, i.e. the same I am ordering List of cuneiform signs by. Note commons:Image:B029ellst.png where I added sign identification, and which I am linking from list of cuneiform signs now. The same should be done with the other signs. That's 100 out of 907 so far, I hope she keeps going... dab (𒁳) 19:35, 20 January 2007 (UTC)
she keeps on going! I uploaded 400 added by necessary variants so far. I hope, all 907 will be uploaded till the end of the week. We made fine TrueType fonts of our signs: NeoAssyrian1,2,3,4,5,6,xxl.ttf. We are writing cuneiform very fast. We saved over 9.000 transliterations as autotexts for MSWord. Working with them is much faster than looking for the right Unicode encoding for every single glyph ...
We are working on a Neo-Assyrian Sign list for wikipeda with all sumerian and akkadian transliterations, which can be used in addition to list of cuneiform signs. Mstudt 00:04, 23 January 2007 (UTC)
wouldn't it make sense to merge this list with the existing one? dab (𒁳) 14:48, 23 January 2007 (UTC)
thanks for your proposal - I think you are quite right: one cuneiform sign list is enough! I will keep on uploading the PNG-signs including all variants (I think, they should get a place in the list, too). As to the sumerian transliterations - it is better to leave the list as you worked it out; the complete 9000 transliterations are an essential part of our Handbuch Assur and we have to avoid copyright problems. All transliterations, which are combined of more than one cuneiform sign, would be missing anyway. As to the table: I think it would be better, if the background is white, so that the cuneiform signs merge better. I did this in my list by: "Prettytable|background-color: #FFFFFF;". And I would like to adjust the heigth of some signs, so that all wedges, if possible, are of the same size.Mstudt 15:56, 25 January 2007 (UTC)
well, more transliterations can be added, I did a sample of that at wikt:𒀸, but that's a lot of work. I don't think there is a copyright problem, otherwise, how can you defend your 9,000 transliterations wrt those of Borger? Or, put differently, when stating that AŠ has a reading of salugub in MSL 13 191 227, whose copyright am I violating, yours or Borger's? In any case, feel free to add additional rows to the tables for sign variants; I restricted myself to listing the 907 main entries of Borger, but that may of course be extended. I suppose detailed treatment of any sign (other than the likes of URU or LUGAL) should go to wiktionary. dab (𒁳) 16:28, 25 January 2007 (UTC)
After a long discussion with Dr. Ellermeier, who is the owner of the copyright of our cuneiform signs, we decided to withdraw our signs. We would have liked to upload the signs not to be altered and for non-commercial use. But since that is not possible, we had to put a deletion request at Wikimedia Commons. We are very sorry, but you will have to delete the signs from your list of cuneiform signs. The signs and fonts are available at Selbstverlag Dr. Friedrich Ellermeier, Hardegsen bei Göttingen. As to the 9000 transliterations: they are the result of the cooperation for years between R. Borger and F. Ellermeier. They form the BCE-System (Borger/Civil/Ellermeier). Mstudt 10:00, 29 January 2007 (UTC)
that's sad. now we are stuck with 470 out of 900 glyphs. I'll see if I can generate pngs from my font, but that will be Old Assyrian. dab (𒁳) 16:31, 1 February 2007 (UTC)
To dab: on behalf of the second half of the neoassyrian PNGs: you got mail! Greetings from bookworm to bookworm. Mstudt 17:27, 23 February 2007 (UTC)
thank you, found it & replied. dab (𒁳) 20:24, 23 February 2007 (UTC)

Help in reading cuneiform script here on Wikipedia[edit]

On the Nebuchadrezzar II page here on Wikipedia, there is an image of an "engraving inside an onyx-stone-eye in a Marduk statue that might depict Nebuchadrezzar II". Someone described it as a very small stone relief found on an ancient statue of god Marduk in the Italian museum of Florence.

If anybody out here can read the cuneiform script; please tell us on its talk page what it says; or give the translation in that article. Thanks. Itzse (talk) 23:23, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

15 Sumerian Consonants, not 14?[edit]

There seems to be a consonant missing in the list of consonants: the /ŋ/-sound transcribed g̃ or ĝ. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:57, 10 March 2008 (UTC)

Cuineform translation method[edit]

I have a method of translating of cuneiform using conversion of transliterated cuneiforms into Latin alphabet by transcribing it into Azerbaijani/Turkish language. This allows to extract almost exact meaning as oppose to nonsensical translation straight into Latin alphabet

An introductory text can be found on my user page User:Babylonazerbaijan. I'm thinking whether it makes sense to place this information to this page or create a Cuneiform translation page. Please contact me via email( with your suggestions —Preceding undated comment was added at 03:41, 25 July 2008 (UTC)

factual error in article[edit]

Your article on Austen Henry Layard correctly credits him, not P.-E. Botta, with the discovery of the Ashurbanipal Library at Nineveh. Layard took the tablets to the British Museum, where they are under study to this day. (talk) 05:05, 17 August 2008 (UTC)Peter Walsh

Cuneiform music notation[edit]

I have removed the recent addition on Hurrian Hymns by an IP user because it is unsourced as presented. Please reintroduce this material once you can define the sources that establish how Cuneiform has been used as (or as substitute for) musical notation. Also please remain focused on the theme of the article which is Cuneiform script, not Hurrian music, not the composer Malek Jandali, etc. Thank you Enki H. (talk) 18:21, 9 May 2009 (UTC)

PS. The fact that the User bombed the same text he copied from his edits on Microtonal music into here, Ugarit, Ugaritic language and Ugaritic alphabet undermines the credibility of this being a legitimate edit in the first place. I have reverted all of them for now, except for the one in Microtonal music, where this might arguably have a place. Please discuss here if discussion is needed. Enki H. (talk) 18:39, 9 May 2009 (UTC)

PPS. We have just reverted two more such edits done today on Hurrians and on Hurrian language. Again: this is an invitation to the IP user from Atlanta to explain and support his edits. Enki H. (talk) 16:08, 11 May 2009 (UTC)

How Do We Bridge the Scholar-Popular Divide regarding Cuneiform in Wikipedia?[edit]

To Interested Parties. I have a question for everyone. In a note I just added, I wrote "Adkins (2003) presents an informed and easy-to-read history of cuneiform decipherment within the context of a biography of Rawlinson." My note was immediately stripped of its commentary by a subsequent editor, with the statement this is not a book review. I can understand that, and will certainly not revert back to my own offering. But as a new Wikipedia editor, I am a bit frustrated. When I came to this Cuneiform page after reading Adkins (2003), I found the article fabulous, but definitely weighted to the advanced scholar. My question is, how do we maintain scholarly rigor, but still guide the amateur to "portals" that will give them a pleasant path to further knowledge? Would it be alright for me to add the Adkins book to "Further Reading"? If so, can I "rate" the book on the scholarly-popular scale at that point? Middle Fork (talk) 01:25, 5 June 2009 (UTC)

I really don't wish to deepen this divide and your contribution is much appreciated. I merely pointed out that the section of "reliable references" would not be the right place for an opinion of this particular book. This is certainly not against the book, it was already used in one of the references in the article and I have merged the two into one bibliographic item. That said, once it is used as a reference, the "Further Reading" section is not the right place either. I'll dig around in the various Manual of Style sections, maybe I can find something more constructive, back here in a little while. Kind regards, Enki H. (talk) 02:59, 5 June 2009 (UTC)
Further to this, Wikipedia:Scientific_citation_guidelines#Annotations actually mentions an example hat comes close: a set of standard textbooks is annotated thus Dodelson (2003) is a modern textbook which contains a comprehensive derivation of cosmic microwave background physics. [...] Kolb and Turner (1988) is a dated but classic textbook. [...] Wayne Hu's website contains a variety of useful introductory material targeted at different levels.. Part of the problem here is that our article does not clearly distinguish between notes, references and bibliography but I have just fixed this (mostly). "Notes" would now be the place for such an annotation. Finally, regarding your original comment: how does "Adkins (2003) presents a history of cuneiform decipherment aimed at a general audience in the context of a biography of Rawlinson." sound to you? I think this removes the "opinion" concern. Hope this helps Enki H. (talk) 04:55, 5 June 2009 (UTC)
Enki. You really worked on this, and I really appreciate it. As I was really just a "passer-through" I will not be touching this article again. Whatever modifications you make, based upon my provocation and your own reasoning, will be great with me.Middle Fork (talk) 13:47, 5 June 2009 (UTC)

I sympathize with Middle Fork. Of course we need to maintain "scholarly rigour", but a recommendation of a book suited for the interested layperson does not amount to "a book review". If Middle Fork had been falling over himself with adjectives of praise, I would understand the removal, but a simple note of 'here's a book that may interest you' is not the same. What we should do, and invite Middle Fork to help us doing, is build a structured and extensive bibliography which includes a section on "introductory works" where such recommendations may be made. --dab (𒁳) 14:27, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

Thanks, Dougweller. Now, Til Eulenspiegel...[edit]

Either the article's text conforms to the source, or the source needs to be changed. I chose the first option for the moment, i.e. I made our text conform to the source. So Til, you either didn't comprehend that, or didn't bother to compare my edit with the source. As to the source's reliability, obviously WP requires that experts be cited, and if Mr Lo isn't one, then we can't use him, Til.

BTW, Till, the version to which you reverted is a revision of mine, too. So why don't go back even further and revert it, too? (Why not? Mr Lo doesn't say anything about "100" tokens.)

Lastly, Til, you called my edit "dubious". Perhaps you could explain exactly what it is that you found to be dubious. Here are the two paragraphs from Mr Lo, followed by my rewriting of them.

Lo wrote:

It is actually possible to trace the long road of the invention of the Sumerian writing system. For 5000 years before the appearance of writing in Mesopotamia, there were small clay objects in abstract shapes, called clay tokens, that were apparently used for counting agricultural and manufactured goods. As time went by, the ancient Mesopotamians realized that they needed a way to keep all the clay tokens securely together (to prevent loss, theft, etc), so they started putting multiple clay tokens into a large, hollow clay container which they then sealed up. However, once sealed, the problem of remembering how many tokens were inside the container arose. To solve this problem, the Mesopotamians started impressing pictures of the clay tokens on the surface of the clay container with a stylus. Also, if there were five clay tokens inside, they would impress the picture of the token five times, and so problem of what and how many inside the container was solved.

Subsequently, the ancient Mesopotamians stopped using clay tokens altogether, and simply impressed the symbol of the clay tokens on wet clay surfaces. In addition to symbols derived from clay tokens, they also added other symbols that were more pictographic in nature, i.e. they resemble the natural object they represent. Moreover, instead of repeating the same picture over and over again to represent multiple objects of the same type, they used diferent kinds of small marks to "count" the number of objects, thus adding a system for enumerating objects to their incipient system of symbols. Examples of this early system represents some of the earliest texts found in the Sumerian cities of Uruk and Jamdat Nasr around 3300 BCE, such as the one below.

Now here's the paragraph I (re-)wrote based on that:

Some ten millennia ago the Sumerians began using clay tokens to count their agricultural and manufactured goods. Later they began placing the tokens in large, hollow, clay containers which were sealed; the quantity of tokens in each container came to be expressed by impressing, on the container's surface, one picture for each instance of the token inside. They next dispensed with the actual tokens, relying solely on symbols for the tokens, drawn on clay surfaces. To avoid making a picture for each instance of the same object (for example: 100 pictures of a hat to represent 100 hats), they 'counted' the objects by using various small marks. In this way the Sumerians added "a system for enumerating objects to their incipient system of symbols." Thus writing began, during the Uruk period circa 3300 BCE.[8]

Pretty faithful to the source, just as I wrote in my edit summary, wouldn't you say, Til?

So I have to ask, Til: Did you even read the source before you did your revert and called my edit "dubious"? SamEV (talk) 01:31, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

Old Babylonian Mathematics (cuneiform exhibit at NYU)[edit]

Noticed an exhibit on Old Babylonian Mathematics which is displaying some cuneiform via this NYTimes article. There may be useful info, for instance, their bibliography. Jodi.a.schneider (talk) 00:33, 28 November 2010 (UTC)

Cuneiform in media news[edit]

BBC June 14, 2011 Completion of the dictionary G. Robert Shiplett 11:19, 14 June 2011 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Grshiplett (talkcontribs)

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I would like to see an image of the 'blunt reed' as described, so I can see how it makes the marks it makes. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:06, 13 December 2011 (UTC)

Web fonts![edit]

Currently the Unicode characters in this article are displayed as squares or some other garbage on computers which don't have a cuneiform font installed.

The Wikimedia Localization Team deployed Cuneiform webfonts a few minutes ago in the English Wikisource. See how it looks there: s:User:Amire80/Cuneiform.

We hope to deploy them in the English Wikipedia some time soon, too. --Amir E. Aharoni (talk) 19:07, 5 March 2012 (UTC)

Any update on this? Thanks! Geofferic TC 12:59, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
this is cool, but Unicode cuneiform is never going to be of any real use, because of its rather eccentric implementation. I understand that they could not dedicate the same resources they did for Han unification for an obsolete script like this, but if you know you cannot do it properly, why not just postpone the project? There was an insane flurry of Unicode additions in Unicode 5.0 to 6.0 (about 2006 to 2010), in many cases really destroying the Unicode idea of "one codepoint per character", so if it has been hard to explain Unicode to people before 2006, it has become impossible now that they play havoc with their own founding principles.
what I am saying is that the Unicode cuneiform set can conceivably be used for Ur III inscriptions, but the vast majority of cuneiform texts are Assyrian. This is like implementing the Phoenician alphabet before bothering to give us the Latin one. --dab (𒁳) 09:26, 4 April 2013 (UTC)

Transliteration conventions[edit]

Could someone please discuss the use of the multiplication sign and the period, e.g. ÈRIM (URU×NÍG) versus UTUKI (KÚR.IR.GÍDIM) in transliteration. I assume the form in parentheses reveals the graphic structure using more simple signs. In addition to clarifying the use of the multiplication sign and the period, it would be nice to discuss how the two forms of transcription (say ÈRIM versus URU×NÍG) are actually used when transliterating and discussing Sumerian texts. Tibetologist (talk) 13:04, 24 March 2013 (UTC)

ÈRIM (URU×NÍG) means that the glyph ÈRIM somehow historically evolved from a "ligature" of URU and NÍG. You don't use "URU×NÍG" for transliteration, this only comes up in discussions on glyph lists and historical development of specific glyphs.
UTUKI (KÚR.IR.GÍDIM) means that the mere juxtaposition of KÚR, IR and GÍDIM is to be read as UTUKI for some reason.
--dab (𒁳) 09:20, 4 April 2013 (UTC)

34th century[edit]

I don't know why people are so keen on inserting the claim that the script developed 3300 BC? Perhaps because it is a nice figure? Say, 3333 BC? As I have been trying to impress on these articles for years, and have deposited at Kish tablet, where the information is less likely to be lost in careless editing, the "proto-cuneiform" period may well be argued to last from 3500 to 3000. Note the proto, as in "not yet" cuneiform. The actual cuneiform script develops very close to 3000 BC. I suppose it is impossible to say if this happened just before or just after 1 January 3000 BC, so we cannot state a century with confidence. This is not a problem. "ca. 30th century" will do nicely. --dab (𒁳) 09:42, 4 April 2013 (UTC)

I think the problem may be related to Egyptian_hieroglyphs#History_and_evolution, where people likewise claim that "hieroglyphic inscriptions" date to 3400 BC. The point is, of course, that the proto-cuneiform system influenced the proto-hieroglyphic one, neither system was derived from the other when it was fully formed. The Narmer Palette has more to do with heraldry than with written expression. The shift from using standard pictographs to a script happens when you manage to express specific, grammatical utterances, i.e. you can figure out where the pronouns go, what conjunctions are being used, and what grammatical tense is intended, etc., instead of conveying a general concept by means of a string of little icons. --dab (𒁳) 09:52, 4 April 2013 (UTC)

Squares on top of the infobox[edit]

Is there is a reason we want "𒄖𒉈𒅁𒌨𒅎" on top of the infobox? After downloading Akkadian font and tinkering with the article's source code, I got it to work. It looks cool on my screen. But I suspect almost everyone else sees just five squares, which doesn't look very professional. Kauffner (talk) 08:17, 19 May 2013 (UTC)

Oic. There's a {{Cuneiform}} template that was missing. I put the template in, so now you see the characters if you have downloaded the font. But I still don't see a positive reason to put these characters on top of the article. Kauffner (talk) 08:45, 19 May 2013 (UTC)

It may look cool, but the question remains for what reason and on whose authority we want the infobox to say "𒄖𒉈𒅁𒌨𒅎". As long as this isn't made clear, the thing cannot stay no matter how cool it looks. --dab (𒁳) 13:24, 20 December 2013 (UTC)

Web fonts, part II![edit]


Great news: The English Wikipedia now supports webfonts. It is one of the features of the UniversalLanguageSelector extension that was enabled here a few minutes ago.

One of the fonts that it serves is Akkadian, which supports cuneiform, so users don't have to install fonts manually any more to see the ancient writing.

It shows itself when the value of the lang attribute is "akk" or "sux". I experimented with it in this edit, and it worked, but I guess that the {{Cuneiform}} template should be modified to make it easier to use. Can anybody please do it?

If you want to add support for more language codes or to add another font, it is possible - just let me know or open a bug in Bugzilla. (Please note that the font must be freely licensed.)

Thanks! --Amir E. Aharoni (talk) 08:43, 2 July 2013 (UTC)

I reverted to {{Cuneiform}}. The other method only display half the characters (consonant final, but not consonant initial). — kwami (talk) 04:01, 1 November 2013 (UTC)

Who says Hieroglyphs were influenced by Cuneiform?[edit]

Whatever source says this, it is not a common enough opinion to put in the infobox. Perhaps your source for this opinion can be attributed in the proper section, but as the article states there is disagreement about which writing system is actually older. By some accounts hieroglyphs started as much as 1000 years before cuneiform. Not to mention there is a hard case for any graphic influence whatsoever anyway, as hieroglyphs are not in the least cuneiform i.e. wedge-shaped. The earliest artifact with any significant hieroglyphs is the Narmer Palette, at least 3100-3500 BC. What specific cuneiform document can you produce that compares anywhere close with the Narmer Palette for antiquity? Til Eulenspiegel /talk/ 02:04, 3 November 2013 (UTC)

Ping User:Kwamikagami, I know he knows the idea that Egyptian hieroglyphs' shape was influenced by cuneiform, is not mainstream. Til Eulenspiegel /talk/ 02:13, 3 November 2013 (UTC)
History of writing#Egytian hieroglyphs states this: "Geoffrey Sampson believes that most scholars hold that Egyptian hieroglyphs "came into existence a little after Sumerian script, and ... probably [were] invented under the influence of the latter ...<ref>Geoffrey Sampson, Writing Systems: a Linguistic Introduction, Stanford University Press, 1990, p. 78.</ref>" SamEV (talk) 02:31, 3 November 2013 (UTC)
Well as unlikely as that would seem to me, it does pertain to this topic, so perhaps we could fit a similar sentence in the appropriate section of this article, unless it turns out to be totally fringe, but would rather leave that off the infobox. Til Eulenspiegel /talk/ 02:48, 3 November 2013 (UTC)
The contradiction I referred to is with the lede sentence: Cuneiform script is one of the earliest known systems of writing,[ref]Egyptian hieroglyphs also have a claim, and it is unsettled which system began first. See Visible Language. Inventions of Writing in the Ancient Middle East and Beyond, Oriental Institute Museum Publications, 32, Chicago: University of Chicago, p. 13, ISBN 978-1-885923-76-9[/ref] Til Eulenspiegel /talk/ 02:52, 3 November 2013 (UTC)
Both our quotations seem to contain the opinions of Wikipedia editors. That's a problem. SamEV (talk) 03:44, 3 November 2013 (UTC)
Basically one of them is supposedly Sampson's opinion, and the other ref is a highly specialized, expert, and even-handed source on the details of this topic. The refs are supposed to stand on their own, so we shouldn't even have to worry that much about our opinions as long as we stick to presenting ones found in RSS. Til Eulenspiegel /talk/ 04:02, 3 November 2013 (UTC)

Can't tell if the comment about me above was meant to say I hold this view or that I know it to be false.

I don't think it's just Samson. It's a reasonable assumption, if writing appears in several neighboring civilizations in constant contact with each other, and within a few centuries of each other (it wasn't just Sumeria and Egypt), that it was actually a single invention and stimulus diffusion. And the arguments for Sumeria being first aren't just dating. But it's not established that this was actually the case, and even if it was, AFAIK *no-one* claims that hieroglyphs derive from cuneiform, so I agree that they do not belong in the box either way. — kwami (talk) 04:32, 3 November 2013 (UTC)

See Egyptian hieroglyphs#History and evolution. The Abydos glyphs, dated as early as 3400 BC, significantly undermine the idea of Mesopotamian inspiration or influence as a causal factor for the appearance of writing in Egypt (as opposed to a merely reinforcing factor, perhaps). There appears to be no good reason anymore to doubt that writing in Egypt arose independently. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 23:37, 23 January 2014 (UTC)
First of all, the Abydos glyphs are dated to between 3400 and 3200 [1], so it's misleading to only mention the old end. Second, this article is from 1999, and the precise date was calculated in 2002 to 3250 BC.[2] Notice also that these glyphs from c. 3250 BC are claimed to be the earliest example of coherent Egyptian, about 100 years older than anything else. Third, the Kish Tablet is dated to between 3500-3390 BC, with hundreds, if not thousands, of examples of Sumerian from before 3200, while only one or two for Egyptian.[3] [4] ″The charcoal remains of pine beams found in the context of some of the Uruk texts suggest a date of around 3500–3390 bc. However, this date must be used with caution given that it represents a lone sample and various problems are known to complicate radiocarbon dates acquired from the latter half of fourth millennium (Margarete van Ess, personal communication). Currently, the German Archaeological Institute is attempting to acquire new radiocarbon dates of this material, which will hope-fully clarify the situation.″ From the wiki article: ″Several thousands of proto-cuneiform documents dating to Uruk IV and III periods (ca. 3350-3000 BC) have been found in Uruk.″ Furthermore, Sumerian clay tokens in the shape of several of the proto-Sumerian glyphs (mostly numberes) were used for approximately 5,000 years before true writing was developed.[5][6] Therefore, at the very least Sumerian writing is older and developed independently, but it begs the question whether proto-Sumerian may, indeed, have had an impact on the forming of early Egyptian hieroglyphs, given that it seems to be about 200-250 years older as a writing system and thousands of years older as pre-writing (plenty of time for it to migrate and take on a different style). — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:42, 29 March 2016 (UTC)
I guess it would be relevant to compare pre-hieroglyphic pictographs and pre-cuneiform pictographs. However, let's also deal with the elephant in the room - eurocentrism. Most of the time, there is no evidence that something happened in Mesopotamia before Egypt, it is just asserted. Then, there is the fact that Egypt influenced civilisations around the Mediterranean and Africa for thousands of years. Or that in a time when people traveled by sea more than land (no roads and bridges), Egypt was geographically much closer to Greece than Mesopotamia, India, etc. and yet that is usually where the answer is sought. It is eurocentrism, unconscious or conscious, culturally ingrained by repetition. MrSativa (talk) 19:28, 9 April 2016 (UTC)
The idea that the placement of Mesopotamian history at an elevated status represents Eurocentrism is quite absurd for a number of reasons. Neither Sumerians nor their near successors are widely regarded as being "white" (they had black hair[7] and probably some medium shade of brown skin, similar to that of Egyptians). No inhabitants of Mesopotamia, except for some Persian and Kurdish minorities, speaks or has ever spoken an Indo-European language. Mesopotamia is not part of Europe and lies just under the band of Indo-European peoples stretching from Europe through the Caucasus to India.
None of which is relevant to the fact that de-Africanizing Egypt is Eurocentric. MrSativa (talk) 22:02, 11 April 2016 (UTC)
No one is denying Egypt's influence on Greece or Rome, especially after Alexander the Great.
Oh Egyptian influence goes way back before the Greek who conquered the country. There are historic legends of invasion of the Peloponnese by the Egyptians/Phoenicians, according to Herodotus in his Histories. Aegyptos and Danaos were considered twins. The religion of Ancient Greece and Rome was based on Egyptian religion. And last but not least, 20% of Greeks have an originally East African haplogroup, E1b1b. Then, the Greeks colonized Egypt, and then the Romans. So by the time that Christianty took over the Roman Empire, the early church was pandering to people who practiced religions based on Egyptian religion. That is how Egytpian symbolism entered Christianity. The lamb, when the ramheaded Amon-Ra was the deity of the New Kingdom's empire. Ending prayers with Amen/Amon. The trinity. The Isis-Horus iconography of Mary and Jesus. The symbol of the cross/ankh or soul. Jesus bleeding water, when the symbolic meaning of an ankh held upside down is (a drop of) water.
And, obviously, they influenced their more immediate neighbors from Anatolia to Nubia and beyond for many thousands of years. Saying "most of the time, there is no evidence for _", especially without citing a single source, doesn't prove any part of your point or give you an ounce of credibility. In fact, your repeated use of the word Eurocentrism and refusal to capitalize it (as it appears in a dictionary) makes you sound like some anti-white neo-racist. Note also that a large number of the people claiming that Sumerians were white also claim that Egyptians were white. I disagree with both claims. I might add that the tendency to push Egyptian civilization farther back than the evidence can easily prove is an old leftover from before the discovery of Sumerian. Experts from all over white Europe wanted to believe that Egypt was the oldest civilization, the oldest religion, etc. and that the then-undeciphered hieroglyphs contained secrets that would help advance our scientific and spiritual understanding in modern times. After they were deciphered and many thousands of papyri, tablets and wall paintings translated, no hidden secrets were found and they started revising the age of Egyptian civilization and language and the Egyptian chronology has more or less shrunk ever since.[8]
Except that's not what happened. What happened is well described in Martin Bernal's Black Athena - the later dating of the Corpus Hermeticum. When it became clear that the Corpus Hermeticum was younger than for instance the Torah, it lost it's prestige as the oldest knowledge. The fall of Egypt in Europe was also aided by the defeat of Napoleon and Republicanism in 1813. Champollion didn't decypher hieroglyphs until 1822. However, Egypt, has the world's oldest medical texts, including the world's oldest medical text, the Kahun Papyrus. Doesn't the idea that a civilisation can exist for thousands of years, invent writing or at least, invent the writing system (hieroglyphs) that all alphabets are based on, build the pyramids and the sphynx, write on walls and hundreds of thousands of papyri over time - invent the word for papyrus/paper... and have nothing to say? No 'secrets to be found'? Do you really think that's plausible? The brainwashing goes very deep. MrSativa (talk) 22:02, 11 April 2016 (UTC)

I possess a number of older books that claim the first Dynasty was over 7,000 years ago (some even earlier). They also claim that hieroglyphs are 9,000 years old. The last century of archaeology has forced them to revise these estimates considerably, but some Egyptologists cling to the idea that Egyptian civilization must be older than that of Sumer when it simply isn't. Finally, Eurocentrism is entirely irrelevant to a page about Cuneiform script, as cultures from many ethnic and linguistic backgrounds have used various descendants of the ancient Sumerian script in history and only Sumer (which wasn't white) is older than Egypt. (talk) 07:30, 10 April 2016 (UTC)
I would disagree. The fact that there are older books that are wrong about Egypt doesn't prove anything. Whether Mesopotamians were whatever color doesn't matter if the Eurocentrist believes that crediting them is a way out of crediting an African civilisation. Therefore, the insistence that whatever happened in the world happened in Mesopotamia before Egypt, without proof, is Eurocentric. MrSativa (talk) 22:02, 11 April 2016 (UTC)
THIS IS NOT A FORUM, TAKE IT ELSEWHERE. Ogress 22:05, 11 April 2016 (UTC)


The claim that the tokens date to 8k BC was marked dubious. Actually, that is supposedly the case. The truly dubious claim is that they were ancestral to cuneiform. That thesis has been strongly criticized. I don't know if consensus has been reached since, but if not, we cannot flatly state that this is the case. — kwami (talk) 05:52, 12 December 2013 (UTC)

"Actually that is supposedly the case" -- According to WHOM? How can you "flatly state" that they are dated 8000 BC? This sounds like a leap of faith that you are willing to take, but not I. Til Eulenspiegel /talk/ 14:32, 12 December 2013 (UTC)
According to the reference for that paragraph, as well as others I've seen which state the tokens are ancestral to cuneiform. Now, they could just be repeating things they don't understand, but the real issue is whether the token theory is now broadly accepted, or if it's still generally rejected. There's no need to tag the passage as dubious twice. — kwami (talk) 19:22, 12 December 2013 (UTC)
The 8000 BC part sounds extremely dubious to me, but with more balanced sources I'm sure you could rewrite the whole paragraph better. Til Eulenspiegel /talk/ 19:33, 12 December 2013 (UTC)
I have to agree that this would need a good source, and I would add that it is also off-topic to this page in any case; once you have a proper referece, take it to proto-writing. So far, that article is aware of proto-writing in China in the 7th millennium, and in Europe or the Near East in the 6th millennium. If we can push this back to the 8th, or even the beginning of the 8th millennium, fine, but base it on decent literature. --dab (𒁳) 13:20, 20 December 2013 (UTC)
this may be yet another mixup of BP with BC. Saying that proto-writing emerged by 8k years ago is entirely undisputed and easily referenced. Somehow the "years ago" may have morphed into "years BCE". Once we change this to "years ago", the question remains indeed, as Kwamikagami pointed out, according to whom and on what evidence these signs are somehow directly ancestral to cuneiform. --dab (𒁳) 13:22, 20 December 2013 (UTC)

First Printing Press[edit]

There appears to be no mention of the cuneiform cylinders as being the earliest form of a printing press for documents that would need to be replicated. The cylinders were rolled over damp clay to leave a tablet impression of the works on the cylinder. Gnostics (talk) 16:04, 27 September 2014 (UTC)

Social studies project.[edit]

How do you spell Darian in cuneiform?thanks if you give me the answer! Flash309 (talk) 20:04, 30 January 2015 (UTC)

Letters or not letters?[edit]

The "Decipherment" section makes conflicting assertions that one historical decipherer was "correct" that the cuneiform was "words, not letters' but later asserts another decipherer was correct when he presented translations of them as letters.

They can't both be right. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:02, 21 September 2015 (UTC)

Yes they can. Persian cuneiform was deciphered first and is alphabetic, and ancient cuneiform, which is logographic and phonetic like Egyptian or Chinese, was deciphered later. (talk) 19:37, 21 September 2015 (UTC)

Reliable sources[edit]

I've reverted changes that used the book Our Ancestors Came from Outer Space by Maurice Chatelain as a source. As far as I can tell, this source does not meet the relevant WP:RS criteria for this field of study. A discussion on this matter is also in progress at Wikipedia:Reliable_sources/Noticeboard#Our_Ancestors_Came_From_Outer_Space_as_a_source_for_Cuneiform_script. -- The Anome (talk) 10:50, 13 July 2016 (UTC)

Dropping by after reading the post at RSN. I agree with Anome's revert. The source is not reliable enough to support the information added. Blueboar (talk) 11:06, 13 July 2016 (UTC)
  • Source in question is somewhere between Prometheus and The Morning of the Magicians in terms of reliability. Not "new" discoveries, just new rationalizations for a hypothesis secularized (for entertainment purposes) by H.P. Lovecraft but (through Helena Blavatsky) dating back to classical occultism. Our Ancient astronauts article has not seen any updates because of this supposedly "groundbreaking" work, nor has there been any news about a subject that would overtake even US election coverage. Ian.thomson (talk) 21:39, 13 July 2016 (UTC)
Sounds like Erik Dunnycan recycled. Anything 'reliable' in that source comes from the author's cannibalization of standard works on cuneiform, and therefore, ipso facto this makes it pointless as a source, esp. since it skews even those.Nishidani (talk) 21:57, 13 July 2016 (UTC)

List of major Cuneiform tablet discoveries[edit]

I notice that some of Wikiposter1's editing remains in this table. Given the dispute over sourcing, and the lack of citations for most entries in that table, it's hard to tell what is sourced from where, if indeed anywhere at all. Would it be possible to add citations to the various entries there? -- The Anome (talk) 09:42, 14 July 2016 (UTC)

If a source had never been cited, I'd've been more open to including it (with a CN tag). The info is not objectionable in itself but the source is so objectionable that I'd like to see the material reliably sourced before its restored. Ian.thomson (talk) 11:30, 14 July 2016 (UTC)
The simple solution is to excerpt it from the text and open a section here, where, once it is edited to fill the gaping lacunae in sourcing and the obvious errors corrected, can be plunked back. I just gave it a cursory glance and one's eye gets hooked on that 100,000 from Drehen. The Puzriš-Dagan hoard yielded 12,000 tablets, and 100,000 looks like a rough underestimate for the total count for Third Dynasty cuneiform remains which are 10 times the Puzriš-Dagan finds.Nishidani (talk) 16:02, 14 July 2016 (UTC)
Stephen Bertman actually does state that on Puzriš-Dagan p.28 but he's a classicist writing a popular synthesis that lies out of his subject range. Nishidani (talk) 16:13, 14 July 2016 (UTC)
Copying it here is a good idea. I'm busy for a few days though. Doug Weller talk 16:37, 14 July 2016 (UTC)
Just checked, Doug. The exact figures for Puzriš-Dagan are given in Amanda Podany, The Ancient Near East: A Very Short Introduction, OUP 2013 p.58. Someone can correct it when it's shifted for work here.Nishidani (talk) 17:26, 14 July 2016 (UTC)

Translation needed of cuneiform tablet[edit]

A request has been made for a proper translation of this complaint letter. If you can read it, please visit and comment at:

Many thanks.

Anna Frodesiak (talk) 08:01, 24 August 2016 (UTC)

History Section-- possible addition[edit]

The history section of this article currently gives some great information about how the script itself developed and evolved over time. I am thinking that it might be worth adding a brief section within the history section on how this ancient writing was used. For example, its use in law-making and recording history. I understand that this may fall into the overall Mesopotamian culture category, but I think it is worth noting at least briefly some ways this script was used in context. Please let me know of any thoughts/concerns. (talk) 18:26, 17 September 2016 (UTC)Gabriela — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:25, 17 September 2016 (UTC)

Edits Update[edit]

After checking the suggested article format on the WikiProject: Writing Systems page, I have decided to make the additions mentioned above under a separate category called "Usage." This should make the distinction between the development of the system and the system's cultural context more clear than how I previously intended to include the addition. (talk) 16:35, 20 September 2016 (UTC)Gabriela

By all means... Be bold. Welcome. Kleuske (talk) 16:37, 20 September 2016 (UTC)