It was the end of the Stone Age, and the
beginning of the Bronze Age or the Age of Metallurgy and Writing!
The ancient Sumerians believed in
education. Record keeping was very important to them. They wanted their
sons to learn how to read and write.
Their written language began as
pictographs, pictures of things that acted as words. Pictographs worked,
but they were rather cumbersome.
Soon, the clever ancient Sumerians
started to use wedge-shaped symbols for objects and ideas instead of
Today, we call this written language of
wedge-shaped symbols cuneiform.
We know a great deal about the ancient
Sumerian civilization from the written records they left behind in stone
and clay. The ancient Sumerians kept excellent records and lists of
things. They listed their household goods. They listed their court
activity. They listed their sales and purchases. They even kept a list
of their kings that was updated from time to time, as new kings came to
One of the best things the ancient
Sumerians wrote down was a great story called The
Epic of Gilgamesh. The Epic of Gilgamesh is perhaps the oldest
recorded story in the world. It tells about the adventures of a king of
Uruk, one of the city-states in ancient Sumer. King Gilgamesh may
actually have existed. His name is on the list of Sumerian kings, a list
we know about because the ancient Sumerians wrote it down.
Cuneiform became the
written language from as early as 5000 BCE. As the civilization of Sumer
started to decline, other civilizations continued to use the Sumerian
written symbols. Thanks to the Sumerians, we also know a great deal
about the ancient Mesopotamian civilizations of Babylon and of Assyria,
civilizations who used the ancient Sumerian system of writing -
Although cuneiform was
used for many thousands of years, and many things have been discovered
written in cuneiform, cuneiform is still not easy to read. That is
because the shape of cuneiform letters, and the meanings of various
cuneiform symbols, changed over time and varied by region. When
archaeologists find ancient cuneiform script, they are always excited
about it. But, they need time to translate it to discover if they have
found a household list of repaired items, or a new poem or story.
There is much yet to be
discovered about these ancient people as archaeologists continue to
translate the ancient written language of Cuneiform.