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Cuneiform. By Aidan Thompson and Brodie Worden. Origins – Early Development. Long before the development of writing, Sumerians used clay tokens that were used to count the number of agricultural or manufactured goods.

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By Aidan Thompson

and Brodie Worden

origins early development
Origins – Early Development

Long before the development of writing, Sumerians used clay tokens that were used to count the number of agricultural or manufactured goods.

As the use of tokens increased, they needed to think of a way to store them safely, without risk of theft or loss.

To do this they would store them in a clay containers and them seal them, on the top they impressed a picture to show how many were in it.

time line of development and utilisation
Time Line of Development and Utilisation

The next slides will outline a timeline of the development of the Cuneiform and its uses.

This information was sourced from on 28/02/2012



  • The Sumerian priests developed a way of recording the temples resources and activities around 3000 BCE
      • There are some sources that show that it could have been developed earlier than this however.
  • The priests would inscribe clay with styluses made from reed, and this caused Cuneiform to develop its wedge-shaped characters.
  • Over time Sumerian scholars developed these signs into phonetic symbols which represented words of syllables.
  • Sourced from The Sumerians, Samuel Noah Kramer, October 1957.
3200 bce pictographic record keeping
3200 BCE – Pictographic Record Keeping
  • From 3200 BCE the writing used was in the form of pictograms
  • Pictograms are symbols that pictorially represent a word or a syllable.
3000 bce signs used to write sumerian language
3000 BCE – Signs used to Write Sumerian Language

About 3000 BCE the Sumerians began to develop signs instead of pictures for writing.

This is what became known as Cuneiform.

2600 bce short inscriptions
2600 BCE – Short Inscriptions
  • Up to this point cuneiform was primarily used for agricultural records
  • Around 2600 BCE the writing uses developed to include short inscriptions
    • These were used to communicate messages
2500 bce long poems and royal inscriptions
2500 BCE – Long Poems andRoyal Inscriptions

Around 2500 BCE Sumerians began to write more creative literature, such as poetry.

Before this time most of the inscriptions were either official documents or messages to people.

2400 bce signs become cunieform and change in direction of script
2400 BCE – Signs Become Cunieform and Change in direction of Script

At this point on the timeline the cuneiform developed with a change in the direction of the script

This meant that the script went from the being written vertically to horizontally

2300 bce akkadian language written using cuneiform
2300 BCE – Akkadian Language Written Using Cuneiform

With the invasion of Sargon the Great and the Akkadians the cuneiform gained an outside influence

The Akkadians invaded Sumer and being to write down their language using cuneiform