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As far as we know, literacy goes back to about 3500 BCE. The earliest people to have left written symbols are the Sumerians, followed by the Egyptians. The earliest clay tablets unearthed in Mesopotamia are picture writings which have not yet been deciphered, but those written after 3200 BCE are clearly Sumerian and their content is well known. Their subject matter includes groups of words, accounts of deeds of sale, and some fragments of early literature.

The Sumerians wrote primarily on clay tablets, producing wedge‐shaped characters, which became known as cuneiform script, from the Latin cunus (wedge). It is quite probable that the idea of writing was introduced into Egypt from Mesopotamia. Soon after the Sumerians invented their script, the Egyptians formulated their own system, which consists of picture word‐signs, and which they called m‐d‐w‐n‐t‐r (speech of the gods), and which is now known by its Greek name, hieroglyphs (sacred, carved letters). The Egyptians then produced a sim ...