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The World’s Oldest Writing in Mesopotamia and the Japanese Writing System

  • Jun Ikeda
  • Shigeo Yamada
Chapter

Abstract

Agriculture and animal husbandry were first carried out about 8000 BC in Syria-Palestine and northern Mesopotamia, where dry farming was possible. These new life skills were introduced to southern Mesopotamia about 5000 BC, when agriculture was made possible by the use of irrigation technology. After that, however, southern Mesopotamian culture assumed the leading role in Mesopotamian civilization. Toward the end of the fourth millennium BC, the city – that is, the concentration of population in association with large buildings and a fortification system – came into existence in southern Mesopotamia. The world’s oldest writing system was invented in the city of Uruk in about 3200 BC as a new means of recording and communication. This first writing in human history is attested by clay tablets inscribed with proto-cuneiform (linear-pictographic) signs discovered from the temple complex at Uruk. The documents were various administrative records related to the city, where people of different occupations and classes lived under a hierarchy headed by a ruler and temple authority and many kinds of goods and products were apparently assembled, sorted and distributed. Slightly later, from the very end of the fourth millennium BC onward, word lists, including occupations and the names of cities, were also made alongside the administrative texts. Writing then spread rapidly to the cities of southern Mesopotamia surrounding Uruk, such as Adab, Umma, Jamdat-Nasr near Kish, and then further to a broader area in Mesopotamia and Syria.

Keywords

Writing System Irrigation Technology Clay Ball Japanese Text Chinese Writing System 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

References

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Further Reading

  1. Charpin, D. 2010. Reading and writing in Babylon. Trans. T.M. Todd. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Englund, R.K. 1998. Texts from the Late Uruk period. In Mesopotamien: Späturuk-Zeit und Frühdynastische Zeit. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 160/1, ed. J. Bauer, R.K. Englund, and M. Krebernik, 15–217. Freiburg/Göttingen: Universitätsverlag Freiburg/Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.Google Scholar
  3. Nissen, H.J., P. Damerow, and R.K. Englund. 1993. Archaic bookkeeping: Early writing and techniques of economic administration in the ancient near east. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  4. Robinson, A. 1995. The story of writing. New York: Thames and Hudson.Google Scholar
  5. Schmandt-Besserat, D. 1996. How writing came about. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  6. Walker, C.B.F. 1987. Cuneiform. Barkley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press/British Museum.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Humanities and Social SciencesUniversity of TsukubaTsukubaJapan

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