Early Sumerian Cuneiform Tablet 2.75H -
The Sumerians were the first to develop a writing system to keep track of things. This tablet is one of the first pieces of writing ever. This replica is an identical cast of the original at the Museum found near Baghdad, Iraq (ca. 3100-2900 BC). Made from resin, measures 2.75 in W x 2.75 in H. PN 6551
About this tablet:
The Early Sumerian Tablet represents the second stage in the development of the Mesopotamian system of recording ancient economic activities. The very first stage of bookkeeping was tied to specific economic items represented by tokens, originally made from stone and then from clay. There was a specific token for sheep, another for wine, another for a day's work, etc. To record 3 sheep and 2 jugs of wine, the ancient bookkeeper would create the token for sheep three times and the token for wine twice. These tokens were then stored in a container, probably made of cloth or leather. In this first stage, quantities and items were integrally linked together.
Around 3000 BC the second stage of recording economic activities began to develop. Scribes began to utilize a more complex system of notation, in which tokens were replaced by pictographs on wet clay using a reed stylus. In this second stage, quantites and items were separated. No longer were they using the token for sheep three times in order to reprent three sheep, but rather they began to write the pictographic symbol for sheep alongside the symbol denoting the number three. Instead of the same symbol used three times, scribes now wrote two different symbols: one for the amount and another for the item. This was revolutionary. Numbers were now free to develop on their own into a complicated numerical designation system. Simultaneously, other written symbols were developed on a phonetic basis rather than a purely pictographic basis. This allowed for the recording of more abstract items such as names of gods, kings and humans and the recording of spoken words in addition to the recording of concrete pictograph items, like sheep and flour. With this breakthrough, the recording of written language developed so that cuneiform writing not only counted things, but could also tell stories.
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