Monday, January 1, 2018

Cuneiform and Marking Time


As we enter a new year, it is interesting to note how we have gauged time.  As a boy I was puzzled by the year zero—there had to be a year zero—as well as how people knew, for example, it was 300 B.C.  Well, I eventually came to understand all that.  But really when you think about it, recording time is all  about written communication.

I often discuss early forms of writing, especially cuneiform, with my college students.  Cuneiform, of course, was an invention of the ancient Sumerians.  Much of these pictograms were used to keep track of commercial transactions. 

About twenty years ago, I purchased a good-sized chunk of clay with cuneiform writing on it.  I don’t know what it says, but maybe it’s a legal document or even a book contract.  I probably should not, but I use this artifact as a paperweight on my desk.

Happy New Year.  I wish I knew how Hammurabi would write that.

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