Cuneiform characters

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Cuneiform script

Research so far has shown that cuneiform script is one of the earliest forms of writing. It originated in Mesopotamia, former Iraq, more than 5 thousand years ago and was first invented as an accounting system. It was subsequently used as a means to record texts, personal letters and international treaties as well as myths and stories that were later introduced in the Bible. During its long history it was used for different languages.

The Martin Bodmer Foundation houses some 30 objects with cuneiform inscriptions, dating approximately from the beginning of writing in 3200 BC to the fall of Babylon in 539 BC. Most of the objects are tablets which were widely used by Mesopotamians. Some of the more unusual ones include the foundation cone of the ensi (ruler) of Lagash, Enmetena, and a vase inscribed with the name of King Naram-Sin.

The Martin Bodmer Foundation has agreed that the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative can digitise these objects so that researchers have access to the invaluable texts they contain. Twenty-six of them are now available online.

Occasionally, the Foundation opens its doors to the students of Prof. Antoine Cavigneaux of the unit of Mesopotamian languages and civilization at the University of Geneva.


Tablette, argile, Ur Sumérien nouveau règne du roi Shulgi, ~2093-2046 av. J.-C.

Clay tablet, reign of new King Shulgi of Ur (Sumer), c. 2093-2046 BC (large scale)