The Development of Writing

Late Uruk and Jemdet Nasr periods (3300-2900 B.C.E.)

The earliest writing in the history of mankind was developed at the end of the fourth millennium B.C.E. in what is now southern Iraq. At this time, Mesopotamia was dominated by the city-state Uruk, which gives its name to the entire period. The Uruk period of Mesopotamia extended from the Chalcolithic (Copper Age) to the early Bronze Age, around 4000-3000 B.C.E.

It was during the Late Uruk period that cuneiform writing emerged. The Late Uruk and Jemdet Nasr terms are archeological ones: they differentiate between two different layers of dirt as one excavates.  The Late Uruk level is about four layers below the surface of the ground, whereas the Jemdet Nasr level is three layers. Jemdet Nasr takes its name from an archaeological site in today’s Iraqi Babil Governorate, and the earliest tablets have been excavated at this site.

During this period there was a significant increase in the population, and the cities of Uruk and Susa grew and became powerful. Because of the increase in trade between cities, there was a need for documentation of exchanges of assets, hence the necessity of written records.

Most of the tablets from the Jemdet Nasr site were unearthed from 1913 to the present: around 5,000 tablets have been excavated so far.

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About freelibraryrbd

The Rare Book Department is in the Parkway Central Library of the Free Library of Philadelphia.
This entry was posted in Late Uruk/Jamdat Nasr Period (3500-2900 B.C.E.), Period Overview, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

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