The Ashmolean

Iraq: Navel of the World

Writing [2]

In ancient times, very few men and women knew how to read and write. Learning the cuneiform script was long and laborious. The young scribes had to memorise at least two hundred different signs in order to write Sumerian, which is not related to any other language known. A student wrote a humorous Sumerian proverb on this small round tablet in about 1800 BC. It says: 'He whose barley sprouts weeps. He who is pouring out water cannot converse.'

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