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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: May 2013

3 - Writing and book production in the ancient Near East

from Part I - Languages, writing systems and book production


Writing and book production have become increasingly important topics in the study of western civilization in general and the ancient Near East in particular. The two major writing cultures in the ancient Near East were cuneiform and hieroglyphic, and their origins date back to the fourth millennium BCE. Cuneiform writing began as a pictographic type of writing and developed increasingly into a logographic and then syllabic system of writing. The influence of cuneiform culture is reflected by the development of alphabetic cuneiform used for writing the Ugaritic language and later the Old Iranian language. In ancient Mesopotamia, writing proper was the domain of the goddess Nisaba, the personal deity of scribes and the scribal academy. The production of books, or, more correctly, a literary corpus, was associated with the training of scribes. The development of writing in ancient Israel had ties with the old Near Eastern scribal culture.

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