Science Museum of Minnesota - Cuneiform Collection

Over five thousand years ago, the people dwelling in southern Iraq invented one of the world's earliest systems of writing. They did not do so in order to write stories or letters, nor yet to publicize the deeds of gods and kings, though soon enough writing came to be used for those purposes. They invented writing because they needed a means of accounting for the receipt and distribution of resources. For their numbers had grown and their society had become complex in the alluvial plains of the lower Tigris and Euphrates rivers, an environment which required attentive management in order to sustain a large, agriculture-based civilization. Hence the need for organizing labor and resources; hence the need for accounting and accountability. The accounting system the people of ancient Iraq developed comprised both a method of recording language in writing, and a method of authenticating and authorizing records and transactions, through sealing them with personal or official seals.

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