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Indus Valley Seals Sumerian Cuneiform Egyptian Hieroglyphics Phoenician Alphabet

Indus Valley Seals Sumerian Cuneiform Egyptian Hieroglyphics Phoenician Alphabet
Indus Valley Seals Sumerian Cuneiform Egyptian Hieroglyphics Phoenician Alphabet
Indus Valley Seals Sumerian Cuneiform Egyptian Hieroglyphics Phoenician Alphabet
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Indus Valley Seals, Sumerian Cuneiform, Egyptian Hieroglyphics, Phoenician Alphabet

Record Keeping and Writing
Indus Valley Seals, Sumerian Cuneiform, Egyptian Hieroglyphics, Phoenician Alphabet

Background:
As institutions became more complex, people realized the need for record keeping. Officials tracked taxes and laws, priests recorded important rituals, and merchants totaled accounts. Record keeping provided stability for the complex institutions.


Document A: Indus Valley Seals
The system of writing used in the Indus Valley has not been deciphered. Scholars have identified about 400 symbols, but they do not know if these stand for ideas or sounds. Many of the examples are found on small seals. The seals might have been used to mark objects to show ownership. In that case, the symbols might give a person’s name.

QUESTION
1. Based on what you see on this seal, what are some possibilities for its translation?

Document B: Sumerian Cuneiform

Cuneiform originated in people’s desire to keep track of goods they owned. By around 3000 B.C., Sumerians had more than 1,000 symbols. Each stood for an idea. Later, symbols stood for sounds. This system of writing was used in Mesopotamia for about 3,000 years. Different peoples adapted it for their own languages. At first, cuneiform was read from top to bottom. Later, it was read from left to right.

QUESTION
1. What visual clue suggests that this cuneiform sample was read from left to right and not top to bottom?

Document C: Egyptian Hieroglyphics
Hieroglyphics were read in the direction that the human and animal heads faced. Usually this was from right to left. Sometimes, though, the direction could be changed to make a more pleasing appearance. Some symbols stood for ideas. Some stood for consonant sounds—vowels were not included. Some gave clues to how a word was used, such as whether a name referred to a person or a place.

QUESTION
1. In the bottom row on the left, you can see an owl. What other symbols do you recognize?


Document D: Phoenician Alphabet
The alphabet used by the ancient Phoenicians had symbols for 22 consonants. This alphabet was adapted by the Greeks, and it became the basis for writing all European languages. The Phoenician alphabet also influenced how Hebrew and Arabic were written, and it was adapted to write the languages of India and Ethiopia.

QUESTION
1. Do any of the letters in this Phoenician sample look similar to letters we use today? If so, which ones?
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