Reading and Writing in Mesopotamia: The Business of Specialists?

in Writing, Law, and Kingship in Old Babylonian Mesopotamia

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780226101583
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226101590 | DOI:
Reading and Writing in Mesopotamia: The Business of Specialists?

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This chapter examines cuneiform writing in ancient Mesopotamia within the context of recent studies of the phenomenon of literacy, which is currently the object of a debate in Assyriology. It analyzes the reading and writing of kings, the clergy and merchants and provides evidence that, in the late third and the second millennia bce writing was more widespread than is usually believed. This chapter also suggests that the principal use of writing in Mesopotamia was communicating information long distance rather than for storing knowledge.

Keywords: cuneiform writing; ancient Mesopotamia; literacy; Assyriology; communicating; storing knowledge

Chapter.  7992 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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