About this Episode

Cuneiform is an ancient writing system distinguished by wedge-shaped marks made into clay. It developed over 5,000 years ago in Ancient Mesopotamia. At its height it was used to write languages across the ancient Middle East, from Iran to Syria to Anatolia in Turkey. But cuneiform writing fell out of use about 2,000 years ago in favour of alphabetic scripts. When scholars in the 19th century finally managed to redecipher it, they discovered fascinating insights into the culture and rituals of people living in the ancient Middle East, unlocking texts that have changed our understanding of history, including The Epic of Gilgamesh, the Code of Hammurabi and The Amarna Letters of Ancient Egypt. And cuneiform has even seen something of a revival in modern-day Iraqi visual culture. Joining Rajan Datar to discuss cuneiform script are Professor Eleanor Robson of University College London, Dr Mark Weeden of SOAS, University of London and Ahmed Naji, author of 'Under The Palm Trees: Modern Iraqi Art with Mohamed Makiya and Jewad Selim'. Image: Cuneiform writing of the ancient Sumerian or Assyrian civilisation in Iraq Image credit: Getty Images

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