The Birth of Writing

Through the acrophonic method, humankind identified sounds and syllables were born out of this.

The transition to settled life came about with the Neolithic Era (circa 9000 BC) Following the changes in the challenges of survival, language was forced to develop as well. Stones, bones, and other materials carrying pictographic signs were used as tools of communication. Considered as the prototype of writing, these signs evolved over time into ideograms and symbols. However, as these signs did not express sentences or words representing a specific idea or an abstract concept, a method known as “acrophony” was developed to articulate these concepts. Accordingly, the phonetic value of single-syllable words, which were easier to depict as pictures, were also used for other words carrying the same sound. Through the acrophonic method, humankind identified sounds and syllables were born out of this. In the ideogram that emerged in the 3rd millennium BC, in which the first syllable system was born, several pictorial signs were combined to create a meaningful word. Writing evolved through this process. 

Statue of Lugal-Dalu

Place of Discovery: Adab (Mesopotamia)

Language: Pictography

Date: 3000 BC

Material: Limestone

İstanbul Archaeological Museums Collection

On the inscription on his shoulder, Lugal-Dalu introduces himself as “The King of Adab” and notes that that the statue is dedicated to Esar, the temple of Adab’s main god. Not mentioned on the Sumerian lists of kings, Lugal-Dalu is thought to be the ruler of the city-state of Adab in mid-3rd millennium BC. According to Sumerian belief, this statue is the “representative priest” placed in temples. For as long as the people these sculptures represented remained outside the temple, they could continue to offer thanks to god on their behalf. 

Stone Tablet with Pictographic Writing

Place of Discovery: Uruk (Mesopotamia)

Language: Pictography

Date: 3100-2900 BC

Material: Stone

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

As one of the first examples of pictographic writing, this stone tablet is important in demonstrating humankind’s transition from cave paintings to script.



Votive Vase

Place of Discovery: Unknown

Language: Pictography

Date: Ur-Nammu Period, 2047-2030 BC

Material: Marble

Rezan Has Museum Collection

(Bestowed upon / offered) …. to God (of) Nanna by the  Du’…um’s son…-e”.

[Transl.]: V. Donbaz

It is uncertain by whom (king, ruler of s city-state, governor and high military officials and priests) and for what purpose this votive cup and inscription were offered. The inscription suggests that it may have been offered as votive by a statesman of the period to ask for kindness and help from the gods. 

Other Anatolian Languages