Showing posts with label cuneiform. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cuneiform. Show all posts

Monday, October 31, 2016

Clues to Mystery of Mesopotamian Clay Balls

Clay Balls

Clues on Secrets of Mesopotamian Clay Balls

Interesting clues in deciphering the secrets of the Mesopotamian clay balls has surfaced after research was conducted in late 2013 that dates back 5,500 years ago. The study had utilised CT scanning to view within the clay balls and it was revealed that the balls could represent the very first data storage system in the world. The extent of details which the scientist had gathered from the CT scans as well as 3D modelling seemed to be extraordinary.

Woods had mentioned during his lecture that they could learn more about these artefacts by non-destructive testing instead of physically opening the envelopes. Woods would be publishing the full research results in the future and intends to put the images and 3D models online. The clay balls were located at the Choga Mish archaeological site towards western Iran during late 1960s which has baffled experts after its discovery.

Their dimensions tend to differ from the size of golf ball to baseball and till date, around 150 intact samples have been located in the region. Researchers were of the belief that they had been utilised to record economic transactions wherein this conclusion was based on an analysis of a 3,300 year old clay ball discovered at a site in Mesopotamia. These had 49 pebbles together with a cuneiform text comprising of a contract commanding a shepherd to care for 49 sheep and goats.
Mesopotamian Clay Balls

High Tech Equipment

But without any additional facts, this assumption seemed to remain as a possible explanation for the use and purpose. Moreover, should the assumption seem to be accurate, it seems unknown how the devices could have worked to record the exchange of commodities during the period of prehistoric times, before the development of writing. Researchers had utilised high-tech equipment together with 3D modelling in order to view the interior of the balls and discovered that they comprised of tokens in various geometric shapes. There is a possibility that the shaped bore numbers which were used in counting various kinds of products that were bartered. In such cases there could be a possibility to crack the code by uncovering how token kinds tend to gather and differ.

The CT scan strangely showed that one ball comprised of token that could have been wrapped in cloth before it had been placed in the ball and then bitumen kind of liquid could have been poured over it, which still seems to be a mystery. It is said that some of the balls had tiny criss-crossing channels that a professor at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, Christopher Woods was of the belief that it could have contained fine threads which got connected together on the outside.

Details from CT Scans/3D Modelling – Extraordinary

The threads could have had labels probably made of wax that revealed the tokens in the clay balls. The section that once had the flourishing civilization of Mesopotamia does not seem to be the only location where the clay or stone balls could have been found. Over 400 carved stone balls had been discovered in Scotland which dates back to the Neolithic period between 3000 and 2000 BC.

Thousands of baseball-sized clay balls were discovered in the ancient Neolithic city of Catalhovuk in Turkey and it could be accidental that these artefacts may have been found in several countries across the globe which belonged to the same period. The latest study could bring us close in comprehending these mysterious relics though there seems to be much to learn from it.

 The extent of details which the scientist had gathered from the CT scans as well as 3D modelling seemed to be extraordinary. Woods had mentioned during his lecture that they could learn more about these artefacts by non-destructive testing instead of physically opening the envelopes. Woods would be publishing the full research results in the future and intends to put the images and 3D models online.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

History Mystery: The First Written Word Part. II

Around 1700 BC, the Canaanites of the Levant took a revolutionary step. A number of single consonant Egyptian hieroglyphs were assigned the sound of the beginning of a Canaanite word- for example, the hieroglyph for ‘house’ betu in Canaanite, gave the sound ‘b’. These signs formed the first alphabet, from which many other writing systems developed, including Hebrew, Aramaic, and Brahmi. The ancient Greeks introduced symbols for vowels, creating the basis of most of the later European scripts.

Chinese script was invented by the Shang dynasty in about 1700BC. By 1200BC, it was being used to inscribe bones for divination. Its pictographic signs, which signify whole words and syllables, were not developed into an alphabet. As a result, modern Chinese script, still based around the same system, uses thousands of characters.

The Indus civilization invented a script which has not been deciphered- partly because it died out when the civilization declined, and partly because the inscriptions, mostly on seals, are very short. Many symbols probably represent names or official titles. Patient detective work and computer analysis have revealed the direction of writing (writing right to left), the probable type of script combining syllables and words, rather than alphabetic, and the fact that it probably belonged to the Dravidian language family still spoken in parts of India. It may prove impossible to go much further in cracking the Indus code.

Around 500BC, Central American cultures began using signs to record dates. Later civilizations such as the Aztecs developed scripts that could record information such as names, but only the Maya developed a script that fully recorded spoken language. Maya script is still being deciphered, in the process revealing the history of Kings and cities. The script uses devices such as puns, but is largely syllabic, formed by highly ornate glyphs and pictograms

Friday, January 14, 2011

History Mystery: The First Written Word Part.I

Clay tokens used by the traders of Susa

 Since the dawn of the human existence, our earliest ancestors used visual signs, from cave paintings to symbols etched on the landscape, to convey information. The first pictorial writing system was developed around 3300 BC. It marked an evolutionary milestone allowing knowledge to be shared and recorded for future generations.
From 8000BC, Near Eastern communities used clay tokens in trading transactions. Geometric shapes represented commodities such as measures of grain and individual animals. When towns emerged in the 4th millennium BC, tokens were shaped to resemble the commodities they represented. Tokens for single transaction were kept together in a clay envelope marked to indicate its contents. Gradually traders realized that the marks alone recorded all the necessary information
A tablet from Jemdet Nasr

Around 3300BC, the first writing appeared in Sumer. Pictorial signs were pressed into flat clay tablets. Many different signs were invented to depict a large range of commodities and to express new meanings, such as the verb ‘to eat’ – made by combining a person’s head and a bowl. Several transactions were recorded on a single tablet in separate boxes or columns.

Sumerian writing was executed with a wedge shaped reed on a clay tablet, so curved shapes were difficult. By 3000 BC, signs were being modified into a series of straight lines- cuneiform (Wedge shaped writing). The signs quickly assumed conventional forms bearing little resemblance to the original pictograms. By 2600 BC, Sumerian script could be used to write any word in the Sumerian language. Writing was used for many purposes- economic transactions, royal inscriptions, labels, seals, and literature. The script - was modified to write another language spoken by the ancient Mesopotamians- Akkadian.  Other Near Eastern communities adopted cuneiform as they began to write.