The first thing to do in order to understand the meaning of the term cuneiform is to determine its origin. Thus we would have to state that this word was coined by an English professor named Thomas Hude (1636-1703) with the clear objective of referring to the type of writing that was carried out in Mesopotamia about three thousand years before Christ.
Thus he created the term based on two Latin words: “cuneus”, which can be translated as “wedge”, and “forme”, which is equivalent to “form”. And it is that in this way he came to make clear the wedge appearance that the characters of that writing had because they were made with a stem with that aforementioned shape.
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Cuneiform inscriptions are among the oldest forms of writing.
Cuneiform is something that is wedge-shaped. A wedge, on the other hand, is a piece that ends at a very acute dihedral angle. The adjective cuneiform is often used to refer to certain characters with this form that some Asian peoples used in ancient times.
Cuneiform writing is considered one of the oldest forms of writing. Clay tablets with these characters found at Umm el-Qaab are the oldest written documents ever found: evidence indicates they were created between 3,400 and 3,200 BC.
The Sumerians are noted as the inventors of cuneiform writing, completing an evolution that began with pictograms that represented objects and words. Cuneiform characters were adopted by other languages and inspired the Old Persian alphabets.
The Sumerian people are mentioned as creators of cuneiform writing.
Cuneiform writing was developed on wet clay tablets with a wedge-shaped plant stem. Over time, other materials began to be used to engrave the characters, such as stone or metal.
On some tablets, experts have managed to count some 2,000 different cuneiform signs. However, this amount does not seem to be very usual, but the characters used with frequencies were about 600.
Cuneiform writing in the “Code of Hammurabi”
One of the most important and oldest documents that have been preserved and that include cuneiform characters is the so-called “Code of Hammurabi”. This was recorded on a stela more than two meters high, it was made at the request of King Hammurabi of Babylon and comes to collect one of the oldest groups of laws that exist.
Specifically, it was carried out in the year 1760 BC and all its legal content is based on the well-known Talion law, which can be explained by the popular saying “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. This supposes that it comes to establish the imposition of punishments that resemble the crimes committed. For all these reasons, the Code of Hammurabi was placed in the squares so that anyone could know the laws that existed and what they would be exposed to if they were broken.
The notion in botany and anatomy
For botany, cuneiform is the part of some plants that has this shape. In this sense, we can speak of wedge-shaped petals or wedge-shaped leaves.
In the field of anatomy, the cuneiform bones are those with a prismatic shape that are found in the tarsus of mammals. The human being, for example, has three cuneiform bones in the anterior part of the second row of the tarsus.