The Beginning of Writing: Cuneiform Script and Ancient Babylonian Culture
General Catalog Course Title:
Freshman Seminar
Terms Offered:
Fall 2016
Course Thread: 
Visible Language
Veldhuis, Neik

In this course we will explore the earliest writing in the world, cuneiform. Cuneiform was used in ancient Mesopotamia, the area that is now Iraq, in the period from 3,200 BCE until the beginning of our own era. How does the cuneiform writing system work, what did people write, why did they start writing in the first place and how did the place of literacy change over this period of more than 3,000 years? These are some of the questions that we will explore. We will read some of these ancient texts in translation and we will hear about other ancient writing systems (Egyptian, Chinese): how are they different, and how are they similar? Part of the course is a visit to the Heart Museum of Anthropology (on campus) where we will be able to handle original cuneiform objects from various periods.

Niek Veldhuis (PhD Groningen, The Netherlands, 1997) is Professor of Assyriology in the Department of Near Eastern Studies. His research work concentrates on ancient school texts: how did ancient Mesopotamians teach reading and writing to their children? Other interests include Mesopotamian literature, religions, and scholarship.

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For more detailed information about classes, please visit the UC Berkeley Online Schedule of Classes.