• askew, as we do a pen in ordinary writing. Referring to my remark that the distinctive shape of the cuneiform character was essentially due to the use of plastic clay as the most suitable material for its production, I think it highly probable that the origin of these inscriptions took its rise not only from the facility with which the characters could be indented on the material, but from the abundance of plastic mud which forms the natural soil of the lands adjoining the great Assyrian rivers. This when made into bricks, became the chief building material of the energetic people of Babylon and the other great cities of the Tigris and Euphrates valleys. The laborious work of brickmaking was generally assigned to captives as taskwork, and it appears to me highly probable that "the tale" of the brickmaker or his taskmaster might be most readily marked by simply indenting the side of the soft tale brick with the corner angle of a dry one; and that thus the strikingly peculiar character of the cuneiform character was produced (see Fig. 6).
  • Fig 6.
  • In course of time the elementary form was expanded into this most beautifully simple mode of communicating ideas through the agency of conventional signs or letters; being also especially suited for making historical or other records on tablets of moist clay, which, when "fired", became absolutely indestructible, so far as time is concerned.
  • This is abundantly proved by those marvellously perfect burnt clay tablets, covered with exquisitely minute and perfect inscriptions, which, after having remained hid in mounds of rubbish for thousands of years, among the ruins of the Assyrian cities, are brought to light as fresh and perfect as on the day on which they were executed. These tablets now excite the wonder and admiration of all who are able to appreciate the beauty of the inscriptions, as well as of those who are speculatively curious as to the origin of written language. This attempt to explain the probable origin of the cuneiform character may to some appear fanciful. But whether or not, it is certain that this simple and impressive character can be readily produced by the primitive means which I have ventured to suggest. I give a cuneiform inscription (Fig. 7), which I have produced by simply employing the corner angle of an ordinary brick as the stylus for indenting the inscription on the tablet of soft clay. This might have been extended to any length, in longer as well as minuter impressions.

  • Fig 7.
  • As soon as the capability of the cuneiform impression was adopted as the Assyrian character, it was in due time employed for inscriptions on stone or other materials, such as marble or alabaster. The chisel was then substituted for the stylus; but the characters remained in a great measure the same. In some cases a slight modification was observable, being naturally due to the change of material and the method of carving it; but in most respects the departure from the clay prototype is very slight, and the original is adhered to with remarkable integrity.
  • When examining some early Greek inscriptions in marble, in the British Museum, in the year 1837, I was much interested to observe the appearance of a cuneiform element in the limbs of several Greek letters, especially in the terminals, as illustrated in Fig. 8, each limb of the letter being in itself a perfect cuneiform; and as such the terminal of each limb is at right angles to the axis, and not as now (in our modern capital letters) parallel to the line of inscription.

  • Fig 8.
  • This apparent presence of the cuneiform element in these early Greek inscriptions suggests some very interesting historic causes which led to their introduction, and so passed from the Greek into the Roman, and eventually into the capital letters of our own alphabet. To give one instance,-- though many might be cited, -- take the capital letter T, and it will be found that it went from the Cuneiform into the Greek, then into the Roman, and lastly into our own letter, thus presenting a remarkable instance of the survival of a form from remote antiquity down to the present day.
  • Fig 9.
  • The letters A K H I K M N Y X have the distinct remains of their Babylonian origin in the top and bottom stroke, which is nothing more nor less than a corruption of the original or primitive arrow-headed impression of the stylus in the moist clay, begun thousands of years ago.
  • In a lecture which I gave at the Royal Institution in London, in 1839, and in another at the British Association at Cheltenham, in 1856, I referred to this presence of the cuneiform element in the Greek letters, illustrating

  By PanEris using Melati.

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