Although we call it the Latin alphabet, and it has a Greek name, the alphabet actually has far older origins.
We all learn our ABC’s as children, but do we know where the alphabet comes
from? We call it the Latin alphabet, but then why does it have a Greek name?
The alphabet wasn’t invented by the Greeks either. Where does it come from?
Sumeria and the Origins of Writing
Writing began in ancient Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt.
Both writing systems were developed independently, and they are very different
from each other.
Cuneiform. Cuneiform is the
system of writing developed by the ancient Sumerians, between 3500 and
3100 BC. Sumeria was one of the first civilizations to develop in the
world. It resided in the area of what is now Iraq,
between the Tigris and Euphrates
rivers. Their system of writing consisted of wedge shaped marks made with
the edge of a stylus pressed into clay. The clay would then be baked so
the marks could not be removed. “Cuneiform” is a Greek word meaning
Hieroglyphs. The ancient
Egyptians, another of the first civilizations, developed a very different
system of writing than the Sumerians. It was developed about the same time
as cuneiform, but involved tiny pictures or glyphs which were used to
Neither of these writing systems incorporated a
true alphabet. The majority of symbols were used to identify whole words, or
multiple syllables, unlike our own monosyllabic alphabet. Because of this they
incorporated a far greater range of symbols in order to write than cultures
using an alphabet.