Page:EB1911 - Volume 07.djvu/654

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

It was nearly all correct, but it advanced our knowledge but slightly because it did not give the forms of the words—because (to put it in another way) he was not able to transliterate the Assyrian words. This was the great problem. In the Persian texts there were but forty-four signs, but in the third column of the Persepolis texts Grotefend had counted one hundred and thirty different characters, and estimated that in all the Babylonian texts known to him there were about three hundred different signs, while Botta discovered six hundred and forty-two in the texts found by him at Khorsabad. That was enough to make the stoutest heart quail, for a meaning must be found for every one of these signs. There could not be so many syllables, and it was, therefore, quite plain that the Babylonian language must have been written in part at least in ideograms. But in 1851 Rawlinson published one hundred and twelve lines of the Babylonian column from Behistun, accompanied by an interlinear transcription into Roman characters, and a translation into Latin. That paper, added to Hinck’s still more acute detail studies, brought to an end the preliminary decipherment of Babylonian. There were still enormous difficulties to be surmounted in the full appreciation of the complicated script, but these would be solved by the combined labours of many workers.

The cuneiform script had its origin in Babylonia and its inventors were a people whom we call the Sumerians. Before the Semitic Babylonians conquered the land it was inhabited by a people of unknown origin variously classified, by different scholars, with the Ural-altaic or even Origin. with the Indo-European family, or as having blood relationship with both. This people is known to us from thousands of cuneiform inscriptions written entirely in their language, though our chief knowledge of them was for a long time derived from Sumerian inscriptions with interlinear translations in Assyrian. Their language is called Sumerian (li-ša-an Su-me-ri) by the Assyrians (Br. Mus. 81-7-27, 130), and its characteristics are being slowly developed by the elaborate study of the immense literature which has come down to us. In 1884 Halévy denied the existence of the Sumerian language, and claimed that it was merely a cabalistic script invented by the priests of the Semites. His early success has not been sustained, and the vast majority of scholars have ceased to doubt the existence of the language.

The Sumerians developed their script from a rude picture-writing, some early forms of which have come down to us. In course of time they used the pictures to represent sounds, apart from ideas. They wrote first on stone, and when clay was adopted soon found that straight lines in soft clay when made by a single pressure of the stylus tend to become wedges, and the pictures therefore lost their character and came to be mere conventional groups of wedges. Some of these wedge-shaped signs are of such character that we are still able to recognize or re-construct the original picture from which they came. The Assyrian sign B010ellst.png, which means heaven, appears in early texts in the form B010 (Old Babylonian an – SantakkuM dingir).jpg in which its star-like form is quite evident (star = heaven) and from which the linear form Dingir piktogram1.jpg may be not improbably pre-supposed. A number of other cases were enumerated by the Assyrians themselves (see Cuneiform Texts from Bab. Tab. in Brit. Museum, vol. v., 1898), and there can be no reasonable doubt that this is the origin of the script.

The number of the original picture-signs cannot have been great, but the development of new signs never ceased till the cuneiform script passed wholly from use. The simplest form of development was doubling, to express plurality or intensity. After this came the working of two Develop-
ment and character-
signs into one; thus B839ellst.png “water,” when placed in EB1911 Cuneiform img632e.jpg “mouth” gave the new sign EB1911 Cuneiform img632f.jpg “to drink,” and many others. Other signs were formed by the addition of four lines, either vertically or horizontally, to intensify the original meaning. Thus, for instance, the old linear sign EB1911 Cuneiform img632g.jpg means dwelling, but with four additional signs, thus EB1911 Cuneiform img632h.jpg, it means “great house.” This sign gradually changed in form until it came to be EB1911 Cuneiform img632i.jpg. This method of development was called by the Sumerians gunu, and signs thus formed are now commonly called by us, gunu signs. They number hundreds and must be reckoned with in our study of the script development, though perhaps recent scholars have somewhat exaggerated their importance. The process of development is obscure and must always remain so.

The script as finally developed and used by the Assyrians is cumbrous and complicated, and very ill adapted to the sounds of the Semitic alphabet. It has (1) simple syllables, consisting of one vowel and a consonant, or a vowel by itself, thus B839ellst.png] “a,” EB1911 Cuneiform img632k.jpg ab, EB1911 Cuneiform img632l.jpg ib, EB1911 Cuneiform img632m.jpg ub, EB1911 Cuneiform img632n.jpg ba, EB1911 Cuneiform img632o.jpg bi, EB1911 Cuneiform img632p.jpg bu. In addition to these the Assyrian had also (2) compound syllables, such as EB1911 Cuneiform img632q.jpg bit, EB1911 Cuneiform img632r.jpg bal, and (3) ideograms, or signs which express an entire word, such as EB1911 Cuneiform img632s.jpg beltu, lady, EB1911 Cuneiform img632t.jpg abu, father. The difficulty of reading this script is enormously increased by the fact that many signs are polyphonous, i.e. they may have more than one syllabic value and also be used as an ideogram. Thus the sign EB1911 Cuneiform img632u.jpg has the ideographic values of matu, land, shadu, mountain, kashadu, to conquer, napachu, to arise (of the sun), and also the syllabic values kur, mad, mat, shad, shat, lat, nad, nat, kin and gin. This method of writing must lead to ambiguity, and this difficulty is helped somewhat by (4) determinatives, which are signs intended to indicate the class to which the word belongs. Thus, the 𒁹 is placed before names of persons, and EB1911 Cuneiform img632u.jpg (the ideogram for matu, country, and shadu, mountain) is placed before names of countries and mountains, and B010ellst.png (ilu, god) before the names of gods.

The cuneiform writing, begun by the Sumerians in a period so remote that it is idle to speculate concerning it, had a long and very extensive history. It was first adopted by the Semitic Babylonians, and as we have seen was modified, developed, nay almost made over. Their inscriptions History. are written in it from circa 4500 B.C. to the 1st century B.C. From their hands it passed to the Assyrians, who simplified some characters and conventionalized many more, and used the script during the entire period of their national existence from 1500 B.C. to 607 B.C. From the Babylonian by a slow process of evolution the much simplified Persian script was developed, and with the Babylonian is also to be connected the Susian, less complicated than the Babylonian, but less simple than the Persian. The Chaldians (not Chaldaeans), who lived about Lake Van, also adopted the cuneiform script with values of their own, and expressed a considerable literature in it. The discovery in 1887 of the Tell-el-Amarna tablets in upper Egypt showed that the same script was in use in the 15th century B.C., from Elam to the Mediterranean and from Armenia to the Persian Gulf for purposes of correspondence. There is good reason to expect the discovery of its use by yet other peoples. It was one of the most widely used of all the forms of ancient writing.

Bibliography.—The history of the decipherment may be further studied in R. W. Rogers, History of Babylonia and Assyria, vol. i. (N.Y. and London, 1900); and in A. J. Booth, The Discovery and Decipherment of the Trilingual Cuneiform Inscriptions (London, 1902), which is very exhaustive and accurate. The Sumerian question may best be studied in F. H. Weissbach, Die Sumerische Frage (Leipzig, 1898), and Charles Fossey, Manuel d’Assyriologie, tome i. (Paris, 1904). For development and characteristics, see Friedrich Delitzsch, Die Entstehung des ältesten Schriftsystems (Leipzig, 1897); Paul Toscanne, Les Signes sumériens dérivés (Paris, 1905).  (R. W. R.) 

CUNEO (Fr. Coni), a town and episcopal see of Piedmont, Italy, the capital of the province of Cuneo, 55 m. by rail S. of Turin, 1722 ft. above sea-level. Cuneo lies on the railway from Turin to Ventimiglia, which farther on passes under the Col di Tenda (tunnel 5 m. long). It is also a junction for Mondovi and Saluzzo, and has steam tramways to Borgo S. Dalmazzo, Boves, Saluzzo and Dronero. Pop. (1901) 15,412 (town), 26,879 (commune). Its name (“wedge”) is due to its position on a hill between two streams, the Stura and the Gesso, with fine views of the mountains. The Franciscan church, now converted into a military storehouse, belongs to the 12th century, but there are no other buildings of special interest. The fortifications have