Some of the earliest examples of a
writing system come from the Sumerian people who lived in the Middle
East from around 3500 BC to 2000 BC. Many of the oldest clay tablets
found here are simply lists of supplies or financial accounts.
means 'wedge-shaped' because the inscriptions were made by pressing the
triangular tip of a reed or a stick (stylus) into wet clay tablets. The
wedge marks were combined into signs representing objects and ideas. At
first there were over 2000 different signs, but the Sumerians gradually
reduced their 'alphabet' to about 600 symbols.