The main difference between cuneiform and hieroglyphics is that cuneiform was written on clay tablets using a stylus to make wedge-shaped impressions, while hieroglyphics were carved or painted on stone or papyrus using brushes or chisels.
Cuneiform and hieroglyphics are two of the oldest writing systems in the world. Although both systems were useful in communicating through written language, they have some significant differences in their origins, structure, and usage.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is Cuneiform
– Definition, Facts, Origins
2. What are Hieroglyphics
– Definition, Facts, Origins
3. Similarities Between Cuneiform and Hieroglyphics
– Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Cuneiform and Hieroglyphics
– Comparison of Key Differences
What is Cuneiform
Cuneiform is an old writing system used for over a thousand years by different cultures. In fact, it’s one of the earliest writing systems ever developed, maybe the first. The ancient Sumerians, who lived in Mesopotamia, made cuneiform around 5000 years ago, between 3500 and 3000 BCE. The term “cuneiform” comes from the Latin word “cuneus,” which means “wedge.” This refers to the process of making impressions in soft clay using a combination of wedges and lines created by pressing reeds.
Cuneiform was originally a way to keep track of economic transactions such as trade deals, taxes, and payments for basic goods. However, as the writing system evolved, it began to be used for a wide variety of purposes. The earliest forms of cuneiform were pictographic in nature; each symbol was a small drawing representing a concept, such as a person, an animal, or an object. These images were gradually simplified and standardized until they took on a more symbolic form consisting of wedge-shaped marks made with a reed stylus on clay tablets. In contrast to modern alphabets like Latin and some other contemporary writing systems, the original cuneiform symbols did not represent sounds. Instead, the symbols were logographic (symbol represents a word or a concept). In its early form, cuneiform had more than 1,000 symbols, many of which were recognizable as drawings of everyday objects.
While cuneiform was initially developed to write in Sumerian, it was later used to write in other languages such as Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Hittite, and Persian. As a result, cuneiform became the dominant writing system in the ancient Near East, and people used it for more than three thousand years before eventually replacing it with the Phoenician alphabet.
What are Hieroglyphics
Hieroglyphs are a formal writing system that was used by the Ancient Egyptians to write in their own language. The word “hieroglyph” comes from the Greek words “hieros” meaning “sacred” and “glyphein” meaning “to carve.” The writing system was called “hieroglyphs” because it was often used for inscriptions on temple walls and other sacred places, and the characters were typically carved or engraved.
Hieroglyphs are a mix of logographic, syllabic, and alphabetic elements, with over 1,000 different characters. They include both pictures of objects and abstract forms. Some hieroglyphs represent specific objects or ideas, while others represent sounds or groups of sounds. The system also included determinatives, which were symbols that helped clarify the meaning of a word.
Ancient Egyptians used hieroglyphs for over 3,000 years in, from around 3200 BCE to the end of the 4th century CE. They were eventually replaced by the Coptic alphabet, which was based on the Greek alphabet and included some additional characters. Today, hieroglyphs are studied by Egyptologists and other scholars to gain insight into the history, culture, and language of Ancient Egypt.
Similarities Between Cuneiform and Hieroglyphics
- Cuneiform and hieroglyphics are two of the oldest writing systems in the world.
- They both initially developed as pictographic systems, where symbols were based on pictures of objects or ideas.
Difference Between Cuneiform and Hieroglyphics
Cuneiform is an ancient writing system that was first created by the ancient Sumerians around 3500-3000 BCE in Mesopotamia, while hieroglyphs are a formal writing system that was used by the Ancient Egyptians to write in their own language.
Ancient Sumerians developed cuneiform in Mesopotamia around 3500-3000 BCE, while ancient Egyptians developed hieroglyphics around 3200 BCE.
Sumerians wrote cuneiform on clay tablets by making wedge-shaped impressions with a stylus, while ancient Egyptians carved or painted hieroglyphics on stone or papyrus using brushes or chisels.
Cuneiform was initially a pictographic system, meaning that the symbols had base on pictures of objects. Meanwhile, hieroglyphics were a combination of pictographic and phonetic elements, meaning that some symbols represent sounds as well as objects or ideas.
Furthermore, people used cuneiform to write several different languages, including Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Hittite, and Persian, whereas they used hieroglyphics specifically to write the Egyptian language.
The main difference between cuneiform and hieroglyphics is their medium. Sumerians wrote cuneiform on clay tablets by making wedge-shaped impressions with a stylus, while ancient Egyptians carved or painted hieroglyphics on stone or papyrus using brushes or chisels.
1. “Cuneiform tablet- hymn to Marduk MET DP360674” – the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (CC0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Hieroglyphs from the tomb of Seti I” By unknown Egyptian scribe – The British Museum (Copyrighted free use) via Commons Wikimedia