Cuneiform cone

Cuneiform cone. 2000 BC.

Writing developed independently in Mesopotamia and Egypt between 3500 and 3000 BCE.  It was not a sudden and spontaneous invention, but an outgrowth of thousands of years of manipulating symbols.  Following the invention of agriculture in the Near East around 8000 BCE, the Mesopotamian writing system started with counters or tokens made of clay that allowed farmers and granaries to keep track of grain ownership.  Cuneiform cones or “nails,” such as this one, were ritualistically buried in Sumerian foundations as part of building dedications.

Link: A.V. Lane Collection at the Bridwell Library – online exhibition.