Ancient Scribes
Sumeria – Egypt
To the Sumerian mind, if it was not written it did not exist. 
Origin of Writing – Cuneiform Script

The earliest written expression began in 3500 BC, in Southeastern Mesopotamia (now Iraq).  By 3100 BC the Sumerians developed cuneiform script into a useable system of 2000 word-symbols, later adapted to other languages.  Scribes used a stylus to carve wedge-shaped characters into clay tablets, later hardened by the sun.

Sumerians attached great significance to the importance of writing; thus, scribes held prestigious positions in Sumerian society.   Sumerian scribe schools, called edubbas, taught knowledge of land, business, and legal edicts, plus reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Following 12 years of schooling, the successful graduate was considered an Official Scribe.

Amat-Mamu, noted career scribe, lived in a cloister of 140 scribe priestesses and oversaw the work of the others. Most of what we know about Mesopotamia comes from their work.

Devine Scribe Nabu, Lord of the Written Word and Patron of the Scribes, is said to have engraved the destiny of each person, “as the gods have decided,” on the tablets of sacred record.  

The Epic of Gilgamesh, the world’s oldest story, was written in 2100 BC using cuneiform. Unearthed in 1853, Gilgamesh is the mythical tale of King Gilgamesh’s own act of writing about his journey through life in search of immortality.


Hieratic Script – Demotic Script

Ancient Egyptian scribes were considered the literary elite, and many became government officials.  The scribe Horemheb became a Pharaoh.  The children of important citizens could enter scribe school at 5 years of age, but only males could become scribes.  Students were required to possess vast knowledge.

The Egyptians devised two scripts, Hieratic (3200 BC) and Demotic (650 BC).  Based on hieroglyphs, these used more simplified symbols compared to the complex hieroglyphs, used chiefly for monument inscriptions.

Similar to cuneiform, Egyptian writings were carved in mud or clay tablets and then hardened by sunshine.   Those important to retain were rewritten onto writing slates made from papyrus reeds, split, beaten, and pasted in layers to form sheets.

Horemheb, Royal Scribe and General of the Army under Tutankhamen, is usually depicted in the scribal pose – seated on the ground with legs crossed, a papyrus scroll across his knees on which he has composed a hymn to the scribal god Thoth.

Hesire, Chief of Egyptian Scribes, was a high official in 2500 BC.  He was also Chief of Physicians and Dentists, Chief of Royal Scribes, and Governor of Buto.  On his tombstone is engraved “Doctor of the Tooth” – the first recorded “dentist” in history.

Toth, God of the Scribes, was one of the most important of all Egyptian deities.  Credited as the inventor of writing, Toth was worshipped by all scribes, and regarded as Scribe of the Underworld.