The recovery of cuneiform, the world's oldest known writings

By Louise Pryke

News from The Conversation

It is a little-known piece of history that Saddam Hussein was a great fan of ancient Mesopotamian literature. His enthusiasm for epics written in cuneiform – the world’s oldest known form of writing – can be seen in his own efforts at writing political romance novels and poetry. Hussein’s first novel, Zabibah and the King, blended the Epic of Gilgamesh with the 1001 Nights, and was adapted into a television series and a musical.

The decipherment of cuneiform in the late 18th century, a tale of academic virtuosity and daring, revealed a “forgotten age” and challenged the traditional, biblical view of history. One scholar was even put on trial for heresy for the wonders he uncovered in the translated script.

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Louise Pryke

Dr Pryke is a Lecturer for the Languages and Literature of Ancient Israel. She received a B.A. with Honours in Ancient History from the University of Sydney, and a Ph.D. from the University of Sydney. Her PhD explored the vassal correspondences in the Amarna Letters (a diplomatic correspondence between New Kingdom Pharaohs and their representatives in the Levant). Dr Pryke was the recipient of an Australian Postgraduate Award scholarship between 2007-2010. She is an Honorary Associate of the Department of Classics and Ancient History and the Department of Hebrew Biblical and Jewish Studies at the University of Sydney. Dr Pryke has taught courses on Biblical Poetic Books, Biblical Prophetic Texts, Apocalyptic Literature, Wisdom Books, Greek and Roman Myth, Ancient Greek Religion and Historiography. In 2011 she was awarded the Dean's Citation for Excellence in Tutorial Teaching. Dr Pryke is committed to using her research skills for outreach. In 2015, Dr Pryke worked as a Volunteer Exhibition Researcher at the Sydney Jewish Museum, for the upcoming Holocaust Exhibition. She has also volunteered with Sydney University's Nicholson Museum and Art Gallery.