Mesopotamia (Ancient Greek: Μεσοποταμία – “land between rivers”, the Tigris and the Euphrates) is a historical region in the Middle East. The area, characterised by fertile lands, saw the rise of the first complex urban centre and is, consequently, often referred to as the “cradle of civilisation”. Historically important centres in Mesopotamia included Uruk, Ur, Nippur, Nineveh, and Babylon. The Akkadian Empire was the first ancient Semitic-speaking empire of Mesopotamia, centred in the city of Akkad and its surrounding region.
With the development of complex social structures came the need to record, as we do today, such things as temple acquisitions, land transactions, financial loans, as well as their epic stories and personal letters. Cuneiform writing was one of the earliest forms of writing, first developed in Mesopotamia around 3000 BC by the Sumerians. It is instantly recognisable by the wedge-shaped marks, usually pressed into wet clay tablets using a blunt reed. Indeed, the name ‘cuneiform’ literally means “wedge-shaped”.