The Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI) sees as one of its major goals the implementation of an online sign list for the early phases of cuneiform, ca. 3300-2000 B.C. This represents a period of often rapid development in both the graphic form, and the semantic or phonetic referents of individual signs of the cuneiform repertory that has, due to a number of reasons, not been well documented in the published Assyriological literature. D. O. Edzard's article "Keilschrift" in Reallexikon der Assyriololgie vol. 5 (1976-1980) pp. 544-568 presents the currently most comprehensive overview of early cuneiform development, and includes pp. 557-558 a list of published photographs of 4th and 3rd millennium cuneiform tablets recommended by the author in any attempt to clarify graphic sign development of that period of writing.
The internet distribution of tablet images far outstrips the capabilities of paper publications in documenting the paleography of the volatile phases of cuneiform. As a first step in this documentation and at the same time as a freely available tool for work on the pages of the CDLI and other tablet publication forums, we offer here copies of the major sign list publications for the various historical phases of early Babylonia as these are understood in the general Assyriological literature. These will be replaced in time with electronically generated lists linked to the full grapheme data sets of the CDLI, and from there to glossaries and other interpretive compendia on the one hand, to the specific sign attestations supported by the digital images of the project on the other. These resources will represent the raw data for further paleographic analyses of the sort conducted and published by D. O. Edzard, M. Krebernik, P. Steinkeller, M. Civil and others (see the literature cited in the bibliographical reference Gelb Memorial Library of the CDLI).
The following is a list of the currently available relevant publications, with those sign lists now online linked to their respective URLs.
Late Uruk Period (Uruk IV-III), ca. 3300-3000 B.C.
Proto-Elamite Period ca. 3100-2900 B.C.
Early Dynastic I Period ca. 2800-2700 B.C.
Early Dynastic IIIa (Fara) Period ca. 2600-2500 B.C.
Early Dynastic IIIb (Old Sumerian, pre-Sargonic Lagash) Period ca. 2500-2340 B.C.
Old Akkadian period, ca. 2340-2200 B.C. (no current sign list available)
Ur III (neo-Sumerian) Period ca. 2120-2000 B.C.
Old Babylonian Period ca. 2000-1600 B.C.
Last modified: 16 April 2008 -sb-