Archaic Lexical texts
The lexical texts dating to the Uruk IV and III periods (ca. 3300 - 3000 BC) almost coincide with the earliest written documents from Mesopotamia. The majority of texts come from the site of Uruk. The text corpus known from there represents a group of word lists exhibiting various degrees of standardization. The majority of these lists is thematic by nature, i.e., the entries in each list usually belong to one or various (sometimes related) topics. The list known as Wood contains designations for trees, which is followed by wooden objects. The list Fish lists species of fish, processed fish as well as fish products and terminology relating to fishery.
Early lexical texts usually have a certain layout and are therefore quite easy to recognize. The archaic corpus already attests to the square tablet format for word lists. As in the Early Dynastic period this tablet shape is used for full copies of word lists. Most known examples are rather fragmentary. W 20327,2 is a rather well preserved text witness of the list Wood. The tablet is nearly square-shaped with six columns text on its obverse. The badly preserved reverse remained uninscribed except for a colophon providing the number of entries. Although among the many fragments found at Uruk are those originally belonging to such larger tablets, the majority were parts of smaller extract tablets covering only sections of larger compilations. In most cases these extracts only cover the first half of a word list. The best evidence comes from a group of such extract tablets, which might not come from Uruk, but from another site.
A lexical entry is usually introduced by a numerical notation (N1). The sequence of signs written in each text block is in most cases random. There is however some tendency towards a standardized positioning for classifiers (or determinatives) such as KU6, which is then also supported by the later tradition of these texts in the course of the 3rd millennium.