Sumero-Akkadian Signary

For more information contact Miller C. Prosser, Ph.D., OCHRE Data Service, Forum for Digital Culture, University of Chicago;


View the Sumero-Akkadian Signary online

For over 3,000 years, numerous cultures throughout the Near East used a borrowed and adapted version the Sumerian cuneiform logosyllabic writing system to express their native languages. This writing system, in various customized iterations, was used to write Sumerian, various dialects of Akkadian, Hittite, Hurrian, Ugaritic, Elamite, and others. It was employed over a broad chronological and geographical range, from personal names attested in early third millennium Early Dynastic IIIa texts from Tell Abu Salabih and Fara to likely the first century A.D. (cf. Hunger and de Jong [2014] ZfA 104/2, pp.182-94). Over a long and complex history, the Sumerian values of the hundreds of signs were adopted and adapted by scribes of later languages. Additional values for signs also developed and entered various scribal traditions. The result is a writing system that is very complex when viewed as a single system.

The OCHRE Data Service at the University of Chicago supports philological projects studying the languages of the ancient world. A number of these projects study texts written in Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform scripts. To validate data entry, to provide consistency in display format, and to create a fully linked and defined network of textual data required the creation of a standardized cuneiform sign list. This sign list includes every known Sumerian sign, with each sign identifying every possible reading and every possible allograph. This digital, searchable version of the sign list is based on live, dynamic data from the OCHRE database, published for use on the web.

RS 10.046b, from Ras Shamra-Ugarit. Photo by Miller Prosser, © PhoTEO.

RS 10.046b, from Ras Shamra-Ugarit. Photo by Miller Prosser, © PhoTEO.