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List of the victories of Rimush, king of Akkad, upon Abalgamash, king of Marhashi, and upon Elamite cities. Clay tablet, copy of a monumental inscription, ca. 2270 BCE.

In ancient times, small tablets made out of clay were used as a writing medium.

From the 4th millennium BCE in the Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian and Hittite civilizations of the Mesopotamia region, cuneiform characters were imprinted on a wet clay tablet with a stylus often made of reed. Once written upon, many tablets were dried in the sun or air, remaining fragile. Later, these unfired clay tablets could be soaked in water and recycled into new clean tablets. Other tablets, once written, were grilled in a kennal or fired in kilns (or inadvertently, when buildings were burnt down by accident or during conflict) making them hard and durable. Collections of these clay documents made up the very first archives. They were at the root of first libraries. Tens of thousands of written tablets, including many fragments, have been found in the Middle East.

The Tărtăria tablets, thought to be from the Danubian civilization, may be older still, having been carbon dated to before 4000 BCE, and possibly dating from as long ago as 5500 BCE, but their interpretation remains controversial.

In the Minoan/Mycenaean civilizations, writing has not been observed for any use other than accounting. Tablets serving as labels, with the impression of the side of a wicker basket on the back, and tablets showing yearly summaries, suggest a sophisticated accounting system. In this cultural region the tablets were never fired deliberately, as the clay was recycled on an annual basis. However, some of the tablets were "fired" as a result of uncontrolled fires in the buildings where they were stored. The rest are still tablets of unfired clay, and extremely fragile; some modern scholars are investigating the possibility of firing them now, as an aid to preservation.

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