Thin End of the Wedge focuses on the cultures that used cuneiform (“wedge-shaped”) writing. That timeframe is from about 3000 BC to about 100 AD. In other words, the first 2/3 of recorded human history is written in cuneiform. The earliest known writing in this part of the world dates to around 3200 BC. It’s called “proto-cuneiform”, because the cuneiform system evolves from it. Proto-cuneiform is not as well understood as mature cuneiform. We can’t even be sure what language is being written. By around 2600 BC mature cuneiform has emerged, and we can identify the Sumerian language. Soon afterwards we can also identify the Akkadian language. Cuneiform writing is then used in ancient Iraq for more than 2000 years. The latest securely dated cuneiform tablet dates to 76 AD.

Experts divide this long history into periods:

Archaic3200-2900 BC
Early Dynastic (Pre-Sargonic)2900-2300 BC
Old Akkadian (Sargonic)2300-2100 BC
Ur III (“Ur three”)2100-2000 BC
Old Babylonian / Old Assyrian2000-1600 BC
Middle Babylonian / Middle Assyrian1600-900 BC
Neo-Babylonian / Neo-Assyrian900-600 BC
Late Babylonianfrom 539 BC
periods of Mesopotamian history, with rough dates

Abbasid period: early Islamic period, named after a dynasty based in Iraq. C. 750-1258 AD. EPISODE 3

Hellenistic period: the time from Alexander the Great’s death in 323 BC to 31 BC

Isin-Larsa period: the period from about 2000 BC to the mid-18th century BC. The early part of the Old Babylonian period. Named after the cities of Isin and Larsa in southern Iraq, home of two major kingdoms.

Old Assyrian Colony Period: the time around the 19th century BC, in northern Iraq. EPISODE 12

Ottoman period: Period of Turkish rule of Iraq, 1534–1704 and 1831–1920. EPISODE 13

Seleucid period: Period of rule by a Greek dynasty, c. 312–64 BC. Part of the Late Babylonian period. EPISODE 11

Sassanian period : Period of rule by an Iranian dynasty, c. 224–651 AD. EPISODE 22

Ubaid period: A prehistoric period in Mesopotamia, c. 6500–3800 BC. EPISODE 22