Official 39 Passage 1


Early Writing Systems


The word "foremost" in the passage is closest in meaning to

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  • A
  • B
  • C
    most important
  • D
    best understood
正确答案: A

我的笔记 编辑笔记

  • 原文
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  • Scholars agree that writing originated somewhere in the Middle East, probably Mesopotamia, around the fourth millennium B.C.E. It is from the great libraries and word-hoards of these ancient lands that the first texts emerged. They were written on damp clay tablets with a wedged (or V-shaped) stick; since the Latin word for wedge is cunea, the texts are called cuneiform. The clay tablets usually were not fired; sun drying was probably reckoned enough to preserve the text for as long as it was being used. Fortunately, however, many tablets survived because they were accidentally fired when the buildings they were stored in burned.

    Cuneiform writing lasted for some 3,000 years, in a vast line of succession that ran through Sumer, Akkad, Assyria, Nineveh, and Babylon, and preserved for us fifteen languages in an area represented by modern-day Iraq, Syria, and western Iran. The oldest cuneiform texts recorded the transactions of tax collectors and merchants, the receipts and bills of sale of an urban society. They had to do with things like grain, goats, and real estate. Later, Babylonian scribes recorded the laws and kept other kinds of records. Knowledge conferred power. As a result, the scribes were assigned their own goddess, Nisaba, later replaced by the god Nabu of Borsippa, whose symbol is neither weapon nor dragon but something far more fearsome, the cuneiform stick.

    Cuneiform texts on science, astronomy, medicine, and mathematics abound, some offering astoundingly precise data. One tablet records the speed of the Moon over 248 days; another documents an early sighting of Halley's Comet, from September 22 to September 28, 164 B.C.E. More esoteric texts attempt to explain old Babylonian customs, such as the procedure for curing someone who is ill, which included rubbing tar and gypsum on the sick person's door and drawing a design at the foot of the person's bed. What is clear from the vast body of texts (some 20,000 tablets were found in King Ashurbanipal's library at Nineveh) is that scribes took pride in their writing and knowledge.

    The foremost cuneiform text, the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, deals with humankind's attempts to conquer time. In it, Gilgamesh, king and warrior, is crushed by the death of his best friend and so sets out on adventures that prefigure mythical heroes of ancient Greek legends such as Hercules. His goal is not just to survive his ordeals but to make sense of this life. Remarkably, versions of Gilgamesh span 1,500 years, between 2100 B.C.E and 600 B.C.E.,making the story the epic of an entire civilization.

    The ancient Egyptians invented a different way of writing and a new substance to write on-papyrus, a precursor of paper, made from a wetland plant. The Greeks had a special name for this writing: hiero glyphic, literally "sacred writing. " This, they thought, was language fit for the gods, which explains why it was carved on walls of pyramids and other religious structures. Perhaps hieroglyphics are Egypt's great contribution to the history of writing: hieroglyphic writing, in use from 3100 B.C.E. until 394 C.E., resulted in the creation of texts that were fine art as well as communication. Egypt gave us the tradition of the scribe not just as educated person but as artist and calligrapher.

    Scholars have detected some 6,000 separate hieroglyphic characters in use over the history of Egyptian writing, but it appears that never more than a thousand were in use during any one period. It still seems a lot to recall, but what was lost in efficiency was more than made up for in the beauty and richness of the texts. Writing was meant to impress the eye with the vastness of creation itself. Each symbol or glyph-the flowering reed (pronounced like "i"), the owl ("m"), the quail chick ("w"), etcetera-was a tiny work of art. Manuscripts were compiled with an eye to the overall design. Egyptologists have noticed that the glyphs that constitute individual words were sometimes shuffled to make the text more pleasing to the eye with little regard for sound or sense.

  • 学者们认为,早在公元前四世纪,书写便起源于中东的某个地方,也许是美索不达米亚。从这些古老土地上的图书馆和词库中,最早的文字诞生了。 这些文字使用楔形(v字形)木棍写在湿的黏土平板上的。因为楔形物的拉丁语是cunea,这些文字被叫做cuneiform(楔形文字)。 这些黏土板通常不用火烤,放在太阳下面自然晾干也许被认为足够将这些文字永久保存了。 幸运的是,有些黏土板幸存了下来,当存放黏土板的房子着火了之后,这些黏土板就偶然间被火烤了。

    楔形文字持续了三千年的时间,跨越了苏美尔、古巴比伦阿卡德区、亚述帝国、尼尼微城、巴比伦,在现如今的伊拉克、叙利亚和伊朗西部地区保存下来15种语言。 最久远的楔形文字记录了税务员和商人之间的交易,城市生活中的买卖的收据和账单。 这其中包含了谷物、山羊和房产。 之后,巴比伦的文吏记录了法律并且保存了其他一些记录。 知识赋予力量。 抄书吏确定了他们自己的神,尼沙巴,之后又被博尔西帕的纳布神取代,他的标志既不是武器也不是龙,而是更加可怕的东西——楔形文字的棍子。

    有大量的楔形文字是关于科学、天文学、医学和数学,一些包含了非常精确的数据。 一个板子上记录了超过248天的月亮移动的速度,另一个则记录了目睹到的哈雷彗星,时间是公元前164年的9月22日至9月28日。 一些更加深奥的文字试图解释古巴比伦文明的习俗,比如,治疗病人的步骤,包括在病人的门上涂抹沥青和石膏,并在病人的床脚画个符号。 可以从大量的文字(大约两万块黏土板在尼尼微城的亚述巴尼拔国王的图书馆中被发现)中清晰得知的是,文吏们对他们的书写和知识非常自豪。

    最早的楔形文字,巴比伦的《吉尔伽美什史诗》,是关于人类征服时间的尝试的。 吉尔伽美什,既是国王也是位勇士,因他最要好的朋友的死亡深受打击,因此开启了冒险之旅,他是古希腊神话中的神话英雄比如赫尔克里斯的雏形。 他的目标不仅是免受苦难的折磨,而且是使生命更加有意义。 不可思议的是,《吉尔伽美什史诗》的不同版本横跨了1,500年,从公元前2100年到公元前600年,使得这个故事成了整个巴比伦文明的叙事诗。

    古埃及人发明了一种不同的书写方式以及书写材料——纸草,这是纸张的前身,由一种湿地植物制作而成。 希腊人给这种书写起了个特殊的名字:象形文字,字面意思是“神圣文字”。 他们认为这种语言适合神明,这就解释了为什么他们把文字刻在金字塔的墙上或者其他宗教建筑上。 或许象形文字是埃及对于书写史的重大贡献:象形文字从公元前3100年开始使用,直到公元394年,形成了既是艺术又是交流工具的文本。 埃及人给我们留下一种书写的传统,(书写的人)不仅仅是受过教育的人,也是艺术家和书法家。

    学者们在埃及的书写历史中发现了大约6,000个独立的象形文字,但是似乎在任何一个时期内被使用的文字数量从不会超过一千个。 似乎还有很多文字需要找回,但是在效率上的损失却被文字的美感以及丰富性所填补。 书写的本意就是用巨大的创新性来制造视觉震撼效果。 每一个符号或者字符都是件小型艺术品—美人蕉(发音如同V),猫头鹰(发音如同M),小鹌鹑(发音如同W),等等。 手稿与文字的整体设计相符合。 埃及古物学家注意到,组成单个单词的字符有时候被随机安插,使得文字更加好看,而文字的发音或者含义却很少被关注。
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    原文定位:The foremost cuneiform text, the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, deals with humankind's attempts to conquer time”即“最早的楔形文字,巴比伦的《吉尔伽美什史诗》,是关于人类征服时间的尝试的。foremost:最早的。

    选项分析:earliest:最早的;largest:最大的;most important:最重要的;best understood:被理解得最好的。因此,选项A符合题干词意。