Assyriology at its core is the study of cuneiform, one of the earliest forms of writing in human history. Cuneiform is a type of script composed of wedge-like shapes impressed into clay tablets by a reed or reed-like stylus. Many languages in the Ancient Near East adopted this writing method: Sumerian, Akkadian, Ugaritic, Hittite, and Hurrian are only a few examples of the languages that took advantage of this script. Cuneiform was initially logographic, meaning that the signs represented words or grammatical aspects of the language; the invention of representing sounds with said signs, which linguists define as a phoneme, scribes were soon allowed to write nearly anything they could hear or say.
The earliest cuneiform tablets we have are based in an economic context: the clay tablets bore rudimentary signs tallying various numbers of sheep or amounts of barley, for example. The written system became quickly complex after these initial tablets and scribes then began composing treaties, myths, religious songs, and even recipes. When these tablets were incidentally heated, they hardened and became preserved so much so that we are able to find them and read them to this day. Assyriology is the study of these cultures, beginning from the 4th millennium up until the beginning of the current era. Academics strive to read the thousands of cuneiform tablets found across the Middle East in order to better understand life, culture, and history of Ancient Near Eastern civilizations.
In this section, the IAA has made available lesson plans that will aid the teaching of Ancient Near Eastern study for younger audiences, resources for further study, a list of permanent as well as temporary Ancient Near Eastern art exhibits around the world, job opportunities and research positions currently available, and vital information concerning institutes that deal with both the curation and study of Ancient Near Eastern languages and cultures. The IAA acts as a representative body for the fields of Assyriology and Near Eastern Archaeology in relationship to national, international and private institutions and the general public.