Who Was the First Named Author?

Flood Tablet
Neo-Assyrian clay tablet. Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet 11: Story of the Flood. Known as the "Flood Tablet". British Museum. CC Flickr User rvacapinta

Question: Who Was the First Named Author?

We can't know scientifically who the first non-divine writer was, but we can make a stab at the earliest named writer or author whose name is credited. Even so, there is controversy.


  1. In the Shin-eqi-unninni tablets, found in the 19th century by Austen Henry Layard, Shin-eqi-unninni is credited with writing the Epic of Gilgamesh. In Akkadian cuneiform, the twelve tablets were found damaged in the ruins of the library of Ashurbanipal of Assyria (669-633 B.C.). The tablets actually name Shin-eqi-unninni as the author of the work of literature, which may make Shin-eqi-unninni the earliest named author. Gilgamesh is thought to have lived around 2700 B.C. If Shin-eqi-unninni wrote shortly thereafter he could have a claim to being the first named literary writer.
    Sources include: (www.wsu.edu/~dee/MESO/GILG.HTM) Gilgamesh
    However, in John Gardner's translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh, he ascribes "Sin-leqi-unninni" to the early XVth century (~1400 B.C.).
  1. The first female writer (of hymns), Enheduanna, has a better claim to being the first writer, in Sumerian (an earlier language than Akkadian), from the 23d century B.C.
    From a reader:

    Something like 4,000 lines of Enheduanna's poetry, much of it believed by her translators to be original to her, have been either unearthed or reassembled in coherent form (there was a lot of "divvying up" of tablets and artifacts among cooperating institutions from the digs in the 1920s, many of the former of which have been only recently reunited), and published in modern (mostly English) translation, since 1990.

    See, e. g., Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart : poems of the Sumerian high priestess Enheduanna / [edited] by Betty De Shong Meador ;1st ed.Austin : University of Texas Press, 2000. ISBN: 0292752415

    Enheduanna's name appears at the beginning, but within the bodies, of the texts of three long poems published therein: "Inanna and Ebih," "Lady of Largest Heart" and "The Exaltation of Inanna."