Here is how the wharf area might have appeared early one morning, looking north toward the city, with Ekur temple looming above the city walls (illustrated by Balage Balough).
The crowd awaits Uruna's approach to Burum bar on the day she meets the king cobra. The large reed craft in the foreground would be her royal barge with its draped travel box amidships. She would have arrived from the marshes in one of the beached swifthulls with the upswept prows (Eden's Bride, Chapter 7).
From an illustration by Thais Gilo
Cuneiform evolved from some of the symbols shown left into the sharper, briefer forms to the right. According to this table, it took centuries for Sumerians to arrive at a uniform standard, then more than 2,000 years to come to the form we commonly associate with it today. The actual transitions depended on regional, cultural, and political influences which were always in a state of flux.
Sample of early writing evolution, from primitive drawn pictograph to abstract impression with reed stylus.
Artist's conception of Nippur stretched out below Temple Ekur, showing mid-city canal in foreground, Euphrates in the distance. This is how it might have appeared to Uruna during Morning Call. For the full movie by the awesome Iraqi artist/engineer Kais Jacob Ishak, click the image.
A latter day Ma'dan tarada (1930s) virtually unchanged from thousands of years ago. From a photograph by Wilfred Thesiger, The Marsh Arabs. Formed from reeds and sealed with bitumin. I imagined a craft like this as the speediest mode of transportation in Uruna's day, so I called it a "swifthull."