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Historic writing

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❶Types of writing systems.

The earliest form of writing

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Arabic script was adopted as the primary script of the Persian language and the Turkish language. This script also heavily influenced the development of the cursive scripts of Greek, the Slavic languages , Latin , and other languages [ citation needed ]. The Arabic language also served to spread the Hindu—Arabic numeral system throughout Europe. By the 14th century a rebirth, or renaissance , had emerged in Western Europe, leading to a temporary revival of the importance of Greek, and a slow revival of Latin as a significant literary language.

A similar though smaller emergence occurred in Eastern Europe, especially in Russia. At the same time Arabic and Persian began a slow decline in importance as the Islamic Golden Age ended. The revival of literary development in Western Europe led to many innovations in the Latin alphabet and the diversification of the alphabet to codify the phonologies of the various languages. The nature of writing has been constantly evolving, particularly due to the development of new technologies over the centuries.

The pen , the printing press , the computer and the mobile phone are all technological developments which have altered what is written, and the medium through which the written word is produced. Particularly with the advent of digital technologies, namely the computer and the mobile phone, characters can be formed by the press of a button, rather than making a physical motion with the hand.

The nature of the written word has recently evolved to include an informal, colloquial written style, in which an everyday conversation can occur through writing rather than speaking. Written communication can also be delivered with minimal time delay e-mail , SMS , and in some cases, with an imperceptible time delay instant messaging. Writing is a preservable means of communication.

Some people regard the growth of multimedia literacy as the first step towards a postliterate society. There is no very definite statement as to the material which was in most common use for the purposes of writing at the start of the early writing systems. In the latter case there is this peculiarity, that plaster sic , lime or gypsum was used along with stone, a combination of materials which is illustrated by comparison of the practice of the Egyptian engravers, who, having first carefully smoothed the stone, filled up the faulty places with gypsum or cement, in order to obtain a perfectly uniform surface on which to execute their engravings.

To the engraving of gems there is reference also, such as with seals or signets. The common materials of writing were the tablet and the roll, the former probably having a Chaldean origin, the latter an Egyptian. The tablets of the Chaldeans are among the most remarkable of their remains. In Egypt the principal writing material was of quite a different sort.

Wooden tablets are found pictured on the monuments; but the material which was in common use, even from very ancient times, was the papyrus. This reed, found chiefly in Lower Egypt, had various economic means for writing, the pith was taken out, and divided by a pointed instrument into the thin pieces of which it is composed; it was then flattened by pressure, and the strips glued together, other strips being placed at right angles to them, so that a roll of any length might be manufactured.

Writing seems to have become more widespread with the invention of papyrus in Egypt. That this material was in use in Egypt from a very early period is evidenced by still existing papyrus of the earliest Theban dynasties. As the papyrus, being in great demand, and exported to all parts of the world, became very costly, other materials were often used instead of it, among which is mentioned leather, a few leather mills of an early period having been found in the tombs.

With the invention of wood-pulp paper , the cost of writing material began a steady decline. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. List of languages by first written accounts. Recorded history and Early literature.

China Europe India Near East. This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. November Learn how and when to remove this template message. History of the alphabet. Middle Bronze Age alphabets. Chinese writing and Chinese characters. Cretan hieroglyphs , Linear A , and Linear B. Bright and Daniels, p. Fagan, Charlotte Beck, ed. The Oxford Companion to Archaeology.

By Dr Gwendolyn Leick. Archaeological Institute of America. Retrieved 29 February An Introduction to the History of History. Records of civilization, sources and studies. Columbia University Press, On Deep History and the Brain. An Ahmanson foundation book in the humanities. University of California Press, Supplement to the Handbook of Middle American Indians, v. University of Texas Press, Pilcher 'Earliest handwriting found?

Chinese relics hint at Neolithic rituals', Nature 30 April , doi: Antiquity , 77, 31 - 44, Script Invention as History and Process. A Hundred Years at Abydos. Autumn, , pp. A stone slab bearing 3,year-old writing previously unknown to scholars has been found in the Mexican state of Veracruz, and archaeologists say it is an example of the oldest script ever discovered in the Western Hemisphere.

Ancient civilisations in Mexico developed a writing system as early as BC, new evidence suggests. A block with a hitherto unknown system of writing has been found in the Olmec heartland of Veracruz, Mexico. Stylistic and other dating of the block places it in the early first millennium before the common era, the oldest writing in the New World, with features that firmly assign this pivotal development to the Olmec civilization of Mesoamerica.

The World's Writing Systems. The Cambridge Medieval History volumes Cyclopedia of Biblical, theological, and ecclesiastical literature: The term epigraphy is generally used for writing on hard durable materials such as stone or postsherds ostraca but some use the term for any inscriptional remnants of a past civilization.

Palaeography is the study of the progressive changes and developments in the form of letters over time and is usually applied to writing on less durable materials such as parchment, leather or papyrus. An experienced palaeographer can often date a specific manuscript with fair accuracy. Epigraphy on stone is usually harder to date since more archaic forms were often retained for monumental inscriptions. The causes of changes in scripts were primarily sociological and psychological, a script hand being a reflection of styles and trends for particular time periods.

Unfortunately, this is not measurable for the palaeographer whose primary tool is a systematic collection or database of thousands of exemplars of written material of known date. Spelling and the sequence of characters in a word and their setting in a grammatic structure is the provenance of Orthography. Using the fonts I have created for classroom work by my various scholar friends in the discussion lists, I have arranged the following inscriptions of Genesis 1: Archaic Scripts click on font for download.

The Phoenician Alphabet was adopted by the early Greeks who earned their place in alphabetic history by symbolizing the vowels. Therefore, the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek scripts all came from the Phoenician. The Greek alphabet led to Latin and Cyrillic. Aramaic led to Arabic and most of the scripts used in India. The entire Western World became the inheritors of those beer drinkers in Mesopotamia and the torquoise miners in the Sinai.

Donald Ryan's Ancient Languages and Scripts. Early cylinder seal depicting beer production. Old Phoenician 10th-9th cent. Elephantine Payrus 5th cent. BCE Nabataean Aramaic 1st cent. Later they began placing these tokens inside large, hollow clay containers bulla, or globular envelopes which were then sealed.

The quantity of tokens in each container came to be expressed by impressing, on the container's surface, one picture for each instance of the token inside. They next dispensed with the tokens, relying solely on symbols for the tokens, drawn on clay surfaces.

To avoid making a picture for each instance of the same object for example: In this way the Sumerians added "a system for enumerating objects to their incipient system of symbols". The original Mesopotamian writing system believed to be the world's oldest was derived around BC from this method of keeping accounts.

By the end of the 4th millennium BC, [11] the Mesopotamians were using a triangular-shaped stylus pressed into soft clay to record numbers. This system was gradually augmented with using a sharp stylus to indicate what was being counted by means of pictographs. Round-stylus and sharp-stylus writing was gradually replaced by writing using a wedge-shaped stylus hence the term cuneiform , at first only for logograms , but by the 29th century BC also for phonetic elements.

Around BC, cuneiform began to represent syllables of spoken Sumerian. About that time, Mesopotamian cuneiform became a general purpose writing system for logograms, syllables, and numbers. Scripts similar in appearance to this writing system include those for Ugaritic and Old Persian.

The last cuneiform scripts in Akkadian discovered thus far date from the 1st century AD. Over the centuries, three distinct Elamite scripts developed. Proto-Elamite is the oldest known writing system from Iran. In use only for a brief time c.

The Proto-Elamite script is thought to have developed from early cuneiform proto-cuneiform. The Proto-Elamite script consists of more than 1, signs and is thought to be partly logographic.

Linear Elamite is a writing system attested in a few monumental inscriptions in Iran. It was used for a very brief period during the last quarter of the 3rd millennium BC. It is often claimed that Linear Elamite is a syllabic writing system derived from Proto-Elamite, although this cannot be proven since Linear-Elamite has not been deciphered. Several scholars have attempted to decipher the script, most notably Walther Hinz and Piero Meriggi.

The Elamite cuneiform script was used from about to BC, and was adapted from the Akkadian cuneiform. The Elamite cuneiform script consisted of about symbols, far fewer than most other cuneiform scripts. Linear B , the writing system of the Mycenaean Greeks , [12] has been deciphered while Linear A has yet to be deciphered. The sequence and the geographical spread of the three overlapping, but distinct writing systems can be summarized as follows: The earliest surviving examples of writing in China—inscriptions on so-called " oracle bones ", tortoise plastrons and ox scapulae used for divination—date from around BC in the late Shang dynasty.

A small number of bronze inscriptions from the same period have also survived. In , archaeologists reported discoveries of isolated tortoise-shell carvings dating back to the 7th millennium BC, but whether or not these symbols are related to the characters of the later oracle-bone script is disputed. The earliest known hieroglyphic inscriptions are the Narmer Palette , dating to c. The hieroglyphic script was logographic with phonetic adjuncts that included an effective alphabet.

Writing was very important in maintaining the Egyptian empire, and literacy was concentrated among an educated elite of scribes. Only people from certain backgrounds were allowed to train to become scribes, in the service of temple, pharaonic, and military authorities. The hieroglyph system was always difficult to learn, but in later centuries was purposely made even more so, as this preserved the scribes' status.

The world's oldest known alphabet appears to have been developed by Canaanite turquoise miners in the Sinai desert around the midth century BC. This site was also home to a temple of Hathor, the "Mistress of turquoise". A later, two line inscription has also been found at Wadi el-Hol in Central Egypt.

Based on hieroglyphic prototypes, but also including entirely new symbols, each sign apparently stood for a consonant rather than a word: It was not until the 12th to 9th centuries, however, that the alphabet took hold and became widely used.

Indus script refers to short strings of symbols associated with the Indus Valley Civilization which spanned modern-day Pakistan and North India used between and BC. In spite of many attempts at decipherments and claims, it is as yet undeciphered.

The term 'Indus script' is mainly applied to that used in the mature Harappan phase, which perhaps evolved from a few signs found in early Harappa after BC, [17] and was followed by the mature Harappan script. The script is written from right to left, [18] and sometimes follows a boustrophedonic style. Since the number of principal signs is about —, [19] midway between typical logographic and syllabic scripts, many scholars accept the script to be logo-syllabic [20] typically syllabic scripts have about 50— signs whereas logographic scripts have a very large number of principal signs.

Several scholars maintain that structural analysis indicates that an agglutinative language underlies the script. In , archaeologists discovered that there was a civilization in Central Asia that used writing c. An excavation near Ashgabat , the capital of Turkmenistan , revealed an inscription on a piece of stone that was used as a stamp seal.

The Proto-Sinaitic script, in which Proto-Canaanite is believed to have been first written, is attested as far back as the 19th century BC.

The Phoenician writing system was adapted from the Proto-Canaanite script sometime before the 14th century BC, which in turn borrowed principles of representing phonetic information from Hieratic , Cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphs. This writing system was an odd sort of syllabary in which only consonants are represented. This script was adapted by the Greeks , who adapted certain consonantal signs to represent their vowels.

The Cumae alphabet , a variant of the early Greek alphabet, gave rise to the Etruscan alphabet and its own descendants, such as the Latin alphabet and Runes. Other descendants from the Greek alphabet include Cyrillic , used to write Bulgarian , Russian and Serbian , among others. The Phoenician system was also adapted into the Aramaic script , from which the Hebrew and the Arabic scripts are descended.

The Tifinagh script Berber languages is descended from the Libyco-Berber script, which is assumed to be of Phoenician origin. A stone slab with 3,year-old writing, known as the Cascajal Block , was discovered in the Mexican state of Veracruz and is an example of the oldest script in the Western Hemisphere, preceding the oldest Zapotec writing by approximately years. Of several pre-Columbian scripts in Mesoamerica , the one that appears to have been best developed, and the only one to be deciphered, is the Maya script.


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The history of writing traces the development of expressing language by letters or other marks and also the studies and descriptions of these developments. In the history of how writing systems have evolved in different human civilizations, more complete writing systems were preceded by proto-writing, systems of ideographic or early mnemonic symbols.

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The earliest form of writing was pictographs – symbols which represented objects – and served to aid in remembering such things as which parcels of grain had gone to which destination or how many sheep were needed for events like sacrifices in the temples.

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For the next step toward the development of an alphabet, we must go to Egypt where picture writing had developed sometime near the end of the 4th millennium BC. One of the earliest examples is the name of NAR-MER, either the first or second Pharoah of an united Egypt in BCE. The earliest writing systems evolved independently and at roughly the same time in Egypt and Mesopotamia, but current scholarship suggests that Mesopotamia’s writing appeared first. That writing system, invented by the Sumerians, emerged in Mesopotamia around BCE.

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In the beginning, all writing was a form of accounting. As people developed agriculture, settled into towns, and began trading goods, they needed a way of keeping records of their exchanges. The first account records were small, marked clay tokens that represented quantities of various products, whether numbers of sheep, bags of grain, or loaves of bread. First developed around B.C. by Sumerian scribes in the ancient city-state of Uruk, in present-day Iraq, as a means of recording transactions, cuneiform writing was created by using a reed.