HISTORY OF WRITING

Good Essays
A History of Writing

one of the earliest examples of writing, a 4th millennium tablet from Uruk, lists sacks of grain and heads of cattle

The earliest writing seems to be an accounting device to record inventory.
Clay tokens were used for this purpose in the Mediterranean as early as 8000 BCE and were common by 4000 BCE.

Clay tablets from Sumer, c. 3200 BCE, show early pictographic writing, which later became wedge-shaped cuneiform . . .

Univ of Chicago Oriental Institute

Cuneiform, literally
‘wedge-shaped’
writing on baked clay tablets, was first used ca.
3000 BCE in
Mesopotamia

wedges were easier to carve than curved lines

Writing was invented multiple times in many places on earth . . . the earliest Chinese writing was “oracle bone” script, inscribed on tortoise shell or ox bone during the Shang
Dynasty, ca. 1600 - 1000 BCE.

priests burned the shell or bone, then read the cracks as good or bad omens

United College, Hong Kong

This Chinese calligraphic poem is written on silk and dates from the Song dynasty, 900 - 1279 CE

by this time, Chinese writing has clearly become ideographic rather than pictographic

Taipei Museum

Chinese characters are sometimes simplified --

traditional characters still used in Taiwan and elsewhere

simplified version, used for Mandarin

Another pictographic writing system developed in mesoAmerica.
The Dresden Codex is one of four surviving pre-Columbian
Mayan manuscripts.
The script, recently deciphered, uses symbols that stand for sounds and whole words.

The Noso or Naxi live in Yunnan province, in China, and use a pictographic writing system as a mnemonic for priests. 19th c.

The Egyptian Book of the Dead --- the hieroglyphs, which contain both semantic and phonetic information, read, “the great god, foremost of the west, that he may give a good burial to the god’s father of Amun-Re, king of gods,
Pawiaenadja, true of voice. The

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