History of writing
The history of writing records the development of expressing language by letters or other marks. In the history of how systems of representation of language through graphic means have evolved in different human civilizations, more complete writing systems were preceded by proto-writing, systems of ideographic and/or early mnemonic symbol. True writing, in which the entire content of a linguistic utterance is encoded so that another reader can reconstruct, with a fair degree of accuracy, the exact utterance written down, is a later development, and is distinguished from proto-writing in that the latter typically avoids encoding grammatical words and affixes, making it difficult or impossible to confidently reconstruct the exact meaning intended by the writer unless a great deal of context is already known in advance.
Invention of writing
Writing numbers for record keeping began long before writing of language. See History of writing ancient numbers for how writing of numbers began.
It is generally agreed that true writing of language (not only numbers) was invented independently in at least two places: Mesopotamia (specifically, ancient Sumer) 3200 BC and Mesoamerica 600 BC. Twelve Mesoamerican scripts are known of, the oldest from Zapotec Mexico.
It is debated whether writing was developed completely independently in Egypt 3200 BC and China 1300 BC, or whether the appearance of writing in either or both places was due to cultural diffusion (i.e. the concept of representing language using writing, if not the specifics of how such a system worked, was brought by traders from an already-literate civilization). China's script is most likely their own invention because there is no evidence of contact between China and the literate civilizations of the Near East, and because of the distinct differences between the Mesopotamian and Chinese approaches to logography and phonetic representation. Egyptian script is dissimilar from Mesopotamian cuneiform, but similarities in concepts and in earliest attestation suggest that the idea of writing may have come to Egypt from Mesopotamia.
Similar debate surrounds the script of the Bronze Age Indus Valley civilization in Ancient India 2200 BC, with the additional provisos that the script is still undeciphered and that there is debate over whether the script is true writing at all, or some kind of proto-writing or non-linguistic sign system.
An additional possibility is the undeciphered rongorongo script of Easter Island. However, it is debated whether this system is true writing at all, and if it is, whether it is yet another case of cultural diffusion of writing. The oldest example is from 1851, 139 years after their first contact with Europeans. The most probable explanation is that the script was inspired by Spain's written annexation proclamation in 1770.
Various other known cases of cultural diffusion of writing exist, where the general concept of writing was transmitted from one culture to another but the specifics of the system were independently developed. Recent examples are the Cherokee syllabary, invented by Sequoyah, and the Pahawh Hmong system for writing the Hmong language.
Writing systems are distinguished from other possible symbolic communication systems in that one must usually understand something of the associated spoken language to comprehend the text. By contrast, other possible symbolic systems such as information signs, painting, maps, and mathematics often do not require prior knowledge of a spoken language. Every human community possesses language, a feature regarded by many as an innate and defining condition of mankind (see Origin of language). However the development of writing systems, and the process by which they have supplanted traditional oral systems of communication has been sporadic, uneven and slow. Once established, writing systems on the whole change more slowly than their spoken counterparts, and often preserve features and expressions which are no longer current in the spoken language. The great benefit of writing systems is their ability to maintain a persistent record of information expressed in a language, which can be retrieved independently of the initial act of formulation.
↑ before Homo (Pliocene)
- Recorded History
see also: Modernity, Futurology ↓Future
Scholars make a reasonable distinction between prehistory and history of early writing, but have disagreed concerning when prehistory becomes history and when proto-writing became "true writing". The definition is largely subjective. Writing, in its most general terms, is a method of recording information and is composed of glyphs  (also known as graphemes).
The emergence of writing in a given area is usually followed by several centuries of fragmentary inscriptions. With the presence of coherent texts (from the various writing systems and the systems' associated literature), historians mark the "historicity" of that culture.
The invention of writing was not a one-time event, but a long evolution preceded by the appearance of symbols, possibly first for cultic purposes. Canadian researchers from the University of Victoria suggest that symbolism was used by cave painters of the Neolithic Age. "...von Petzinger and Nowell were surprised by the clear patterning of the symbols across space and time – some of which remained continually in use for over 20,000 years. The 26 specific signs may provide the first glimmers of proof that a graphic code was being used by these ancient humans shortly after their arrival in Europe from Africa, or they may have even brought this practice with them. If correct, these findings will contribute to the growing body of evidence that the “creative explosion” occurred tens of thousands of years earlier than scholars once thought.",
A conventional "proto-writing to true writing" system follows a general series of developmental stages:
- Picture writing system: glyphs directly represent objects and ideas or objective and ideational situations. In connection with this the following substages may be distinguished:
- The mnemonic: glyphs primarily a reminder;
- The pictographic (pictography): glyphs represent directly an object or an objective situation such as (A) chronological, (B) notices, (C) communications, (D) totems, titles, and names, (E) religious, (F) customs, (G) historical, and (H) biographical;
- The ideographic (ideography): glyphs represent directly an idea or an ideational situation.
- Transitional system: glyphs refer not only to the object or idea which it represents but to its name as well.
- Phonetic system: glyphs refer to sounds or spoken symbols irrespective of their meanings. This resolves itself into the following substages:
- The verbal: glyph (logogram) represents a whole word;
- The syllabic: glyph represent a syllable;
- The alphabetic: glyph represent an elementary sound.
- Jiahu symbols, carved on tortoise shells in Jiahu, ca. 6600 BC
- Vinča signs (Tărtăria tablets), ca. 5300 BC
- Early Indus script, ca. 3500 BC
In the Old World, true writing systems developed from neolithic writing in the Early Bronze Age (4th millennium BC). The Sumerian archaic cuneiform script and the Egyptian hieroglyphs are generally considered the earliest true writing systems, both emerging out of their ancestral proto-literate symbol systems from 3400–3200 BC with earliest coherent texts from about 2600 BC.
Literature and writing
Literature and writing, though obviously connected, are not synonymous. The very first writings from ancient Sumer by any reasonable definition do not constitute literature – the same is true of some of the early Egyptian hieroglyphics or the thousands of logs from ancient Chinese regimes. The history of literature begins with the history of writing and the notion of "literature" has different meanings depending on who is using it. Scholars have disagreed concerning when written record-keeping became more like "literature" than anything else and is largely subjective. It could be applied broadly to mean any symbolic record, encompassing everything from images and sculptures to letters. The oldest literary texts that have come down to us date to a full millennium after the invention of writing, to the late 3rd millennium BC. The earliest literary authors known by name are Ptahhotep and Enheduanna, dating to ca. the 24th and 23rd centuries BC, respectively. In the early literate societies, as much as 600 years passed from the first inscriptions to the first coherent textual sources (ca. 3200 to 2600 BC).
Locations and timeframes
- Early examples
Clay amulet, one of the Tărtăria tablets, dated to ca. 4500 BCE
Example of the Jiahu symbols, a writing-like markings, found on tortoise shells were dated around 6000 BC.
The early writing systems of the late 4000–3000 BC were not a sudden invention. Rather, they were a development based on earlier traditions of symbol systems that cannot be classified as writing proper, but have many characteristics strikingly similar to writing. These systems may be described as proto-writing. They used ideographic and/or early mnemonic symbols to convey information yet were probably devoid of direct linguistic content. These systems emerged in the early Neolithic period, as early as the 7th millennium BC.
Even after the Neolithic, several cultures have gone through a period of using systems of proto-writing as an intermediate stage before the adoption of writing proper. The "Slavic runes" (7th/8th century) mentioned by a few medieval authors may have been such a system. The Quipu of the Incas (15th century), sometimes called "talking knots", may have been of a similar nature. Another example is the system of pictographs invented by Uyaquk before the development of the Yugtun syllabary (ca. 1900).
Europe and Near East
The Vinča signs show an evolution of simple symbols beginning in the 7th millennium BCE, gradually increasing in complexity throughout the 6th millennium and culminating in the Tărtăria tablets of ca. 5300 BC with their rows of symbols carefully aligned, evoking the impression of a "text".
The Dispilio Tablet of the late 6th millennium is similar. The hieroglyphic scripts of the Ancient Near East (Egyptian, Sumerian proto-Cuneiform and Cretan) seamlessly emerge from such symbol systems, so that it is difficult to say at what point precisely writing emerges from proto-writing. Adding to this difficulty is the fact that very little is known about the symbols' meanings.
In 2003, tortoise shells were found in 24 Neolithic graves excavated at Jiahu, Henan province, northern China, with radiocarbon dates from the 6th millennium BC. According to some archaeologists, the symbols carved on the shells had similarities to the 2nd millennium BC Oracle bone script. Others have dismissed this claim as insufficiently substantiated, claiming that simple geometric designs such as those found on the Jiahu shells cannot be linked to early writing.
Nsibidi is a system of symbols indigenous to what is now southeastern Nigeria and dates back before 1400 AD. There are thousands of Nsibidi symbols which were used on anything from calabashes to tattoos and to wall designs. Nsibidi is used for the Ekoid and Igboid languages, and the Aro people are known to write nsibidi messages on the bodies of their messengers.
Bronze Age writing
Writing emerged in a variety of different cultures in the Bronze age. Examples include the cuneiform writing of the Sumerians, Egyptian hieroglyphs, Chinese logographs, and the Olmec script of Mesoamerica. The Chinese script likely developed independently of the Middle Eastern scripts, around 1600 BC. The pre-Columbian Mesoamerican writing systems (including among others Olmec and Maya scripts) are also generally believed to have had independent origins. It is thought that the first true alphabetic writing was developed around 2000 BC for Semitic workers in the Sinai by giving mostly Egyptian hieratic glyphs Semitic values(see History of the alphabet Proto-Sinaitic alphabet). The Ge'ez writing system of Ethiopia is considered Semitic. It is likely to be of semi-independent origin, having roots in the Meroitic Sudanese ideogram system. Most other alphabets in the world today either descended from this one innovation, many via the Phoenician alphabet, or were directly inspired by its design. In the case of Italy, about 500 years passed from the early Old Italic alphabet to Plautus (750 to 250 BC), and in the case of the Germanic peoples, the corresponding time span is again similar, from the first Elder Futhark inscriptions to early texts like the Abrogans (ca. 200 to 750 CE).
The original Sumerian writing system derives from a system of clay tokens used to represent commodities. By the end of the 4th millennium BC, this had evolved into a method of keeping accounts, using a round-shaped stylus impressed into soft clay at different angles for recording numbers. This was gradually augmented with pictographic writing using a sharp stylus to indicate what was being counted. Round-stylus and sharp-stylus writing were gradually replaced around 2700-2500 BC by writing using a wedge-shaped stylus (hence the term cuneiform), at first only for logograms, but developed to include phonetic elements by the 29th century BC. About 2600 BC cuneiform began to represent syllables of the Sumerian language. Finally, cuneiform writing became a general purpose writing system for logograms, syllables, and numbers. From the 26th century BC, this script was adapted to the Akkadian language, and from there to others such as Hurrian, and Hittite. Scripts similar in appearance to this writing system include those for Ugaritic and Old Persian.
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, pharisaic, and military authorities. The hieroglyph system was always difficult to learn, but in later centuries may have been intentionally made even more difficult, as this preserved the scribes' position.
Various scholars believe that Egyptian hieroglyphs "came into existence a little after Sumerian script, and ... probably [were]... invented under the influence of the latter ...", although it is pointed out and held that "the evidence for such direct influence remains flimsy” and that “a very credible argument can also be made for the independent development of writing in Egypt..." (See further Egyptian hieroglyphs).
The Middle Bronze Age Indus script which dates back to the early Harappan phase of around 3000 BC in ancient north western India and what is now Pakistan, has not yet been deciphered. It is unclear whether it should be considered an example of proto-writing (a system of symbols or similar), or if it is actual writing of the logographic-syllabic type of the other Bronze Age writing systems. Mortimer Wheeler recognises the style of writing as boustrophedon, where "this stability suggests a precarious maturity".
Cretan and Greek scripts
Cretan hieroglyphs are found on artifacts of Crete (early-to-mid-2nd millennium BC, MM I to MM III, overlapping with Linear A from MM IIA at the earliest). Linear B, the writing system of the Mycenaean Greeks, 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:
Writing system Geographical area Time span[A 1] Cretan Hieroglyphic Crete ca. 1625−1500 BC Linear A Aegean islands (Kea, Kythera, Melos, Thera), and Greek mainland (Laconia) ca. 18th century−1450 BC Linear B Crete (Knossos), and mainland (Pylos, Mycenae, Thebes, Tiryns) ca. 1375−1200 BC
Early Semitic alphabets
The first pure alphabets (properly, "abjads", mapping single symbols to single phonemes, but not necessarily each phoneme to a symbol) emerged around 1800 BC in Ancient Egypt, as a representation of language developed by Semitic workers in Egypt, but by then alphabetic principles had a slight possibility of being inculcated into Egyptian hieroglyphs for upwards of a millennium. These early abjads remained of marginal importance for several centuries, and it is only towards the end of the Bronze Age that the Proto-Sinaitic script splits into the Proto-Canaanite alphabet (ca. 1400 BC) Byblos syllabary and the South Arabian alphabet (ca. 1200 BC). The Proto-Canaanite was probably somehow influenced by the undeciphered Byblos syllabary and in turn inspired the Ugaritic alphabet (ca. 1300 BC).
In China, historians have learned much about the early Chinese dynasties from the written documents left behind. From the Shang Dynasty most of this writing has survived on bones or on bronze. Markings on turtle shells, or jiaguwen, are attested from the late Shang (1200–1050 BC). The writings from the Shang Dynasty are the direct ancestor of modern Chinese characters used throughout East Asia.
A stone slab with 3,000-year-old writing 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 dated to about 500 BC.
Of several pre-Columbian scripts in Mesoamerica, the one that appears to have been best developed, and fully deciphered, is the Maya script. The earliest inscriptions which are identifiably Maya date to the 3rd century BC, and writing was in continuous use until shortly after the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores in the 16th century AD. Maya writing used logograms complemented by a set of syllabic glyphs, somewhat similar in function to modern Japanese writing.
Iron Age writing
The Phoenician alphabet is simply the Proto-Canaanite alphabet as it was continued into the Iron Age (conventionally taken from a cut-off date of 1050 BC). This alphabet gave rise to the Aramaic and Greek, as well as, likely via Greek transmission, to various Anatolian and Old Italic (including the Latin) alphabets in the 8th century BC. The Greek alphabet for the first time introduces vowel signs. The Brahmic family of India originated independently. The Greek and Latin alphabets in the early centuries of the Common Era gave rise to several European scripts such as the Runes and the Gothic and Cyrillic alphabets while the Aramaic alphabet evolved into the Hebrew, Syriac and Arabic abjads and the South Arabian alphabet gave rise to the Ge'ez abugida.
Writing in Antiquity
In history of the Greek alphabet, the Greeks borrowed the Phoenician alphabet and adapted it to their own language. The letters of the Greek alphabet are the same as those of the Phoenician alphabet, and both alphabets are arranged in the same order. The adapter of the Phoenician system also added three letters to the end of the series, called the "supplementals." Several varieties of the Greek alphabet developed. One, known as Western Greek or Chalcidian, was west of Athens and in southern Italy. The other variation, known as Eastern Greek, was used in present-day Turkey and by the Athenians, and eventually the rest of the world that spoke Greek adopted this variation. After first writing right to left, the Greeks eventually chose to write from left to right, unlike the Phoenicians who wrote from right to left. Greek is in turn the source for all the modern scripts of Europe.
A tribe known as the Latins, who became known as the Romans, also lived in the Italian peninsula like the Western Greeks. From the Etruscans, a tribe living in the first millennium BCE in central Italy, and the Western Greeks, the Latins adopted writing in about the 5th century. Previously using their native Anglo-Saxon runes, the Anglo-Saxons began using Roman letters to write Old English as they Christianized from Anglo-Saxon paganism following Augustine of Canterbury's mission to Britain in the 6th century.
A "Renaissance" of classical education would appear in Carolingian Empire in the 8th century.
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 the physical motion with the hand.
The nature of the written word had evolved over time to make way for an informal, colloquial written style, where 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 creates the possibility to break spatial boundaries and travel through time, since a word normally spoken could only exist in the time and space it is spoken in. It creates a certain immortality, that could not be experienced without writing. Socially, writing is seen as an authoritative means of communication, from legal documentation, law and the media all produced through the medium. The growth of multimedia literacy can be seen as the first steps toward a postliterate society.
Materials of writing
There is no very definite statement as to the material which was in most common use for the purposes of writing at start of the early writing systems. In all ages it has been customary to engrave on stone or metal, or other durable material, with the view of securing the permanency of the record; and accordingly, in the very commencement of the national history of Israel, it is read of the two tables of the law written in stone, and of a subsequent writing of the law on stone. 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. Metals, such as stamped coins, are mentioned as a material of writing; they include lead, brass, and gold. 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. There are small pieces of clay, somewhat rudely shaped into a form resembling a pillow, and thickly inscribed with cuneiform characters. Similar use has been seen in hollow cylinders, or prisms of six or eight sides, formed of fine terra cotta, sometimes glazed, on which the characters were traced with a small stylus, in some specimens so minutely as to be capable of decipherment only with the aid of a magnifying-glass.
In Egypt the principal writing material was quite of a different sort. Wooden tablets are indeed 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. Parchment, using sheepskins left after the wool was removed for cloth, was sometimes cheaper than papyrus, which had to be imported outside Egypt. With the invention of wood-pulp paper, the cost of writing material began a steady decline.
- Phonetics, Palaeography, logograms, logographic, Vinča signs, Asemic writing
- Alphabet, Palaeography, Inscriptions, Book, Manuscript, Shorthand, Latin alphabet, writing system, ogham, Indus script, Mixtec, uncials, hanja, Zapotec, kanji, Aurignacian, Chinese characters, Ugarit, katakana, Acheulean, Ethnoarchaeology, Hoabinhian, Gravettian, Oldowan, Uruk, Etruscan, Cretan hieroglyphs, Nabataean, Luwian, Olmec, Busra, Tamil, Kannada
- History of art (Ancient art), Oral literature, History of developmental dyslexia
Writing systems Overview Lists Types
- ^ Peter T. Daniels, "The Study of Writing Systems", in The World's Writing Systems, ed. Bright and Daniels, p.3
- ^ Peter T. Daniels, "The First Civilizations", in The World's Writing Systems, ed. Bright and Daniels, p.24
- ^ Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel, page 231
- ^ a b Shotwell, James Thomson. An Introduction to the History of History. Records of civilization, sources and studies. New York: Columbia University Press, 1922.
- ^ Smail, Daniel Lord. On Deep History and the Brain. An Ahmanson foundation book in the humanities. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.
- ^ Bricker, Victoria Reifler, and Patricia A. Andrews. Epigraphy. Supplement to the Handbook of Middle American Indians, v. 5. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992.
- ^ New Analysis Of "Cave Signs" Shows Prehistoric Language Use
- ^ [Geometric Signs – A New Understanding http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/geometric_signs/geometric_signs.php]
- ^ Smith (1922).
- ^ a b Haarmann, Harald: "Geschichte der Schrift", C.H. Beck, 2002, ISBN 3406479987, p. 20
- ^ "Archaeologists Rewrite History". China Daily. 12 June 2003. http://www.china.org.cn/english/2003/Jun/66806.htm .
- ^ Houston, Stephen D. (2004). The First Writing: Script Invention as History and Process. Cambridge University Press. pp. 245–6. ISBN 978-0-521-83861-0.
- ^ "Early ceramics from Calabar, Nigeria: Towards a history of Nsibidi". African Arts (University of California) 40 (1). Spring 2007. http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Early+ceramics+from+Calabar,+Nigeria%3A+towards+a+history+of+nsibidi.-a0160331983.
- ^ Gregersen, Edgar A. (1977). Language in Africa: an introductory survey. CRC Press. p. 176. ISBN 0-677-04380-5. http://books.google.com/books?id=w4lytWv1JKAC&pg=PA176.
- ^ "Meroitic Writing System". Library.cornell.edu. 2004-04-04. http://www.library.cornell.edu/africana/Writing_Systems/Meroitic.html. Retrieved 2010-01-31.
- ^ Geoffrey Sampson, Writing Systems: a Linguistic Introduction, Stanford University Press, 1990, p. 78.
- ^ Simson Najovits, Egypt, Trunk of the Tree: A Modern Survey of an Ancient Land, Algora Publishing, 2004, pp. 55–56.
- ^ Whitehouse, David (1999) 'Earliest writing' found BBC
- ^ a b Olivier 1986, pp. 377f.
- ^ a b William G. Boltz, Early Chinese Writing, World Archaeology, Vol. 17, No. 3, Early Writing Systems. (Feb., 1986), pp. 420–436 (436).
- ^ David N. Keightley, "Art, Ancestors, and the Origins of Writing in China", Representations, No. 56, Special Issue: The New Erudition. (Autumn, 1996), pp.68–95 (68).
- ^ John DeFrancis: Visible Speech. The Diverse Oneness of Writing Systems: Chinese
- ^ "Writing May Be Oldest in Western Hemisphere.". New York Times. 2006-09-15. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/15/science/15writing.html. Retrieved 2008-03-30. "A stone slab bearing 3,000-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."
- ^ "'Oldest' New World writing found". BBC. 2006-09-14. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/5347080.stm. Retrieved 2008-03-30. "Ancient civilisations in Mexico developed a writing system as early as 900 BC, new evidence suggests."
- ^ "Oldest Writing in the New World". Science. http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/313/5793/1610. Retrieved 2008-03-30. "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."
- ^ Millard 1986, p. 396
- ^ a b McCarter, P. Kyle. "The Early Diffusion of the Alphabet", The Biblical Archaeologist 37, No. 3 (Sep., 1974): 54-68. page 62.
- ^ a b c d e McClintock, J., & Strong, J. (1885). Cyclopedia of Biblical, theological, and ecclesiastical literature: Supplement. New York: Harper. Pages 990–997.
- ^ though whether to writing on lead, or filling up the hollow of the letters with lead, is not certain.
- ^ These documents have been in general enveloped, after they were baked, in a cover of moist clay, upon which their contents have been again inscribed, so as to present externally a duplicate of the writing within; and the tablet in its cover has then been baked afresh. The same material was largely used by the Assyrians, and many of their clay tablets still remain. They are of various sizes, ranging from nine inches long by six and a half wide, to an inch and a half by an inch wide, and even less. Some thousands of these have been recovered; many are historical, some linguistic, some geographical, some astronomical.
- ^ Beginning date refers to first attestations, the assumed origins of all scripts lie further back in the past.
- Millard, A. R. (1986). "The Infancy of the Alphabet". World Archaeology 17 (3): 390–398. doi:10.1080/00438243.1986.9979978
- Olivier, J.-P. (1986). "Cretan Writing in the Second Millennium B.C". World Archaeology 17 (3): 377–389. doi:10.1080/00438243.1986.9979977
- 21st century sources
- Powell, Barry B. 2009. Writing: Theory and History of the Technology of Civilization, Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 978-14051-6256-2
- Steven R. Fischer A History of Writing, Reaktion Books 2005 CN136481
- Hoffman, Joel M. 2004. In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language. New York University Press. Chapter 3.
- Late 20th century sources
- Andrew Robinson, The Story of Writing, Thames & Hudson 1995 (second edition: 1999). ISBN 0500281564
- Hans J. Nissen, P. Damerow, R. Englund, Archaic Bookkeeping, University of Chicago Press, 1993, ISBN 0500016658
- Denise Schmandt-Besserat HomePage, How Writing Came About, University of Texas Press, 1992, ISBN 0-292-77704-3.
- Saggs, H., 1991. Civilization Before Greece and Rome Yale University Press. Chapter 4.
- Jack Goody, The Logic of Writing and the Organization of Society, Cambridge University Press, 1986
- Earlier 20th century sources
- Smith, William Anton. The Reading Process. New York: The Macmillan company, 1922.
- Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopedia Britannica; A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information. Cambridge, Eng: University Press, 1911. "Writing".
- Clodd, Edward. The Story of the Alphabet. Library of useful stories. New York: D. Appleton and Co, 1910.
- Rawlings, Gertrude Burford. The Story of Books. London: Newnes, 1901.
- History of Writing. historian.net
- Alphabet & protoalphabet the manifest of astrologic doctrine?
- The New Post-Literate
- Denise Schmandt-Besserat HomePage
- Children of the Code: A Brief History of Writing – Online Video
- Cracking the Maya Code. NOVA, Public Broadcasting Service. (Timeline (flash))
- BBC on tortoise shells discovered in China
- Fragments of pottery discovered in modern Pakistan
- Egyptian hieroglyphs c. 3000 BC
Writing systems Overview Lists Types Types of writing systems OverviewHistory of writing · Grapheme Lists Types Abjads Abugidas BrahmicAhom · Balinese · Batak · Baybayin · Brāhmī · Buhid · Burmese · Chakma · Cham · Devanāgarī · Dhives Akuru · Eastern Nagari · Grantha · Gujarati · Gupta · Gurmukhī · Hanunó'o · Javanese · Kadamba · Kaithi · Kalinga · Kannada · Khmer · Lanna · Lao · Lepcha · Limbu · Lontara · Malayalam · Meitei Mayek · Mithilakshar · Modi · Mon · Nāgarī · Nepali · Old Kawi · Oriya · Pallava · 'Phags-pa · Ranjana · Rejang · Rencong · Śāradā · Saurashtra · Sinhala · Siddhaṃ · Soyombo · Sundanese · Sylheti Nagari · Tagbanwa · Tai Dam · Tai Le · Takri · Tamil · Telugu · Thai · Tibetan · Tocharian · Varang Kshiti Others Alphabets LinearArmenian · Avestan · Beitha Kukju · Borama · Coptic · Cyrillic · Deseret · Duployan shorthand · Eclectic shorthand · Elbasan · Fraser · Gabelsberger shorthand · Georgian · Glagolitic · Gothic · Gregg shorthand · Greek · Greco-Iberian alphabet · Hangul · International Phonetic · Kaddare · Latin · Manchu · Mandaic · Mongolian · Neo-Tifinagh · N'Ko · Ogham · Ol Chiki · Old Hungarian · Old Italic · Old Permic · Orkhon · Osmanya · Runic · Shavian alphabet · New Tai Lue · Bassa Vah · Visible Speech Non-linear Ideo/Pictograms Logograms Chinese Chinese-based Other logo-syllabic Logo-consonantal Numerals Semi-syllabaries Full Redundant Syllabaries
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History of the alphabet — The history of the alphabet begins in Ancient Egypt, more than a millennium into the history of writing. The first pure alphabet emerged around 2000 BCE to represent the language of Semitic workers in Egypt (see Middle Bronze Age alphabets), and… … Wikipedia
History of mathematics — A proof from Euclid s Elements, widely considered the most influential textbook of all time. … Wikipedia
History of Sumer — The history of Sumer, taken to include the prehistoric Ubaid and Uruk periods, spans the 5th to 3rd millennia BC, ending with the downfall of the Third Dynasty of Ur around 2004 BC, followed by a transition period of Amorite states before the… … Wikipedia
History of Mesopotamia — Ancient Mesopotamia was settled and conquered by numerous ancient civilizations. Dates for events in ancient Mesopotamia are still controversial, and several different methods and standards of dating exist for the Chronology of the ancient Near… … Wikipedia
History of Mexico — This article is part of a series Pre Columbian Mexico … Wikipedia
History of Mongolia — This article is part of a series Ancient History … Wikipedia
History of science — History of science … Wikipedia
History of East Asia — History of religions Ancestor worshipWhat we know today as the ancient Chinese culture were developed in the northern area of modern China. The southern or western people spoke different languages and had their own cultures. Other areas, both the … Wikipedia